Benedetto XVI Forum


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4/17/2012 6:10 PM
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See preceding page for earlier items posted today, 4/17/12.

Tuesday, April 17, Second Week of Easter

ST. BENEDICT JOSEPH (Benoit Joseph) LABRE (b France 1748, d Rome 1783), 'The Beggar Saint', Patron of Pilgrims and of the Homeless
One of the least remarked coincidences is that for years before April 16 became the feast day for Bernadette Soubirous, it was the feast day of Benedict Joseph Labre, who died
in Rome 144 years before Joseph Ratzinger was born on the same day, and who would take the name Benedict XVI when he became Pope. But their life stories could not have been
more different. The saint who prefigured the Pope's names is one of the most extraordinary saints in modern times. The eldest of 18 children in a prosperous family near Boulogne,
he was educated by his uncle, a parish priest. But his education was not deemed suitable for him to be accepted by the Trappists, Carthusians and Cistercians. At age 16, he decided
he would leave everything behind and live his life as a pilgrim, walking on foot from shrine to shrine, living on alms and sharing what little he had with other beggars - the classic
'Fool for Christ' well-known in the Orthodox traditions. He eventually based himself in Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum, and came to be known as the 'beggar of Rome' as well
as 'the saint of the 48 hours' because of his devotion to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He was also increasingly sick due to malnutrition. One day, he dragged himself to attend
Mass at Santa Maria dei Monti near the Colosseum. He collapsed in the church and was taken to a nearby home where he died. He was only 35. At the news of his death, children
In the neighborhood went around shouting 'The saint is dead!' His wake at Santa Maria dei Monti lasted through the rest of Holy Week, attracting throngs of Romans. His cult was
IMmediate, and within a year, he was being written about as far as London, and his confessor had written a biography of him, in which he recounts at least 136 miraculous cures
in the first three months after he died. He was beatified in 1869 and canonized in 1881. His remains are venerated in Santa Maria dei Monti.
Readings for today's Mass:


No events announced for the Holy Father.
But the Vatican has released the transcriptions of his homily yesterday at the Pauline Chapel and
his remarks to the Bavarian delegation who came to Rome to greet him on his 85th birthday.
Both were said extemporaneously - each is so beautiful and very moving that I wish everyone could read it in German
as he said it. Translations posted in subsequent posts below.

Additionally, both Andrea Tornielli and Jose Luis Restan have now posted their jubilee commentaries about the Pope.
In addition, Tornielli has a side story - I don't know if it qualifies as an update - about the FSSPX Superior-
General's confidential letter to his bishops and other members saying that nothing can be assumed as a foregone
conclusion until the FSSPX actually gets a response from the Vatican.

And just because I really find this cover montage particularly poignant and infinitely endearing, let me indulge myself by re-posting it here from the preceding page where it comes with an editorial from the German-language monthly VATICAN-Magazin.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 3:59 PM]
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4/17/2012 8:34 PM
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The Pope and the Gospel of Thomas at Easter Vigil
April 17, 2012

by Michael Peppard

Thanks to Fr. Imbelli for drawing our attention to the Pope’s homily from Easter Vigil. I am always enriched by Pope Benedict’s utilization of early Christian texts and traditions in his explication of Catholic faith and practice. The Vigil is the perfect time to recall the centrality of “illumination” (photismos) in the early Church. For contemporary listeners, ideas of illumination or enlightenment might sound more at home in Buddhism or even “new age” spirituality, but in fact, they were at the heart of early Christian initiation, especially in the east (Egypt, Palestine, and Syria). For example, when Cyril of Jerusalem describes those preparing for initiation, he often calls them “those about to be illuminated/enlightened” (photizomenoi). Moreover, the “light from light” image was so indispensable as a symbol of the idea of undiminished giving that it can rightly be thought of as the foundational image of Nicene Christology (cf. Jaroslav Pelikan’s little gem of a book, The Light of the World: A Basic Image in Early Christian Thought, 1962).

But what caught my attention even more is the quotation of Jesus with which Fr. Imbelli’s excerpt concludes. The Pope said: ”‘Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,’ as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said.” It’s true that this is one of the so-called agrapha from the early Church, things which early Christian writers said that Jesus said, but which the New Testament does not record. And it’s true that Origen said that Jesus said this, and Jesus certainly might have said this.

But another true way of reporting the quote would be: “‘Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,’ as Jesus is reported by the Gospel of Thomas to have said.” (It’s logion #82, for those interested.) When the Nag Hammadi hoard was discovered in 1945, and the Gospel of Thomas came to light in full for the first time, this agraphon of Jesus was thus corroborated by a text, albeit a noncanonical one. It also appears (in a probable textual reconstruction) in the recently published and obscure Gospel of the Savior of unknown date and provenance (line 71, published by Stephen Emmel).

What impresses me is the openness of the Pope to noncanonical influences on his view of Jesus, even at the summit of the liturgical year! The Pope is a scholar of the highest order, and he certainly knows that this agraphon was corroborated by the Gospel of Thomas. Even Origen himself is not necessarily a “canonical” figure, his memory and ideas having been controversial in Christian history (see the Second Council of Constantinople, 553). And lest we think the quotation of this noncanonical agraphon is anomalous, let’s recall that in the first volume of the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth, he uses both the Gospel of Thomas (logion #108) and the noncanonical Didache to illuminate aspects of the Gospel of John. In short, then — and if I may quote myself — despite the Pope’s championing of “canonical exegesis” (“reading the individual texts of the Bible in the context of the whole”), he does not in practice treat the canonical boundary as an impermeable wall. It is a barrier, to be sure, but more like a fence, through whose gaps the Spirit can still blow insightful seeds — or sparks of illumination — from outside.

4/17/2012 9:13 PM
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I don't understand why all the photos (very few) taken at the Pauline Chapel yesterday were washed out, including those from the newsphoto agencies. Hence the poor reproductions that are not sharp, almost unfocused and do not at all do justice to the occasion.

Translated from

April 17, 2012

On the occasion of his 85th birthday, the Holy Father Benedict XVI presided yesterday morning at a Holy Mass concelebrated in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace with his closest associates and a representative group of German cardinals, bishops and priests, including his brother Georg.

Here is a translation of the homily he delivered extemporaneously in German:

Dear Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and sisters:

The liturgy of the Church on April 16, my birthday and baptismal day, had three signposts that showed me where the road would lead and which would help me to find it.

First, there is the commemoration of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes; then, there is one of the most unusual saints in the history of the Church, Benedict Joseph Labre; and above all, this day is always immersed in the Paschal mystery, the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection - especially so in the year I was born, when it was Holy Saturday, the day of God's silence, of his apparent absence, the death of God, but also the day on which the Resurrection announced itself.

Bernadette Soubirous, the simple girl from the South of France, in the Pyrenees - we all know and love her. She was born in almost unimaginable poverty in 19th century Enlightenment France. A prison structure that had been abandoned because it was considered too unhealthy became the family home after much going back and forth, and that was where she spent her childhood.

She did not have much schooling, just some catechism to prepare for her First Communion. But this simple girl, who remained pure and innocent at heart, therefore had a seeing heart that made her able to see the Mother of the Lord. and in her, a reflection of the beauty and the goodness of God.

Mary could show herself to her, and through her, speak to her century, and to the centuries beyond hers. She could see with her pure and unspoiled heart. So Mary pointed her to the spring - so that she could discover this spring with its living, pure and uncontaminated water - water which is life, water which gives purity and health.

Through the centuries, this living springwater is a sign of Mary, a sign of where to find the waters of life, where one can become pure, where we can find what is not polluted.

In our time, when we see so much need in the world, in which the need for water - pure water - has emerged as a problem, this sign is all the more important. From Mary, from the Mother of the Lord, from her pure heart, comes pure uncontaminated life-giving water which purifies and gives us health.

I think we should also consider water an image for the truth that comes to us from faith: genuine uncontaminated truth. Because in order to be able to live, and to be pure, we need to yearn for pure living itself, for unfalsified truth, to be untainted by corruption, for a spotless existence.

Therefore on this day, this little saint has always been for me a sign of where the living water comes from, that which we need to purify us and give us life, and therefore a sign of what we must be - in all things, for all our knowledge and abilities, though they are necessary, we need a simple heart.

We should not lose the simplicity that makes the heart see what is essential, and we must always pray to the Lord so that he may keep in us the humility that allows the heart to be clear-sighted - to see the simple and the essential, the beauty and the goodness of God. Then we can always find the springs of purifying and life-giving water.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious 'beggar pilgrim', who after various vain attempts, finally found his vocation as a beggar - having nothing, no sustenance, never keeping whatever he received and what he did not need - wandering through Europe, to all the European shrines, from Spain to Poland, and from Germany to Sicily - a truly European saint.

We can say that he was a most unusual saint, who by begging, wandered from shrine to shrine, wanting to do nothing else but to pray and therefore give witness to what really counts in this life: God.

He is certainly not an example to emulate, but rather a road sign, a finger that points to the essential. He shows us that God alone is enough, that beyond everything in the world, everything that we need and everything we do, the decisive thing, the essential is to know God. He alone is enough, and this 'God alone' he showed us in a dramatic way.

At the same time, this truly European man who wandered the European continent from shrine to shrine showed that he who is open to God is not alienated from the world and from men. Rather, he found all men brothers because with God, all barriers fall - only God can do away with barriers, and with God, we are all brothers, we all belong to each other. Unity with God also means the brotherhood and reconciliation of men, bringing down barriers in order to unite and heal us.

And so, Benedict Joseph Labre was a saint of peace, because he was a saint who demanded nothing, who died with nothing, and yet was blessed with everything.

And finally, there is the Paschal mystery. On the day I was born, thanks to the foresight of my parents - I was also born again in water and the Spirit, as we have just heard in today's Gospel. First there is the gift of life, that my parents gave to me in a very difficult time and for which I must thank them.

But man's life itself is not always a gift. Can it really be a good gift? Do we know what can come to him in dark times, or even in the brighter times that may co,e? Can we say what troubles, what terrible events he may be exposed to? Can one just simply give life? Is it reasonable to do so or too uncertain? It is a questionable gift, by itself.

Biological life itself is a gift, but one that is surrounded by so many questions. it becomes a real gift when it is given with a promise that is stronger than every calamity that can threaten it, when it is immersed in a power that guarantees that - yes, it is good to be a man, that it is is good for this person whatever the future may bring.

Thus birth must come with rebirth - the certainty that, in fact, it is good to exist, since the promise is stronger than any threat. This is the sense of rebirth in water and the Spirit - to be immersed in the promise that only God can give: 'It is good that you exist, and you must know this for certain, whatever may happen'. I must live from this certainty, reborn of water and the Spirit.

Nicodemus asked the Lord: "Can an old man be born again?" Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow in it, we must always allow God to immerse us in his promise, so that we are truly born again into the great and new family of God, which is stronger than all the weaker and negative powers that threaten us.

So this is a day to give great thanks. As I said, I was born and baptized on Good Saturday. At that time, the Easter Vigil was observed on Saturday morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, and so without the Hallelujah.

It seemed to me that this singular paradox, this rare anticipation of Light on a dark day, could be considered almost an image of the history of our time. On the one hand, there was still the silence of God and his absence. But there is already the anticipation of God's Yes in the Resurrection of Christ.

We live in this anticipation, and beyond the silence of God, we hear his voice. Beyond the darkness of his absence, we see the light. The anticipation of the Resurrection during a story that is still ongoing is the power that shows us the way and that helps us go on.

We thank the dear Lord that he has given us this Light, and we implore him that it may always be with us. I have reasons to give thanks on this day to him and to all who have always allowed me to feel the presence of the Lord and who have accompanied me so I may not lose the light.

I face the final stretch of my journey in life, and I do not know what awaits me. But I know that God's light is there, that Christ has risen, that the light of God is stronger than any darkness, that God's goodness is stronger than all the evil in the world. And that allows me to go on with certainty. It allows us to carry on, and at this time, I thank everyone from the heart who have given me the certainty of God's Yes through their faith.

Finally, I say to you, the dean of Cardinals - my sincere thanks for your words of fraternal unity, for your cooperation during all these years. And I say thank you to all the co-workers who in the 30 years that I have been in Rome have helped me to carry the burden of my responsibilities. Thank you. Amen.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 6:09 PM]
4/18/2012 9:06 AM
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April 16, 2012

At noon yesterday, in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received a delegation from Bavaria, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich-Freising, and Minister President Horst Seehofer of Bavaria.

After a program of Bavarian music and dances, and presentation of gifts, the Holy Father addressed his fellow Bavarians extemporaneously. Here is a translation from the German transcript:

Dear and Honorable Minister President,
Dear fellow Bavarians and friends:

You must excuse me from having to mention and address everyone by your individual titles - it would be too long. But I assure you that I read the invitation list of those who have come here twice with my heart, and in doing so, I already greeted each of you interiorly. No one is anonymous here, I know each of you interiorly, happy that you are here to greet me. And so, I have had a dialog with each one - Gruess Gott to everyone!

What do I say at this time? It goes beyond words, and I must express my gratitude in place of what cannot be said. I thank you, Mr. Minister President, for your words. You have expressed the heart of Bavaria in words - a Christian, Catholic heart - which have moved me, and at the same time, you have rendered present everything that is important in my life.

And I thank you no less, dear Cardinal, with your words as the pastor of the diocese that I came from, to which I belonged as a priest, in which I grew up and to which I will always belong inwardly. In your words as a pastor, you have also presented our Christian faith in its beauty and greatness in a new light.

Dear Minister President, you have assembled here a mirror image of the inner and outer geography of my life. The external geography, which is also always an inner one - from Marktl through Aschau, Tittmonin, Hufschlag and Traunstein, and then to Pentling and Regensburg - in all these stations represented here, a piece of my life is always present, in places where I lived, struggled, and became what I am, as I now stand before you, and as I must present myself before the Lord one day.

And with all this, the entire Bavarian way of life: The living Church of our state is present. I thank the Bavarian bishops for this. And thanks be to God, there is the ecumenical dimension as well, with the presence today of the bishop of the Evangelical Church of Munich. It reminds me of the great friendship that bound me to Bishop Hanselmann and which remains one of the memories I treasure, and which tells me how we must go forward.

Likewise, I remember the Jewish community with Dr. Lamm and Dr. Snopkowski - with whom I had heartfelt friendships which brought me closer interiorly to our Jewish people, and to the Jewish people in general - and who are very much present in my memory.

We also have the media here, who have reported to the world what we do and what we say - sometimes we must correct what they think of us - but what would we be without their service?

Then, Mr. President, you also presented the living Bavaria in the children, in whom we see that Bavaria continues to be faithful to herself, and remains young. And precisely because she remains faithful to herself, she grows and prospers.

To this, I must add the music which I have heard, which reminded me how my father played „Gott grüße Dich" on the zither, bringing back the sounds of my childhood, which is also the sound of the present and the future: „Gott grüße Dich" - God greets you…

A full heart calls for many words but at the same time keeps me from saying more because what I have to say is too great to say. But in the end, they all come together in the words with which I would like to end, „Vergelt’s Gott" (God will reward you!).

