Benedetto XVI Forum


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12/19/2009 7:51 PM
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See earlier posts for today, Dec. 19, on the preceding page, including the full list of the decrees
promulgated by Benedict XVI today that will lead to five canonizations and six beatifications, and
proclaiming the heroic virtues of ten men and women, including Popes Pius XII and John Paul II,
opening the way for beatification.

I am glad Sandro Magister has come out to disabuse his readers of any mistaken notion that Benedict XVI's ideas on ecology are a blanket endorsement of the ecocentric catastrophism of those who met in Copenhagen recently, since not a few liberal media articles quickly cited the Pope's Message for the 2010 World Day for Peace as a papal seal of approval for their cause.

Benedict's 'Green Revolution':
Protect and cultivate Creation -
man and nature together

The ecology of man comes before the ecology of nature, says the Pope.
Vatican experts pan the Copenhagen conference on the climate
as a 'false departure' which, even worse,denies the value of human life.

ROME, December 17, 2009 – The prestigious American magazine Foreign Policy has ranked Benedict XVI 17th among the "top 100 global thinkers" of the year - those who with their "big ideas shaped our world in 2009."

Among the achievements of Pope Benedict recognized by Foreign Policy is that he "has positioned the Church prominently and unexpectedly as an advocate for the environment and warned against the perils of climate change."

But what is the "Green Revolution" that Benedict XVI is proposing?

The answer has come in the message that will accompany the upcoming World Day of Peace which the Church celebrates every January 1.

The message for the New Year of 2010 was signed by the Pope on December 8, and made public two days ago, precisely when representatives from all nations had gathered in Copenhagen for a combative and unproductive world conference on the climate.

The message can be read in its entirety in seven languages, on the Vatican website. Its title is an agenda in itself: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect Creation."

Further below, three of the salient passages are reproduced, taken from the sixth, twelfth, and thirteenth paragraphs of the document.

At the center of the message is a biblical image: that of the garden of Creation, entrusted by God to man and woman for them to protect and cultivate.

Nature therefore has no primacy over man, nor is man a tiny part of nature. Nor, in his turn, can man usurp the right to despoil nature instead of taking care of it.

The correct relationship between the human being and the earth is the one marvelously depicted in the masterpiece by Piero della Francesca from 1472,in the detail below.

Piero della Francesca, Detail frm The Duke and Duchess of Urbino, 1465 [inset], Uffizi, Florence.

The landscape in the background is cultivated, orderly and luminous, just as the woman in the foreground, the wife of the landowner, Federico da Montefeltro, is nobly "illuminated" with pearls.

One of the essential concepts of the message of Pope Benedict is precisely this. The ecology of nature and the ecology of man share the same destiny. Care for creation must be one and the same with care for the "inviolability of human life in every one of its phases and every one of its conditions."

It all goes together: care for nature, respect for the dignity of man, and peace among peoples. Wherever hatred and violence break out, nature weeps as well. A devastated landscape and an uninhabitable city are the product of a humanity that has made a desert of its own soul.

Here are the three key paragraphs from the message for the Day of Peace 2010: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation."


[6] What we call “nature” in a cosmic sense has its origin in “a plan of love and truth.” The world “is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance. The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 295).

The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God’s mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion over” it as “stewards” of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28).

The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures.

As a result, the work of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it”, was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17-19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it.

But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility.

The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as “a heap of scattered refuse” (Heraclitus, 535-475 B.C.).Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to “till it and keep it” (cf. Gen. 2:15).

Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him”.[12]

Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it (Caritas in Veritate, 50).


[12] The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction.

The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits” (Caritas in Veritate, 51).

Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics (Caritas in Veritate, 15.51).

Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.

Hence I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which, as I indicated in my encyclical Caritas in Veritate, would safeguard an authentic “human ecology” and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature (Caritas in Veritate, 28.51.61).

There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society. This patrimony of values originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation.


[13] Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us.

On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person.

If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things.

In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings.

They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.

The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the “grammar” which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate.

In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself (Caritas in Veritate, 70).

First note:
Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church
has a similar orientation

The message "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" repeatedly cites the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the most recent product of the Magisterium of the Church of Rome in matters of social doctrine.

An interesting parallel is the document with similar content published by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 2000, with the title "The foundations of the social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church" [discussed extensively by Archbishop Hilarion in his Introduction to the Patriarchate's 'Europe, spiritual homeland' putting together four major discourses on Europe by Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in the past 10 years. See full translation of the Introduction in the thread ISSUES

The harmony between this document and the message of Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace 2010 is very strong. Example, from the Russian document:

Ecological problems have a substantially anthropological character, being generated by man and not by nature.

The anthropogenic basis of ecological problems demonstrates that we tend to change the world around us in keeping with our interior world, and precisely for this reason the transformation of nature must begin with the transformation of the soul.

According to the thought of Maximus the Confessor, man will be able to transform the whole earth only when he has brought paradise within himself.

Second note:
The 'false departure' of Copenhagen

Paragraph 4 of the 2010 World Day for Peace message lists the warning signs of ecological degradation as "climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions."

But the document does not get into specifics. It does not formulate scientific diagnoses or propose solutions.

But this is what was done in a commentary* that appeared on the front page of the December 7-8, 2009 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, written by Professor Franco Prodi, a member of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the Italian National Research Council, as well as being the brother of Romano Prodi, the former Italian prime minister and president of the European Commission.

*[NB: A commentary I was meaning to translate but have not done so - and will do ASAP!]

Professor Prodi shows that he does not at all share the environmentalist mantra according to which the increased emission of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, on the part of man, is the cause of the warming of the planet and the rising of sea levels.

In Prodi's view, this is not a certainty, but only a probability. And in any case, it would mean a rise of the average air temperature of the entire planet "that since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been only seven tenths of a degree per century."

Much more influential over the climate, according to Prodi, are other phenomena, which to a great extent remain to be studied, such as the flow of heat inside the planet, the release of carbon dioxide by volcanoes, and above all the role of aerosols, airborne particles produced by man, which today equal "20 percent of the amount produced by nature" and modify clouds and rainfall.

But Prodi warns that it will take at least "thirty or forty years" of study before arriving at "complete climate models leading to the explanation of the system and to the certain prediction of its evolution."

And meanwhile? Meanwhile, what has been staged in Copenhagen is a "false departure," entirely based on the "measuring of emissions in the context of a strictly market economy."

According to Professor Prodi, it would be much better for countries more simply to attend to the degradation of nature that is plain for all to see: polluted air, rivers and groundwater mistreated, animal and vegetable species threatened.

Third note:
Strong words from the Vatican's
resident economist and 'Pope's banker'

On December 17, L'Osservatore Romano returned to the Copenhagen Conference with a second front-page commentary [I did translate this in full promptly; it is posted on this thread in the preceding page], this time entrusted to Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the economist and banker who for a few months has also been the president of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the Vatican bank.

Gotti Tedeschi is even more radically critical than Professor Prodi about the approach of the conference. And he also makes use of the message of Benedict XVI, "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation," published two days earlier.

Here's what he writes:

Nihilistic thought, with its rejection of all objective value and truth, causes extremely serious damage if it is applied to the economy. [...] But nihilistic thought may be causing even more serious damage on the environmental question. [...] It presumes to resolve climatic problems – where great confusion reigns – through population control and de-industrialization, instead of through the promotion of values that can lead the individual back to his original dignity. The climate conference in Copenhagen is confirming this direction, producing more conflict than solutions. [...]

In reality, what is lacking is a strategic vision of the problem, precisely because of the widespread nihilism that goes so far as to theorize the absence value in human life compared with the presumed centrality of nature – the ecocentrism denounced by Benedict XVI – which is only damaged by man. [...]

On the issue of the environment, therefore, vague agreements on harmful emissions are being sought, while ignoring shared ethical premises and scientific considerations.

Nihilistic thought risks turning the process of globalization – which in reality is positive for poor countries – into a disorder due to the economic man, who is also the cause of environmental problems and therefore a candidate for self-elimination. [...]

The environmentalists do well to urge greater attention to nature. But they would do better to read 'Caritas in Veritate' as well. They would understand why – but above all for whose sake – the environment must be respected.

Magister omits citing the front-page editorial by Giovanni Maria Vian, also translated on this thread, the day after the 2010World Day for Peace message was released, in which he unerscores the condemnation of ecocentrism in the dominant culture; and the prompt and incisive commentary by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera in AsiaNews as soon as the Pope's message had been releasaed, as poted on Page 51 of this thread:

Two days ago, I had started a post with the commentary of Fr. Gerald di Souza on the Pope's Message, because I was startled that he - whom I have always considered an excellent commentator on the papacy of Benedict XVI - reads the Message the way the liberals do! Unfortunately, I lost the post when I punched the 'Refresh' button instead of the 'spell-check' button - after having gone to considerable effort commenting to the parts of the commentary that I object to. That was Thursday when the Pope had three major addresses that I had to translate, so I had no time or energy left to do it all over. I will find the time later today.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2009 7:49 AM]
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12/19/2009 8:27 PM
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Carl Olson comments todayon Magister's piece and adds his own relevant citations. I will omit his opening paragraphs which cites excerpts from Magister:

Vatican vs Copenhagen:
By no means of one voice
about the environment

by Carl Olson

Dec. 19, 2009

... Some have attempted, either through misunderstanding or misrepresentation, to portray Benedict as a thoroughgoing environmentalist in the mold of Al Gore and Co.

Now, Benedict and Gore do share the general belief that how man treats the environment is intimately related to spiritual and religious questions and issues. But they take very different paths thereafter. The difference can be located in considering an essential distinction made by G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy:

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continues to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature.

The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother.

The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity.

Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.

Chesterton highlights one of the two basic errors made when it comes to the environment: approaching nature with a subservient attitude, one that often leads to forms of pantheism, or, even worse, to an apocalyptic, anti-human ideology. NRO's Jonah Goldberg noted this in a recent column:

So consider instead Diane Francis, a ballyhooed Canadian pundit. In a recent Financial Post column, Francis wrote that the “‘inconvenient truth’ overhanging the U.N.’s Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world.”

She insists that “the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate” is to implement a “planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy.”

Population control has always been at the heart of the progressive project, so it’s no surprise that it’s in fashion once again.

Examples of such thinking abound; they dominate the various environmentalist groups and movements. In this ideological paradigm, man is the problem, and he must eliminate or subjugate himself for the sake of "Mother Nature," "the planet," Gaia, etc.

The second error completely avoids forms of neo-pagan mysticism and anthropomorphic sentimentality and instead adopts a cold-blooded utilitarianism; it sees nature as merely a material resource to be used however man wishes, to be plundered with impunity, consequences be damned.

Benedict, of course, sees both approaches as being seriously flawed, reflecting views of man that are, in their own respective ways, inhuman. This is explained in an especially powerful passage from Caritas in Veritate:

The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction.

There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.

Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weakening of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.

In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.

It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves.

The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.

Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other.

Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society. (par 51).

That passage echoes an equally strong section from Pope John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus annus (1991):

37. Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way.

At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day.

Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are.

Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray.

Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.

In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man's outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations.

38. In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves.

Although people are rightly worried — though much less than they should be — about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic "human ecology".

Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed.

In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to live, and of the attention which should be given to a "social ecology" of work.

As I read various accounts of "Climategate" and the summit in Copenhagen, I am struck by the plainly religious fervor and spiritual nature of the environmental movement.

Equally disconcerting are the despotic undertones, the apocalyptic intensity, and not-so-uncommon hysterical language about ice caps disappearing in a few years, oceans rising several feet in decades, polar bears dropping like flies, and so forth — even while these "facts" continue to be challenged by more and more scientists.

Why, if Dan Brown really knew how to research and write, he could put together quite a story of a religion bent on fabrication, manipulation, power, and control through the misuse of sacred texts/data and the coercion of political and cultural powers.

But what is truly unfortunate is that the balanced, pro-human, and pro-environment wisdom of Benedict and John Paul is likely to be ignored by many or most.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2009 8:33 PM]
12/19/2009 10:10 PM
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From left: To be canonized, Mary McKillop of Australia and Andre Bessette of Canada; John Paul II and Pius XII, proclaimed Venerable today; and Polish Solidarity chaplain and martyr, Jerzy Popieluszki, to be beatified.

It is very surprising that Andrea Tornielli and Paolo Rodari - the two Vaticanistas generally considered to be most 'wired into' the Curia - both write in their blogs today that they were caught entirely by surprise that Benedict XVI decided to promulgate the heroic virtues of Pius XII, and not just of John Paul II.

I am surprised they did not at all look up the Australian media which all this week had been buzzing with understandable excitement that the country was finally going to get its first saint! On Dec. 15, I posted a story from the Sydney Morning Herald in the CHURCH&VATICAN thread
which anticipated not just the approval for canonization of Blessed Mary McKillop, but also of Blessed Andre Bessette, and the heroic virtues of both John Paul II and Pius XII.

The Australian newspapers all reported this, citing authoritative sources from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, whereas the Italian media focused only on John Paul II.

That narrow focus is most unusual in Andrea Tornielli, who has written what is probably the most definitive biography of Pius XII so far, and might have been expected to ask his sources in the Vatican, after all the buzz on John Paul II this week, "Well, what about Pius XII, whose decree of 'heroic virtues' was approved by the Congregation in May 2007?"

Here is what Tornielli says in his blog today:

Papa Wojtyla and Pius XII:
Decrees pave the way for beatification

Translated from

Dec. 19, 2009

Benedict XVI, as expected, promulgated today the decree on the heroic virtues of John Paul II.

But the true surprise, unexpected, was his signing the decree on Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli).

The [beatification] process for Papa Wojtyla, as everyone knows, has developed rapidly. But that for Pius XII, which Paul VI initiated at the end of the Second Vatican Council along with the cause for John XXIII [now Blessed], has been languishing.

The cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for saints voted unanimously on Pius XII's heroic virtues in May 2007. But Benedict XVI decided not to promulgate the decree right away, ordering more investigation [into Pius XII's wartime activities].

This supplementary inquiry, based on documents in the Vatican Archives, was concluded a few months back, with absolutely positive results yet again.

Thus, the decree was approved today along with that on John Paul II and many others.

Here is Rodari:

Benedict XVI's strategy
in advancing Pius XII's cause

Translated from

December 19, 2009

Benedict XVI's strategy to make skeptics (among them, many Jews) better 'digest' the unblocking of the beatification process for Pius XII has come to light most unexpectedly - no Vaticanista was able to anticipate today's announcement.

The Pope, in fact, hiding his intentions from everyone (I doubt that even his own private secretary knew it) has promulgated the heroic virtues of Pius XII, along with those of John Paul II.

About Wojtyla, it was known. About Pacelli, no. [No, Mr. Rodari, even people at the Congregation for saints knew, because they leaked it to the Australian media who were primarily interested in the fate of Mary McKillop's cause for canonization],

At this point, the strategy seems clear to me: to make both processes go forward in order to displace attention somewhat from the controversial (to some) Pius XII to the unanimously beloved Wojtyla. Paul VI had initiated the process for Pius XII at the end of the Second Vatican Council.

The decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues was approved by the Congregation for saints in 2007, but awaited Benedict XVI's signature to be promulgated. And significantly, the promulgation comes one month before his scheduled visit to the Synagogue of Rome.

Two Popes, therefore, will move along hand in hand towards beatification - and being together, the criticisms may be diluted.

With all due respect to Rodari, I object that he calls Benedict XVI's action on Pius XII a 'strategy' because it makes the Pope's decision look calculating.

Benedict XVI delayed promulgating the decree on Pius XII out of 'deference', in form but not in intent, to Jewish detractors of Pius XII. In effect, saying: "OK, I will delay the process and order further inquiry" - bending over backwards, really, to show the Jewish critics that he was not ignoring their sensibilities [something Joseph Ratzinger has never done, in any case]. But he obviously was not going to delay the process indefinitely, and this had to come sooner rather than later.

All the more courageous a step for its closeness in time to the coming visit to the Rome synagogue - though I wouldn't rule it out that the Chief Rabbi of Rome calls it off in yet another fit of pique.

