Benedetto XVI Forum


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9/11/2012 4:38 PM
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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

ST. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (d Carthage [modern-day Tunis] 258), Bishop, Writer, Martyr, Father of the Church
Born to wealthy pagan parents, he was highly educated and became a famous orator and teacher. He became a Christian as an adult, receiving his catechesis
from the future St. Caecelius; distributed his wealth to the poor, and vowed himself to chastity before being baptized. He was ordained a priest in 247,
and two years later, he was chosen Bishop of Carthage against his will. Almost immediately, he had to conduct his ministry in hiding after the Decian
persecution began in 250. Many Christians abandoned the Church easily during the persecutions, and their subsequent reinstatement after persecutions
eased, caused great controversies in the third century. Cyprian opposed a rival bishop who simply accepted everyone back without any canonical penance.
He led the opposition, supported by all North African bishops, to Pope Stephen I's decree that on the validity of baptism by heretics if the ritual was
done properly; Cyprian insisted baptism was not valid outside the Church. During a plague in Carthage, he urged Christians to help everyone, including
their enemies and persecutors. He supported Pope St. Cornelius against the anti-Pope Novatian. As a Christian writer (mostly in the form of pastoral
letters) in North Africa, he was considered second only to Tertullian, until Augustine eclipsed them both. During Valerian's persecutions, he was exiled
in 257, then brought back to Carthage where he was sentenced to beheading by sword. He died a martyr as had Pope Stephen I and his successor
Sixtus II in Rome.
Readings for today's Mass:


No events announced for the Holy Father.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, held a news briefing on the Pope's apostolic visit to Lebanon which begins on Friday.

One year ago today...
Benedict XVI made a pastoral visit to Ancona, in northeastern Italy, to conclude Italy's 25th National Eucharistic Congress.

The day the modern Reign of Terror began
Today is the 11th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Benedict XVI at Ground Zero on April 20, 2008.

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here —
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon
and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/22/2012 11:07 PM]
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9/11/2012 5:16 PM
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Pope will appeal for an end to violence
but will stay clear of Mideast politics

A poster of Pope Benedict XVI near the Mohammed al-Amin mosque in Beirut, and from an office building downtown. One gets the impresison from the newsphotos so far that there are far more posters of Benedict XVI festooned in Beirut streets than there ever were during his visit to Germany last year.

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 11 - Pope Benedict XVI will not intervene politically in the Syrian crisis during his visit to the Middle East this week or tell Catholics where their alliances should lie, the Vatican said Tuesday.

"The Pope will not present himself as a political leader" or make "big speeches of a political nature" when he travels to Lebanon on Friday for a three-day trip, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said at a press conference.

While the 85-year-old pontiff is likely to call for an end to violence in Syria and express concern for Christians caught up in Arab Spring uprisings, he will not comment on political differences among Lebanon's Catholic groups.

[There are four of them, each one a distinct Oriental Church: the Maronites, the Syro-Catholic, the Greek Melkite Catholics, and the Armenian Catholics. The Pope will be visiting each of their main headquarters around Beirut.]

"The Pope does not have concrete, specific guidelines for Christians," Lombardi said in reference to Lebanon's large Maronite Catholic community which is divided over support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels.

Religious pluralism will be one of the main themes of the trip and Benedict will meet representatives from Lebanon's four main NUslimj communities -- Shiites, Sunnis, Druzes and Alawites -- who ill welcome him on his arrival on Friday.

Lombardi said there would be no specific meeting with the militant Islamist group Hezbollah, but members would take part in the Muslim delegations.

Two news agency headlines today are just silly - The first says, "Pope expected to call for an end to violence in Syria" (AFP), now this one from Reuters. DUH!

Nuncio says Syria conflict casts shadow
over the Pope's trip to Lebanon

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 11 (Reuters) - The civil war in Syria will cast a long shadow on Pope Benedict’s trip to neighboring Lebanon next weekend, but the Vatican is “tranquil” about his security after receiving guarantees from the country’s fractious religious groups, the papal envoy to Beirut said Monday.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia told Reuters he hoped the situation in Syria would not drown out the main purpose of the trip – to focus attention on the problems and aspirations of the entire Middle East.

“You certainly can’t close your eyes to a situation of violence. The drama in Syria looms over this trip but there is also the wider horizon of the Middle East,” Caccia said in a telephone interview from Beirut.

“The Syrian question takes priority because it is an emergency but the whole trip cannot be reduced to a political question regarding Syria,” he said.

There are fears that the Syrian conflict could spill over into Lebanon and re-ignite civil war among the country’s rival religious groups. Lebanon’s population is 60 percent Muslim with the rest almost all Christian.

While there have been fears in some quarters that the papal trip is too dangerous, Caccia said “I am as tranquil as humanly possible” and the Church had “reasonable guarantees” that the visit would not be disrupted.

“Clearly security forces are on alert. Security is always a priority during papal visits, particularly in this [regional] context, which is a heated one,” he said.

“But I must honestly say that as far as the Lebanese components are concerned, no sector has expressed opposition to this trip. All the communities – Christians, Muslims, Sunni, Shiite, Druze and Alawites – have reacted positively to the trip.”

Many Sunni Muslims in Lebanon actively support the mainly Sunni revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith which has links to Shiite Islam. Lebanese Shiites, among them Hezbollah, have mostly backed Assad.

Caccia said a delegation from Hezbollah visited Lebanon’s Maronite Christian patriarch recently and “expressed joy” at the Pope’s trip.

“There have been contacts all around from the start. We always have to be alert because terrorist plots are a danger for all societies and the whole world. But the current context seems to give us reasonable guarantees, otherwise the trip would not have gone ahead,” he said.

Benedict, on his 24th trip outside Italy since his election in 2005, is making the three-day visit to issue a document known as a “apostolic exhortation” based on the results of a synod of bishops on the Middle East in 2010.

That synod tackled subjects such as regional security, the exodus of Christians from the area, and the need for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – all topics that are expected to be addressed in the papal document and in Benedict’s speeches.

During his visit to Lebanon, thePpope is expected to hammer home his calls for an international solution to the conflict in Syria, where opposition groups say more 27,000 people have died in an uprising that has lasted more than 17 months.

“We know that it is not just an internal conflict. A geopolitical chess game involving big world powers is being played out around the Syria situation so it is difficult to imagine a purely local solution,” the envoy said.

“We can’t just sit and watch what is happening without trying to stop the useless violence, massacres and human dramas which will be the cause of more difficulties in the future,” he said.

Caccia hinted that the Pope would encourage the reforming spirit of the so-called Arab Spring movement but stress that it could not be based on violence.

“This wind of spring is just starting. It will be a very long process and we don’t know how it will end but it is certainly motivated by ideas that are deep and undeniable for every human being, such as freedom, justice, solidarity with others and respect for diversity,” he said.

The Pope is also expected to address the Vatican’s fears of an exodus of Christians leaving the Middle East because of war, instability and lack of economic opportunities.

“Christians are in the Middle East not because they arrived with a colonial empire. They are an original part of the landscape, they are citizens of these lands, they have roots in this land and they have a right to live in the place where they were born,” Caccia said.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/11/2012 5:28 PM]
9/12/2012 3:21 AM
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Andrea Tornielli shares with us the results of a recent study by an Italian firm called Reputation Manager that looked into what is being said on Italian Internet sites about Pope Benedict XVI compared to the Dalai Lama. In a way, I am not surprised that the Holy Father comes out far less favorably than the Dalai Lama, since more regular poll surveys in Germany, the Pope's own homeland, have also shown this. But the extent of negativity about the Pope in Italian cyperspace appals me, because it means that Italians who use the Internet pro-actively are buying into all the anti-Pope, anti-Church propaganda purveyed by Italian MSM. [And that pro-Benedict forums like ours are nothing but tiny, weak and unheeded voices in the cyber-wilderness.]

I would like to think that this Internet-proactive population is not exactly representative of Italians as a whole, certainly not of those who turn up in the hundreds of thousands whenever the Pope turns up anywhere in Italy.

As for the seemingly general impression that the Dalai Lama is everything a spiritual leader should be - compared to Benedict XVI - I doubt that a significant number of those who think this actually know much about him - no offense meant to the DL, whom I admire in many ways, just not on the order and magnitude of my devotion to the Popes, in general - except that he preaches peace, he is Buddhist, and he and his people are persecuted by the Chinese Communist regime Perhaps not even that much, but just because they read nothing in the media that is at all remotely negative about him!

How many of these secularized anti-Pope Internauts are even aware that observant Buddhists - who think that even swatting an ant is a crime against nature - oppose abortion and homosexual acts as much as Catholics do! Would they still hold the Dalai Lama in such uncritical favor if they knew this?

The negative prejudice against
Benedict XVI in Italian cyberspace

Translated from the Italian service of

Sept. 11, 2012
A study by Reputation Manager shows that almost half of the contents online about Papa Ratzinger has 'a negative tone' and ' an injurious impact' - in direct contrast to what the study shows about the Dalai Lama.

Benedict XVI's message is not getting through well, not on the Internet, even in Italy, according to study results published by Reputation Manager in the journal Expansione, which, thanks to special software, has dedicated an issue to analyze data taken from the Italian web universe, including the social media. In this case, the program analyzed the 'digital image' of Benedict XVI and of the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists.

The conceptual model used three parameters applied to both figures: their personal image, their religious life, and their communications. 'Personal image' was subdivided into 'biography' and 'opinion', whereas 'communications' was rated according to "books, addresses, lectures and trips".

The results show that the Web including YouTube and the social networks, has a 'balanced' view of the Dalai Lama, whereas for the Pope, the overall impression is 'emotional" and 'not positive".

"The synthesis offered by the analysis of the emotional impact of messages on the Internet analyzed by Reputation Manager on these two important religious figures offer a very clear snapshot: Almost half of online content about Benedict XVI (48.74%) has a negative tone and injurious impact; only 7% is positive and generally lukewarm, not enthusiastic; the rest are neutral.

"On the other hand, the Dalai Lama is decisively more popular on the Web, both quantitatively (53% vs 47% as conversation topic) and qualitatively (26% of online content is positive and only 8% negative but not injurious - the emotive impact of the words used about the Dalai Lama in general 'balanced', whether they are positive or negative".

The comparison between the two personages played out mostly on video (22%), with 19% in the newspapers, and 13% on forums. [Off the top of my head, I can cite at least five exclusively pro-B16 Italian forums, including this and PRF - and for the study (or the software) to 'find' that none of the content about the Pope is enthusiastic makes me doubt the validity of the study. Also, I cannot believe that the information content about the Dalai Lama could possibly match that about the Pope, for the simple reason that the Tibetan leader does not have the regular year-round schedule of events that the Pope has, nor the dedicated corps of journalists covering the Pope as a regular daily beat. Perhaps the base number for the percentages cited should have been made clear. You can't compare 26% positive out of a total base of say, 500,000 items, about the Dalai Lama, when the base for the Pope may easily be at least four times that. The larger the base, the less homogeneous it is, and sharp disparities in attitudes are more likely to emerge.]

It is interesting to note that among the top 5 domains, after YouTube, comes UAAR (Unione Atei e Agnostici Razionalisti),, followed by the online sites of and

The most popular video site about Benedict XVI, with more than half a million visits and loads of commentary, is called “Papa Ratzinger... .in tutta la sua cattiveria!” (Papa Ratzinger - in all his nastiness!) - which is seen by more than five times those who watch the most visualized video on the Dalai Lama (less than 90,000 hits) which contains his aphorisms and wise sayings. [And that's the kind of numerical perspective that is relevant to these 'studies'.]

The video presence online of Benedict XVI is clearly unbalanced and characterized either as parody, revelations, and criticisms, which are mostly ferocious. [Since one cannot imagine any possible video of Benedict XVI being 'nasty', one can only conclude that a hate site like the one cited, uses available video and possibly selectively edited sound clips taken out of context, to peddle their own nastiness about the Pope!]

The situation is no better, the study shows, in the social networks. The Dalai Lama has 4,390,916 fans on 290 web pages run by 71 groups on Facebook, and even if only 1.7% of these fans are active (they have contributed at least one post or comment), it is clear that these groups and pages are 'decisively positive'.

The numbers are far lower for the Pope - 263.032 followers on 154 pages run by 62 group, but in this case, except for those named for the Pope in a neutral way (e.g., Benedetto XVI, Papa Benedetto XVI), the overwhelmingly majority is heavily tilted negativ ely, as one can see by simply reading their titles, which are mocking or downright offensive. But even among the Pope sites, only 1.8% of the listed 'fans' are active, a sign that the negative trend is not growing nor necessarily the backbone of these sites".

"The personal image of the Pope and his decisions and positions in the religious field are generally unpopular," says Andrea Barchiesi, administrative director of Reputation Manager. "Despite the Pope's greater socio-cultural closeness to Italians, or perhaps because of this, the prevailing opinion in the Italian Internet universe over what Benedict XVI says and does is negative, and thus, too, the strong emotive impact that this opinion has on the resulting commentaries online".

In short, the prevalent image of the Pope in Italian cyberspace is that of "a very rigid person', one thought to be anti-Muslim (after the Regensburg lecture), and to have been a Nazi in his youth (even if obviously false, the lie is reinforced online by a photograph of the newly-ordained priest Joseph Ratzinger with both hands raised in front of the faithful, in which he is labelled as a diehard Nazi bent on rendering a Hitlerian salute even during a liturgical celebration.)

Benedict XVI is also associated with the idea of the 'Inquisition' and he is blamed for the cover-ups on pedophile priests, as if he had not been personally responsible for proactively fighting this problem in the Church.

An accusation that was reiterated in a recent documentary called Mea Maxima about the serial child abuser Fr. Lawrence Murphy of Milwaukee. Between the 1950s and the early 1970s, Murphy was said to have abused hundreds of children in the deaf-mute institute where he worked. [Does the documentary mention that the diocese asked the Milwaukee police to investigate the charges, but whatever the reason, the police came back to say they found nothing actionable against him in all those dozens of charges made? Maybe Murphy got away with it, but in any case, the diocese forced him to retire in 1972.]

Referring to a supposed 'conspiracy of silence' in the Church - as one reads in a review of the documentary that was published in La Repubblica [of course!] - the documentary claims that such a conspiracy was sealed in 2001 on account of an order by Cardinal Ratzinger demanding that all charges of sex abuse by priests must be sent to his attention alone as a confidential document.

[I have not read about this documentary, but it obviously milks the deliberately erroneous reporting of Laurie Goodstein on the Murphy case in the New York Times in 2010, whose mis-statements on the case were belied by the very documents themselves that the Times posted online as their sourcing for the story. The editors rightly wagered that few readers would bother to look at the documents and simply take the story as is, as gospel truth. Fortunately, the priest heading the diocesan tribunal in Milwaukee at the time the diocese decided to resurrect Murphy's case 20 years after it had forced Murphy to retire - and during which ho one had come forward with any further accusations against him - reacted to the falsehoods and published an account to give the true story. Of course, a rebuttal of any falsehood printed originally on Page 1 with blazing headlines never gets the attention it deserves, starting from the culprit media purveyor itself. But at the time, Cardinal William Levada also wrote an open letter to the US media in response to the Goodstein article, citing the first-hand testimony of the priest who headed the diocesan tribunal, and giving the correct version of the Murphy story. This detailed account may be found on the Vatican site on the Church's response to the sex abuse issue
and it is too bad it is available only in English.

None of that, of course, matters to unscrupulous journalists and 'documentarists' who rush to immortalize their lies before the public and a relentlessly secular MSM only too eager to peddle anything bad about the Church, the worse the better. Who can forget the untold damage done by a 2005 BBC documentary by an Irishman who claimed to have been a sex-abuse victim, in which the most blatant lies were peddled about Cardinal Ratzinger, to the point of citing a 1962 CDF letter to all the bishops of the world about how to deal with 'the most serious crimes' by priests at the diocesan level, as 'proof' that Joseph Ratzinger [who, in 1962, was a professor in Bonn] had promulgated that letter with specific instructions for bishops to keep all such reports or investigations of priestly crimes 'secret'. Regardless of who wrote the instructions (the CDF Prefect at the time], that allegation simply is not so.