The other photos of the event available from the news agencies:

The Pope receives a Bavarian bouquet of edelweiss and gentians:

One of the gifts presented to the Pope by President Seehofer was a crucifix:

4/18/2012 10:05 AM
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In a week of big news, this is certainly huge and historic. With the superstitious hope that I am not celebrating too early and therefore contributing in some way that would make this news turn out to be false, one can only say, Deo gratias! And be very happy for the Church and for the Holy Father - and grateful to Mons. Fellay for this great gift of grace to the Church as Benedict XVI marks two important milestones this week. When this news becomes official, it will be time to hang out all the ALLELUIA banners.. This story came before I could translate Tornielli's earlier story about the confidential letter sent by Fellay to his bishops and the FSSPX community assuring them that he would not make any unprincipled concessions to the Holy See...

The Vatican has received the FSSPX response -
and it is positive, though with minor changes

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from

April 17, 2012

VATICAN CITY - The response of the FSSPX to the Vatican letter of March 15 seeking further clarification of their position has arrived at the Vatican and it is positive, according to information received by Vatican Insider.

Our source said Mons. Bernard Fellay, FSSPX superior-general, has signed the Doctrinal Preamble that the Holy See first proposed last September as a basis for the society's reconciliation with Rome and the regularization of its canonical status. An official confirmation from the Vatican is expected in the next few hours.

From what we have learned, Fellay sent back the Preamble with a few changes, said to be not substantial, to the Vatican proposal. It will be recalled that the Ecclesia Dei Commission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - which had handled the doctrinal discussions and subsequent communications with the FSSPX - did not wish to make the proposed Preamble public, precisely to allow for the possibility of modifications proposed by the FSSPX that would not change the sense of the document.

Basically, the Preamble contains the Profession of Faith required by the Church from anyone who takes on an ecclesiastical function. It includes a provision to observe "religious obedience to the will and intellect" of the teachings of the Pope and the bishops "proposed in the exercise of their authentic Magisterium", even if such teachings are not proclaimed and defined in a dogmatic way, as is the case with most documents of the Magisterium.

The Holy See had stressed many times to the FSSPX that signing the Doctrinal preamble would not mean putting an end "to the legitimate discussion, study and theological explanation of specific expressions or formulations found in the documents of Vatican II".

Now the text signed by Fellay with his modifications will be presented to Benedict XVI, for whom this answer comes a day after his 85th birthday and two days before the seventh anniversary of his Pontificate.

It is an answer that he has long awaited and hoped for - and one that in the next few weeks, could put an end to the wound inflicted on the Church in 1988 when the FSSPX founder, Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops illegitimately, against the express instructions of John Paul II.

Fellay's response will also be examined by the cardinal members of the CDF in their next general meeting which takes place next month.

A few more weeks would be necessary to arrange the canonical regularization of the FSSPX. The most likely structure would be a non-territorial personal prelature, an idea introduced into the Code of Canon Law in 1983, and which has so far been availed of only by the Opus Dei.

The non-territorial prelature (not tied to a geographical jurisdiction) would be responsible directly to the Holy See and not to any diocesan bishop. The FSSPX would continue to use the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, and would continue to form priests in its own seminaries.

Subsequently, the Ecclesia Dei Commission made this announcement:

The text of the response from His Excellency Mons. Bernard Fellay, Superior Gene4ral of the Fraternal Society of St. Pius X, which was requested of him during a meeting on March 16, 2012, at the seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrived on April 17, 2102. This text will be examined by the Dicastery and then submitted to the Holy Father for his decision.

And a statement from Fr. Lombardi
in response to questions

VATICAN CITY, April 18 (Translated from ASCA) - The response from the FSSPX on the Vatican's formula for reconciliation is 'perceptibly different' from that which was received in March by the Vatican and considered 'insufficient', Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said today in response to questions by reporters.

"It's a step forward, and this is very encouraging", he said.

He said that the response from the FSSPX included "proposals for integration and some specific adjustments ti the text of the Doctrinal Preamble... which will then be examined and evaluated" first by the CDF and then by the Pope.

He added that there will be a definitive resolution 'within a few weeks', at which time the Vatican will also publish the text of the Doctrinal Preamble as finally agreed on.

Within a few weeks? I think it means I will keep the Alleluia banners furled for now, and Father Z can keep the champagne on chill. Oh, I hope it becomes definite much earlier!
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 1:58 PM]
4/18/2012 11:26 AM
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'Fresh' dissent out of the woodwork

Undated Post

Unfortunately, for every piece of potential good news, one is bound to find a bad one, as the following open letter is - from someone who says he was a professorial colleague of Joseph Ratzinger in Tuebingen. I don't have to post it at all, of course, but this letter demonstrates the kind of malice against the Pope that even Swidler's ideological brothers in American journals like America and Commonweal have sort of toned down in recent years. So you don't have to read it... And I must ask why Swidler has to use an Australian outlet for his letter when there are thousands of American sites he could have used. He could have sent to America or Commonweal or NCReporter for maximum ventilation. It appears he does not have his own site - speak about being anachronistic! - because Catholica provides links to all the articles by him that they have posted.

The fact that this man thinks himself so modern as to address the Vicar of Christ 'Dear Joe' in an open letter says much about his sense of elementary courtesy, namely, lack of it. Fine, you may have been colleagues with him once, but even Hans Kueng has never been that 'informal' though he has been just as vicious as Swidler. The post that contained this letter says "Headlines over Easter generated by Pope Benedict have driven Dr Swidler to address this open letter to his former colleague... Equally to the point, where has Swidler been all these years, and why have we not heard about him before? More to this than meets the eye, methinks!


Dear Joe,

Some years back when you were still the head of the Holy Office ("of the Sacred Inquisition" is, as you know, stilled chiseled in stone over its dark building immediately next to St. Peter’s square), I wrote you an open letter concerning the role of women in the Catholic Church.

At that time I addressed you with a familiar "Dear Joe," relying on our relationship from the late 60s/early 70s when I was frequently a Visiting Professor at the Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Tübingen, and you were Professor Ordinarius there.

I did so in the thought that this form of address would tell you that I seriously hoped you might open your mind and heart to hear what I wanted to say to you. I have no way of knowing what success I may have had, if any, in that regard. However, relying on our former "collegiality," I am approaching you once again in this fraternal fashion.

I am disturbed that especially of late you have been giving signals that are in opposition to the words and spirit of Vatican Council II, during which you as a leading young theologian helped to move our beloved Catholic Church out of the Middle Ages into Modernity.

Further, while a professor at our Alma Mater University of Tübingen, you, along with the rest of your colleagues of the Catholic Theology faculty, publicly advocated 1) the election of bishops by their constituents, and 2) limited term of office of bishops [see the book 'Democratic Bishops for the Roman Catholic Church'].

Now you are publicly rebuking loyal Catholic priests for doing precisely what you earlier had so nobly advocated. They, and many, many others across the universal Catholic Church, are following your youthful example, trying desperately to move our beloved Mother Church further into Modernity.

I deliberately use the word "desperately," for in your own homeland, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, the churches are empty, and also are so many Catholic hearts when they hear the chilling words coming from Rome and the "radically obedient" (read: "yes-men") bishops.

In my own homeland, America, the birthplace of modern freedom, human rights, and democracy, we have lost — in this generation alone! — one third of our Catholic population, 30,000,000, because the Vatican II promises of its five-fold Copernican Turn (the turn toward 1. freedom, 2. this world, 3. a sense of history, 4. internal reform, and above all, 5. dialogue) have all been so deliberately dashed by your predecessor, and now increasingly by you.
{I shall have to do a fact check of the figure that Swidler so cavalierly trumpets. I do not trust his exclusively partisan presentation at all.]

Joe, you were known as one of the Vatican II theologians who promoted Pope St. John XXIII’s call for aggiornamento (bringing up to date) by the reforming spirit of returning to the energizing original sources (ressourcement!) of Christianity (ad fontes!— to the fountains!). [Quibble, quibble, but 'To the fountains?" Even I with my rudimentary Latin, know that 'fontes' here means 'sources' or 'origins', not 'fountains', which makes no sense even in English! 'Springs' would have been better. And why would Swidler have to translate this rather basic Latin for the Pope, or the two other terms, for that matter? The proper way would have been to place the meanings in footnotes for the benefit of the reader, not within the letter.]

Those democratic, freedom-loving sources of the Early Church were exactly the renewing "sources," the "fountains" of renewal that were spelled out in detail by you and your Tübingen colleagues.

I am urging you to return to that early reforming spirit of your youth. I am reminded of that spirit now in preparation for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies (JES), which my beloved wife Arlene and I launched in 1964. There in the very first issue of JES are articles by your friend and fellow Vatican II theologian Hans Küng, and yourself (!), looking to bridge over the isolating Counter-Reformation gulf that divided the Catholic Church from the rest of Christianity, and indeed the rest of the modern world.

Joe, in that spirit, I urge you to return to your reforming fountains: Return ad fontes!


Leonard Swidler, Ph.D., S.T.L.
Professor of Catholic Thought and Inter-Religious Dialogue
Temple University
Co-Founder, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 11:29 AM]
4/18/2012 1:26 PM
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Andrea Tornielli's 'jubilee post' for Benedict XVI underscores the basic messages sounded by the Pope that appear to have completely escaped those who have vested interests in their negative criticisms of this Pope.

Seven years as Pope:
Benedict XVI's message has been inconvenient
for some on both ends of the ideological spectrum

Translated from

April 17, 2012

VATICAN CITY - One of the fates marked out for Benedict XVI, the theologian who became Pope at the age of 78, is similar to that which fell to his predecessor Paul VI, who had made a then 50-year-old professor Archbishop of Munich-Freising in 1977 and a cardinal shortly afterwards.

And that is to be the object of criticism from both the right and the left, showing that he has been misunderstood more often than we think and even by those who profess themselves to be 'Ratzingerian' and who therefore ought to be transmitting his message.

Seven years ago, when he was elected, Joseph Ratzinger, who was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years, had been encumbered for years by the media with the label 'Panzerkardinal' for being the inflexible guardian of Catholic orthodoxy accused of having 'reined in' the innovative intentions of John Paul II, of whom, instead, he was the most faithful and obedient of co-workers.

And Paul VI [who presided over most of the Second Vatican Council after John XXIII died during the first session] was accused of carrying out a 'closed' Pontificate compared to the hopes raised by his predecessor John XXIII who had convoked Vatican II.

Reconciliation with the Lefebvrians, which now appears imminent, preceded by his decision to liberalize the use of the traditional Mass in 2007, has earned Benedict XVI widespread dissent among some bishops.

The Pope's intention was to allow the possibility that the traditional Mass and the post-conciliar Novus Ordo would enrich each other reciprocally - so that the latter would recover the sense of sacredness and encounter with the mysteries of God that characterize the old Mass (and which has often been lost in the welter of liturgical abuses that the Novus Ordo engendered), and that the old would in turn benefit from the richness of Scriptural readings found in the Novus Ordo.

This has only been partly successful so far [it's only been five years since this first great step in the 'reform of the reform'] - mainly because of rather discomposed reactions against the Pope's decision by progressivist bishops and priests, but also by the emergence of some forms of estheticism that have nothing to do with the essence of liturgy. [Naturally, the worst rebuke to the dissenters is that no one is forcing them to celebrate or attend a traditional Mass at all, and more important, the Novus Ordo is still considered the ordinary form and has not been affected in any way other than to curb its abuses. So what is their problem? The Mass that was celebrated every day during the four years of Vatican-II - and for 500 years before that - is suddenly objectionable???]

But Benedict XVI has also been rebuked by those who expected him to use an iron fist and doctrinal reorientation as well as a reaffirmation of the Christian identity of Europe in the face of the challenge from Islam. [And what is their problem? The iron fist comes inside a velvet glove for this man of the Church, and what has he done from the very start but reorient the Church to the essentials of the doctrine of the Faith? As for that babble about Christian identity in Europe, he has almost singlehandedly espoused that cause in his 22 years at the CDF and since. What have others done at all to define and defend Christianity against Islam as he has done, while still managing to open a genuine cultural dialog with leading Islamic thinkers?]

Thus, if the critics on the left consider him a throwback to the past who cannot read the signs of the times [Let us refer them to Prof. Ratzinger's 1961 paper for Cardinal Frings that spelled out the signs of the times - they still are - which made Vatican II necessary!], those on the right think he has simply been too weak against the enemies of the Church. [But where were they in the years before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope, when none of them was even bold enough to organize in order to 'force' John Paul II to correct the post-Conciliar injustice against the traditional Mass? Or to do anything else, for that matter, to assert Catholic identity the way Joseph Ratzinger was doing consistently in everything he said and wrote? How do they explain their virtual silence between 1965 and 2005 as the progressivists rampaged throughout the Church? It is Benedict XVI who has enabled a climate in which they can finally express themselves - and the first one that they turn their guns on is him!]

Both the progressivists as well as the disappointed 'Ratzingerians' forget the heart of Benedict XVI's message This is a Pope who said in Fatima, in May 2010:

When, in the view of many people, the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society and, often, seen as seed threatened and obscured by the “gods” and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by means simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a general appeal to Christian values.

The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people’s hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts is, above all, the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him.

Words by a Bishop of Rome who at the start of his Pontificate had said:

In carrying out his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to make Christ's light shine out before the men and women of today: not his own light, but Christ's.

In a Church resounding with daily ethical questions and urgent appeals to a rediscovery of Christian values, a Church in the midst of great crisis (Benedict XVI himself referred to the 'tragic situation of the Church today' in his Chrismal Mass homily) [Which was not to say that the crisis started in his Pontificate - it is the crisis that has engulfed the Church since the end of Vatican-II which, instead of strengthening the Church in her identity, lent itself instead to progressivists hijacking her message and promoting an agenda which has everything to with who has 'power' in the Church - the dissidents want to seize any such 'power' - rather than any spiritual concerns. How often do we even find the words 'God' and 'Christ' in progressivist and dissident statements? ], in a Church that has been scourged by the scandal over pedophile priests, by the silent schism implied by teh open calls to disobedience by dissident priests in some European co8untries, by the careerism that is unfortunately quite widespread among Churchmen, by Vatileaks and the obvious failings in the Vatican's curial mechanism, the octogenarian Pope has not desisted from repeated calls to individual conversion with what it requires in penitence and humility.

In Germany last September, he called on the Church to be less worldly:

History has shown that, when the Church becomes less worldly, her missionary witness shines more brightly. Once liberated from material and political burdens and privileges, the Church can reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world, she can be truly open to the world.

Two months later, enroute to Benin, he said:

It is important that Christianity should not come across as a difficult European system that others cannot understand and put into practice, but as a universal message that there is a God, a God who matters [to us], a God who knows us and loves us, and that concrete religion stimulates cooperation and fraternity. So, a simple concrete message is very important.

Far from any triumphalism, Benedict XVI reminded the new cardinals on February 19:

Serving God and others, self-giving: this is the logic which authentic faith imparts and develops in our daily lives and which is not the type of power and glory which belongs to this world.

The harshest, most dramatic and realistic words about the situation of the Church came from this gentle Pope himself, who has remained serene amid tempests, but also acknowledges this:

Attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification.

