Benedetto XVI Forum


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1/20/2011 2:33 PM
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Thursday, January 20

From left: Paintings by Mantegna, Bellini, El Greco, and a statue in St. Peter's colonnade.
ST. SEBASTIAN (Italy, ?257-288), Martyr
Nothing is historically certain about St. Sebastian except that he was a Roman
martyr who was venerated in Milan even in the time of St. Ambrose, and was
buried on the Appian Way, near the Catacombs that bear his name. Devotion
to him spread rapidly, and he is mentioned in martyrologies as early as 350 AD.
The legend of St. Sebastian became a popular subject in art. The familiar image
of the saint pierced by arrows comes from the story that under Diocletian, he
was exposed as an impostor in the Roman army and sentenced to be shot to
death by archers. He survived to continue denouncing persecution of Christians
to the emperor himself. He was clubbed to death.
Readings for today's Mass:

OR today.

At the General Audience, the Holy Father speaks of the current ecumenical Prayer Week:
'Christian unity resides in prayer'
Other Page 1 items: A commentary on the meeting in Washington, DC, between the Chinese and US presidents; a new UN report notes overall economic growth in Africa but no corresponding social development; and Tunisians continue to revolt and force government ministers held over from the deposed government to resign. In the inside pages, an article on the status of the theological dialog between the Catholic and Orthodox churches; two articles about Light of the World - a history of papal interviews, and an interview with the head of the Vatican publishing house; and a story on Cardinal Bagnasco's St. Sebastian's Day sermon in Genoa, calling on the faithful to render consistent witness to their CAtholic faith.


The Holy Father met with

- Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Cognregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (regular meeting)

- Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

- Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, C.S., President of the Holy See Prefecture for Economic Affairs and
Papal Delegate in charge of the Legionaries of Christ

- Mons. Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Tuesday, Jan. 25
17:30 Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls
Second Vespers
Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/20/2011 2:34 PM]
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1/20/2011 3:43 PM
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The same 'illogic of unreason' that has left Islam petrified in its primitive medievalism appears to govern this decision. Any sane person would think that a formal occasion for dialog that has been held for several years now would be the opportunity to clear up Egyptian misgivings about anything the Pope said - which, to begin with, no thinking individual would consider in any way as 'interference in Egyptian affairs'... But no, like petulant children, Sunni Islam's 'highest authority' simply chooses to walk off in a huff... Should we be surprised at the reciprocal hostility between Sunnis and Shiites - so bloodily evident in Iraq - even if both sides swear by the Koran? At least the Christian religious wars ended a few centuries ago.

Sunni Islam's al-Azhar
freezes talks with the Vatican

Jan 20, 2011

CAIRO, Jan. 20 (dpa) - Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam's oldest universities and mosques, said Thursday it has indefinitely suspended inter-faith talks with the Vatican in response to recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on attacks against Christians in the Middle East.

The decision was taken in light of Benedict's 'repeated negative references to Islam and his claims that Muslims persecute those living among them in the Middle East,' Al-Azahr said in a statement sent to this news agency.

Al-Azhar, which is a Cairo-based government institution, and the Vatican have previously cooperated to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

However, relations were shaken when Benedict earlier this month condemned a New Year's Eve bombing of a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria that killed 23 people.

The Pontiff's words drew criticism from Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Ahmed Al-Tayeb of al-Azhar University who described then as an 'unacceptable interference in Egypt's affairs.'

Last week Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican following a speech by Benedict to foreign diplomats in which he again referred to the Alexandria attack as well as violence against Christians in Iraq, and called on governments in majority Muslim countries to increase efforts to protect their Christian populations.

In response, the Foreign Ministry issued a communique in Cairo that 'Egypt considers the latest statement by the Vatican to be an unacceptable interference in its domestic affairs.'

Official figures estimate that Christians comprise between 10 and 15 per cent of Egypt's population.

Vatican reaffirms position of
openness to dialogue with Islam

20 JAN 2011 (RV) - Vatican press office director Fr Federico Lombardi S.J., reaffirmed the Vatican’s position of “openness and readiness to dialogue” with Islam Thursday, following the announcement earlier in the day by the highest institution in Sunni Islam of its decision to indefinitely freeze its dialogue.

The decision of Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam and president of al-Azhar University in Cairo, and members of the Islamic Research Academy came in mid-morning after an extraordinary meeting called by the Academy.

Reacting to the news, Fr. Lombardi stated that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue is collecting the information needed to adequately understand the situation, and determine how to proceed.

Previously on 2 January, the Grand Imam had spoken against the Pope's New Year’s appeal to world leaders to protect Christians in the wake of the attack on the community in Alexandria, Egypt. An appeal he described as unacceptable interference.

On that occasion, Fr Lombardi had immediately emphasized that the Pope had naturally spoken of solidarity with the Coptic community, but had also expressed concern for the consequences of violence on the whole population, Christian and Muslim.

The statement issued by Al-Azhar Thursday morning also accused the Pope of a frequently negative attitude to Islam.

The declared suspension of dialogue comes one month before the next scheduled meeting of the Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Inter=Religious Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions.

Fr. Lombardi concluded his statement Thursday reaffirming that the Vatican’s position remains one of openness and readiness to dialogue.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/21/2011 10:22 PM]
1/20/2011 5:57 PM
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Smoking gun? No.
But damaging - Yes

By Phil Lawler

January 19, 2011

Did an Irish television documentary produce a “smoking gun,” proving that the Vatican had a worldwide policy encouraging bishops to conceal sexual abuse by priests? No.

But did the documentary show damaging evidence that some Vatican officials nourished a culture of secrecy that fed the abuse scandal? Yes.

For nearly 20 years now, I have been calling attention to an odd and perverse attitude within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which encourages prelates to believe that they are serving “the good of the Church” when they sweep serious problems under the rug.

That attitude contributed mightily to the sex-abuse scandal, as I demonstrated in The Faithful Departed. And that attitude, I am sorry to say, could be found within the Vatican as well as in American dioceses.

Today the Vatican press spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, complained that the RTE television report that aired on January 17 had “deeply misunderstood” a 1997 letter from the papal nuncio in Ireland.

The Vatican was not trying to protect abusive priests, he said. Rather, the caution from the Vatican was intended to ensure that the Irish bishops would respect proper canonical procedures, “precisely so that guilty parties not have a basis to appeal.”

Two excellent American commentators have pointed out the many flaws in the Irish documentary: John Allen for the National Catholic Reporter and Jimmy Akin for the National Catholic Register. Ordinarily the Reporter and the Register are on the opposite sides of controversial topics, so when their reports jibe, their agreement carries more than the usual force. What’s more, Allen and Akin make a number of important points.

- The Congregation for Clergy, the ultimate source of the cautions expressed in the “smoking gun” letter, is just one office in the Roman Curia, not the final arbiter of worldwide policies. At the time in question another Vatican office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also handling sex-abuse complaints, and taking a harder line. There was no single unified Vatican policy until 2001. [???? With due apologies to Mr. Lawler, NO! The CDF's only official involvement at the time was to decide on the laicization of priests in general, which were mostly priests who preferred to be lay husbands, as well as the occasional priest duly disciplined for sex offenses and therefore recommended for laicization by their respective dioceses. The CDF was not given the responsibility for dealing with sex abuses by priests until 2001 - and only to deal with complains directly sent to it, or when its assistance was required by a local diocese, which remained and remains the primary agency responsible for investigating and disciplining an offending priest.]

- The Vatican never told Irish priests to cover up abuse, nor did the 1997 letter suggest that they should disobey the country’s legal requirements for reporting criminal activity. The Vatican’s reservations centered on a proposal to report all accusations of abuse — even those that were unsubstantiated.

- The papal nuncio warned Irish bishops that they must respect the Code of Canon Law, which includes “due process” rights for accused clerics. If those rights were not protected, the accused priests would have grounds for a successful appeal. Thus the Vatican was reminding the Irish hierarchy about the importance of proper legal procedures within the Church.

- An ominous reference to “moral and canonical concerns” about mandatory reporting was a reference to the confessional seal, Father Lombardi said. The papal nuncio was not suggesting any principled objection to reporting other evidence of crimes.

These are all important points, exposing serious flaws in the RTE presentation. Nevertheless, the documentary does furnish evidence that when the Irish bishops sought to make an aggressive disciplinary effort to root out predator-priests, they encountered resistance rather than support from some Vatican officials.

The RTE program includes interviews with Irish bishops, who leave no doubt that when they sat in a meeting with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos — then the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy — they saw him as an opponent of their plans.

We already know that Cardinal Castrillon applauded efforts to protect abusive priests from prosecution. At the height of the American sex-abuse scandal he told reporters that the problem had been exaggerated by the media; as late as last year he was defending a letter in which he congratulated a French bishop for hiding a priest from prosecution. When Irish bishops report that he opposed their efforts to uproot the scandal, we have every reason to believe them.

Nor was Cardinal Castrillon alone. The Irish documentary also cites the evidence — circumstantial but persuasive — that the former Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was instrumental in protecting the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, from investigation on sex-abuse charges.

The Secretary of State, who operates in effect as the Vatican's prime minister, exercises enormous control over the Roman Curia. His opposition would be nearly fatal to any plan for institutional reform.

So when diocesan bishops went to Rome, looking for help to expose the deadly corruption within the Church, they sometimes found resistance from powerful Vatican officials. And when they sought help to cover up that corruption, they sometimes found it.

This does not mean that bishops could not find allies in pursuing reform; the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then-Cardinal Ratzinger, was anxious to help. Still, the deadly inclination to cover up evidence of wrongdoing — the attitude that magnified the impact of the sex-abuse scandal — was evident even within the walls of the Vatican. [No one was ever in any doubt about that, except that names have never been mentioned wityh specific charges before. And even now, all the reporting in the news agencies about teh RTE edocumentary did not mention Cardinal Castrillon nor Cardinal Sodano at all.]

In order to lay this scandal finally to rest, the Church must change those destructive attitudes within the hierarchy. The RTE program reports, accurately, that Pope Benedict XVI has emerged as a powerful force for just such a reform.

But he will be successful only if Church leaders face the problem squarely, and resist the old ingrained temptation to deny the existence of the problem.

[Both Cardinals Sodano and Castrillon are now retired. Isn't it incumbent on Vatican reporters to name any other ranking or influential prelates weho are still in the Roman Curia so that they may defend themselves if they can, and if they can or won't, so that the Holy Father can act accordingly?

However, one would imagine that Benedict XVI was unlikely to be ignorant of who such others persons are, if any, and if there wree, may have already acted to minimize their ability to influence anything that has to do with the proper disposition of sex abuse complaints.

True, he allowed Sodano and Castrillon to keep their positions from John Paul's time until they reached age 80 - but given Benedict's punctiliousness about dealing correctly with the sex abuse scandal, it was unlikely that either cardinal would have sought to do anything relative to the issue after April 19, 2005. Besides, by that time, CAstrillon was no longer heading the Clergy but was working principally as the head of Ecclesia Dei, the Council that was handling liaison with traditionalist groups.]

Andrea Tornielli on his blog Thursday, has presented the best commentary, IMHO, on the 1997 letter, providing the necessary temporal, historical and conceptual context for the letter. He does not simply condemn Cardinal Castrillon, for instance. He sees situation as someone who has been covering the Vatican all this time, not as someone who has simply watched what a biased documentary had to say..

Smoking gun or blank shots?
Translated from

January 20, 2011

If one put together all the alleged 'smoking guns' in the pedophile priest scandal, we would have an armory. The nth 'smoking gun' is a 1997 letter disclosed on the Irish official TV channel TE and quickly picked up by the New York Times [among all the rest of worldwide media, of course! But I would have cited the AP from Dublin, which was first off the starting line, and without the Vatican side provided by the NYT,]

But once more this 'pistol' oversimplifies reality, and above all, the complexity of an episode that is tragic enough.

The letter was written by the Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Luciano Storero, dated January 31, 1997, addressed to the bishops of Ireland, to whom he communicates the reservations of the Holy See about obligatory reporting to civilian authorities of priests accused of pedophilia. This had been proposed by the bishiops in a document entitled «Child Sexual Abuse. Framework for a Church Response».

The Vatican reservations at the time were based on 'moral and canonical' considerations, namely, that "The results could be very embarassing and damaging for the diocesan authority itself."

Obviously, the conclusion by some commentators was that the Vatican chose to cover up the abuses instead of bringing the guilty to civilian justice.

Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi replied by pointing out that the letter represented the approach taken by the Congregation for the Clergy before 2001, namely, before John Paul II decided to entrust the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with jurisdiction over such cases. Until that time, they had been exclusively the competence of the diocesan bishops.

What Fr. Lombardi pointed out about the Vatican approach in 1997 was very true - remember that in 1997, the scandal of the US cases had not yet broken out - but it is also true that obviously the approach completely changed subsequently.

But just as it would be wrong to read in the Nuncio's letter that the Vatican did not wish to punish those guilty of such abominable crimes - it was really an appeal to respect the canonical norms then in force - it would be equally simplistic to say that the approach was that of the Congregation for the Clergy alone, with some identifying its then prefect, the Colombian Cardinal Dario Castirllon Hoyos as the villain, as they have done in the past.

That the general approach of the Vatican at the time was different from what it is now is well documented. Years after 1997 - I am referring to 2001 - Cardinal Castrillon, with the approval of John Paul II (whom he consulted to get his approval) and of the Secretariat of State (whom he copy-furnished with his written request for approval). wrote a letter of support and solidarity to French Bishop Pierre Pican of the Diocese of Bayeux and Lisuex.

Pican had just been convicted to three months in prison for failing to report to the civilian authorities a serial pedophile priest, Rene Bissey, who was convicted in 2000 for abuses committed against minors in previous years.

Mons. Pican presented 'professional secrecy' (not confessional secrecy) as the reason for his silence, but it was a defense that was not acceptable under French law for abuse cases involving minors. Castrillon had previously written Pican in 2000 to express his support, and wrote him in 2001 to retierate his support after he was convicted [the letetr approved by John Paul II].

The line against obligatory reporting was shared by many in the Curia. Between the end of the 1990s and the start of the new millennium, there was a locked debate on this issue between the Holy See and the US bishops.