MSM reporting in general about the sex-abuse issue since the 'scandal' erupted in Boston in 2001-2002 has been so distorted and wrong, as a consequence of the general mania in the media to depict the Church as the most depraved institution the world has known. To my knowledge, no one in the English Church mounted any meaningful protest against the fabrio of lies that underpinned that BBC documentary, and when a private Italian TV channel bought the rights for Italian TV in 2006, a few brave souls from the Vatican did come out on TV to seek to rebut it, including Mons. Rino Fisichella, and the Catholic media in Italy mounted a campaign to counteract the lies, but to little avail. The viewing public are generally suckers for anything labelled 'scandal', and who knows how many Italians who watched the documentary even paid attention to the attempted rebuttals but retain instead all the wrong ideas about what Cardinal Ratzinger did or did not do!]

The 'Mea Maxima' documentary's accusations against Joseph Ratzinger are a complete misrepresentation of facts; New directives about how to deal with cases against priests accused of sexual abuse of minors - which until then had been the primary responsibility of the diocesan bishop - were issued by John Paul II in 2001, with implementing instructions by Cardinal Ratzinger as CDF Prefect, to ensure that all such cases were reported to the Vatican, specifically, to the CDF. Which was, of course, the exact opposite of 'cover-up' of which the documentary accuses Cardinal Ratzinger.

It marked the beginning of a response from the Vatican that would become increasingly decisive and efficient to the point that, after Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, he instituted more norms to deal with the issue, including a true and proper emergency law that would result in immediate intervention by Church officials to protect victims of these crimes.

The omnipresence and convenient access to the Internet is obviously very much a double-bladed sword. People will tend to look up only those sites that they know to be congenial to their own sensibilities and opinions. So it doesn't matter how much truth we post online, all such stories are like giant trees falling in the forest which are unperceived by anyone because no one is there to perceive it. And I certainly do not trawl the Net looking for negative stories and commentary about the Pope - I do not have the inclination nor the time to waste on an exercise that can only be an occasion of sin, for me!

By the same token, those who are conditioned or predisposed to hostility against the Church will eagerly patronize and contribute their own provocations to the hate sites that peddle the most outrageous falsehoods about the Church and her leader, and would never even think to look at any site that might remotely be pro-Church or pro-Pope.

The facts are there for those who want it, but the malicious lies and misrepresentations are also out there and appear to be more patronized, because that, alas, is human nature. So, maybe we can only find comfort from the words of Jesus in the Gospel, as cited by Antonio Socci but in the context of Cardinal Martini's 'popularity' in the world:

"If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you...If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (Jn 16,18-20); and

"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven" (Lk 6, 20-23).

Because in this context, his detractors do nothing but heap heavenly blessings on Benedict XVI.


And even if the best Vatican communications strategy, tactics and expert consultants could never hope to defeat human nature, the Vatican should, at least, not allow lies, mis-statements or misrepresentations of fact in news reports to go unanswered. (Lella on her blog has been militantly and consistently advocating this.)

While I understand it is unseemly for a Press Office to respond to opinion pieces, it is right and proper to do so when one questions the truth or objectivity of the facts on which the opinion is based. I do suggest that the Vatican frame a template with which it can promptly respond to any and all such disinformation and misinformation, no matter how far back in time it goes, e.g.:

"Regarding the statement made by ____ on ____ in _____ that _______, the facts on the record, appropriately documented, and verifiable by any journalist or fact-checker, are as follows: __________________________________.

In the interests of truth and fairness, the Holy See requests that the appropriate correction be made on these pages/program/broadcast as soon as possible."

And the first template of facts to be assembled ought to be a brief but incisive chronology of the sex-abuse issue and how the Vatican has dealt with it since 2001. Such statements do not require any subjective embellishments - "Just the facts, please", as an investigating policemen might say - so no one has to wrack his brains to come up with appropriately diplomatic as well as emotive expressions, an exercise that is often the most time-consuming.

Be efficient. Use a template, and fill in the blanks with the bare facts, then e-mail it ASAP to the editor or program producer or broadcast personality. They may not all pay attention to it, but some will, and the fact will be made known that the Vatican is no longer allowing itself to be used as a doormat and trash dump by the detractors of the Church.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/12/2012 4:05 AM]
9/12/2012 12:24 PM
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Instrumentalized religion a problem but
religion itself best seen as a resource to
transform societies of 'new' Middle East

A two-day international interfaith conference in Istanbul, Turkey, has ended. Held under the auspices of the Turkish Religious Foundation Center for Islamic Studies and the Marmara University Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, and with the participation of the new Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Fr. Miguel Ayuso, the conference explored Muslim and Christian perspectives on the Arab Spring and peace in the Middle East.

Here is the full text of the final communique from the conference.

The Arab Awakening and Peace
in the New Middle East:
Muslim and Christian Perspectives

7-8 September 2012, Istanbul
Final Communique

The Arab Awakening has been discussed and debated by political leaders, policymakers, scholars, opinion makers and journalists within and outside the region from different perspectives.

This conference brought together for the first time major Muslim and Christian religious leaders from the Arab world, experts and opinion makers to discuss the role of religion in the new Middle East.

Discussions and debates recognized the problems and challenges ahead and affirmed that in the new Middle East emerging political cultures should be rooted in a national unity and identity based upon equal citizenship, and the recognition of religious pluralism and cultural

Rather than seeing diversity as a problem, participants spoke of it as an asset and source of richness. Establishing the rule of law is seen as critical in the protection of the freedoms of individuals
and diverse faith communities and groups.

However different state systems might be, principles of equality of citizenship, rule of law, and protection of liberties are the
fundamental foundations of strong and vibrant civil societies.

Authoritarian regimes have too often utilized religions for their own purposes. Thus, instrumentalized religions can become part of the problem. However, participants discussed the ways in which religions can also be a powerful resource in the transformation of societies in the new Middle East.

Participants argued that discourses and languages used in the media, popular culture, schools and religious centers are extremely important. Religious leaders and decision makers should lead a process of reforming these areas.

This meeting is envisioned to be the beginning of a process of future workshops to discuss and explore the implementation of reforms in emerging political cultures in the Middle East

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/12/2012 1:40 PM]
9/12/2012 2:13 PM
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Wednesday, Sept. 12, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote a most beautiful essay on the devotion to the Name of Mary in Christian history
This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3). Celebration of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, Jan Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended the feast to the entire Church.
Readings for today's Mass:


General Audience - The Pope flew to the Vatican this morning for his Wednesday audience at the Aula Paolo VI.
Continuing his catecheses on prayer, focused at this time on prayer prayer in the Book of Revelation, he reflected
on what it teaches about the importance of prayer in the Church’s pilgrimage through history - "Prayer
enables us to discern the events of history in the light of God’s plan for the spread of his Kingdom".

At the end of the Audience, the Holy Father asked the faihful to offer prayers for peace, reconciliation
and respect for the rights of all in the Middle East, as he prepares to visit Lebanon on Sept. 14-16.

Strangely, more than two hours since the end of the General Audience earlier today (1 pm in Rome),
the Vatican Press Office has not yet posted any bulletins for Sept. 12.


2006 - Benedict XVI's lectio magistralis at the University of Regensburg,
on "Faith, Reason and the University"

2008 - At the College des Bernardins in Paris, his lecture
on "The Origins of Theology and the Roots of Western Culture"

On Page 244 of this thread,
you will find a couple of excellent articles about the epochal nature of the Regensburg lecture, as well as my reconstruction of how the MSM had first reported the Regensburg lecture casually, as if it were just another papal discourse made in the course of a trip to Germany, without even getting into what it was all about; and how, 48 hours later, the lecture became the most controversial papal address ever given in modern history! [Which makes me think most of those who reported on it did not really even bother to read through it - because anyone who read the English text promptly released by the Vatican that day could not have failed to be stunned by its originality and comprehensiveness about faith and reason applied to the Christian and Islam experiences.]

Not one of the initial reports, except that of Ian Fisher in the New York Times, even picked up the citation from the Paleologue emperor, but even Fisher merely reported it en passant. In fact it was not until 48 hours since the speech was delivered - when the Pope was back in Rome - that MSM blew it up into the raging cause celebre that it became, and only after a Turkish religious leader expressed the first vehement Muslim reaction to the Paleologue citation.

Fisher's second article for the NYT, commenting now on the lecture in the context of the Muslim outrage, was light years away from the relatively objective tone of his original report. Fisher's double act, I find, typifies and illustrates best not just the unscrupulous opportunism of the MSM but also how they can and do shape, not just public opinion, but even events subsequent to some cause they have decided to advocate.

In the PRF thread dedicated to the APOSTOLIC VISIT TO BAVARIA, I had noted - before media attention turned to the lecture at all:

The lecture at Regensburg was masterly and masterful, and as I said earlier, it will give commentators and analysts weeks and months to work on. And for anyone who wishes to lecture on significant matters that are more abstract than concrete, a model of how to structure a presentation and to make it alive!

And yes, it should be distributed to all universities - Catholic universities to begin with - for required reading, expecially by students of history, religion, theology, philosophy, and the sciences; and by those in charge of these universities.

Obviously, I was considering the speech in its totality, and did not have the prescience to imagine that what the Pope said about Islam - or rather, just that one citation he had at the beginning - would prove to be a powderkeg capable of igniting the entire Muslim world and the anti-Benedict elements in the MSM to unprecedented, near-demented frenzy against the Holy Father!

Vatican reaction to mob violence and killings
in Cairo and Benghazi on the 9/11 anniversary

A tragic and most condemnable counterpoint to the 9/11 anniversary yesterday and that of the Regensburg lecture today was the mob attack on the US embassy in Cairo yesterday (where fortunately, no one was hurt, though the US flag was descrated), and hours later, a major terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which the US ambassador and three of his staff members were killed by heavy-duty weapons.

The Vatican released a statement on the Libya attack, at a time when it was thought that the act, like the Cairo episode, was provoked by a YouTube amateur video produced by an Israeli American that allegedly mocks Islam. It now seems that the Libya attack was previously planned and well-orchestrated by Al-Qaeda in Libya, to retaliate for the US killing of a ranking Al-Qaeda official in Pakistan weeks ago, and that the video was simply used as a pretext.

Here is Fr. Lombardi's statemen, courtesy of Vatican Radio:

Profound respect for the beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols of the various religions is an essential precondition for the peaceful coexistence of peoples.

The serious consequences of unjustified offence and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in their turn nourish tension and hatred, unleashing unacceptable violence.

The message of dialogue and respect for all believers of different religions, which the Holy Father is preparing to carry with him on his forthcoming trip to Lebanon, indicates the path that everyone should follow in order to construct shared and peaceful coexistence of religions and peoples.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 12:21 AM]
9/12/2012 4:58 PM
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I thought I would resurrect some more of the pre-furor articles about the Regensburg lecture, as they were posted in the PRF thread on the APOSTOLIC VISIT TO BAVARIA at the time of the visit. First, the Reuters report filed on Sept. 13 (the lecture was given the afternoon of Sept. 12, so this was the agency's first report dedicated to the lecture itself, and not as part of its reporting on the visit). Reuters, and particularly its lead Vaticanista Philip Pulella, have been unkind to Benedict XVI, in general, but in this report, even Pulella finds no cause to excoriate Benedict XVI for what he said about Islam in the lecture - yet another dccumentary proof that MSM did not get into the fray about Regensburg until after Muslim officials started reacting to the Paleologue citation.

Like the homilies he has delivered in Bavaria, the Pope's lecture at the University of Regensburg yesterday had so many key points to lead with, that accounts have been widely divergent depending on which key point the reporter chose to emphasize.

Sometimes, the 'point' is completely off, when the writer singles out a phrase or sentence and proceeds to extrapolate his interpretation of it outside the context of how the Pope said it. Or worse, when, in paraphrasing their chosen take-off quotation, they put words into the Pope's mouth which he never said or could even remotely intend to say!

And that's the way the Italian press has been reporting the Pope's recent homilies in Bavaria, particularly the ones in Munich and Regensburg. with the miscreants focusing on two things - what he said (or did not say but they claim he did) about Islam' and what he says about science (some reporters and analysts maintain on the basis of his homily in Regensburg yesterday, that he was in effect endorsing 'intelligent design'!)

This Reuters story chose to lead with the Pope's call for dialog with Islam....


Pope invites Muslims to dialogue
By Philip Pullella and Madeline Chambers

REGENSBURG, Germany, Sept. 13, 2006 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict invited Muslims on Tuesday to join a dialogue of cultures that agrees the concept of Islamic "holy war" is unreasonable and against God's nature.

In a major lecture at Regensburg University, where he taught theology between 1969 to 1977, Benedict said Christianity was tightly linked to reason and contrasted this view with those who believe in spreading their faith by the sword.

The 79-year-old Pontiff avoided making a direct criticism of Islam, packaging his comments in a highly complex academic lecture with references ranging from ancient Jewish and Greek thinking to Protestant theology and modern atheism.

In his lecture, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who wrote in a dialogue with a Persian that Mohammad had brought things "only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Pope, who used the terms "jihad" and "holy war" in his lecture, added: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Benedict several times quoted the argument by Emperor Manual II Paleologos that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable and that acting without reason -- "logos" in the original Greek -- was against God's nature.

At the end of his lecture, the Pope again quoted Manuel and said: "It is to this great 'logos', to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures."

Abbot Notker Wolf, head of the worldwide Benedictine order, said the Pope used Manuel's dialogue with a Persian to make an indirect reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Wolf, a commentator on Bavarian television for the Pope's visit, said the reference to a Persian "was a blatant allusion to Ahmadinejad" and said the Iranian leader had sent "arrogant letters" this year to President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging a dialogue.

"I have heard he plans to write a letter to the Pope," Wolf added. "I think this would be a good opportunity to take up the gauntlet, so to speak, and really discuss things."

Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict used Emperor Manuel's views on Islam only to help explain the issue and not to condemn all of the Muslim religion as violent.

"This is just an example. We know that inside Islam there are many different positions, violent and non-violent," he said. "The Pope does not want to give an interpretation of Islam that is violent."

Many Islamic leaders have denounced Muslim radicals for using violence, saying this perverts their faith, but a minority of extremists says the Koran commands them to use it.

Last week, the Pope said no one had the right to use religion to justify terrorism and urged greater inter-religious dialogue to stop the cycle of hate and revenge.

On Monday, he prayed for the victims of September 11 on the fifth anniversary of the attacks against the United States.

At an open-air mass earlier in the day, Benedict told about 260,000 faithful that Christians believed in a loving God whose name could not be used to justify hatred and fanaticism.

At his university lecture, Benedict also appeared to criticize Protestant and some Third World theologians for not stressing the link between faith and reason clearly enough.

Benedict stressed his criticism of empirical reasoning "has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age."

"The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application," said Benedict, who later held an ecumenical service with Protestant and Orthodox clerics.

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Munich)

On the same day, Vittorio Messori wrote a commentary for Corriere della Sera, in which his emphasis was on the homily given by the Pope at the morning Mass in Regensburg, the event that had preceded the Regensburg lecture, although he did say in passing that we might well expect a fatwa against Benedict XVI for presuming to address Muslims about Allah!

Benedict XVI in Germany
The Pope to Islam:
“Holy war (jihad)
is a war against God”

by Vittorio Messori

Sept. 13, 2006

Benedict XVI is a problem for journalists: especially for those at the editorial desks who must synthesize in the few words of a headline what the reporter in the field sends in.

