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6/14/2009 9:56 AM
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Beatrice on her site

called attention to this item published on the site of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which she finds admirable for enclosing the Pope away from the polemics that had preceded his visit to the Holy Land.

Yes, it does that, but the approach implies that the Pope could have done otherwise. That is my primary reservation about it - the assumption that the Pope, any Pope, could have gone to the Holy Land and take sides in a political conflict where both sides have legitimate claims that can be resonably met, as well as certain specific claims that can only be resolved by political compromise, which neither side is ready to make.

My second reservation is that in an article which praises the Pope's fairness and balance and spirit of Christian love, the writer himself, a priest, takes sides openly and unfairly, not so much with the Palestinians as against the Israelis, as indeed most of the clergy in the Holy Land who have expressed themselves before and after the Pope's visit - in short, he himself fails to follow the Pope's example that he praises!

I personally do not think it is the place of the clergy to take political sides in a conflict where both parties have been guilty of killing and violence while making it appear that only one side is to blame

'To recognize in the other
my equal, my brother, my sister'

by Fr. Vincent Nagle
Translated from the French text
on the website of
June 10, 2009

Unfortunately, no other information is given about the author - neither his nationality nor in what capacity he is serving in the Holy Land.

The Pope's visit to the Holy Land was a poignant demonstration of the courage that the Christian faith gives, the courage of a father who has the responsibility to care for his family.

There had been numerous warnings and numerous persons who had tried to dissuade the Holy Father from undertaking this visit at a time when, for many reasons, tensions in the region were particularly high,

Many representatives from the Christian community in the Holy Land, convinced that the timing was ill-chosen, had even written a common letter to ask the Pope not to come. And the media predicted a catastrophe.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem himself, although a fervent partisan for the trip [With all due respect to the author, this is not true! - Mons. Twal was quoted several times before the trip was formally announced as telling the press he did not think the timing was right!] told the Israeli press: "A word out of place [by the Pope], and I would have problems with the Jews. Another, and I would have trouble with the Muslims. The Pope will go back to Rome, and I will stay behind with all the problems". [Which is, to say the least, unwise and very ungracious, if not censorious, to say of the Pope!]

From all available evidence, the pressure against the trip was strong. But profoundly conscious of his mission, and certain he was obeying 'Another', the Pope went anyway.

The resistances and hesitations aroused by the visit were born from a purely human view of things. In the center of such an outlook is a political approach which presumes to meet the challenges of human society by purely political solutions without a response to the drama played out in the human heart.

Many priests had expressed their concern that the Israelis would use the Pope's visit as a blessing to go ahead with an ultra-rapid expansion of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their violent contempt for the lives of Arabs.

[Now that's a very loaded and patently unfair political statement from someone who has just denounced purely political solutions for human challenges! Who has 'violent contempt' for the lives of others - the Palestinian terrorists who have no second thoughts about suicide-bomb attacks on civilian centers in Israeli cities and daily rocket attacks aimed at the southern Israel cities, or a superior Israeli defense force that seeks to destroy that rocket-launching capability but must do this against enemies who deliberately nest in civilian neighborhoods and use their own civilians as a shield?]

Other Catholics, such as the head of the Parish Council of Nablus [on the West Bank], said the Pope should not come until he had changed his point of view, namely, to adopt a political position that is in phase with the dominant party [??? with Fatah? or with Hamas? And why would they demand that the Pope take a partisan political stand anyway?]

Not seeing how they could utilise the Pope's visit as an advantage against their political opponents, many persons, especially the Christians, were opposed to the visit. [Now, there's a candid statement, for a change!]

Nonetheless, once the Pope had arrived, it was clear that he brought with him something beyond all political discourse, an outlook that did not consider what political advantage anyone might gain from it {EXCUSE ME, EVERYONE! but didn't the Pope make clear from the time he first announced the trip that it was to be a pilgrimage first of all - a spiritual visit to the land where Christ walked - during which he also wished to bring comfort and moral support to the Christians in the Holy Land????? Why is the Pope's attitude - the only one a Pope can have - reported here as though it was a surprise????].

Rather, it was an effort to express to everyone a love greater than that which they had for themselves. This universal fatherhood, which begins with his own children [Catholics], extends to all persons, and this was first apparent during the first part of his trip, in Jordan, where the political and social situation is much calmer, even if, as patriarch Twal noted in an address to the Pope, one notes a possible drift "towards a narrowing of outlook and a rejection of the 'other'".

In the address at the King Hussein Mosque in Amman, Benedict XVI declared: "I firmly believe that Christians adn Muslims can meet the challenge of developing the vast potential of human reason with a view to the common good and in reference to faith and truth".

More than once, and in different forms, he repeated these words, showing that his words were not directed only to Christians but towards the advent of am open dialog and the possibility of coexistence among everyone.

Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion anf Liberation movement, often said that the world thinks in exclusionary terms - 'aut-aut' [=(either-or), whereas the Church thinks in inclusionary terms, "et-et' (and-and).

On the part of Christians and other Arabs, one often heard the criticism that the Pope was coming only to visit the Jews. On the part of the Jews, when the Pope speaks of the legitimate aspirations of teh Palestinian people, an Israeli official said, "One would think it was Arafat speaking".

[Again, a most unfair insinuation. The Israeli press, along with some ultra-rightist rabbis and Israeli officials, may have been very unfairly vocal about their discontent that the Pope did not say what they wanted him to say about the Holocaust, Pius XII and German guilt, but from what I read, no one was foolish enough to openly criticize him for what he said that was sympathetic to the Palestinians - for the simple reason that everything he said when he visited Bethlehem was carefully phrased to be fair to both sides. Even his criticism of the Wall implied the tragic necessity for it. Review very closely what he said at the Aida camp!]

The divisions in this land make it difficult to even conceive that any person could possibly embrace both peoples. [Is a Catholic priest really saying this? Is that not the Christian ideal? Even the political idea of two states is an expression of that ideal - that two states can live side by side peacefully and fraternally!]

And yet, whoever was paying attention could perceive that the Pope's challenge for a 'supplement' of humanity was addressed to all. [Of course it would be! He is preaching the Christian message of love, and that applies to everyone! Why is that a surprise? It certainly does not need paying close attention not simply to perceive that but to know it and even to expect it.]

To President Prres, he remarked that "In Hebrew, security - batah - is born out of trust; it is not born only out of the absence of a threat, but also out of a feeling of calm and confidence".

With these words, he was urging the Israelis to look beyond the military aspect and to understand that true security requires a new relationship with others which is not based on force. [Again, sheer distortion of fact. As though Israel's security and military measures were not always a response to despicable acts of terrorism against its citizens, and never unprovoked actions!]

Likewise, at the Aida refugee camp outside Bethlehem, at the foot of Israel's Wall of separation, the Pope said: "On each side of this wall, great courage is needed to go beyond fear and defiance, to resist the desire to avenge losses or wrongs. Magnanimity is required to seek reconciliation after years of confrontation....Good will is needed to take imaginative and daring initiatives with a view to reconciliation".

Benedict XVI did not adopt the political line of one part or the other [and one would hope that the clergy in the Holy Land would adopt the same non-partisan, fair and Christian attitude instead of an openly pro-Palestinian line that is also rabidly anti-Israel], but embraced the hopes and anguish of everyone, urging them to take a step forward in their humanity.

At the heart of the visit was his concern for the ever-decreasing flock of the Church in the Holy Land which has been a priority for the Pope. He fully recognizes and takes on their sufferings and fears, taking a half hour to meet members of the Holy Family parish in Gaza who received permits to come to Bethlehem during his visit. [he met them at the residence of President Abbas during his courtesy call before leaving Bethlehem].

At the Mass in Bethlehem, Benedict XVI said that the presence of Christ on earth and in the town of his birth should be, for the faithful, a provocation to "constant conversion to Christ, which should flow not only from our actions but also in our reasoning: we must have the courage to abandon fruitless ways of thinking, acting and reacting."

He urged Christians to move forward. relying on the primordial reality of the presence of Christ.

Benedict XVI's great sense of fatherhood shines best in his constant urging of conversion of the heart to Christ as the only way for man's total regeneration.

Likewise, to the crowd of about 40,000 who assembled for the Mass in Nazareth, he asked that education be made a central priority, underlining the special role women play in this fundamental work - since is they who must first teach children "to love and accept others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practise the virtues of mercy and forgiveness".

These messages did not pass unnoticed by everyone. The Latin Patriarch wants the entire local Church to live by these words.

At the departure ceremonies in Tel Aviv airport, President Peres told the Pope: "You personally reinforced the spiritual dimension of your visit in calling for peace, and increasing hope and understanding among all the inhabitants of this land".

All this comes from the courage and the profound and limpid faith of Pope Benedict.

Seated before the empty tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he said, echoing the words of St. peter: "Outside of Jesus whom God made our Lord and Christ, there is no other name given to man through whom we are saved."

The paternal courage of the Pope comes from that certainty. a courage that allowed him to come to a land which is divided and in conflict in order to bring to all the possibility of taking a new step, to bring it a new human outlook.

It is the sense evoked in these words to President Peres: "Lasting security rests on trust, it feeds at the springs of justice and law, and it is sealed by the conversion of hearts which impels us to look the other person in the eye and recognize the 'You" as my equal, my brother, my sister".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/14/2009 10:19 AM]
6/14/2009 3:40 PM
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June 14
Corpus Domini
celebrated today in Italy
and many other countries

St. Albert Chmielowski (Poland, 1845-1916)
Jesuit and Painter
Founder of the Albertines (Gray Brothers and Gray Sisters)

OR today.

In annual meeting with the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontefice Foundation,
the Holy Father speaks about his coming encyclical:
'A free and fraternal society'
Other Page 1 stories: A front-page review of the new Italian volume of Joseph Ratzinger's writings,
Eulogy of conscience; and President Ahmadinejad is declared reelected by a landslide as thousands
protest in Tehran streets alleging electoral fraud. In the inside pages, two stories on Pius XII - one on
the presentation of OR editor Vian's book In difesa di Pio XII, and another on an exhibition in Milan
on 'The image of Pius XII in contemporary art' from June 15 to July 18.


Angelus today - The Holy Father gives a mini-homily on Corpus Domini, and after the prayer,
calls on the United nations in its forthcoming development summit to take appropriate measures
towards equitable distribution of the world's resources and decision-making powers in dealing
with the global economic crisis.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/14/2009 3:41 PM]
6/14/2009 6:38 PM
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The Holy Father's English greeting today:

Today’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ invites us to acknowledge the Lord’s saving presence in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

At the Last Supper, on the night before his death on the Cross, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the new and eternal covenant between God and man.