Papa Ratzinger, at the Mass celebrated in Lisbon on May 11, 2010, said:

Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?

In the face of the attacks against the Pontificate, the crosses it has to bear, in the face of scandals and dysfunction in the Curial mechanism, in the face of ecclesiastical careerism, Benedict XVI simply renews, as he did to the new cardinals in the recent consistory, his appeal for the Church to immerse itself in humility. For everyone, without exception.

Because only he who is humble knows that he needs help, support, the light of the Other. Only the humble can make the light of Christ shine forth, that which is profoundly needed by men and women today.

Benedict XVI's 85 years
and his patience

Translated from


Of the many things that I have read these days about Benedict XVI and his 85th birthday, I was most impressed by an article of Cardinal Kurth Koch which was published in L'Osservatore Romano on April 15. [Article translated and posted on the preceding page of this thread.]

Koch is a German-speaking Swiss who shared the theological adventure of Communio [international theological journal] with Joseph Ratzinger, but above all, he knows what it is to have to suffer in a central European diocese in order to remain faithful to the Tradition of the Church and to communion with the Pope.

A profound connoisseur of the great work and thinking of Papa Ratzinger, Koch chose the image of the mustard seed to describe it. I must confess that at first, I was perplexed: Of all the things one could say, and we are left with a mustard seed?

But then the Swiss cardinal goes on to describe simply how the Lord has always chosen simple people, poor men and women who had no influence, but who accepted the Gospel unconditionally, and thus were able to renew the Church from within.

And change, which is always necessary in a living body, does not come about through great revolutionary convulsions nor through intelligent plans, but it takes place in a slow organic way, from within.

And the right position for a Christian, Koch says, "can only be that of love, and of patience, which is the ample breath of love".

Thus we come to the nucleus of Benedict XVI's view of history, of our era, and of the course of the Church. We - and I begin with myself - tend to make quick resounding judgments about our time, and we demand, at the very least, strong measures, clear orders, dazzling projects.

We feel a logical angst about the evils of our time (and it must be said in passing, no one has described these evils as acutely as Joseph Ratzinger), and many times, we are distressed by the situation of the Church in the West.

And of course, we demand effective measures that would bring about a rapid change in the situation. It is curious that those who defy Rome with their rebellion as well as those who accuse the Vatican of tepidness and indecision both agree about this.

On the contrary, Pope Benedict XVI loves patience, which is consubstantial with love. It is something that one discovers not just in what he says and writes, but in how he listens and looks.

I remember his homily at the Charterhouse of San Bruno, when he spoke about the time necessary for the grace of God to act and for the freedom of man to move. It is true that the mustard seed is destined to become a great tree in whose shade all kinds of birds could nest, but Benedict XVI calls attention to the fact that the Church should always have her own mystery as a reference point, and not those plans that have predesigned the tree to their own measure.

The plant of faith, the tree of the Church, can only grow from the depths of the earth, and that is why Koch underscores that "the Pope is not so much interested in concrete reforms, as that the foundation and the heart of Christian faith should shine anew".

I was also surprised in recent days by the impressive foresight of the young Ratzinger about the problems of today, and the way in which, as Pope, he has deepened those early intuitions. As we can tell if we read the lecture given by Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne in 1961 on Vatican-II confronting modern thought, which we would learn later, was written by the young theologian from Bonn whom he trusted.

That lecture contains an X-ray image of the post-modern world that Joseph Ratzinger dissects with intelligence and respect, understanding that the Church must accompany the rest of the world in its anguish and disorientation in order to recover her desire for justice and freedom, orienting herself once more to her only foundation, Christ.

In that 1961 paper, we already discover Joseph Ratzinger's incorruptible clarity and incredible sensitivity, his love for Tradition and his undeniably modern temperament.

We can understand that the Second Vatican Council cannot be thought of as a rupture nor assimilation, but as a renewal in continuity of the one subject, the Church. And one is impressed that Providence had marked out so early the man who would have to complete the work of [implementing Vatican II] that is transcendental for the Christian mission in the 21st century.

The other text which I now recall is entitled "Under what aspect will the Church present itself in the year 2000?" which puts together some radio chats by the man who was then Archbishop of Munich.

Who can frighten or terrorize a Pope who 40 years earlier had foreseen with such clarity the great storms to come, and even then, had already indicated the way?

"I think it is clear that the Church faces very difficult times. Its true crisis has hardly begun. One must reckon with forces that have been shaken to action. But I am also totally certain what will prevail in the end: Not the church of political worship, but the Church of faith. Of course, the Church will no longer be the dominant force in society that she had been until recently. But she will flourish again and will be seen by men as the homeland that gives them life and hope beyond death".

He referred to do this in his homily at the Chrismal Mass when he spoke of those currents of life that have brought so many new charisms as gifts from the Holy Spirit in the convulsive time that followed Vatican II.

Learning patience is not a matter of exercises in self-control, but to be in tune with the breath ('in-spiration') of Christ's love. And that is a melody that Pope Benedict knows better than anyone.

Happy birthday, Holiness.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 11:53 PM]
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Wednesday, April 18, Second Week of Easter

BLESSED JACOPO DA LODI [James of Oldo] (Italy, 1364-1404)
Widower, Franciscan priest
He was a well-to-do citizen of Lodi near Milan who married well and had two daughterS.
He lost both children during a plague, and after that, he and his wife became lay
Franciscans dedicated to helping the poor and the sick. When his wife died, he became
a priest and continued his apostolate with the poor and the sick. Soon after he died,
at least 12 miracles were officially attributed to him, and his body was found incorrupt
when exhumed decades later. He is buried in the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Lodi,
his hometown. He was beatified in 1933.
Readings for today's Mass:


General Audience - The Holy Father resumed his catechetical cycle on Christian prayer, in which earlier,
he had begun to reflect on the prayers recounted in the Acts of Apostles. At the end of his plurilingual
greetings, he expressed sincere thanks for all the wishes sent to him for the seventh anniversary of his
election as Pope and for his 85th birthday last Monday. He added:


In case you missed my addenda to the earlier post on this page on Andrea Tornielli's report about the positive response to the Vatican from the FSSPX, here is what the Vatican said about it today. First, this announcement from the Ecclesia Dei Commission :

The text of the response from His Excellency Mons. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Fraternal Society of St. Pius X, which was requested of him during a meeting on March 16, 2012, at the seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrived on April 17, 2012. This text will be examined by the Dicastery and then submitted to the Holy Father for his decision.

And a statement from Fr. Lombardi
in response to questions

VATICAN CITY, April 18 (Translated from ASCA) - The response from the FSSPX on the Vatican's formula for reconciliation is 'perceptibly different' from that which was received in March by the Vatican and considered 'insufficient', Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said today in response to questions by reporters.

"It's a step forward, and this is very encouraging", he said.

He said that the response from the FSSPX included "proposals for integration and some specific adjustments to the text of the Doctrinal Preamble... which will then be examined and evaluated" first by the CDF and then by the Pope.

He added that there will be a definitive resolution 'within a few weeks', at which time the Vatican will also publish the text of the Doctrinal Preamble as finally agreed on. ['Within a few weeks'? C'mon. How long does it take to parse a few 'non-substantial' modifications? Show the text to B16 right away, and he'd be able to decide on the spot!]

I believe reconciliation is a 95% certainty at this point. Otherwise, Fr. Lombardi would not have characterized the response as 'a step forward and very encouraging'. He did not have to characterize it all, but he did. And even if I shall keep the Alleluia banners furled for now, I hope we can all unfurl it in a great Te Deum sooner than within a few weeks!

P.S. I've just seen a report from Paris from the French/German agency

which quotes the FSSPX spokesman, Abbe Alain Loran, confirming that Mons. Fellay's response has indeed been delivered but that the FSSPX considers the current period as still part of the 'study phase'. He also suggests that Andrea Tornielli may have erred in haste by reporting that Mons. Fellay had actually signed an agreement, since his suggested modifications still have to be approved by the Vatican. But then Loran adds that he expects a communication from the Vatican today after which the FSSPX will make an official announcement.

If this happens, the report continues, it would mark the end of a separation that has lasted almost 24 years after the rupture caused by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre's ordination of four bishops in 1988. without Rome's approval.

P.P.S. Here now is the FSSPX announcement which reiterates what Loran said earlier, but sounds more dampening. Or playing safe. Not wanting to count the chickens just yet...

Communiqué from the General House
of the Society of Saint Pius X

April 18, 2012

The media are announcing that Bishop Bernard Fellay has sent a “positive response” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that consequently the doctrinal question between the Holy See and the Society of Saint Pius X is now resolved.

The reality is different.

In a letter dated April 17, 2012, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X responded to the request for clarification that had been made to him on March 16 by Cardinal William Levada concerning the Doctrinal Preamble delivered on September 14, 2011.

As the press release dated today from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei indicates, the text of this response “will be examined by the dicastery (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) then submitted to the Holy Father for his judgement”.

This is therefore a stage and not a conclusion.

Menzingen, April 18, 2012

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2012 9:51 PM]
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Full in the panting heart of Rome,
beneath the apostle’s crowning dome,
from pilgrims’ lips that kiss the ground
breathes in all tongues one only sound:
“God bless our Pope, the great, the good!”

- Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman (England, 1802-1865)

Cardinal Wiseman was the first Archbishop of Westminster after re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, 1950. He had a remarkable career and was a great speaker and writer but he has tended to be overshadowed by the other 8reat English cardinal of the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Newman.


Remarkable insta-portraits of our beloved Benedict at 85 years and 2 days, in most of the news snapshots today. In the photo above, the Roman pines on the top of the nearby Janiculum hill provide a great background.

Even in persecution, the Church prays
to be able to proclaim the faith

April 18, 2012

The Easter holidays may be over but there was an atmosphere of celebration in St Peter’s Square today as an estimated 40,000 pilgrims cheered Pope Benedict XVI and, in diverse languages, wished him a happy 85th birthday and “many more years” as Pastor of the Universal Church on the eve of the 7th anniversary of his election as Pope.

The Holy Father toured the piazza in an open-topped Popemobile, before and after the catechesis, and appeared well-rested after his six-day rest last week at the summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

Some of the pilgrims held up giant banners expressing their best wishes for him. Later, he asked them to pray for him so that he may “persevere in his service to Christ and His Church”.

After a break of a few weeks in his catechetical cycle on Christian prayer - on account of his trip to Mexico and Cuba, his report on the trip, the Paschal Triduum, and a post-Easter catechesis - the Holy Father resumed the cycle by reflecting on the 4th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, inspired by the story of Peter and John who were imprisoned - after healing a paralytic - because they had announced the resurrection of Jesus.

He synthesized today's catechesis in English, as follows:

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn from the prayer of Mary and the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the "little Pentecost" described in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

After the arrest and release of Peter and John, the community joined in prayer and "the place where they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness" (v. 31).

This prayer shows the unity of the early community, which asks only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution. It seeks to discern present events in the light of God’s saving plan and the fulfilment of prophecy in the mystery of Christ. It also begs God to accompany by his power the preaching of the Gospel.

May this prayer of the early Church inspire our own prayer. May we seek to discern God’s loving plan in the light of Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who bestows the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5).

At the end of his customary plurilingual greetings today, the Holy Father said this:

I ask you all to always sustain me with your prayers, so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may persevere in my service to Christ and to the Church.

Here is a translation of the full catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters,

After the great feast days, let us now return to the catecheses on prayer. In the audience before Holy Week, we dwelt on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, present among the Apostles in prayer at the moment they were waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit.

A praying atmosphere accompanied the first steps of the Church. Pentecost is not an isolated spirit, since the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit constantly guides and animates the journey of the Christian community.

In the Acts of the Apostles, in fact, St. Luke - beyond recounting the great effusion that descended over the Cenacle 50 days after Easter
(cfr Acts 2,1-13),, refers to other extraordinary irruptions of the Holy Spirit, which return in the history of the Church.

Today, I wish to dwell on that which has been called the 'little Pentecost' which took place at the climax of a difficult phase in the life of the nascent Church.

The Acts of the Apostles narrate that, following the healing of a paralytic near the Temple of Jerusalem
(cfr Acts,3-10),. Peter and John were arrested (cfr Acts 4,1), because they had been announcing the Resurrection of Christ to all the people (cfr Acts 3,11-26).

After a summary trial, they were set free, they went back to their brothers and told them what they had to suffer because of the witness that they been bearing about Jesus the Risen One. At that time, St. Luke says, "they raised their voices to God with one accord" (Acts 4,24).

Here, St. Luke reports the most ample prayer of the Church that we can find in the New Testament, at the end of which, as we heard, "the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4,31).

Before considering this beautiful prayer, let us note an important basic attitude: In the face of danger, of difficulties, of menace, the first Christian community did not seek to analyze how they would react, nor look for strategies on how to defend themselves, nor measures to adopt, but put to the test, they proceeded to pray, to make contact with God.

And what characteristic dis this prayer have? It was unanimous and agreed upon by the entire community who were facing a situation of persecution on account of Jesus. In the original Greek, St. Luke uses the word homothumadon - everyone together, in agreement - a term which appears in other parts of the Acts of the Apostles to underscore this unflinching and unanimous prayer
(cfr Acts 1,14).

This unanimous concord is the fundamental element of the the first community and it must always be fundamental for the Church. Therefore it was not just the prayer of Peter and John who had found themselves in danger, but of the whole community, because whatever the two Apostles experienced did not just concern them but the whole Church.

In the face of persecutions they had to undergo because of Jesus, not only was the community not frightened nor were they divided, but were profoundly united in prayer, as one person, to invoke the Lord.

This, I would say, is the first miracle that takes place when believers are put to the test because of their faith: unity is consolidated instead of being compromised, because it is sustained by a steadfast faith.

The Church must not fear persecutions, which she has been forced to undergo in her history, but must always trust, as Jesus did on Gethsemane, in the presence, the help and the strength of God, whom we invoke in prayer.

Let us take another step. Wat does the Christian community ask God in this time of trial? They do not ask that their lives be saved in the face of persecution, nor that the Lord deal with those who had imprisoned Peter and John. They only ask to be allowed "to continue to proclaim the Word of God with boldness"
(cfr Acts 4,29) - that is, they pray not to lose the courage of faith, the courage to announce the faith.

First, however, the community seeks to understand in depth what had happened, it seeks to read events in the light of faith, and they do this precisely through the Word of God, which enables us to decipher the reality of the world.

In the prayer that they raise to the Lord, the community starts by remembering and invoking the greatness and immensity of God: "“Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them"
(Acts 4,24).

It is an invocation to the Creator: we know that everything comes from him, that everything is in his hands. This is the awareness that gives us certainty and courage - everything comes from him, everything is in his hands.

They then proceed to acknowledging how God has acted in history - so, the prayer begins with the creation and continues with history - how he has stayed close to his people, showing himself to be a God who is interested in man, who has not retreated, who does not abandon man, his creature.

Here Psalm 2 is explicitly cited, in the light of which one must read the situation of difficulty that the Church was experiencing at that time. Psalm 2 celebrates the enthronement of the King of Judea, but refers prophetically to the coming of the Messiah. "Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed"
(Acts 4,25-26).