In effect, everything that the ex-Professor Ratzinger says or writes not only has the density characteristic of German academics, but is the product of meditation and studies done over the past 60 years, added to his pastoral experience as Archbishop and the doctrinal enforcement years in the CDF.

Therefore, even in homilies to masses of people like the ones he has delivered in Bavaria, he speaks of several topics – to each of which he dedicates quick thrusts that reveal their depth, thrusts which are often surprising because non-confomist. This creates a problem for the media who must synthesize it all. The reporter is constrained to choose which of many key points to emphasize.

The accumulation of thought was obvious even in his homily at the Mass in Regensburg, the true homeland of his heart. Some commentators chose to play up his views on the relationship between faith and science, between intelligent design and evolutionism. Others chose to go with his statement about the ‘hate and fanaticism’ of some religious extremists ‘who have killed the true image of God.’

Whoever chose to take these themes would not be wrong and would not lack for arguments to support their choice.

But to stay with the second topic we mentioned, the importance and currency of the issue were such that Benedict XVI spoke of it again in his lecture to academics.

Just as the Enlightenment in the West, which has resulted in skepticism if not nihilism, is a pathology of reason, he said, religious fundamentalism which promotes terrorism and forces conversion is a pathology of religion.

And in this lecture, unlike his homily in Munich, Ratzinger did not hesitate to use the name of Islam. Not only that: he spoke of Mohammed and of his Koran, citing a ‘peaceful’ verse which will surely please the so-called Muslim moderates, but which will only earn the disdain of the radicals. [9/12/12 P.S. Note that Messori cites the 'peaceful' citation from hte Koran, but makes no mention even of the Paleologue quote! - i.e., to him, as to most sensible people, it was just a useful quote from a historical account, given in the context of the lecture, not to be singled out in such a dnesely packed lecture,and certainly not meant to be offensive.]

For the latter, it is not allowed for an infidel, even if he were the Pope, to presume to lecture the believers of Allah on true revelation. Should we expect a fatwa against Benedict XVI? Given the times and the climate of the times, we cannot rule it out.

But to return to his homily in Regensburg, allow me to pick out just one sentence which may have escaped most, but which particularizes one of the essential concerns of a man who never wanted to be a just a professor armed with theories but is a priest who has always had a calling for ‘apologetics’, the explanation of the faith.

It is a ‘passion de convaincre’ (passion to convince) that according to Pascal, is instinctive in a man who has faith and who wants to communicate his faith.

So much so that in some theological circles where no one would dare dispute Ratzinger’s evident stature as a theologian, they prefer to describe him as ‘pastoral’, not ‘dogmatic.’ From his point of view, this is no putdown but a recognition.

It is not by chance that the first book that brought him international fame was his Introduction to Christianity, a sort of robust catechism, launched in the chaos of 1968.

Nor was it by chance that he was the first to break the legendary silence and secrecy of his predecessors at the ex-Holy Office, agreeing to an extensive interview with a journalist so that, through his experience in popularizing difficult concepts, he could toss into the public arena those issues that until then were simply debated in theological laboratories. [Messori is referring to the interview-book he did with Cardinal Ratzinger which came out in English as THE RATZINGER REPORT.]

And so, I heard something familiar yesterday in the words of the man who is now Pope to the crowds gathered by the Danube:
"Faith is simple. Looking at the great Summa Theologiae, or thinking of the many being written every day for or against faith, has invited discouragement, in the thought that to believe is something complicated. “

It may seem paradoxical from a theologian but in fact, the statement is totally evangelical. Even a great intellectual, at some point in the complex course of his development, realizes that yes, study is indeed necessary; but to understand that which really counts, the ‘simple’ people are privileged in this respect.

The Church created the first universities in history and has always encouraged the gifted to do research. But it has also always preached the gospel even to the ignorant, and has made more of them saints than it has of professors.

Benedict’s ‘modesty’ (fewer documents, fewer travels, fewer speeches) comes from a concern that he already expressed in the Report, and for which he has fought for decades, not only having a role in bringing out the New Catechism but also its lighter Compendium:

“If the people keep their distance from the Church, it is because we have given them the impression that believing is a ‘complex system’ whereas everything is simple: there is a God, this God is love, and He came to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To live in hope, to know how much is enough, the words of the Credo [Apostles Creed] say it all.”

To concentrate on the essential, to recover the brevity and simplicity of the Gospel – this, in short, is the program of his pontificate, restated anew yesterday in Regensburg.
[The Regensburg homily, that is!]


In comparison, Giuliano Ferrara - editor of Il Foglio, Communist turned conservative, a non-Catholic, and ex-minister in both Berlusconi cabinets, and self-described 'devout atheist' - wrote of the Pope's Regensburg lecture that it was a 'manifesto of Western identity with its Greek, Hebrew and Christian roots.'

I always have big problems with analysts or commentators who try to interpret, or at least, to paraphrase what Pope Benedict XVI says or writes. Because what he says or writes always comes across to me very clearly and he presents his thoughts so logically that one can follow him through without a problem.

Such was the case with the lecture at Regensburg yesterday. Even my first reading of it unfolded so effortlessly despite the multiplicity of ideas presented.

Many responsible commentators would not rush to write an appreciation or a critique of such a dense "accumulation of thought" (as Vittorio Messori describes this Pope's texts) overnight.

What I have read so far of commentary in the Italian press has been disheartening. An editorial in Avvenire which I thought to be promising turns out to be muddled in thought and language. [9/12/12 P.S. In short, most journalists did not quite know how to report the Regensburg lecture initially, because few had the intellectual overview of someone like Ferrara who saw it comprehensively for what it was, and not merely as a discourse which focused on Islam in some parts!]

Ferrara was the first journalist and commentator to realize the magnitude of the speech - and also the most audacious, even if his language and presentation are not quite the Pope's!

By Giuliano Ferrara
Translated from

Sept. 13, 2006

In his colossal lecture in Regensburg yesterday, Benedict XVI, returning in Papal vestments to his true arena for intellectual and pastoral combat - the university and the chair of theology -said, with a subtlety of thought not less than his intellectual and political courage: We are Jews, Greeks, Christians; Mohammed and his god are different.

He adds: In order to dialogue with those who are different from us, in a tempestuous time of religious violence and proselytic aggression against Western civilization, we should know who we are, namely, that we are men and women blessed with two sources of wisdom and love - reason and faith.

These sources together have preserved us from doing away with God, from the monolithism of Islam - which is other than Judeo-Christian monotheism, and from the god of chance.

Ultimately, to know who we are, we should get rid of reductionism and relativism, of the idea that faith and love and reason are not closely linked, in true analogy, with truth, with being, with metaphysics, with the experience of faith in an incarnated God...

[9/12/12 P,S. How prescient Ferrara is, in the following paragraphs, that already anticipate the line of attack that would be taken, once the MSM's Pavlovian reflexes set in:]

Many newspapers today will say "The Pope attacks Islam" or will attenuate his words with their usual simplification and atrocious banalization of the great thoughts he expressed about our identity - the roots of Western civilization in Greek, Jewish and Christian thought.

They will use the shortcut of a citation by the Pope of what the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus wrote about his conversation with a Persian Muslim in the 14th century: Show me what Mohammed has brought forth that is new, and you will see that these are only mean and inhuman things, like his order to spread by the sword the faith that he preached.

A citation that was carefully preceded by an early surah (verse) from the Koran, "in which Mohammed himself says: No constrictions in matters of faith." (Surah 2, 256).

But the emperor's words were then explained without hypocritical scruples by Ratzinger himself: the emperor was condemning - by invoking the rationality of the God-Logos, the God of reason, "who is not happy with blood-letting" - the Islamic doctrine of jihad.

The emperor condemns 'acting without reason' as being 'contrary to the nature of God' (the God of Christians). But for the Muslim religion, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not tied to any of our categories, 'perhaps not even to rationality," said the Pope.

Clearer and less politically correct a Pope could not have been: the God of Islam is different, radically different, from ours.

To be even clearer, he adds: "It opens up, in our understanding of God and therefore in the concrete practice of religion, a dilemma which challenges us very directly today."

It is a confrontation between the Bible, the gospel of John and its Logos, and of Greek thought, on the one hand, and a religion of conquest which is also political and violent, in the name of an arbitrary God who is remote and apart from human reason.

Only a vulgar, simplistic reading of this lecture could call it an "attack on Islam." The Pope of reason - as some called him at the time of the Conclave - has another purpose which he made clear in the rest of this extraordinary lecture in Regensburg.

And that is, to evangelize the West, to correct the apostasy of faith, the trend to agnosticism or indifference - but to do so with wide-open rationality, with a re-Hellenization of Christianity, which would revive the Pauline, Augustinian and Thomist grandeur of our culture and Christian practice, in a solid link with metaphysics - thought that questions the truth of being, of the natural condition of the world.

The theologian and philosopher Pope then examines how the West - by dehellenizing Christianity from the Middle Ages onwards - lost contact with objective reason, with a reason that understood faith and that faith could comprehend, in favor of existentialist ultimatums, of a totally different god, the God of sola scriptura, the God of Von Harnack and Karl Barth and of the Christian sub-cultures of 'peace and love' so in vogue today.

He goes on to decry radical enlightenment, that of Kant, which reduces faith to mere practice, to a private morality. And he concludes with the mooring point that was predictable on the basis of all his theology, a powerful thought that is in contact with the spirit and the drama of our vulnerable times:

"A reason which is deaf to the divine and pushes down religion to a subculture is not capable of taking part in the dialog between cultures."

What he read yesterday in Regensburg was the manifesto of Western identity with its Greek, Hebrew and Christian roots.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/12/2012 5:03 PM]
9/12/2012 11:54 PM
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A recent interview with a Vatican consultant on Mideast affairs, the Jesuit, Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, who lives and teaches in Lebanon (when he is not teaching in Rome) reveals assessments of the region that I might describe as out of the box, and for that reason, interesting...

The Pope's trip to Lebanon and
Mideast reality post 'Arab spring'
Interview with Fr. Samir Khalil Samir
by Edward Pentin

September 3, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI visits Lebanon Sept. 14-16, arriving in the Middle East region at a time of bloody internal conflict in Syria and simmering tensions between Israel and Iran.

The main aim of the apostolic voyage is to present his apostolic exhortation (concluding document) on the Synod for the Middle East that took place in 2010.

In a Sept. 3 interview, the respected Egyptian scholar Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir discussed the Holy Father’s upcoming trip, what to expect from it, and the likely consequences for Christians of the “Arab Spring” of political revolution that spread through the region last year.

A professor of philosophy, theology and Islamic studies, Father Samir is based at St. Joseph University in Beirut and also teaches at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

Is it right and wise for the Pope to travel now to Lebanon?
There is a risk. I don’t think anything would be organized against him, although we could have someone foolish actions. But I find it important that he so far hasn’t changed his mind.

He said he is coming, and this is also important, because it says: “I am with you. You are living in a poor, insecure situation, and I’m taking part in your problems.”

The Lebanese government may tell him that they cannot control the situation if something happens, but from his side, he is not cancelling the trip. And this is for us — Christians and Muslims — a good sign. [Obviously, the Lebanese government has said no such thing, and judging from the photos of street preps in Beirut, they don't seem to have any doubt that they have the situation well in hand.]

Do you think that, in view of the “Arab Spring” and the current situation in the Middle East, this visit couldn’t really come at a better time?
Yes, we need this reassurance: for him to say to the world there is something more important than war and violence.

Is there a danger, in your view, that the current conflict in neighboring Syria could spill over into Lebanon while he’s there?
I think we’re used to having in Lebanon some local problems. In the last months, it was usually between Sunni and Shia. It could happen, because it’s also becoming part of a conflict in the whole area...
We have people from both sides here — and refugees from Syria. Something could happen, but I don’t think this will change the whole situation.

How important is it that the apostolic exhortation be delivered now? Is it more relevant, given the current circumstances?
Yes, the Synod, which took place in October 2010, had important issues: it was for Christians, particularly for Catholics, but also, about relations between Christians and Muslims, and the social and political situation.

It’s important for us to rethink our mission. Do we have a mission? Are we conscious of this mission, and what exactly is our mission?

People are leaving the country, but if we reflect, there is danger only in some countries, for example, in Palestine and Iraq. But in Lebanon, there is no reason for a Christian to leave. Even in Egypt, there are problems and discrimination, but no real reasons to leave Egypt. And there is no discrimination in Jordan and not even in Syria.

So the first point to make is to remain here because we have a mission, and we need to find this mission together. It’s a mission of dialogue with Muslims and also announcing the Gospel to Muslims and living it in such a way.

Muslims have a right to know the Gospel. Muslims who are convinced of their faith think we Christians have the right to know the Quran. In this sense, I think only we, as Arab Christians, could say something to Muslims that is valid for both their culture and our culture.

A second point, one that is internal to the Church, is reform in the Church. The Catholic Church in the Middle East is a little bit too clerical. But the role of laypeople is very important because they can say something on social, political problems, and we have no other voices. Laymen have real dialogue every day with Muslims, but if we dialog only through the bishops or the patriarch, then it remains at a theoretical level.

It’s important that lay Christians understand their responsibility towards the state; it’s more important than in Europe, where people have a Christian culture, even if not the faith.

This high level of pluralism and democracy is already practiced in Lebanon?
Yes, but not in other countries. The Pope’s trip is to Lebanon, but it’s really for the whole Middle East. He has chosen Lebanon for obvious reasons: because it has a strong Christian minority, almost 40%; the “infrastructure” of the Catholic Church in Lebanon allows such a visit; and also because of the openness of the Muslims in Lebanon towards these questions.

Ecumenically, it’s very important as well, to tell the Orthodox that, yes, there are slight differences between us, but also nothing really fundamental and that we want to work together.

Lastly, between Muslims and Christians, we have problems. We are fighting in a Muslim society for more liberty of conscience, which is practically unknown in their cultur]e. But we are doing so not only for us, but for the Muslims, too, who have a right to think independently of their imams.

[That's a very equivocal and dangerous way of stating what freedom of conscience is! Dissident Catholics could take it word for word and substitute 'Pope' or 'priests' for 'imams' to justify their dissidence. In the Catholic Church, the word 'conscience' is always to be considered as a 'conscience formed according to Catholic teaching'. The secularists who proclaim their 'freedom of conscience' mean that they are free to think whatever they please, including opposition to what the Church teaches. Of course, they are free to think as they please - the consequences are their own personal responsibility and no one else's - but they should not then seek to impose their 'individual conscience' on the Church, which is what the dissidents are trying to do.] ]

How likely is it that any Muslims, even extremists Muslims, will go along with that?
Extreme Muslims — Salafists — don’t agree with anything, not even with Al Azhar [University in Cairo, which is the chief center of Arabic literature and Islamic (Sunni only) learning in the world]. They have their line; they want a [worldwide!] caliphate totally under Islamic law … so, for them, dialogue is almost impossible, not even with their fellow Muslims.

Who understands the important role of Christians in Muslim societies?
Christians throughout history, particularly in the Middles Ages, but also in the 20th century, have been the motor behind the renewal of structures [in the Muslim world]. [Really????] They introduced more democracy, more openness in diplomacy, more social work and services, and in education, a total renewal of Arabic thought. This is well-known.

[With all due respect to Fr. Samir, I am confused. Christians have worked 'a total renewal of Arabic thoucht"???? How? When? If that had been so, Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture would not have been necessary at all! And what structures in Muslim society have Christians managed to change - when scuh structures are literally dictated by and established according to the Koran? I do not understand it when a journalist who does an interview with someone who has a reputation as an 'expert' or a 'scholar' does not challenge the latter when he makes statements that are at the very least questionable or badly stated! One can ask the expert for a clarification without disrespecting his reputation!]