The other defect in Rodari's argument is that the Wojtyla and Pacelli processes are hardly analogous. John Paul II already has the first miracle all but officially confirmed, and is widely expected to be beatified by October next year. Investigation of any post-mortem miracle attributed to Pius XII has yet to start.

And no, John Paul II's cause won't detract or distract the attention of Pius XII's most rabid critics - on the contrary, the Jewish detractors will sing the praises of John Paul II for his openings to the Jews as a 'contrast' to what they call Pius XII's indifference to the Holocaust.

Here's a hastily assembled backgrounder from Apcom, but it will do for now:

Benedict XVI decides to promulgate
Pius XII's heroic virtues after
more than a year of heated polemics

ROME, Dec. 19 (Translated from Apcom) - Benedict XVI's decision to sign the decree on the 'heroid virtues' of Pius XII comes after more than a year of harsh polemics over the role of the late Pope with regard to the Holocaust.

During that time, Benedict XVI spoke out on a few significant occasions in praise of his predecessor.

The latest was last October, at a concert attended by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, when the Pope underscored how Pius XII had raised his voice in 1939 against the war towards which National Socialism was heading, and which "with the tragedy of the Shoah, would harm most of all the Jewish people, who became the object of programmed extermination".

In earlier discoruses during the year, Papa Ratzinger extolled the figure of his predecessor. On November 8, 2008, he paid tribute to Pius XII as a precursor of Vatican-II ("The legacy of his Magisterium was assimilated by Vatican-II to be reproposed to successive Christian generations"). [He also pointed out that next to the Bible, Pius XII was the single most cited reference in the Vatican-II documents.]

Thus, without making any reference to the stalled process of beatification, he focused on the 'precious legacy' of this "priest who was in constant and intimate union with God".

"In recent years," Benedict XVI told a conference on 'The legacy of Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council', "when people speak of Pius XII, attention has been concentrated excessively on one single question, and for the most part, seen unilaterally".

"Quite apart from every other consideration," he continued, without going into detail, "this has prevented an appropriate approach to a figure of such great historical and theological weight as Pius XII."

And yet the "Jewish question' is at the center of a historiographic evaluation of Papa Pacelli. As Pope during the Second World War, his choice not to speak out openly to denounce Nazi persecution of the Jews [the nature and extent of the Nazi 'Final Solution' towards the Jews was known only to a few outside Germany at the time] has been harshly condemned by the Jews starting in the early 1960s [after the anti-Pacelli Soveit propaganda play The Deputy planted the Black Legend of his 'culpability']

In October 2008, the accusations got a fresh start with the condemnation of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Haifa, Sheer Yasuv Cohen, who used the occasion of his being invited by the Pope to address the Bishops' Synodal Asembly on the Word of God, to condemn Pius XII to the media, and were dragged on by the inflammatory rhetoric of the Israeli Minister Isaac Herzog.

In an audience with the Pope shortly thereafter, Rabbi David Rosen and other Jewish leaders formally asked the Pope to open the Vatican Archives to make all the documents pertaining to Pius XII and the war years accessible to researchers. [The Vatican archivist said it would take 6-7 years before the Archive staff could finish labelling and cataloguing all these documents, so that they can be systematically accessed.]

The controvesy continued to rage in the following months. The postulator for Pius XII's beatification cause, the Jesuit Fr. Peter Gumpel, commented that the delay in the process was due to pressure on Benedict XVI from the Jews, which kept him from signing the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues that had been unanimously approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in May 2007.

"He has been influenced by the many meetings he has had with Jewish representatives," Gumpel said, "who have told him bluntly that if he takes one more step to further the beatification process for Pius XII, relations between Jews and Catholics would be definitely and peremanently compromised".

The issue became even more touchy in the weeks that preceded and up to the Pope's pikgrimage to the Holy Land last May. Benedict XVI visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, but did not visit the Museum gallery where Pius VII is among the figures in a 'Hall of Shame', and a caption to his pictures denounces that he 'kept silent' against the aggressions of Hitler.

[This account does not mention that some militant Jews nitpicked Benedict XVI's remarks in Yad Vashem as deficient because 1) Benedict did not apologize for the Germans; 2) he did not say 'six million Jews' died in the Shoah; and 3) that he said they were 'killed' not 'murdered'.]

The Holy See maintains that Pius XII's public silence was a choice of prophetic prudence, not cowardice, and that he carried out an underground campaign of assistance and rescue for Italian Jews. It is well documented that in the war years, Catholic churches, monasteries and convents all over Italy sheltered Jews and other persecuted persons.

Also, the Church points out that beatification and canonization are purely internal to the Church. [And that candidates for sainthood are not expected or required to be 'perfect'.]

Likewise, the Vatican points out that the Jewish condemnation of Papa Pacelli started after the staging and publication of the play The Deputy which set out to defame Pius XII, hypothesizing without historical basis about his World War II decisions.

But Benedict XVI waited more than one and half years to sign the decree that would re-start the beatification process. The positio submitted in support of Pius XII's heroic virtues was contained in six volumes with a total of 3,000 pages.

In June 2009, Vatican press director Fr. Fderico Lombardi replied to the statements of Fr. Gumpel, saying: "With regard to the statements reported in the news media about the cause for Pius XII's beatification, the decision on when to sign the decree of heroic virtue rests exclusively with the Holy Father, who must be allowed to make his evaluation and decision freely. If he thinks that the matter requires further study and reflection, his position must be respected without the need for unjustified and inopportune interventions".

In fact, the Pope did ask for further studies beyond that submitted by Fr. Gumpel and his associate Fr. Molinari. It was never officially announced, but the Pope entrusted the review of archival documents on Pius XII to the Dominican Ambrosius Eszer, a German scholar.

Eszer completed his review last summer. Among documents he uncovered were letters of thanks to the Vatican from Jewish communities in Germany, Austria and Bohemia for assistance given to them in the face of Nazi persecution.

The next step in the beatification process is to identify and verify a miracle attributed to Pius XII's intercession after his death. Meanwhile, the question of Pius XII will continue to be a bone of contention between the Jewish world and the Catholic Church.

A rare exception to the Jewish opposition is the American 'Pave the Way' Foundation, which has sponsored seminars and publications upholding the spiritual and material support that the late Pope gave to persecuted Jews in World War II.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2009 3:16 AM]
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No reaction yet from the Chief Rabbi of Rome, usually quite headstrong and hyper-sensitive on anything he considers to be a mis-step by Benedict XVI with regard to the Jews, but two so far from equally prominent Jewish spokesmen:

Rabbi Laras:
'Decision re-ignites
painful considerations'

Rome, Dec. 19 (Translated from AGI) - The decision of Benedict XVI to sign the decree on the heroic virtues of Pius XII is not a question that concerns Judaism and the Jews, according to Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly.

But, he added, "As we have said in the past, notwithstanding his merits in having saved a certain number of Jews, this Pope did not take an official public position against the Shoah which was the death sentence for all Jews. Because of this, the decision today re-ignites the considerations which are always painful to us".

[Laras's initial reaction is relatively laid back, considering that last year, he initiated a Jewish boycott in Italy of the annual Day for Jewish-Catholic Dialog held in some European countries on January 17 because of some perceived slight over the Gaza Strip conflict in late 2008!

Also, the statement about Pius XII's 'merits in having saved a number of Jews" is something I have not seen before in Jewish statements about Pius XII. More about this later, in comments on Rabbi Rosen's statements below.]

Rabbi David Rosen:
'Decision is insensitive
to the Jews'

ROME, Dec. 19 (Translated from Apcom) - Benedict XVI's decision to sign the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues "does not show much sensitivity to the concerns of the Jewish community', according to Rabbi David Rosen, adviser for inter-religious dialog to the Grand Rabbinate of Israel.

He added: "I am surprised that this decision was taken just three weeks before the scheduled visit of the Pope to the Synagogue in Rome".

Reached by telephone, Rosen told Apcom, commenting shortly after Sabbath ended, "I hope that today's decision does not mean the Vatican is accelerating the beatification process on Pius XII".

[He misunderstands the process. It can be initiated ahead of schedule, as was done with Mother Teresa and John Paul II, but the process itself cannot be accelerated. It has to take its course, as John Paul II's has done, but it has been rapid for him for the simple reason that almost all the discoverable material about him necessary to be investigated has been readily available for years, if not decades, and that the post-mortem miracle needed for beatification took place rather quickly after his death and was well documented by all concerned.]

He said further: "I also hope that Benedict XVI's position is this: that he cannot abstain from declaring the religious virtues of Pius XII but that no other steps towards beatification may be taken until there is an objective historical analysis of that period in history - which means making the contents of the Vatican Archives open to scholars".

[Rosen is a scholar and should know better. The process goes on, once it is unblocked, because there is a lot to be investigated - not just what he did during the war - those who have any objections at all to his beatification should write the Congregation of saints and ask to be heard during the investigations.

But the Jewish position, as stated by Rosen, does not make sense. If their objection is that Pius XII did not officially condemn the Shoah, then there is nothing that the unopened archives can tell anyone, because the only proof of an omission is the absence of proof - if it wasn't said and done, it wasn't said and done. Do they expect to find a written Vatican document that says, "The Pope knew about the Holocaust but decided not to speak about it"?

And - without going into the more relevant point of why the Jews expected Pius XII to say something definitive about the Shoah during the war, when no other leader, not even Churchill and Roosevelt, ever indicated official knowledge of it - everything significant relating to Pius XII's actions with regard to the Jews and the situation in Germany was reported in the 12-volume Blet documentation based on available archival material that was produced at the instance of Paul VI in the 1960s.

Very simply, the anti-Pius XII Jews are not acting in good faith at all. If eight years from now, after the Pius XII archives are fully open to the public, and Jewish researchers do not find a smoking gun [hard to imagine what that could be], Pius XII's detractors will still conclude he was an unworthy human being, even if he was responsible for saving hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish lives. Which is a shameless betrayal of their own standard for what constitutes a 'righteous' person - "He who saves one life is as if he saves the whole world". Why is there a different stadnard for Pius XII?]

Rosen continued: "Historical judgments should be formed with humility. Pius XII lived in a time when no one was completely a saint, except for those who died as martyrs for justice. All I am saying is that because of the enormous complexity of emotions and subjective memory, this subject should be treated with the greatest sensitivity and with a historical distance that requires a longer lapse of time".

[Almost seven decades is not long enough or distant enough? ??He is also ignoring completely the contemporaneous praise of Pius XII during the war and shortly after the war from leading Jewish leaders in gratitude for what he did for Italian Jews during the war.

Why does all this positive concrete evidence count for nothing with the Jews, just because Pius XII 'did not speak out' for the Jews - out of understandable prudence that doing so could mean placing Catholics at even greater risk than they already were? He spoke up for Jews in Holland early in the war, and he saw the tragic consequences as the Nazis took it out immediately against Dutch Jews and Catholics alike.

It is not as if the Jews at that time or in the decades before that thought much about the Popes at al, much less that they thought Popes had any influence at all on world affairs! Suddenly, from hindsight, they claim that the Holocaust would have been averted if Pius XII had spoken out?

All their arguments against Pius XII are simply illogical and make no sense.

"Of course," Rosen says, "the decision of who should become a saint or a blessed one is not the business of the Jewish community. But if the Catholic Church says, as it does, that it wishes to have respectful relations with the Jewish world, then it must take into consideration our sensitivities before taking another step in this matter".

[What crap! Respectful relations have to be mutual. What about Catholic sensitivities that, regardless of how Rosen and his ilk put it, they are interfering in a matter that is purely internal to the Church.

Jews don't even believe Jesus is God - so what difference does it make to them whom Catholics venerate as saints? The Church is not asking them to venerate Pius XII or any other Catholic saint or blessed, any more than it asks them to recognize Jesus as the Son of God.]

John Allen obviously wrote his column one day too early - blissfully unaware of the Pope's decision on Pius XII! But as an Anglophone Vaticanista, he has far less of an excuse than Tornielli and Rodari not to have seen the Australian media reports earlier in the week!

The state of Jewish-Catholic relations

Dec. 18, 2009

On Jan. 17, Pope Benedict XVI will hop across the Tiber River to visit the Great Synagogue in Rome, only the second such occasion after John Paul II’s groundbreaking visit in 1986. (That was the first time a modern Pope set foot inside a Jewish place of worship, although John XXIII once stopped his car outside to bless the Jews as they exited.)

Benedict already has two synagogue visits under his belt: Cologne in 2005 during World Youth Day, and the Park East Synagogue in New York in April 2008. [Allen once again uses colloquial language too carelessly - a synagogue visit by a Pope is hardly in the category of an Indian scalp or a championship bout to be put ;under his belt'!]

Benedict’s cross-town journey may not make much of a media splash, which in itself tells us something important: In the span of a quarter-century, a Pope visiting a synagogue has gone from being a sensation to essentially routine.

Naturally enough, there’s a temptation to gauge the state of Jewish-Catholic relations primarily on the basis of events involving the Pope. When he reaches out, things are presumed to be improving; when he does something that stirs controversy, such as his decision earlier this year to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including one who’s a Holocaust denier, talk of crisis fills the air.

What such a focus ignores is that inter-faith relations, like politics, are often local. At the grass roots, there are signs of basic health in the relationship between Jews and Catholics, quite apart from whatever the Pope does or doesn’t do.

Last week in New York, I was on hand to witness one such sign: A visit by Archbishop Timothy Dolan to the renowned Temple Emanu-El in order to light the first candle of Hanukkah.

One could make the argument that New York’s Fifth Avenue is among the most evocative pieces of Jewish-Catholic real estate on the planet, home both to Temple Emanu-El and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Built on the site of the former John Jacob Astor mansion, Temple Emanu-El is billed as the largest Jewish place of worship in the world, with a total capacity of 2,500. Guide books actually claim that the temple is slightly larger than St. Patrick’s, but suffice it to say that both are imposing, and historic, structures.

Among other notables, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a member of the congregation at Temple Emanu-El, which is a Reform synagogue founded in 1845.

The Dec. 11 visit was a last-minute addition to Dolan’s schedule, who was asked to come for the Hanukkah service by the synagogue’s senior rabbi, David M. Posner. The invitation wasn’t a complete surprise, since Dolan said that he gets almost as many requests from synagogues as he does Catholic parishes.

(Last October, Dolan was named the new Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, replacing Baltimore’s retired Cardinal William Keeler.)

The occasion obviously meant a lot to the folks at Temple Emanu-El. While greeting the congregation, Posner called this a “truly historic Hanukkah celebration” because of the archbishop’s presence, and in his sermon Posner said this was “the first time in Jewish history that an archbishop of New York, or anywhere, has kindled the tapers of Hanukkah.”

(Strictly speaking, that claim was a little overblown, as other archbishops in other places have done this before. San Antonio, for example, has a tradition going back to 2001 in which Catholics and Jews come together to light the Hanukkah candles.

The archbishop typically participates, and this year, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston was also on hand. In any event, the practical translation of what Posner said probably ought to be, “This is a big deal.”)

The congregation pulled out all the stops, including something that you definitely don’t see every day: At the end of the service, the choir performed a toe-tapping, doo-wop version of the classic holiday number “I Have a Little Dreidel,” which could easily be the anchor track on a “Hanukkah goes Motown” album.

After the service, Dolan was mobbed by people wanting to thank him for coming, to get their picture taken with him, and to shove pieces of Hanukkah cake into his hands, all of which felt like an affirmation of the bonds between Jews and Catholics.

Such scenes play out wherever Jews and Catholics find themselves cheek by jowl, even if they rarely have the same media resonance as debates over Pius XII or Vatican/Israeli relations.

The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to be in these situations to appreciate how much ordinary people on both sides want the relationship to work -- not necessarily out of any complex theological or political logic, but a simple human desire for friendship.

A synagogue trustee who showed visitors around before the service explained things best: “We want this to be a normal neighborly thing,” he said. “You live just down the street from us, so why shouldn’t we get together?”

Of course, one warm-and-fuzzy photo op in a synagogue hardly cancels out the very real tensions in Jewish-Catholic relations. Last year, for example, the U.S. bishops deleted a reference in their catechism to the eternal validity of God’s covenant with the Jews, a move that still confuses some Jewish leaders. Simply showing up to light a candle on Hanukkah can’t make those questions disappear.