May this sacrifice of reconciliation, in which the Risen Lord is truly and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, confirm the Church in faith, unity and holiness as she awaits his future coming in glory.

Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters:

Many nations, including Italy, celebrate Corpus Domini today, the feast of the Eucharist, during which the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord is carried in solemn procession.

What does this feast mean for us? It makes us think not only of its liturgical aspect: in fact, Corpus Domini is a day which involves the cosmic dimension, heaven and earth.

It evokes first of all - at least in our hemisphere - this beautiful perfumed season when spring now turns into summer, the sun shines brightly in the sky, and the wheat is ripening in the fields.

The feasts of the Church - like the Jewish ones - follow the rhythm of the solar year, of sowing and harvesting. This stands out in particular in today's feast, at whose center is the symbol of bread, fruit of the earth and the sky.

That is why the Eucharistic Bread is the visible sign of He in whom heaven and earth, God and man, have become one thing only. This shows that the relationship of the liturgical year with the seasons is not something merely external.

The solemnity of Corpus Domini is intimately linked to Easter and to Pentecost: the death and resurrection of Jesus and the effusion of the Holy Spirit are its premises. It is moreover immediately linked to the feast of the Trinity which we celebrated last Sunday.

Only because God himself is relationship can there be a relationship with him. And only because he is love, one can love and be loved.

Thus Corpus Domini is a manifestation of God, an attestation that God is Love. In a unique and special way, this feast speaks to us of divine love, what it is and what it does.

It tells us, for example, that it regenerates by making a gift of itself, it receives in giving itself, it never grows less and is never consumed - "nec sumptus consumitur" - as it is sung in a hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Love transforms everything, and therefore, it is clear why at the center of today's feast of Corpus Domini is the mystery of trans-substantiation, the symbol of Jesus-Love who transforms the world.

Looking at Him and adoring him, we say: Yes, love exists, and because it exists, things can change for the better and we can hope. It is hope that comes from the love of Christ that gives us the strength to live and to face difficulties.

For this, we sing, as we carry the Most Blessed Sacrament in procession: we sing and praise the Lord who reveals himself hidden in the form of broken bread. We all have need of this Bread, because the journey towards freedom, justice and peace is long and arduous.

We can imagine with what faith and love Our Lady received and adored the Holy Eucharist in her heart! Every time must have been for her like reliving all the mystery of her Son Jesus from his conception to the Resurrection.

"Lady of the Eucharist" is what my venerated and beloved predecessor John Paul II called her. Let us learn from her to continually renew our communion with the Body of Christ, so we can love each other as he loved us.

After the Angelus prayers, he had the following special messages:

On the 24th to the 26th of this month, the United Nations conference on the economic and financial crisis and its impact on development will take place in New York.

I invoke on the participants of the Conference, as on the responsible authorities for public affairs and the destinies of the planet, the spirit of wisdom and human solidarity, so that the present crisis may be transformed into opportunity, capable of favoring better attention to the dignity of every human being and to promote an equitable distribution of the decision-making power and of resources, with particular attention to the unfortunately growing number of the poor.

On this day, when Italy and many other nations celebrate the feast of Corpus Domini, 'Bread of Life', as I mentioned earlier, I wish to remember specially the hundreds of millions of persons who suffer from hunger.

This is an absolutely unacceptable reality, which has failed to diminish despite the efforts in the last decades. I wish therefore that on the occasion of the forthcoming UN conference and in the headquarters of international institutions, provisions may be taken, shared by the entire international community, and strategic choices will be fulfilled, at times difficult to accept, but necessary to assure basic nourishment and a dignified life to everyone, in the present and in the future.

Next Friday, solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Day of Priestly Sanctification, will be the start of the Year of the Priest that I declared to coincide with the 150th anniversary year of the death of the Holy Curate of Ars.

I entrust to your prayers this new spiritual initiative which will follow the Pauline Year now drawing to its conclusion. May this new jubilee year constitute a propitious occasion for a deeper look at the value and importance of the priestly mission and to ask the Lord to make a gift of numerous and holy priests to his Church.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/15/2009 12:07 AM]
6/15/2009 3:00 PM
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June 15
Servant of God Orlando Catani (Italy, late 12th-early 13th-cent)
Franciscan Tertiary
Italian nobleman converted by St. Francis

No OR today.


The Holy Father met today with

- Bishops of Austria, called to a meeting with the Pope and the Roman Curia.

- Bishops of Venezuela (Group 6) on ad limina visit.

Pope has new personal physician;
Dr. Buzzonetti retires

The Holy Father has named Dr. Patrizio Polisca, 55, to be vice-director of the Vatican State's Department of Health and Hygiene, sas well as his new personal physician.

In the latter position, Dr. Polisca succeeds Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, 84, who is retiring after serving as personal physician to four Popes, starting with Paul VI (he was also Cardinal Ratzinger's personal physician).

Dr. Polisca. along with Dr. Buzzonetti, has accompanied Benedict XVI during all his trips abroad so far.

Dr. Buzzonetti will have the title of Emeritus Archiatra [archiatra is a Greek term which means 'lead physician'].

He was coauthor of a book, with John Paul's longtime private secretary Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, on John Paul's suffering and how he dealt with his infirmity. He signed the Pope's death certificate.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/15/2009 11:09 PM]
6/15/2009 5:09 PM
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Thanks to Beatrice on her site

who called atention last week to a new book that has come out in France in support of Benedict XVI, entitled in fact,

by the monthly Catholic newspaper Le Nef (The Nave), which is traditonalist in its support of the pre-Conciliar liturgy, but also supportive of Vatican II according to Benedict XVI's 'hermeneutic of continuity'.

I find the initiative most admirable and wish there could be something comparable in countries with a significant Catholic Population, even if many of them are nominal or dissident.

Why hasn't anyone thought of something similar in the United Sates, or even in Italy? I don't expect any such initiative in Germany where even bishops I had believed close to the Pope like Regensburg's Bishop Mueller turn out to be problematic for him.

Here is a translation of the introduction to POUR BENOIT XVI by the newpsper's editor:

On behalf of Benedict XVI
by Christophe Geoffroy

June 2009

Within a few weeks in January to March 2009, the small world of the intelligentsia and the media unleashed an assault as never before against the Pope and the Catholic Church.

Through a disquieting phenomenon of mimetism, each one let off with his own little deadly statement or outraged commentary, even if most of the critics obviously had no clear idea of what they were dealing with.

It all began with the lifting of the excommunications on January 21 of four bishops belonging to the Fraternity of St. Pius X. The step in itself was already hard to understand for a media world that was a priori hostile to a movement they had always described as ‘fundamentalist’.

But the scandalous negationist statements by Mons. Williamson, one of the FSSPX bishops, then fuelled an unbelievable polemic which targeted the Pope himself, who was accused of being too weak with regard to the ‘fundamentalists’, by which they really implied that he was complaisant to negationism.

Others professed concern that this was no less than a turning back on the second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform that followed it.

Then there was the terrible tragedy in Recife, Brazil, where a nine-year-old girl, raped by her stepfather, was constrained to abort the resulting teen pregnancy. In this case, more than Benedict XVI himself, the Church was the main target of the media assault [though, strangely, this case seemed to have journalistic 'legs' only in France] – that she was too harsh, that she lacked compassion, and even that she was betraying the truth of the Gospel message.

Once again, most of those who professed indignation did not really know the complexity of the case nor did they take account of the presence and support of the local Church for the family of the unfortunate girl and for the girl herself.

Finally, the violence of the attacks reached paroxysm when, on the flight taking him to Africa on March 17, Benedict XVI said in a mature well-considered way, in response to a newsman’s question: “If we do not put soul into it, if one does not help the Africans, we cannot resolve this scourge (AIDS) simply by distributing condoms; on the contrary, it can even increase the problem”.

These three episodes were textbook cases of disinformation. But to measure the magnitude of the assault and respond in a detailed manner, one must know the facts and the position of the Pope and the Church. That is the objective we have set out to do with this book in approaching these three episodes.

For this, we have taken some of the articles published in La Nef in March and April 2009. But above all, we have widened the analysis, with original contributions, to the different criticisms that have been made regularly against Benedict XVI.

Aftr his remarkable lecture in Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006, one recalls the hue and cry which followed, which said nothing of his real message that the commentators appeared not to have grasped at all.

Many of our colleagues do not understand his insistence on condemning the relativism in Western democracies, in defending an elevated concept of reason which does not oppose itself to faith, in recalling that there is a natural law which imposes itself on everyone to the point that there are ‘non-negotiable points’ in policy.

This notion came up in the publication on November 24, 1992, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, of a “Doctrinal Note regarding questions on the involvement and conduct of Catholics in political life”.

This Note evoked “the fundamental ethical demands which cannot be renounced”: rejecting of abortion and euthanasia; affirming the right to life from conception to natural death, with the duty to respect the human embryo; defending the stable family as an institution; freedom to educate one’s children; the social protection of minors; religious freedom; orienting the economy towards service to the individual, the common good, social justice, ub accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity; the search for peace (cf No.4 ).

Since then, Benedict XVI has often said that there are “certain principles that are non-negotiable”, particularly during his address on March 30, 2006, to the parliamentarians of the European Popular Party. Among these principles, the Pope said, three appear most clear today:

1. Protection of life at all its stages, from the first moment of conception to natural death.
2. Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between man and woman founded on matrimony – and defending it against attempts to make radically different forms of union juridically equivalent to it, which would prejudice the family itself and contribute to its destabilization by obscuring its specific character and its irreplaceable social role.

3. Protecting the right of parents to educate their children as they think best.

These principles are not truths of the faith, but they are enlightened and are confirmed additionally by faith – they are inscribed in human nature itself and are therefore common to all mankind. Thus, the activities of the Church to promote them do not have a confessional character, but are aimed at all men, without distinction of religion.

Singling out these three non-negotiable points does not mean that the other points raised in the doctrinal Note of 2002 are no longer on the agenda.

Nonetheless, this notion of ‘non-negotiable points’ has split the Catholic world itself [it had been split on these points long before they were labeled ‘non-negotiable’] – one saw this in France in 2007, and in the United States in the year that followed both of the last two presidential elections – and has contributed to mobilize part of public opinion against the ‘intransigence’ of the Church.

In short, we want to broaden reflection and respond to the most common attacks that the Holy Father has had to endure: Is he against Vatican-II and the new liturgy? Is he a doctrinaire Pope who favors ‘the clash of civilizations’? What does his rejection of relativism and his defense of natural law mean? Etc.