The Psalm says this of the Messiah, and this rebellion of the powerful against the might of God is characteristic in all of history. In reading the Word of God, the community could say its prayer to God: "Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed... to do what your hand and [your] will had long ago planned to take place. (Acts 4,27-28).

What happened must be read in the light of Christ, who is the key to understanding even persecution: the Cross, which is always the key to the Resurrection. The opposition to Jesus, his passion and death, must be reread, through Psalm 2, as the realization of the plan of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Here we also find even the sense of the persecution which the first Christian community was experiencing. This first community was not just a simple association, but a community that lives in Christ; and so, what was happening to them was part of God's plan.

Just as it happened with Jesus, eh disciples too encountered opposition, incomprehension, persecution, In prayer, meditation on Sacred Scripture in the light of Christ's mystery, helps us read the reality within the story of salvation that God is working on the world, but always according to his way.

Because of this, the request that the first Christian community of Jerusalem formulated to God in prayer was not to be defended, to be saved from being tested, from suffering- it was not a prayer asking for success, but only to be able to proclaim the Word of God with paressia - with boldness, freedom and courage.
(cfr Acts 4,29).

They then add the request that this announcement may be accompanied by the hand of God so that healings, signs and wonders could take place (cfr Acts 4,30), namely, that the goodness of God be made visible, as a force that transforms reality, which changes the heart, the mind, the life of men and bears the radical newness of the Gospel.

At the end of the prayer, St. Luke notes, "the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness"
(Acts 4,31). The earth shook, that is, faith has the power to transform the earth and the world.

After the prayer of the Church, the same Spirit who spoke through Psalm 2 floods the house and fills the hearts of all those who had invoked the Lord. This is the fruit of the unanimous prayer that the Christian community raised to God: the effusion of the Spirit, gift of the Resurrected One who sustained and guides the free and courageous announcement of the Word of Dog, which impels the disciples of the Lord to go forth without fear and bring the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Even us, dear brothers and sisters, we must know how to bring the events of our daily life into our prayer in order to find its profound significance. And like the first Christian community, we too, allowing ourselves to be enlightened by the Word of God, through meditating on Sacred Scripture, can learn to see that God is present in our life, present even in and especially during our difficult moments, and that everything - even incomprehensible things - are part of a superior plan of love in which the final victory over evil, sin and death is truly that of goodness, of grace, of life, of God.

As it was for the first Christian community, prayer helps us to read our personal and collective history in the most correct and faithful perspective, that of God. We too would like to renew a request for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who warms hearts and illuminates minds so we can recognize how the Lord answers our invocations according to his loving will, and not according to our ideas.

Led by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, we shall be capable of living with serenity, courage and joy through every situation in life, and with St. Paul, we can "boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance; and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
(Rom 4,3-4). Thank you.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2012 7:00 AM]
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Constantine's story is inseparably linked to his mother, the Empress Helena, whose efforts led to the discovery of the tomb where Jesus was believed to have been buried (over whichthe Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built) and who brought back relics of the True Cross and, Tradition says, the Holy Robe of Christ, from the Holy Land to Europe. Both Constantine and Helena are cinsdered saints in both the Byzantine and Roman churches.

Religion and the State
at the dawn of Europe

'Visions of the Cross', by the School of Raphael, fresco, 1520-1524, Vatican Apostolic Palace.. The central frame depicts Constantine before the Battle of Ponte Milvio and the cross he saw in the sky with the tag, 'In hoc signo vinces' - By this sign, you will conquer'.

Vatican City, 17 April 2012 (VIS) - "Constantine the Great. The Roots of Europe" is the title of an international academic congress to be held in the Vatican from 18 to 21 April. The event was organised by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences to mark the 1700th anniversary of the battle of Ponte Milvio and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.

The congress was presented this morning at a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office, by Fr. Bernard Ardura O. Praem., president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Claire Sotinel, professor of Roman history at the University of Paris-Creteil and a member of the Ecole Francaise in Rome, and Giovanni Maria Vian, director of the "Osservatore Romano" newspaper.

"The conference", Fr. Ardura explained, "is the outcome of effective academic cooperation with important cultural institutions such as the Vatican Secret Archives, the Vatican Apostolic Library, the Italian National Research Council, the Ambrosian Library and the Sacred Heart Catholic University in Milan". It is also taking place "with the cooperation and contribution of the European Union delegation to the Holy See, the Lazio Regional Council and the Pontifical Lateran University".

This congress is the first of two, the second of which will be held in Milan in 2013 to mark the 1700th anniversary of the promulgation of the Edict of Milan, which established freedom of religion in the Roman empire and put an end to the persecution of certain religious groups, particularly Christians.

While the 2013 congress will concern itself with what is known as the "Constantinian revolution", this year's event will focus on the environment in which Constantine lived and on relations between Christians and the Roman empire prior to the year 313.

Participants will "examine the relationship between religion and the State, the idea of religious freedom in the empire, and religion from the point of view of the emperor and the senate", Fr. Ardura said.

One key area will be the conversion and baptism of Constantine himself, and his attitude towards Christians following the battle of Ponte Milvio, which took place on 28 October 312 and led to the death of his rival Maxentius.

Contemporary and later Christian historians, influenced by the narrative of Eusebius of Cesarea, saw Constantine's victory as the result of divine intervention.

Fr. Ardura pointed out that "from a purely strategic-military viewpoint the battle was not very important, but it soon became the founding symbol of the new world which came into being when Constantine found Christianity. Indeed, ... the era of imperial persecution against Christians was about to come to an end, giving way to the evangelisation of the entire empire and moulding the profile of western Europe and the Balkans; a Europe which gave rise to the values of human dignity, distinction and cooperation between religion and the State, and freedom of conscience, religion and worship."

"Of course these things would need many centuries to come to maturity, but they all existed 'in nuce' in the 'Constantinian revolution' and therefore in the battle of the Milvian Bridge".
For her part, Claire Sotinel explained that attentive and critical historical analysis "facilitates our understanding of what happened following the victory at the Milvian Bridge, helping us in the twenty-first century to reflect on important issues such as the interaction between religions and political power, the creation of religious pluralism, and the possibility of coexistence among different religions".

Now, the Chief Rabbi of Rome
claims that Constantine's conversion
launched anti-Semitism in Europe

by GIacomo Galeazzi
Translated from

Constantine the Great is raising a controversy in Rome, 1700 years since the Roman emperor converted to Christianity under the sign of the Cross.

The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardi Di Segni, claims that "Constantine's conversion changed everything, and had such an impact on history that it is closely linked to anbti-Jewish persecution".

But Vatican historians say otherwise. "There was not the least shade of anti-Semitism", sayinbg that a black legend on Constantine continues to be fed today by those "who do not look kindly on the contributions of Christians to the public life".

Di Segni, however, calls Constantine's conversion "an epochal watershed, which divided history into a before and after [NO! That distinction belongs only to the birth of Christ!] which led to a tragic upheaval that his successor, the Emperor Julian tried to set right, but for which Christians unfairly called him 'the Apostate'.

He adds that to deny the role of Constantine in anti-Jewish persecutuon was "to go against every available historical evidence", not to mention the question of "his conversion was sincere, or simply a political move".

Jewish persecutions started after the fourth century, said one of the historians participating in the Congress, who also blamed a popular book called Constantine's Sword, by James Carroll, for disseminating historically unfounded data about Constantine and his time.

Giovanni Maria Vian, in his paper, cited a Marxist study by Italian historian Santo Mazzarino who called Constantine " the most revolutionary statesman that Europe had".

Vian says, "Constantine has often been denounced for his autocracy but he was the most tenacious defender of religious freedom", a fallacy that, he says, Paul VI often deplored. Vian says that Constantinen advocated "a healthy secularity which remains a model for relations between Italian society and the Church".

I have not had time to find - or put together - a brief account that will do justice to Constantine and his complex multifaceted history. I hope I will have something when his next feast day comes around (May 21).

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2012 10:55 AM]
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Thursday, April 19, Second Week of Easter

Today's saints:

BLESSED LUCHESIO AND BUONADONNA (Italy, d 1260), Husband and Wife, First Lay Franciscans
Luchesio was said to have been a ‘greedy merchant’ who lived in Poggibonzi near Siena and was probably born in the late 12th century since he met Francis of Assisi in 1213, an event that changed his life. He began to perform acts of charity. This troubled his wife Buonadonna who thought he was giving away too much. One day she answered the door to another stranger in need, and her husband told her to give him bread. Unhappy about this, she went to the pantry anyway, where she found more bread than there had been. This changed her own outlook. They sold their business, turned to farming to provide for their needs and to help others. At that time, some pious couples, with the Church’s consent, separated to become religious, or to join a group like Francis’s, if they were childless or if their children were grown up. Francis set up the secular Franciscan order (the so-called third Order) to accommodate couples like Luchesio and Buonadonna who wanted to share religious life but outside the cloister. The couple from Poggibonzi became the first lay Franciscans. Pope Honorius approved their Rule in 1221. As with many other saints, the couple never seemed to lack for resources to help those who came to them. They died on the same day in 1260, and he was beatified in 1273. She was never formally beatified but she has been venerated as Blessed like her husband.
Readings for today's Mass:

No events announced for the Holy Father today.

- I do not know what mindless people at the CDF or the Vatican Press Office decided that today was the day to release the report on the apostolic visitation of women religious orders in the United States - since all the headlines read 'VATICAN CRACKS DOWN ON U.S. NUNS' and the main target group that was found to habitually disseminate anti-Catholic ideas immediately took the occasion to say the 'crackdown' was because of the nuns' support for Obamacare and his attempts to violate freedom of conscience in the implementation that law!... Good intentions and charitable work do not excuse lying, as in this absurd statement, much less the habitual violation of the sisters' vows of obedience to the Magisterium which apparently they never intended to observe. Perhaps worse than disobedience is their overriding sin of pride and ego-above-all.

As for the usual media hamhands at the Vatican, could they not have left this week at least free of any occasions that could possibly bring new hurt (I mean the media reaction) to our beloved Pope? As for the dissident nuns, I have to remind (force) myself to pray for them as I must do for Schoenborn and his dissidents.... I hope the FSSPX also pray for these truly wayward Catholics in their massive community prayer initiatives.

- On a happy note, those who may want to relive the days that led to the election of Benedict XVI {with pictures and news accounts of the day-to-day events, all the way to the Mass to inaugurate his Petrine Ministry), along with how various individuals experienced it and reacted to it, may want to check out, if they have not seen it before, a special section entitled THE EXPERIENCE OF APRIL 19, 2005 in the PAPA RATZINGER FORUM at this link:
It never fails to bring back all the emotions - and floods of joyous and sentimental tears!

- And herewith, my favorite personal recollection about Benedict XVI:

Perhaps of all the words that the Holy Father said during his never-to-be-forgotten visit to the United States and to the United Nations - and every word was precious and significant - what will remain etched in my brain are the spontaneous words he spoke to thank the congregation at St. Patrick's for remembering the third anniversary of his Pontificate. All the more since I heard the words 'directly' as he spoke them, through the front-door speakers of the cathedral's audio system. These were his extemporaneous words delivered in English:

At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to this poor Successor of Saint Peter.

I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church.

And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, by virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter.

It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers.

And my answer to all that you have given to me in this moment and this visit is my blessing at the end of the Holy Mass.


St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
April 19, 2008

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 8:11 PM]
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Vatican announces reform of
US women's religious conference

By Michelle Bauman

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican called for reform amid a doctrinal “crisis” within the U.S.'s Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead renewal efforts.

The appointment was made as the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings of its multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women's conference, which has more than 1,500 members throughout the country.

The assessment document explained, “it is clear that greater emphasis needs to be placed both on the relationship of the LCWR with the Conference of Bishops, and on the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”

Initiated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008, the assessment was carried out by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, a member of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee.

Among the key findings of the assessment were serious theological and doctrinal errors in presentations at the conference's annual assemblies in recent years.

Several of the addresses depicted a vision of religious life that is incompatible with the faith of the Church, the assessment said. Some attempted to justify dissent from Church doctrine and showed “scant regard for the role of the Magisterium.”

The document cited one address about religious sisters “moving beyond the Church” and even beyond Jesus. Such positions – which constitute “a rejection of faith” and “serious source of scandal” – often go unchallenged by the LCWR, it said.

It also noted a lack of sufficient doctrinal formation in material prepared for new superiors and formators, which may be reinforcing confusion on Church doctrine.

Furthermore, it voiced concerns about “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” that were prevalent in some programs and presentations sponsored by the conference, and risked distorting Church teaching on the divinity of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the Eucharist and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.

The assessment observed that letters from LCWR officers have suggested dissent from Church teaching on human sexuality and protested the Holy See’s actions on women’s ordination and ministry to homosexual persons.

It also said that while the women's religious group has been a strong advocate of social justice issues, it has remained silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a prominent topic in the U.S. public debate surrounding abortion and euthanasia.

To address these “serious doctrinal problems,” Archbishop Sartain has been mandated for up to five years to work with LCWR leadership in renewal efforts.

The archbishop will report regularly to the Holy See and will be aided by Bishop Blair and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, along with an advisory group including clergy, religious women and other experts.

Archbishop Sartain will work with the conference to revise its statues, which will be submitted for approval by the Holy See, and to review its links to affiliated organizations.

Future speakers and presentations at major programs and assemblies will be subject to the approval of the archbishop, who will also work to create new formation programs to provide a deeper understanding of Church teaching.

In addition, Archbishop Sartain will “review and offer guidance” in the application of liturgical norms and texts,” ensuring, for example, that the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours are given proper priority in LCWR events.

Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the findings of the doctrinal assessment are aimed at “fostering a patient and collaborative renewal of this conference of major superiors.”

He expressed hope that the new measures will help “provide a stronger doctrinal foundation” for LCWR’s “many laudable initiatives and activities.”

Vatican orders crackdown
on US nuns association


VATICAN CITY, April 19 (AP) - The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs -- including approving speakers -- and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.

The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women's religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment.

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored.

Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby.

NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration's health care overhaul despite the bishops' objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops' analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama's plan.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview that the timing of the report suggested a link between their health care stand and the Vatican crackdown. The review began in 2009 and ran through June 2010, a few months after the health care law was approved. The report does not cite Obama or the bill.

"I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken," Campbell said. "Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops."

When the Vatican-ordered inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the investigation reflected Church officials' misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the Church. Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the U.S. have grown too liberal and flout Church teaching.

Around the same time of the doctrinal review of the Leadership Conference, the Vatican ordered an Apostolic Visitation, or investigation, of all American congregations for religious sisters, looking at quality of life, the response to dissent and "the soundness of doctrine held and taught" by the women. The results of that inquiry have not been released.

The report released Wednesday paints a scathing portrait of the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious as consistently violating Catholic teaching. [A finding that cannot surprise any Catholic in the United States who has minimal awareness of what these so-called nuns do habitually in order to grab media attention and an instant maxi-amplifier for their dissident messages! In fact, it was this facile manipulation of the MSM - all too happy to blow up any dissent against the Church - and the consequent media celebrity of the dissidents that called attention to their questionable behavior as 'Catholic nuns', and therefore the formal investigation of just how terrible their unsubordination to the Magisterium has been!]