On the other hand, anybody who was at Temple Emanu-El on Dec. 11 could be forgiven for finding talk of a crisis a bit overblown: At least that night, the foundations of the relationship looked pretty strong.

* * *

For anyone who’s ever been curious as to what an archbishop and a senior rabbi might talk about when they have a few minutes to kill, I can supply at least a partial answer: Money.

As Posner and Dolan stood together on the bima (the elevated platform at the front of the synagogue) waiting for the service to begin, they weren’t talking the fine points of theology, but rather comparing notes about approaches to tapping their congregation’s wallets.

Posner explained that as opposed to the Catholic custom of passing the collection plate every week, most synagogues send out bills for dues to registered members once a year. Posner lamented the costs of operating such a cavernous building on Fifth Avenue, a frustration he knew Dolan could appreciate.

I quipped that maybe this is the real future of inter-religious dialogue, but Dolan later said the idea isn’t entirely a joke. Given that Catholics and Jews often face some of the same practical problems -- clustering smaller congregations, for example, or the rise of Jewish analogs of what Christians call “mega-churches” -- he believes they can share experiences and support one another on those fronts.

That may not be exactly what Benedict XVI has in mind when he talks about a shift from inter-religious to inter-cultural dialogue, but it at least suggests that theological differences don’t have to be the death of conversation.

* * *

A footnote on Benedict’s visit to the Rome synagogue: Jan. 17 is a special day for Roman Jews. It’s celebrated as “Mo’ed di Piombo,” commemorating what local tradition recalls as a miraculous rain that doused a fire set during a pogrom in Rome’s Jewish ghetto in 1793.

In recent years, Jan. 17 has also become an important occasion for Jewish-Christian dialogue, including an annual event organized by Italy’s Catholic bishops. In the past, one way Italian rabbis have signaled displeasure with the Vatican, or the Catholic church, is by pulling out of that Jan. 17 event.

The fact that the Pope is coming to the synagogue on Jan. 17 therefore takes on special significance. (Not to mention, of course, that the visit comes almost exactly one year to the day after the cause célèbre involving the Holocaust-denying bishop.) The event will be closely watched for hints of any new direction in which either side wants to take the relationship.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2009 12:11 AM]
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Major changes coming
due to retirements
in the Curial leadership

by Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

December 19, 2009

The only Curial official not expected to submit his resignation when reaching the canonical retirement age of 75 is the Vatican Secretary of State, who exercises his office ad nutum Summi Pontificis - at the will of the Supreme Pontiff.

So when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 75 on December 2, presented his letter of ritual resignation to the Pope, Benedict XVI probably simply smiled and said, "There was really no need for this", confirming Bertone to be co-terminous with him.

But for all other officials of the Roman Curia, 75 is mandatory retirement age, although there have been quite a few extensions requested or allowed by the Popes, sometimes for as long as three years. [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the most notable example; then as Benedict XVI, he kept on both Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Secretary of State and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos as President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei until they turned 80.]

In the next few months, a few important changes are expected, nonetheless, starting with the powerful Congregation for Bishops, headed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re since 2000.

Re will be 76 on January 30, marking one year of extension, and Vatican insiders do not think he will be extended further.

The dicastery which "supervises everything that has to do with bishops" has not had a good run lately. Most recently, the scandal of at least five, maybe 10, sitting diocesan bishops in Ireland found to have covered up for sex-offender priests, was yet another indication that something is not right with the supervision of bishops, and changes have to be made.

No decisions have apparently been made, but the most favored name at the moment seems to be Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, 67, the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy. A native of Romano Canavese like Bertone, he is much favored by Bertone who recommended him to be Nuncio in 2007.

Also persistently rumored is Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. But since the Pope named the Portuguese Mons. Manuel Monteiro de Castro recently as secretary of the Congregation, it is more likely that the new Prefect will be Italian. [That's not necessarily so!]

It is also thought that Pell is more likely to be named Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to succeed Cardinal Ivan Dias, 73, who is expected to retire soon because of health reasons.

Another Curial chief who is well past retirement is Cardinal Walter Kasper, 77, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He is expected to retire by Easter. One of those thought likely to succeed him is Gerhard Mueller, Bishop of Regensburg.

Other Curial heads past 75 are Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who turns 76 next August; Cardinal Franc Rode, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, 76 next September; and Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Benedict XVI is expected to deal with these changes gradually, in the style of 'gentle reform' that has characterized his governance since 2005.

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Intelligence and balance in
seeking proof of saintliness

Translated from
the 12/20/09 issue of

In the 40 years since it was created, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has imposed a more organic and modern form on the activity of discernment by the Church in recognizing saintliness.

Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out in addressing the members of the Congregation whom he received at the Sala Clementina Saturday morning on the occasion of their 40th anniversary.

Here is a translation of the Pope's address, given in Italian:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to express to all my joy at this meeting. I greet all the cardinals, archbishops and bishops present, with a special thought for the Prefect of your dicastery, Archbishop Angelo Amato, whom I thank for the kind and affectionate words which he spoke in your behalf.

With him, I greet the Secretary of the Congregation, the Undersecretary, priests, religious, historical consultants and theologians, postulators, lay officials, medical experts, along with your families and co-workers.

2, The special circumstance that gathers you together around the Successor of Peter is the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the institution of the Congregation, which has conferred a more organic and modern form on the activity of discernment that the Church has used from the beginning to recognize the saintliness of so many of her children.

The creation of your dicastery was prepared by the interventions of my predecessors, especially Sixtus V, Urban VIII and Benedict XVI, and was realized in 1969 by the Servant of God Paul VI. Thanks to them, a complex of experience, scientific contributions and procedural norms has been continually configured into an intelligent and balanced synthesis that led to the creation of a new dicastery.

I am well acquainted with the activity which, in these past four decades, the Congregation has carried out, with competence, in the service of edifying the People of God, offering a significant contribution to the work of evangelization.

Indeed, when the Church venerates a saint, it announces the efficacy of the Gospel and uncovers with joy the presence of Christ in the world, believed and adored in the faith, and capable of transforming the life of man in order to produce fruits of salvation for all mankind.

Moreover, every beatification and canonization is, for Christians, a strong encouragement to live with intensity and enthusiasm the following of Christ, journeying towards the fullness of Christian existence and the perfection of charity (cfr Lumen gentium, 40).

In this light, one understands the role of the dicastery in accompanying every single stage of an event of such singular profundity and beauty, faithfully documenting the manifestation of that sensum fidelium that is an important factor for recognizing saintliness.

3. The saints, sign of that radical novelty that the Son of God, with his incarnation, death and resurrection, has instilled in human nature, and distinguished witnesses to the faith, are not representatives of the past, but constitute the present and the future of the Church and of society.

They have fully realized the caritas in veritate which is the supreme value of Christian existence, and are like the facets of a prism which, with different nuances, reflect the one light who is Christ.

The lives of these extraordinary figures of believers, belonging to all the regions of the earth, present two significant constants that I wish to underscore.

Above all, their relationship with the Lord, even when following traditional ways, is never stale or repetitive, but is always expressed in authentic, vivid and original modalities, which come from an intense and engrossing dialog with the Lord that enhances and enriches even external forms.

Moreover, in the lives of these our brothers and sisters, what stands out is the continuous search for evangelical perfection, the rejection of mediocrity and the impulse towards total belonging to Christ.

"Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19,2) is the exhortation in Leviticus which God addressed to Moses. It makes us understand that holiness is striving constantly towards the high standard of Christian life, a demanding conquest and continuous quest for communion with God, which makes the committed believer 'correspond' with the maximum generosity possible to the plan of love that the Father has for him and for all mankind.

4. The principal stages of recognizing saintliness on the part of the Church - namely, beatification and canonization - are united by a link of great consistency. To them must be added, as the indispensable preparatory phase, the declaration of heroic virtues or martyrdom of a Servant of God, and ascertainment of an extraordinary gift, the miracle, that the Lord grants through the intercession of his faithful servant.

How much pedagogical wisdom is manifested in such an itinerary! In the first place, the People of God are invited to look at these brothers and sisters who, after careful discernment, are proposed as models of Christian life. Then, the faithful are exhorted to address them with veneration and invocation circumscribed by the jurisdiction of the local Church or religious order [to whom the candidate belongs]. finally, they are called on to exult with the entire community of believers in the certainty that, thanks to a solemn pontifical proclamation, a son or daughter of the Church has reached the glory of God, where he or she will take part in a perennial intercesion to Christ in favor of their brothers and sisters (cfr Heb 7,25).

In this journey, the Church welcomes with joy and wonder the miracles that God, in his infinite goodness, freely gives her in order to confirm the evangelical preaching (cfr Mk 16,20). It also welcomes the testimony of martyrs as the most limpid and intense form of configuration with Christ.

This progressive manifestation of saintliness corresponds to the style chosen by God in revealing himself to man, and at the same time, it is part of the journey through which the People of God grows in faith and in knowledge of the Truth.

The gradual nearing to the 'fullness of light' emerges singularly in the passage from beatification to canonization. In this progress, in fact, events of great religious and cultural vitality take place, in which liturgical invocation, popular devotion, imitation of virtues, historical and theological study, attention to the 'signs from on high' are interwoven and enrich each other reciprocally.

In this circumstance, a promise of Jesus to disciples through all time is realized: "The Spirit of truth... will guide you to all truth" (cfr. Jn 16, 13).

The testimony of the saints, in fact, brings to light and makes us learn ever new aspects of the evangelical message.

As well underscored by the words of the Prefect, in the itinerary for recognition of sainthood, there emerges a spiritual and pastoral richness which involves the entire Christian community.

Saintliness - which is the transformation of persons and human realities to the image of the resurrected Christ, represents the ultimate purpose of the plan of divine salvation, as the Apostle Paul reminds us: "This the will of God: your sanctification" 1 Thess 4,3).

5. Dear brothers and sisters, the Solemnity of the Nativity, for which we are preparing, brings to full splendor the dignity of every man who is called to become a child of God. In the experience of the saints, this dignity is realized in the concreteness of historical circumstances, of personal temperaments, of free and responsible choices, of supernatural charisms.

Comforted by such a great number of witnesses, let us hasten our own steps towards the Lord who comes, raising the splendid invocation that culminates the hymn of Te Deum: "Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari" - in your glorious coming, welcome us, O Word incarnate, to the assembly of your saints.

With such a hope, I gladly wish each one fervent wishes for the imminent Nativity celebrations, and affectionately impart the Apostolic Blessing.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2009 6:00 AM]
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Benedict XVI to the children
of Italian Catholic Action:
Pray to be always in tune with Jesus

Translated from
the 12/20/09 issue of

Pope Benedict XVI addressed an invitation to welcome Christ into their daily lives "amid work and play, in prayer, and when he asks your friendship and generosity" to representatives of Azione Cattolica Ragazzi (ACR), the children's arm of Italian Catholic Action, whom he met at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, for their traditional pre-Christmas audience with the Pope.

Here is a translation of his address to the children:

Dear children of ACR,

I greet you most affectionately. It is always a beautiful thing for me to meet you in this pre-Christmas appointment, so much awaited and desired by you as well as by me.

I cordially greet the national president of Azione Cattolica Italiana, Franco Miano, and his General Assistant, Mons. Domenico Sigalini. Through them, I wish to thank everyone who have given all they can generously for your religious and human education, dedicating time and personal resources to your well-deserving association.

I know that this year you have been particularly working on the theme 'We are in tune' to place yourself in communication with Jesus and with other persons, having in mind the Biblical image of Zacchaeus, who met the Lord and welcomed him with joy.

You too are small like Zacchaeus who had to climb a tree so he could see Jesus, but the Lord, lifting his eyes, took note of him immediately, amid the crowd.

In the same way, Jesus sees you and hears you even if you are little children, even if sometimes adults do not consider you as you wish to be.

Jesus does not only see you. but he tunes in on your wavelength, he wishes to linger and be with you, to establish a strong friendship with each of you.

He did this by being born in Bethlehem, making himself close to the children and adults of all time, which also means each of us.

My dear friends, with Jesus, always follow the example of Zacchaeus who immediately came down from the tree, welcomed him full of joy to his house, and never ceased to celebrate the Lord afterwards.

Welcome Jesus into your lives every day, between playing and doing your tasks, in prayer, when he asks your friendship and your generosity, when you are happy and when you are afraid.

At Christmas, your friend Jesus comes once more to meet you and calls to you. He is the Son of God, he is the Lord whom you see everyday in the images at Church, on the street, in homes. He always speaks to you of that 'greater love' which is capable of giving without limits, of bringing peace and forgiveness.

Only the presence of Jesus in our life gives full joy, because he is able to make everything ever new and beautiful. He will never forget you. If you tell him everyday that you are in tune with him, then certainly you must expect him to call you to give you a message of friendship and affection.

He does that when you take part in Holy Mass, when you devote yourself to study, in your daily assignments, and whenever you perform acts of sharing, brotherhood, generosity and love for others.

And so, you can tell your friends, your parents, your catechists and teachers that you have been able to be online with Jesus in your prayers, in fulfilling your duties, and when you are able to be with children who suffer, especially those who have come from far lands and are often abandoned, without their parents and without friends.

Dear children, with these sentiments, I wish you all a happy and blessed Christmas. I extend my wishes to your families and to the entire Catholic Action, and entrusting you to the protection of the Mother of God, I bless you all from my heart.

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Sunday, December 20

ST. DOMINGO DE SILOS (Dominic of Silos) (Spain, 1000-1073),Benedictine abbot
Son of a peasant, he became a Benedictine monk, and soon prior of a monastery in Navarre,
northeast Spain, but he left the kingdom for neighboring Castile when the King of Navarre
seized church property. He and his monks were given a rundown monastery in Silos which they
built up into one of the great monasteries of the day - a center of monastic reform, liturgy
(Mozarabic rite) and learning, which was also reputed for many miracles. Legend has it that
almost a century later, he appeared in a vision to Blessed Juana of Aza and told her she would
bear a son - whom she named after the saint of Silos and the boy, Domingo de Guzman, grew up
to found the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). The monastery at Silos gained worldwide fame in
the 1980s through the recordings of its monks singing medieval chants, the first in a succession
of worldwide best-selling musical monks. Silos is now part of the great Benedictine abbey in
Solesmes, France.

OR today.

This issue has coverage of the Pope's audience yesterday with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with a beautiful address on sainthood, which is the subject of a Page 1 editorial; and his traditional pre-Christmas audience for the children's arm of Italian Catholic Action. Also on Page 1 is yet another editorial commentary contrasting the Pope's message on the environment with the sense of the just-ended Copenhagen conference on climate change. The main international news story is about the increasing flight of Somalis and Ethiopians towards Yemen - the UN refugee commission says some 75,000 made the boat trip this year, up from 50,000 the year before.

Sunday Angelus - On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father's mini-homily was drawn from the reading
from Micah with his prophecy about the special destiny of Bethlehem; but his English message drew from
the Gospel about Mary's visit to Elizabeth.

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At the noontime Angelus today, the Holy Father's mini-homily was drawn from the Mass Reading for today - Micah's prophecy on the destiny of Bethlehem. However, he drew his English messgae from the Gospel of the day:

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we are filled with joy because the Lord is at hand.

We heard in today’s Gospel about Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Just as Mary travelled through the hill country of Judah, to share with her kinswoman the joyful news of Christ’s coming, so too the Church is called to journey through history, proclaiming the wondrous message of salvation.

As the great feast of Christmas draws near, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

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

Dear brothers and sisters:

With the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Nativity of the Lord is almost here. The liturgy, with the words of the prophet Micah, invites us to look to Bethlehem, the small town in Judea which was to be the witness to the great event:

"You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times" (Mi 5,1).

A thousand years before Christ, Bethlehem had given birth to the great King David, whom Scriptures agree was to be the ancestor of the Messiah.

The Gospel of Luke narrates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because Joseph, spouse of Mary, being of 'the house of David', had to go that little town for the census, and just at that time, she gave birth to Jesus (cfr Lk 2,1-7).

Indeed, Micah's prophecy continues by speaking of a mysterious birth:
"The Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel" (Mic 5,2).

Thus there is a divibe plan which comprehends and explains the time and place of the coming of the Son of God to the world. It is a plan for peace, as the prophet announces, in speaking of the Messiah: \

"He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall remain. For now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace" (Mi 5,30.