Ultimately, it is the consistency of the entire Magisterium that we seek to defend here. When one comprehends this consistency, one can also comprehend that all these cases are not basically due to a ‘communications deficit’ in the Holy See – even if there doubtless needs to be much done in this respect – but they are the consequence of the hardcore opposition in modern societies to the vision of man defended by the Church.

One must not have any illusions, one must be conscious of this abyss - not to spit on the world nor to try to isolate the Church in some protected place which can only end up being a ghetto, but to use the appropriate weapons for a battle that concerns all Christians.

Because the latter, even if they may be a minority – most of all because they are a minority – can, like yeast in dough, through their witness and their actions according to the teaching of the Church, save a world that has gone mad.

If the attacks against the Pope have reached such violence, it is because he opposes, almost by himself, through strong and consistent language, the ‘culture of death’ which seeks to extend its tyrannical hegemony everywhere.

It [the media assault against the Pope] is a reaction of fear, fear of seeing the imposition of a truth they reject and which they have been fighting to the teeth: the Church’s advocacy of life, of the family, of true love, its compassion for the weakest and the poorest even if this is demanding. Everyone senses that all this is accessible to every man of good will and that the Church alone is capable of saving man from himself and from the deadly relativistic drift in our societies.

In response, the opposition fights furiously to persuade us that there is no such thing as human nature – and therefore no natural law over man; that the difference between man and woman rests basically on social conditioning (gender theory); that the concept of family is evolving and must be left to individual choice since everything is equally valid.

We Christians know that such a trend can only lead to unhappiness. But, they counter, is not each person free to live as he pleases? No one, among these sorcerer’s apprentices, has asked himself about the consequences to the common good of such a vision of man: the absence of a stable morality based on a transcendent standard, which leads to an idea of ‘good’ that fluctuates according to the dominant opinion of the moment; the destruction of the stable family that unites a man and a woman for life; the attempts against life itself - these all contribute to deconstruct and finally destroy society by enclosing each man in his own individualism or regrouping them in closed communities; by breaking the transmission of life on which civilization depends; by generating violence and finally death itself. Such a society cannot generate enough children to assure the renewal of generations.

The virulence shown against the Pope and the Church is not about to die out, because it manifests the hardcore opposition between Christian anthropology – the basis for the dignity of each man is that he is created in the image of God, but also a fallen creature redeemed by the Blood fo Christ – and the dominant ideology which has tended more and more to pull down man to the level of a common animal.

Here is the book's Table of Contents:

Preface, by Mgr Dominique Rey, Bishop of Frejus-Toulon
Introduction, by Christophe Geffroy
Chapter I – Benedict XVI, a Pope cut off from the world?
Chapter II - Benedict XVI, a Pope close to the 'extreme right'>
Chapter III - Benedict XVI, a Pope of moral order?
Plus previous articles:
- Storm over AIDS
- The Maputo protocol
- Benedict XVI against relativism
- A lesson in moral philosophy
- The Recife affair: Where is the scandal?
Chapter IV – Benedict XVI, Pope of the 'clash of civilizations'?
Chapter V - Benedict XVI, doctrinaire Pope?
Chapter VI - Benedict XVI, Pope against Vatican-II?
Chapter VII - Benedict XVI, Pope against the new liturgy?
Chapter VIII - Benedict XVI, Pope of the 'fundamentalists'?
Plus previous articles:
- The end of a dissidence
-'A father's gesture"
- The Pope's letter to the bishops (analysis)
- A masterful Letter
- The Church of saints
- A question of faith
- Now what happens?

La Nef published two earlier volumes about Benedict XVI and the liturgy: in 2007, Benedict XVI and the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (168 pp), in which Cardinal Rciard and a number of other French prelates analyze the Motu Proprio; and earlier this year, Benedict XVI and Liturgical Peace (311 pp), with the ff blurb:

On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which liberalized the use of the so-called Pius V Missal [in its latest edition in 1963 by John XXIII].

What was the reason for such a document and what was its objective? To understand it better, this book goes back to the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger and analyzes his positions on the liturgy.

It also explains the historical context of Vatican II and the post-conciliar period, a difficult time during which the Roman rite of the Mass was brutally reformed, resulting in important shake-up of the liturgy.

These changes were produced at a time of crisis, when many within the Church, as in the general society, sought,as it were, to cancel out the past and start from scratch. This had its effect on the liturgy: in the face of such radical demands, the Magisterium progressively took note of its 'losses' and published a number of important documents which are analyzed in this work.

Ultimately, the crisis provoked reactions, the best-known of which was that of Mons. Marcel Lefebvre who ended up breaking off from Rome in 1988. The origins and the reasons for this break are likewise dealt with in this book which ends with a prospective look at the future of the Latin liturgy.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 2:13 AM]
6/15/2009 6:40 PM
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Pope calls Austrian bishops
to a meeting at the Vatican

by Salvatore Izzo

VATICAN CITY, June 15 (Translated from AGI) - Benedict XVI today met with Austrian bishops called to a special meeting at the Vatican after the tensions last winter which led to the scuttling of conservative Bishop Gerhard Wagner's appointment as auxiliary bishop of Linz.

Wagner was constrained to ask the Pope to revoke his nomination, saying that he felt the 'resistance' to his nomination [from the clergy and bishops of the notoriously liberal Austrian Church] expressed "in a manner devoid of love and mercy', and that "after prayer and consultation with his bishop", he had decided to "ask the Holy Father to recall my nomination".

Benedict XVI accepted Wagner's decision, thus revoking an appointment that had been recommended by the Congregation for Bishops and which he had signed.

Although the media at the time focused their attack on Mons. Wagner for what he had said about hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans in 2005 - he had noted that 5 abortion clinics were destroyed in the flood, and asked whether natural catastrophes could not be a consequence of spiritual pollution - it was in fact an attempt by the Austrian hierarchy to assert their autonomy from Rome, something they acquired after the serious 1990s crisis in the Archdiocese of Vienna whose archbishop, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, was accused of sexual abuses which forced him to retire.

Groer had been appointed by John Paul II in 1985 against the advice of the outgoing archbishop, the late Cardinal Franz Koenig, and other Austrian bishops, who mistrusted Groer, a Benedictine, because they thought him too traditionalist.

The nomination proved disastrous for other reasons, though it also turned out that there had been sexual abuses even among progressivist priests. However, this did diminish the authority of the Holy See over the Church in Austria [a situation which led to perhaps the most liberal Catholic hierarchy and clergy in Europe today]

This seems to be the main topic on the agenda in the Pope's 'working sessions' with the Austrian bishops which will extend to tomorrow, Tuesday.

In the Wagner case, what appeared to the public as an 'uprising' by the local bishops against Rome was aggravated by a Curial misstep in the Vatican. Apparently, the Congregation for Bishops failed to observe a protocol conceded to the Austrian hierarchy that requires consultation with the canons of the Cathedral to which a new bishop is named, even if their opinion is not necessarily the last word.

[What a stupid oversight! This was not made clear in the almost hostile statement made by the Austrian bishops last February to protest the nomination of Mons. Linz, which only mentioned in general that the nomination process had violated an established process, i.e., a technicality.

However, that does not explain how Cardinal Schoenborn, current president o the Austrian bishops conference, could have written a newspaper column a few days after the Vatican nomination of Mons. Wagner was announced expressing his full support for it! Did he shoot from the hip, then, before acquainting himself with what actually preceded the nomination - which, by the way, as president of the bishops' conference, he ought to have been fully aware of beforehand!

I still find he behaved shabbily towards the Pope in all this. Could he have not placed a telephone call to the Pope to seek a more amicable resolution before convening his bishops several days after writing that column?]

It was this oversight that prompted an emergency meeting of the Austrian bishops' conference last February which denounced the nomination of Mons. Wagner.

Sources said the Austrian bishops were similarly upset over the nomination of Mons. Elmar Fischer as auxiliary bishop of Bregenz, considering him 'too orthodox' by the standards of the central European liberal clergy.

Recently, the Archbishop of Salzburg criticized Pope Benedict XVI for revoking the Lefebvrian bishops' excommunication, saying he was trying to 'reduce the Church to a sect in which no one will remain except the Lefebvrians".

Some officials at the Vatican are concerned that the Austrian bishops are jeopardizing the principle of authority in the Church.

[But then, the problem with all the bishops and clergy who proudly cite Vatican II as their support for claiming near-equal authority to the Pope is that they seem not to have read the Vatican II documents, which are very clear and equivocal about the Magisterial and hierarchical authority of the Pope in relation to the bishops - indeed, he is ex officio head of the worldwide college of bishops, in addition to all his other titles and functions].

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/15/2009 11:15 PM]
6/16/2009 1:12 AM
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Talks in progress to set a date
for Benedict-Obama meeting

by Edward Pentin

Monday, June 15, 2009 1:42 PM

VATICAN CITY, June 15 - The Vatican and the White House are close to agreeing on a date for President Barack Obama to meet Pope Benedict XVI in early July. The president will be in Rome while he attends the G8 summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila July 8-10.

According to informed sources, there’s “work in progress” on a time and date but no official announcement has yet been made because of difficulty in finding a date that’s mutually convenient.

It’s believed there is only a small window of opportunity for the president to meet with the Pope as Obama’s visit to Italy is short, and sandwiched between his trips to Russia and Ghana.

However, despite these difficulties, sources say an agreement is close and the White House is likely to confirm a meeting very soon.

Meanwhile, tomorrow and Wednesday, religious leaders from around the world will gather in Rome to highlight “a spiritual and ethical face” for the G8 meeting.

Among those attending will be Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abuna Paulos. It’ll be the fourth meeting of its kind.

According to tomorrow’s L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Italian bishops’ conference’s Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, said the leaders will address “the priority issues to be discussed at the G8, such as the economic and financial crisis, the water emergency, food security, health, education, peace and security.” Special attention will also be given to Africa.

“Our message to the politicians,” Archbishop Paglia said, “is lend an ear to the depths of the human heart and its problems.” He added that the religious leaders “will address the issues from an ethical point of view, providing that precious spiritual support for taking forward any social issue, in the authentic and genuine perspective of searching for the common good.”

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 2:12 AM]
6/16/2009 1:57 PM
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June 16

St. John Francis Regis (France, 1597-1649)
Jesuit, Home Missionary, Confessor

Unusually for a Tuesday, the Holy Father met for the second day in a row with Austrian bishops
whom he called to the Vatican to meet with him and the Curia.

The Vatican announced
- The appointment of Mons. Albert Malcom Ranjith as Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka) to succeed
Mons. Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis, who has reached canonical retirement age.
- The appointment of Fr. Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., until now Under-Secretary of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, to succeed Mons. Ranjith as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Fr. Di Noia is also elevated to the rank of Archbishop.
{More of newsman Andrea Tornielli's pre-announcements confirmed.]