Investigators cited a speech by Sister Laurie Brink at an annual assembly that argued that religious sisters were "'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus." Brink is a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She did not respond to an email request for comment.

[This overweening pride is what I cannot understand about these dissidents. When they decided to profess a vocation, they knew it meant (for most of them, anyway) a triple vow of poverty, obedience and chastity. Those who ended up being dissidents must have known from the start that the 'vocation' they really felt called to was "to speak their mind openly in order to improve the Church", since each one thought, and thinks, that she is surely wiser and more Christian than anyone in the Church, past or present, or anything in the Magisterium at whatever level. That generates the endorphins that fire their ego inexhaustibly and give them an incomparable and constant high - "Look at me! I'm just little Sue from smalltown America, but I can think better than the Pope - imagine that some think he is one of the great intellects of our time! But I know better than him, better than the whole Church, what is good for the Church. In fact, I am better than any of those poor misguided saints who lived their lives obeying the Church. Watch me change this Church!" How pathetic, and how toxic! Like they were never taught that disobedience due to pride (or pride that led to disobeying God) was the original sin that cast man out of Paradise.]

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference had submitted letters that suggest that sisters in leadership teams "collectively take a position not in agreement with the church's teaching on human sexuality."

In programs and presentations, investigators noted "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

"Some commentaries on 'patriarchy' distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the church," the authors of the report wrote. The investigation also found that while the Leadership Conference has emphasized Catholic social justice doctrine, the group has been "silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.

The reform will be managed by Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and could stretch over five years.

Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duquesne Law School, said he has worked over the years with many nuns and that the description in the report does not reflect his experience with them. Cafardi is an Obama supporter.

"I don't know any more holy people," Cafardi said of American religious sisters. "I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery." [Cafardi should be able to detect faux holiness in the faux-holy since it smacks him in the face every time he has to meet them.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2012 3:17 PM]
4/19/2012 7:42 PM
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7 years with Benedict XVI:
The Pope of joy

Translated from the Italian service of

April 19, 2012

The Church celebrates with gratitude to the Lord today the seventh anniversary of the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter.

Alessandro Gisotti interviews a bishop, a missionary nun, the leader of a lay ecclesial movement, a young member of Italian Catholic Action, and an agnostic scientist on what they have taken away from Papa Ratzinger in seven years - and what they wish for him.

On April 19, 2005, he presented himself to the world as 'a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord'. In the past seven years, this 'kind and gentle' Pastor of the Universal Church has guided the Barque of Peter with a firm hand and a generous heart.

Mons. Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, underscores the luminous dimension of Benedict XVI's Magisterium.

MONS FORTE: It is a Pontificate that has been both dramatic and luminous. It is dramatic because of the times in which it is taking place. We are at the season following a clash of civilizations which seemed to some inevitable, if not the only way to future progress. A clash in which the Pope has made extremely clear where he stands - rejecting in clear words any violence carried out in the name of God.

But the drama has not been only in the great over-arching perspectives, but also in the general crisis that is afflicting the global village, especially the West. It's a crisis that the Pope feels at first-hand and about which he has expressed his concerns very lucidly, especially in instituting a Pontifical Council to promote the New Evangelization.

This dramatic context is the background for the luminous message of Benedict XVI. He has not yielded to the easy temptation of resignation or pessimism. Rather, more than ever, he has been tenacious in proposing to everyone God's YES to mankind in Jesus Christ, in bearing witness to greater horizons for reason and hope, and in asserting that Christianity is a way out of the present crisis.

Thus, he constantly speaks about the great themes of Christianity, especially faith in God, which is the only basis for the authentic renewal that this Pope is asking of the Church.

What wishes do you have for his Pontificate?
That his extraordinary effort to bear witness to the beauty of God and the light of the faith to a world which has need of God more than ever and this relaunching of the centrality of faith in the life, identity and mission of the Church may find a wide response in men's hearts, and that the Lord may give his activities, which are both humble and courageous, a great fruitfulness which may also bring comfort to his heart as a father and a pastor.

Like his beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI has given much importance to the role of lay movements in the renewed efforts for new evangelization. This has been underscored in the past seven years, according to Salvatore Martinez, president of the 'Renewal of the Spirit' movement in Italy who remembers his meetings with the Pope.

MARTINEZ: I wish to cite two occasions. The first one, about ten months after his election, when I had a private audience with him. And I immediately saw him as the Good Shepherd, a man who is profoundly internalized, noble not only in features and the way he comes across, that I would say, come from his nobility of thinking.

The second occasion was his historic Pentecost meeting with various movements. He has certainly validated, confirmed, and reanimated the theme of the co-responsibility and even co-essentiality of the various lay charisms along with the Petrine hierarchical principle.

He calls on us movements not to lose sight of hope, that the Gospel proclaims hope, while underscoring the need for the lay movements to engage in the new evangelization, that this effort counts on lay movements and laymen in order to progress.

And for our part, we thank the Pope for teaching us daily to defend and disseminate the faith.

Witnesses to faith, witnesses of joy. What wish do you have for the Holy Father?
That he continues to keep his hand firm on the tiller. That his hand remains firm even of the open seas are dangerous and storms are bound to come. We are with him and behind him - I think people feel ever closer to him, as they see every day the courage of this man.

And even if he is evidently showing his age and as his work becomes increasingly demanding physically, the people see his main intention clearly - to guide this Church towards the only port, Christ. For us to see Christ everyday with new eyes, to see him as a living presence in our lives.

He said when he began his Petrine ministry that he is part of a Church that is young, because the living Christ maker her young, Christ gives his Church this spiritual youth. And so, long life to the Pope. May he continue to lead the Church with the love and passion that he has always shown.[/DIM

The Pope has, of course, always raised his voice in defense of human dignity that is often trampled by violence, by selfishness, by poverty, thus giving a voice to those who would otherwise have no voice. This was underscored by Suor Eugenia Bonelli, a missionary of the Consolata, who is in charge of the office for women and children of her congregation:

These years of Benedict XVI's Pontificate have given us a lot, because we have found in him a father who can listen, who grasps the urgencies ane pressing emergencies today, including those connected with illegal immigration and with the exploitation of persons.

We find in him a pastor, and in his teachings, we truly find help and the strength to continue working so that every person may live as a human being with his full dignity, as the Creator intended.

He serves as a great example for us: for his dedication, for his teachings which are always so relevant and actual. More than ever, the world today needs leaders, but even more important, witnesses to Christ.

As a religious, as a missionary, as a Christian, what do you wish for the Pope?
Before the civil war in Libya, I had an opportunity to visit Tripoli, and I visited some prisons where persons sent back from Italy [for trying to entre illegally] have been detained. And when they heard that I came from Rome, they cried out, "Go see the Pope and tell him we love him!"

And so, my wish and that of my sisters, is this: that all the persons - especially the most unfortunate, the most disadvantaged - may find in the Holy Father the guide that they need, and that they may truly love him. My fellow sisters and so many women that we have helped would like to tell the Holy Father, "Thank you for being there, thank you for your teaching". And like those detainees in Libya, we'd like to say, too: "Tell the Pope we love him".

Cologne, Sydney, Madrid - Pope Benedict has visited three cities for WYD so far, and will be going to a fourth one in Rio de Janeiro next year. He has established a special relationship with young people just as John Paul II did. Lisa Mona Bidin, national officer for youth in Italian Catholic Action, speaks about the gifts she has received from Benedict XVI in the past seven years:

[BIDIN: The two lessons I treasure most from him and carry in my heart are the primacy of love, and a profound desire for clarity and truth. The love that makes us grow, which allows us to find that something more in life to make us able to aspire to greater things. And the desire for clarity and truth that we must find in ourselves, in our homes, our communities, our churches, to make us genuine living witnesses to the Risen Christ, witnesses to a Church that is alive, a Church of joy.

On the part of young people, what would be their wish for the Pope on this anniversary?
From the youth of Catholic Action, whom I know best, we wish him every good, and we support him in everything he does through prayer.
The other major theme in Benedict XVI's Pontificate is the mutual fruitfulness of faith and reason working together. This is particularly appreciated by geneticist Angelo Vescovi, president of the scientific committee of Neurothon: VESCOVI: He has given scientists a clear indication of how we should carry on. I speak, of course, of my own area of competence, which is that of treating degenerative diseases with stem-cell therapy.

And he has confirmed for me a great value that I have always tried to uphold, which is to always respect human life, even when seeking new ways to treat those who suffer. His teachings are like a pilot light that serves to remind and to confirm.

Then I had the pleasure and honor of getting to see him up close. And I must tell you I felt a sensation that has truly impressed me. Looking him in the eye, I felt a sense of such serenity as I have rarely seen in anyone.

You are saying that the Pope can help even a man of science, who is not necessarily a believer...
A scientist is first a man before he is a scientist. A Pope who is able to transmit values that are not just religious or spiritual, but moral and philosophical, cannot literally 'help', but in fact,l he does, in what is essential.

What wish would you make to him as a man and not as a scientist?
That he may be with us for a hundred years! And that he can always look at the world with that serenity I saw in his eyes which is something transcendent.
[That is such a beautiful thought!]

The English service of Vatican Radio had this:

Two more views

April 19, 2012

"A simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." Those were the modest words Pope Benedict used to describe himself in his first public speech following his election to the papacy 7 years ago this week. Those much-quoted remarks helped in some ways to set the tone for Pope Benedict’s reign. So what exactly do they reveal about the man who became the 256th Pontiff on that April day in 2005?

One person who knows Pope Benedict well is Father Joseph Fessio, a former theology student of Joseph Ratzinger when he taught at the university of Regensburg in Germany. Father Fessio is now the editor of Ignatius Press that has published the English translation of almost all of Josef Ratzinger's books.

Asked about the personality of the Pope, Father Fessio says "he was a wonderful teacher, very kind, very intelligent... with an ironic sense of humour... .we all loved him."

Father Fessio also has high words of praise for the Pope's skills as a theologian: He's not simply "one of history's great theologians, he's really a creative and original theologian"... somebody who "always finds a new insight, a new idea that will inspire you."

When it comes to the main priorities of the Pope, Father Fessio says that the theme of new evangelisation, especially for Europe, "is a key motive of his papacy and that's why he took the name Benedict."

John Allen is the author of several books on the Catholic Church and one of the world’s best known commentators on Vatican and Church affairs. He works as the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter in the U.S.

He says Pope Benedict confounded expectations of what he would be like at the time of his election: ..."the popular stereotype painted Josef Ratzinger as a strong, stern ,authoritarian figure, God's Rotweiller... instead he revealed himself to be a gentle, mild figure."

Allen says that Benedict "sees himself as a teaching Pope" and when asked about the highlights of his papacy, points to many of his foreign trips such as those to the US and the UK which turned out to be "pastoral and communication triumphs" and his three encyclicals which he predicts will "still be read by thinking Catholics" in centuries to come."

Sorry... but I have an 'embarras de richesses' of articles to translate - from the birthday, and now the anniversary... nad I won't have the time to translate more until at least four hours from now...
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2012 7:47 PM]
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In this essay for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Jose Manuel Vidal, who wrote a shorter version of this for his online column, calls Benedict XVI once more 'el barrendero de Dios' - literally 'God's sweeper' which is not every idiomatic in English. 'God's broom' sounds more appropriate, but then it turns the 'sweeper' into an inanimate instrument So maybe 'God's janitor' is the best compromise. Very much 'worker in the vineyard of the Lord'... Except that Benedict XVI is, of course, much more than just a janitor - rather, he is like those many remarkable saints like Padre Pio and Andre Bessette, who served as general factotum for menial tasks as well as spiritual counselor, preacher and healer of the larger community.

Benedict XVI:
God's janitor at work

by José Manuel Vidal
Translated from

April 19, 2012

He is 'God's janitor', and Benedict XVI does honor to his task. He has now been seven years as Pope wielding the broom of ecclesial purification. To sweep out the rotten apples of pederast clergy and incrusted bad habits from the hierarchy.

Zero tolerance for pederasts, and transparency in the Vatican's finances. These are the primary 'structural' changes made by Papa Ratzinger, while he has turned the Church towards the essentials of the faith - the faith that the Church offers to a troubled and sad world as certainty of hope and one that makes sense of the world.

The German Pope did not deceive anyone about his priorities. The cardinals elected him after he said at the Mass preceding the Conclave that two two great dangers to the Church today were relativism and the 'filth' within the Church herself, which he knows better than anyone.

Through his hands, as guardian of the orthodoxy of the faith, had passed for more than two decades the worst cases of the worst offenses that priests can commit - abusing the innocent. About those who harm the innocent, Christ himself had said, "better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Mt 18,6).

John Paul II's 'policeman' of the faith, who now holds the keys of St. Peter, inherited a boat in worse condition than even he had thought. Priestly pederasty was a guided missile aimed at the very credibility of the Church as an institution whose task is to generate trust among the faithful, many of whom entrust their children to the Church from their most tender years.

But that trust was shattered by unscrupulous priests, personified by the icon of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, one of the 'new' ecclesial movements much touted by Rome, because it brought in many vocations as well as easy money. Benedict punished Maciel and placed his congregation under Vatican supervision while it is being re-established.

Cleaning up has not been easy. But the Pope has not wavered - despite all kinds of obstacles designed to block or trip him up. The system of covering up by bishops and of complicity with their abusive priests seemed almost incrusted into the soul of the hierarchy. Benedict has had to dismiss some bishops and send inspectors to local churches, and in the process, oppose residual resistances in the Roman Curia.

There was more grinding of teeth in the Curia, however, when Papa Ratzinger decided to straighten out the finances at the Vatican and impose transparency even on the 'Vatican bank' IOR. Coincidentally, rumors and documents started leaking out. Stories of petty palace intrigues took headlines and appeared to target primarily the Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone.

But the Pope of the brisk and firm steps is undaunted. He wants the Vatican to be included in the so-called White List of the European Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development, naming the countries that are leaders in counter-acting money-laundering and the funding of terrorism.

'Cleanliness', transparency and the search for the essential - without flourishes - those are the hallmarks of a Pope who was elected at age 78. He knew that he would not have much time before him. But it has not has been as short as most of his own electors had thought back in 2005 - when he was openly called 'the transitional Pope' in the media. But would he have the time he needs in order not to end up being a mere appendix to the extraordinary Pontificate of the great John Paul II? [I hope that was a rhetorical question and not Vidal speaking through one of his inexplicable and idiosyncratic blind spots that can spoil his e ntire argument when they show up! No one in his right mind would say right now - after seven years of a remarkably productive Pontificate - that this Pontificate will be seen only as an 'appendix' of the previous one! I've avoided articulating it till now but I don't think even George Weigel will claim that Blessed JP2 did more in the first seven years of his Pontificate than his successor has done so far!]

But he is now starting the eighth year of his Pontificate. He is having sufficient time to stamp his imprint on the Church. [There you are!] Without having to emulate or seek comparison with his 'beloved predecessor'. Without seeking glory nor to go into history for having been the first Pope to visit Beijing or Moscow.