Is the problem with the “Arab Spring” that the number of extremists are increasing, becoming the majority?
I don’t think so. A majority of people voted for the Islamists, but it does not mean that this majority is [necessarily] in favor of the Islamists - it may simply be there was no party stronger than the Islamists. The youth who started the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were divided, belonging to dozens of parties, and they were not politically organised and unified.

Take Tunisia, which is a very secular country and where Christians are almost inexistent. Islamists took power because they have the political organisation. The same thing happened in Egypt, reinforced by the large illiteracy of the population.

In Syria, I’m not so sure. Islamists are trying to take power, but the secular segment of Syria is still stronger.

Do you foresee reform in the Middle East?
I think people in the Arab world really want a change, not a change in religion, but a change in the authoritarianism of their religion, the extremism.

Al Azhar published three documents last year saying Islam means moderation, a religion of the “just middle.” It was directed against the two strongest Muslim movements, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. These movements are winning now, but for how long?

So as Christians, we have to take a longer view, to look not only at the next two years. The general movement appears headed in the direction of more democracy, liberty and equality between men and women, between Muslims and non-Muslims, and so on. But it will take some time, maybe some decades.

So you believe the Arab spring will be a good thing in the long run?
Yes, I think so. It’s now very disappointing for everyone including me, but thinking it over, it’s [the Christians’] fault: We were not able to organize ourselves politically. [Not that - in Egypt, at least - Christians ever sought to have a political organization! Can you imagine what they would havr brought on themselves if they had tried that? Whereas the Muslim Brotherhood have done nothing but organize politically and ideologically since the movement was born two decades ago. Even if the Christians of Egypt had tried - and been allowed - to organize politically after the revolution happened last year, there was no way they could have registered any significant impact when the elections were held. How can they be at fault in a society and culture where all the cards are stacked against them?]

Let’s give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance. They are not worse than the others, but we don’t want to fall into a religious dictatorial system. If they are really able to help countries socially, help people have enough to eat and have jobs, and help the country in education, in implementing a wise diplomacy, and in having good relations with everyone, not starting wars, etc., then why not? If this is the Muslim Brotherhood, then I’m in favor of them.

The main point is to accept the fact that they have the majority does not mean they have the right to decide alone. The majority means that your opinion is stronger, but you have to take account of the minority, especially when the minority is not a small one.

[One must admire Fr. Samir for being so optimistic and so charitable towards the Muslim Brotherhood. But when has an extremist Islamic government ever proven to be benevolent, or failing that, even be fairly successful in elevating their countrymen's quality of life? Or, for that matter, ever taking the minority view into account, as the good father suggests? Where does charity end and willful naivete begin? Are national interests really the priority goal of the Islamists, or is it the now more-than-ever-alive obsesssion to have Islamists take over the reins in the Muslim nations, while simultaneously carrying out all forms of asymmetric attacks to undermine the West and sweep aside any obstacles on the Islamists' road to world domination?]

Regarding the Pope’s trip overall, are you optimistic about its effects? Do you think it could be a great success?
I don’t think it’ll be a visible success. ... I think it will be very nice — people in Lebanon are happy when they meet a religious personality, certainly.

The question is how we will react. If we take this apostolic exhortation as merely a paper, and, okay, some bishops read it, this will be a failure. But if we say: This is a guideline, a program, with some suggestions, and we sit together, Christians and Muslims, and see what is good for us, what is applicable and how to apply this or that point, it will be successful.

[But that is judging the trip by the eventual pastoral effects of the Apostolic Exhortation! The Middle Eastern patriarchs and bishops know exactly what the Synod conclusions were, and if they have not yet begun to implement its actionable measures, what are they waiting for?

I don't think the trip will just be 'very nice' as Fr. Samir says, and, short of any catastrophic development, it will be a 'visible success' as a visit, as all of the Pope's apostolic trips have been.

Only the foolish would even think that a few days visit by the Pope would result in immediate visible changes in a long-established socio-cultural setting, although it is likely there will be a residual enthusiasm among the Christian communities - an enthusiasm and a readiness that their bishops and priests should avail of in order to reaffirm and implement the major messages from the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation.]

Here is an unexpectedly insightful interview with the Nuncio in Beirut, who goes beyond the usual commonplaces to underscore the dilemma of the Christian communities in unstable societies like Syria.

The Nuncio in Beirut speaks about
preparations to welcome the Pope
and the practical realities faced by
religious minorities in the Mideast

'Christians do not support authoritarian regimes as charged,
but they fear that any government collapse will lead to loss
of the civil order that guarantees mimimum conditions for survival'

Translated from the Italian service of

Sept, 12, 2012

"As it awaits the Pope, Lebanon has the occasion to recall the greatness and beauty of the country's calling - a nation in which diverse identities can live together in mutual respect".

Such is the framework in which the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Mon. Gabriele Caccia, sets the Pope's visit this weekend, with a crescendo of positive signs manifested throughout Lebanon on the eve of the Pope's arrival.

Mons. Caccia spoke to Fides news agency about the 'great expectation' not just among the Christians of Lebanon, but from all the other components of Lebanon's multi-cultural adn multi-ethnic society, evidenced most, he said, by "signs of appreciation coming to us from Sunnis, Shiites, Druses and Alawites" (referring to the four major branches of Islam in the country).

As images of Benedict XVI, along with Lebanese and Vatican flags, adorn the street of Beirut, local newspapers have been featuring the motto for the Pope's trip "My peace I give you" on front-page banners. It is a Gospel mesasge from Christ, said Mons. Caccia, "that corresponds full to the expectations of all the Lebanese people".

Besides thej exterior signs of preparation, Mons. Caccia emphasized the spiritual preparation among the Catholic communities: "All the churches in Lebanon have been holding a novena to prepare for the visit. Five major prayer vigils in five regions of the country have taken place, along with miltiple initiatives of encounter and reflection taking place in the parishes with the participation of Christians and Muslims."

This will be climaxed, he said, by a prayer vigil Wednesday night in Beirut, when two processions coming from Christian neighborhoods and two from Muslim neighborhoods will converge in the downtown park dedicated to Mary.

Pope Benedict's visit comes at a delicate moment, when the fragile political equilibrium in Lebanon is being put to the test by the civil war in Syria and the overall social unease consequent to the global economic crisis.

Mons. Caccia warned against any reductive political interpretation of what the Pope will say and do in Lebanon:

"It would be useful for everyone to consider the wide horizon of the Pope's visit, which confronts the situation of the entire Middle East (and Muslim North Africa) and not just the Lebanese situation.

"The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation which the Pope will deliver to the bishops of the region will contain suggestions and directives to be translated by the local churches in their own particular context, regarding what Christian communites can do in the fields of educastion, economics, social work, humanitarian aid, and even in politics. One must also note that great changes have taken place in the region since the Synod took place in October 2010".

Responding to insistent demands that the Holy See 'take a position' regarding the war in Syria and the other Mideast uprisings, Mons. Caccia repeated the criteria employed by the Holy See in evaluating geopolitical developments.

"One can simply refer to what the Pope has said in public about the Middle East situation, up to his words at the Angelus last Sunday. The first consideration is always the sufferings that are inflicted on the population. It needs the cooperaiton of all concerned to stop the spiral of violence and make evente evolve toward a positive outcome, under the clear leadership and initiative of the international community. The first peace initiative entrusted to Kofi Annan failed, unfortunately, but the rationale remains the same. One must realize that the situation in Syria is not entirely dependent on internal factors, that it is necessarily influenced by the overall repositioning of the axis of forces in the region".

The Nuncio also disputed the general accusation that most of the Christian communities in the Middle East have tended to support authoritarian regimes to which they are subject. He cited Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai who said: "Christians do not support authoritarian regimes, but they feat the dissolution of the State. Many are fearful that Middle Eastern societies may be heading the way of Iraq where the Iraqi people now feel a total lack of security in their daily lives. Christians fear that collapse of any government at this time will lead to the loss of that civilian order that guarantees the minimum conditions for survival".

That is why, Mons. Caccia said, however dififcult the challenge is, the international community should try all possibly ways to stop the arbitrary violence committed by all factions. "The violence spares no one. That is very clear even by looking at the refugees fleeing the war zones who belong to all the various religious and ethnic groups".
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 5:58 PM]
9/13/2012 2:59 PM
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September 12, 2012

More reflections on prayer in the Apocalypse
and a message on the eve of the trip to Lebanon

On Wednesday, the Holy Father continued his reflections on the examples of Christian prayer in the Apocalypse (Revelation), last book of the New Testament, which he began last week, once again flying to the Vatican from Castel Gandolfo to hold his weekly General Audience at the Aula Paolo VI.

Here is how he synthesized the catechesis in English:

In our continuing catechesis on prayer in the Book of Revelation, we now turn to its teaching on the importance of prayer in the Church’s pilgrimage through history.

Prayer enables us to discern the events of history in the light of God’s plan for the spread of his Kingdom. That plan is symbolized by the book closed with seven seals which only the Lamb, the crucified and risen Lord, can open.

In prayer, we see that Christ’s final victory over sin and death is the key to all history. While giving thanks for this victory, we continue to beg God’s grace for our earthly journey. Amid life’s evils, the Lord hears our prayers, strengthens our weakness, and enables us to trust in his sovereign power.

The Book of Revelation concludes with Jesus’s promise that he will soon come, and the Church’s ardent prayer "Come, Lord Jesus!". In our own prayer, and especially in our celebration of the Eucharist, may we grow in the hope of Christ’s coming in glory, experience the transforming power of his grace, and learn to discern all things in the light of faith.

I am pleased to greet the participants in the Communications Seminar sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I also welcome the priests taking part in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College.

Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Malta, India, Korea, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke God’s blessings!

He ended the audience with a message delivered in French asking for prayers for his trip to Lebanon starting Friday, and for the peoples of the Middle East.

Dear pilgrims, in two days at around this time, I will be in flight to Lebanon on an apostolic trip for which I rejoice.

It will allow me to encounter the many components of Lebanese society: civil and ecclesial authorities, Catholic faithful of various rites, other Christians, along with the Muslims and Druses of the region.

I thank the Lord for this richness which can only continue if the country lives in peace and permanent reconciliation. That is why I call on all the Christians of the Middle East, whether they are indigenous or recent arrivals, to be builders of the peace and protagonists in reconciliation.

Let us ask God to strengthen the faith of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East, and to fill them with hope. thank God for their presence in the region and I encourage solidarity in all the Church so that they can continue to bear witness to Christ in these blessed lands while seeking communion in unity.

I thank God for all the persons and all the institutions who, in many ways, are helping them in this sense. The history of the Middle East teaches us the important and often primordial role played by the different Christian communities in inter-cultural and inter-religious dialog.

Let us ask God to give this region of the world the peace that is so desired, with respect for legitimate differences. May God bless Lebanon and the Middle East! May God bless you all!

Here is a full translation of the catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday, I spoke about prayer in the first part of the Apocalypse. Today, we go to the second part of the book. While, in the first part, prayer was oriented internally towards ecclesial life, in the second part, it is directed to the whole world.

In fact, the Church journeys through history, and is part of it, according to God's plan. The assembly, listening to John's message presented by the reader, has discovered its own mission to collaborate in the progress of the Kingdom of God as "priests of God and of Christ"
(Ap 20,6; cfr 1,5; 5,10) and opens to the world of men.

There emerge two ways of dialectical relationship among them. We can define the first as 'the system of Christ', to which the assembly is happy to belong; and the second, 'the earthly anti-Kingdom and anti-Covenant system put in motion by the influence of the Evil One", who, deceiving men, wants to realize a world opposite to that desired by Christ and by God"
(cfr Pontifical Biblical Commission, 'Bibbia e Morale. Radici bibliche dell’agire cristiano], 70).

The assembly then had to know how to read in depth the history it was experiencing, learning to discern events with faith in order to collaborate, with its action, in the progress of the Kingdom of God. This task of reading and discernment, as well as that of action, is linked to prayer.

First of all, after the insistent appeal of Christ - who, in the first part of the Apocalypse, said seven times, "Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches"
(cfr Ap 2,; 3,6.13.22), - the assembly is invited to ascend to heaven to look at reality with the eyes of God. And here, we find three symbols, reference points from which to begin reading history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the book (cfr Ap 4,1 – 5,14).

The first symbol is the throne, on which is seated a figure that John does not describe because it surpasses every human description - he can only indicate the sense of beauty and joy that he experiences when finding himself in front of him.

This mysterious personage is God, almighty God who has not remained closed in his heaven but made himself close to man, entering into a covenant with him. It is God who makes himself felt in history, in a mysterious but real way, his voice symbolized by lighting and thunder.

There are various elements that appear around the throne of God, like the 24 elders and the four living creastures who incessantly praise the one Lord of history.

Thus the throne is the first symbol. The second symbol is the book, which contains the plan of God about events and men. It is hermetically closed by seven seals and no one is able to read it. In the face of this inability of man to scrutinize the plan of God, John feels a profound sadness which brings him to tears.

But there is a remedy to man's disorientation in the face of the mystery of history: someone is able to open the book and to illuminate it.

Here appears the third symbol - Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross, but who is standing, sign of his Resurrection. It is the Lamb - Christ who died and resurrected - who progressively opens the seals and reveals the plan of God, the profound meaning of history.

What do these symbols mean? They tell us how we can read the facts of history and of our own life. Raising pur gaze to God's Heaven, in constant relationship with Christ, opening our heart and our mind to him in personal and communitarian prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their truest meaning.

Prayer is like an open window that allows us to have our gaze turned to God, not just to remind us of the goal toward which we are directed, but also to let the will of God illuminate our earthly journey and help us to live it with intensity and commitment.

How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a more profound reading of history? First of all, by inviting it to consider with realism the present that we are experiencing. The Lamb then opens the first four seals of the book, and the Church sees the world into which it has been set, a world in which there are various negative elements.

There are the evils that man does, like violence, which is born from the desire to possess, to prevail over the other to the point of killing each other (second seal); or injustice, when men do not respect the laws that are given to them (third seal). Add to these the evils that man must undergo, like death, hunger, sickness (fourth seal).

In the face of these realities, which are often tragic, the ecclesial community is asked never to lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of Evil can be counteracted by the true omnipotence of God. The first seal that the Lamb breaks contains this message.

John narrates: "I looked, and there was a white horse, and its rider had a bow. He was given a crown, and he rode forth victorious to further his victories"
(Ap 6,2). The power of God has entered the history of man, and is not just able to counteract evil but of defeating it outright.

The color white recalls the Resurrection: God has made himself so near as to descend into the darkness of death to illuminate it with the splendor of his divine life. He has taken the evil of the world upon himself in order to purify the world with the fire of his love.

How can we grow in this Christian reading of reality? The Apocalypse tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each of us and in our communities. It invites us not to let ourselves be conquered by evil, but to defeat evil with good, to look towards the Crucified and Risen Christ who associates us with his victory.

The Church lives in history, it is not closed in on herself, but it courageously faces its journey amid sufferings and difficulties, affirming forcefully that evil can definitely not defeat good, darkness cannot obfuscate the splendor of God.

This is an important point for us. As Christians, we can never been pessimists. We know very well that in the journey of our life, we often encounter violence, lies, persecution, but this must not discourage us.

Above all, prayer educates us to see the signs of God, his presence and action, indeed to become ourselves the lights of goodness that spread hope and demonstrate that God triumphs.

This perspective leads us to raise thanksgiving and praise to God and the Lamb. The 24 elders and the four living creatures sing together the 'new canticle' that celebrates the work of Christ the Lamb, who will make "all things new"
(Ap 21,5).

But this renewal is first of all a gift we must ask for. Here we find another element which must characterize prayer: to invoke the Lord insistently that his Kingdom may come, that man may have a heart obedient to the lordship of God, that his will may orient our life and that of the world.