6/16/2009 2:30 PM
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As these meetings are behind closed doors, both Paolo Rodari of Il Riformista and Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale - the two Vaticanistas who are most wired into what's happening behind the scenes at the Vatican - have no formal news reports but only brief notes in their blogs today about the unprecedented meeting of Benedict XVI with Austrian bishops outside the context of an ad limina visit. Here's the one by Rodari:

Will the Pope say something
in public about the sorry state
of the Austrian Church?

by Paolo Rodari
Translated from

June 16, 2009

They met yesterday and will be meeting again today - Benedict XVI; Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, with the principal lights of the Austrian hierarchy, starting with the Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops' conference, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn and his auxiliary, Mons. Egon Kapellari, Archbishop of Graz; the bishop of Linz, Mons. Ludwig Schwarz; the bishop of Salzburg, Mons. Alois Kothgasser; and Mons. Peter Zurbriggen, Apostolic Nuncio in Austria.

It is an unprecedented meeting behind closed doors at which the Pope is trying to set things straight with the errant and dissident Church in Austria.

After the nomination of Mons. Gerhard Maria Wagner as auxiliary bishop of Linz - subsequently scuttled because of protests from these same bishops - the Pontiff was informed about the instances of disobedience and the anti-Roman attitude within the Austrian bishops conference.

The bishops basically opposed Mons. Wagner's nomination because they consider him too conservative, even as in their own dioceses, these bishops admit to continuous liturgical abuses while tolerating priests living in open concubinage.

Too much for Papa Ratzinger, to say the least!

The Curial big guns included by the Pope in the meetings with the Austrian bishops say a lot about the nature of the problems in the Austrian Church! As terrible as the Irish child abuse report was, the Holy Father met the bishops of Armagh and Dublin by himself recently (of course, the abuses reported all happened in the past, unlike the current and apparently widespread abuses and laxities in the Austrian Church).

ZENIT, SIR and Andrea Tornielli have all filed reports citing a communique from the Vatican Press Office earlier today after the two days of meetings between the Holy Father, some Curial discastery heads and five bishops from Austria. But I don't see it on the Vatican website nor on Vatican Radio online nor in tomorrow's issue of L'Osservatore Romano.

Here is a translation of the ZENIT item, which reads like a translation of a Press Office bulletin

The Pope asks Austrian bishops
to deepen their faith and
be faithful to the Magisterium

VATICAN CITY, June 16 (Translated from - On June 15-6, Benedict XVI and the heads of some dicasteries of the Roman Curia met at the Vatican with a delegation of Austrian bishops.

The prelates convoked to thse extraordinary meetings were Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops' conference; Mon. Alois Kothgasser, Archbishop of Salzburg; Mons. Egon Kapellari, Bishop of Graz-Seckau and vice-president of the Austrian bishops' conference; Mons. Ludwig Schwarz, bishop of Linz, and Mons. Peter Stephan Zurbriggen, Apostolic Nuncio in Austria.

The dicastery heads who took part in the meetings were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of teh Faith; Cardinal Claudío Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; and Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

A communique released by the Holy See says that during the meetings, which were characterized by 'collegial affection', the participants discussed "in fraternal dialog adn a constructive spirit, some issues about the situation in the Diocese of Linz and the Church in Austria, looking at solutions for current problems".

The note says other subjects discussed were "doctrinal and pastoral questions and the situation of the clergy, the laity, and the major seminaries and theological faculties in Linz and other dioceses of Austria".

It goes on to say that "the Pope reminded the participants of the urgency to deepen the faith, to keep integral fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and the post-Conciliar Magisterium of the Church, and to renew catechetical efforts in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church".

[How ironic that the Pope has to remind Austrian bishops about the need for strong catechetical instruction, considering that Cardinal Schoenborn was the chief editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church!

It says a lot about Schoenborn's leadership - or lack thereof - that all these years, and even after the Pope's visit to Austria, not only was he unable to stop the liberal laxity in the Church of Austria, but appeared to encourage it by questionable actions such as celebrating Mahony-style Pop Masses, allowing tha exhibition of a blasphemous painting in Vienna's CAthedral Museum, and caving in to pressure about Mons. Wagner, after welcoming his nomination and praising him in print.]

On their part, the Austrian bishops "thanked the Holy Father for his paternal solicitude and for this meeting - a sign of his closeness to the Church in Austria - and assured him of their full communion and their affection".

They also expressed their appreciation to the Roman Curia "for their fruitful collaboration and their availability".

We can only pray fervently that something positive does come out of this, and that the above statements by the Austrian bishops are not jurt a routine formula.

If they will not and cannot discipline themselves first and then their clergy and laity, who will? Each of them is directly responsible for his local flock, and they should attend to them instead of butting as they did into what the Holy Father decides to do about the Lefebvrians, for instance!

What nerve to issue that letter criticizing the Holy Father all the while they have been coddling priests who flaunt their concubinage! And to have such contempt for the FSSPX priests who do everything by the book except swear blind loyalty to Vatican-II directives that they question.

The record of the Church in Austria in the last few decades does not raise much hope in a direction of positive change, but maybe the Holy Spirit will finally blow their way!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/16/2009 10:57 PM]
6/17/2009 2:14 PM
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June 17

St. Joseph Cafasso (Italy, 1811-1860)
Confessor, 'Priest of the Gallows'

OR today.

Illustration. The 'mandylion' (Veronica's veil), 12th-century icon.

No papal news in this issue outside of announcements. Page 1 stories are on the Iran post-election protests;
the creation of BRIC, an economic union among Brazil, Russia, India and China to promote the interests of
the emerging large economies against the established ones; Moscow and Washington discuss what to do about
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and a teaser on the most interesting story on religion in the issue:
"The mysterious idol that gave strength to the Knights Templar", a story about how they came into possession
in the Middle Ages of what is thought to be the Holy Shroud.

General Audience today - The Holy Father's catechesis was on the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius,
co-Patrons of Europe, who evangelized the Slavs.


Here is a translation of a communique from the Vatican Press Office today:

In response to frequent questions these days regarding the priestly ordinations of the Fraternity of St. Pius X scheduled for the end of June, we refer to what the Holy Father said in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church last March 10:

As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church... Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

The ordinations are therefore still considered illegitimate.

Int he same letter, the Pope announced his intention for a new status of the Ecclesia Dei Commission which will be attached to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

There is reason to believe that the definition of this new status is imminent. This will constitute the premise for opening dialog with the responsible officials of the FSSPX towards the desired clarification of doctrinal questions - and any consequent disciplinary questions - which remain open.

[In other words, nothing has changed yet. The FSSPX will continue their ordinations, knowing full well the canonical consequences, as they have for the past 22 years. And the Vatican has not prohibited them from going on, nor has it threatened a new excommunication as the German bishops did!]

The Vatican Press Office also finally released online yesterday's communique about the meetings between the Holy Father, leading members of the Roman Curia, and five bishops from Austria.

It is as reported by ZENIT yesterday, which apparently used the German text release for its story.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/17/2009 4:32 PM]
6/17/2009 2:40 PM
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Here is what the Holy Father said in English today:

As we continue our catechesis on the early Christian writers of the East and the West, we now turn to the brother Saints Cyril and Methodius.

They were born in Thessalonica in the early ninth century. Cyril, whose baptismal name was Constantine, was educated at the Byzantine Court, ordained a priest, and became an acclaimed teacher of sacred and profane sciences.

When his brother Michael became a monk, taking the name of Methodius, Cyril also decided to embrace the monastic life. Having retrieved the relics of Pope Clement I during a mission in Crimea, the brothers successfully preached Christianity to the people of Moravia.

Inventing an alphabet for the Slavonic language, they together with their disciples translated the Liturgy, the Bible and texts of the Fathers, shaping the culture of the Slavic peoples and leaving an outstanding example of inculturation. Pope Adrian II received them in Rome and encouraged their missionary work.

When Cyril died in Rome in 869, Methodius continued the mission in spite of persecution. After his death in 885, some of his disciples, providentially released from slavery, spread the Gospel in Bulgaria and in "the Land of the Rus".

In recognition of the brothers’ vast influence, they were named Co-Patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II.

May we imitate their strong faith and their Christian wisdom as we bear witness to the Gospel in our daily lives!

I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the 2009 Church Music Festival. I greet the pilgrims from the parishes of Sacred Heart, Dontozidon, Ilapayan and Tuaran from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, accompanied by Archbishop John Lee, and also the pilgrims from Saint Francis Parish, Singapore. I am also pleased to greet the many student groups, and all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors.

I extend my greetings to the various religious leaders present today who have gathered in Rome for an International Conference of interreligious dialogue. I commend this initiative organized by the Italian Bishops’ Conference in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I am confident that it will do much to draw the attention of world political leaders to the importance of religions within the social fabric of every society and to the grave duty to ensure that their deliberations and policies support and uphold the common good.

Upon all those taking part I invoke an abundance of the Almighty’s blessings.


Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I wish to speak of Saints Cyril and Methodius, brothers in blood and in the faith, called the Apostles to the Slavs.

Cyril was born in Thessalonica to the imperial magistrate Leo in 826/827 as the youngest of seven children. He learned the Slavic language as a child.

At age 14, he was sent to Constantinople to be educated and wsa a companion of the young Emperor Michael III. In those years, various university subjects were introduced, among them dialectics, in which Cyril studied under a master named Fotius.

After turning down a brilliant marriage prospect, he decided to receive Holy Orders and became the librarian of the patriarchate. Shortly thereafter, wishing to retire in solitude, he hid in a monastery, but he was promptly found out, and he was assigned to teach the sacred and profane sciences - a task he carried out so well that he earned the appellative 'Philosopher'.

Meanwhile, his brother Michael (born around 815), after an administrative career in Macedonia, around 850, abandoned the world to become a monk on Mount Olympus in Bithynia, where he received the name Methodius (the monastic name had to begin with the same letter as the baptismal name), later becoming the abbot of the monastery of Polychron.

Attracted by the example of his older brother, Cyril too decided to leave his teaching job to go to Mt. Olympus to meditate and pray. A few years later (around 861), the imperial government gave him a mission among the Khazari near the Sea of Azov, who had requested that they be sent someone literate who would be able to debate with Jews and Saracens (Muslims).

Cyril, accompanied by his brother, stayed quite a time in the Crimea, during which he learned Hebrew. Here, he even searched for the remains of Pope Clement I who had died there in exile. He found the tomb, and when he and his brother left the Crimea, he carried the precious relics with him.