In the USA, and in the Anglo-Saxon world, in general, the idea was spreading that civilian authorities should have access to diocesan files in evaluating accusations against abusive priests. It happened in a case where the names of some priests who had been denounced or accused were posted on the Web. In the Holy See, there was concern that this kind of practice would also take hold in the Mediterranean world, and so a study group was formed to study the question.

Among those taking part in the inter-dicastery meetings on the question were Cardinals Castrillon, Giovanni Battista Re (prefect of Bishops) and Cardinal Ratzinger, with his #2 man at the time, now Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The line that emerged from those sessions was described in a timely and detailed inerview that Bertone gave to the monthly magazine 30 GIORNI in February 2002 - that is, at the time that the new norms for action against pedophile priests were bing framed, after Papa Wojtyla had decided that the former Holy Office would take the lead in investigating and prosecuting these cases within the Church.

In the interview, every word is carefully measured, and it is evident from the authoritativeness of the interviewee that he was expressing the position of the Holy See on the issue. Bertone said then: "The new norms come under a specific juridical order, with guaranteed autonomy, whose application is not limited only to the countries with which the Holy See has a concordat. It does not rule out that in particular cases, there may even be a form of collaboration, an exchange of information between ecclesiastical authorities and public prosecutors.

"But, in my opinion, there is no basis for claiming that a bishop, for example, should be obliged to address the civil magistrates to denounce a priest who has confided that he has committed pedophilia. Of course, civilian society must defend its citzens, but it should also respect the professional secrecy of the clergy, just as professional secrecy is observed in other categories, a respect which, of course, must extend to 'seal of the confessional' which is inviolable."

Bertone was then Cardinal Ratzinger's #2 man and, but before that, he was known as one of the most faithful collaborators of John Paul II who later made him a cardinal. His statements expressed the 'mens' (thinking) of the Holy See, not just of the Congregation for the Clergy.

We must also remember that Cardnal Ratzinger had always shown a special sensitivity in the matter of sexual abuses. As we learned recently, in 1988, he had protested to Cardinal José Rosalio Castillo Lara, president of the Pontifical Commission for the itnerpretation of the Code of Canon Law, some negative consequences of applying the new Code (updated in 9182) when dealing with cases of sexual abuse.

The cardinal requested "providing, in certain cases a more rapid and simplified procedure" to defrock priests who were found guilty of such abuses. [The CDF's involvement at the time had to do with its role in laicizing priests for good reason - at the time, mostly from priests opting for the married life.] Castillo Lara replied that making such changes 'did not appear convenient'.

The general perception of the problem, until the start of the new millennium, was not what it is today. And the turning point was the Motu Proprio of 2001 and the transfer of jurisdiction for sex abuse cases to the CDF, precisely to prevent cover-ups or inadequate responses.

It has required a journey of growing awareness, of gradually adopting the necessary and most appropriate tools. And above all, thanks to Benediot XVI, recognition that something must be done for the victims.

That is why there are new rules now that allow more rapid interventions - to the point that some canon law experts warn against ignoring guarantees for the rights of the accused.

No one can doubt that this Pope has always been in the front lines of fighting against these unpriestly offenses. But neither must one overlook - even as other documents may emerge, which one may describe as blank shots more than smoking guns - what the prevailing thought in the Curia was during clearly defined periods,

The example and the teaching of Benedict XVI in the past year, in the face of everything that has been raised, was neither to under-estimate the phenomenon nor to place the responsibility on the Curia before 2001.

The 1997 letter was far from a 'smoking gun'. Nor is it right to place the onus on Cardinal Castirllon alone and make him the scapegoat in all this - a retrograde operation that is incomprehensible, at a time when Benedict XVI, through his personal decision, is all set to beatify John Paul II.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2011 12:36 AM]
1/20/2011 10:47 PM
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This is not about Benedict XVI, but I am posting it here because the news is significant enough. It is the first reaction from a ranking Church official so far to the new round of charges of immoral behavior against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The headlines are, as usual, misleading. Expressing 'deep concern' about 'the responsiblity of politicians towards families and the new generations' is hardly lambasting. Cardinal Bertone was actually quite tactful in simply referring to Italian President Napolitano's own circumspect remarks over Berlusconi's private behavior.

But Avvvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops has been more outspokenly critical, as it was last year, which led to the infamous Boffo episode that forced the resignation of Dino Boffo, then the editor of Avvenire and head of the Italian bishops' radio adn TV networks. After an editorial in Avvenire taking note of ts readers' vocal objections to Berlusconi's open libertinism, the editor of a leading newspaper owned by Berlusconi's brother reported that Boffo had been fined by a local court for telephone harassment in a case arising from a homosexual affair by Boffo. and alleged further that Boffo was a 'known homosexual' to Italian police. The allegations on homosexuality were false, and two months later, the editor retracted his story. L'Osservatore Romano has so far kept from reporting anything of Berlusconi's personal problems.

Vatican lambasts Berlusconi
over sex scandal

ROME, Jan. 20 (dpa) - The right-hand man of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday urged Silvio Berlusconi to show moral rectitude and respect for the law, expressing deep concern over the latest sex scandals involving Italy's prime minister.

"The Church encourages and invites everyone, particularly those who have public responsibilities ... to assume and endeavour in a more robust morality and a greater sense of justice and lawfulness," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told reporters.

Bertone, who as secretary of state is the most important official in the Vatican after the Pope, is the most prominent Catholic Church official to have yet spoken out against Berlusconi's involvement with teenage prostitutes.

When asked about the scandal by reporters, the cardinal echoed Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's "deep concerns" and said he was following the latest developments with "particular attention."

Berlusconi, like other prime ministers before him, has tried to forge close ties with the Vatican, which retains great influence on voters. Bertone's comments were set to further weaken the Premier, who only last month narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Without ever naming the conservative prime minister, Bertone noted that politicians had "great responsibilities, especially towards families and the new generations."

Earlier Thursday, a financial consultant working for the premier said Berlusconi personally authorized payments to young women who allegedly attended sex parties at his home, adding to the mounting evidence against the embattled premier.

But Giuseppe Spinelli said in a newspaper interview that the money given to the women - whom he described as cash-strapped students or "single mothers" - formed a small part of several charity handouts approved by the media magnate turned politician.

"One day we would help an organization for children suffering from leukaemia, while the next a student who needed to pay her rent," Spinelli told Milan daily Corriere della Sera.

On Monday, prosecutors in Milan submitted to Parliament documents containing alleged evidence that Berlusconi financially supported and slept with a "significant number" of prostitutes, including an underage Moroccan.

Prosecutors also want to examine documents and files in Spinelli's possession that allegedly refer to the payments.

Spinelli, who manages Berlusconi's Fininvest holdings, said the number of women who had received money from the premier had been exaggerated.

"During the course of a day's work, it would take me at most 10 minutes" to arrange payments for the women, Spinelli said.

He also referred to a Moroccan go-go dancer, Karima El Mahroug, who first attended parties at Berlusconi's house when she only 17 years old.

Prosecutors are investigating underage prostitution charges against Berlusconi related to his relationship with El Mahroug, who uses the stage-name Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby stealer-of-hearts).

Berlusconi and El Mahroug deny having had sex with each other, an assertion contested by prosecutors who say evidence shows she stayed overnight at the premier's house on several occasions.

"Ruby was very insistent," Spinelli said.

He recalled how, on one occasion, Ruby had visited his office and received 50 euros (67 dollars) to pay for a taxi fare, which had been authorized personally by Berlusconi.

"I would ask him (Berlusconi) directly," Spinelli said, referring to the money transfers made to Ruby and the other women involved in the case.

Asked if he was shocked about reports that the women participated in orgies with the premier, Spinelli said he had not yet read the documents prepared by prosecutors.

Berlusconi has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. In a video broadcast on Wednesday, the 74-year-old premier said: "There was no corruption, no promotion of prostitution, even less involving minors."

Instead, Berlusconi accused prosecutors and investigating magistrates of abusing their power and said they should be 'punished'.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/20/2011 10:47 PM]
1/21/2011 12:07 AM
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Here's an interesting sidelight about what turns out to be Benedict XVI's one and only 'official portrait' - Most interesting, except that no one at the Vatican seems to have considered that it has one obvious 'flaw' as an official portrait of the Pope - he is still wearing his cardinal's ring. As we learn in the story below, it was taken the day after his election, and he did not get to wear the Fisherman's Ring until the Mass that formally inaugurated his Petrine ministry.

One would think the brilliant brains at the Secretariat of State who made this initial choice would have recognized their mistake soon afterwards and chosen a picture where the Pope already wears the Fisherman's Ring! But no, they obviously went ahead and ordered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copies to be sent everywhere around the world without waiting one week until he got the Fisherman's Ring.

It will be almost six years since then, and it's high time they replaced the portrait which is displayed in all the Nunciatures in the world - as well as most dioceses and parishes, for all we know!

Exposed and developed:
The Pope’s official portrait

by Paul Haring

January 20, 2011

Haring is the photographer for the CNS Vatican bureau.

The one and only official portrait. ©L'Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY, Jan 20 — In the days after Pope Benedict XVI was elected April 19, 2005, the phone was ringing off the hook at the CNS photo desk in Washington. People wanted photos of the new Pope, with many wanting the official portrait.

I remember working the desk during that time and telling people that an official portrait had not been released but we expected that the Vatican would provide one. I was struck by how insistent people were on obtaining the official portrait.

On April 28 that year, two photos arrived from the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper that appeared to be portraits. They were not captioned and did not say they were official portraits. I wrote captions for both and put them on the wire immediately but did not refer to them as official, only as portraits released by the Vatican newspaper. They were marked for editorial use only.

One of the photos, showing the pope in white with his hands clasped, would go on to be displayed at countless churches throughout the world. Over the years, I wondered about how this photo was made and if this was the one and only official portrait. So I checked with Vatican sources with knowledge of the situation.

I was told that this image is indeed the official portrait of Pope Benedict XVI and there is no other.

The image was taken April 20, 2005, one day after his election, when the new pope was at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. This is the residence inside the Vatican where cardinals stayed during the conclave.

About 20 frames were taken on color negative film by an Osservatore Romano photographer for the purpose of an official portrait. (It wasn’t until 2006 that Vatican photographers began working almost exclusively with digital cameras.)

Since L’Osservatore Romano photographs are not currently credited, we don’t know who took the photo. The final decision about which frame to release was made with approval from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the office that coordinates the work of the entire Vatican.

In my opinion, the official photo is very pleasing. I think it adequately conveys the Pope’s essential qualities.

I have seen both very high quality and very poor prints of the official image. In some prints, the cross is blown out for example. It appears that an earlier scan of the image was poor, but that the current scan of the negative has very nice detail.

Here is the Osservatore Romano image number of the official photo:
00102- N.1000 Foto Ufficiale.jpg

I suggest we all e-mail the Secretariat of State or L'Osservatore Romano and demand that they issue a new and more appropriate official portrait of Benedict XVI!

1/21/2011 1:48 AM
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As I have not had time to translate the two OR articles yesterday on the Pope's books, here's the CNS take on the interview with the head of the Vatican publishing house.

Gearing up for another papal bestseller
by Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, jAN. 20 — The Vatican Publishing House is gearing up to distribute another blockbuster tome — this one the exclusive work of Pope Benedict XVI.

Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the publishing house, told the Vatican newspaper yesterday, “This morning I sent the text to various editors; the aim is to present it in March.”

The book is Jesus of Nazareth. Part Two. Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. And the texts sent out are Vatican-controlled translations into a variety of languages.

The Pope’s book could come out just four months after the publication of Light of the World, a book-length interview with Pope Benedict conducted by the German journalist Peter Seewald. [Could? Ignatius Press which will publish it in the US is announcing a March date, and at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October, Fr. Costa himself said the book would come out before Easter. lists a March 15 release date for the book.]

Father Costa told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that Light of the World probably has sold close to 1 million copies since its late November release. The German edition — the original language — already has sold about 200,000 copies, he said. About 100,000 copies have been sold in Italian and another 100,000 English copies have flown off the shelves. The French edition has sold about 80,000 copies; there also are Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and other editions.

For the new book, he said contracts had been signed with 20 different publishing houses to print and distribute the Pope’s work and that five more contracts are in the negotiation stage.

The first volume of Jesus of Nazareth — looking at the period between his baptism and the Transfiguration — was published in 2007; it ran more than 400 pages and highlighted what the Bible says about Jesus, the moral implications of his teachings, and how reading the Scriptures can lead to a real relationship with Jesus.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters last summer that the Pope already began writing the third volume, which would look at Jesus’s childhood.

P.S. Belatedly, here is a translation of the interview with the LEV director:

Interview with head of Vatican publishing house:
'The success of LOTW reveals many things'

by Silvia Guidi
Translated from the 1/19/11 issue of

Two months ago, on November 20, pre-publication excerpts from Light of the World made headlines around the world [merely because of statements made by the Pope on condom use and AIDS].

Now, after publication, "So many readers, many of them non-Christian, have expressed their gratitude to us after having read the book", says don Giuseppe Costa, director of Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV), the Vatican publishing house.

Examining the reasons for the success of Benedict XVI's book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, Fr. Costa said the success was not simply quantitative - with considerable figures: In the Italian version, two editions and a reprint in less than two months; 14 agreements with various publishers for as many language editions that have been released, and negotiations underway for translations in 11 more languages - but also qualitatively, in being able to reach and fascinate the reader with its simple, direct and colloquial language.

But for all that, Costa notes, Benedict XVI does not fail to be daringly anti-conformist in the full sense of the term, not resigning himself to the Zeitgeist - the spirit of the times.

"What does it really mean to be in step with the times", the Neapolitan writer Ruggero Guardini asked in a recent article, "if not to be, sic et sempliciter [just so and simply], perfectly conformist? In Stalinist Russia, it meant approving of the gulag, in nazi Germany, approving of the concentration camps. If a man possesses a desrie for truth, something in him will always resist or oppose the spirit of the times".

Book sales for Light of the World have been surprising. And soon, Volume 2 of JESUS OF NAZARETH will come out. At what point is it?
This morning, I sent off the text to the various publishing houses. The goal is to release the book in March, So far, we have signed up with 20 publishers, and are in the process of signing up with five more.

The text of LOTW was based on six hours of conversation between the Pope and Peter Seewald. What criteria were used for choosing and ordering the published material?
The questions were not a hundred, as we had originally thought, but double that. It reads easily and there was no need to abridge much of the transcript.