In the vision of the Apocalypse, this prayer of request is represented by an important detail: 'the 24 elders' and the 'four living creatures' are holding, besides the harp that accompanies their song, "gold bowls filled with incense"
(8b), which, it is explained, "are the prayers of the holy ones" (8a), namely, those who have already reached God, but also we who are still on the way.

We see that before the throne of God, an angel holds a thurible of gold into which he continually places grains of incense - our prayers which rise to the presence of God
(cfr Ap 8,1-4). It is a symbolism that tells us how all our prayers - with all the limitations, effort, poverty, aridity and imperfections they may have - arrive as if purified to reach the heart of God.

We can be sure, therefore, that there are no superfluous or useless prayers - no prayer gets lost. They find an answer, even if sometimes mysterious, because God is Love and infinite Mercy.

The angel, writes John, "took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake"
(Ap 8,5). This image means that God is not insensitive to our supplications, he intervenes to make his power and his voice felt on earth, it makes the system of Evil tremble and upsets it.

Often, in the face of evil, one has the sensation of not being able to do anything, but it is precisely prayer that is the first and most effective response we can give and which strengthens our daily task of spreading goodness. The power of God makes our weakness fruitful
(cfr Rm 8,26-27).

I wish to conclude with a reference to the final dialog (cfr Ap 22,6-21). Jesus says many times: "Behold, I am coming soon" (Ap 22,7.12). This affirmation does not just refer to what will happen at the end of time, but even at present: Jesus comes, dwells in whoever believes in him and welcomes him.

Thus, the assembly, guided by the Holy Spirit, repeats to Jesus its urgent request to make himself ever closer: "Come"
(Ap 22,17a). It is like the 'spouse' (22,17) who ardently looks forward to the consummation of marriage. For the third time, the invocation is repeated: "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (22,20b). And the reader concludes with an expression that manifests the sense of this presence: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all" (22,21).

The Apocalypse, even with the complexity of its symbols, involves us in a very rich prayer, so that we, too, may listen, praise, thank and contemplate the Lord, and that we may ask his forgiveness.

The book's structure as a great communitarian liturgical prayer is also a strong call to rediscover the extraordinary and transforming importance of the Eucharist. In particular, I would like to invite you strongly to be faithful to the Holy Mass on the Lord's Day, Sunday, the true center of the week.

The richness of the prayer in the Apocalypse makes us think of a diamond, which has a fascinating array of facets, but whose preciousness lies in the purity of its only central nucleus.

The suggestive forms of prayer that we find in the Apocalypse light up the unique and unsayable preciousness of Jesus Christ. Thank you.

Bottom left photo: The Holy Father with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, with whom he later had a private audience after the GA.

Now that Daylife has been closed off as a reliable source of newsphotos of papal events, I have had to resort to Vatican Radio's online thumbnail photos, which in itself has become not an easy task, since all of the various language services have now stopped running the slide show of about 8-10 photos that they used to run about each papal event, and have chosen to illustrate an event with just one photograph. Which means that for the photos posted here, I had to go into each and everyone of the language services online to pick up the individual photos (many of them use the same image, so there are not 46 different image) I have reproduced here, with poor resolution because they are all blown up from thumbnails.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 4:44 PM]
9/13/2012 4:06 PM
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Benedict XVI visits Loreto
again on October 4

Translated from the Italian service of

September 12, 2012

The program for Benedict XVI's pastoral visit to Loreto on October 4 was presented Wednesday at the headquarters of the Marche region in Ancona.

During the visit, the Pope will entrust to Our Lady of Loreto the coming General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod on the subject of the New Evangelization, and the Year of Faith which opens Oct. 11, on the 50th anniversary of the day the Second Vatican Council began.

[It will be his second visit to Loreto as Pope, the first having been for the 2008 Agora of young Italian Catholics, during which he addressed half a million young people who attended during a prayer vigil and the concluding Mass.]

"By repeating the gesture of Blessed John XXIII [who travelled to Loreto a few days before the Council opened]," said Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, the pontifical delegate to Loreto [which enjoys the status of a pontifical prelature rather than a diocese, and is therefore headed by a representative of the Pope], "Benedict XVI's pilgrimage underscores the commitment of the Church to the task of New Evangelization", as he underscored the strong theological content and historical value of the event.

"Papa Roncalli's trip to the Marche region in 1962", Mons. Tonucci said, "was the first trip outside Lazio made by a Pope since the reunification of Italy in 1860 [which led to the dissolution of the Papal States in Italy, effectively confining the Popes to the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo until after the Lateran Pacts of 1929 regularized the status of the Vatican as a sovereign state], and in doing so, he inaugurated a new season and a new style for the Successors of Peter.It is a symbolic occasion to reiterate the desire of the Church to maintain fruitful relations and full collaboration between Church and lay institutions".

The Pope is expected to arrive by helicopter from the Vatican around 10 a.m. on October 4. From the landing site, he will then travel by Popemobile to the Piazza della Madonna in front of the Basilica of the Holy House of Nazareth in Loreto, where he will celebrate Holy Mass.

He will return to Rome around 5 p.m., after a series of meetings with priests, religious and organizers of the visit.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 4:28 PM]
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Thursday, Sept. 13, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

A few historical images of Chrysostomos, one of the most depicted saints throughout history. From left: 13th-cent Russian illumination; 16th-cent Greek-Byzantine icon, between Archangels; 10th-cent apse mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul; 10th-cent apse mosaic, Antioch; apse mosaic, San Paolo fuori le Mure, Rome; late 16-cent icon, Corfu; 1430 icon attributed to Andrei Rublev.
ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (b Antioch [in present Syria], d Armenia 407), Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Benedict XVI dedicated two catecheses in Sept. 2006 to this great saint starting on 9/19/07:


No events announced for the Holy Father.

The Press Office posted Fr. Lombardi's statement yesterday [posted on this page from a Vatican Radio online report] about the killing of the American ambassador and three other American embassy staff in Benghazi.
However, the statement was issued before the facts of the Libya assassinations were known. It now appears to be a well-planned Al-Qaeda retaliation for the drone killing of their #2 man last June in Pakistan, a retaliation deliberately carried out on the anniversary of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks in the USA. Fr. Lombardi's sentiments about respect for all religions does not apply to the Libya killings, because it refers to the immediate cause of the mob attack on the US embassy in Cairo hours before the Libya killings, namely, outrage over a YouTube video produced by an Israeli American that allegedly mocks Islam and blasphemes Mohammed. This video is now used as a blanket pretext for the other attacks or demonstrations that have taken place against US embassies in Yemen and Tunisia, as if any government anywhere - or any agency, for that matter - had the means and the ability to completely control what anyone places online. Not even Communist China can do it.

P.S. The Press Office did release a second statement today, Sept. 13, by Fr. Lombardi which clears up the equivocation about the motive for the Libyan attack implied in the first statement:

The very serious attack organised against the United States diplomatic mission in Libya, which led to the death of the ambassador and of other functionaries, calls for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See. Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organisations and homicidal violence.

Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express the hope that, despite this latest tragedy, the international community may discover the most favourable ways to continue its commitment in favour of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East.

One year ago today...
Two rabidly anti-Church victim advocacy groups in the United States, including the in famous SNAP, in a move
dutifully reported by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times, filed a complaint urging the International Criminal
Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes
against humanity, for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children
by priests.

It was not the first time such a complaint was filed with the ICC, which has, however, never accepted any, simply because it does not fall within its mandate to to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity [genuine ones!] and genocide. Moreover, the complaints' legal basis for accusing the Pope and top Vatican officials was the position that local priests are employees of the Vatican, an opinion that was recently thrown out by a US federal judge.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 8:56 PM]
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As the 50th anniversary of Vatican-II's beginning approaches, and with it the start of the Year of Faith, we can be pretty sure our faith will be assailed and tested constantly and annoyingly by articles like this. which look at Vatican II through pink eyeglasses while consigning the Church to herself to 'irrelevance' insofar as it has not taken up the progressivist positions [and God grant, never will!]. At least, this article incorporates views by staunchly orthodox representatives of the Church in Australia like Cardinal George Pell and lay theologian Tracey Rowland, in addition to the writer's smug reaffirmation of the most common and fallacious progressivist assumptions...

The Vatican's very own revolution
by Barney Zwartz

Sept. 11, 2012

The Vatican II council, which began 50 years ago next month, was the most momentous religious event in 450 years.

On January 25, 1959, the newly elected Pope John XXIII invited 18 cardinals from the Vatican bureaucracy to attend a service at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. He told them he planned to summon a global church council. The horrified cardinals were speechless, which the Pope mischievously chose to interpret as devout assent.

But, in reality, the Vatican bureaucrats, known as the Curia, were aghast. The Pope, 77, had been elected purely as a caretaker, but here he was indulging a novel, unpredictable, dangerous and, above all, they believed, unnecessary notion.

In their view it would create ungovernable expectations and might even lead to changes. And if there were to be changes - always undesirable - then the Curia would manage them without any outside intervention, as they had for centuries.

They regrouped and fought back. If they could not avoid the council, then they would control it. They proposed 10 commissions controlled by Curia members to run the council, which would discuss 70 documents prepared by the Curia. Everything was designed to reinforce the status quo.

But the world's bishops, led by a generation of outstanding European theologians, were in no mood to submit. They simply sidestepped the careful preparation and arranged their own agendas.

The Curia were right to worry. What Pope John unleashed, now known as Vatican II, was the most momentous religious event since Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation 450 years earlier.

''It was a revolution,'' says American theologian John Markey. ''It was the most fundamental shift in self-understanding by the Church in 1500 years. It is not over yet.''

The winds of change proved more like a tornado, leaving almost nothing untouched. It is difficult for people under 60 to grasp how radical, how wide-ranging, and how deep the effects were because they do not remember the Church as it was before the council - "frozen in a time warp", as Jesuit priest Gerald O'Collins told The Age. [That is, of course, the progressivist view that saw nothing good whatsoever in the Church before 1965 and the end of Vatican II. Surely, a Church that has continued to produce great saints, from the 16th-century Counter-Reformation onwards; and that, as a human institution, has survived all the attacks that modernity could wage against her - from the Reformation itself to the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution and the radical secularism of the Age of Enlightenment that has persisted to our day - could not have been all that bad!.. Speaking as a fairly average Catholic raised in the faith, I thank God continually for this gift of faith rooted in 200 years of Tradition, and I do not doubt that hundreds of millions among the world's 1.2 billion Catholics feel the same way - as majority of the pre-Vatican II generation must have felt.]

Pope John intended the Church to emerge from behind the battlements, lower the drawbridge and engage with the modern world. The most obvious and visible change for Catholics in the pew was worship in their own language rather than in Latin, with the priest now facing them rather than the altar, plus an affirmation of the role of laypeople.

But there were other profound developments such as a willingness to engage with other churches, even other faiths, a renewed focus on social justice, and a decentralised approach to authority in the Church.

Today, as religious culture wars between traditionalists and progressives rack the Church in the West, Vatican II has become the key battlefield. Both sides want to define and control the council's legacy.

Progressives accuse traditionalists, who have had the huge political advantage of having the past two Popes among their number, of trying to wind back the liberalising reforms by stifling important debates and reimposing a strict top-down control of both practice and belief.

Traditionalists counter that progressives want the Church to conform to the ever-changing spirit of the times. ''Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) has said they treated the church as if it were a haberdashery shop that has to update its window with the arrival of every new fashion season,'' says theologian Tracey Rowland, dean of Melbourne's John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

''For my generation, this meant we had to sit around in class holding hands and singing Kumbaya. It was gruesome, especially for anyone intellectually inclined.''

That understanding of Vatican II ''wrecked the faith of a generation'', Rowland says. ''While Catholics were trying desperately to be modern, the rest of the world was becoming bored with modernity and turning postmodern.''

Others found the Council and its fruits inspirational. For Bob Dixon, a teenager in Ballarat in the late 1960s, it connected his faith with the world.

He was a child of the pre-Vatican II Church, with its fixed certainties and emphasis on sin and grace, now often condemned as a fear-based approach to religion. ''But I suddenly began to see that faith was about life and the world and society and social justice,'' says Dixon, now one of the Australian church's most important laypeople in his position as head of the national Pastoral Projects Office.

Young Australian priests who were in Rome for some of the sessions, such as George Pell - now Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney - and Michael Costigan, who began his later career as a journalist by posting home reports, were swept up in the enthusiasm.

Catholic confidence was high, Pell recalls. ''It was an enormously exciting time, a time of great intellectual ferment. We were caught up in this great movement of reform, and we were wildly over-optimistic.''

At the time, Costigan remembers, it was not only the Curia who doubted the need for a council. Things seemed pretty good: the seminaries were full and so were the churches.

But the whole world was about to tilt on its axis. As Dixon observes, the council came at a time of huge social change: the rise of feminism, the sexual revolution, the shifting focus from community to individualism, a different attitude to authority and vastly greater opportunities for education.

''It happened just in time to enable the Australian church to ride out that turbulent time in the 1960s and '70s,'' he says.

Cardinal Pell says: ''It changed the life of the Church. It was an immense achievement. The change was not doctrinal but pastoral. When I speak to young Turks today who look back fondly to an idyllic church before the council, I point out some changes we take for granted.''

THE council met in four sessions from 1962 to 1965, and produced 16 documents, each a treatise - a manifesto, even - setting out the Church's thinking and future direction in a specific area.

Where before the church's official position was that all other churches were in schism and must return to Rome, the new stance emphasised dialogue and reconciliation. [But it's the same goal - Christian reunification - this time, to be pursued with a specified approach, not just as a vague prospect for a remote future!] .On other religions, the Church for the first time welcomed what was ''good and true'' in them.

There was a renewed emphasis on social justice as part of the Christian life alongside personal piety, and laypeople were explicitly recognised as having a central role in the mission of the church. Vatican authority was reduced in favour of a greater autonomy for local bishops and a more collegial approach.

Pell identifies as particular advances the greater leadership role for bishops and also laypeople, whether on parish councils or church schools or welfare agencies.

''The introduction of ecumenism (openness to other churches) has been a wonderful blessing, even in Australia. Old Catholic-Protestant antagonisms have largely disappeared, and the tension now is between the Judaeo-Christian view and non-religious and occasionally anti-religious views.''

For Gerald O'Collins, back in Melbourne after 32 years teaching at Rome's Gregorian University - where he taught what are effectively a fifth of today's bishops and a third of the cardinals - the most important advances involved other religions and social justice.

''No council until [Vatican II] ever said a nice thing about Jews, Muslims or Buddhists. I can't tell you how much I welcomed the very short document on other religions.

''The Church in the Modern World led to justice and peace commissions around the world, and inspired people. In Rome I taught people who died for justice and peace in Africa and Central America. Maybe they would have done it anyway, but Vatican II gave it a major push. Justice and peace is not something you also do, it's at the heart of the faith.''

The increasing involvement of laypeople may have made the Church's leadership uncomfortable, says Sydney theologian Neil Ormerod, but they have had to come to terms with it. Even theological education is increasingly in the hands of laypeople like himself.

''This is a development the hierarchy doesn't know what to do with. Lay theologians aren't under their control in the same way priests are. Nor do lay theologians necessarily have the same depth of spiritual formation and Catholic identity. [And isn't there something inherently and appallingly wrong in that? That persons who admittedly lack "the depth of spiritual formation and Catholic identity" should be largely in charge of educating Catholics, including seminarians?] Here at the Australian Catholic University we'd have about 40 theologians, of whom only three or four are priests.''