Back in Constantinople, the two brothers were sent to Moravia by Empereor Michael III, who had been specifically requested by the Moravian Prince Bratislaw thus: "Our people, since they rejected paganism, observe the Christian law; but we do not have a teacher who is capable of explaining the true faith to us in our own language".

The mission soon proved to be a success. Translating the liturgy into the Slavic language, the two brothers earned great sympathy among the people.

But this aroused towards them the hostility of the Frankish clergy who had preceded them in Moravia and considered the territory to be under their ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

To justify themselves, the brothers went to Rome in 867. On the way, they stopped in Venice, where they had a spirited discussion with the supporters of the so-called 'trilingual heresy'. The latter maintainexd that there were only three languages with which it was 'legitimate' to praise God - Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Obbviously, the brothers strongly opposed this view.

In Rome, Cyril and Methodius were received by Pope Adrian II, who went in procession to meet them and welcome the relics of Pope St. Clement.

The Pope understood the great importance of their ecclesiastical mission. From the middle of the first milliennium, in fact, the Slavs had settled in great numbers in the territories between the two parts of the Roman Empire, the East and the West, which already had tense relations.

The Pope sensed that the Slavs could be a bridge that could contribute to keeping the unity among Christians from both parts of the Empire. Thus, he did not hesitate to approve the mission of the two brothers to Greater Mroavia, welcoming and approving the use of Slavic for the liturgy.

The Slavic liturgical books were deposited on the altar of Santa Maria Phatme (Santa Maria Maggiore), and the liturgy in Slavic was celebrated in the Basilicas of St. Peter, St. Andrew and St. Paul.

Unfortunately, Cyril became seriously ill in Rome. Sensing that death was near, he wished to devote himself totally to God as a monk in one of the Greek monasteries of the city (probably the one at St. Praxedes). He assumed the monastic name Cyril (his baptismal name
was Constantine).

He asked his brother Methodius, who had meanwhile been consecrated as a bishop, not to abandon the mission to Moravia and to return to the Slavic peoples.

He addressed God in these words: "Oh Lord, my God... hear my prayer and keep faithful to you the flock to whom I would have offered myself... Free them from the heresy of the three languages, gather them all in unity, and make the people you have chosen united in the true faith and in the right confession". He died on February 14, 869.

Faithful to the commitment he had made to his brother, Methodius returned the following year, 870, to Moravia and to Pannonia (now Hungary), where once again, he met with the violent aversion of the Frankish missionaries who imprisoned him.

He did not lose heart, and when, in 873, he was released, he proceeded to function actively in organizing the Church, undertaking the formation of a group of disciples. These disciples must be credited for being able to overcome the crisis unmleashed after the death of Methodius on April 6, 885.

Persecuted and jailed, some of them were even sold as slaves and taken to Venice, where they were ransomed by a Constantinople functionary who allowed them to return to the lands of the Balkan Slavs.

Welcomed in Bulgaria, they were able to continue the mission begun by Methodius, spreading the Gospel in 'the land of the Rus'. God in his mysterious providence thus availed of persecution to save the work of the holy brothers. Literary documentation of their mission has come down to us.

Just think of examples like the Evangelarium (liturgical excerpts from the New Testament), the Psaltery, and various liturgical texts in Slavic on which both brothers worked. After the death of Cyril, we owe Methodius and his disciples, among other things, the translation of the entire Sacred Scripture, the Nomo-canon and the Books of the Fathers.

To summarize briefly the spiritual profile of the two brothers, one must first take note of the passion with which Cyril approached the writings of St. Gregory Nazianzene, learning from him the value of language in the transmission of Revelation.

St. Gregory had expressed the desire that Christ could speak through him: "I am a servant of the Word (made flesh), therefore I place myself at the service of the Word (of God).

Wishing to imitate Gregory in this service, Cyril asked Christ to speak in Slavic through him. He introduced his translations with the solemn invocation: "Listen, all you Slavic peoples, listen to the Word that comes from God, the Word that nourishes the soul, the Word that leads to knowledge of God."

Actually, a few years before the Prince of Moravia asked the Emperor Michael II to send missionaries to his land, it seems that Cyril and his brother Methodius, along with a group of disciples, had already been working on a project to put together Christian teachings in books written in Slavic.

It then became clear that they needed new graphic symbols that were more adapted to the spoken language. Thus was born the Giagolitic alphabet which, modified successively, was eventually called 'Cyrillic' in honor of the man who inspired it. This was a decisive event for the development of Slavic civilization in general.

Cyril and Methodius were convinced that single peoples could not claim to have received the Revelation fully until they had heard it in their own language and read it in their own alphabet.

Methodius has the merit of ensuring that the work undertaken with his brother would not be brusquely interrupted. While Cyril the 'Philosopher' was inclined to contemplation, Methodius carried on an active life.

Thanks to this, he was able to lay the premises for the successive affirmation of what we might call the 'Cyrillo-Methodian idea' which accompanied the Slavic peoples through different historical periods and favored their cultural, national and religious development.

Pope Pius XI acknowledged this with his Apostolic Letter Quod Sanctum Cyrillum, in which he described the two brothers as "sons of the Orient, from the Byzantine nation, Greek by origin, Roman by mission, and Slavic by their apostolic fruits" (AAS 19 [1927] 93-96).

The historic role they played was officially proclaimed by Pope John Paul II who, with the Apostolic Letter Egregiae virtutis viri, declared them co-Patrons of Europe along with St. Benedict (AAS 73 [1981] 258-262).

Inneed, Cyril and Methodius provide a classic example of what is today indicated by the term 'inculturation': every people should find the revealed message in their own culture and express in it the salvific truth with the language that is their own.

This presupposes a work of 'translation' that is very demanding because it requires the specificity of adequate terms in order to re-propose, without betraying, the richness of the revealed Word.

The two brothers have left us a testimony of this that is never more significant, to which the Church still looks today for inspiration and orientation.

Even the regular agency news photographers are getting to be Spazianis! When was the last time they had such a photogenic 82-year-old?

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/17/2009 7:04 PM]
6/17/2009 4:24 PM
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As the Year of the Priest opens,
Cardinal Schoenborn presents the Pope
with Austrian laity petition
to abolish obligatory celibacy for priests

VATICAN CITY, June 17 (Translated from ASCA) - On the eve of the opening of the Year of the Priest decreed by Pope Benedict XVI, the question of obligatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests has surfaced in a strange way.

It was raised during the meeting called by Pope Benedict XVI with five Austrian bishops and leading members of the Roman Curia concerned with ongoing (and worsening) problems of doctrine and discipline in the Austrian Church.

Cardinal Christopher Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops conference, said that on the occasion, he presented the Pope with the so-called Laieninitiativ(lay initiative), an appeal launched by 'important' Austrian Catholics earlier this year calling for the abolition of obligatory celibacy for the clergy, the return to priestly of married priests, opening the diaconate to women, and ordination of so-called 'viri probati'.

Schoenborn says he met with the promoters of the initiative a few days before coming to Rome this week.

He said in an interview with the German service of Vatican Radio that "even if I do not share their conclusions, as I have said several times", he forwarded the "Memorandum" to Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation For the Clergy, with his own handwritten note "asking him to read it with great attention". [How odd! Does he think Cardinal Hummes would read it distractedly?]

"I think it is important," he explained, "that someone in Rome knows what part of our lay faithful think of the problems of the Church."

According to an item from the Austrian bishops' news agency KAP, Schoenborn promised the promoters of the initiative that he would present their case in Rome, along with accounts of the consequences reportedly arising from the lack of priests in 46 parishes of Austria, most of them in rural areas.

In his meeting with the laymen, the Archbishop of Vienna reportedly expressed his 'understanding of their concerns' since "he, too, is concerned about pastoral care in the parishes... especially in these times of crisis for the family".

He added: "Without a doubt, the lack of priests has something to do with the increase in the number of persons who remain distant from the Church and the faith".

[Excuse me! If the parishes that lack priests are in the rural areas, the majority of non-observant and dissident Catholics are urban residents, who cannot use lack of priests as a reason for their 'estrangement' from the faith.

I think it is very disingenuous for these lay promoters and of Cardinal Schoenborn to trace the blame for the lack of priests in Austria to priestly celibacy. If that were a reason, Protestant and Orthodox churches that allow marriage for priests would be overflowing with applicants for the priestly ministry, which is not the case at all!]

Of course, the cardinal reiterated the 'great tradition' of priestly celibacy in the Church. But, he added, "As the bishop for Catholics of the Byzantine rite in Austria, whose clergy are for the most part married, I am absolutely comfortable with married priests."

He said that the promoters of the initiative should "seek not only that which can appear desirable in the present situation and for the long term, but also what is concretely possible".

He called on them to supplement their appeal by 'encouraging' young men to continue responding to vocation exactly as it is today.

The promoters of the initiative include three politicians said to be prominent in the Austrian Popular Party (considered the Christian conservative party), an ex-president of the Austrian parliament, and an ex-Vice-Chancellor of Austria.

[The fact that the leading names cited are all politicians or ex-politicians is not exactly the best endorsement for their initiative, even if they obviously represent what many 'liberal' Austrian Catholics think, as reflected in what goes on among their clergy today.

Also, what makes anyone think that allowing married priests will necessarily bring back the non-observant laymen into the Church? Dissident Catholics are not estranged from the Church because priests are obliged to be celibate - it's because they simply refuse to follow the discipline of the faith.

Not by chance, many of the issues raised in the petition were confronted during the Monday-Tuesday meetings at the Vatican with the Austrian bishops.

Schoenborn said that both at the beginning and the end of these meetings. Benedict XVUI reiterated forcefully the importance of priestly celibacy, and linked it to the Year of the Priest which starts Friday.

"The Holy Father," he noted, "said something that impressed us all about priestly celibacy which in Austria, especially in the diocese of Linz, is a very hot topic. He told us that the basic question is whether it is possible and whether it makes sense to lead a live that is based only on one thing, God."

[I wish Schoenborn had said more on what the Pope told them - because that has been the single thread running through all Benedict XVI's various homilies, addresses and writings about the priesthood: that the priest should be, before anything else, a man whose first duty is to God, to be holy, to set an example of holiness, so that he can best carry out his duties to the People of God entrusted to him.]

Schoenborn said that during the meetings, enough time was dedicated to the role of laymen in the Church. He said that the case of Linz diocese - shaken, he said, like the rest of the Austrian Church by 'divisions' and 'profound tensions' - has been a positive example for a great many active lay faithful who have been led to reflect on participation in Sunday Mass at a rate superior to the rest of the country." [????]