As it was often noted during the presentations of the book in Italy, the book is striking not only for the Pope's answers but for the questions that he places before the Lord: from the initial 'What can I say?' after his election as the Successor of Peter, but also his current concerns: "What can I do to lead in a world where progress itsedlf has become dangerous?", and of course his questions about the Church and about himself.

The style of the Pope's answers also show a different method from the style of the times based on 'self-esteem' and 'self-determination'. His conception of himself as and in a relationship with God is probably the true leitmotif ot the book.

In my opinion, the most beautiful parts of the book are the answers in which the Pope describes his personal relationship with God, with the calm and depth of a Romano Guardini, but the book does not ignore important topical subjects, such as the relationship between man and creation, or the present situation of the Church.

And when the problems of the Church are highlighted, it is always with a view to new growth. In short, it is a critique of the world by a believer who has the good of all men in his heart. Even when he condemns anything, it is always intended for the good of the sinner. I think this is something one can easily grasp from the text.

The interview format of the book must surely have favored its popularity, and a more familiar presentation of subjects that are normally considered 'elevated' and hardly accessible to the man on the street.
Even the book sales make several things clear: Buyers include so many children who have given the book to their parents, or vice versa. Many buyers have bought several copies to be able to give to relatives and friends.

This book shows the human face of a Pope whose reserve has always been over-emphasized. It shows the extraordinary freedom of Benedict XVI who does not shirk any question. LOTW is appreciated because in its breadth, it touches all the aspects of Christian life, and can be a true and proper spiritual itinerary.This is what makes the book one for all seasons and a 'longseller'. The immediacy of the Pope's answers is evident even in the italian translation.

It has not lacked for attention from the media even if it has not always been gratifying...
The early announcements and even the pre-publication excerpts were helpful because they contributed to attract public attention to the book - even if some, predictably, chose to focus on one detail out of the entire book.

But readers understand the media game, and they have rightly appreciated the book in its entirety. And after the numberless book reviews and TV and radio programs discuswsing the book, we continue to get requests for book presetnations all over Italy.

How has the book been received by non-Christians?
Very well! I was struck by a letter of thanks from a Jewish reader in Milan who said he was touched by the clarity and simplicity of the Pope's words.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/21/2012 3:24 PM]
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Friday, January 21

Third photo from left, St Agnes by El Greco.
ST. AGNES [Agnese] OF ROME (291-304), Virgin and Martyr
Born to a Christian family of the Roman nobility in the time of Diocletian, she is said
to have refused, at age 12-13, to marry the son of a Roman Prefect, who punished her
by having her dragged through the streets to a brothel. Legend has it that her hair
grew to cover her nakedness, and that those who tried to rape her were struck blind.
Finally, she was led to be burned at the stake, but the wood would not burn. She died
either by being beheaded or stabbed in the throat. She was buried in the catacomb that
bears her name. She is depicted with a lamb because her name resembles Agnus, the
Latin word for lamb, but it really comes from the Greek word that means 'chaste'. Every
year on her feast day, two lambs are brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in
Rome to the Vatican, to be blessed by the Pope. Their wool is used to weave the palliums
that will be conferred by the Pope on the new metropolitan bishops named during the year.
The teenage saint is one of only seven women saints named in the Canon of the Mass.
Readings for today's Mass:

No papal stories or photos on Page 1 of today's OR, but there is a long excerpt in the inside pages from the reflection offered by Prof. Giorgio Israel on the Holy Father's Rrgensburg lecture, in the first of 3 Rome diocesan seminars last night on Benedict XVI's three great secular discourses. Also, an essay on the progress of relations between the Catholic Church and the Slavic Orthodox churches. on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On page 1, an essay on the new evangelization by the president of the new Pontifical Council; and in international news 1 news: the China-US summit in Washington was conciliatory despite differences, and wny China and the US must dialog more often now that they are the world's leading economic powers; the UN will undertake an inquiry into the status of Tunisia after 23 years of dictatorship by a president ousted through popular uprising last week; South Sudan set to secede after referendum favoring independence from the Khartoum government; and the European Parliament passes a resolution against anti-Christian persecutions.


The Holy Father was presented this morning with two lambs from the Basilica of St. Agnes in Rome on
the saint's feast day in a traditional event at the Apostolic Palace's Pope Urban VIII Chapel. Wool from
the lambs is used to weave the palliums conferred by the Pope on the metropolitan archbishops named by
the Pope in the 12 months preceding the Feast of Sanits Peter and Paul in June.

Later he met with the officials and personnel of the Rome policee assignesd to the Vatican in one
of the last of the Pope's traditional New Year audiences. Address in Italian.

- Cardinal Bertone's general comments yesterday on the responsibility of politicians towards fmailies and the young have been blown up not just in the Anglophone media as "Vatican pressure on Berlusconi' but also in the Italian media, who now, strangely, are saying the Pope himself must condemn the Italian prime minister's loose private morals.

Like MSM everywhere, Italian MSM do not seem to realize - or care about - their obvious self-contradiction in many ways: Whenever the Pope speaks about Catholic morals applied to public issues, they cry out and protest Vatican 'interference!' in public affairs. But now, against a politician they no longer support, they would want the Pope to make a personal condemnation and not think that it would be interference in any way!

Obviously the Church in modern times - particularly not the Pope - does not and has never publicly condemned specific individuals for their private sins, but because it is convenient for their cause, the 'anti-Papist interference' legion now call on him to fight their self-interested battles with Berlusconi.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/21/2011 4:47 PM]
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The Pope does not 'shrug'
by Lisa Graas

January 20, 2011

In her blog on PATHEOS yesterday, Ms. Graas commented on a Jan. 19 column by the website's Catholic portal editor Elizabeth Scalia in which she reflected on how the Eternal City seemingly shrugs off the daily burdens of humanity in pursuing the traditional rhythm of her days since it became the world center of Christianity. Graas's reply is a thoughtful re-creation of parallels between the situation faced by Pope St. Leo the Great in his time and that faced by Benedict XVI today.... Graas was reacting to this paragraph from Scalia:

Tomorrow a Pope speaks to a hundred thousand souls and that is as usual and normal as a plate of pasta with garlic, or a magnificently inlaid marble tomb; everything is made remarkable by its sheer everyday ordinariness, and that is why Rome can shrug and tell you to sit down and watch the world go by, without a fret or worry. She is a queen bee, reigning within precise dimensions of an improbably serene hive, because she does not fear the constant buzz of ages; they only portend an eventual and inevitable sweetness.

The only thing I have ever seen of Rome (and likely ever will see) is what I find in my books here at home and pages on the internet. In like manner, the only thing I will ever hear from the Vatican is what I read in my books and on the internet, although I do correspond in snail mail with a beloved Cardinal there who shall remain nameless for now. (No, I don’t have any ‘insider’ news on the Vatican. It’s personal. No politics.)

...If we are referring to the Vatican, as I wrote on Sunday, I do not see the Vatican ‘shrugging’ at all.

My heart was sinking as I listened to the Pope today. It sank for him because I know he understands clearly how serious is his duty to be a voice of reason and love in a world that is rejecting both reason and love.

This is not a Pope who ‘shrugs’. Rather, he is a Pope who is fearless, sober-minded, and keenly in tune with the horrible future of the world if we fail in our duty to contend for the Faith. A quiet and fearless voice speaking in somewhat broad terms (if not understood in context) over the heads of a hundred thousand souls may seem as “shrugging” to some. “Rome” has a long history of shrugging. The Vatican, on the other hand, has a long and storied history of refusing to shrug.

This Pope now faces challenges that are similar to those faced by Pope St. Leo. Some of that story can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for that great Pope. Read with me and see if you can hear ‘echoes’ of the challenges faced by Pope Benedict. It is long because there are so many of these ‘echoes’, in my subjective opinion.

Pope Benedict deals with the reality of the decline of Christendom in Europe.

Leo’s pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity. At a tune when the Church was experiencing the greatest obstacles to her progress in consequence of the hastening disintegration of the Western Empire, while the Orient was profoundly agitated over dogmatic controversies, this great pope, with far-seeing sagacity and powerful hand, guided the destiny of the Roman and Universal Church.[...]

Pope Benedict is dealing with serious issues of dissent, though he is delivering a gentler hand than Pope St. Leo did.

[...] Leo’s chief aim was to sustain the unity of the Church. Not long after his elevation to the Chair of Peter, he saw himself compelled to combat energetically the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West. Leo had ascertained through Bishop Septimus of Altinum, that in Aquileia priests, deacons, and clerics, who had been adherents of Pelagius, were admitted to communion without an explicit abjuration of their heresy. The pope sharply censured this procedure, and directed that a provincial synod should be assembled in Aquileia, at which such persons were to be required to abjure Pelagianism publicly and to subscribe to an unequivocal confession of Faith.[...]

Pope Benedict is clearly concerned with the forced migration of Christians from their home countries that are Muslim-majority countries, and also serious immigration issues elsewhere in the world.

[...] The greatly disorganized ecclesiastical condition of certain countries, resulting from national migrations, demanded closer bonds between their episcopate and Rome for the better promotion of ecclesiastical life.[...]

Pope Benedict must deal with the rise of barbaric cultures with abortion in the West, Islamic violence in the Middle East (including far into Africa) and other forms of barbarity. He continually seeks to ensure that our Faith is clearly defined amid this troubling trend.

[...] In Leo’s conception of his duties as supreme pastor, the maintenance of strict ecclesiastical discipline occupied a prominent place. This was particularly important at a time when the continual ravages of the barbarians were introducing disorder into all conditions of life, and the rules of morality were being seriously violated. Leo used his utmost energy in maintaining this discipline, insisted on the exact observance of the ecclesiastical precepts, and did not hesitate to rebuke when necessary. Letters (ep. xvii) relative to these and other matters were sent to the different bishops of the Western Empire—e.g., to the bishops of the Italian provinces (epp. iv, xix, clxvi, clxviii), and to those of Sicily, who had tolerated deviations from the Roman Liturgy in the administration of Baptism (ep. xvi), and concerning other matters (ep. xvii).[...]

Pope Benedict‘s profound gift of intellect is key to ensuring that man’s willingness to appeal to reason will be preserved in our public discourse.

[...] The primacy of the Roman Church was thus manifested under this pope in the most various and distinct ways. But it was especially in his interposition in the confusion of the Christological quarrels, which then so profoundly agitated Eastern Christendom, that Leo most brilliantly revealed himself the wise, learned, and energetic shepherd of the Church.[...]

Pope Benedict must engage regularly in dialogue, mostly in the form of his public addresses, with powerful, barbaric people who have us under their boot heel.

[...] In his far-reaching pastoral care of the Universal Church, in the West and in the East, the pope never neglected the domestic interests of the Church at Rome. When Northern Italy had been devastated by Attila Leo by a personal encounter with the King of the Huns prevented him from marching upon Rome. At the emperor’s wish, Leo, accompanied by the Consul Avienus and the Prefect Trigetius, went in 452 to Upper Italy, and met Attila at Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua, obtaining from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor. The pope also succeeded in obtaining another great favor for the inhabitants of Rome. When in 455 the city was captured by the Vandals under Genseric, although for a fortnight the town had been plundered, Leo’s intercession obtained a promise that the city should not be injured and that the lives of the inhabitants should be spared. These incidents show the high moral authority enjoyed by the pope, manifested even in temporal affairs.[...]

Pope Benedict‘s public statements are considerably profound, clear and of elevated intellect.

[...] Leo was no less active in the spiritual elevation of the Roman congregations, and his sermons, of which ninety-six genuine examples have been preserved, are remarkable for their profundity, clearness of diction, and elevated style. The first five of these, which were delivered on the anniversaries of his consecration, manifest his lofty conception of the dignity of his office, as well as his thorough conviction of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, shown forth in so outspoken and decisive a manner by his whole activity as supreme pastor.[...]

I do see ‘Rome’ shrugging. The Vatican, on the other hand, is not shrugging. This refusal to ‘shrug’ has always been, and always will be, part of the greatness of the Catholic Church.

I hope I am not speaking prematurely, but Leo the Great may well be Benedict XVI's direct spiritual predecessor as Pope, Universal Pastor and Doctor of the Church.

Today, Scalia on her Anchroess blog which has transferred from FIRST THINGS to PATHEOS replied to Graas to explain that when she wrote 'Rome shrugs', she meant the city, not the Vatican, much less the Pope:

The burdened do not shrug
by Elizabeth Scalia

January 21, 2011

After taking note of Graas's Jan. 20 blog, she says this...

Whenever I think of Rome, and I do several times a day, I whisper up a prayer for our good Pope in the Vatican, who is such an earnest, hard-working shepherd. He is wise and obedient in ways that continue to leave me almost breathless in humble wondering. (She goes on to quote from a column she wrote on the Pope's visit to the USA in April 2008):

Although his meeting with some of the victims of the shameful sex abuse scandals was private and unseen, I suspect Benedict wore that same expression, and carried himself in that same resolute manner, as he allowed himself to be led where he would rather not go, placed into the presence of the Church’s deepest wound — a wound of horror, confusion, evil, and betrayal.

The terrible sin of some of our priests, compounded by their bishops, has been a source of sickening and unrelenting shame for us. We have felt the disgust in our bellies and wished we could push the whole story away, because the pain is so abysmal and vast. But it can be pushed away no longer, and Benedict said that even before his plane hit the ground at Andrews AFB, and every day after.

[For some reason, the Pope's visit to the USA is hardly ever described as a state visit, considering all the hooplah over the visit to the UK being one, but it was: President Bush himself came to Andrews Air Force Base to greet him, something Presidents don't do for any other head of state, and the state reception for the Pope in the White House the next day was the best-attended of all such receptions ever.)

But speaking difficult words is easier than looking into the eyes of innocent lambs wounded and left to fend for themselves by neglectful and self-interested shepherds within the family. Benedict trusted and was led to look into those agonized eyes, and to tend the wounds, because it needed to be done if the flock is to survive.

Benedict is like a beast of burden, bearing enormous weight; he shrugs off nothing, and his walk is resolutely forward, his step firm. And all he’s asked for is prayer:

“Pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

God bless and keep him.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2012 2:07 PM]
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US ambassador seeks to
'build bridges' with Vatican

By Alan Holdren, Rome Correspondent

Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News).- America’s ambassador to the Holy See says the two sides are working to rebuild trust following the leak of alleged diplomatic cables that caused embarrassment late last year.