It is this last part of the prohecy, that of Messianic peace, which brings us naturally to underscore that Bethlehem is also a place-symbol of peace, in the Holy Land and the entire world.

Unfortunately, in our time, it does not represent an accomplished and stable peace, but a peace that is effortfully sought and awaited.

But God never resigns himself to this state of things, and that is why, even this year, in Bethlehem and the whole world, the mystery of the Nativity is renewed in the Church, a prophecy of peace for every man, which demands that Christians immerse themselves in the closures, tragedies, often unknown and hidden, and conflicts of life, with the sentiments of Jesus, in order to be instruments and messengers of peace everywhere - to bring love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, joy where there is sorrow, and truth where there is error, according to the beautiful expressions in a famous Franciscan prayer.

Today, as in the time of Jesus, Christmas is not a fable for cbildren, but the response of God to the tragedy of mankind in search of true peace.

"He himself shall be peace", says the prophet, referring to the Messiah. It falls on us to open wide the doors to welcome him. Let us learn from Mary and Joseph: Let us place ourselves, with faith, at the sevice of the Lord.

Even if we do not fully udnerstand, ket us entrust ourselves to Wisdom and Goodness. Let us seek above all the Kingdom of God, and Providence will help us. A merry Christmas to all.

After the prayers he said this:
I address a special greeting to the staff of L'Osservatore Romano who, during the Christmas season, station a mobile kiosk every Sunday and Wednesday in St. Peter's Square where one can buy the newspaper along with a little icon of the Nativity.

I wish this initiative well, which, besides distributing the Vatican newspaper, is intended to raise money for a school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In his plurilingual greetings, he had a special message for Poland:

As of yesterday, the Archbishop of Gniezno is now the Primate of Poland. this honorary title this returns to the most ancient metropolis on Polish territory, linked to the cult of St. Adalbert, Patron of Poland.

I thank Cardinal Jozef Glemp for having carried out his primatial mission in the difficult period of transition [from the Communist era].

I wish abundant graces from God for Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, and, from the heart, I bless the entire Church in Poland.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2009 10:09 PM]
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I call it Benedict XVI's Christmas surprise for Catholics - and the Italian media is all over the story - of both Pius XII and John Paul II being declared Venerable. One of the best commentaries comes from Luigi Accattoli, who writes it for his former newspaper:

On the Pius XII-John Paul II pairing:
Benedict XVI"s resolve in the face
of intimidation also carries on
his predecessors' balanced approach

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

First, Pope Benedict XVI does not allow himself to be intimidated and will beatify Papa Pacelli despite controversy.

Second: In 'pre-announcing' Pius XII's beatification along with that of Papa Wojtyla, he is affirming in this highly significant way the 'continuity' of the Roman Pontificate beyond the often divergent variety of the individual office holders.

One is the Pope most loved by the Jews, the other, the one they most oppose - and their successor honors them equally.

These are the messages contained in Benedict XVI's decision yesterday: the first has greater public impact, and the second is more subtle as well as more strategic.

Both together tell us that the theologian Pope is proceeding surely along his chosen path - flexible when he has to be, but tenacious in carrying out a program that honors the history and legacy of the contemporary papacy.

He demonstrated his flexibility in waiting two and a half years - which the Vatican had earlier described as a time for 'reflection and deeper analysis' of the cause for Pius XII - before promulgating the decree that had been unanimously approved in May 2007 by the Congregation for Saints on the heroic virtues of Papa Pacelli.

In the meantime, he repeated (last February) Papa Wojtyla's plea of forgiveness for Christian responsibility in anti-Jewish persecutions in the past; he went to Israel in May; and he has committed himself to visiting the Rome Synagogue next month.

Meanwhile, he has reflected, he has asked for further study of the problem and has carried on the dialog of rapprochement with the Jews.

But he intended to get around to Papa Pacelli's beatification process, and here we are. He has been encouraged by the fact that in the meantime, the front of the Jewish opposition appears to have been reduced and fragmented. [Is it??? There will always be a hard core of militants who will never think well of Pius XII, and those who will always be ready to think the worst of Benedict XVI.]

Then there is the coupling of the two papal beatifications: the contemporaneous announcement may even herald a paired proclamation, though it would be premature to say so.

Paul VI showed the way when, at the end of the second Vatican Council, in December 1965, he opened the cause for beatification of both Pius XII and John XXIII. But although both causes started together, they soon took different paths, and only John XXIII reached the first goal - beatification.

Papa Wojtyla, to avoid any risk of polarization, chose to proclaim Papa Roncalli along with Papa Mastai-Ferretti (Pius IX) 'Blessed' together in September 2000.

Benedict XVI's decision announced yesterday shows him to be an heir who continues the balanced approach exercised by his predecessors.

Andrea Tornielli has a similar analysis:

The courage of Benedict XVI
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

Benedict XVI's courageous decision was totally unexpected.

There had been those who were convinced that the German Pope, who more than any other Pope has reflected much on the special link that binds Christians and the 'people of Israel', would wait until after the Vatican archives on Pius XII would be fully open to researchers before proclaiming the heroic virtues of the wartime Pope - which would allow the cause for his beatification to proceed. [Some had even written that it was most likely Benedict XVI would leave the 'problem' for the next Pope!]

But now it isn't so.

Joseph Ratzinger took some time, he commissioned a supplementary review of archival material in addition to what had been presented by the postulator for Pius XII, and satisfied that the new results were still positive - confirmed moreover by the most recent historiography which is abandoning the stereotypes of the 'black legend' that had been built around Pius XII - he acted.

He did so, demonstrating remarkable courage, especially considering that his approval of the decree comes lest than a month from his scheduled visit to the Synagogue in Rome, and already, the reactions from Jewish circles are coming down on Benedict XVI's supposed 'insensitivity'.

And he did it, it must be recalled, at the end of a year which opened in a painful way because of the Williamson case, also causing much rancor on the part of the Jews - because one of four Lefebvrian bishops whose excommunication the Pope decided to lift happens to be a Holocaust denier.

And he did it in the year of his visit to Israel, which included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

But Benedict XVI - who has always been unequivocal and firm against anti-Semitism - is also the Pope who halted the beatification, already scheduled, of the French priest Léon Gustave Dehon, founder of the Dehonian order [whose written works are being reviewed in response to charges of anti-Semitism levied by a number of individuals and organizations, both clerical and secular].

His promulgation of Pius XII's heroic virtues indicates that he obviously does not think there is any anti-Semitism involved at all in Pacelli's case.

With his carefully measured decisions, Papa Ratzinger also probably meant to send another message - because it is not by chance that the decree on Pius XII was promulgated at the same time as that for John Paul II.

When, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, there were those who demanded 'instant sainthood' by acclamation for John XXIII [much as they did for John Paul II at his funeral], his successor, Paul VI, decided that it should follow the regular process, and contextually opened the causes for beatification of both John XXIII and Pius XII.

There was, in such a decision, the clear intention to avoid a reading of the history of the Church as a succession of fractures and sudden leaps that serve to wipe the slate clean of the past.

But the two Pope's causes took on different courses. John XXIII was beatified in September 2000 in the midst of the Jubilee Year. And John Paul II paired his beatification with that of Pius IX.

And now, Papa Ratzinger is doing the same thing by declaring both Pius XII and John Paul II 'Venerable' at the same time.

Of the latter, he is not only the immediate successor but also his faithful and esteemed collaborator for decades. He knew him very well, he helped him in his decisions, and he allowed his beatification process to start without waiting the required five years following the candidate's death.

With his concomitant signing of the decree on Pius XII, Benedict XVI is also underscoring once more that 'hermeneutic' of Vatican II that he has called 'a renewal in continuity' and not 'a rupture with the past'. And in this perspective, the figure of Pius XII is emblematic.

Pacelli, who in the popular mind is identified with the 'pre-conciliar Church', is, in fact, the Pope most cited in the documents of Vatican II, and his Magisterium had contributed greatly to prepare for the Council.

For now, given the time necessary to certify a miracle - Papa Wojtyla's beatification miracle is in the process of certification. and Papa Pacelli's has yet to start - one cannot foresee a simultaneous beatification of two Popes as in 2000. But neither can it be excluded.

The following commentary focuses on the objections to Pius XII's beatification by non-Catholics:

Non-Catholics can have
nothing to say about
the beatification of Pius XII

by Franco Cardini
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

It is evident that this is not - and cannot be - an objective article. For the simple reason that for those who question the cause for beatification of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, nothing can be objective. And yet this matter concerns the Church and the Catholic world exclusively.

Canonization is the conclusive formal act, of canonical and liturgical nature, through which the Catholic Church, after careful examination of sources and proofs, at which anyone freely testify [for or against the candidate] - in short, a true and proper, exhaustive investigation - declares that someone is with certainty, 'in the glory of God', and as such, worthy of veneration as a saint.

In declaring sainthood, Catholic teaching says, the Church is assited by the special grace of the Holy Spirit and is therefore infallible in this respect.

Infallibility is an exceptional prerogative that the Church claims in rare cases: when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, when the Sacred College of Cardinals proclaims a dogma, when a saint is canonized, and in general - as Vatican-II puts it - "whenever the episcopal college, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, converges on a definitive decision in matters of faith or morals".

Catholics cannot doubt the infallibility of the Pope and the episcopal college in the few cases when they prescribe dogma, which, like a mathematical postulate, is undemonstrable, indisputable and irrefutable.

One must be very clear about this. Catholics are held to respect dogma. Whoever does not do that cannot call himself Catholic. And whoever is not Catholic cannot be concerned in any way by dogma, since he does not believe it, and therefore it does not concern him in any way.

The Italian Church is often accused of interference in issues of civilian society - which is hard to understand, since prelates, priests and the faithful are all Italians, and entitled - by right and civic duty - to speak about such issues as Italian Citizens.

It is even more difficult to understand how and why non-Catholics -whether they are 'secular' citizens, as they like to say, or adherents of other Christian confessions or religious faiths - could claim the right to be heard about the choice of Catholic saints, which is something that concerns only the Church, and which it carried out according to established principles and methods which pertain exclusively to her.

In 1963, an East German playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, staged a play, The Deputy, which, reiterating charges earliery made by the French writers Albert Camus and Francois Mauriac, accused Pius XII harshly of having done nothing to prevent, or at least to denounce, the genocide committed by the Nazis against the Jews in the Second World War.

Since then, the polemics have not died down. At the time, the charges were strongly sustained by those in Italy who never forgave Pius XII for his firm condemnation of Communist atheism (in line with the encyclical Divini Redemptoris of his predecessor Pius XI).

Today, Hochhuth's play and the old attacks against the Pastor angelicus are being dredged up all over. A theater group in Milan has staged it anew, and Hochhuth himself has surfaced to say that if he had to write the play all over, he would be even more harsh since he is convinced of Pius XII's anti-Semitism.

The Church, Catholic scholars, and public opinion have spoken enough about all this. It serves no use to listen to biased polemics, to voices in bad faith, to instrumental statements.

The words that count can only be from the Church organisms assigned to examine facts and evidence. If they conclude that the opinions are unfounded of those who maintain that Pius XII did not do enough for those who were persecuted, or worse, that he was an accomplice in this persecution, and that he exercised heroic Christian virtues, then they will recommend that he should be raised to the glory of the altar.

And that is the final and exclusive prerogative of the Church. At that point, protests will only be a vain attempt at intimidation and interference. And the protesters would not be from the Church. There is nothing else to say.

What led Benedict XVI
to sign the decree on Pius XII

by Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

Dec. 20, 2009

... In December 2007, more than any external objections, what led Benedict XVI to order supplementary documentation about Pius XII's wartime activities was the objection registered by a member of the Congregation for saints, that the postulator had only presented favorable documentation. The Pope entrusted the new task to a German Dominican priest, Fr. Ambrosius Eszeer.

Soem said that Benedict XVI delayed signing the decree on Pius XII because he did not want to irritate the Jews. But the explanation appears to be more internal.

Says Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano: "Paradoxically, the combative attitude of the extremist defenders of Pius XII had greater influence on Benedict XVI's decision."

At the same time, Vian opened the Vatican newspaper to a discussion of the Pius XII question, which later became a book, In difesa di Pio XII, subtitled 'Le ragione della storia' [The reasons of history].

Historians and theologians, Jews and Catholics, names like Paolo Mieli, Saul Israel, Andrea Riccardi, Archbishops Rino Fisichella nd Gianfranco Ravasi - wrote articles based on historical research that advanced the argument beyond the Black Legend that had grown around Pius XII as 'Hitler's Pope'.

The book, said Vian, "indicated a new climate" and "the reactions from the Jewish world appeared to correspond to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's expressed hope: that the outside world should respect a religious act which is internal to the Catholic Church."

"There seemed to be greater calm, even by those who did not share the conclusions, who expressed respect nonetheless, and there were favorable reactions as well"

What about Pius XII"s 'silence'?

"There is no doubt about it. But it was not the silence of someone in fear, or worse, of an accomplice or outright sympathizer of Nazism. It was a considered and sorrowful choice, more religious than political, of someone who wanted to save as many lives as possible. And it was Pius XII who ordered that the Church, its monasteries and convents, give asylum to persecuted Jews.

"Pacelli, the anti-Communist, also convinced American Catholic leaders that the United States needed to ally itself with Stalin against Hitler. Internally, he had made arrangements that the regency of the Church would go to the Archbishop of Palermo, since Sicily was the first to be lievrated by the Allies, in case the Nazis captured and deported him (Pius). His figure is completely part of history. Available documents are numberless, and more will turn up."

But Vian also warns that analogous to the Black Legend, "there is also 'the rosy one', equally insidious, put forth by unconditional apologists".

P.S.It turns out John Allen did comment on the Pius XII news rather promptly, and calls attention to the John XXIII-Pius IX 'pairing' in 200, as the Italian Vaticanistas did. I was half expecting him to lead off by saying yet again that the timing of the Pope's announcement so close to his scheduled visit to the Rome synagogue proves he has 'a tin ear' for certain things...

Thank Heaven for little things... even if his use of the word 'strategy', like Paolo Rodari two days earlier, makes the Pope sound calculating rather than courageous, principled and pure, which was the whole point, I think, of his decision which caught even the most experienced Vatican observers compeltely by surprise!... Likewise, the label 'two-fior-one' is cheapening, and yet another instance of Allen's penchant for inappropriate colloquialism when discussing things papal or ecclesial.

A 'two-for-one' strategy
in declaring Popes as saints

Two instances of something may not constitute a trend, but they can at least suggest a strategy. This morning an apparent Vatican strategy on turning popes into saints came into view: When you’re going to move a Pope along the path whose cause is sure to cause friction in Catholic/Jewish relations, bundle it with a popular Pope also seen as a friend to the Jews.

Call it a “two-for-one” strategy with regard to pope-saints.

This morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has approved decrees of heroic virtue for several figures, including two of his 20th century predecessors: Pope John Paul II, and Pope Pius XII.

A decree of heroic virtue is an official finding that someone lived a saintly life. It allows the candidate to be referred to as “venerable,” and means that the only hurdle left for beatification is a documented miracle, with one more miracle necessary for canonization, the formal act of declaring someone a saint.

The obvious parallel is to September 2000, when Popes Pius IX and John XXIII were beatified in the same ceremony. Among other things, Pius IX was known for corralling the Jews of Rome back into their ghetto and for the famous case of a Jewish child forcibly removed from his family and raised in the Vatican.

John XXIII, on the other hand, was the popular “Good Pope John” of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Among other gestures of outreach to the Jewish community, John XXIII had removed a reference to the “perfidious Jews” from the Church’s Good Friday liturgy. [Leaving the prayer substantially as is, with references to blindness and darkness, for which the Jews rose up in arms against Benedict XVI when he revived John XXIII's Missal in Summorum Pontificum! Double standard, anyone?]

The similarity with today's announcement is striking.

Pius XII, of course, was the Pontiff during the Second World War, whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust has long been the subject of fierce historical debate.

Whether one regards Pius as a hero or a villain, the progress of his cause will produce new tensions in Jewish/Catholic relations – even if the result has seemed a foregone conclusion for some time, since Benedict XVI has repeatedly insisted that Pius XII did everything possible under the dramatic circumstances of the war to save Jews and other victims of the Nazi regime.