"There was agreement among ourselves and the Roman Curia heads that it is good for many laymen to be so active in the diocese... since we have a compelling need for active lay participation in society," he said.

After the Wagner case, some priests in the diocese came out openly to say they have been living in concubinage for years.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/17/2009 4:39 PM]
6/18/2009 3:08 AM
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Papa Ratzinger's imprint
on the Roman Curia:
Four years of choice and renewal

From the Secretariat of State to the Congregations and Pontifical Councils,
here are the appointments that belie the charge of 'immobilism'

Translated from

June 17, 2009

Periodically, one reads or hears observations and lamentations on a very specific aspect - but one that undoubtedly whets media appetites - of this Pontificate: that of appointments to the Roman Curia.

Usually, it is noted that these appointments are rather slow in coming. But is it really so? In absolute terms, each person may have his own opinion. But if one ventures to compare the statistics in the first four years of Benedict XVI's 'reign' with the similar period for John Paul II, one discovers that insofar as changes in the leadership of the Curial dicasteries, Papa Ratzinger has not been any slower than his predecessor. On the contrary.

From 2005 to the present, Benedict XVI named a new Secretary of State (Cardinal Bertone) and new prefects for six out of nine Congregations: William J. Levada for the Doctrine of the Faith, in May 2005; Ivan Dias, for the Evangelization of Peoples in May 2006; Claudio Hummes, for the Clergy in October 2006; Leonardo Sandri, for Oriental Churches, in June 2007; Antonio Canizares Llovera for Divine Worship in December 2008; and Angelo Amato, for Causes of Sainthood, in July 2008.

Between 1978-1982, John Paul II made the same number of appointments:
Agostino Casa­roli, as Secretary of State, in 1979; Jo­seph Ratzinger, for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1981; Wladyslaw Rubin, for Oriental Churches in 1980; Giu­seppe Casoria, for Divine Worship in 1981; Pietro Palazzini, for Causes of Sainthood in 1980; Silvio Oddi, for the Clergy in 1979; and William W. Baum, for Catholic Education in 1980.

One must add that John Paul II was helped along in making changes because two Curial heads died while still in office: Cardinal Jean Villot, who was Secretary of State (inherited from Paul VI) died at age 74, and John Wright of Clergy died at age 70.

Papa Ratzinger has not yet changed the prefects of the Congregations for Bishops (Giovanni Battista Re), nstitutes of Apostolic Life (Franc Rode), and Zenon Grocholewski (Catholic Education).

John Paul II, after four years, also had not yet replaced three prefects: Bishops (Sebastiano Reggio), Evangelization of Peoples (Angelo Rossi), and Apostolic Life (Eduardo Pironio).

But one may note a difference in the number of Italians named to available posts - 2 out of 7 for Papa Ratzinger against 4 out of 7 for John Paul II.

It is also said that under Benedict, too many Curial heads are overstaying the age-75 canonical retirement age. But this also happened under Papa Wojtyla - Corrado Bafile who headed Causes of Sainthood till he was 77, Gabriel Garrone who remained at Catholic Education to age 79, as did Joseph Ratzinger himself at CDF and Cardinal Sodano as Secretary of State till they were 78. {All of them staying on at John Paul II's insistence, one presumes, as it was with Cardinal Ratzinger.]

It was only in 1984, six years after he became Pope, that John Paul II 'replaced' in one sweep the remaining three congregation heads he had inherited from Paul VI (Bishops, Evangelization, Consecrated Life) even if they had not reached age 75.

To the three tribunals of the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI named Fortunato Baldelli as Major Penitentiary last June 2 and Mons Raymond Burke as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in June 2008. He has not changed the Dean of the Roman Rota, Antoni Stankiewicz.

In the first four years of John Paul II, he did not change the Major Penitentiary, while the sudden death of Pericle Felici at age 71 led to the appointment of Aurelio Sabattani to replace him, and in the same year, the deanship of the Roman Rota was turned over from Heinrich Evers to Arturo Di Iorio.

With respect to the presidents of the Pontifical Councils, Benedict XVI has replaced those of all the councils created at the time of John Paul II: Francesco Coccopalmiero to Legislative Texts in February 2007; Gianfranco Ravasi to Culture in September 2007; Antonio Veglio to Migrants and Workers in February 2008; Ennio Antonelli to the Council for the Family in June 2008; and Zygmunt Zymowski to the Pastoral Ministry for Healthcare Workers, in April 2009 - in this case favoring Italians 4 to 1.

Of the older Pontifical Councils, Benedict XVI has named only two, both in June 2007 - Jean-Louis Tauran to Inter-Religious Dialog, and Claudio Maria Celli to Social Communications. Those who remain in office from the Wojtyla era are the presidents of the Councils for the Laity (Stanyslaw Rylko), Christian Unity (Walter Kasper), Justice and Peace (Raffaele Martino), and Cor Unum (Paul Cordes), of whom Kasper and Martino will soon be turning 75.

For these last six Councils, John Paul II named only one new president between 1978-1982 - Inter-Religious Dialog, after the death of Sergio Pignedoli at age 70 in 1980. The others were subsequently replaced, whereas Johannes Willebrand remained at Christian Unity until he turned 80 in 1989.

In the three administrative offices of the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI named Bertone Papal Chamberlain in April 2007, and Velasio De Paulis as president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See in April 2008, while retaining Attilio Nicora at the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA).

In this case, John Paul II was relatively 'fast'. He named Paolo Bertoli as Chamberlain in 1979 and Giuseppe Caprio as president of APSA at the death of Cardinal Villot who had held these two other posts as well. At the start of 1981, Caprio became Prefect of Economic Affairs to replace Egidio Vagnozzi, who died.

Thus, if one takes into account the leadership of the 28 dicasteries which make up the Roman Curia, one will note that Benedict XVI in four years has named 17, or 60.7%; while John Paul II between 1978 and 1982, changed 13 of the 22 leadership positions then existent, or 59.1%. [That's a statistical tie!]

So from the numbers, Benedict XVI has not been as slow as he is made out to be with Curial changes. Certainly, he has not been slower than his predecessor in a comparable period who, in fairness, did not know as much about the Curia as did Cardinal Ratzinger when he became Pope.

But whether or how much Papa Ratzinger considers internal balances in the Roman Curia decisive for the future of the Church is another story altogether.

6/18/2009 1:57 PM
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June 18
Venerable Matt Talbot (Ireland, 1856-1925)
Franciscan tertiary and ascetic
Patron of recovering alcoholics

OR today.

Illustration: Scenes from the life of Cyril and Methodius. 20th-century Bulgarian icon, anonymous.
At the General Audience, the Pope talks of the brother Saints Cyril and Methodius:
'The message of faith must fit into the culture of every people'
Other Page 1 stories: Continuing post-election protests in Iraq; and a teaser on an inside-page story about the completed restoration
of the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace. Built in 1537-1541, restoration started in 2002, Its frescoes are among the last
paintings by Michelangelo (photos below are details from The Conversion of St. Paul and The Crucifixion of Christ). The Holy Father
will bless and inaugurate the restored chapel on July 4.


The Holy Father met today with

- H.E. George Abela, President of Malta, with his wife and delegation

- Bishops of Venezuela (Group 6) on ad limina visit.

- His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The Vatican released the text of the Holy Father's letter to all the priests of the world on
the occasion of the Year of the Priest which begins tomorrow, June 19 (See next post).

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/18/2009 5:49 PM]
6/18/2009 2:27 PM
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This is the official text in English. The letter has been issued in all the official languages of the Vatican.






Dear Brother Priests,

On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy – I have decided to inaugurate a “Year for Priests” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the “dies natalis” of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide. [1]

This Year, meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world, will conclude on the same Solemnity in 2010.

The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, the saintly Curé of Ars would often say.[2] This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself.

I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life.

How can I not pay tribute to their apostolic labours, their tireless and hidden service, their universal charity? And how can I not praise the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation as “friends of Christ”, whom he has called by name, chosen and sent?

I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person.

I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry.

Yet the expression of Saint John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. I am also led to think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister.

How can we not also think of all those priests who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even at times to offering the supreme testimony of their own blood?

There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection.

What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God’s gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides.

Here the teaching and example of Saint John Mary Vianney can serve as a significant point of reference for us all. The Curé of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”. [3]

He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…”. [4]

Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”. [5]

These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the sacrament of the priesthood.

He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: “Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods … Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”. [6]

He arrived in Ars, a village of 230 souls, warned by his Bishop beforehand that there he would find religious practice in a sorry state: “There is little love of God in that parish; you will be the one to put it there”.

As a result, he was deeply aware that he needed to go there to embody Christ’s presence and to bear witness to his saving mercy: “[Lord,] grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!”: with this prayer he entered upon his mission. [7]

The Curé devoted himself completely to his parish’s conversion, setting before all else the Christian education of the people in his care.

Dear brother priests, let us ask the Lord Jesus for the grace to learn for ourselves something of the pastoral plan of Saint John Mary Vianney!

The first thing we need to learn is the complete identification of the man with his ministry. In Jesus, person and mission tend to coincide: all Christ’s saving activity was, and is, an expression of his “filial consciousness” which from all eternity stands before the Father in an attitude of loving submission to his will. In a humble yet genuine way, every priest must aim for a similar identification.

Certainly this is not to forget that the efficacy of the ministry is independent of the holiness of the minister; but neither can we overlook the extraordinary fruitfulness of the encounter between the ministry’s objective holiness and the subjective holiness of the minister.

The Curé of Ars immediately set about this patient and humble task of harmonizing his life as a minister with the holiness of the ministry he had received, by deciding to “live”, physically, in his parish church.

As his first biographer tells us: “Upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home. He entered the church before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus. There he was to be sought whenever needed”. [8]

The pious excess of his devout biographer should not blind us to the fact that the Curé also knew how to “live” actively within the entire territory of his parish: he regularly visited the sick and families, organized popular missions and patronal feasts, collected and managed funds for his charitable and missionary works, embellished and furnished his parish church, cared for the orphans and teachers of the “Providence” (an institute he founded); provided for the education of children; founded confraternities and enlisted lay persons to work at his side.

His example naturally leads me to point out that there are sectors of cooperation which need to be opened ever more fully to the lay faithful.