“What brings us together is far, far, far more than what sets us apart, and I want to focus on that," Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz told CNA in a wide-ranging interview at his hilltop residence in Rome Jan. 19.

Ambassador Diaz said that during his 16 months in Rome he has seen “significant signs that show the ongoing commitment of this President, the White House, and our government in general to fostering and deepening this relationship.”

He said the scandal of the alleged U.S. diplomatic cables, released on the website WikiLeaks has not affected the Vatican-U.S. working relationship.

According to an analysis by CNA, more than 700 cables from the U.S. embassy to the Vatican were among the 250,000 State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

To date, only a handful of them has been released. But some of those have proven embarrassing, including one in which a U.S. embassy staffer poked fun at the “poor communications culture” in the Vatican and another in which Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone was described as “yes man.”

The WikiLeaks affair has been a bump in the road in an otherwise easy and low-key relationship between the Vatican and the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, during his first two years in office.

Ambassador Diaz is credited with running a smooth diplomatic operation — especially considering that prior to this he has had no previous diplomatic experience.

The 47-year old Cuban-American was a professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota when the call came from the White House in May 2009, five months after President Obama was inaugurated.

Reportedly, he was not first on the list for the position. However, the president’s top choices had to be rejected because they favored abortion or embryonic stem cell research — positions that would have made their appointment appear to be a snub to the Vatican.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Ambassador Diaz in August 2009, and since then he and his wife, also a theology professor, have been living with their four children in the ambassador's residence atop Rome’s Janiculum Hill.

When Pope Benedict XVI received Ambassador Diaz for the first time to accept his credentials, he did so warmly. But he made a point of emphasizing the Church’s differences with the U.S. administration.

“I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens,” the Pope told the new ambassador.

Despite broad disagreements on basic policies, Ambassador Diaz said he is focusing on the values and the interests the two sides share.

"I think it's important to recognize that there are differences,” he said. “But I think it's important not to be paralyzed by those differences. The things that we have in common far exceed the things that divide us," said Ambassador Diaz.

As the ninth U.S. ambassador, Diaz said he is really "standing on the shoulders" of the "giants" that have gone before him.

Unofficial relations between the two states go back to the birth of America, when President George Washington assured Pope Pius VI that the Pope would have full freedom to appoint bishops in the new land.

It would take until President Ronald Reagan in 1984 for the U.S. to establish its first official embassy here. At that time, it was widely perceived that the U.S. president saw the Vatican and then-Pope John Paul II as an important ally in the fight against communism.

The embassy recently celebrated its 27th anniversary. Ambassador Diaz has as a staff of 19 — a formidable presence for promoting U.S. foreign policy at the world's smallest state.

"The size is really inversely proportional to the scope of influence," said Ambassador Diaz. “You can't just think of the Holy See as boxed within Vatican City walls. We have to think of it as this vast network."

Since his Senate confirmation hearings, Ambassador Diaz has spoken of his vision for the embassy as one of “building bridges.”

And he has pursued that strategy during his 16-month tenure. He has worked diligently to build relationships not only with Vatican officials, but also with the wider institutions of the universal Church — pontifical universities, religious communities, even hospitals, non-profits and humanitarian agencies.

The embassy has sponsored several high-profile meetings to highlight areas of mutual interest.

An embassy-sponsored conference in 2009 brought professionals to the city to raise awareness of the need to stop mother-child transmission of AIDS. The embassy co-sponsored a concert with the Church aid agency Caritas to raise money for Haitian earthquake victims.

An embassy-sponsored conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University last October encouraged members of different faith traditions to come together in "building bridges." At the event, the director of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois, gave the keynote address.

But Ambassador Diaz said much of his diplomatic work is done in one-on-one conversations — what he called "diplomacy at the table" during luncheons and dinners, and "targeted diplomacy" with Vatican contacts through more formal channels.

The issues of concern to the U.S. and the Vatican are broad and far-reaching.

"One of the greatest challenges,” he said, was how the “human family” is going to “reconcile” its “incredible diversity” of religions and cultures. This diversity, he said, “increasingly threatens to tear us apart.”

On that note, Ambassador Diaz called Pope Benedict’s annual speech to diplomats Jan. 10 “ambitious.”

The Pope used strong language to condemn religious discrimination and persecution around globe, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and China.

"The task of building bridges is essential if we are to bring about reconciliation and peace, and if we are going to tackle ongoing problems such as the trafficking of persons and basic violations of human dignity — including violations for persons to exercise a right to religious freedom," Ambassador Diaz said.

He sees a "bridge-building" opportunity in Pope Benedict's call for world religious leaders to gather in Assisi next October to pray for peace. It is fitting that such an encounter should take place in the birthplace of St. Francis, whose name is associated with peace and reconciliation.

In an "interconnected" world, St. Francis’s message that all things are tied together is important, Ambassador Diaz said. The day of prayer called by the Pope has the potential to "do what religion is intended to do — bring people together and not drive them apart."

"In this interdependent world, civic leaders cannot act alone, no nation can act alone, and the contribution of religious leaders is essential in the building of peace, the defending of human dignity, the fight against any type of abuse. And certainly the religious leaders have a central role to play in that outgoing, noble task," Ambassador Diaz said.

He identified ending human trafficking and promoting education and migration issues as the embassy's top priorities.

"There are so many different areas that wherever the dignity of the human person is violated, that persons … and organizations associated with the Church can help," he explained.

"I think that's where the effective work of building those bridges and defending that dignity would come in, the day-to-day exercise of this relationship."

He does not downplay the continued differences between the U.S. and the Holy See on issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, the homosexual lifestyle, and the promotion of condoms for AIDS prevention.

No diplomatic relationship finds both sides seeing eye-to-eye on every issue, Ambassador Diaz noted. "That's the ideal, the ideal will never be there."

He prefers to concentrate on his responsibility as President Obama's personal representative to the Holy See.

"As a person of integrity, I would not be sitting here if I did not believe that there was a significant convergence in my ability to carry out this duty here at the Holy See,” he said. “I'm defending the dignity of human persons in different ways. I am building bridges. And these are fundamental tenets of this administration and fundamental tenets of who I am as a person.”

He would like his time as ambassador to be remembered as one in which U.S. foreign policy and the common interests of the Holy See were united "to advance the common good of the human family."

"If I can do that, even if it's just in little ways, during my tenure here, then I'll call it a success,” he said. “I'll be happy that I did my job, which is to answer the call — certainly of President Obama and of my country, to serve it — and also the call of the human family and the Church to advance the common good."
1/21/2011 6:54 PM
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CNA attempts a summary of the debate provoked by the Holy Father's New year's Day announcement that he is calling an inter-religious meeting in Assisi next October to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Day of prayer for Peace called by John Paul II in 1986. much of it, and more, has been previously posted on this thread.

First, however, It is necessary to quote exactly what the Pope said when he announced Assisi 2011::

In the message for today's World Day of Peace, I underscored how the major religions can constitute an important factor of unity and peace for the human family, and I recalled, in this respect, that the year 2011 will be the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace that the Venerable John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986.

Therefore, next October, I will go to the city of St. Francis as a pilgrim and invite my brother Christians of various confessions, representatives of the other religious traditions in the world, and ideally, all men of good will, to join me for the purpose of commemorating the historic gesture by my predecessor and to solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.

Whoever is on the path to God cannot but transmit peace and whoever builds the peace cannot but come close to God. I invite all to accompany this initiative with your prayers from here on.

The statement does not specify that he will necessarily follow the format of the previous inter-religious prayer days in Assisi - he does not even say that they will pray together. But all who have pitched in their two cents' worth so far have shared a few erroneous assumptions:
1. They all simply assume that Benedict XVI will necessarily follow the format of John Paul' Assisi Prayer Days. The fact is we have not heard any specifics so far on Assisi 2011.

2. Especially on the part of the traditionalists, such as some Italian Catholic intellectuals who have called on Benedict XVI not to go ahead with Assisi 2011 at all, the assumption is that the features that made Assisi 1986 'theologically and doctrinally unacceptable' as promoting religious relativism and syncretism, were not at all remedied but even perpetrated in the two Prayer Days that followed it...

This is an insult to John Paul II, as if he had been incapable of learning anything from the unacceptable practices that spoiled Assisi-I. And this completely ignores the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger joined him for Assisi-III in 2002, and has written and spoken several times about the significance of the multi-religious prayers held in Assisi without the features that spoiled Assisi-I.

3. Many of those who have had their say only recall two Assisi Days with John Paul II (1986 and 2002), when in fact there were 3. The forgotten one is Assisi-II in 1993, called to invoke peace for Bosnia. Assisi-I was called in view of the threat of nuclear war that was posed then by a resurgence of Cold War confrontations. Assisi-III was called a few months after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Therefore, properly, Assisi 2011 will be Assisi-IV.

If all these basic facts were kept in mind, there would be no need to debate Assisi-IV at all, whose primary motivation is to advocate respect for religious freedom everywhere, following the wave of increasing Christianophobia around the world, but obviously also against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and religious persecution of Buddhists in Tibet and Myanmar. All the issues raised by the CNA summary below can be answered by simply citing the facts about the Assisi Prayer Days.

Pope's call for interfaith day
of prayer provokes debate

EOME, Jan. 20 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI’s call for world religious leaders to gather in Assisi, Italy to pray for peace has touched off a lively debate among Italian Catholic opinion leaders.

Critics of the Pope’s plan charge that it will create a false impression that all religious believers pray to the same deity or that there is no real distinctions among religious faiths.

The Pope announced his desire to revive the "spirit of Assisi" in remarks made on New Year’s Day. [That is putting words into the Pope's mouth: He never even mentioned the phrase 'spirit of Assisi'!]

He said he planned to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's “World Day of Prayer for Peace,” held in the hometown of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century saint known for his concern for peace and inter-religious dialogue. Pope John Paul also hosted a similar event in Assisi in 2002. [And in 1993!]

A date for the new celebration still has not been set, although Pope Benedict indicated that it would be held sometime in October.

Each of the two (3!) previous gatherings garnered a mixture of criticism and praise. Criticism came from those who thought the event transmitted the impression that all participants, among them Hindus, Muslims, animists and atheists, were praying to the same God. Detractors said it promoted relativism and religious syncretism, that is, a mishmash of contrary beliefs.

Before his election to the papacy, the future Pope Benedict may have had mixed feelings about the event as well. [A conscientious reporter would have cited what the cardinal actually wrote and said about the Assisi Days subsequently, because he was certainly not silent about it - but neither did he ever express himself as darkly as one would think from reported impressions of what he thought!] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not take part in the Assisi event in 1986, but attended in 2002 at the request of John Paul II.

Now that Pope Benedict has announced the third [fourth!] such gathering, a new wave of criticism and defense has rolled in. The arguments being heard today often seem recycled from the earlier debates.

Initiating the debate in Italy was a group of nine intellectuals who made a direct, and very public, appeal to the Holy Father in the pages of Il Foglio newspaper on Jan. 11. The group, all obvious supporters of the Pope and his teaching, pleaded with him not to revive the "spirit of Assisi." [An 'appeal' that is moot and unnecessary, as he never once invoked 'the spirit of Assisi' - he realizes how that phrase has become devalued and deprived of genuine meaning, and that it now has most unwanted connotations.]]

In spite of the words and intentions of those who promoted the inaugural event in 1986, the first encounter "had an undeniable repercussion, relaunching, precisely in the Catholic world, indifferentism and religious relativism," they said.

According to the group, it taught people "to archive" the teaching of the Church on Christ as the Savior and "had the effect of making many believe that everyone was praying to 'the same God,' only with different names."

Seeing Catholic priests sharing in certain rites with people of other religions conveyed the idea that "all rites are nothing but empty human gestures. That all conceptions of the divine are equal. That all morals ... are interchangeable," they argued.

The "spirit of Assisi ... casts confusion," they concluded.

Political and state channels as well as dialogue might be followed to bring about peace, they said, but they cautioned about giving those desiring "to confuse the waters and revive religious relativism" a platform on the anniversary of the 1986 occasion.

[The world-view of these dissenters has apparently congealed around Assisi 1986, and their argument is fallacious and most unscientific since it ignores everything else that took place after Assisi-1986.]

In the Milan-based daily newspaper Corriere della Sera the next day, historian, philosopher and religion scholar Alberto Melloni [ultra-liberal who is habitually a critic of Benedict XVI and a leading advocate of ;the spirit of Vatican II' perrpetrated by the 'Bologna school] struck out at those who appealed against the meeting, calling them "zealous and disrespectful Catholics who seek to influence the Pope."

He called their appeal "attempted intimidation" that "aims to render the presence of Benedict XVI in Assisi qualitatively and quantitatively minimal."

It is an "audacious and mistaken move," he said, as "it's enough to know a little about the life ... of the intellectual character of Joseph Ratzinger to know that no conformism has ever tied his hands."
[How strange to hear Melloni speaking up for Joseph Ratzinger!]

[A famous slogan of the traditionalists who opposed the Assisi Days in the past was 'The spirit of Vatican II begat the spirit of Assisi'. It is certainly true in the sense that ultra-liberals in the Church have fully exploited their interpretation of Vatican II as a rupture with a Church that has existed and continued uninterrupted since it was born on that first Pentecost, and who later bitterly attacked Cardinal Ratzinger - and only incidentally, John Paul II - for Dominus Iesus]

The debate raged on with another article in the Jan. 13 edition of Il Foglio, in which two of the scholars Melloni dubbed "zealous and disrespectful" called Melloni out as "brother censor."

One of the nine, Francesco Agnoli, whittled their appeal down to a single phrase. "We only posed a question: in going to Assisi does one run the risk of syncretistic interpretations? "The question seems legitimate to me," he told Il Foglio. [Agnoli is being intellectually dishonest! They were not just asking the question - they actually called on Benedict XVI not to proceed with Assisi 2011. Besides, one must go back to the initial criticism by less ideologically-blinded Catholics of the open letter by the nine intellectuals: Did they really think they could be more zealous and protective of the Catholic faith than the Pope himself, especially this theologian Pope? Did they not realize their open letter amounted to an insult to Benedict XVI?]