Over the half-century since Vatican II, the Church hierarchy has wound back many of these radical changes, believing they have gone too far. This has led to the modern culture wars over such issues as authority and democracy, celibacy and married priests, the role of women and issues of sexuality. [What an outrageously false statement, considering that none of the issues brought up were ever advocated or specifically 'ruled upon' by Vatican II! What measures actually proposed in the Vatican II documents have been rolled back? None! And the progressivists cannot cite Benedict XVI's concrete moves on the liturgy, because none of what he has done contradicts the Vatican II decree on liturgy - it is the progressivists who have openly ignored what Sacramentum Concilium specifically says about the use of Latin and appropriate music in Church, and who have introduced the ad-populum Mass celebrated as a communal meal and social occasion rather than as a re-creation of Christ's sacrifice - yet none of their innovations were decreed by Vatican II!]

A recent example is the introduction of new English texts for worship, reinforcing the Vatican view of what worship should be, an imposition resented by many.

[Again, a fallacious generalization. The new English text improves the previous slapdash colloquial rendition of the Mass that was never meant to be the permanent version, since it was hastily cobbled together in the general rush to overhaul the Mass overnight in 1969-1970! An improved translation has nothing to do with 'the Vatican view of what worship should be', even if the Church has every right to be vigilant over the liturgy and the discipline of Sacraments!

This irrational hostility to a translation that is not just faithful to the Latin reference edition but also uses language that is appropriate for divine worship rather than being pedestrian, all goes back to this progressivist idea that 'individual freedom' means that everyone can do as he pleases, which drops the very concept of discipline, a fundamental element in the practice of any faith. To begin with, the Holy Mass, which is the basic liturgy of the Church, cannot be a 'do-it-yourself' affair.It is a ritual that must follow a specific form, language and rubrics. Rituals are not meant to be improvised, altered. diminished or adorned - they would not be rituals, otherwise. To say that anyone should be free to use his preferred translation of the Mass over the official translation is just silly. The old discarded translation was the official one for decades - was the public asked at the time if they were in favor of the translation? No! It was simply imposed on them. Defenders of the old translation are simply defending habit, regardless of objective merit.]

Cardinal Pell, a leading conservative, dismisses the culture wars as all but won. ''There are pockets of idiosyncratic and possibly cranky resistance, and everything is not nailed down even now, but the battle is over. The real challenge now is to hand on the faith to young people and resist the rise of anti-religion.''

Progressives admit their cause is in decline at the Vatican, largely because the Pope appoints the bishops, and the last two Popes, covering 34 years, have been careful to favour conservatives who won't rock the boat. [They won't rock the boat because they believe in the firm course set for it - they believe in the rightness of what the Church teaches as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which incorporates the teachings of Vatican II) and faithfully followed by the Magisterium of the Popes, and not as interpreted by any Tom-Dick-and-Harry theologian who is the latest toast of liberal salons.]

The progressives say the real life of the Church is in the parishes (and welfare agencies), and that the bishops and even the Pope are largely unseen and irrelevant. [Yada, yada, yada! All this rejection of a higher authority is emblematic of putting oneself above God, in the case of parishioners and social workers whose motivation to do good is tainted by their Pharisaic vanity and self-serving interests.]

Conservatives in contrast tend to look to Rome as custodian of Catholic belief and practice. [But any religion has to have a central custodian and defender of the faith! Parishes and Catholic welfare institutions continue to be guided by the doctrine of the Church - functionally, they are autonomous, but doctrinally, they are not! The way the article writer puts it, one would think that parishes and welfare agencies were equivalent to bishops in their own domain.]

Melbourne publisher of religious books Garry Eastman regrets that the momentum for change has dissipated. ''People like myself in their 60s and 70s who lived through it see that the reform really stopped. There is no room for the free discussion that took place after Vatican II on the implications of science or biblical research. None of that has flowed down to the local level.'' [Excuse me??? If he publishes religious books, surely Eastman would be aware of the flood of literature in the past five decades relating science and Biblical research to religion - even if his partisanship may blind him deliberately to what various Vatican agencies themselves have been doing pro-actively in this regard! And shame on the article writer who does not challenge such a blatantly false affirmation.]

Robert Blair Kaiser, who covered the council for Time magazine, suggests that ''rather than whine over what daddy won't let us do'', Catholics should be grateful for what the Council did achieve, and build on that themselves.

''It has given us a new view of ourselves. It's made us more free, more human and more at the service of a world that Jesus loved. It has given us a new view of the Church. It's our church, not the Pope's church, or the bishops' church, or a priest's church. It has given us a new view of our place in it. We can think, we can speak, we can act as followers of Jesus in a world that needs us.''

[Such brave and high-minded thoughts! But no, Mr. Kaiser, the Church is not 'our Church' or anybody else's, but the Church of Christ, who named Peter and the Apostles - and by extension, their successors - to guide his Church in the way he taught. Not even the greatest of saints presumed to think that they were above and beyond the Church, that they could think for themselves entirely and not pay heed to the Church as constituted by Christ. Indeed what distinguishes the saints other than their personal grace and holiness is that they unquestioningly respected and upheld the Church as Christ's Mystical Body, the institution that prolongs his presence in history, even when they were themselves the subject of injustice by members of the Church. It is a continuing wonder that none of this has ever occurred to the progressivists and dissenters who want the Church to be what they think it ought to be, to remake the Church of Christ as they want it to be, into their very own personal and individual 'church', unanchored to Revelation, Tradition and the communion of saints.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 11:28 PM]
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There may be an unjustified new wave of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world these days - in which the US government is irrationally blamed for the entirely free personal action of one American citizen who made an allegedly anti-Islam film - but judging from all the reports coming from Lebanon, the hostility is not spilling over in any way to Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives in Beirut tomorrow.

The Muslim world was, of course, artificially inflamed by selective media reporting of the Pope's Regensburg lecture seven years ago, provoking demonstrations over several days with the Pope's effigy being burned in many Muslim cities (and sadly, an Italian nun was killed by demonstrators in Mogadishu, Somalia). But that did not stop the Pope from visiting Turkey six weeks after the lecture. Massive protests were planned during his visit but did not materialize, and he ended up captivating even the hostile Turkish media after his spontaneous gesture of pausing in silence beside an imam in front of the prayer wall at Istanbul's Blue Mosque.

And his first and only visit so far to a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority was, by all accounts, a success. So much so that the Turkish religious affairs minister who had been the first major Muslim leader to denounce the Regensburg lecture contributed a few years later to a book in which prominent people recount how their personal encounter with Benedict XVI had affected them for the better.

So, as we continue to pray for the success of this visit, for the peoples of the Middle East and for the health and safety of our beloved Pope, let us be grateful that Benedict XVI is given this chance to be a sign of hope that many in the Middle East are looking to at a time of great uncertainty and difficulty.

Christians and Muslims join
in prayer vigil for the Pope

Sept. 13, 2012

The sign reads: "Christians and Muslims - no one will separate us".

Thousands of Christians and Muslims gathered in Beirut’s “Garden of Mary” Wednesday evening to invoke the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to their country. The Pope is due to arrive in the capital on a three day visit this Friday. Tracey McClure sent this report from Lebanon:

If you didn’t know Pope Benedict was coming to Lebanon you might be forgiven – especially if you’re not Christian or from these parts. But once you arrive in Beirut, especially at the international airport, you can’t fail to miss the posters with close ups of the smiling Pope and messages welcoming him in Arabic, French, English and Italian. Messages like “Pax vobis,” Latin for “peace be with you”.

And that is the message that Pope Benedict will be bringing with him to this region, so full of hope and desire for change from the Arab Spring yet so troubled by conflict and rife with mistrust and misunderstanding between people of different ethnic groups and religious faiths.

But ever the land of contrasts, Lebanon offers a very different picture. Despite lingering tensions since its 1975-1990 civil war, the country’s 18 major religious groups generally respect each other and enjoy similar civil rights and freedoms.

Here in Beirut Wednesday night, thousands turned out for another kind of demonstration: one of love and hope as Muslims joined Christians to pray and entrust to Our Lady Pope Benedict’s weekend visit.

Crossing the wartime Green Line, the site of bitter and bloody battles between them, Christians and Muslims found themselves together, praying and calling for a different future where barriers such as these will remain only vague memories.

Tracey McClure later spoke to the Apostolic Nuncio in Beirut, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia:

“Yesterday in Beirut, Christians and Muslims came together to pray -that’s the best answer that Lebanon could give to the situation around the region and the whole world these days”, says Pope Benedict XVI’s representative in Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia.

The Nuncio reflected on Lebanon’s role as a message of peaceful coexistence between people of different religious and cultural backgrounds in the one nationhood.

What are your hopes regarding the situation in Syria today?
The Holy Father has intervened many times over the past months and even recently on Sunday, saying. "Stop the violence!" That’s the first measure needed for the people. We can’t just look at what’s going on, without trying to do something. There is a tragic humanitarian situation that needs to be addressed and the Holy Father is asking everyone to stop the violence.

And to find a way through dialogue is the answer to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria in a way which also gives guarantees to all its components for a better society. Of course the situation in Syria depends also on the balance of powers in the region and the good will of the international community as a whole.

We know that there is a new distribution of powers in this region and so, unless all the actors on the international, regional and local levels take part, there will be no answer to the situation in Syria.

Pope John Paul used to call Lebanon “a message of pluralism and coexistence among peoples of different faiths”… yet the country has struggled with tensions remaining from its civil war years and from outside pressures… What future do you hope to see for the Land of the Cedars?
The message of Blessed John Paul II came after a long experience of division, but recalling the long, long tradition of Lebanon, of respect, of freedom. And so when he said the famous sentence “Lebanon is more than a message, both for the West and the East,” he was stating the main mission of this country.

Even now Lebanon has learned from its own suffering and divisions that in civil conflicts, no one is a winner, everyone is a loser. That is why even in this difficult moment for the region, Lebanon is trying to find the unity to respond positively to the situation, while avoiding conflicts among each other.

It is very important for Lebanon to be seen as an example of a country where diversity and communion are possible at all levels of society. The President of this country is Christian – the only one in the whole region. The deputy and his ministers are half Muslims, half Christians. There is no discrimination. That’s the beauty of Lebanon: diversity, respect, freedom and unity”.

Voices of hope raised these days come especially from Christian religious leaders in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

Maronite Patriarch calls for
a 'Christian spring' in the Mideast

“The language of hatred and violence, both regionally and internationally, will never bring about a new spring, only the opposite,” says Patriarch of the Maronie Church based in Lebanon, Beshara Boutros al-Rai.

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in Lebanon for a widely anticipated three-day apostolic visit, the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the Land of the Cedars spoke to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure about the focal point of this Papal trip: The Churches of the Middle East and how they can and must contribute to a future of peace in the region.

“I think the Apostolic Exhortation is a gift of Divine Providence in this difficult moment. It will present a series of challenges confronting the Christians of the region and propose some solutions and a way to proceed”, he said.

Patriarch Rai says that the Muslim community is also “very enthusiastic about the Pope’s visit. “The Pope will help bring the dawn of peace to the region. But the real Arab Spring will arrive as the fruit of a Christian Spring and we can help to achieve this through communion and witness to love”.

“This is a region torn by conflict and war and this exhortation will present a new way of presenting positive solutions to the conflict and political tensions. It is important that the Church speaks a language of peace, dialogue and understanding, because the Arab world only hears the language of hatred and violence both regionally and internationally, unfortunately. Violence and war will never bring about a new Spring. Only the opposite”.

Tracey McClure also interviewed Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the leader of the Syrian Catholic Church of the Antiochian Tradition whose Patriarchal See is based in Lebanon.

The Patriarch offered a brief overview of this Church which originated in Syria, whose people are experiencing one of the darkest chapters in this nation's history.

"Until what the West likes to call the Arab Spring, Christians were living in Syria relatively in peace, their Church was respected in the same way as other Churches because there was a secular regime in place..."

The Patricarch then highlights how despite this relatively peaceful situation, Middle East Christians outrside of Lebanon never enjoyed full citizenship privileges as the Muslim majority.

Now, following the upheavals inthe Arab world since earlyy 2011, the Patriarch says there is great concern not just for Syriac cAtholoics but for all Christians across Syria: "We are really frightened that another exodus like the one we witnessed in Iraq will take place in Syria.."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/13/2012 11:22 PM]
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Beirut puts finishing touches
as it prepares to welcome the Pope

Sept. 13, 2012

BEIRUT - The committees tasked with making preparations for the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI announced Wednesday that they were putting the finishing touches on plans, while providing instructions for those who wish to participate in the weekend’s events.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati hailed the Pope’s visit as historic and expressed hope that it would signal a return to partnership.

“All Lebanese, Christians and Muslims are awaiting the arrival of His Holiness on Friday, and everyone trusts that his visit will bring good and peace as well as a return to true partnership between the peoples of the East,” Mikati said at the start of Wednesday’s Cabinet session.

“This session is being held two days before the historic event which we will witness for Pope Benedict XVI’s three-day visit to announce the apostolic exhortation for the Christians of the Middle East.”

Bishop Camille Zeidan, president of the Church’s Central Coordination Committee, said that “preparations for the visit are almost complete.”

Speaking at a news conference held in Beirut by the ministerial committee and the church committee assigned to the organize the visit, Zeidan outlined a number of ways members of the public can participate in the visit.

“We call on churches to ring their bells at 1:45 p.m. [Friday, corresponding to the time of the Pope’s arrival in Beirut],” he said, “and ask that at 8 p.m. that evening Lebanese place candles of white and yellow on their balconies to welcome the Pope.”

Pope Benedict XVI will sign the apostolic exhortation Friday evening at St. Paul’s Basilica in Harissa.

Environment Minister Nazim Khouri, a member of the ministerial committee, described the signing of the document as particularly significant, given the regional turmoil.

“There is no doubt that the fires ranging around us and their implications make this apostolic exhortation a historic event,” Khouri said.

“The call to adopt dialogue and commit to reconciliation which the Pope made a few days ago is the needed mechanism to begin implementing the apostolic exhortation.”

The signing of the apostolic exhortation comes two years after a special assembly on the Middle the Roma Catholic Bishops Synod.

“The Lebanese are being called on, now more than ever, to be deserving of the trust that his holiness has placed in them,” Khouri added.

The Pope will meet Saturday morning with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker Nabih Berri in Baabda and with Muslim leaders, including ministers, lawmakers and intellectuals.

In the afternoon, the Pope will have lunch at the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and in the evening he will meet with youth in Bkerke, seat of the Maronite Catholic Church.

Sunday will see an open-air mass at Beirut’s Waterfront. “We hope there will be a large turnout to receive the Pope, who will arrive in his popemobile from Jounieh,” Zeidan said.

“We call on participants to take their seats before His Holiness arrives,” he added, advising members of the public to arrive by 8 a.m. and officials before 9 a.m. Mass will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m. Only Lebanese and Vatican flags will be flown at the Mass.

“Preparations for the visit started last March and a large number of people have worked to make the visit successful,” Zeidan said.

For his part, Col. Mohammad Ayoubi, who heads Beirut’s traffic police, explained the measures that will be taken for the visit.

Cars will be prohibited from parking from noon to 10 p.m. and will not be allowed to drive after 6 p.m. on Abdallah Yafi Avenue from the Barbir bridge to the Adlieh tunnel, as well as the Damascus Road from the Buick company to St. Joseph University. Traffic will be diverted to side streets.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Omar Bakri in Tripoli has come out against the papal visit over comments Pope Benedict XVI made in 2006 linking Islam to violence. Most Muslim leaders in the country have welcomed the visit.

In response to a question on why the church would not issue a strongly worded response to Bakri, Zeidan said it was not the job of the church to silence people. “We live in a democratic state, and we are not oppressive and will not silence people. We all know Sheikh Bakri’s past but the Church does not call for legal prosecution – that’s for the state to decide.”

The bishop also stressed that the Church does not involve itself in politics or take part in disputes.

Patriarch Beshara Rai will hold a news conference Thursday in Bkerke, to answer details about the Pope’s visit and to tell the public how they can best take part in Sunday's papal Mass.