Those tensions were not long in surfacing. Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League told the Associated Press, "We are saddened and disappointed that the pontiff would feel compelled to fast-track Pope Pius at a point where the issue of the record — the history and the coming to a judgment — is still wide open." [Nothing 'fast track' about it! Foxman is being hateful, as usual. Paul VI opened the cause in 1965, the Congrgeation for saints approved rthe decree on heroic virtues in May 2007, and now, Benedict XVI, has allowed the controversy-stalled beatification process to proceed.]

Hence the logic of moving Pius XII along at the same time as John Paul II, since John Paul is credited with revolutionizing ties between Catholic and Jews.

John Paul II is the pope who visited the Great Synagogue in Rome in 1986, the first time any modern Pontiff had entered a Jewish place of worship; he’s the pope who visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2000, leaving behind a note apologizing for centuries of Christian anti-Semitism; and in a thousand other ways large and small, he signaled a new sensitivity to the Jewish world.

Among other things, the timing suggests that bundling John Paul II and Pius XII wasn't entirely an accident. [Ach! this rampant colloquialism really sets my teeth on edge!] The Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved a decree of heroic virtue for Pius XII in May 2007, more than two years ago.

News reports at the time indicated that Benedict XVI had decided to slow things down, not out of doubt about Pius XII's worthiness, but concern for the wider implications of declaring him a saint.

[No, as it turns out, it was to order a review of available documentation regarding the Pope's wartime activities, in response to a Congregation member's objection that only favorable documentation had been presented! Even if the objector misses the point that failure to say anything cannot be directly documented - the absence of any written or recorded statements would have to prove it. And no one has suggested that Pius XII could have, at any time in his life, ever expressed any anti-Semitic sentiments, or approval of Hitler's persecution of the Jews! Benedict XVI simply bent over backwards to show his good faith with respect to objections about Pius XII.]

To be sure, John Paul II's outreach to the Jews is hardly the only aspect of his resume that merits consideration, and the same thing was true with John XXIII. Arguably, even if neither Pope had ever done anything with regard to Judaism, they both still would have been compelling candidates for sainthood.

Yet putting each man into the same sainthood “class,” so to speak, with a fellow Pontiff whose public image on Judaism is more mixed is, at least in part, a way of trying to soften the sting.

Substantively, it sends a signal that the Catholic church is not honoring those pontiffs in order to promote hostility to Jews; in terms of PR, it tries to ensure that whatever negative publicity may surround the controversial popes will be balanced (and, perhaps, outweighed) by positive reaction to the popular ones.

It remains to be seen whether John Paul II and Pius XII, having been declared venerable together, will also be beatified together. Sources say the beatification of John Paul II could come as early as October 2010, while it’s not clear that Pius’s cause will move quite that swiftly.

Yet the two pontiffs are, for the moment, linked, as was the case for Pius IX and John XXIII almost a decade ago. How well that strategy may play out is anyone's guess, especially since Pius IX’s history with Judaism was a sore point only in Italy and among experts, while the debates over Pius XII have a more global [and entirely false and unfounded] resonance.

It is a strategy nonetheless, and for an institution sometimes accused of being tone-deaf with regard to communications, perhaps that alone is worthy of note.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2009 5:14 PM]
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The Copenhagen summitteers
should study the Pope's message
as a key to action

by Franco Prodi
Translated from
the 12/20/09 issue of

Pope Benedict XVI's Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace came out this year in singular coincidence with the United Nations conference on climate change that ends today in Copenhagen.

It is a text that is distinctive for its immediate communicativeness, for its fusion of ethics and economic concreteness, for the detachment with which it arrives at practical economic suggestions, but above all, for its insistence on the centrality of man in Creation, of which he is the protagonist.

Authoritative commentators analyzed it contextually upon its release. But it is useful to read it again in the light of the final outcome from Copenhagen.

What is perceptible first of all is the strong contrast between the calm deployment of the papal text and images of all the agitation in that immense meeting hall in Copenhagen, where the powerful of the earth sought frantically to produce a document they could all agree on.

An effort that was apparent in the draft of the final text, in the embarrassment of having to resort to the nth review of commitments for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, with an attempt by the rich nations to compensate with financial transfers the poorer nations for their excessive use of energy resources.

There followed an almost absurdly ambitious commitment to "keep global warming under two degrees', as though it was an objective achievable simply through a deterministic cause-and-effect relation between efforts towards that end and the expected results.

No one ever entertained the thought that the objective was achievable without effort though the natural course of a system so complex and far from being completely understood.

Fortunately, the Pope's message came, to point out that "the ecological crisis cannot be evaluated separately from questions linked to it because they are strongly linked to the concept itself of development and the vision of man and his relationship with his peers and with creation".

Benedict asks for nothing less than "a profound and farsighted review of the development model". He also speaks of distortions in the economy and its ends, of dysfunctions that must be corrected.

But the original vision of the message is that man's unconcern for the environment, his pillage of natural resources, ultimately turn back on man himself. There is a causal nexus between the self-destructive tendency of modern man and his cultural and moral crisis, which is expressed in his unconcern for the environment.

The Pontiff places the responsibility for this spreading crisis on governments because they don't furnish 'long-range policies'. Any illusions of utopia are dispelled when the message points to the enormous responsibility in economic decisions and their moral consequences.

Economic activity should respect the environment and must take into account the costs for doing so. Thus, the call to fight environmental degradation and promote integral development corollary to a more ample breadth of international solidarity, which is seen as a cultural condition, rather than as a unilateral relation in philanthropic terms.

Those who work in environmental research and innovation should also learn to see scientific opportunities in the battle against environmental degradation and for integral human development. The Pope endorses development of solar energy, management of water and forest resources, use of agricultural techniques that respect the environment, and waste management.

In such a vision, even the very prospect of poverty would seem to collapse and be replaced by one of solidarity on a global level.

The imperative of caring for Creation also improves man interiorly and is cause for happiness. It leads naturally to peace because it helps to resolve the underlying crises manifested in the ecological supercrisis.

The method of 'moderation and responsibility' triumphs over indiscriminate exploitation which limits the future availability of resources.

The link between morality and economy prompts the Pope to recommend juridical norms defined by compatibility between private property and the universal destination of natural resources.

From the recommendation of lifestyles that favor non-material goods (the true, the good, the beautiful) follows the promise of reciprocity: "In taking care of creation," says the Pope, "we realize that God, through Creation, takes care of us".

This, then, is the way that the Pope's message indicates to the participants of the Copenhagen summit: the need to stop environmental degradation should be based on the convergence of intentions rather than on controversial accountability for emissions. It is a road that is long, but which can count on guidance from the Christian message and its humanism.

In Italy, meanwhile, an expert shows on TV what was found in the stomach of a beached whale found in Gargano recently - plastic bags, fishnets, the most disparate objects. The great animal had lost its orientation and suffocated because of ingesting manmade products..

It is a jolting image emblematic of man's indifference to his environment and calls for different, more responsible lifestyles and a new concept of development.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2009 11:35 AM]
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Monday, December 21

ST. PETER CANISIUS (Netherlands, 1521-1597)
Jesuit, Theologian, Writer, Preacher, Doctor of the Church
One of the great figures of the Counter-Reformation and the first Dutch Jesuit, Peter was educated in Cologne and is called the Second Apostle of Germany after St. Boniface, for having restored Catholicism to Germany after the Reformation. Besides Germany, he also re-evangelized Austria, Bohemia and Switzerland. A great teacher and charismatic preacher, he founded many schools and seminaries for the Jesuits. He addressed the Council of Trent on the importance of the Eucharist and is credited with adding the final lines of the Hail Mary prayer (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...]. In 1555, he published a Catechism that directly countered Luther's Catechism and had gone into 400 editions by the end of the 17th century, for which his special designation as a Doctor of the Church is 'Doctor of Catechetical Studies'. His writings include studies of St. Cyril of Alexandria and Leo the Great, and a voluminous epistolary reminiscent of St. Bernard of Clairvaux comprising 8,000 pages. Although his tomb was immediately renowned for miracles, he was not beatified until 1864, In 1925, he became the first saint to be canonized and declared Doctor of the Church at the same time.

No OR today.


Annual address to the Roman Curia - This pre-Christmas appointment has become an annual highlight
of Benedict XVI's Pontificate. In the context of reviewing the year just past in the Church and the Papacy,
he has been able to underscore the themes of his Pontificate. Today, the context was the end of the Pauline
Year and the start of the Year for Priests; the Church's special attention to Africa; with his trips to Cameroon
and Angola and the Special Assembly of the Bishops' Synod; reconciliation as a pre-political move in any
context, especially in Africa and the Middle East; the Holy Land trip for its multiple religious and political
significances, not the least that the Christian faith is not a myth; the trip to the Czech Republic as an
opportunity for re-evangelization; what the Church and Christians must do to insure a place for God in today's
world; and the special role of priests in this. [Notably, he did not say anything about the openings to the
Lefebvrians and the Anglicans initiated this year.]

12/21/2009 5:58 PM
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Translated from

Dec. 21, 2009

At 11 a.m. today, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received cardinals present in Rome and the members of the Roman Curia and the Governatorate of Vatican city state for their annual Christmas exchange of greetings at the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace.

The Pope's address was preceded by a greeting from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, in behalf of everyone present as well as the Apostolic Nuncios serving the Vatican around the world and the emeritus Nuncios.

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

Eminent Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters:

The Solemnity of the Holy Nativity, as Cardinal Sodano has just underscored, is for Christians a most special occasion for encounter and communion.

The Baby of Bethlehem whom we adore invites us to feel God's immense love, the God who came down from heaven to be close to each of us and make us his children, part of his own Family.

Even this traditional Christmas appointment of the Successor of Peter with his closest co-workers is a family encounter, which reaffirms our links of affection and communion, in order to be ever more that 'permanent Cenacle' consecrated to spreading the Kingdom of God.

I thank the Cardinal Dean for the kind wishes that he expressed in behalf of the College of Cardinals, the members of the Roman Curia and the Governatorate, as well as the Pontifical Representatives who are profoundly united with us in bringing to the men of our time that Light that was born in the manger at Bethlehem.

In welcoming you all with great joy, I also wish to express my gratitude to everyone for the generous and competent service that you render to the Vicar of Christ and to the Church.

Another year rich with important events for the Church and for the world is coming to an end. With a retrospective look that is full of gratitude, I wish at this time to call attention to some of its key points for the life of the Church.

From the year of St. Paul to the Year for Priests. From the imposing figure of the Apostle of the Gentiles who, having been struck by the light of the Risen Christ and his call, brought the Gospel to the peoples of the world, we have passed to the humble figure of the Curate of Ars, who remained all his life in the small village that was entrusted to him, and who, nonetheless, precisely in the humility of his service, made the reconciliatory goodness of God widely visible to the world.

Both figures manifest the breadth of the priestly ministry, and it also makes evident how great it can be to be humble, and how, through the apparently small service of one man, God can work great things, and can purify and renew the world from within.

For the Church and for me, personally, the year which is ending can largely be seen in the context of Africa. First of all, there was the apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola.

It was moving for me to experience the great warmth with which the Successor of Peter, Vicarius Christi, was received. The festive joy and cordial affection came to me from the streets and were not simply those for any casual visitor. To encounter the Pope is to experience the universal Church, a community that embraces the world and is assembled by God through Christ - a community not founded on human interests, but which is offered to us from God's loving attention.

Together, we are all the family of God, brothers and sisters by virtue of the one Father - this is the experience we live. We experience the loving attention of God in Christ for us, not as a thing of the past nor of erudite theories, but as a reality that is most concrete here and now.

He himself is in our midst - and one way we can perceive this is through the ministry of the Successor of Peter. Thus we are elevated above routine quotidianity. The heavens open, and this makes every day a feast.

But it is at the same time something lasting. It continues to be true, even in our daily life, that heaven is no longer closed, that God is near, that in Christ, we all belong to each other.

Particularly impressed deeply in my memory were the liturgical celebrations [in Africa]. The celebrations of the Holy Eucharist were truly feasts of faith.

I wish to mention two particularly important elements. First of all, there was the great joy that was shared, which was experienced even through the body, but in a disciplined way that was oriented towards the presence of the living God.

And that in itself already indicated the second element: the sense of sacredness - the mystery of the living God that was present shaped, so to speak, each single gesture. The Lord is present -the Creator, he to whom we all belong, from which we all came, and towards whom are all journeying.

The words of St. Cyprian came spontaneously to my mind, in which he wrote, commenting on the 'Our Father': "Let us remember that we are under the eyes of God who is looking at us. We must be pleasing to the eyes of God, both with the attitude of our body and with the use of our voice" (De dom. or. 4 CSEL III 1 p 269).

And there was that awareness in Africa - that we were under God's regard. This does not bring fear or inhibition, nor external obedience to the rubrics, and much less does it result in showing ourselves off to each other and raising our voices in an undisciplined way.

There was what the Fathers called sobria ebrietas- sober inebriation: to be full of joy that remains moderate and orderly, which unites persons in their interior being, leading them to communitarian praise of God, a praise which at the same time inspires love for our neighbor and reciprocal responsibility for each other.

Of course, part of the trip to Africa was my meeting with our Brothers in the episcopal ministry and the inauguration of the Synod for Africa through the presentation of its Instrumentum laboris [working agenda].

This took place during an evening colloquium on the Feast of St. Joseph, a conversation in which members of the individual national episcopates expressed their hopes and concerns in a very touching way.

I think that the good patron of the home, St. Joseph, who knew personally what it means to ponder, in solitude and hope, the future of his family, heard us lovingly and was with us even during the Synodal assembly itself.

Let us cast a brief look at the Synod. My visit to Africa made evident the theological and pastoral force of the Pontifical Primacy as a point of convergence for the unity of the family of God. And at the Synod, what also emerged strongly was the importance of collegiality - the unity of the bishops, who receive their ministry precisely by entering the community of the Successors of Apostles.

Each one is a Bishop, a successor to the apostles, only insofar as he participates in the community of those who carry on the Collegium Apostolorum in unity with Peter and his Successor.

Just as in the liturgies in Africa, and subsequently, at St. Peter's in Rome, the liturgical renewal by Vatican-II took form in exemplary manner, so also in the communion of the Synod, we experienced the ecclesiology of Vatican-II in a very practical way.

Equally touching were the testimonials that we heard from the faithful of Africa - stories of suffering as well as of concrete reconciliations in the tragedies that have marked the continent's recent history.

The Synodal assembly's theme was "The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace". This is a theological and especially pastoral issue of great actuality, but it could also be misunderstood as a political subject.

The task of the bishops was to transform theology into pastoral activity - into a very concrete pastoral mission, in which the great visions of Sacred Scripture and of Tradition are applied to the work of bishops and priests in a specific time and place.

In this, however, we must not fall into the temptation of taking politics in hand, and turn ourselves from pastors into political leaders.

Indeed, the most concrete question before which pastors find themselves continually is this: How can we be realistic and practical without arrogating to ourselves a political competence which is not ours?

We could say that this is a problem of positive secularity, practiced and interpreted correctly. This is also a fundamental topic in the encyclical published on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Caritas in veritate, which takes up and ultimately develops the question about the theological and concrete implications of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Did the Synodal Fathers succeed in finding the rather narrow road between simple theological theory and immediate political action, the Pastor's way? In my brief remarks at the end of the Synodal assembly, I answered this question affirmatively, explicitly and consciously.

Naturally, in the elaboration of the post-Synodal document, we must be careful to maintain this balance and to offer to the Church and society of Africa the contribution expected of the Church by virtue of her mission. I would like to explain this briefly with regard to one point.

As previously mentioned, the theme of the Synod used three big words that are fundamental for theological and social responsibility: reconciliation, justice, peace.

One can say that reconciliation and justice are the two essential prerequisites for peace, and therefore, they define its nature to a certain degree.

Let us limit ourselves to the word 'reconciliation'. A look at the sufferings and pains in recent African history, but also in other parts of the world, shows that unresolved differences that are profoundly rooted can lead, in some situations, to explosions of violence in which all sense of humanity appears to be lost.

Peace can only be realized if one arrives at an interior reconciliation. We can take a positive example from the process of reconciliation that has taken place in Europe after the Second World War.