Priests and laity together make up the one priestly people9 and in virtue of their ministry priests live in the midst of the lay faithful, “that they may lead everyone to the unity of charity, ‘loving one another with mutual affection; and outdoing one another in sharing honour’” (Rom 12:10). [10]

Here we ought to recall the Second Vatican Council’s hearty encouragement to priests “to be sincere in their appreciation and promotion of the dignity of the laity and of the special role they have to play in the Church’s mission. … They should be willing to listen to lay people, give brotherly consideration to their wishes, and acknowledge their experience and competence in the different fields of human activity. In this way they will be able together with them to discern the signs of the times”. [11]

Saint John Mary Vianney taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life. It was from his example that they learned to pray, halting frequently before the tabernacle for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. [12]

“One need not say much to pray well” – the Curé explained to them – “We know that Jesus is there in the tabernacle: let us open our hearts to him, let us rejoice in his sacred presence. That is the best prayer”. [13]

And he would urge them: “Come to communion, my brothers and sisters, come to Jesus. Come to live from him in order to live with him…14 “Of course you are not worthy of him, but you need him!”. [15]

This way of educating the faithful to the Eucharistic presence and to communion proved most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Those present said that “it was not possible to find a finer example of worship… He gazed upon the Host with immense love”. [16]

“All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass” – he would say – “since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God”.[17]

He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass: “The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”. [18]

He was accustomed, when celebrating, also to offer his own life in sacrifice: “What a good thing it is for a priest each morning to offer himself to God in sacrifice!”. [19]

This deep personal identification with the Sacrifice of the Cross led him – by a sole inward movement – from the altar to the confessional.

Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this sacrament. In France, at the time of the Curé of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion.

Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a “virtuous” circle.

By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness.

Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to sixteen hours a day. It was said that Ars had become “a great hospital of souls”. [20]

His first biographer relates that “the grace he obtained [for the conversion of sinners] was so powerful that it would pursue them, not leaving them a moment of peace!”. [21]

The saintly Curé reflected something of the same idea when he said: “It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to him”. [22] "This good Saviour is so filled with love that he seeks us everywhere”.[23]

We priests should feel that the following words, which he put on the lips of Christ, are meant for each of us personally: “I will charge my ministers to proclaim to sinners that I am ever ready to welcome them, that my mercy is infinite”. [24]

From Saint John Mary Vianney we can learn to put our unfailing trust in the sacrament of Penance, to set it once more at the centre of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the “dialogue of salvation” which it entails.

The Curé of Ars dealt with different penitents in different ways. Those who came to his confessional drawn by a deep and humble longing for God’s forgiveness found in him the encouragement to plunge into the “flood of divine mercy” which sweeps everything away by its vehemence.

If someone was troubled by the thought of his own frailty and inconstancy, and fearful of sinning again, the Curé would unveil the mystery of God’s love in these beautiful and touching words: “The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, he already knows that you will sin again, yet he still forgives you. How great is the love of our God: he even forces himself to forget the future, so that he can grant us his forgiveness!”. [25]

But to those who made a lukewarm and rather indifferent confession of sin, he clearly demonstrated by his own tears of pain how “abominable” this attitude was: “I weep because you don’t weep”, [26] he would say. “If only the Lord were not so good! But he is so good! One would have to be a brute to treat so good a Father this way!”. [27]

He awakened repentance in the hearts of the lukewarm by forcing them to see God’s own pain at their sins reflected in the face of the priest who was their confessor.

To those who, on the other hand, came to him already desirous of and suited to a deeper spiritual life, he flung open the abyss of God’s love, explaining the untold beauty of living in union with him and dwelling in his presence: “Everything in God’s sight, everything with God, everything to please God… How beautiful it is!”. [28]

And he taught them to pray: “My God, grant me the grace to love you as much as I possibly can”.29

In his time the Curé of Ars was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord’s merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love: Deus caritas est (1 Jn: 4:8).

Thanks to the word and the sacraments of Jesus, John Mary Vianney built up his flock, although he often trembled from a conviction of his personal inadequacy, and desired more than once to withdraw from the responsibilities of the parish ministry out of a sense of his unworthiness.

Nonetheless, with exemplary obedience he never abandoned his post, consumed as he was by apostolic zeal for the salvation of souls. He sought to remain completely faithful to his own vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism: “The great misfortune for us parish priests – he lamented – is that our souls grow tepid”; meaning by this that a pastor can grow dangerously inured to the state of sin or of indifference in which so many of his flock are living. [30]

He himself kept a tight rein on his body, with vigils and fasts, lest it rebel against his priestly soul. Nor did he avoid self-mortification for the good of the souls in his care and as a help to expiating the many sins he heard in confession. To a priestly confrere he explained: “I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place”. [31]

Aside from the actual penances which the Curé of Ars practiced, the core of his teaching remains valid for each of us: souls have been won at the price of Jesus’s own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the “precious cost” of redemption.

In today’s world, as in the troubled times of the Curé of Ars, the lives and activity of priests need to be distinguished by a forceful witness to the Gospel.

As Pope Paul VI rightly noted, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”. [32]

Lest we experience existential emptiness and the effectiveness of our ministry be compromised, we need to ask ourselves ever anew: “Are we truly pervaded by the word of God? Is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking?”. [33]

Just as Jesus called the Twelve to be with him (cf. Mk 3:14), and only later sent them forth to preach, so too in our days priests are called to assimilate that “new style of life” which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles. [34]

It was complete commitment to this “new style of life” which marked the priestly ministry of the Curé of Ars. Pope John XXIII, in his Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii nostri primordia, published in 1959 on the first centenary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, presented his asceticism with special reference to the “three evangelical counsels” which the Pope considered necessary also for priests: “even though priests are not bound to embrace these evangelical counsels by virtue of the clerical state, these counsels nonetheless offer them, as they do all the faithful, the surest road to the desired goal of Christian perfection”. [35]

The Curé of Ars lived the “evangelical counsels” in a way suited to his priestly state. His poverty was not the poverty of a religious or a monk, but that proper to a priest: while managing much money (since well-to-do pilgrims naturally took an interest in his charitable works), he realized that everything had been donated to his church, his poor, his orphans, the girls of his “Providence”, [36] his families of modest means.

Consequently, he “was rich in giving to others and very poor for himself”. [37] As he would explain: “My secret is simple: give everything away; hold nothing back”. [38] When he lacked money, he would say aimiably to the poor who knocked at his door: “Today I’m poor just like you, I’m one of you”. [39]

At the end of his life, he could say with absolute tranquillity: “I no longer have anything. The good Lord can call me whenever he wants!”. [40]

His chastity, too, was that demanded of a priest for his ministry. It could be said that it was a chastity suited to one who must daily touch the Eucharist, who contemplates it blissfully and with that same bliss offers it to his flock.

It was said of him that “he radiated chastity”; the faithful would see this when he turned and gazed at the tabernacle with loving eyes”. [41]

Finally, Saint John Mary Vianney’s obedience found full embodiment in his conscientious fidelity to the daily demands of his ministry. We know how he was tormented by the thought of his inadequacy for parish ministry and by a desire to flee “in order to bewail his poor life, in solitude”. [42]

Only obedience and a thirst for souls convinced him to remain at his post. As he explained to himself and his flock: “There are no two good ways of serving God. There is only one: serve him as he desires to be served”.43 He considered this the golden rule for a life of obedience: “Do only what can be offered to the good Lord”. [44]

In this context of a spirituality nourished by the practice of the evangelical counsels, I would like to invite all priests, during this Year dedicated to them, to welcome the new springtime which the Spirit is now bringing about in the Church, not least through the ecclesial movements and the new communities.

“In his gifts the Spirit is multifaceted… He breathes where he wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places, and in ways previously unheard of… but he also shows us that he works with a view to the one body and in the unity of the one body”. [45]

In this regard, the statement of the Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis continues to be timely: “While testing the spirits to discover if they be of God, priests must discover with faith, recognize with joy and foster diligently the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, whether these be of a humble or more exalted kind”. [46]

These gifts, which awaken in many people the desire for a deeper spiritual life, can benefit not only the lay faithful but the clergy as well. The communion between ordained and charismatic ministries can provide “a helpful impulse to a renewed commitment by the Church in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel of hope and charity in every corner of the world”. [47]

I would also like to add, echoing the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis of Pope John Paul II, that the ordained ministry has a radical “communitarian form” and can be exercised only in the communion of priests with their Bishop. [48]

This communion between priests and their Bishop, grounded in the sacrament of Holy Orders and made manifest in Eucharistic concelebration, needs to be translated into various concrete expressions of an effective and affective priestly fraternity. [49]

Only thus will priests be able to live fully the gift of celibacy and build thriving Christian communities in which the miracles which accompanied the first preaching of the Gospel can be repeated.

The Pauline Year now coming to its close invites us also to look to the Apostle of the Gentiles, who represents a splendid example of a priest entirely devoted to his ministry.

“The love of Christ urges us on” – he wrote – “because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor 5:14). And he adds: “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor 5:15). Could a finer programme could be proposed to any priest resolved to advance along the path of Christian perfection?

Dear brother priests, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney (1859) follows upon the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes (1858).

In 1959 Blessed Pope John XXIII noted that “shortly before the Curé of Ars completed his long and admirable life, the Immaculate Virgin appeared in another part of France to an innocent and humble girl, and entrusted to her a message of prayer and penance which continues, even a century later, to yield immense spiritual fruits. The life of this holy priest whose centenary we are commemorating in a real way anticipated the great supernatural truths taught to the seer of Massabielle. He was greatly devoted to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin; in 1836 he had dedicated his parish church to Our Lady Conceived without Sin and he greeted the dogmatic definition of this truth in 1854 with deep faith and great joy.” [50]

The Curé would always remind his faithful that “after giving us all he could, Jesus Christ wishes in addition to bequeath us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother”. [51]

To the Most Holy Virgin I entrust this Year for Priests. I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Curé of Ars.

It was his fervent prayer life and his impassioned love of Christ Crucified that enabled John Mary Vianney to grow daily in his total self-oblation to God and the Church.

May his example lead all priests to offer that witness of unity with their Bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary.

Despite all the evil present in our world, the words which Christ spoke to his Apostles in the Upper Room continue to inspire us: “In the world you have tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

Our faith in the Divine Master gives us the strength to look to the future with confidence. Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!

With my blessing.