"Today Assisi means one thing for the people: the Pope who prays together with the representatives of other religions to a presumed 'one God.' It is an image that undermines the idea of the doctrine that Christ is the Savior." In this case, Agnoli is belittling the capacity of simple folk to discern anything! Besides, if the MSM in 1986 had only concentrated on reporting John Paul II's carefully chosen words about praying together and about the validity of the Christian faith (reviewed and revised, we now know the night before by Cardinal Ratzinger), instead of focusing on the chickens killed by animists on the altar of St. Clare's, the faithful would have been left in no doubt that the Vicar of Christ was not abdicating an iota of Catholic doctrine in participating with the leaders of other religions in a common event!]

Agnoli pointed to Islamic fundamentalists who "exterminate Christians," or Hindus who "burn" them while professing equality among men. "Blessed be medieval times, when you could argue among Catholics, in fidelity to Christ and the Church," he concluded. {That's typically bigoted thinking. Surely none of the Muslims or Hindus who attended Assisi were advocates of Christian persecution. And to continue to paint other religions in terms of terrible offenses committed in the past ignores the fact that the Church herself - her leaders and members -has not had a blameless past!]

The open debate has attracted its share of commentators. Among those was Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli who pointed out through the online Bussola Quotidiana that the argument was partial. He found it strange that all reference to the Assisi encounter which followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, was omitted from discussion.

Appealing to the Pope on such a matter is a "hazardous" affair, he said. "The initiative, in the end, is not limited to being a concerned letter from those who ask the Pontiff that risks and bad interpretations be avoided ... rather, (it reads) as the will to dictate the line to the Pope to prevent him from leaving the programs of his own pontificate.

This means, at the end of the day, that “they have made an idea of Benedict XVI that does not correspond to the reality"

Tornielli quoted Cardinal Ratzinger's own words to the magazine "30 Days" after the 2002 experience. On that occasion, the cardinal refuted the idea that it was an encounter that made all religions equal.

"Rather," he said, "Assisi was the expression of a path, of an investigation, of the pilgrimage for the peace that is such, only if united to justice."

"With their testimony for peace, with their commitment for peace in justice, the representatives of the religions have begun, in the limits of their possibilities, a path that must be for all a path of purification."

Tornielli said that, in 2011, the conditions of religious freedom in the world could be the Pope's justification for running the "risks" of another "Assisi."

To those who would counter Pope Benedict's decision, the Vatican analyst said "you can be not in agreement with him, but it is unfair to seek to prove that the Pope is not in agreement with himself."

[My own clearer translation of Tornielli's statement - and what follows it, as a conclusion to his 1/14/11 article in BQ - is this:

One can disagree with the Pope but it is not right to try to affirm that the Pope disagrees with himself! If there is anyone about whom one can be sure that he won't say anything that leads to misunderstanding, that's Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. It is up to us who are responsible for providing information, as are most of the nine who signed the open letter to the Pope, to pass on the right information about the event.

That, of course, is one of the plagues infesting modern journalism - misreporting, both by omission and by commission.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2012 2:26 PM]
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A 130-year-old tradition:
Pope blesses 'pallium lambs'
on St. Agnes's Day

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 21 (CNS) -- Certain things -- such as a bath and getting dressed up -- are universal before a personal meeting with the Pope, and the rule holds even for lambs.

Top panel: The papal blessing in previous years. Lower panel, from left: The blessing this morning; St. Agnes; the altar of the Confessio over Peter's Tomb; the niche before the Tomb where the palliums are kept overnight before they are conferred by the Pope on june 29 to diocesan bishops named in the preceding 12 months.

As he does every year, Pope Benedict XVI blessed two little lambs Jan. 21, the feast of St. Agnes.

Raised by Trappist monks on the outskirts of Rome, the lambs spent the night before their papal audience in the center of Rome on the rooftop terrace of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, interviewed Holy Family Sister Hanna Pomnianowska about her convent's role in the ancient tradition which makes a connection between the name of St. Agnes, an early Christian martyr, and "agnus," the Latin word for lamb.

The wool of the lambs blessed on the feast day is woven by a different community of nuns and becomes the fabric for the "pallium," a circular stole, which the Pope gives each June to new archbishops from around the world.

Sister Pomnianowska said her order got involved in 1884 when a group of elderly sisters living nearby could no longer handle the task of preparing the lambs to attend a Mass and then be blessed by the Pope.

She said that as soon as the Trappists arrive with the lambs, "We take them to the top floor of our house, where we have a large terrace and laundry room. As you can imagine, they are the joy of the entire community, especially of the younger sisters."

"The first thing we do is wash them. We put them in a tub with baby soap to delicately wash the dirt away. Then we dry them. We used to use towels, but now we use a blowdryer. We are careful not to leave their skin damp because they are young and could get sick," she said.

The baby lambs spend the night in the laundry room, in a covered pen filled with straw to keep them warm.

The morning of their big blessing day, she said, a decorative blanket is placed on each lamb. One blanket is red to recall St. Agnes' martyrdom; the other is white to recall her virginity.

"Then we weave two crowns of flowers -- one red and one white -- and place them on their heads. And we tie bows around their ears," she said.

After they are adorned, the lambs are placed in baskets, the sister said. "We are forced to bind them to prevent them from running away; once, in fact, I saw a lamb jump up and run from the altar."

Once they are prepared, the lambs are taken to Rome's Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, where they are placed on the altar over the martyr's tomb and are blessed. Then Vatican workers arrive to take the lambs to the Pope, she said.

The lambs are blessed again by the pope, usually in the Chapel of Pope Urban VIII in the apostolic palace, she said. The ceremony is attended by two of the Holy Family Sisters -- usually two who are celebrating a significant anniversary of religious profession, she said.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2011 1:00 PM]
1/21/2011 11:15 PM
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The Holy Father's meeting today with the officials and personnel of the Rome police who provide security for the Vatican provided him an opportunity to speak of the responsibilities of public officials. In a way, it gratified the demands of Italian MSM who have called on the Pope to condemn Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's lax private morals.

Pope tells Rome police that
public officials must set good example

By Nicole Winfield

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 21 (AP) - Premier Silvio Berlusconi came under mounting criticism Friday from the Catholic Church over his dalliances with young women, with the Pope saying public officials must set good moral examples and Italian bishops planning to discuss the sex scandal.

Pope Benedict XVI didn't mention the scandal or Berlusconi by name. But during an audience with Rome's police chief and police officers, he said public officials must "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

"The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you, who are public officials, is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith," Benedict said, echoing more direct comments about the scandal a day earlier by his No. 2.

Prosecutors have placed Berlusconi and three associates under investigation, alleging he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl nicknamed Ruby and used his office to cover it up. Prosecutors have said Berlusconi had sex with several prostitutes during parties at his Milan estate.

Wiretapped conversations of participants at the parties, printed this week in Italian newspapers, have described the villa as a brothel with topless girls, who at least on one occasion were offered nurse uniforms and police outfits to wear — an allegation that prompted a police union to formally protest.

Berlusconi has denied the allegations and accused prosecutors of a politically motivated witch hunt. He has not been charged. Ruby, who is now 18, has denied she had sex with Berlusconi, though she says he did give her €7,000 ($9,400) to help her out financially.

The Church's criticism is a blow to the conservative Berlusconi, who — despite his lavish lifestyle and admitted affection for beautiful women — has tried to establish his conservative coalition as supportive of the Church's key positions on family, life and social issues.

On Friday, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, said the scandal would be discussed Monday at a meeting of the conference's main decision-making body, the ANSA news agency reported.

Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, has already called the scandal "hurtful and upsetting" and said it had damaged Italy's international reputation.

Another influential Catholic publication, Famiglia Cristiana, said Friday that, with his antics at his home in Arcore, Berlusconi had managed to divide Italian Catholics in a way they had never before been divided.

"Precisely at the same time the Church is announcing a program to re-educate young people in Christianity, we have from Arcore — from its supporters and critics on TV — an opposite message, of an indecent representation of a way to live," the magazine said in an editorial on its website.

Benedict's comments echoed those a day earlier by the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was asked specifically to comment on the scandal.

Bertone said the Vatican was concerned and following the developments "attentively." He said there must be a "more robust morality, a sense of justice and legality" among everyone, particularly those in public office.

Bertone's comments were the first by the Vatican on the scandal, though the Holy See newspaper L'Osservatore Romano had earlier reprinted a statement issued by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano calling for a clear examination of the allegations in court as soon as possible.

Even if Berlusconi's private life is private, and even if somehow investigations end up not finding any crime he could be charged with, he is not a child and is old enough to know that discretion is the better part of valor. Unfortunately, previous flare-ups of public outrage over his private behavior have apparently not taught him a lesson at all - when the scandal first came to a boil in 2009, public suerveys showed most Italians were tolerant of his loose living - and he continues to flaunt his libertine lifestyle. It is conduct unbecoming a national leader and unbecoming a Catholic. He must come to his senses, or be thrown out of office.

Benedict XVI says
society and public institutions
must 'rediscover their soul'

21 JAN 2011 (RV) - In his annual New Year greetings to Rome’s Police department, Pope Benedict XVI called on civil and public leaders to rediscover their spiritual and moral roots.

Reflecting on one of the greatest challenges in the current relativistic culture - the crisis of conscience – the Pope observed that there is "a sense of insecurity, primarily due to social and economic instability, but also exacerbated by a weakening of the perception of ethical principles that underpin the law and personal moral attitudes, which always give strength to the rules that govern society"....

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

Distinguished Police Chief,
Officials and functionaries,
Dear agents and civil personnel of the State Police:

I am truly happy to meet you and welcome you to the house of Peter, this time not out of service, but for us to meet each other, talk to each other and greet each other in a more familiar manner.

I specially greet the Chief of Police to thank him for his kind words, and the other police officials and your chaplain. And a special greeting to your families, especially the children.

First of all, I wish to thank all of you for the work that you do for the city of Rome, of which I am the Bishop, so that city life may take place with order and security. And I express my gratitude for the extra effort that my activities often require of you.

The times in which we live are marked by profound changes. Even Rome, which is rightly called the Eternal City, has changed much and is evolving. We experience this everyday and you are its close witnesses.

These changes often generate a sense of uncertainty, caused primarily by precarious social and economic conditions, which is sharpened by a weakening perception of the ethical principles which are the basis for law as well as the personal moral attitudes that always reinforce laws and regulations.

Our world, with all its new hopes and possibilities, is traversed at the same time by the impression of a decrease in the moral consensus, and that consequently, the structures that are the bases for living together are no longer able to function fully and well.

Therefore, many are tempted to think that any forces mobilized in defense of civilian society are ultimately destined to fail. In the face of such a temptation, we who are Christians have the responsibility to find new resolve in professing our faith and to do good, continuing courageously to be close to our fellowmen in their joys and sufferings, in happy moments as well as the dark hours of our earthly existence.

In our days, great importance has been given to the subjective dimension of existence. On the one hand, this is good because it allows man and his dignity to be placed at the center of consideration of both historical thought and action. But it must never be forgotten that man finds his most profound dignity in the loving attention of God, in reference to him.

Attention to the subjective dimension is also good when it highlights the value of the human conscience. But here we find a grave risk because modern thought has developed a reductive view of conscience, according to which there are no objective refeences to determine what is valid and what is true, but rather that it is the individual himself, with his intuitions and his own experiences, who becomes the yardstick- and that therefore, each person has his own truth, his own morality.

The most evident consequence is that religion and morals tend to be confined to the subjective and the private sphere: therefore, faith with its values and behavior no longer have a right or a place in public and civilian life.

That is why, on the one hand, society gives great importance to pluralism and tolerance, while on the other hand, religion tends to be progressively marginalized and considered irrelevant and, in a sense, extraneous to the civilian world - almost as if its influence on the life of man must be limited.

On the contrary, for us Christians, the true meaning of 'conscience' is man's capacity to recognize truth, and before that, to feel the need for truth, to seek it and to find it.

Man must be open to the truth and to goodness in order to be able to accept them freely and consciously. Moreover, the human being is an expression of love and truth: God 'planned' him, so to speak, to have an interiority, a conscience, from which he can draw the orientations to cultivate and conserve himself and human society.

The new challenges on the horizon demand that God and man encounter each other again, that society and public institutions rediscover their 'soul', their spiritual and moral roots, in order to give a new consistency to ethical and juridical reference values, and therefore, to practical actions themselves.

Christian faith and the Church will never cease to offer their own contribution to the promotion of the common good and to authentically human progress. The same religious service and spiritual assistance which, under existing law, Church and State are committed to provide to citizens, including you who belong to the state police, bear witness to the pernnial fecundity of this encounter.

The singular calling of the City of Rome demands that you, who are public officials, offer a good example of positive and profitable interaction between healthy secularity and Christian faith.

Indeed, the effectiveness of your service is the result of combining professionalism and human qualities - being up to date in the means and systems of security, as well as having human gifts like patience, perseverance to do good, sacrifice, and a readiness to listen. All this, well harmonized, in the service of citizens, especially those who are in difficulty.

You must always consider man as the end point of your service, so that everyone may live together in an authentically human way. As Bishop of this city, I also ask you to read and meditate on the Word of God in order to find the source and criterion of inspiration for your actions.

Dear friends, as you perform your service on the streets of Rome and in your offices, remember that your Bishop, the Pope, prays for you and wishes you well. I thank you for your visit, and I entrust you all to the protection of the Most Blessed Mary and of the Archangel Michael, your heavenly patron, as I impoart to you and your work a special Apostolic Blessing.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2011 9:43 AM]
1/21/2011 11:44 PM
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Father Cervellera's analysis confirms that both Al-Azhar and the Egyptian government seized on the most unfounded pretext - the Pope's interference in Egyptian affairs, simply dpeaking up for persecuted Christians - to use the Pope as a tool to advance their precarious domestic political prospects.

Al-Azhar against the Vatican:
Politics and pettiness

by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera

ROME, January 21 (AsiaNews) - The decision by the Islamic University of Al-Azhar to freeze dialogue with the Vatican seems to many a bolt from the blue, which threatens to cause a clash between Christians and Muslims worldwide.

The dialogue – heretofore always friendly - between the Holy See and the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islam, dates back to the '90s. Its positive progress was undoubtedly thanks to the personality of the imam of the time, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, who died last March 10, 2010.

He was succeeded on March 19 Imam Mohamed Ahmed al-Tayyeb. On New Year's Day, al-Tayyeb criticized Benedict XVI for expressing solidarity with Coptic Christians, accusing him of "interference" in the internal affairs of Egypt.