Pope’s Lebanon visit made urgent by Syria’s war
and anti-US protests throughout the Middle East

By Victor L. Simpson

Waterfront site of the Papal Mass on Sunday; right, workers prepare the altar for the Mass.

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 13 (AP) — The brutal civil war in Syria and this week’s slaying of the U.S. ambassador to Libya have given a sense of urgency to Pope Benedict XVI’s trip this week to Lebanon, a mission he describes as a pilgrimage of peace for the entire region.

The three-day visit starting Friday will take the Pope to the nation with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East — nearly 40 percent of Lebanon’s 4 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect.

The Vatican stressed Benedict’s push for inter-faith dialogue in the wake of Ambassador Chris Stevens’s death at the hands of a mob enraged by a film that ridicules Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The papal visit comes amid fears that Syria’s conflict might spill over to Lebanon. Clashes in Lebanon between Syrian groups over the past months have claimed the lives of more than two dozen people and left scores wounded. The Christian community in Lebanon is divided between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Among Assad’s supporters is former prime minister and army commander Michel Aoun, a strong ally of the militant Hezbollah group. Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah welcomed the visit, describing it as “extraordinary and historic.”

“I am not unaware of the often dramatic situation endured by the populations of this region which has been torn for too long by incessant conflict,” Benedict said in his weekly remarks to pilgrims Sunday. He assured them the visit “comes under the sign of peace.”

Lebanese authorities are enacting stringent security measures, suspending weapons permits except for politicians’ bodyguards and confining the visit to central Lebanon and the northern Christian areas.

Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have recently urged their citizens not to visit Lebanon because of security concerns over the recent violence.

But the Pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters this week that the trip has never been in question and that Benedict has made clear he expects to be warmly welcomed. The government has declared Saturday an official holiday in Benedict’s honor and given the day off to tens of thousands of workers and students so they can greet him.

Benedict, the third Pope to visit Lebanon after Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 1997, will be addressing concerns by the region’s bishops over the plight of Christians in the Middle East. War, political instability and economic hardships have driven thousands from their traditional communities dating to early Christianity in the Holy Land, Iraq and elsewhere.

Some clerics in the region have blamed the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories; others have said the rise of “political Islam” has become a threat to their well-being.

The turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring has deeply unsettled the Middle East’s Christian population, which fears being in the cross-fire of rival Muslim groups.

The 85-year-old Benedict is likely to get a full briefing on the region’s problems when he meets with Lebanese political and religious leaders and his own bishops from the region.

Newsphoto agencies say these photos show welcome signs for the Pope put up by Hezbollah, distinct from the official papal visit images that have festooned Beirut for days now.

Vatican spokesman Lombardi did not rule out that the Pope would meet some supporters of Hezbollah [as part of the Muslim delegation he will offially meet, not as members of Hezbollah per se], a Shiite militant group that has risen steadily over the decades from anti-Israel resistance group into Lebanon’s most powerful military and political force. The U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Lombardi declined to say what the Vatican’s position is on the group.

Syria’s Assad is a crucial ally of Hezbollah and Iran its most important patron.

Lombardi said Benedict may also meet with Syrian refugees, but it is not confirmed. The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that the number of Syrian refugees seeking its help now tops a quarter-million, with at least 66,915 in Lebanon.

The main public event of the visit is Mass on Sunday on the Beirut waterfront.

The Lebanese army has imposed a 10-day ban on gliding over the coastal town of Jounieh and the mountain area of Harissa and its surroundings. Harissa, famous for its giant statue of the Virgin Mary, is the site of the Vatican ambassador’s residence, where Benedict will reside.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/14/2012 4:44 AM]
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Believe it or not, someone has found a new angle to report on the Vatileaks story, which has been dormant for a couple of weeks now. At least, this item offers some concrete information - not just idle speculation - about the investigative process conducted by the three cardinals named by the Holy Father to conduct an administrative inquiry.

Cardinals' report on Vatileaks:
An overview on how the Curia functions
and how documents are managed

But did they find any culprits?

Translated from the Italian service of

The three cardinals named by Benedict XVI last March to pursue an administrative inquiry into the Vatileaks mess submitted a voluminous dossier to the Pope, largely made up of transcripts of more than a hundred of their three-on-one sessions with Vatican functionaries including laymen.

According to well-informed sources at the Vatican, the testimonies reportedly present a careful and detailed overview of how documents sent to the Pope are managed by his personal secretaries, and more in general, the communications flow to and from the Secretariat of State.

The dossier has been on the Pope's desk since late July, and many have been curious about what it contains, which has remained confidential.

The ongoing criminal investigation into Vatileaks - it has concluded so far only with indicting ex-valet Paolo Gabriele for aggravated theft (as being the easiest to establish of all the potential crimes committed), the resulting image of the Vatican as a giant sieve leaking confidential documents, and the pending trial of Gabriele, dictate continuing silence from the Vatican about the cardinals' report.

Obviously, Pope Benedict himself does not think it is the right time to disclose the conclusions drawn by the 'parallel inquiry' carried out by the three cardinals.

Our sources said that for each person the cardinal questioned, only the full name and position of the person precedes an exact transcript of the questions asked and the answers given, thus providing the most objective scheme to present their findings. It is also characteristic of the linear systematic procedure favored by Cardinal Julian Herranz, the canonist president of the three-man commission, who once headed the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

The cardinals' questions were structured to get a clear picture not just of communications within the Curia, but the mechanisms by which the Curia itself functions. They did seek to establish, in particular, the trajectory of documents going both ways between the Pope's study and the Secretariat of State.

The Pope's personal secretariat was particularly scrutinized to find out how communications to the Pope are managed and the ways by which persons can get access to the Pope. [All very well, except that Vatileaks turned out to be mainly the most inside of inside jobs - by the person who had the greatest private access to the Pope day in and day out!]

The cardinals' inquiry, it is said, provides the Pope not just with information regarding Vatileaks, but with information on any aspects of the Curial environment, internal relationships within it, and the general flow of documents and information within the Vatican.

The three cardinals - Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore Di Giorgi - are said to favor even an eventual publication of their report.

But of course, everything depends on the Pope, who is unlikely to do anything about it, for all the reasons previously cited, until after Gabriele's trial.
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A journalist blogger who works out of Beirut devoted a column and about 20 photos to what he calls 'Popemania in Beirut'. Call it what you will, but in seven years of following every papal visit abroad or to Italian cities, I have never seen - through newsphotos - quite the extent and the magnitude of the welcome that Beirut has laid out for Benedict XVI. And if we didn't see this in the coverage of his previous trips abroad, it's probably because no one else had given the Pope this kind of welcome treatment before.

I thought it worthwhile to round up all the images I could (in previous trips, I had to make do with (at most) a dozen or so newsphotos of public manifestations of the Pope's image - but Beirut is positively and wonderfully blitzed with Benedict's smiling countenance on a giant scale. Enjoy....

Starting with these taken from the Muslim quarter of Beirut... The photo on the right shows the Papal banner hanging fron a multi-story building, one of many such gigaposters around Beirut.

An unexplained jarring note in the left photo is a poster of the Iranian Shiite leader Al-Sadr mixed up among the Benedict posters!

The official site for the Papal Visit has an excellent compendium of materials that provides a primer on the country and all of the aspects relevant to the visit.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/14/2012 5:41 AM]
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Friday, Sept. 14, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Illustrations, from left: Crucifixion, El Greco, 1597; Exaltation, two Greek Orthodox icons, undated; Exaltation, 12th-cent. mosaic, apse of San Clemente Church, Rome; St Helena and the Cross, St. Peter's Basilica; Crucifixion, Giotto, 1316.
The True Cross is said to have been discovered in 326 by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, Helena of Constantinople, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later. The date of the feast marks the dedication of the Church - although the actual consecration of the church was on September 13, the cross itself was brought outside the church on September 14 so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate it.

Five years ago today, Benedict XVI's landmark motu proprio Summorum Pontificum went into effect,
on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, revalidating the full liturgical status in the Church
of the traditional Mass celebrated universally before the liturgical reform of 1970.

The Holy Father left Rome for Beirut this morning as scheduled.


TO LEBANON, September 14-16, 2012

Signing and Publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
on the October 2010 Special Assembly of the Bishops' Synod on the Middle East


Friday, Sept. 14


09.30 Departure from Ciampino Airport, Rome, for Beirut.


13.45 Arrival in Beirut

Rafiq Hariri International Airport
- Address by the Holy Father

The Holy Father will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature in Harissa.


18.00 Visit to the Basilica of St. Paul
- Address by the Holy Father

Saturday, Sept. 15


08.00 Private Mass


Presidential Palace at Baabda
Separate private meetings with the President of the Republic,
the President of Parliament, and
the President of the Council of Ministers

Hall of the Ambassadors, Presidential Palace

May 25 Commemorative Hall, Presidential Palace
- Address by the Holy Father.


13.30 Lunch with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon,
Members of the Special Council for the Middle East
of the Bishops'Synod, and the papal delegation
Refectory of the Catholic Armenian Patriarchate


Piazza facing the Maronite Patriarchate
- Address by the Holy Father

Sunday, Sept. 16


and Handover of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Beirut city center waterfront
- Homily by the Holy Father
- ANGELUS prayers
- Remarks by the Holy Father.


13.20 Lunch with the papal delegation
Apostolic Nunciature

16.50 Farewell from the Nunciature


Salon d'Honneur, Syro-Catholic Patriarchate


Rafiq Hariri International Airport
- Address by the Holy Father

19.00 Departure for Rome


21.40 Arrival at Ciampino Airport

NB: Beirut is one hour ahead of Rome.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/14/2012 11:17 AM]
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An overview of the places
the Pope will be visiting

Places on the Holy Father;s Lebanon program other than Beirut are Harissa, Baabda, Bzommar, Bkerké, and Charfet. (All are located within 10-30 miles from Beirut).

Other than Beirut and Harissa, the other place names are not indicated on the map because they are not population centers. Baabda is east of Beirut and south of Harissa, while Bzommar, Bkerke and Charfet are all slightly northwest of Harissa (nearer the sea. Right photo shows the location of St Paul's Cathedral and the Shrine to our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa.

Harissa is a mountain location a few miles inland from the capital, looking down on the Mediterranean. It is the site of the Apostolic Nunciature, where the Pope will be staying, as well as two major churches.

The first is the Melkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul, where, on the afternoon of his arrival, the Holy Father will sign his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that formally summarizes the Special Synodal Assembly on the Middle East held in October 2010.

The other is the Maronite Catholics' modern shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon, with its giant statue of the Virgin. (For some reason, a visit to the shrine is not on the program at all, although the Holy Father is staying in Harissa.)

The following day, Saturday, Benedict XVI will hold a number of meetings at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, also an exurb of Beirut. [Like the location of the Nunciature in Harissa, this probably makes sense since Beirut itself was the center of fighting during Lebanon's long civil war.] The government of Lebanon is treating this as a state visit.

The Pope will be holding a series of meetings with the President of Lebanon, the President of Parliament, the Prime Minister, other government authorities, the diplomatic corps and representatives of Beirut's world of culture, and leaders of the Muslim communities.

The rest of the Pope's appointments involves visits to the seats of the three othermajor Catholic communities of the Eastern rite in Lebanon.

On Saturday, he will lunch with Lebanese bishops in Bzommar, seat of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate, and then proceed in the afternoon to Bkerke, seat of the Maronite Patriarchate, where he will be meeting with young people.

On Sunday, his final day in Lebanon, the Pope will have his only event in central Beirut - Mass at the area called the Waterfront, centerpiece of the reconstruction of Beirut after the civil war from 1975-1990 destroyed much of the city that had been known as the Paris of the Mediterranean.

[Beirut's location on the edge of the Mediterranean, with mountains a few miles inland, and its French colonial heritage, had made it one of the most beautiful cities in the region. Day excursions can be made from Beirut to two sites of antiquity which contain impressive ruins - Byblos and Baalbek. ]

In the afternoon, after leaving the Nunciature for the last time, he will be visiting Charfet, seat of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, for an ecumenical meeting. From there, he will proceed to the international airport for the departure ceremony and the trip back to Rome.

The official website for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/16/2012 4:14 PM]
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The Pope has arrived in Beirut

Sept. 14, 2012

So much hope is being placed on the Holy Father... Let us pray that the Lord will bless his mission and enlighten the hearts and minds of all those who need
to act together NOW to stop the violence in the region

BEIRUT, Sept. 14 (Al-Jazeera) - The plane carrying Pope Benedict XVI has arrived at Beirut's Rafik Hariri airport, witnesses said, at the start of a three-day visit aimed at addressing the position of Christians in a region torn by civil war in neighbouring Syria.

The Lebanese deployed thousands of troops on Friday to secure the pope's visit in which he is expected to stress unity
among the different Christian churches in the Middle East and peace between Christians and Muslims.

Religious pluralism and the welfare of Christians in the region were likely to top the agenda of his tour, but the pontiff was also expected to call for an end to the conflict in Syria and a halt to arming the two sides.

He will call on Lebanon's Christians to unite, divided as they are not only toward the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but also on a political vision for their own country.

But the Vatican has said the Pontiff will avoid intervening politically in his comments on Syria or tell Christians where their alliances should lie.

Benedict, 85, faces a packed schedule in the majority-Muslim country, which will take him from the presidential palace in the Mediterranean seaside capital of Beirut to important Christian towns in the nearby mountains.

He will reach out to the 13 million or more Catholics in Lebanon and the Middle East, asking them to work for peace and democracy alongside moderate Islamists, in a period fraught with fears of a rise of fundamentalism.

Those concerns are particularly poignant as the region is rocked by deadly violence over a video mocking Islam that has cost the lives of the US ambassador in Libya including four other Americans.

Around 200 protesters took to the streets of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Thursday to express outrage over video purportedly made in the US.

The Pope hopes to advance the Church's sometimes difficult relationship with Islam. While in Lebanon, he will meet not only local Christian leaders but Muslim ones as well.

His choice of Lebanon for his Middle East trip is not a casual one: the multi-confessional society - in which top political posts are split among religious groups - was hailed by pope John Paul II as a model for the region.

As the balance of power continues to shift in the region and with Christian minorities increasingly agitated, the emphasis will be on religious pluralism.

Benedict will weigh his words carefully to avoid politically charged comments that could increase religious tensions - and is expected to speak out in favour of a secularism that guarantees cultural and religious freedom.

He will also tackle concern over the exodus of Christians from the region during a presentation of results from the 2010 synod with Middle East bishops.

He has already received a request to recognise the Palestinian state and the important role of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world.

And Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan has said he hopes the Pope will also use the trip to call for negotiations in Syria.

Here too Benedict must tread carefully. The political class in Lebanon - including people from the Maronite church, Lebanon's largest - are divided, some supporting the Assad regime and others backing the rebels.

On Thursday, Maronite Patriarch Bishara Rai said "the Pope will definitely call for an end to the spiral of violence and to hatred, which are pointless, and for those who finance and arm both sides in the conflict to stop doing so".

In the run-up to the pope's visit, Lebanese security forces are on high alert, and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said this week that it "will be one of the most successful visits in the history of modern Lebanon".

The Pontiff arrived at Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport early in the afternoon to a 21-gun salute. After his welcoming ceremony, he was to travel to the Apostolic Nunciature in Harissa in the mountains northeast of the capital, where he will be staying.

While there, he will sign the final report on a synod of bishops he convened two years ago to study the future of Christians in the Middle East.

On Saturday, he will meet President Michel Sleiman, a Maronite, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni, as well as Muslim religious leaders and the diplomatic corps in Beirut.

He also expected to meet eastern patriarchs and bishops in Bzommar over lunch, to be followed by a meeting with Lebanese youth at the Maronite patriarchate in Bkerke, another village in the same area.