The fact that since 1945, there have been no new wars in western and central Europe is based firmly and decisively on political and economic structures that are intelligently and ethically oriented, but this could develop only because there were interior processes of reconciliation which made a new coexistence possible.

Every society needs reconciliations in order that there may be peace. Reconciliations are necessary even for good politics, but they cannot be realized only for that reason. They are pre-political processes and must draw from other sources.

The Synod sought to examine deeply the concept of reconciliation as a task for the Church today, calling attention to its various dimensions. The appeal made by St. Paul to the Corinthians possesses a new relevance today: "We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5,20).

If man is not reconciled with God, he is also in discord with Creation. And if he is not reconciled with himself - he wants to be something other than he is - and therefore, neither is he reconciled with his neighbor.

Part of reconciliation is the capacity to recognize one's fault and to ask forgiveness - from God, and from one's neighbor. Likewise, part of reconciliation is the readiness to do penitence, the readiness to suffer to the utmost for one's fault and to allow oneself to be transformed.

Reconciliation also consists of gratuitousness, giving freely, of which the encyclical Caritas in veritate speaks repeatedly - it is the willingness to go beyond what is necessary, without counting the costs, going beyond what simple juridical conditions may require.

And that is the generosity of which God himself gave us the example. Let us think of Jesus's words: "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5,23f).

God, who knew that we were not reconciled, who saw that man had something against him, acted and came to meet us, even if only He was on the side of right. He came to meet us all the way to the Cross in order to reconcile us. That is gratuitousness - the readiness to take the first step.

And so, to begin with, go to the other side, offer reconciliation, take on the suffering of admitting that one was not right.

Never give up this will to reconcile: God has given us the example, and this is one way to become like him, an attitude that we will always need in this world.

We should relearn today the capacity to acknowledge fault, we should shake off the illusion that we are innocent. We should learn the capacity to do penance, to allow ourselves to be transformed - to take a step towards the other and to have God give us the courage and the strength for such a renewal.

In our world today, we should rediscover the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation. The fact that it has disappeared in large measure from the existential habit of Christians is a symptom of loss of truth in confronting ourselves and God - a loss which places our humanity at risk and diminishes our capacity for peace.

St. Bonaventure was of the opinion that the Sacrament of penance was perhaps a sacrament of humanity in itself, a Sacrament that God had instituted in its essence immediately after the Original Sin, with the penance he imposed on Adam - though if it would only attain its complete form in Christ, who is, in person, the reconciliatory power of God, and who had taken our penance upon himself.

In effect, the unity of sin, penitence and forgiveness is one of the fundamental conditions of true humanity, conditions which obtain their complete form in the Sacrament, but which, considering their roots, are part of the essential human being himself.

The Bishops Synod for African therefore was right to include in their reflections the rituals of reconciliation in the African tradition as places of learning and preparation for the great reconciliation that God gives in the Sacrament of penance.

This reconciliation, however, requires the ample 'atrium' (antechamber) of acknowledging sin, and the humility of penitence. Reconciliation is a pre-political concept and a pre-political reality, and precisely because of this, it is of of maximum importance in the political task itself.

If reconciliation is not in the heart, then the political commitment to peace lacks its interior prerequisite. In the Synod, the pastors of the Church committed themselves to that interior purification of man that constitutes the essential preliminary condition to build justice and peace.

But such a purification and interior maturation towards true humanity cannot take place without God.

Reconciliation. Again, with this key word I recall the second major trip I made in the year that is ending: the pilgrimage to Jordan and the Holy Land.

In this respect, I wish first of all to thank once again the King of Jordan for the great hospitality with which he received me and accompanied me during my pilgrimage. I am particularly grateful for the exemplary way in which he has committed himself to peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Christians, for his respect for other religions, and for his collaboration in the common responsibility towards God.

Likewise I thank the government of Israel for all that it did so that my visit could take place peacefully and safely. I am particularly grateful for the opportunities granted to me to celebrate two great public liturgies in Jerusalem and Nazareth, at which Christians could openly present themselves as a community of faith in the Holy Land.

Finally, my thanks to the Palestinian authorities who welcomed me with great cordiality, who made it possible for me to offer a public liturgical celebration in Bethlehem, and who also shared with me the sufferings and hopes of their territory.

Everything that one can see in those countries calls for reconciliation, justice and peace.

The visit to Yad Vashem meant an overwhelming encounter with the cruelty of human sin and the hatred of a blind ideology that, without any justification, sent millions of human beings to their death, and with this, ultimately wished to chase God himself from the world, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the God of Jesus Christ.

Thus, Yad Vashem is first of all a commemorative monument against hatred, a heartfelt plea for purification and forgiveness, a plea for love.

This very monument against human sin lent greater significance to my visits to the places of the faith and made their unaltered relevance today even more perceptible.

In Jordan, we saw the lowest point of the earth near the river Jordan. How could we not recall the words in the Letter to the Ephesians, according to which Christ "had descended to the lowest regions of the earth" (Eph 4,9).

With Christ, God descended to the ultimate depths of the human being, down to the night of hatred and blindness, to the darkness of man's remoteness from God, in order to kindle the light of his love. He is present in the darkest of nights, and even in hell - as the words of Psalm 139[138] became reality in Jesus's descent.

Thus being in the places of salvation - the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the place of Crucifixion on Calvary, the empty tomb that was the testimony of the Resurrection - was like touching God's history with man.

Faith is not a myth. It is real history, whose traces we can touch with our hand. This realism of the faith should serve us particularly well in the travails of the present.

God truly showed himself. In Jesus Christ, he truly became flesh. As the Risen One, he remains a true man, who continually opens humanity to God and is always the guarantee that God is a God at hand. Yes, God lives and relates to us. In all his grandeur, he is nonetheless the God who is near, God-with-us, who continually calls on us: Let yourselves be reconciled with me and among yourselves! - who always imposes the task of reconciliation in our personal and communitarian life.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude and joy for my visit to the Czech Republic. Before the trip, I was continuously warned that it was the European nation with a majority of agnostics and atheists, in which Christians are only a minority now.

Thus, so much more joyful was the surprise of finding myself surrounded everywhere by such warmth and friendship; that the major liturgies were celebrated in a joyous atmosphere of faith; that my words found sincere attention in the academic and cultural world; that the state authorities gave me great courtesy and and did everything possible to contribute to the success of the visit.

I would be tempted to say more about the beauty of the country and its magnificent proofs of Christian culture, which only help perfect its natural beauty. But more important is the fact that even those persons who consider themselves agnostic or atheist must be believers at heart, like us.

When we speak of a new evangelization, these persons may be horrified. They do not want to be seen as objects of any mission, nor to renounce their freedom of thought and of will.

But the question of God is nonetheless present in them, even if they cannot believe in the concrete nature of his attention to us. In Paris, I had spoken of the quest for God as the fundamental motive that gave birth to Western monasticism, and with it, Western culture.

As a first step in evangelization, we should keep this quest alive. We should see to it that man does not shelve the question of God as an essential question of his existence. Let us work so that man accepts this question and the nostalgia hidden in it.

Here, I am reminded of the words that Jesus cites from the prophet Isaiah, that the temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (cfr Is 56,7; Mk 11,17). He was thinking of the so-called Court of the Gentiles, that he would clear of all external business so that it could be a free space for Gentiles who wished to pray to the one God, even if they could not take part in the mystery, in whose service the interior of the Temple was reserved.

A space of prayer for all peoples - this meant persons who recognized God from afar, so to speak; those who were discontented with their pagan gods, rite and myths; those who desired what is Pure and what is Great, even if God would remain for them the 'unknown God' (cfr Acts 17,23).

They should nonetheless be able to pray to the unknown God and thus be in relation with the true God, even in the midst of many obscurities.

I think that even today the Church should open a kind of 'Court of the Gentiles' where man can in some way connect themselves to God, even without knowing him, and before they can find access to his mystery, which is served by the internal life of the Church.

To the inter-religious dialog, we must now add a dialog with those for whom religion is an extraneous matter, to whom God is unknown, but who neverhteless do nto wish to remain simply without God, but to approach him even as an unknown God.

And finally, once more, a word about the year for Priests. As priests, we are available to everyone: to those who know God closely and those for whom he is the Unknown. All of us should alwys seek to know him anew and we must continually seek to become true friends of God.

And how can otehrs get to know God if not through men who are friends of God? The deepest nucleus of our priestly ministry is that of being friends of Christ (cfr Jn 15,18), friends of God, through whom even other persons can find closeness to God.

Thus, along with my profound graittude for all the help you have given me throughout the year, this is my Christmas wish: that we may all become increasingly friends of Christ and therefore friends of God, so that in this way we cna be salt of the earth and light in the world.

A blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

As usual, Benedict XVI has packed his Christmas message to the Curia with numerous key ideas for the life of the Church. More than just an annual review of the year or a State-of-the-Church address, it also lays down his priorities for the pastoral agenda in the coming year, even as he shares his personal reflections in his habitually intimate and direct manner. It is another great papal text that can be mined infinitely for its riches.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2009 9:33 AM]
12/21/2009 8:35 PM
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Good news to and from
'men of good will'

Translated from

ROME, Dec. 21 - Pope Benedict XVI is expected for his visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17, as scheduled, the Jewish community in Rome confirmed today.

Notwithstanding the Pope's promulgation Friday of the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII, a move that many Jewish quarters have opposed bitterly.

"Of course he will come. We expect him," the sources said.

January 17 has been observed in the past twenty years by the Catholic Church In Italy [and some other countries in Western Europe] and the Jewish community as a day of dialog.

This year, it coincides with the Roman Jewish feast of Mo'ed di Piombo commemorating a miraculous rainfall that prevented the Jewish ghetto in Rome from burning up when an anti-Jewish mob set fire to its gates.

It will be Benedict XVI's first visit to the Rome synagogue, and his third to a synagogue, after Cologne in 2005 and New York City in 2008.

I've decided to post here the AP report on the Pop'e address today to the Roman Curia - typical of the other Anglophone reports in singling out from that entire dense speech only the reference to the Holocaust memorial - which was to be expected of them, in the light of the Pope's decision to proclaim thr heoric virtues of Pius XII.

But I'd like to note that the apparently general translation used in the reports of the adjective 'sconvolgente' - with which the Pope describes his visit to Yad Vashem - is 'upsetting' or 'disturbing', which are both translations of the word, yes, but the translation most appropriate among those available for the word 'sconvolgente' is 'overwhelming', which I believe is the sense of what the Pope meant. 'Upsetting' or 'disturbing' are rather limited, and even misleading, in this respect. (Just look at its effect as AP uses it in its headline below.) See my full translation of the Pope's address in the preceding post.

Pope says visit to
Holocaust memorial 'upsetting'


VATICAN CITY, Dec. 21 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday described a visit to Israel's Holocaust memorial as a disturbing encounter with hatred, days after his decision to move the controversial World War II-era pope closer to sainthood angered Jewish groups.

The German-born Benedict signed a decree Saturday on the virtues of Pope Pius XII, who has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust. The decree means that Pius can be beatified - the first major step toward possible sainthood - once a miracle attributed to his intercession has been recognized.

The decision sparked further outrage among Jewish groups still incensed over his rehabilitation earlier this year of a Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

Nevertheless, a planned visit by Benedict to Rome's main synagogue, scheduled for Jan. 17, is still on, said Ester Mieli, spokeswoman for Rome chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. She dismissed a report in a Rome newspaper that the visit was in doubt following the Pius decision.

Benedict, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth and deserted from the Nazi Army, has repeatedly spoken out against the horrors of Nazism and anti-Semitism, but his efforts to improve relations with Jews have not always been smooth.

On Monday, he recounted his May trip to the Holy Land in a speech at the Vatican.

"The visit to the Yad Vashem has meant an upsetting encounter with the cruelty of human fault, with the hatred of a blind ideology that, with no justification, sent millions of people to their deaths," he said.

Yad Vashem is "first of all a commemorative monument against hatred, a heartfelt call to purification and forgiveness, to love," he said.

Benedict's speech during his Yad Vashem visit drew criticism in Israel, with some faulting the Pope for failing to apologize for what they see as Catholic indifference during the Nazi genocide. Others noted that he failed to specifically mention the words "murder" or "Nazis."

Some Jews and historians have argued that Pius, who served as Pontiff from 1939-1958, should have done more to prevent the deaths of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. [

[But this argument is clearly fallacious in its entire premise! Can anyone cite any plausible reason to believe that if Pius XII had openly condemned the Nazis for what they were doing, not just to Jews but to Catholics and other persons they found 'useless' of 'harmful' to society - that it would have prevetned Hitler in any way from carrying out his programmed extermination of everyone the Nazis considered 'undesirable'?

On the contrary, it is documented fact that after he praised Dutch bishops for speaking out in behalf of persecuted citizens, the Nazis responded by ordering the deportation of both Jews and Catholics (among them, Edith Stein) to the Nazi camps!

None of those good non-Jewish people whom Yad Vashem and the Jews honor as 'righteous among the people' for having helped the Jews during the war, shouted their good deeds to the rooftops at the time. No, tney did everything to be prudent in order that they could go on saving more people.

Pius XII as the Pope had a duty to Catholics as well as to Jews and any other persecuted people at the time to avoid making things worse for them by any public imprudence. That surely deserves more than just the proverbial benefit of the doubt.

It is the only reason he kept a public silence. And the reason prominent Jews including Albert Einstein and Golda Meir volunteered their praise for his good deeds soon after the war.

It is obviously wrong and immoral that Jews who have an obsessive hostility against Pius II should make it appear as if he, not Hitler or the Nazis, were largely to blame for the Holocaust, because that is what their senseless rhetoric amounts to.]

A caption of a photo of Pius at Yad Vashem's museum says he did not protest the Nazi genocide of Jews and maintained a largely "neutral position."

The Vatican insists Pius used quiet diplomacy to try to save Jews and didn't lash out at the Nazis for fear that such a public denunciation would only result in more deaths.

Jewish groups have argued that Benedict shouldn't have made any moves on Pius's beatification process until the now-closed Vatican archives of his pontificate are opened to outside researchers.

A Yad Vashem spokeswoman, Iris Rosenberg, said it was "regrettable" that the Vatican had acted before documents are made available.

The World Jewish Congress called any beatification of Pius "inopportune and premature" until consensus on his legacy is established, the World Jewish Congress said in a statement.

[And I doubt that there will ever be a positive consesnsus because they don't want to give it. Even if Jewish researchers find no smoking gun in the Vatican archives five years from now, the detractors will always find a new excuse for condemning Pius XII - if only because humans, especially sanctimonious ones, detest to be proven wrong!

All that said, I will not comment further on the preposterous statements attributed to Jewish representatives in this or any other report.]

"There are strong concerns about Pope Pius XII's political role during World War II which should not be ignored," said Ronald Lauder, the president of the group. He called on the Vatican to immediately open all archives on Pius era and show "more sensitivity on this matter."

The European Jewish Congress argued that some Catholics are also opposed to beatification and urged thePpontiff's advisers to persuade him to suspend the process.

"This is not just about Catholic-Jewish relations, but about the abuse of Holocaust memory and history," the group's president, Moseh Kantor, said in a statement.

The Vatican says its archives on the Pius era - about 16 million files - won't be opened to outside historians until 2014 at the earliest.

"It's not a matter of secrecy," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying in Corriere della Sera. "Everything there is to know is already known*."

Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale (Acts and Documents of the Holy See relating to the Second World War) (Città del Vaticano, 1965-1981).

*[Four Catholic historian priests, led by the recently deceased Fr. Pierre Blet, compiled the 12 volumes summarizing what they felt were the Archival documents relevant to Pius XII's wartime activities (with respect to the Jews and other persecuted persons), as ordered by Paul VI in the 1960s.
See post in the CHURCH&VATICAN thread on 12/1/09
They would not have perjured their immortal souls to 'cover up' for anyone in any way, not even for a Pope.

Why don't any Jewish objectors ever refer to that 12-volume work and choose to speak as though it does not exist? Because it disproves their biased hypothesis, that's why!