In the run-up to a meeting that would have taken place in the coming weeks, the Islamic University had requested that the Vatican remove one person in particular from its delegation: Fr. Khaled Akasheh, from Jordan, an expert on Islam, and a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter=Religious Dialogue, who to date had been in charge of relations with the Islamic University.

Msgr. Akasheh is among the most qualified people in dialogue with Islam. He was in the Catholic-Muslim Forum in 2008, following the famous letter of 138 Muslim scholars to the Pope, and engaged in dialogue with Tehran’s Organizations of Islamic Culture.

The Vatican pointed out that prior written arrangements for the dialogue with Al-Azhar states each delegation has the right freely to choose its members. But Al-Azhar insisted that if Akasheh's name was not removed, it would interrupt dialogue.

However, this friction - and threats to freeze dialogue - have far deeper roots. Al-Azhar’s reasons for not wanting Fr. Akasheh are unclear. It is probable that they do not want someone who understands Arabic, who is an Arab, who understands Islam (Mgr Akasheh knows the Koran in depth), in order to feel free, not to be judged (or held to account).

The criticism of the Pope, his expression of solidarity for the Coptic community judged as "interference in internal affairs" of Egypt, are thus only instrumental, a way to ostensibly cover up, the most petty of reasons.

But there is another element to consider: the link between Al-Azhar and its traditional support for the Egyptian political leadership. Hosni Mubarak, is a moderate Islamic leader, eager to advance the country towards secularism – also a demand of Coptic Christians, continually discriminated against in terms of legislation and social development.

To this end, Mubarak is pushing ahead in his attempt to exclude fundamentalists from the political framework, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. In an attempt to determine the next presidential election in his favour, Mubarak is trying not to upset the Muslim world.

Egyptian critics of the Vatican have this aim: to lay the blame on the Christian and Western Pope, thus stoking the frustrations of the Muslims towards the (so called) Christian West. Al-Azhar has simply latched on to this trend.

How much weight will this decision carry? Will the rest of the Muslim world follow the line of the "splendid" Sunni university? In our opinion it is not likely.

Al Azhar, which is funded almost entirely by Saudi Arabia, is representative of a very traditional Islam and is seen by many Islamic institutions as "too dusty and outdated”.

While Tunisia and the Arab world grapple with struggle and suffering for the future of Middle Eastern society, tackling the problems of human rights, democracy, despotism, poverty and the economy, Al-Azhar has limited itself to merely stating that Islam is against suicide, in some way condemning all those unfortunates who have set themselves on fire out of a despair caused by poverty and injustice.

And yet, the sacrifice of these people has fuelled the revolt that led to the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and is shaking the Middle East.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/14/2011 11:10 AM]
1/22/2011 1:19 AM
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I find the following article truly appalling. Not only is it gratuitously and unnecessarily offensive to Benedict XVI. It is also dishonestly tendentious, selecting to present only information that supports his hostility to the present Pope. It's not the first time that I find an article in the Wall Street Journal by this writer to be questionable and unworthy of the newspaper, which surely can pay other more sensible writers. And surely, the WSJ editors should know better than to indulge his cock-eyed perspective with the headline they provided.

Rocca is the Vatican correspondent for an agency called Religion News Service. His leaps of illogic are egregious examples of non sequitur, and the article as a whole is a blatant and shameless example of bad faith! I'm for freedom of speech and all that, but there's also such a thing as good faith and good taste, neither of which this article has. And the WSJ editors are equally guilty of poor taste.

Pope Benedict beatifies his star predecessor:
The current Pontiff lacks the presence
and popularity of John Paul II,
the former actor and Cold Warrior


Vatican City , Jan. 21 - When Pope Benedict XVI declares Pope John Paul II "blessed" on May 1, bestowing on his predecessor the Catholic Church's highest honor short of sainthood, millions will watch from St. Peter's Square, on television and on the Internet.

John Paul's beatification, which was officially announced last week, will be an occasion for recalling his eventful reign, and it will inevitably inspire comparisons with the man who now sits in his place. In many eyes, those comparisons will not prove favorable to Benedict.

The current Pope is low-key, as Americans discovered during his 2008 visit. For all his charm, he lacks the gregariousness, physical presence and gift for the dramatic gesture with which the former actor John Paul could win over crowds. [Rocca chooses to ignore the well-dcoumented fact - to the continuing surprise of many who inexplicably refuse to recognize Benedict's superior endowments as a man, priest and intellectual! - that Benedict has consistently attracted more crowds to Rome than his predecessor did, not to mention the great popular success of his trips within Italy and abroad!]

Although a clearer and more accessible writer than John Paul, Benedict is far less at home in the age of electronic communications. His reign has been marked by a chain of public-relations disasters, most recently the widespread confusion over his remarks about the morality of condom use. [What does the willful misreading of his words about condoms have anything to do with electronic commnications?]

John Paul was also a much more commanding leader than his successor. It is impossible to imagine the late Pope giving an interview of the kind that Benedict granted the German journalist Peter Seewald last year, in which he repeatedly admitted personal error and suggested that he is largely impotent to enforce many of his own policies within the Church. [He never said that! It's a stretch to extrapolate that from his realistic statement that the Pope is a completely powerless man because he does not run a business in which the faithful are neither his employees nor subordinates/ See Page 6 of LOTW. Rocca has got to be one of the most naive of reporters to conclude that because Benedict XVI gives an interview in which he admits to errors, John Paul was therefore 'a more commanding leader'! Genuine humility does not make anybody a less commanding anything!]]

Nor has Benedict matched his predecessor's popularity among non-Catholics. An enthusiastic participant in inter-religious dialogue of all kinds, John Paul appealed to Muslims and Jews with historic apologies for Christian anti-Semitism and the sins of Catholics during the Inquisition and the Crusades. [Rocca cannot be more sophomoric than this! Benedict is not into inter-religious dialog to curry popularity with anyone - he wants to establish straight talk, authenticity and truth as the basis for any dialog, not empty platitudes or a pointless repetition of apologies for events in the past. John Paul made those apologies with as much ceremony and grand gestures as he could so that the world would not miss that they were made. For Catholics to continue beating their breasts about these apologies would be very much like the attention-getting Pharisee in the temple.]

The current papacy has been marked by heightened tensions with Muslims and Jews. Benedict's 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a medieval description of the teachings of Islam's prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," was followed by violent protests in several Muslim countries. [You would think Rocca never heard of the COMMON WORD initiative that Regensburg prompted among Muslim moderates, or earlier than that, of Benedict's amazingly succesful visit to Turkey just a few weeks after Regensburg.]

Benedict has also irritated Jews by readmitting an ultra-traditionalist bishop who turned out to be a Holocaust denier, and by honoring Pope Pius XII, who critics say failed to do or say enough against the Nazi genocide. [That's all Rocca can find to say about Benedict's relations with Jews? Not his visit to synagogues and to the Holy Land, not the fact that he invited the first Jews - and Muslims, for that matter - to address gatherings of the Bishops' Synod? Not his continuing and highly informative tributes to Christianity's legacy from the Old Testament?]

In secular eyes, John Paul ranks as one of the principal heroes of the Cold War, identified with scenes of striking Polish workers and the fall of the Berlin Wall. By contrast, Benedict's campaign to reverse the tide of secularism in Europe strikes most observers as quixotic. [The two goals are apples and oranges!]

Of course, the fall of the Soviet Union hardly seemed a realistic goal when John Paul assumed the papal throne in 1978, and Benedict is one who thinks in centuries. But for the moment, in the crude terms of our politics and pop culture, John Paul comes off as much more of a "winner." [In your crude way of thinking, yes! It's hard to imagine a Vaticanista as crude, crass and well-nigh ignorant as Rocca. Not even Richard Owen at his worst was so offensive! How can one compare an ongoing pontificate that is barely six years old compared to the completed 26 years of John Paul's Pontificate? And Communism did not collapse simply because of John Paul's moral leadership - it would not have happened without the practicel strategic superiority, military and economic, that Ronald Reagan and the USA, and Margaret Thatcher and the UK, invested with equal moral certainty into bringing down the evil empire.]

There is one important area in which Benedict's reputation stands to gain from comparison with his predecessor: his record on clergy sex abuse. It was Benedict, when still a cardinal, who took the initiative to launch the church's first unified process for investigating and punishing pedophile priests. Facing strong resistance within the Vatican, he pursued the powerful Rev. Marcial Maciel, the late founder of the Legion of Christ, who abused numerous children over his career. He was disciplined only after Benedict was elected Pope. Whereas John Paul never met with victims of clergy sex abuse, Benedict has done so five times and has offered repeated public apologies for the crimes they suffered. [We are supposed to be grateful for this concession, as superficial as it is? As if the most important thing in Benedict's actions on the sex abuse scandal is to have met with victims!]

Overall, Benedict has shown himself content to be overshadowed by John Paul. [What would Rocca have him do? Strut about and beat his breasts, saying "me Tarzan too!"????] Rocca is beyond simply naive. he is CLUELESS on anything!] /DIM] He has described himself as one of the "little popes," a "simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord," in contrast to his "great predecessor."

Yet in his deference to John Paul one can see perhaps the most important difference between the two men. The celebrity aura that surrounds the modern papacy clearly makes Benedict uneasy. "Standing there as a glorious ruler is not part of being Pope," he told Mr. Seewald. "Is it really right for someone to present himself again and again to the crowd in that way and allow oneself to be regarded as a star?"

Of course, Benedict has never repudiated the spectacular pastoral approach of John Paul. But his more modest style turns attention away from himself and toward the essence, as he sees it, of his role as Pontiff, as nothing more or less than "the representative of the Holy One."

[EEEEEWWWW! Rocca's sophomoric thinking makes me cringe - it makes me think of a brain crawling with maggots!!!! Sorry to be so categorically dismissive of this article by Rocca, and consequently, of Rocca himself as a journalist. The article is so skewed, and makes me all the more outraged that the WSJ could find no better writer on this topic. It should have kept to the subject of John Paul II alone and his beatification, not turned into an occasion to diss Benedict XVI so disgracefully and tastelessly.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2011 12:47 AM]
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Saturday, January 22

Center photo: Sculpture of St. Vincent on the gridiron, Mseum of Valencia.
ST. VICENTE DE ZARAGOZA [San Vicente Martir] (Spain, d 304)
Deacon and Martyr, Patron Saint of Lisbon
Like San Lorenzo (Lawrence), the first deacon saint, Vincent was born in Huesca, northern
Spain, but served in Zaragoza, where he was ordained a deacon by Bishop (later Saint)
Valerius. In the Diocletian persecutions, Valerius and his deacon were imprisoned in
Valencia, but Valerius was later exiled, leaving Vincent behind. He is said to have
resisted many tortures, and when offered release if he would burn Sacred Scriptures,
he refused. He was then condemned to die on the gridiron, an element probably borrowed
from the story of St. Lawrence. His hagiography is based on the work of Prudentius
(348-413), a Spanish Christian, who wrote a book on the early Roman and Hispanic martyrs.
It is said Vincent's remains were protected by ravens until his followers could bury him
in what is now Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, the most southwestern point of the European
continent. His remains were exhumed and transferred by a 12th century Portuguese king
to Lisbon, an event commemorated in the city's coat of arms.
Readings for today's Mass:

OR today.

Benedict XVI speaks to Roman policemen about
'The ethical principles on which law is based'
The other papal story in this issue is the traditional blessing of the lambs whose wool will be woven into the palliums to be conferred by the Pope on new diocesan bishops next June 29. There are two short items on Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's calls for a prompt and proper investigation of charges against Prime Minister Berlusconi and his admonition to Italian media to report facts responsibly, as well as Cardinal Bertone's statement of support for the President's words, without naming Berlusconi himself. Page 1 international news: China's President Hu assures Americans that his country does not threaten anyone; South Korea accepts to undertake direct dialog with North Korea; and the European parliament passes a resolution condemining anti-Christian persecution anywhere.


The Holy Father met today with

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)

- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian bishops' conference

- College of Prelate-Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. Address in Italian.

- As expected, Italian media today exploited to the max the Holy Father's words to the Rome police yesterday,
to 'support' their ongoing trial by publicity of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has fed the fires by his
indiscreet private entanglements which are potentially criminal.

And as usual, media have chosen to read too much into what the Pope said, simply because it serves their purpose.
If Berlusconi's behavior had not been in the news, they would not have given a second thought, much less headlines,
to the Pope's routine address yesterday. And even if Berlusconi was not in the news at all, the Pope would have made
exactly the same general remarks he made about ethical and moral principles that Christians must live by, especially
those who are public officials - but the media would have ignored it as not being newsworthy at all, merely Christian
teaching that should have no space or place in the public sphere!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2011 9:34 PM]
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'Right' to Christian marriage
is not automatic, Pope says

22 JAN 2011 (RV) - Pope Benedict XVI today delivered his annual address to the Roman Rota, marking the beginning of the juridical year.

The Apostolic Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota is the second highest court of the Church, and functions as a third-instance appellate tribunal. [Its rulings are subject to evaluation by the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signatura but only as to procedural validity, not to merit. This means the Signatura cannot overturn a Rota ruling but can order a new hearing by the Rota if it deems it necessary.]

Dominating the Rota's case load are petitions seeking marriage annulment, and therefore teh Pope addressed a particular aspect of marriage in his address today.

In view of the current crisis of the family, he called for "the greatest pastoral care" in preparing couples and admitting them to marriage in the Church.

He noted that pre-marriage courses, examination of the spouses, publication of bans and other appropriate investigations are often seen as purely formal obligations.

"In fact," he observed, "there is a widespread mentality that..., pastors should proceed with leniency" in these matters because "it is the natural right of people to marry is in question".

Pope Benedict pointed out that the "right" to marriage in Church, “presupposes that the individuals can and intend to truly celebrate it, in the truth of its essence as taught by the Church”.

He continued “No one can claim the right to a wedding ceremony" in the Church, because ius connubii, the right to marry, “refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage".

Therefore, admission to marriage requires "the greatest pastoral care" in the formation of the couple and in "testing their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage".

"Serious discernment in this matter will avoid impulsive decisions or superficial reasons that lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they will not know how to honour" - and therefore, pre-marital examination of the engaged couple, should never be considered a mere "bureaucratic procedure".