The most cultured and intellectual Pope in the recent history of the Church has only sought to do his duty: to guide the barque of Peter with humility, and with the same humility, to offer the truth of God to the world. Fundamentally, and in a way that is almost unnoticed by anyone, Papa Ratzinger is trying to achieve that much-desired reform of the Church. In his own way.

He is convinced that it is more urgent to curb the crisis of faith in people than to devise structural reforms of the institution. And that is why, his reform aims to potentiate local Churches and re-evangelize no-longer-Christian Europe.

For the first goal, he has been personally choosing the bishops for each and all of the dioceses of the world with extreme care. Without delegating that tedious task to anyone. He wants bishops who are doctrinally secure, serious, disciplined, spiritual and uninterested in careerism. Sometimes, he gets them. But sometimes not.

To win back Europe for Christianity, the Pope's method is to preach actively and passively that faith is not at war with reason, that it is reasonable and consistent to be Catholic and to proclaim oneself as such in today's world. And above all, that the Christian faith brings profound joy and beauty without equal. And as such, it should continue to give meaning to the lives of men in the 21st century and to the history of the Old Continent.

Therefore, a re-foundation of Catholicism. The Gospel according to Ratzinger. A gospel that is conservative (it purges nothing from memory and does not reject the past) but moderate and meant to re-center the ecclesiastical pendulum.

With the liturgical reform of the Novus Ordo itself (no more guitars, and the use of some Latin and Gregorian chant), with the opening towards the Lefebvrians (who seem to be on the verge of rejoining the 'flock'), but also with new reliance on the classic religious orders (Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Salesians and Redemptorists).

Nonetheless, residual inertia is great and the mechanism continues to creak. These is much fear in local Churches, as in Spain, where some theologians are denounced and persecuted. Taliban-like elements have managed to be embedded into the local church hierarchies and do not hesitate to use their power, even if they end up being more Popish than the Pope.

In any case, the rule of moderation has started. The Pope wants a Church that is joyous, beautiful, 'samaritan' and spiritual. Will he have enough time to achieve this? Will he have the necessary strength to continue with this gigantic task? If he felt he was no longer capable of the task, he would resign as he has said on a number of occasions.

But, for now, as he said very clearly to Fidel Castro last month: "I am old, but I can still comply with my duties".

Here is one of the most heartwarming tributes I have seen these days, written by the man who has been Opus Dei's spokesman in Italy for the past 40 years and author of two successful books on what one might call 'practical spirituality':

Thank you, Joseph, for 85 years
well-lived and seven years as Pope

by Pippo Corigliano
Translated from his blog
'Preferisco il paradiso'
April 16, 2012

Gratias tibi Deus, gratias tibi! Words that do not need translation. Thank you, Lord, for this Pope.

When he was elected, I placed the photo of little Joseph with his knapsack on my desk. It is not just a a most pleasant memory of a child but the photograph of his soul. It is the look of someone good and intelligent, affectionate and curious - as he turned out to be all his life.

His famously overcrowded university lectures as a young professor were moments of prayer - such was the participation of his listeners in the mystery of Jesus.

This Pope will probably be the only case in history to be remembered 'also' as Pope. Like his favorite theologian Augustine, whom we remember as 'also a bishop', Joseph Ratzinger has spoken of God to man today in just the right way. No one like him is as much aware of how much aversion there is to Christianity in contemporary dominant culture.

And to such an aversion, he has always responded calmly with the confidence of one who knows that a gram of truth weighs far more than tons of babble. His most famous book, Introduction to Christianity, was written in the face of the gales of Marxism that, after 1968, threatened to contaminate theology itself. [And did so notoriously in 'liberation theology'.] Not everything is politics. The Church was founded by Jesus, and not because an assembly raised their hands in approval.

In that book as well as in his two books on Jesus and his encyclicals, Joseph Ratzinger explains the contents of the faith with clarity and fascination.

So thank you, Holy Father, for your 85 years which have been so well-lived and for the seven years so far of a Pontificate that has illuminated us.

About the remark that history might well remember Joseph Ratzinger as someone who was 'also Pope', it's an interesting rhetorical twist. But the person Joseph Ratzinger and his work would never have the universal attention they now command had he not become Pope. And that is surely among the many reasons why God destined him to be Pope.

I've also always thought that the knapsack photo - indisputably the most famous and most reproduced photo of a child (other than Jesus) that there has ever been - was truly providential. Whatever the circumstances when and why it was taken - perhaps his first day going to a new school after the family had just made one of their many displacements -it has become literally and symbolically iconic, and one understands why Corigliano felt impelled to put it on his desk. It is a photograph of childhood innocence and sweetness, and all the good that God has inscribed in each of us before the world corrupts it, as did those heartless priests who shattered the innocence and lives of their victims.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 6:08 PM]
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I had to make a random choice for the first major German article I would translate, and this is it... Along with Peter Seewald - but years before him - Paul Badde, longtime Rome correspondent for Die Welt, has been Joseph Ratzinger's most ardent German admirer. His anniversary commentary on Benedict XVI is original, insightful, poetic and moving.

The German Pope at 85:
Why Benedict XVI remains an 'outsider'

by Paul Badde
Translated from

Benedict XVI uses a cane. Not surprising since he is after all 85.

The wonder is, rather, that seven years after he was elected Pope, he still has all the energy he has. The burden of his office is enormous, especially with respect to the usual physical decline that comes with age.

His brother Georg, now 88, has been suffering for some time what old age can bring - a hip replacement, near blindness, various bone complaints.

Benedict XVI is in good health for his age and lives his life with rational order. Meanwhile, for someone who was always physically frail, he has become one of the oldest Popes in history. His predecessor John Paul II, the Pope who had been famously athletic [until the major gunshot injury in May 1981], died six weeks before his 85th birthday, but last March, Benedict XVI overtook 'God's marathon-man' in longevity.

He is now truly old, despite moments when he seems eternally young, as on the afternoon of March 24, recently, when he met the children [and people of all ages] of Guanajuato at the Plaza de la Paz.

The place was bursting with people - including orchestras, various musicmakers, trumpeteers. The Pope had just finished a speech to the President, cardinals and bishops of Mexico, some 24 hours after he reached Leon on a flight that lasted almost 14 hours from Rome.

Now he addressed the children and said:

Dear children, I am happy to be able to meet with you and to see your smiling faces as you fill this beautiful square. You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart. And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this... I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. Today we are full of jubilation, and this is important. God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.

All the exhaustion was gone. He was happy. But this is not always so.

Is this Pope, as his detractors say, 'out of this world'? [Badde uses the adjective 'weltfremd', literally 'hostile to the world' but is a German term for someone who lives in fairyland.]

This 'friend of these little friends' has always been a master teacher of Church doctrine, a missionary and a pastor. He was once a professor. Now he is the Bishop of Rome and the monarch of Vatican City State.

But above all, he has been for seven years, as Successor of the Apostle Peter, the universal pastor to an immense flock of Catholics, many of whom are currently threatened with dispersion in all directions.

But being Pope is not a calling you can learn in any school. And pulling strings or moving levers of influence, gathering a 'house court' around him, or establishing networks for his own advantage are things that Joseph Ratzinger never learned, not as Archbishop of Munich-Freising, nor in his 22 years as Prefect of the leading Curial dicastery in Rome. All that is contrary to who he is.

So in this sense he has always been an outsider. Already. when he was 31, he called for a radical rejection by the Church "of power, of cronyism, of counterfeit, of Mammon, of deception and self-deception".

That was decades before, in Freiburg last fall, he called on German Catholics for this same 'Entweltichung' - a rejection of worldliness - and what he meant by it: that German Catholics must reject it as unhealthy if they are to effect a necessary renewal of the Church in Germany. This is a matter that has been close to his heart since the Second Vatican Council.

Is that being out of this world? Only in the way he meant it. He himself has never engaged in worldly pursuits. And yet, he has seen everything.

Benedict XVI often comes across as an amateur

He has never been a careerist. And that is why even now, he often seems an amateur to many. He has called people to work with him whom he already knows and whom he knows he can trust, but none of his close associates are tacticians, politicians or organizational geniuses.

And yet, even without programming, his Pontificate has been blessed with spectacular successes, such as his three encyclicals, his travels, and his books on Jesus of Nazareth.

And in the twilight decline of the post-modern world, Benedict XVI seems to be increasingly like that Little Prince from another star [a reference to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's famous fable]. Like a child prodigy who follows his own path, without looking right or left, yet with great perseverance. regardless of success or failure.

He has never lacked for enemies

For instance, he has pursued the idea of reconciliation with the Lefebvrians unswervingly - seeking, seemingly against all historical and human probabilities, to prevent a schism in the Catholic Church - since the late 1980s when he first became involved with them.

And no one in the Church has so singlemindedly carried out the battle against sexual abuse by priests and the unconditional disclosure of this dark side of the Church.

That he himself is incorrupt is something that even his harshest critics and enemies acknowledge [but not the malicious ones like AP and the New York Times, who seem to have made it their institutional crusade to find any 'smoking gun' they can present to the court of public opinion to impugn the Pope] - and all his life, he has not lacked for such enemies. And yet, he was never a zealous Jacobin [as the media long before he was Pope delighted to depict him].

But what both his friends and opponents within and outside the Church must expect of him in the future, he made clear once again most recently, as in an open book, in his homilies during the major liturgies of the Paachal Triduum and Easter.

Truly amazing physical discipline

Holy Week celebrations are the high point of the liturgical year, starting with Palm Sunday on St. Peter's Square to the papal blessing urbi et orbi - to Rome and to the world - on Easter Sunday. The Pope is never missing and is the protagonist in all these liturgies, not at St. Peter's nor at the Lateran Basilica or the Colosseum.

But these liturgies demand great discipline, as during the reading of 'The Passion and Death of the Lord', in which the chapter from the Gospel of St. John is not only read out, but chanted word for word in Latin on Good Friday. It requires the celebrant to stand for about 40 minutes, with just one genuflection at the mention of the death of Christ.

This year, even the Swiss Guard marvelled at how serenely Benedict XVI stood, hands folded in front of him, as if standing guard like one of them, though dressed in liturgical robes, admitting no distraction much like an Indian fakir in deep meditation.

Both his papal master of ceremonies, one on each side, seemed far more anxious next to this much older man. He stood between them like a tree. But the Catholic Church can continue to expect this same unruffled serenity from him in the future. A future which may be longer than one might expect.

The Pope and his lifelong theme

Later in his Easter Vigil homily, he would - as if announcing his testament - emphasize the 'identifiable-ness' of God as the unique characteristic of Christendom. This has been his lifelong theme - the invincible light of God, which Christians can experience like a new Creation at Easter. An expression he first used in a 1959 article in the German magazine Hochland.

For his Easter greeting card, he chose a painting of the Resurrection by Johann Heninrich Tischbein from 1793, in which a resplendent Christ ascends from his tomb on that first Easter, in some sort of reversal of Plato's image of the cave. It's the painting of a vision.

He ends his homily with: "Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light... and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world"

Outlook from the 'crucifixion hill' of the first Pope

Benedict is not a corporate executive. He has limited space for maneuver in his governance - far from being unfailingly almighty as Popes are usually thought to be. He is more like the president of a foundation who cannot express his private convictions but only that which the founder himself has said.

Nothing has changed about this. And it will remain so for this 85-year-old theologian as it was from his days as young consultant at Vatican II to his present position as Pope. It will remain his leitmotif.

And this will be his task - a 'lifelong' assignment for a Pope [i.e., a Pope remains Pope as long as he lives] - as he saw and experienced at first hand with John Paul II.

When he looks out of his window at St. Peter's Square, he sees the same obelisk that Peter saw when he was crucified head down in what was then Nero's Circus. The splendid buildings now on Vatican hill are simply accoutrements to what was the gallows for the first Pope.

It's an outlook that Benedict contemplates without fear. His duty as the Successor of Peter is one he will not shirk as long as he lives. And that makes him more free than most people think, especially in his homeland.

Yes, meanwhile he is using a walking stick. But it is above all a shepherd's staff with which this 85-year-old man intends to keep together the world's more than a billion Catholics.

I've always thought that those who lament too much about how the Pope, in particular this Pope, must be suffering because of the unending slings and arrows directed at him from the media and his detractors, forget perhaps that if you were the Pope - and only 265 individuals have been so far in history - how could you claim to 'suffer' such outrages when you realize what Jesus had to undergo, and what Peter and all the subsequent martyrs of the Church, named and unknown, had to undergo, as do the Christians today who live in constant threat of persecution, if not actual persecution?

And that if the Pope suffers from the attacks against him, as he might to some degree at a purely human and personal level, it is an offering he must surely welcome as his participation in the Passion of Christ, the way John Paul II experienced his long physical agony? It was always evident from Day One that a major Cross this Pope would have to bear was the inherent malice and unfairness of today's generally unprincipled media, but that is surely preferable - considering how wrong and deceitful they are - to the grinding agony of irreversible physical affliction. And that surely, the greater Cross he has to bear is the failure of many bishops and priests to live up to their vows as consecrated men of God.

We must be able to distinguish our personal concern over Benedict XVI and our empathy with him as a human being, from the Christian awareness not just of what suffering means, but also of the resources and graces that the Holy Spirit gives to the Vicar of Christ that are not given to ordinary mortals.

Ultimately, it is our continuing prayers for his spiritual and physical wellbeing at all times, offered by all those who love, admire and venerate the Pope, that mean more to him and that truly matter - more than just the token, much less automatic, public expressions of support from those who are supposed to be on his side anyway (but do not always speak up spontaneously.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 5:35 PM]
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Above right, Cardinal Ratzinger leads the oath of secrecy at the 2005 Conclave, which was followed by individual oaths sworn on the bible by each of the participants.
As far as I have seen, this is the only photo we have of the future Pope in the Conclave.

This story is finally going the public rounds. It first surfaced in 2007, when Cardinal Biffi was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to preach the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia, to reveal Cardinal Biffi's consternation that during the 2005 Conclave, he heard himself getting one vote in every balloting... I've always found this a very endearing story that says a lot about the mindset of the then about-to-become-Pope...

So do we now know
who Cardinal Ratzinger voted for
in the 2005 conclave?

Translated from

April 19, 2012

If this lip-smacking indiscretion is reliable, it was the only time that Cardinal Giacomom Biffi, emeritus Archbishop of Bologna, failed to keep his word.

In fact, he never did smack his intended victim in the face, as he had threatened for rhetorical emphasis during the 2005 Conclave.

It was April 18, 2005, and after the third balloting, the cardinal heard himself for the third time credited with having received one vote. With his usual good humor, he turned to the cardinal next to him and said, "I've been getting this one vote. If I ever find out the obstinate person who is responsible for this, I'll smack him in the face".

His colleague retorted: "Eminence, clearly we are about to elect a Pope... And it seems obvious that this candidate chose to vote for you! So if you are to keep your word, you'd have to smack the Pope!"