And why were these detractors so ready to buy into the Soviet-Hochhuth propaganda launched by The Deputy that started all this nonsense? (Andrea Tornielli says that before that, French intellectuals like Albert Camus and Francois Mauriac ahd started the blame-the-Pope campaign against Pius XII, but oddly, [D]their accusations did not gain the traction - either with teh Jews or the general public - that The Deputy immediately did, and were promptly subsumed in it[/D].]

Psychologists may have a lot to say about this desperate need to displace the responsibility for the Holocaust and for their emotional devastation by it, onto a living institution - the Church - and the man who represented it at the time, because Hitler and the Nazis are no longer around to be dumped on!

They don't dare dump it on present-day Germans [except on one German, the present Pope] nor on the British and the Americans (for the much more relevant silence of Churchill and Roosevelt about the Jews) because there is no political or practical gain in doing that.

But blaming Pius XII - and excoriating his Church for venerating him - is a very convenient way of expressing the lingering anti-Christian bias among many Jews, that is just as bad as Christian anti-Semitism was in the past. Only the Jews can freely indulge in it today in the sanctimonious guise of denouncing 'offenses agianst the Holocaust'!]

Hannah Arendt, writing about the Eichmannn trial and the entire Nazi 'Final Solution' directed against the Jews, used the phrase 'the banality of evil' to say that evil can be and is perpetrated by ordinary persons claiming simply to the following orders.

Pius XII's detractors are not evil, but malicious and malevolent, for their own reasons, and one should perhaps speak, in their case, of the dreadful and insupportable sanctimony of malice, or the malice of sanctimony - it works both ways.

Before the announcement from the Rome synagogueee, some major Italian newspapers had articles warning the Pope's visit to the synagogue was at risk. The 12/21/09 paper edition of Corriere della Sera also had this brief interview with Cardinal Kasper.

'Emotional polemics now but
good sense will prevail'

Translated from

Dec. 21, 2009

VATICAN CITY - "It would be an absurdity if Benedict XVI's visit to the Synagogue of Rome were to be cancelled. Negative reactions [to the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues] were to be expected, but good sense will previal," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of teh Pontifical Commission for relations with Judaism, defending the Pope's decision.

Would it not have been better to wait until the archives are opened?
Beatification is a process distinct from historical research, and only the Pope can decide on it. He can allow a process to go forward, he can slow it down, he can postpone it.

But Benedict XVI chose to give the go-ahead because all the elements are in favor of Pius XII's cause, who, on the disputed issue, did everything possible to save Italian Jews during World War II.

During the Nazi persecution, the condemnation in L'Osservatore Romano was a daily matter. But a public attack by Pius XII himself on the Third Reich would have brought more harm to the Jews, as demonstrated by the appeal of the Dutch bishops [which led to a mass deportation to the Nazi camps of Dutch Jews as well as Catholics, including Edith Stein].

Serious historical studies continue to contradict those who want to feed the negative view about Pius XII. Papa Pacelli opened the doors of convents and parish houses to persecuted Italians.

Why are the Jews protesting?
These are emotional outbursts, but for some time now, I have found less opposition to a Blessed Pacelli. In a Europe that was subjugated by totalitarianism, he led the Church with prudence and an equilibrium acknowledged by everyone [except his detractors!].

Golda Meir praised Pius XII, whom the New York Times had called during the war 'the only voice in favor of the Jews".

Benedict XVI has weighed every aspect of this controversy, and in the end, he made a good decision with the courage to restore the truth in this debate and to rid it of half a century of falsehoods.

Do you think that the Jews will close their doors to him?
No. Honesty, scrupulousness and clarity will be appreciated. The visit to the Synagogue will take place and it will produce results in terms of mutual familiarity as did the visit of papa Wojtyla in 1986. Meeting each other face to face will help dispel incomprehension.

Pius XII's beatification process has followed all the prescribed rules and it is an internal matter for the Church.

Before Benedict XVI's trip to the Holy Land, there were fears of attacks against him over this issue. There were none. So, even this visit to the Synagogue will be a success. Dialog is not an option - it is an inner obligation.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2009 5:17 PM]
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Under God's eye
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 12/21-12/22/09 issue of

The end of the secular year - and for Christians the celebration of the Nativity of Christ - is an occasion for reflection and balance.

For Benedict XVI, too, who by tradition addressed his closest co-workers (cardinals, members of the Roman Curia, pontifical representatives), reading the year in a light that may be surprising but which is the only true one, that is, 'under God's eye', offering his view of these past 12 months to those who wish to listen.

The Pope chose his three foreign trips of the year - to Africa, the Holy Land, and the heart of Europe - to develop a reflection on the human being who, whether he is aware of it or not, is constantly under God's eye.

Benedict XVI's concern is to bear witness to that fact - in a year that he described as largely focused on Africa, but also included a pilgrimage to the land promised to Moses and where Jesus walked the earth to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. And a visit to the Czech Republic at the heart of an eastern Europe that has been liberated and at peace for 20 years though it bears a new weight of divisions, injustices and intolerance.

As always, Benedict XVI grasps the essential without attenuating his attentive realism which is all too often lacking among politicians and those who govern.

This realism is the principal characteristic of the encyclical Caritas in veritate, as it was of the Synodal assembly on Africa, without in any way arrogating inappropriate political competencies for the Church.

The essential for Christians is that heaven is no longer closed and that God is at hand. That is why African Catholics live the sense of sacredness daily, why they accept the primacy of the Pope as "a point of convergence for the unity of the Family of God", and why they celebrate joyous but orderly liturgies in what Benedict XVI calls the sobria ebrietas - sober inebriation - dear to ancient mysticism, both Jewish and Christian.

Reconciliation, the Pope says, is urgent in Africa as in any other society, in the manner of what took place in Europe after the tragedy of the Second World War. And reconciliation is realized, first of all, in the Sacrament of penance, which has largely disappeared from the habits of Christians, because we have lost "the truth of confronting ourselves and God", thus placing our own humanity and capacity for peace at risk.

But one must be vigilant against evil. And that is why Benedict XVI recalled the 'overwhelming' visit he made to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which commemorates the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their ultimate intention to chase away from the world the God of Abraham and of Jesus Christ.

But the image that is most striking and which will linger about this great papal discourse is that of the 'Court of the Gentiles', as there was in the Temple of Jerusalem for pagans who wished to pray to the one God, and from which Jesus drove out the merchants who had transformed it into a 'den of thieves'.

Imitating Christ today, Benedict XVI proposed, the Church should open up a space for all peoples and individuals who only know God from afar or to whom God is unknown or extraneous - in order to help them 'make a connection to God' who keeps his eye on every human being.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2009 11:47 AM]
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Tuesday, December 22

BLESSED JACOPONE DA TODI (Italy, ca. 1236-1306)
Widower, Franciscan, Reformer, Poet
Born to wealth in the Umbrian city of Todi, Giacomo (James) became a successful lawyer
whose wife did penance for his worldly excesses. After losing her in an accident, he had
a change of heart, gave away his wealth, joined the lay Franciscans, and preached penance
to everyone. People took to call him Jacopone ('Crazy Jim') because he dressed in rags,
but he kept the name. After 10 years, he decided to join the Franciscan friar order
itself, being accepted in 1578 after initial rejection, although he declined to be ordained
as a priest. Besides preaching penitence and fighting corruption by both Church and State
leaders, he also wrote many poems as well as hymns in the vernacular. The Stabat Mater
has been attributed to him. As the 14th century came along, Jacopone found himself a leader
of the so-called Spiritualist movement within the Franciscan order, which advocated a return
to St. Francis's strict lifestyle. In 1298, he was excommunicated, exiled and imprisoned
when a new Pope, Boniface VIII, opposed their cause. He was freed in 1303 after Boniface
died. He lived three more years, and was venerated as a saint from the day he died. Dante
mentions him in The Divine Comedy.

OR for 12/21-12/22/09:

In his annual address to the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI reiterates that
every commitment to peace must start with reconciliation and advocates
'The Church as a space for dialog and prayer for everyone'

The double issue also carries the Pope's Angelus messages last Sunday. Other Page 1 news: Lebanese President visits Syria
for historic start of dialog between the two countries; a UN-Arab League report says 40 percent (140 million) of people
in the Arab countries live under the poverty level.

No events scheduled for the Pope today.

The Vatican announced that the Holy Father has named two new members of the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints:
- Mons. Edmond Farhat, Titular Archbishop of Byblos and Apostolic Nuncio, and
- Mons. Raffaello Martinelli, Bishop of Frascati.

12/22/2009 2:22 PM
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Media have a problem dealing with any discourse that has multiple points of significance, as do most of Benedict XVI's texts, including his annual address to the Roman Curia. The Italian news agencies deal with it by writing a separate news item about each of the points made, but it is difficult to imagine any newspaper using these items. They would much rather use a single 'wrap-up' account.

The problem is there hardly ever is a satisfactory wrap-up account - and anyone interested in what the Pope says would do much better to read him dreictly, anyway.

All other news outlets, including the international news agencies, choose a single focus, and if there is space, they will also mention the other points in passing.

So it is with the Italian media today - the Anglophone media, outside of the Holocaust angle, have yet to seee a full translation, it seems.
I chose to translate this because it was written by a priest, even if it focuses on just one of the points dealt with by Pope Benedict yesterday.

Benedict XVI reminds bishops again
that they are not politicians

by Fr. Massimo Camisasca
Superior-General, Missionaries of San Carlo Borromeo
Translated from

December 22, 2009

The San Carlo missionaries are the priestly fraternity of the Comunione e Liberazione movement.

In certain ways, the Pontificate of Benedict XVI more and more resembles that of some Popes in the late Roman era like Leo the Great and Gregory the Great.

Papa Ratzinger is among other things a great liturgist. Liturgy has been a special interst of his as a theologian. It has also become a field of action for his Petrine ministry.

He wishes to rescue the celebration of the Sacraments, and the priesthood who administer them, from any reductionism - either from those who would make the liturgy a 'magical', a-historical rite, detached from its concrete Judaeo-Christian context, or those who have flattened the rite to its political dimension, in a partisan and ideological way.

A priest cannot be partisan because he represents God's universal plan for human salvation.

This issue is always relevant. Recently, a bishop asked the Holy See for permission to join the House of Lords of the British Parliament. The Pope declined.

In recent decades, we have seen priests involved at the summit of government in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and most serious of all, the bishop who was elected President of Paraguay [whose requrest to be reduced to lay state was granted by the Pope after his election].

In the 1960s and 1970s, Italy had its share of dissenting priests who were openly militant on the extreme left. [There still are quite a few at present, who get great play in the media, especially on TV.]

An exception was the late Don Gianni Baget Bozzo, who never left the Church [even if he was suspended from executing his priestly ministry by John Paul II while he was a member of the Ruopean Parliament, and who was moreover a traditionalist who espoused orthodox Catholic teachings.]

How do priests balance it so that they do not become totally uninterested in the social issues of the polis, nor fall into non-Christian spiritualism, nor become ideological partisans who have no room for the opinion of others and are caught in a closed historicism?

Benedict XVI has sought to give an answer to this, especially in his encyclical Caritas in veritate, which he cited in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia yesterday.

He made this in refernce to his trip to Africa in early 2009 and the subsequent Special Synodal Assembly for Africa.

"How can we be realistic and practical, without arrogating to ourselves a political competence which is not ours?". the Pope asked. "How do we find the rather narrow path between simple theological theory and immediate political action?"

Caritas in veritate sought to show the way through the social capabilities of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. These virtues are not only for a privileged group of men who can be disinterested in history, but on the contrary, they express a universal and very human dynamism of confidence, creativity, collaboration and solidarity, that can create a new social fabric.

The Pope cited an example to the Curia, in the reconciliation that is necesssary in African and other parts of the world where there are serious conflicts: If we want political and economic structures that favor reconciliation [such as those that developed in western Europe after World War II], we need "interior processes of reconciliation' that make a new coexistence possible.

"Every society needs reconciliations in order that there may be peace. Reconciliations are necessary even for good politics, but they cannot be realized only for that reason".

Indeed, the political but non-partisan aspect of Christianity is becoming more evident in the teaching of Pope Benedict.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/18/2010 4:01 AM]
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A talk with the Dominican scholar whom
Benedict XVI asked to do further research on Pius XII

by Filippo Rizzi
Translated from

Dec. 22, 2009

Ten months of research in the first section of the archives of the Secretariat of State to look through 27 master files that show how Pius XII, through his diplomatic network and his providential silence, worked to help Jews during the Nazi war years.

This was the supplementary research carried out at the request of Pope Benedict XVI by Fr. Ambrosius Eszer, O.P., a German and Dominican historian, before the Pope promulgated last Friday the decree on Pius XII's heroic virtues.

Fr. Eszer studied all the letters and messages sent or received by the Vatican between 1939 and 1945 in order to dispel any doubts on the late Pope's record. [In 2008, Benedict XVI said that he was postponing the promulgation to allow time for 'further study and reflection'.]

From the Convent of St. Paul in Berlin, Fr. Eszer, 77, expressed his great satisfaction that Pius XII has now been declared 'Venerable' along with John Paul II. Eszer is a distinguished scholar who had served as a historical consultant to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

"I am very happy", he said, "because my recent investigation allowed me to see how much the Holy See and Pius XII did in behalf of the Jews in World War II".

He adds: "I believe that when the full archives on his Pontificate are open to the public, we will discover more how much the light of the 'Pastor angelicus' deserves to shine forth in the world, if only because he did all he could - silently and behind the scenes - to stem the tide of Nazi persecution".

He says he was chosen for the task "because I am German, and almost all the documents reviewed were in German, including news clippings and letters".

Much of the correspondence came from the episcopates in Germany and the German-occupied countries of Europe.

"I was surprised," he said, "at the silent 'parallel' diplomacy which was carried out by the Holy See to help save so many lives in countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary".

For instance, he says, "There is a letter of protest to Hitler by the Archbishop of Bratislava Adolf Bertram, in which the cardinal opposed separating spouses in mixed Catholic-Jewish marriages to prevent the deportation of the Jewish spouses".

But he also noted a paradox about Italy's membership in Hitler's Axis: "Strangely, the presence of Italy in the Axis helped mitigate the Nazi ferocity against Italian Jews".

"I was also struck by a letter of Mussolini to a Fascist leader, Cesare de Vecchi, expressing concern that Hitler was giving little weight to the risk of protests from German Catholics, who at that time, numbered about a third of the population".

"In general", Eszer concludes, "my research confirms the conclusions drawn from the documents published in the 12 volumes of the Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, edited by the Jesuit historians Pierre Blet, Robert Graham, Angelo Martini and Burkhart Schneider".

Namely, that the 'silence' of Pius XII was obligatory in order not to place Jews and Catholics at even greater risk.

I'm posting the following item because it is the companion piece to the first item.

Pius XII's postulator speaks:
'An important step towards
establishing historical truth'

by Filippo Rizzi
Translated from

Dec. 22, 2009

From his Rome office, at Jesuit headquarters in Rome, Fr. Peter Gumpel - poatulator of Pius XII's cause for beatification and canonization - happily welcomed the news that 'his' Pope was mow a 'Venerable' of the Church.

Fr. Gumpel says it is not just out of satisfaction that his work is proceeding to the next stage, but he sees Benedict XVI's decision as "an important step towards establishing the historical truth' beyond doubt about Pius XII

"I have always been convinced of this great Pope's sanctity," he said, "but if there had been any document in the Vatican Archives that could possibly undermine his cause, I would have been the first to disclose it."

Fr. Gumpel says he has suffered the objections from Jewish circles who insist that the Church should do nothing about the process for Pius XII until after the Vatican archives on his Pontificate are opened for research in 5 years.

"First, I must say that not all the Jewish world is against the beatification. For instance, a majority of American Jews acknowledge with grattitude what Pius XII did to save as many Jewish lives as he could.

"But I also wonder why the objectors have not bothered to look into the Archives that are assessible up to 1939. Because then they would get to know the Eugenio Pacelli who was the Apostolic Nuncio in Munich and then the Cardinal Secretary of State - very different from the man portrayed by Rolf Hochhuth in his play The Deputy".

Moreover, he points out, "There are so many unpublished documents favorable to Pius XII in the chancelleries of many nations from World War II. Why are the objectors not looking at these?"