Pope Benedict concluded that marriage preparation is also a key tool in stopping the “vicious circle” of the granting admission to marriage “without adequate preparation or requirements”, and on the other end, granting “a judicial declaration that sometimes just as easily, but of an opposite nature, considers marriage invalid".

Translated from

At 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, the Holy Father received the Prelate Auditors, Officials and Advocates ot the Tribunal of the Roman Rota at the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace to mark the opening of the judicial year. Here is a translation of the Holy Father's remarks:

Dear members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota:
I am happy to meet with you on this annual encounter at the inauguration of the judicial year.

My heartfelt greeting to the College of Prelate Auditors, starting with the dean, Mons. Antoni Stankiewicz, whom I thank for his kind words. I greet the officials, advocates and other collaborators of this tribunal, and all those who are present.

This offers me the opportunity to renew the expression of my esteem for the work that you do in the service of the Church and to encourage you to an ever greater commitment in a sector that is so sensitive and important for pastoral care and for the salus animarum (the salvation of souls).

The relationship betweeen the law and pastoral work has been at the center of the post-conciliar debate on canon law. The well-known statement by the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II who said "it is not true that in order to be more pastoral, law should be less juridical"
(Address to the Roman Rota, 18 January 1990, n. 4: AAS 82 [1990], p. 874) expresses the radical resolution of an apparent contradiction.

"The juridical dimension and the pastoral," he said, "are inseparably united in the pilgrim Church on earth. First of all, they have a harmony arising from their common end: the salvation of souls"

In the first meeting I had with you in 2006, I sought to demonstrate the authentic pastoral sense of the process of annulling a marriage, a process that must be based on love for the truth" (cfr Address to the Roman Rota, Jan, 28, 2006: AAS 98 [2006], pp. 135-138).

Today, I wish to dwell on the juridical dimension as it affects the pastoral activity of preparing couples and admitting them to matrimony, in order to highlight the nexus that runs through such activity and the judicial processes having to do with marriage.

The canonical dimension of preparing for matrimony is probably not an element that is immediately perceptible. In fact, on the one hand, one observes that in the preparation courses for marriage, canonical questions have a very modest, if not insignificant, place, since one tends to think the future spouses have little interest for problems that usually concern specialists.

On the other hand, even if no one could possibly ignore the need for juridical activities preceding the matrimony, aimed at verifying that "no one opposes its valid and legitimate celebration"
(CIC, can. 1066), it is widely thought that examination of the spouses, matrimonial banns, and other necessary measures to comply with pre-marriage investigations (cfr ibid., can. 1067), along with pre-marriage courses, constitute compliance that is almost exclusively formalistic.

In fact, it is often maintained that in admitting couples to marriage, pastors should proceed with leniency, since it simply has to do with the natural right of persons to get married.

In this respect, it is well to reflect on the juridical dimension of marriage itself. It is an argument that I have referred to in the context of a reflection on the truth in matrimony, in which I stated, among other things: "In view of the subjectivist and libertarian relativization of the sexual experience, Church Tradition affirms clearly the natural juridical character of matrimony, namely, that it belongs inherently to the field of justice in interpersonal relations. In this perspective, the right to marry is truly interwoven with life and love, as it is meant to be
(Address to the Roman Rota, Jan. 27, 2007, AAS 99 [2007], p. 90).

In other words, there does not exist a matrimony of life and another one of law: there is only one matrimony, which is constitutively a real juridical bond between a man and a woman, a bond on which the authentic conjugal dynamic of life and love rests.

The matrimony celebrated by two spouses - that which concerns pastoral care, and that which takes place under canon law - constitute one natural and salvific reality, whose richness gives rise to a variety of approaches without thereby diminishing their essential identity.

The juridical aspect is intrinsically bound to the essence of metrimony. This can be understood not in a positivist concept of the law, but rather according to a relationship in terms of justice.

The right to marry - ius connubii - must be seen in this perspectiveL It is not a subjective claim that must be satisfied by pastors through merely formal recognition, independent of the effective content of the union.

The right to contract matrimony assumes that the partners can and intend to celebrate it truly, that is, in the truth of its essence as the Church teaches. No one can simply claim the right to a marriage celebration.

The ius connubii refers to the right to celebrate an authentic matrimony. Therefore, the ius connubii cannot be granted when it is evident that the premises for its exercise are lacking - which means, when the capacity is clearly lacking for the marriage requested, or when marriage is desired for a reason other than the natural reality of matrimony.

In this respect, I wish to reiterate what I wrote after the Synodal Assembly on the Eucharist: "Given the complexity of the cultural context in which the Church lives in many countries, the Synod recommended maximum pastoral care in the formation of couples to be married, and prior verification of their conviction about the irrenunciable commitments required for a valid matrimony.

Serious discernment in this respect can avoid emotional impulses or superficial reasons that could induce two young persons to take on responsibilities that they are not later able to honpr
(cfr Propositio 40).

The Church and society itself expect so much good to come from marriage and from the family based on it, for it not to commit itself fully in this specific pastoral field of action. Matrimony and family are institutions that should be promoted and defended from any possible equivocation about their truth, because every damage to these institutions is. in fact, a wound to human coexistence itself (Post-Synoda; Apost. Exh. Sacramentum caritatis, 22 Feb 2007, n. 29: AAS 99 [2007], p. 130).

Preparation for matrimony, in its various phases as described by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, certainly has purposes that transcend the juridical dimension, since their horizons are constituted by the integral, human and Christian good of the spouses and their future children (cfr n. 66: AAS 73 [1981], pp. 159-162), and definitely aimed at holiness in their lives (cfr CIC, can. 1063,2°).

Nonetheless, we must never forget that the immediate objective of such preparation is to promote the free celebration of a true matrimony, thus, the constitution of a bond of justice and love between the spouses, with the characteristics of unity and indissolubility, aimed at the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children, and which among baptized persons, constitutes one of the sacraments of the New Covenant.

This is not an extrinsic ideological message for couples, much less is it imposed as a cultural model. Rather, the engaged couple are prepared to be able to discover the truth of a natural human inclination and about their capacity to commit to each other which is inscribed in their man-woman relationship.

From that relationship comes 'right' as an essential component of the matrimonial relationship, rooted in the natural potential of the spouses that is actualized by their consensual self-giving.

Reason and faith both illuminate this truth of life, but it must remain clear, as the Venerable John Paul II also taught, that "The Church does not refuse marriage to be celebrated between two people who are 'properly disposed', even if imperfectly prepared from the supernatural point of view, as long as they have the correct intention to be married according to the natural reality of conjugal life
. (Address to the Roman Rota, Jan. 30, 2003, n. 8: AAS 95 [2003], p. 397).

In this perspective, special attention must be given to accompanying the couple through all the phases of the marriage preparation, whether the planned matrimony is distant, near, or immediate. (cfr John Paul II, Apost. Exh. Familiaris consortio, Nov. 22, 1981, n. 66: AAS 73 [1981], pp. 159-162)

Among the means for ascertaining whether the couple's intention is truly conjugal, the pre-matrimonial examination stands out. This has a principally juridical intention: to ascertain that nothing can be opposed to the valid and legitimate celebration of marriage.

Juridical does not mean formalistic, as if this were merely a bureaucratic procedure that consists in filling out a form with ritual questions. Instead, this is a unique pastoral opportunity - that must be given all the seriousness and attention it requires - during which, through a respectful and sincere dialog, the pastor seeks to help each of the future spouses face the truth about themselves and the human and Christian vocation of matrimony.

In this sense, the dialog, which is always done separately with each of the future spouses - without diminishing the need for conversations with both of them together - requires an atmosphere of full sincerity, in which each partner must be made aware that they are the primary interested parties who are obliged in conscience to celebrate a valid marriage.

With various means on hand for a careful preparation and verification of the futire spouses, one can develop effective pastoral action that also aims to prevent any future marriage annulments.

Everything must be done to break the vicios cycle that often results from a careless admission to marriage, without adequate preparation nor serious examination that the couple do fulfill the requirements needed to contract matrimony, and at the other end, a judicial declaration that is equally easily obtained to annul a marriage solely as a result of its failure.

It is true that not all the reasons for an eventual annulment can be traced to the failure of adequate preparation. At the same time, it would not be right to oppose marriage on the basis of unfounded presumptions, such as that persons today are generally incapable of true matrimonial intentions or that their intentions are only apparently matrimonial.

In such cases, it becomes important for their pastors to make them acutely aware of the responsibilities in marriage. Canon law in general, and in particular, matrimonial and related procedural law, require that couples undergo a special preparation for marriage.

Equally, knowledge of the fundamental aspects and immediate practical matters of canon law constitute a formative necessity of the first importance for all pastoral workers, especially those who minister to families.

Ecclesiastical tribunals must transmit a uniform message on what is essential in matrimony, a message that conforms to the Magisterium and canon law, and one that they speak with one voice.

Expecting unity in the jurisprudence entrusted to this tribunal, other ecclesial courts must adapt themselves to the jurisprudence of the Rota
(cfr John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, Jan. 17, 1998, n. 4: AAS 90 [1998], p. 783).

Recently, I insisted on the need to judge correctly on cases that have to do with consensual incapacity (cfr Address to the Roman Rota, Jan. 28, 2008: AAS 101 [2009], pp. 124-128). The question remains very topical, but unfortunately, incorrect positions persist, as in identifying the judicial discretion required for matrimony (cfr CIC, can. 1095, n. 2), with the desired prudence in deciding to get married, thus confusing a question of judicial incapacity with something that does not affect the validity of the marriage, since it has to do with the level of practical knowledge leading to a decision that is genuinely matrimonial in intention. The misunderstanding is even worse if one would attribute an invalidating effect to imprudent decisions made during the marriage.

As for annulment because of exclusion from the essential benefits of matrimony [what canon law calls bonum coniugum, 'the good of the spouses', essentially, the grace and holiness derived from good conjugal living)
(cfr ibid., can. 1101, § 2), a serious commitment is eqully needed so that judicial pronouncements reflect the truth on matrimony, the same that should illuminate the process of admission to marriage.

II am thinking specifically of the exclusion of the bonum coniugum, in which the danger seems to repeat itself about an incorrect application on the norm regarding incapacity, which is to seek reasons for annulment not in the original constitution of the marriage bond but in its actualization during married life.

The temptation must be resisted to transform the simple deficiencies of the spouses during their married life into original consensual defects...

[I am omitting three sentences discussing the 'bonum coniugum', since I do not understand the legal points made, even if the language seems apparently simple.]

In concluding my reflections, I turn back to considering the relationship between canon law and pastoral work which is often misunderstood at the expense of the law, but also, sometimes, to the detriment of pastoral work.

What is needed is to promote in all sectors a dynamic of both aspects, toward a profound harmony between pastoral care and juridicity, which should prove to be fruitful for the services rendered in the field of marriage.

Dear members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, I entrust you all to the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that you may never lack divine assistance in carrying out your daily work with fidelity and a spirit of service. I gladly impart on all special Apostolic Blessing

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/22/2011 11:08 PM]
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In an interview in today's issue of Corriere della Sera, the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, starts by observing the hypocrisy and political expediency of the Italian media in invoking the Pope's words on Catholic morality when it serves their purpose - in this case, to bolster their continuing campaign to bring down Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over charges of potentially criminal immoral behavior.

'The Church cannot be led by the nose'
for political purposes, OR editor says

Interview by
Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

January 22, 2011

“I am reminded of the parable of the clown and the village by Kierkegaard which Joseph Ratzinger cites at the start of his Introduction to Christianity, to describe the situation of theologians today: A circus catches fire, a clown is sent to get help from the nearby village, but hearing his cries, the villagers simply laugh themselves to tears, thinking it was just a trick to get them to come to the circus. Until the fire reaches the village itself...”

Prof. Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatrore Romano, speaks with some irony: “The words of the Church about ancient values like responsible sex or respect for the human being usually make laymen laugh in ridicule, while they accuse the Church of obscurantism and even consider its teachings as a form of aggression.”

And this time?
It is remarkable that now these very teachings are being invoked...

But the time is also rather remarable, right?
Yes, now there is widespread concern, even alarm, but the Church has always spoken about these. It has not changed what it preaches.

Did Benedict XVI's words [to the Roman poilce] today not apply to Berlusconi?
It applies to everyone. But the Pope's words cannot be used for political purposes. I think that some fair and balanced statements were made earlier by persons like Mons. Domenico Sigalini, bishop of Palestrina and apiritual assistant to Italian Catholic Action, and Fr. Ugo Sartorio, editor of the St. Anthony Messenger: They said, in effect, that The Church cannot be led by the nose, it cannot be drawn into this kind of partisan exercise. Political problems should be resolved politically.

But one observes a certain urgency. Even in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI also referred to a 'moral consensus' that is disssolving...
But even today's words were similarly general and elevated – they were not directed only at Italian society. Even before Christmas, the Pontiff had referred to the diminution of juridical and political structures that comes with a vanishing moral consensus.

In the same way that Cardinal Bertone yesterday called fo more morality and legality..
It wasn't accidental that the Cardinal Secretary of State referred to various sectors – politics, administration, the judiciary. Everyone in public service should be more aware of their behavior...

He was concerned...
He said so himself. He was not making any controversial statements. He was being constructive, and thinking of the good of the nation. Earlier, our newspaper published the first note from the Quirinale [President Napolitano, asking for prompt and proper investigation into the charges against Berlusconi], and today, we published his second sacrosanct note warning against aggravations and new tensions on this subject.

The nation is neither tranquil nor flourishing right now. We must be constructive, not destructive, and find a common way forward that is positive. The President has expressed his concern about both the presumption that a crime has been committed, and about the disclosure of salacious information. A friend of mine who has school-age children said he has had to turn channels often to avoid these revelations.

The harmony between the Holy See and the Quirinale seems to go far beyond diplomatic protocol...
Yes. The Holy Father and the President are almost the same age – and though they have different personal stories, this has not kept them from being in frequent contact nor from a personal relationship that has been profoundly harmonious.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2011 3:10 AM]
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Joseph Ratzinger and political theology
Translated from the 1/23/11 issue of

In the autumn of 1962, Joseph Ratzinger gave a lecture at the Salzburger Hochschule (Salzburg University of Education) on the occasion of their annual theological week. A brief excerpt was published in the magazine Der katholische Gedanke(Catholic thought) (19, 1963, pp 1-9) and a much larger part was printed earlier in Studium generale (14, 1961, pp. 664-682).