A Catholic journalist, Francisco Grana, who has often had access to behind-the-scenes information, has written about this on the site, and concludes that whereas almost everyone was voting for him, Cardinal Ratzinger himself was voting for Cardinal Biffi.

Grana does not identify his source, although he was known to be a close friend of the late emeritus Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Michele Giordano, who was also a good friend of Cardinal Ratzinger.

But seven years since the incident, which sounds plausible at the very least, it is quite amusing, but it also serves to cast some light on the figure of Cardinal Biffi.

Biffi was not exactly a papabile in 2005. Although he was the theological and moral reference point for the conservative wing of the Church in Italy, the then Archbishop of Bologna never wanted to be a standard-bearer for anything.

Well-known for his independence and original preaching, he was never interested either in climbing the ecclesiastical ladder. And surely, Cardinal Ratzinger was his candidate. It is said that when the new Pope was delivering his first address to the Conclave cardinals, Biffi was seen nodding emphatically from his seat.

To those who had been asking him earlier if he was interested in becoming Pope, Biffi avoided the standard 'Domine non sum dignus...' (Lord, I am not worthy) demurral for an ironic "No, life is better in Bologna".

It was known he had no appetite for the atmosphere in the Roman Curia, although he was called once to preach the Lenten spiritual retreat by John Paul II. Then called again for the same task by Benedict XVI himself in 2007.

Biffi was most original, as usual, in his approach, and in concluding the retreat, Benedict XVI said: "I would like to thank you for your realism, your humor, and your concreteness," going on to refer to "the rather daring theology of one of your housekeepers", cited by Biffi in one of the meditations.

"I would not dare refer her words 'The Lord perhaps had his defects' to the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," the Pope remarked.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 6:11 PM]
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Friday, April 20, Second Week of Easter

ST. CONRAD OF PARZHAM (Germany, 1818-1894), Capuchin friar
Just as fitting as the fact that St. Benedict Joseph Labre's feast day falls on the day after Joseph Ratzinger's
birthday, is the fact that the major saint commemorated the day after his election as Pope should be the saint of
Altoetting, the Marian shrine that was of central importance in his his Bavarian childhood. Also for the fact that
St. Conrad is one of those saintly 'doormen' of convents who earn sainthood in their humble tasks, as I mentioned
in a remark on Jose Manuel Vidal's anniversary commentary above about Benedict XVI as 'God's janitor'. Conrad served
41 years as the porter for the Franciscan friary in Germany's preeminent Marian shrine. By tradition, convent porters
also solicited alms for the community and provided aid to those who came knocking for assistance. Such aid was not
limited to food and clothing. Porters also found themselves listening to people's problems and providing spiritual
counsel, a tradition followed exemplarily by Padre Pio and Andre Bessette, the Canadian brother who was canonized
in 2010. Conrad was beatified in 1930 and canonized four years later.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father met with

- H.E. Stanislaw Tillich, Minister President of the Free State of Saxony (Germany), with his wife and delegation

- Mons. Giovanni d’Aniello, Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil

- 15 U.S. bishops from Region XI (southern California), led by Mons. Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles,
on ad-limina visit.

In the afternoon, the Holy Father will be honored at a concert by the Leipziger Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted
by Riccardo Chailly at the Aula Paolo VI.

The Vatican released the text of the Holy Father's message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission under
Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the CDF and ex-officio president of the Commission, which held its
annual plenary meeting at the Vatican from April 15-20.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 7:17 PM]
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I am really surprised - and very disappointed - at the seemingly sparse attention of the otherwise ever-seething Catholic Anglophone blogosphere to the Pope's double anniversary this week. Here's a welcome one, however, from a British blogger priest...

Seven years in, Benedict XVI
has inspired Catholics with
an authentic vision for the Church

By Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith

20 April 2012

Yesterday I had the great pleasure and honour of celebrating the Mass for the Pope “especially on the anniversary of election”, as the newly translated Roman Missal has it. In my edition, the Mass is to be found on page 1304.

Seven years have passed since Joseph Ratzinger was raised to the throne of Peter. As one who has loyalty to the Pope in his DNA, I think it has been a great, even an exciting, seven years. Benedict XVI has got a vision for the Church, and this has been advanced on several fronts.

Firstly, he wants the liturgy to be the place where we experience the touch of the divine more visibly and more easily than heretofore. This is now happening, thanks to Summorum Pontificum, the new translation of the Roman Missal, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the intangible sense that there is abroad [i.e., in the air] that we ought to take care and time in preparing for the liturgy, and ensure we celebrate it with as much dignity as possible.

Second, he is the Pope of Christian unity; here [in the UK} we have Anglicanorum coetibus as the guiding light that will re-establish unity with those who have longed for it for decades. Thanks to the Pope, this can now happen. It will be a slow process, but it has begun, and it will continue.

Third, he is the Pope of dialogue. He has underlined the need for proper dialogue with the world of Islam and he has established a firm basis for it in all his speeches on the topic, especially that famous Regensberg lecture. This is a welcome development.

Likewise, he has made several efforts to engage at a substantive level with unbelievers, which has had some success outside the English-speaking world, where such academic endeavours command a degree of respect.

Finally, though many have not paid attention to this, he has made some interesting theological interventions on environmental questions. [Fr Lucie-Smith provides a link to a 2009 article by John Allen

Perhaps most visibly of all, the Pope has won the hearts and minds of many ordinary Catholics and many non-Catholics too with his charm and humility.

This was always something of a well-kept secret when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, but even in those days people who bumped into him in the street always came away with a warm impression of his character. Now vast crowds have experienced his warmth, which springs, I think, from his holiness of life.

I have never met the Pope, sadly, but I love and admire him. Long may he reign! Ad multos Annos!

I see that John Allen has written about the papal anniversaries this week, in a manner of speaking, for his Friday column in the Fishwrap, but he's simply re-packaged many of his well-worn ideas about Benedict XVI as variations of his usual themes, and labels as 'ironies' everything good that the Pope has done which happen to be contrary to the stereotypes that the MSM - including Allen - have perpetrated about him, instead of recognizing them as achievements! Dear John, those are not ironies - those are very concrete rebuttals in fact and deed of all the fallacies that have been peddled about Joseph Ratzinger, and which, for any other person, would be labelled simply and plainly "ACHIEVEMENTS AND SUCCESSES". OK?

And if you want to know how to define animus: Not once can Allen bring himself to extend any personal greeting at all to the Pontiff (How Christian!, would you say?], choosing instead to end his column with the limp and meaningless words, "Irony, thy name is Benedict"! [Now, how dumb is that, and this time, I am not being 'ironic'! Allen, your name is cliche!?

The following reminds me that the great Martin Mosebach actually was the first important German to be interviewed for the double anniversary this week in Die Tagespost, but his interview got pushed way down in my 'TO TRANSLATE' document by the flood of must-translate articles since Monday... The following interview is more about the state of the Church in Germany - it seems more dismal than ever - but there's also something about Pope Benedict.

Another German writer who defends
the Pope in his native land

Interview with Matthias Matussek


BERLIN - Matthias Matussek is one of the most prominent Catholics in the world of German journalism. He is a popular and frequent guest on talk shows and debates and writes for the German magazine Der Spiegel, where he also has a popular video blog.

His book Das Katholische Abenteuer: Eine Provokation (The Catholic Adventure: A Provocation) provided fodder for energized debates on the Catholic faith and the Church.

He accompanied Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid and his visit to Germany last fall.

Today is the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Matussek spoke with Register correspondent Robert Rauhut about his faith and Benedict’s visit to Germany.

Your book is a “declaration of love” to the Catholic faith. In Germany, such an attitude is no longer self-evident.
A “declaration of love” — that’s correct. Unfortunately my book has often been misunderstood as provocation, especially in the organized structures of the Catholic Church in Germany.

However, it is a “declaration of love” to the Catholic faith. I owe a lot to the Catholic faith. The book is dedicated to my father, who was decisive and formative for my faith. Fundamentally, parents are important for the development of one’s faith. Our day-to-day life was subordinated to the calendar of the Church. The great feasts were celebrated extensively in my family. ….

We went to confession. Our father helped us to write the notes for the confession [so we would remember what to confess]. This served the practical purpose that he was up-to-date on our misconduct. … I have always experienced confession as a beautiful and important gift. The forgiveness of our sins: What a wonderful offer. The relief during confession was always an easing of the burdens of my life.

But I do know that others had differing experiences from mine. They somehow felt spied on by the priests and the Church. I have never understood that because there is the secret of the confession between God, the priest and me.

The family is also of great importance for you personally. In which way do you try to hand over your faith to the next generation?
By practicing and living the faith. ... Faith is a grace, a gift. Certainly, the shrinking of faith nowadays is also a consequence of the dissolution of the family. Many households are single-parent households, and faith is often not passed on. I also wonder about the quality of religious education at school.

Are the Ten Commandments, the seven sacraments, the Christian virtues taught? Perhaps our theology has become too progressive in many ways. What about the Trinity, the Resurrection, etc.?

More than 60% of all Germans do not believe anymore in a life after death. About 12% of our Catholics go to church on Sunday. People do not leave the Church because there are no women priests or because there are celibate priests. Leaving the Church is a symptom of fatigue of the faithful who somehow [constantly and gradually move from faith to unfaith, from the light of faith to the darkness of unfaith].

Sometimes they get excited by the faith, e.g., if there is a marriage or a funeral — the big ceremonies. At present, faith does not play an important role in Germany. To write about the faith independently — this can become dangerous for a journalist nowadays. You are not allowed to show loyalty to your faith.

Being faithful means being marginal, for many. On the other hand, faith is the most personal aspect of our life.

There was a time when you were greatly fascinated by communism. How did that change?
In 1970 I was 16 years old. That was the time when I moved to a Maoist community. That was the milieu at that time. We breathed that air. We wanted to change society. We wanted to change everything. But I noticed there was no plan, no proper destination. We only had a vague imagination of a youth movement.

Later, we learned about the horrible massacres, about the fact that the younger generation was pushed against their parents.

In the beginning, the leftist thinkers seemed more inspiring to me. But I noticed how empty and dogmatic the discourse in the left splinter parties had become. I was in a Marxist-Leninist pupils group at that time. At a certain point, I was thrown out. I wanted to write poems; went to India. That was common then.

I stopped going to church and was fascinated by the religions of the Far East. I felt worse and worse and suddenly collapsed. Then I ended up in hospital.

And there was my father. And he was there for me in a magnificent way. He was usually strict, but there he was of a particular mildness and an obvious understanding. This was very important to me, a turning point. And then I started to go to church regularly once again.

You work for Der Spiegel, Germany’s most famous newsmagazine, which isn’t Church-friendly. How does that work?
It’s not that we debate my faith every day and I have to confess it every day. By my book, I have made clear my position: I am a traditional Catholic. If my colleagues agreed to a version of the Catholic faith, it would be the progressive version of it, the “light version.” That’s the mainstream of our society. But if you look at my life, you will clearly see that taboos have also been my topics.

First, I wrote about the “fatherless society,” which was a sort of plea for the traditional family, against the “divorce society and business,” against the radical feminist discourse (“No men!”), and so forth.

After that, I wrote about a healthy patriotism. You are never as German as you are when you are abroad. It’s about your identity.

We grew up in a generation which was taught that being German means being a criminal. I think that a healthy patriotic feeling belongs to everybody. I wanted to show that the Germans [have] exist[ed] longer than those horrible Nazi years.

So, I would say they know where I stand. The book on faith is a continuation of these topics. It’s always to do with relationships. It’s true, there was a confrontation with the chief editors when the Pope came to Germany. Spiegel wrote a very critical title story on the Pope and the Church, but I was allowed to write my opinion about the Pope’s visit in Germany.

My voice is tolerated and therefore listened to. Look at this: When we talked about the celibate priesthood in connection with the Pope’s visit to Germany, one of my colleagues looked at me aghast and asked: “Do you really believe that?” I said, “Yes, I really believe that.” Before Christmas I broached the issue of Christian persecutions. That is a huge and important topic for the Church, not the question of celibacy.

What about your personal relationship with Pope Benedict XVI?
I was a correspondent in London when he was elected Pope. You remember all these negative headlines. But he has shown that he is no inquisitor but a smiling Pope. I think that he is very courageous, right from the beginning.

I was present when he visited Altötting. It is his mixture of high intellectuality and deep Bavarian popular piety which is so enormous, impressive and inspiring. I think he is very authentic. Take, for example, his famous speech in Regensburg. He just said what he wanted to say.

I met him personally on his way to World Youth Day in Madrid. I was allowed to give him my book with a dedication of St. Augustine: Qui incipit exire, incipit amare [“He begins to leave who begins to love”].

In Germany we find a tendency in many places in the Church of never-ending lamenting …. Especially during his visit to Germany the Holy Father made this clear: the Church is a gift…. We cannot invent a new Church. The Church is a huge religious community with more than 1.2 billion faithful.

I personally experienced his visit to Germany as a triumphal procession, although media coverage was hypercritical. He used the right words at every station. … I think the most important aspect was said at the end: detachment from the world.

In Germany, there is too much world in the Church, too many committees, a huge administration, hospitals, but little God. The people should be called to go to church and pray. That’s my personal opinion.

Cardinal [Walter] Kasper [president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity] once noticed [that the faithful should focus on] “being in the world, but not being of the world,” meaning we act in this world but we do not imitate it. The Church is not a multinational company. …. There should be more investment into pastoral care. You can be very critical about my book, but there is no doubt that it is taking the Gospel into our society.

Why is the Pope so often misunderstood in Germany?
The German Pope does have German enemies. He was an important theologian during the Second Vatican Council. He was a professor in Tübingen, where he had various, not always pleasant [??? In Tubingen? Where he had Maoist infiltrators screaming at his lectures?] experiences. Here in Germany, many people know him.

Personally, he is a humble and kind person. I suppose it is his “inflexibility” with regard to his message [that is the issue]. Many people do not like that. And also the topic of the “detachment from the world” of the Church, which so often is misinterpreted.

The people pretend as if he had said that he wanted to dissolve all Catholic welfare centers, which is absolutely not true. Let’s talk about God, the Ten Commandments, [how to] celebrate the liturgy properly. We should focus on that.

Is that the reason why you wrote the book?
I get the feeling that the discussions in and about our Church are heading in the wrong direction — and the level is getting worse and worse.

You cannot ridicule a 2,000-year-old bastion which is a source of hope and salvation for many people in every talk show. Wherever a clergyman turned up, there was this background laughter. I thought, That is unworthy. My “club” is attacked; as a journalist, I had to respond.

Is there anything the Church in Germany can learn from the Church in other countries?
I have been around a lot in this world. To some extent, we Germans are peculiar. Somehow, this element of apostasy seems to belong to us since the Reformation. My wish is that — like in New York, for example — the life in our parishes is especially vital, when everybody is involved. I would like to meet the people that take part in the Mass afterwards.

I think it is great if the priest says good-bye to the faithful or welcomes the new parishioners at the door at the end of the Mass. In Rio de Janeiro, they had this statue of the Christ Child that went from family to family. I think we can learn a lot from the world Church. That also applies to German theology, which should become more open.