On Sunday, he will celebrate an open-air Mass at the Beirut City Centre Waterfront and unveil the conclusions of the 2010 synod of bishops. He returns to Rome on Sunday evening.

Official posters for the visit in French and Arabic:
The first poster in French reads "I welcome you in faith". The second one plays on the words 'foi' for faith and 'fois' as in 'time', "A faith once upon a time... and for always".

Here is the Vatican's official English translation of the Holy Father's arrival speech in Beirut:

Sorry, it's Friday, and this is as far as I can go this morning. I have to be off now for the next 12 hours or so....
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/15/2012 8:51 AM]
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The Pope's inflight Q&A

Sept. 14, 2012

On his flight to Beirut today, Pope Benedict XVI responded to journalists' questions about war and violence in the Middle East, about the exodus of Christians, the Arab Spring and growing fundementalism in the region.

Here is Vatican Radio's unofficial translation of the Holy Father's inflight Q&A with the newsmen:

Holy Father, in these days we’re marking terrible anniversaries, such as 9/11 or the massacre at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. Close to Lebanon’s borders a bloody civil war is being waged and the threat of violence is always close at hand in other countries as well. With what feelings are you undertaking this journey? Was there a possibility, or did anyone suggest that you should cancel it for security reasons?
B16: I am very grateful for this opportunity to talk with you. No one ever advised me to cancel this trip and I never took that idea into consideration, because I know that as the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity.

Therefore the aim of my visit is an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems. My feelings are above all feelings of gratitude to be able at this time to visit this great country, which – as John Paul II said – is a message of encounter for the three religions in this region. I am grateful to the Lord who has given me this possibility, grateful to all the institutions and people who have worked and continue to work for this occasion. And I am grateful for all those accompanying me in prayer, for this protection through prayer. I am happy and I’m sure that we can be of real service to peace and to people here.

Many Catholics are expressing concern about a growing fundamentalism in different parts of the world and about attacks that target Christians in many places around the globe. In this difficult and often bloody context, how can the Church respond to the imperative of dialogue with Islam that you have always insisted upon?
Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion and goes against the meaning of religion which is, instead, an invitation to share God’s peace throughout the world. Therefore the commitment of the Church and of religions is to undertake a purification of such temptations, to illuminate consciences and to try and provide everyone with a clear image of God.

We must all respect each other. Each of us is an image of God and we must mutually respect each other. The basic message of religion must be against violence which is a falsification like fundamentalism, it must be education. and the illumination and purification of conscience to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace.

In the context of the wave of desire for democracy which is under way in many countries of the Middle East through the so-called Arab Spring, and given the social conditions in the majority of these countries where Christians are a minority, is there not a risk of inevitable tensions between the dominant majority and the survival of Christianity?
In itself, the Arab spring is a positive thing: a desire for greater democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a new Arab identity. This cry for liberty, which comes fromthe more culturally educated and professional young people, who want greater participation in political and social life, is positive progress which has been hailed by Christians as well.

Bearing in mind the history of revolutions, we naturally know that this vital and positive cry for freedom risks forgetting one aspect – a fundamental dimension for freedom – which is tolerance of the other. The fact is that human freedom is always a shared freedom, which can only grow through sharing, solidarity and living together with certain rules. This is always the danger, as it is in this case.

We must do all we can so that the concept of freedom, the desire for freedom goes in the direction of true freedom, and does not forget tolerance and reconciliation which are essential elements for freedom.

Thus also the Arab Spring requires a renewal in the centuries-old history [of the region]. Christians and Arabs have built these lands and must live together. I also believe that it’s important to see the positive elements in these movements and, do all that is possible to ensure that freedom is correctly conceived and corresponds to a greater dialogue rather than the dominion of one over the other.

Holy Father, in Syria, as in Iraq a while ago, many Christians feel obliged to leave their country with heavy hearts. What does the Catholic Church intend to do or say to help in this situation and to stem the flow of Christians from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries?
First of all, I must say that not only Christians are leaving, but also Muslims. There is a great danger that Christians leave these lands and that we shall ose their presence there, and we must do all that is possible to help them to stay. The most essential help would be the end of war and violence which causes this exodus.

Therefore we must do all we can to halt the violence and encourage the possibility of staying together for the future. What can we do against war? Of course we can always spread a message of peace, insist that violence never resolves problems and strengthen the forces of peace.

The work of journalists is important as they can help a great deal to show how violence destroys rather than builds anything, that it is of no use to anyone.

Then maybe Christian gestures, days of prayer for the Middle East, for Christians and Muslims, to show the possibilities of dialogue and solutions.

I also believe that there must be an end to the importation of arms: without weapons, war could not continue. Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas, peace and creativity.

We should accept others in their diversity and make visible the mutual respect of religions, the respect for man as God’s creation and love of neighbour as a fundamental element of all religions.

We must promote all possible actions, including material ones, to support the end of war and violence so that all can contribute to the rebuilding of the country.

Holy Father, you are bringing an Apostolic Exhortation addressed to all Christians in the Middle East. Nowadays this is a suffering population. Apart from prayer and expressions of solidarity, do you see concrete measures that the Churches and Catholics in the West, especially in Europe and America, can take to support their brothers in the Middle East?
We need to influence public opinion. We must urge politicians to really tackle this issue with all their strength and using all means possible, to work with creativity for peace and against violence. All of us must contribute to this. In a certain sense - it’s a very necessary task on our part, that of warning, education and purification.

In addition, our charity organisations should help in a material sense as well. We have organisations like the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, just for the Holy Land, but similar organisations could also provide material, political and human help in these countries.

I would like to say once again that visible signs of solidarity, days of public prayer, can have an impact on public opinion and produce real results. We are convinced that prayer has an effect if it is done with much trust and faith.

Has a Pope ever before - or any political leader, for that matter - called on the media to use their influence to help promote peace in any and every way they can? Come to think of it, why not? The American media, after all, proved dramatically how their reporting of events could actually shape a major historical episode - the Vietnam War, in which the relentlessly negative reporting of the US war effort in Vietnam rendered President Johnson's initiatives virtually useless and laid the groundwork for an ignominious US retreat in 1974, symbolized by those images of hundreds of US workers and their Vietnamese friends being helicoptered to safety from the rooftop of the US embassy in Saigon. All that blood and toil and treasure that had been expended since 1963, only to leave the entire country to the complete mercy and hegemony of Communist North Vietnam!

Perhaps, one is being too idealistic, but if such media influence could be brought to bear to either influence leaders like Syria's Assad to come to their senses or to inspire a genuine mass movement in Syria and Iran - appropriately supported by material means - that could get rid of the dictators in the relatively bloodless way achieved by the original movements of the Arab spring, why not? Benedict XVI used a key expression in this respect -'To work with creativity for peace and against violence'....

In any case, I welcome these Q&A sessions with Benedict XVI, because as ever, his thought flow is fascinating, and how he accommodates what he needs to say within the relatively short time that he has during these sessions.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/15/2012 3:07 AM]
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Day 1
Arrival in Beirut

Pope brings message of
tolerance to the Mideast


Sept. 14, 2012

This is actually the NYT's wrap-up story of Day 1, and includes a reference to the signing of the Apostolic Exhortation that was the highlight of the day.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon on Friday with a message of tolerance that took on wider resonance as protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States spread to about 20 countries.

Soon after the Pope’s plane touched down in Beirut for his first visit to the region since 2009, protesters 50 miles away attacked American restaurant chains in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one and wounding more than two dozen other people, officials said.

As the Pope stepped onto the tarmac, looking tired and using a cane, he was welcomed by cheering crowds and children bearing flowers. Benedict, who has stumbled in the past when speaking of Islam, made no mention of the protests, instead praising Lebanon as an example of cooperation among faiths. [1) Since the protest in Tripoli took place after the Pope's plane landed, he was probably not aware of it! 2)It had nothing to do with his trip at all - the protests are anti-American on a manufactured and awfully convenient pretext of an alleged offense to Islam. 3) What person in his right mind would bring up something negative that is also a politically-charged topic for a 'politicaly neutral' because primarily apostolic and pastoral visit?]

“Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate,” he said. “Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan.”

He added, “This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested.”

The Vatican had played down security concerns, saying the Pope would be warmly welcomed for his three-day visit to Lebanon, where more than 30 percent of the population is Christian and posters bearing his likeness lined the highway.

On his plane en route to Lebanon, Benedict told reporters, “Nobody has advised me to cancel this voyage,” according to an informal transcript provided by the Italian daily La Stampa. “I never thought of it,” he said, “because I know that the more complicated a situation becomes, the more necessary it is to send this signal of fraternity, encouragement and solidarity.”

In keeping with Benedict’s longstanding plan for the trip, the message appeared to be aimed principally to bolster Christians in the region, an ancient community whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades because of wars, occupations and discrimination. [There you are! So why on earth did you expect him to speak about the anti-American protests?]

At a meeting with religious leaders at St. Paul’s Basilica outside Beirut on Friday evening, the Pope signed a Vatican document on the state of Christians in the region.

“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East," Benedict said in the document, “The Church in the Middle East,” which is the product of a meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2010.

Benedict said that Christians in the Middle East should be allowed “full citizenship” and not considered “second-class citizens or believers,” adding that their steady decline in the region was leading to “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”

The Pope also focused on the war in Syria, a deepening civil conflict that has left thousands of people dead and poses a growing threat to regional stability. Adding emphasis to his previous calls for an end to the violence, he called for a halt to arms imports by both sides in the conflict.

“The importing of arms cannot continue,” the Pope said. “Instead of importing arms, which is a grave sin, one should import ideas of peace, creativity, find solutions for accepting everyone in his otherness.”

Those comments, which seemed aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the growing number of militias fighting to topple him, also served as a sharp rebuke to regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to funnel arms into Syria.

The Pope also spoke for the first time about the wave of uprisings that have transformed the region since his last visit. “I would say it’s a positive thing: it’s the desire for more democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a renewed Arab identity,” Benedict said.

But he also added that amid such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” He added, “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”

In a dark moment in his papacy in 2006, Benedict angered Muslims when on a visit to Germany he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman.” In response, Muslims demonstrated around the world, and an Italian nun was killed in Somalia. The Pope later apologized. [And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the way MSM would like the Regensburg lecture to be recorded in history! This absurd, outraageous and deliberate diminution of a truly epochal statement on the state of the West after its so-called Age of Enlightenment and, by contrast, the state of Islam that needs its own Age of Enlightenment, gives the impression that MSM reporters never really read anything of the Regensburg lecture other than the quotation from the Paleologue emperor. Nor were intersted to read anything else.]

This week, amid the spreading unrest over the anti-Muslim video, the Vatican has walked a fine line to prevent causing similar offense. On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement that focused on the video, saying that “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslims produce “sometimes tragic results” that yield “unacceptable violence.”

The statement came after news emerged of the death of J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but before the United States confirmed it.

On Thursday, Father Lombardi issued a statement denouncing the ambassador’s death, saying that it called “for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” the statement said.

But by Friday evening, the spokesman sought to distance the Pope from the growing controversy and any comment that could cause distress. “The visit,” Father Lombardi said, “is a message in itself.” [What else does the Vatican need to say other than what it did? Fr. Lombardi's statement on the alleged anti-Islam video that apparently very few have seen, especially not the protesters, was to be expected. The Vatican would have been faulted if the statement had not been made.]

Interesting contrast between the NYT story above, with its persistent innuendoes, and the Al-Jazeera report I used earlier, which was straightforward and objective. I used it because it was the first of the English reports on the Pope's arrival to come online, but I was actually surprised that it was so competent and serviceable. I don't mean that to be condescending. I just don't follow them enough to have a general idea of how they report events that do not directly promote Islam or Muslimc causes.

Here is the official English translation of the Holy Father's arrival statement:

Mr President,
Messrs President of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
Your Beatitudes, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Civil and Religious Authorities, dear Friends,

It is my honour to accept your invitation, Mr President, and that of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, to visit your country.

This dual invitation demonstrates, were it necessary, the dual purpose of my visit to your country. It underlines the excellent relations which have always existed between Lebanon and the Holy See, and seeks to contribute to strengthening them.

This visit is also in response to your own visits to Rome in November 2008, and more recently in February 2011, a visit which was followed nine months later by that of the Prime Minister.

It was during the second of our meetings that the magnificent statue of Saint Maron was blessed. His silent presence at the side of Saint Peter’s Basilica is a constant reminder of Lebanon in the very place where the Apostle Peter was laid to rest. It witnesses to a long spiritual heritage, confirming the Lebanese people’s veneration for the first of the Apostles and for his successors.

It is in order to underline the great devotion to Simon Peter that the Maronite Patriarchs add Boutros to their first name. It is wonderful to see how, from that Petrine sanctuary, Saint Maron intercedes continually for your country and for the entire Middle East.

Let me thank you in advance, Mr President, for all that you have done to make my stay among you a success.

Another reason for my visit is the important ecclesial event of the signature and the consigning of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente.

I thank all the Catholic Patriarchs who have come, and particularly the Patriarch Emeritus, the beloved Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and his successor Patriarch Bechara Boutros Raï. I offer fraternal greetings to all the Bishops of Lebanon, as well as to those who have travelled to pray with me and to receive this document from the hands of the Pope himself. Through them, I send fatherly greetings to all the Christians of the Middle East.

Addressed to everyone, the Exhortation is intended as a roadmap for the years to come. During these days I am also pleased to be able to meet many representatives from the Catholic communities of your country, so as to celebrate and pray together. Their presence, commitment and witness are a valued contribution and are highly appreciated in the daily life of all the inhabitants of your beloved country.

I wish also to greet very warmly the Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops who have come to welcome me, as well as the representatives of the other religious communities in Lebanon. Dear friends, your presence shows the esteem and the cooperation which, in mutual respect, you wish to promote among everyone. I thank you for your efforts and I am certain that you will continue to seek out the paths of unity and concord.

I cannot forget the sad and painful events which have affected your beautiful country along the years. The successful way the Lebanese all live together surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various churches, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.

Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate. Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan, even selfish, contrary and extraneous to Lebanese harmony and gentleness.

This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested. And reason must overcome one-sided passion in order to promote the greater good of all. Did not the great King Solomon, who knew Hiram, King of Tyre, consider that wisdom was the supreme virtue? This is why he pleaded to God for it insistently, and God gave him a wise and intelligent heart (1 Kg 3:9-12).

I have also come to say how important the presence of God is in the life of everyone and how the manner of coexistence, this conviviality to which your country wishes to bear witness, will run deep only if it is founded upon a welcoming regard for the other and upon an attitude of benevolence, and if it is rooted in God who wishes all men to be brothers.

The celebrated Lebanese equilibrium which wishes to continue to be a reality, will continue through the good will and commitment of all Lebanese. Only then will it serve as a model to the inhabitants of the whole region and of the entire world. This is not just a human task, but a gift of God which should be sought with insistence, preserved at all costs, and consolidated with determination.

The links between Lebanon and the Successor of Peter are ancient and deep. Mr President, dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, Salàmi ō-tīkum, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27).

And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs.

To them too, Christ says: Salàmi ō-tīkum. Your joys and sorrows are constantly present in the Pope's prayers and I ask God to accompany you and to comfort you. Let me assure you that I pray especially for the many people who suffer in this region. The statue of Saint Maron reminds me of what you live and endure.

Mr President, I know that your country is preparing a fine welcome for me, a warm welcome, the welcome that is given to a beloved and respected brother. I know that your country wishes to be worthy of the Lebanese Ahlan wa Sahlan [welcome]. It is already so, and from now on it will be so even more. I am happy to be here with you. May God bless you all. (Lè yo barèk al-Rab jami’a kôm!) Thank you.

From the airport, the Holy Father was driven to the Apostolic Nunciature in Harissa, in the mountains outside Beirut.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/15/2012 2:59 PM]
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