From the Vatican, 16 June 2009. [/DIM}

1. He was proclaimed as such by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
2. “Le Sacerdoce, c’est l’amour du cœur de Jésus” (in Le curé d’Ars. Sa pensée – Son cœur. Présentés par l’Abbé Bernard Nodet, éd. Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 98). Hereafter: NODET. The expression is also quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1589).
3. NODET, p. 101.
4. Ibid., p. 97.
5. Ibid., pp. 98-99.
6. Ibid., pp. 98-100.
7. Ibid., p. 183.
8. MONNIN, A., Il Curato d’Ars. Vita di Gian.Battista-Maria Vianney, vol. I, ed. Marietti, Turin, 1870, p. 122.
9. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 10.
10. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 9.
11. Ibid.
12. “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy Curé about his prayer before the tabernacle” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2715).
13. NODET, p. 85.
14. Ibid., p. 114.
15. Ibid., p. 119.
16. MONNIN, A., op. cit., II, pp. 430ff.
17. NODET, p. 105.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid., p. 104.
20. MONNIN, A., op. cit., II, p. 293.
21. Ibid., II, p. 10.
22. NODET, p. 128.
23. Ibid., p. 50.
24. Ibid., p. 131.
25. Ibid., p. 130.
26. Ibid., p. 27.
27. Ibid., p. 139.
28. Ibid., p. 28.
29. Ibid., p. 77.
30. Ibid., p. 102.
31. Ibid., p. 189.
32. Evangelii nuntiandi, 41.
33. BENEDICT XVI, Homily at the Chrism Mass, 9 April 2009.
34. Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy, 16 March 2009.
35. P. I.
36. The name given to the house where more than sixty abandoned girls were taken in and educated. To maintain this house he would do anything: “J’ai fait tous les commerces imaginables”, he would say with a smile (NODET, p. 214).
37. NODET, p. 216.
38. Ibid., p. 215.
39. Ibid., p. 216.
40. Ibid., p. 214.
41. Cf. ibid., p. 112.
42. Cf. ibid., pp. 82-84; 102-103.
43. Ibid., p. 75.
44. Ibid., p. 76.
45. BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Vigil of Pentecost, 3 June 2006.
46. No. 9.
47. BENEDICT XVI, Address to Bishop-Friends of the Focolare Movement and the Sant’Egidio Community, 8 February 2007
48. Cf. No. 17.
49. Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 74.
50. Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii nostri primordia, P. III.
51. NODET, p. 244.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/18/2009 2:37 PM]
6/18/2009 7:05 PM
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As expected, the Holy Father's letter to the priests of the world presents all the main points he has been trying to convey to priests and bishops every chance he gets - and in this case, he does it through the example and words of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, whom he will proclaim patron saint of all priests.

To their credit, the Italian news agencies and major newspapers in their online versions, have been filing multiple stories based on the major points for reflection in the Holy Father's letter.

As usual, I say there is nothing better than reading the Pope's own text in full - especially when the Vatican releases all the official language versions at the same time as they did today, because then, it is immediately available.

Very significantly, the Vatican has opened a special webpage on the Year for Priests on its website in each of the official languages -
the English is here:
which brings together all the addresses, homilies and discourses made by Benedict XVI to priests about priesthood, along with the various Q&A sessions he has had with diocesan priests. It is an excellent resource that we can only hope every priest and bishop with access to the Web will use often and well.

And from Zenit, tucked under a feature story on Pius XII, freelance writer Edward Pentin has these ref;ections today on Benedict XVI and the priesthood. I am always glad when someone 'established' in Vatican reporting turns up to share one of my personal focuses of fascination in Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI - his priesthood and his idea of priesthood. Thank you, Mr. Pentin - and the priest-friend you quote who is so spot-on!

Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI:
Priest and man of God

by Edward Pentin

ROME, June 18 ( - When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was proclaimed Pope, I vividly remember the joy of a priest friend standing next to me in St. Peter's Square.

"Cardinal Ratzinger," he said, "was a "priest's cardinal.'" It struck me then as an interesting insight, which now appears to be spot on.

Tomorrow, Benedict XVI will inaugurate the Year for Priests -- the first time since the Congregation for Clergy was founded at the Council of Trent that the Church has paid such special attention to priests.

It's just one of many examples of how much he values the priesthood. Elsewhere, Benedict XVI's esteem can be seen most clearly in his addresses to priests and seminarians.

Frequently, on such occasions he has spoken about reaffirming a priest's identity, about being "a humble but real sign of the one, eternal Priest who is Jesus."

More specifically, he has given them firm words of guidance and encouragement, especially in light of today's pressures and challenges.

Addressing clergy in Warsaw, Poland, on May 25, 2006, he reminded them that the faithful "expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life."

He added: "In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word."

He later stressed that Christ needs priests "who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine mercy."

But the most emphasized point of Benedict XVI has been for priests to live Christ-centered lives. In a speech he gave last year to young people and seminarians at the St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York, he urged them to deepen their friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd, and talk heart-to-heart with him.

"Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit," he said. "Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons. […] Remember that what counts before the Lord is to dwell in his love and to make his love shine forth for others."

His main concern is that priests be centered on the Eucharist -- something that was clear from his first speech as Pope, in the Sistine Chapel in April 2005: "The ministerial Priesthood was born at the Last Supper," he said. "All the more then must the life of a priest be "shaped' by the Eucharist."

Four years on since that momentous day when we watched Benedict XVI's election in St. Peter's Square, I asked my priest friend to expand on why he described the Pope at his election as being a "priest's cardinal."

"He is obviously a priest first [a conclusion I soon reached myself after the initial euphoria that he had become Pope] and a big cheese second -- someone who doesn't lose sight of the little picture," he said. "Too many bishops lose sight of the little picture, and say "We can't worry about that, we have a big conference/Mass/organization to worry about.'"

"Look how he has introduced kneeling for holy Communion," continued the priest, who comes from Britain and serves in an Italian parish. "A very powerful gesture, but it is not really a gesture, it is just normal if you respect the Eucharist…"

"Look at his horror of child abuse: He looks at it from the position of a priest sullied by association rather than a CEO.

"Look at the way he preaches to parishes and children: He doesn't grandstand for the cameras or for the press, he speaks directly and is not easily distracted.

"Look at the lifting of the [SSPX] excommunications: an act of profligate generosity, which flew in the face of fashion, but then a priest is always profligate with mercy. …

"Look at his idea of creating a smaller Church: Any priest who is not an administrator will know that to renew a parish there is much to cut away."

The priest concluded: "He is obviously interested in Truth and wants others to be interested in the Truth too, not in him. Priests don't have vocations to be bureaucrats, they just become them, weighed down and demoralized by relentless diocesan 'big picture' initiatives, and some bishops who want a quiet life. But he has never lost sight of why he wanted to be a priest, of what helps and of what doesn't."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/19/2009 12:06 AM]
6/18/2009 7:11 PM
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VATICAN CITY, 18 JUN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience George Abela, president of Malta. The president subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"During the cordial discussions, while reaffirming the firm ties of friendship between the Holy See and the Republic of Malta, attention turned to certain questions concerning Maltese society, in which the Catholic Church continues to play an important role. Consideration was also given to the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East and Africa, and to the positive contribution Malta can make to resolving the problems there".

6/19/2009 5:01 AM
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Croatians hope for
a papal visit

ZAGREB, June 18 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his work for Croatia and invited him to visit it soon yesterday (Wed).

Benedict XVI expressed his wish to do so at a meeting in the Vatican.

The Pope said: "Croatia has always been in my heart, and I hope to visit your country in the near future."

Jandrokovic gave the Pope a special lace work made by nuns at Benedict Monastery on Hvar Island, Katolicki radio has reported.

The Pope Benedict received Jandrokovic, his wife, and a Croatian delegation after a public audience in St. Peter's Square.

Jandrokovic also met with Italian Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, who had visited Croatia in September last year.

Bertone was interested in the Croatian-Slovene maritime-boundary dispute and the opening of additional chapters in Croatia’s negotiations to join the European Union. Jandrokovic thanked Bertone and the Vatican for their support in this respect.

Croatia, with a population of about 4/5 million, is 88% Roman Catholic. It was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War II, became part of Yugoslavia. It became independent in 1991.

6/19/2009 12:49 PM
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Witnesses for God
by Giovanni Maria Gian
Translated from
the 6/19/09 issue of

The permanent necessity of reforming the Church is the root and the background of the letter the Pope has written to all his priests at the start of the Year for Priests, which comes as the Pauline Year is coming to an end.

And precisely because Ecclesia semper reformanda - the Church is always in reform - according to ancient Christian tradition, Catholic priests themselves must continually renew themselves interiorly.

Towards this, Benedict XVI's text to all the priests of the world intends to contribute, as a brother to his brothers.

He does so by recalling 150 years after his death the spiritual itinerary of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curate of Ars, who was proclaimed 80 years ago the patron of parish priests by Pius XI, who had canonized him four years earlier. He remains for most Catholics the ideal priest, although his image may have faded somewhat with time.

That young country priest spent his whole life in a France which had been shaken up by the revolutionary storm of the late 18th century and then spiritually desertified by anti-Christian aversion.

As the Pope's letter recalls, his bishop told Vianney when he sent him on an assignment which was as difficult as it was touching : "“There is little love of God in that parish; you will be the one to put it there”.

And this is what continues to be essential, as Benedict XVI reminds priests insistently.

One hears it said that priests are not in fashion today, at least not in the secularized societies of well-being, and that their work is not exactly popular. Perhaps it is true, as are the disconsolate reflections on practical materialism and on the spreading de-Christianization in countries that were traditionally Christian. But when was the situation really substantially different?

Even from the viewpoint of Catholic religious practice, times have always been difficult, as indicated in the Pope's letter - "confession was no more easy or frequent [in Vianney's time] than in our own day".

Notwithstanding all this, Benedict XVI speaks of the priesthood with affectionate acknowledgment of the labors of all the priests who are 'friends of Christ', and says he still carries in his heart the memory of the first parish priest alongside whom he worked.

Certainly the resounding faithlessness of some priests that has been much in the news in the past two decades is a shameful burden to the Church, but infinitely less important than the myriad priests who day after day - although perhaps suffering and misunderstood, often insulted and hindered or outright persecuted and even killed - are in the world as witnesses for Christ along with all their brothers in the religious orders and the lay faithful.

They are witnesses of the incarnate God who continue to impress and even fascinate contemporary man - probably because they are the symbols of a different world.

6/19/2009 1:40 PM
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June 19

St. Romuald (Italy, 951-1027)
Abbot, Founder of Camaldolese Benedictines

OR today.

The Pope's letter to all priests as the Year for Priests opens:
'Friends of Christ in today's world'
There is an accompanying editorial (translated in the post above this). Other Page 1 stories: The Pope's meeting with the President of Malta; protesters observe day of mourning in Iran; and a Somali minister assassinated during service in a mosque.


The Holy Father met today with

- Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (Seminaries
and Institutes of Study)

- Bishops of Venezuela (Group 7) on ad-limina visit.

- His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, and his delegation.
Address in French.

- H.E. Gerónimo Narváez Torres, Ambassador of Paraguay, on a farewell visit.


Second Vespers
16:00, St. Peter's Basilica
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Start of the Year for Priests

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