The two articles were then re-elaborated as a book, Die Einheit der Nationen (1971), which was translated to italian in 1973, and republished in 2009 with Giovanni Maria Vian as editor (Brescia, Morcelliana, 2009 120 pp).

In this issue, we publish an excerpt from the final chapter of the book, the introduction written by Vian for the 2009 edition, and a review of the book written by one of the leading scholars of Patristics and the history of Christianity. [I will post the translations as I finish them].

DIE EINHEIT DER NATIONEN: Eine Vision der Kirchenvaeter
(The Unity of Nations: A vision of the Church Fathers)
by Joseph Ratzinger
First published 1971

Without truth, politics
is worship of the demon


With Augustine as with Origen, theology's hook into political reality was a rhetorical necessity. The fall of Rome in 410 to Alaric and the Huns had reawakened pagan reaction to Christianity. Where are the tombs of the Apostles, they demanded?

Obviously, the Apostles could not in any way defend Rome, the city which had been invincible for as long as it was under the protection of its guardian pagan gods. But the defeat of Rome demonstrated with tangible evidence that God the Creator, adored by Christians, was not concerned about political affairs. This God could be competent for man's beatitude in the afterlife, but events had just proved effeictively that he was not competent in the political reality of the world.

Politics obviously had its own structure of laws that did not have anything to do with the supreme God, and therefore it had to have its own political religion. It was what the masses wanted out of a general sensibility, namely, that alongside elevated religion, there should be a religion of earthly things, especially of political matters, capable of motivating people more profoundly, as the ancient philosophers maintained.

Simply recall that axiom of Platonic thought formulated by Apulieus: "Between God and man there is no possibility of contact". Platonism was convinced profoundly of the infinite distance between God and the world, between spirit and matter. That God would be directly concerned with matters of the world appeared to them totally impossible.

And any divine service that had to do with worldly affairs was done through intermediate beings, forces of a diverse nature that one had to resort to.

In this excessive emphasis on God's transcendence - which meant segregating him from the world, excluding him from the concrete processes of life on earth - Augustine rightly perceived the true and proper nucleus of resistance against the totality of the Christian claim, a resistance that could never tolerate marginalization of political reality in the name of the one God.

To the pagan reaction which tended to restore a religious dimension to the polis, and thereby relegate the Christian religion to the purely private sphere, Augustine countered with two fundamental objections.

Political religion has no truth whatsoever. It rests on the canonization of the habit against truth. This renunciation of truth - rather, opposition to truth out of love for what was habitual and customary - was even admitted openly by representatives of that Roman political religion - Scevola, Varrone, Seneca, who defended tradition to the degreee that they opposed truth. For them, their concern for the polis and its good justified this assault on truth.

This meant that the good of the State, which they believed was linked to its persistence and survival in its ancient forms, was placed above and beyond the value of truth.

Here Augustine sees the true contrast erupt in all its acuteness: In the Roman concept, religion was an institution of the State, therefore one of its functions, and therefore, subordinate to it.

Religion was not an absolute independent of the interests of the group representing it, but was an instrumental (exploitable) value for the State which was the absolute.

On the contrary, according to the Christian concept, religion does not have to do with habit or custom, but with the truth which is absolute, and which therefore cannot be instituted by the State - by and in itself, it had instituted a new community which embraces everyone who lives in God's truth.

Starting with this concept, Augustine thought of the Christian faith as a liberation - a liberation of the truth from the constraints of custom.

The political religion of the Romans had no truth at all, but there is a truth above and beyond it. Such truth is that the subjection of man to habits that are hostile to truth makes him prey to anti-divine forces which the Christian faith calls demons.

That is why worship of idols is not just a foolish occupation without purpose, but by leaving men prey to the negation of truth, it becomes worship of demons: Behind unreal gods is the supremely real power of the demon, and behind slavery to custom is servility to the orders of evil spirits.

This is the profound object of Christian liberation and of the freedom that it conquers: a liberation from custom stamped by a power that man himself had created, but which in time and at length had raised itself above man and was now its lord and master. It had become an objective power itself, independent of man, the spearhead of the power of evil itself that would overwhelm man, the power of demons.

Liberation from custom in order to reach truth is emancipation from the power of the demons which are behind custom. In this sense, the sacrifice of Christ and of Christians become truly understandable as 'redemption', or liberation - eliminating the political cult that is against truth, and replacing this worship of demons with the only universal service to truth, namely, freedom.

Thus, Augustine's thought joins that of Origen.

Just as Origen understood the religious absolutism of the nation State as the work of man's demons, and the supranational unity of Christians as a liberation from the prison of ethnic factors, Augustine also consigns political reality in the ancient sense - as divinization of the Polis - to the category of the demoniacal, and sees in Christianity the overcoming of the demoniacal power of politics which had oppressed the truth.

He too considered the pagan gods not as empty illusions but as the fantastical mask which hid those 'powers and dominations' which prevent man's access to absolute truths and imprison him in relativism. And he, too, saw politics as the true and proper dominion of these dark powers.

It is true that Augustine saw his own measure of truth in the idea of Evemero [Greek writer of the 3rd century BC] that all gods were once men, i.e., that every pagan religion was based on man's hyperbolization of himself. But he also saw that this admission did not resolve the enigma of pagan religions.

The dark powers, which apparently man himself causes to issue and project from himself, soon show themselves to be objective hypostases of power, 'demons' which exercise on him a supremely real mastery - from which he can be liberated only by him who has power over all other powers, God himself.

We must note that even Augustine did not attempt to elaborate anything that was meant to constitute a world that had become Christian. His civitas Dei, city of God, is not just an ideal community of all men who believe in God, but neither does it have anything in common with an earthly theocracy or a world that is Christianly constituted. Rather, it is a sacramental-eschatological entity that lives in this world as a sign of the future world.

He himself demonstrated how precarious was the Christian cause in 410,
when it was not just the pagans who invoked Rome's most ancient gods. That is why for him, the State - even despite its real or apparent Christianization [under Constantine] - remained an 'earthly State', in which the Church was a community of strangers to this world, who accept and use earthly realities but are not at home in it.

Certainly, the coexistence of the two communities, pagan and Christian, was much more peaceful than it was in the time of Origen. Augustine no longer spoke of conspiring against the 'scythian' (i.e, barbarian] State, but thought it right that Christians, members of the eternal homeland, should render service in Babylon, so to speak, as functionaries, even as emperors.

Therefore, whereas in Origen, one does not clearly see how this world could continue, but only that it must tend to an escatological opening, Augustine considered the 'permanence' of the situation in his time, which he thought was right for that era, to the point that he wished for a renewal of the Roman Empire.

But he remained faithful to the eschatological thought insofar as he considered the world a provisional entity upon which he therefore did not seek to confere a Christian constitution, but would let it continue to be the world which must continually struggle to achieve its own relative order.

In this measure, even Christianity that had been consciously legalized in this world, ultimately remained 'revolutionary', since it cannot identify itself with any State: It remains a force that relativizes all the immanent realities in the world, indicating and referring everything to the one absolute God and the one mediator between God and man - Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the choice of the OR to run these articles at this time was coincidental to the Italian media's concerted interpretation of Benedict XVI's general statements made to the Roman police on Friday as a specific reproach to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - an interpretation that is understandable but objectively unfounded, because if Berlusconi's escapades had not been in the headlines right now, no one in the Italian media would have paid attention to what was, after all, a fairly 'routine' speech by the Pope calling for public servants to live up to Christian standards, including obviously, moral standards.

In any case, in the essay above, the then 35-year-old theologian clearly showed the distinction between the absolute and the relative, the truth of Christianity and the reality of the world as embodied in politics. It is a distinction he obviously maintains even as Pope who is not in the business of reproaching politicians for their loose morals but to open the eyes of the world to the truth of God.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2011 2:40 PM]
1/23/2011 2:30 PM
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January 23, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Right photo: Blessed Marianne's beatification rites in St. Peter's Basilica.
BLESSED MARIANNE COPE (b Germany 1838, d Hawaii 1918)
Virgin, Professed Franciscan of the Third Order, Missionary
Born Maria Anna Barbara Koob in Darmstadt, Germany. Her parents migrated to the United States when she
was a baby and settled in Syracuse, New York. She joined the Third Order Franciscan nuns and was taught in
schools for immigrants. She was assigned as superior to several places, during which she helped found
the first two Catholic hospitals in the US, gaining the experience she would later use in Hawaii. In 1877,
she was elected Mother Provincial of her order and re-elected in 1881. In 1883, she and some of her fellow
nuns answered a bid from the Hawaiian government to run a center for receiving leprosy patients in Maui.
In 1888, she went to Molokai to help Father Damien (now St. Damien) run the leper colony during his final
months. She took over after he died and served the lepers for the rest of her life, gaining fame for her
holiness as Mother Marianne of Molokai. It was considered a miracle that she did not catch the disease in
the 30 years she spent there. She was one of the first two persons beatified under Benedict XVI in rites
at St. Peter's Basilica on May 14, 2005.
Readings for today's Mass:

OR today.

Benedict XVI tells the Tribunal of the Roman Rota that they must relate canon law to pastoral care:
'How to prevent marriage annulments'
Other Page 1 items: An essay on doctor's ethics, highlighting theancient Hippocratic oath, a prayer by the medieval Jewish physician-scholar Moses Maimonides, and a June 2000 prayer by John Paul II from a letter to the Internationl Federation of Catholic Phisicians; China's President HU leaves the US after a state visit without resolving differences with President Obama over North Korea and on trade and financial relations; anti-gvernment demonstrations rock Albania, Jordan and Algeria. In the inside pages, an extract from a 1962 lecture and eventual book on political theology by Prof. Joseph Ratzinger, and two essays about the book; and a report on Catholic relations with the World Lutheran Federation in a continuing series during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.


Sunday Angelus - The Holy Father reiterated his reflections on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity elaborated
by him at last Wednesday's General Audience, and tied uo the four hinges of Christian living that make up the theme
of this Prayer Week, to the Gospel today that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'. He reminded the faithful that the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity eill end on Tuesday with Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2011 2:31 PM]
1/23/2011 3:23 PM
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Are these Anglican bishops still 'Christian' or merely poor sports who choose to vent against the Pope on Christian Unity week? One of them does so in Westminster Cathedral itself, and the other is chairman of the Church of England's Council for Christian Unity!... Also, the report refers to 'the Pope's offer' all throughout, as if Benedict XVI thought up Anglicanorum coetibus completely unsolicited and not preceded by decades of requests from traditional Anglican prelates from Australia and the UK!

Benedict XVI's offer was
an 'insensitive takeover bid',
say senior Anglicans

Senior Church of England figures have attacked Pope Benedict XVI's offer
to disillusioned Anglicans to convert to Catholicism,
describing it as "predatory" and "insensitive".

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent

23 Jan 2011

One bishop has claimed that the Vatican's invitation has "embarrassed" Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while a leading cleric compared it to a "corporate takeover bid".

Another bishop admitted that relations between the two Churches had been damaged by the move.

It is the first time that prominent Anglicans have criticised the Pope's offer since it was made in 2009 and reveals the anger that has been simmering ever since.

Their comments follow the ordination of three former Anglican bishops as Roman Catholic priests last Saturday and risk exacerbating tensions between the two Churches.

Catholic clergy were dismayed by a sermon given by Canon Giles Fraser, chancellor of St Paul's cathedral, during a service last week to mark a week of prayer for Christian Unity.

Speaking at Westminster Cathedral, the spiritual home of the Catholic Church in England and Wales where the ex-bishops were ordained, he said the Pope's offer for Anglicans to defect to Rome had a "slightly predatory feel".

"In corporate terms, [it is] a little like a takeover bid in some broader power play of church politics," he said.

"And if Anglicans do feel a little like this, I wonder if things really are all that rosy in the ecumenical garden."

His comments were echoed by the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, who is the Church of England's chair of the Council for Christian Unity.

"I think it was an insensitive act [the papal offer] as it came at a time when the Church of England was still in the decision-making process on the ordination of women and came with minimal consultation," he said.

"It was awkward and embarrassing not just for Archbishop Rowan, but also for the English Catholic bishops.

"I don't think they were enthusiastic about it and we realise that it has put them in a difficult position."

Pope Benedict issued a historic decree in 2009, promising Anglicans they could convert to Catholicism under a structure called an Ordinariate that allows them to retain some elements of their heritage.

Only 50 clergy have so far indicated that they are likely to follow the three former bishops in crossing to Rome, but this number could grow if traditionalists feel unable to remain in the Church of England with the introduction of women bishops.

The Rt Rev John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln, said he thought the Pope's offer would have more of an impact on relations between the Churches than on the Church of England, which he predicted would only lose "a very small number" of clergy.

"I can't judge the motives behind it [the offer], but the way it was done doesn't sit easily with all of the talk about working towards better relations," he said.

"Fence mending will need to be done to set conversations back on track."

Relations could be strained further next month when the General Synod, the Church of England's parliament, debates a report produced by the two Churches on the importance of Mary, who Catholics believe was free from "any stain of original sin".

"This report is very divisive because it doesn't represent what Anglicans believe about dogmas concerning Mary," said one Synod member.

Bishop Hill admits that the tone of the debate is likely to be more "belligerent" than it would have been before the Ordinariate, adding: "It's so sensitive because in the Church of England you can have a variety of views [towards Mary], but the Roman Catholic Church only has one understanding."

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a senior aide to the Pope and former President of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity, attempted to ease tensions last week. [Kasper has now retired and even in the best of times, was never what you might call a 'senior aide' to Benedict XVI.]

Speaking at a dinner with Dr Williams, he said that the ordination of the three former bishops was not a "day of victory", but "a day of penance".

Come on now, you Anglican prelates who have just now found your tungues - after all, the announcement of Anglicanorum coetibus was made in October 2009, and since then. the Pope has visited Lambeth Palace and co-presided at Vespers in Westminster Abbey - it's time to grow up and learn to be good sports. Your breach of good taste - not to mention, lack of Christian charity - to do and say all this on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is just stunningly selfish and perhaps unwittingly an open admission that you really do not care for Christian unity. When was the last time y'all said the Lord's Prayer and really meant it????

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2011 3:40 PM]
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