Where do you notice positive developments in the German Church?
Personally, I notice these positive developments in the new movements; for example, the community of Chemin Neuf (New Road) in Berlin. They offer many courses on faith. We are not any more a folk Church, but a Church of conscious decision. We will have to do a lot in the formation of adults and the New Evangelization. Other Christian denominations are more courageous and decisive with respect to evangelization. We should show a greater joy because of our faith.

Are there any particular places where you can refuel your spiritual tank?
I love Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica — confession there — but I do not look for spiritual places in order to refuel my spiritual tanks. My local church is enough, where I can drop in the “church bank” and talk to and with God.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2012 10:29 PM]
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Time out for some surprising good news from China - this time Beijing has blown hot... But there was a spanner in the works. Too bad - because otherwise, it might have been a great anniversary gift to Benedict XVI

Vatican and Beijing agreed
on this episcopal ordination -
China's first in 2012


April 20, 2012

Left, the ordination of Mons. Gong; top right, Mons. Gong; bottom right, excommunicated bishop Lei Shi-yin.

Six bishops, including one who is excommunicated, ordained Joseph Chen Gong’ao on the morning of April 19 as the new bishop of Nanchong diocese, in Sichuan province, south-western China.

This is the first ordination of a bishop for the Catholic Church in mainland China in 2012. It was done with the approval of both Rome and Beijing, as was the last such ordination in November 2011, and is being widely interpreted as a positive development in Sino-Vatican relations at a particularly delicate moment in the history of the world’s most populous country.

Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan presided over the ceremony in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in the city of Nanchong, which was attended by 800 people and 87 priests, including several from outside the province. Hundreds more who could not get into the cathedral watched the ceremony on a close-circuit TV screen at a nearby shrine, UCA News reported.

Bishop Fang was the main consecration. He had earlier requested and received pardon from Pope Benedict for having participated in an illicit ordination in 2011. Four other bishops in union with Rome joined him as co-ordaining prelates: Joseph Li Jing of Ningxia, Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou, Paul Xiao Zejiang, coadjutor bishop of Guiyang and Peter Luo Xuegang of Yibin.

But, in a repeat of what happened at the last Episcopal ordination in Yibin last November 30, the event was marred by the participation of the excommunicated Mgr. Paul Lei Shiyin. Ordained bishop of Leshan diocese on 29 June 2011 without the papal mandate, he was subsequently declared excommunicated by the Holy See.

At the Nanchong ceremony, Mgr Lei was dressed in bishop’s robes and stood together with the five Vatican=approved bishops and laid hands on Mgr. Chen.

His participation in the ordination ceremony in defiance of Canon Law has aggravated his situation in the eyes of the Holy See as he is seen to be persisting in harming the unity of the Catholic Church in China.

Sources expect Mgr. Lei Shiyin’s case to be discussed at next week’s plenary session in the Vatican of the Papal Commission for China which Benedict XVI established in 2007. As the Commission is an advisory body to the Pope and does not have decision-making power, any further sanction against Lei Shiyin will be taken by the Holy See.

Apart from this troubling show of defiance, the ordination of Bishop Chen as new pastor of Nanchong diocese went smoothly and has been warmly welcomed by Catholics in the mainland.

Born in 1964, Bishop Chen graduated from Sichuan Catholic Seminary in 1988 and was ordained priest 1990. Elected by unanimous vote (23/23 votes) in a democratic election in 2010, he succeeds Bishop Huang Woze who died in 2004, and now leads a diocese with 86,000 Catholics, 11 priests and 11 nuns.

Interviewed by UCA News, Bishop Chen said his main priority is to enhance the quality of the priests, seminarians and nuns “so that the diocese’s work of evangelization can be developed in a more systematic manner.”

He also plans to organize formation for lay people, especially catechists. And referring to the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), he said he hopes “to open up new avenues for evangelization” by encouraging priests and lay catechists to spread and integrate Catholic teaching with the local Nanchong culture.

Furthermore, he said he would like to build a new cathedral to replace the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral where the ordination took place because it was damaged in the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and, in any case, is too small to accommodate large-scale religious events.

At the end of the ceremony yesterday, Bishop Chen, addressing the congregation, thanked God for choosing him to be a bishop and also thanked the clergy and faithful for putting their trust in him, and for honoring him in this way.

He said he interpreted all this as “a sacred mission”, and promised that he would seek to “enhance” his spiritual life and ministry by “following the example” of his three predecessors in the diocese.

So Nanchong diocese finally has a bishop after eight years, but some 40 other dioceses in mainland China are still without bishops. The selection of candidates to fill those sees is a matter of the greatest concern for the Holy See, and it hopes that the Chinese authorities can agree to the nomination of mutually acceptable candidates, as it has done in Yibin and Nanchong.

Here's a situationer by a layman scholar who spends time in China to report on the Church in China, and says there os ,uch good news to report among the faithful:

April 17, 2012

Aristotle famously wrote that, “Hope is a waking dream.” Hope, to indeed be hope, must awake; it must be a dream that is made real.

China’s dreams for religious freedom and tolerance have for nearly a century been slumbering under a strong anesthetic, but recent months have shown slow but tangible signs of waking. China’s Catholics have embraced the “new evangelization,” and have decided that, as J R. R. Tolkien once said, “There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

As I write this column I am aware of the recent arrests of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin and his chancellor, Father Jiang Sunian; they are scheduled to undergo ideological classes: brainwashing. Only two months ago, Bishop John Ruowang was also arrested and forced to attend government classes.

In fact, the bureau chief of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department met with representatives of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association on March 2, and exhorted them to “convert the underground community.”

What the media often fails to mention is that the two Catholic communities – sanctioned and unsanctioned – collaborate more often than they conflict. Despite official exhortations, “above ground” clergy are more interested in converting non-Christians than in playing ideological games with their fellow Catholics.

The state continues its old antics, and the world watches critically as it coerces and controls the Catholic Christians who desire little more than freedom to love and serve God, as well as love their country.

But I shall focus my remarks here on more optimistic news.

I am often struck by the irony that China’s Catholics, who have less access to papal encyclicals, are more interested in them than many American Catholics, some of whom it seems are unaware such encyclicals exist.

The Holy Father’s 2005 encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, has had a weighty effect on the routine lives of Chinese Catholics, and its opening line, “天主是爱” (God is love), has inspired a renewal of charity and evangelization throughout the country, and the first few months of 2012 have seen a precipitous rise in Catholic outreach and catechumens.

A Chinese priest in Rome has provided me with several reports of hope from within China’s long-suffering Church. In typically euphemistic language, the Chinese nuns of Guangxi went to a small leper community in the rural mountains to, as they said, “bring spring to winter.” In order to “be the hands and feet of Christ” in their “winter” of suffering, these sisters brought “smiles and gifts” to the forgotten victims of leprosy.

In the Wenzhou Diocese, Father Jiang initiated a new Lenten practice that he has called, “family Eucharistic adoration,” a movement that is swiftly sweeping across the area.

Seeing China’s economic rise and its trend toward materialism, Jiang complains that, “secularization is threatening our faith life and we do not have enough strength to combat against it... However, the almighty God is the source of our strength,” he suggests, and “people who rely on God will find joy and peace.”

To confront China’s materialism, Wenzhou’s Catholics are signing up to have a Eucharistic altar installed in their home for twelve to twenty-four hours; the individual families spend that time reading Scripture, praying together, and in prolonged adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

As one Catholic asserted, “耶稣的到来,不仅是贵宾、医生、而且还是家长” (When Jesus comes, He is not only a special guest, or even just a physician, but he is the head of our household). So far over fifty households have invited God into their homes during this Lent.

Not only is family Eucharistic adoration becoming popular, most dioceses are now organizing weekly adoration in major cities. Beijing, for example, now attracts large crowds of Catholic faithful to its four principal churches, where adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is held four days a week.

Echoing the sentiments of the Saint Francis, China’s Christians exclaim with him, “What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation.”

While traditional devotions have largely diminished in America, nearly all Chinese Catholics pray a daily rosary and recite evening prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for as they say, the battle cannot be won without the supernatural aid of Christ in the Sacrament and constant prayer to his Sacred Heart.

China’s Catholics often remark, “Outsiders already know about our struggles, but do they know about how God has blessed us? There are victories, too.” Believing in the salutary results of prayer and adoration, China’s Church trusts that God will help it survive.

Indeed, recent months have proven that God is more than assuring the Church’s survival, he has also facilitated its growth. Vocations are rising, as are ordinations, and as the government turns impatiently toward the lure of fiscal hegemony, more and more young Chinese are turning toward the waters of baptism.

On March 17, seven deacons were ordained priests for the Diocese of Shanghai. Festooned with streaming red banners, the Cathedral of Saint Ignatius was filled beyond capacity as the faithful gathered to celebrate their new priests.

Bishop Jin Luxian, currently in his late nineties, celebrated the Mass in Shanghai, while in distant Shaanxi four new priests were ordained. Already this year China is enjoying more vocations than it has in several decades.

After taking a group photograph in front of a large Christmas tree, still outside the cathedral long after Christmas, forty-five catechumens were recently baptized in the mother church of Taiyuan Diocese.

As is the custom in northern China, the catechumens vowed to “follow Christ” and brought candles and salt during the solemn offertory, representing their promise to be the salt and light of the gospel in China and the world.

And despite the fact that Catholic orders are officially banned in Mainland China, forty Shaanxi Catholics joined the Franciscan Third Order in a ceremony officiated by Father Xia Changzhou, OFM.

This growth of Franciscan spirituality is intentional, for as secular China venerates the altar of wealth, Shaanxi’s faithful honor the words of Saint Francis, who said, “Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.”

Not all is promising however, as Bishop Ma Yinglin, who remains one of the few bishops in China who is unrecognized by the Vatican, recently ordained priests for the Kunming Diocese.

The outspoken Hong Kong priest, Father Anthony Lam Sui-ki, responded to Ma’s disobedience to the Holy Father, stating, “It is very dangerous for the country and society to have a ‘son of corruption’ like Ma, as the mindset of conniving corruption is contagious, which would encourage more opportunists who disregard Church principles.”

While some dioceses boast growing numbers of priests and converts, others like the one under Bishop Ma continue to foster division and suspicion among the faithful. Before the recent ordinations, one Mainland blogger appealed to Ma to “repent and avoid making another mistake.” As Emerson once said, “Obedience alone gives the right to command,” and Bishop Ma has demonstrated little obedience to the pope he claims to follow.

During my last visit to Beijing, I spent time at two museums that are next door to each other, the Millennium Pavilion and the Museum of Military history; both are painstakingly crafted testaments of China’s cultural prominence in human history.

The Millennium Pavilion featured a newly-installed exhibit dedicated to the 1911 Revolution, when imperial China was at last replaced by a modern Republican government, and the Military Museum featured exhibits on people’s resistance to imperialist and foreign powers through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I was most interested in the fact that both museums displayed historical images and descriptions of Catholic missions – photographs of churches, orphanages, and hospitals. Much has changed in China’s rhetoric regarding missionaries between 1960, when the Military Museum exhibit was installed, and late 2011, when the Millennium Pavilion exhibit was staged.

In the Military Museum, photographs of Catholic churches seized by the People’s Liberation Army are proudly displayed, touting the Party’s victory over “imperialist Catholic missionaries who had done only harm to Chinese sovereignty and culture".

The Millennium Pavilion, installed only a few months ago, featured a different narrative; in this new version of Catholic history in China foreign missionaries are shown caring for young orphans, treating sick villagers, and teaching Chinese women who had before then received little attention in China’s educational system.

In short, for the first time since 1949, Christian missionaries are presented in a government-sponsored exhibit as “beneficial” to China’s people and its transition into modernity.

My objective in this month’s column is not to downplay the real conundrums facing religious liberty in China, but like everyone else who reads the daily news, I have grown weary of the incessant reports of oppression, repression, and rebellion.

There is much happening in the world that is hopeful, and the Church in China, despite some major and minor glitches, is experiencing relative freedom and support. In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote that, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

This, after all, is the meaning of the Paschal mystery; Christ is the God of hope, and grace, and resurrection. For some reason lies have always been more popular than the truth; that is, unless the truth appears somehow unbelievable.

Mark Twain once said that, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” China’s official line on Christian missionaries has been built more upon lies than truth, and it was refreshing indeed to see, for the first time, an official exhibit praising the works of missionaries who came to China in the name of Christ; and it is encouraging to see the Church, at least for now, awakening a dream of hope.

Anthony E. Clark is an associate professor of Chinese history at Whitworth University and the author of China’s Saints: Catholic Martyrdom During the Qing, 1644-1911. He is also the host of the EWTN television series 'The Saints of China: Martyrs of the Middle Kingdom'.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/21/2012 12:44 AM]
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Pope to Biblical Commission:
'Inspiration and Truth are constitutive
characteristics of the Scriptures'

April 20, 2012

The following is the text of a message sent by the Holy Father to Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ex-officio President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission attached to the CDF, on the occasion of the Commission's annual plenary assembly which was held at the Vatican from April 16-20.

Here is a translation of the message from the original Italian:

To my Venerated Brother
Cardinal William Levada
President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

I am pleased to send you, Venerated Brother, to Cardinal Prosper Grech, OSA, to the Secretary and all the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of your annual Plenary Assembly on the important theme of "Inspiration and Truth in the Bible".

As we know, this theme is fundamental for a correct hermeneutic of the Biblical message. It is precisely the idea of inspiration as an act of God that makes it possible for human words to express the Word of God.

Consequently, the theme of inspiration is decisive for an adequate approach to Sacred Scriptures. In fact, an interpretation of their sacred texts which ignores or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their more important and precious characteristic - their origin in God.

In my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, I also recalled that "the Synodal Fathers brought to light how the theme of inspiration is also linked to the theme of truth in Scriptures. That is why, a deeper analysis of the dynamic of inspiration will undoubtedly lead to a better understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books"
(No. 19).

For the charism of inspiration, the books of Sacred Scripture have the power of direct and concrete appeal. But the Word of God does not remain confined to the written word. Indeed, if the act of Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, the revealed Word has continued to be announced and interpreted in the living Tradition of the Church.

For this reason, the Word of God as found in the sacred texts is not an inert deposit within the Church but is the supreme rule of her faith and potency of life.

Tradition which begins with the Apostles progresses with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and grows with the reflection and study of believers, with personal experience of spiritual life and the preaching of bishops
(cfr Dei Verbum, 8. 21).

In studying the idea of "Inspiration and Truth in the Bible", the Pontifical Biblical Commission is called to offer its specific and expert contribution to this necessary study in depth.

It is, in fact, essential and fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that the sacred texts are interpreted according to their nature: Inspiration and Truth are constitutive characteristics of their nature. That is why your work will be truly useful to the life and mission of the Church.

With my best wishes to each of you for a fruitful session, I wish finally to express my great appreciation for the activity carried out by the Biblical Commission, which is committed to promoting knowledge, study and acceptance of the Word of God in the world.

With these sentiments, I commend each of you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, who with all the Church we invoke as Sedes Sapientiae - Seat of Wisdom - and from the heart, I impart to you, Venerated Brother, and to all the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican
April 18, 2012

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/21/2012 11:28 AM]
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