He also recalls that Papa Pacelli did make several statements against Nazism and racism - even if not explicitly against the persecution of Jews, in particular - and cites the Christmas radio message of 1942 [that Benedict XVI recalled in his homily for the Mass marking the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's death].

He cites Martin Gilbert, the English World War II historian of Jewish ancestry and a biographer of Winston Churchill, who said that Pius XII's 'silence' had allowed more Jewish lives to be saved than any explicit condemnation of Nazi persecution could have done. [I must check that out, because I think Gilbert also made a less unequivocal statement during a visit to Yad Vashem.]

The Jesuit says he received a letter last July from Fr. Ambrozius Eszer, the Domonican scholar tasked by Benedict XVI to carry out supplemental research on Pius XII's wartime role, who wrote: "I have finished my research at the archives of the Secretariat of State, and every investigation confirms the present position of the Holy See on Pius XII".

Gumpel says: "Pacelli was a rich Roman patrician, but he died poor, because he spent a great part of his personal fortune in the task of helping the persecuted Jews who were given refuge in Catholic churches and convents. I can cite all those 'unofficial missions' carried out for him throughout Rome by his faithful aide, Sister Pascalina Lehnert".

He adds, for instance, that Pius XII's detractors do not acknowledge what the Pope did before the October 16,1943, mass deportation of some Jews from Rome.

"He made it clear to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Eugenio Zolli [who converted after the war and took Pacelli's name for his own - which fact alone should make the Pope's Jewish detractors think twice, but then, militant Jews look down on Jews who convert, even if this one was Chief Rabbi of Rome, and would hardly credit what he has to say] that he was ready to give gold if that was needed to get the deportation order lifted. At the same time, he protested formally to the German ambassador to Rome, Ernst von Weizsaecker. This was personally related to me by Princess Pignatelli Aragona".

Fr. Gumpel's final wish is that "sooner or later, Papa Pacelli is rightly elevated to the honor of the altar. I don't know when, but it will come".

Prof. Giorgio Israele gives his usual calm and reasoned approach to Jewish differences with Christians:

How Pius XII is being used
to alienate Benedict XVI from the Jews

by Giorgio Israel
Translated from

Dec. 22, 2009

I have maintained all along that the question of Pius XII's actions with regard to the Shoah does not lend itself to cutting judgments along the style introduced by rolf Hochhuth's The Deputy.

On the contrary, historiographic acquisitions in recent years have simply made incredible the radical hypothesis of a Pope who was almost an accomplice in the extermination of Jews, or, at the very least, indifferent to the catastrophe.

Prudence would counsel to leave this question completely to rigorous historical research on available documents and any that may be found in archives that will be opened eventually - not to opportunistic polemics that are frenetic and too emotion-laden.

Besides, the beatification of Pius XII, as of any other Pope or Christian personality, only concerns the Catholic Church, something over which no one outside the Church can interfere, much less dictate how the Church should proceed.

From this perspective, the joint statement today of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, and the president of the Roman Jewish community, appears balanced.

They declare that they "cannot interfere in decisions internal to the Catholic Church that have to do with its freedom of religious expression", and they express their acknowledgment of "individuals and institutions of the Church who did all they could to save persecuted Jews" in World War II.

Of course, such acknowledgment should extend to Pius XII because it is not believable that, for instance, so many hundreds of Jews could be granted refuge at the Lateran Cathedral - the Pope's own cathedral - without his express permission.

However, it is also understandable that after many decades during which the figure of Pius XII has been portrayed as either an outright accomplice in the Jewish genocide or someone who was, at the very least, indifferent to it [the most usual accusation is that he chose to keep silent about it], a part of the Jewish world, and even many Christians - cannot accept a different image without recourse to historiographic research t5hat will help them overcome their emotional approach.

It must be said that the whole case takes on the aspect of what has been called 'opportunistic judgment". In other words, in all the stages crucial for Jewish-Catholic relations, something happens to provoke emotions, disconcertation, and perplexity that serve to reopen old wounds that had been difficult to close, to begin with.

And so, the question over Pius XII was been revived at a time when important events were on the agenda. The Williamson case came up while the Pope was preparing to go to Israel. This time, the Pope is scheduled to visit the Rome Synagogue next month.

If one adds to these coincidences the fact that there is a part of the media that is always quick to provoke and exploit whoever happen(s) to be the firebrand du jour, then the opportunistic picture is complete.

It is not my intention to speak with hindsight. Let us stick to the facts.

Some may disagree with the evidence, but the fact is that Joseph Ratzinger, as cardinal and 'theoretician' of John Paul II's Pnotificate, and then as Pope himself, has been a leading actor in the progress of Jewish-Catholic relations - and I underscore the word 'relations' instead of 'dialog'.

Whoever wants to develop those relations further should not indulge those who are working for a dramatic regression.

The latter are putting to work all the useful measures they can find to create a context in which the Pius XX question becomes the overriding concern when the Pope visits the Rome synagogue.

But everything should be done in order to make this visit happen. It would be the best gift even for those who prefer to sow the seeds if discord.

Jews and Christians have too much in common and work to do together: starting with getting religious freedom for everyone around the world.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2009 7:44 AM]
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'Formal' changes to rites and symbols
in Benedict XVI's Pontificate

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

The Pope at Vespers with Rome university students on Dec. 19.

Since the start of the new liturgical year, Pope Benedict XVI has used a new pastoral staff, shorter than that he used earlier which had belonged to Pius IX.

And shortly, it will be a year since the long pauses for reflection were introduced to papal liturgies, particularly after the homuly and after Communion.

These are just two among the many small modifications to papal rites and symbols made so far by Benedict XVI - a wise mix of new and traditional elements as a way of showing the continuity of the Papacy beyond the watershed represented by the Second Vatican Council.

Papal vestments, liturgical accessories, secondary aspects of the rites - these are the areas where the theologian Pope has been discreetly introducing, without stirring controversy, what seems to be one novelty after another.

In December 2005, towards the close of his first calendar year as Pope, he appeared in St. Peter's Square wearing the camauro - the red winter cap last used by John XXIII.

In the summer of 2006, he wore the red wide-brimmed straw hat called the saturno, which John Paul II had used a few times when he travelled to tropical countries.

That same year, he unearthed the winter mozzetta, the ermine-lined velvet capelet last used by Paul VI. [And the following EAster, the white Easter mozzetta.]

But more significant were the changes to the accessories, vestments and ritual rubrics in the liturgy, for which the key year was 2008.

On Palm Sunday, he blessed the palms and celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square, carrying the Cross-shaped staff of Pius IX, instead of the modern Crucifix-topped staff first used by Paul VI, then the two John Pauls, and himself until then.

On Corpus Domini of that year, he began to give Communion exclusively on the tongue to kneeling faithful.

In November of that year [with a new master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies], the Crucifix and candleholders returned to the papal altar, from which the post-Conciliar liturgical reform had taken them away (putting the Cross to the side, and replacing the candelabra, if at all, by little temple lights).

Starting with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in 2008, he also replaced the pallium that had been 'imposed' on him at this inaugural Mass - one that had been fashioned to resemble what it was in the early centuries of Christianity - with the stylized adaptation that had been worn by all other Popes in modern times.

And at Benedict XVI's request, his new master of ceremonies, Mons. Guido Marini, also resurrected vestments and furniture used by earlier Popes - papal chairs belonging to Leo XIII and Pius IX, chasubles and copes that had been worn by John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.

All these 'novelties' and restorations without changing any of the central aspects of Paul VI's Novus Ordo. Despite Summorum Pontificum, Benedict himself has only celebrated the ordinary form of the Mass in public, 'facing the people' in the manner of the Novus Ordo, using modern languages.

[Accattoli fails to note the obvious fact that the Pope's Masses, whether in St. Peter's, outside Rome, or in foreign countries, now employ Latin in most of the fixed prayers. This is evident if one reads through the libretti that the Vatican now posts online.]

Only twice, at the Sistine Chapel, has he celebrated Mass facing the altar [using the built-in altar of the Sistine, and doing away with the mobile 'ad-populum' altar that used to be wheeled in for Sistine chapel Masses. Shortly after Accattoli wrote this article, the Pope celebrated 'ad orientem' once more at the newly renovated Pauline Chapel, whose altar was repositioned so that it could be used to celebrate both ways - but the Pope chose the traditional direction in the Mass he celebrated with the members of the Itnernational Theological Commission].]

To my mind, the most significant of the Benedictine changes was that with the Pope's pastoral staff. In place of the traditional Cross-topped staff, Paul VI had introduced a Crucifix sculpted for him by Lello Scorzelli, which his successors up to Benedict XVI himself used.

But Papa Ratzinger went from Papa Montini's Crucifix-staff to Papa Mastai-Ferretti (Pius XI)'s Cross-staff [and now his own symbol-laden staff]. Some have called it a transition from the 'Crucifix of kerygma' [the evangelical announcement) to the 'Cross of dogma'. Which is over-reaching.

The Pope's intention was obviously to provide a wide view of the papacy and its continuity, to which he had first called our attention by his choice of the name Benedict, which went beyond the Conciliar series of Johns and Pauls.

Just as by his choice of name, he showed his attachment to the entire 'apostolic succession' of the Popes, without linking himself in a special way to the more resent Popes, his choice of papal wear, liturgical vestments and accessories is also intended to highlight a wider panorama of historical continuity.

Finally, the ritual silences during the liturgies. The practice was introduced at Christmas Eve Mass last year. The silences are observed after readings, after pslams, after the homily, and most especially, after Communion.

Benedict XVI's attachment to such silences - which characterizes the traditional liturgy and has practically disappeared in the Novus Ordo - was already pre-announced by his advocacy of practising Eucharistic Adoration more widely and frequently.

With these silences, he is starting to educate the faithful who follow papal liturgies to a better, more appropiate attitude of concentration and meditation.

Liturgical changes introduced
by Benedict XVI: Interview
with a liturgy consultant

Trnslated from
the Italian service of

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 21 ( - The faithful around the world have been able to note through satellite TV the changes that have been introduced to pontifical liturgical celebrations under Benedct XVI.

We spoke about this to Don Mauro Gagliardi, professor of theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome and a consultant to the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. Fr. Gagliardi also edits the biweekly feature 'Spirito della Liturgia' in Zenit's Italian service.

Reading Luigi Accattoli's article in Liberal, one gets the impression of a directed effort, at the request of the Holy Father, to bring papal liturgy more in line with tradition.

Since we are approaching the solemn celebrations of the Christmas season, which the Holy Father will preside over at St. Peter's Basilica, we took the opportunity to speak to him about the changes.

Mons Gagliardi: Accattoli's article presents an effective overview of the more visible among the recent changes in pontifical liturgy, although there are others, probably omitted for brevity or because they are more difficultly understood by the public.

The esteemed and qualified Vatican observer that Accattoli is underscores many times that these changes were probably all initiated by the Holy Father himself, who, as everyone knows, is an expert on liturgy.

Accattoli starts his account by mentioning the papal vestments which had been largely discarded in recent decades: the camauro, the red saturno, the winter mozzetta - as well as the changes to the papal pallium.
These are vestments that are distinctively and exclusively papal, like the red choes, which is not mentioned in the article.

Although it is true that Popes in recent decades have chosen not to use all these vestments, or have made modifications, the vestments have never been 'abolished', and so every Pope is free to use them.

It must not be forgotten that just like most of the visible elements of liturgy, even vestments used outside liturgy have symbolic as well as practical function.

I remember that when Pope Benedict first used the camauro - an outdoor winter cap that protects effectively from the cold - one of the leading Italian magazines featured a picture of the smiling Pope wearing the camauro, with the caption "He did the right thing!', meaning that even a Pope has the right to wear suitable winter protection!

But it is more than just practical wear. It is also associated with who is wearing it and the role he represents - in this case, the camauro represents the Pope [who is the person for whom it was designed, and the only one who has the traditional right to wear it], and this is underscored by the beauty of the garment or accessory, how it is adorned, and the materials used.

The pallium is a different story, because it is a liturgical accessory. John Paul II used one which was similar to that used by metropolitan bishops [heads of active dioceses].

When Benedict XVI's Pontificate began, a different style was prepared for him [former papal master of cermeonies Archbishop Piereo Marini took credit for this], which revived an old usage, and the Holy Father used it for some time.

After careful study, it was decided that it was preferable to return to the style used by John Paul II, but with changes to make it different from the bishops' pallium, which the Pope imposes on them. [The crosses on the Pope's pallium are red instead of black, and he uses pins on three of the crosses to signify the nails on Christ's Cross.]

More information about these changes can be found in Mons. Guido Marini's interview published in L'Osservatore Romano on June 26, 2008.

What can you say about the pastoral staff (ferula) chosen by Benedict XVI to replace the Crucifix-topped staff sculpted by Lello Scorzelli and used by Pope Paul VI, the two John Pauls, and Benedict himself in his first two and a half years as Pope?
One might say that the same principle applies here. But one must point out the practical reason: the new staff that Benedict XVI has used since the start of the liturgical year is 590 grams lighter than the Scorzelli staff, that's half a kilogram which is not insignificant.

Historically, the Cross-shaped pastoral staff is faithful to the Roman tradition for Popes - a Cross without the Crucified Christ. To this, one can add symbolic and esthetic considerations.

Accattoli also cites other changes which we can call more substantial: the attention to having moments of silence, celebratinfg the Mass facing a Crucifix or an altar with Tabernacle, and communion given on the tongue to kneeling faithful.
These are all elements of great significance that obviously, I cannot analyze now in a detailed manner. The Instituto Generalis of the Roman Missal, published by Paul VI, prescribes the observance of sacred silence at various points. So the observance of these silences in the papal liturgies is simply carrying out those norms[which obviously no one ever followed!]

AS for the position taken when celebrating Mass, we can see that the Holy Father has gone on doing it 'versus populum' in St. Peter's and elsewhere. The only exceptions so far have been at the Sistine Chapel and the newly renovated Pauline Chapel.

Since every celebration of Mass, regardless of the position taken by the celebrant, is a celebration of the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit - never a celebration for 'the people' or the congregation - then it should not be considered 'strange' that the celebrant should celebrate 'towards the Lord' [which was also the traditional way]. Especially in places like the Sistine Chapel when there is a fixed altar against the wall, it is both more natural and faithful to tradition to celebrate 'towards the Lord', rather than bring in a mobile altar in order to be able to celebrate Mass 'towards the people' .

As for the manner of giving Holy Communion, one must distinguish between the act of receiving the Host on the tongue and the act of kneeling.

In the current form of Paul VI's Missal, the faithful have the right to choose whether to receive Communion standing or kneeling. If the Holy Father has decided that he prefers to give it to kneeling persons, then one must deduce - this is my personal opinion - that he believes it is more appropriate to express the sense of adoration that we should always feel towards the Eucharist.

It's an aid that the Pope gives to those who receive Communion from him, to remind them to pay the right worshipful attention to Him whom they are receiving in the Most Holy Eucharist.

In Sacramentum caritatis, the Pope, recalling St. Augustine, said that we should always receive the Eucharistic Bread with adoration, because it would be asin to receive it otherwise. Before receiving the Host himself, the celebrant genuflects before the Host. Why then should he not help the faithful to cultivate the sense of adoration with a similar gesture?

About receiving the Host in one's hand, it must be remembered that this is now possible in many places - possible but not obligatory - but as a concession, an exemption to the ordinary norm which is that the Host should be received on the tongue.

This concession was originally given to some bishops' conferences who requested it - the Vatican never suggested or promoted it. However, no bishop in an episcopal conference that requested and obtained the indult is obliged to apply it exclusively in his diocese. Every bishop can always decide that in his diocese, the universal norm applies, which is valid regardless of any concessions granted - and the norm is that Communion should be received on the tongue.

So if no bishop in the world is obliged to abide by the indult, instead of the norm, neither is the Bishop of Rome. On the contrary, it is important that the Holy Father keeps to the norm, as Paul VI himself confirmed. [For more details, see M. Gagliardi, La liturgia fonte di vita, Vereona 2009, pp 170-181.]

In conclusion, as you are on the staff of consultants to Mons. Guido Marini, what do you think in general of all the liturgical modifications introduced by Benedict XVI?
Of course, I can only speak for myself, and my opinions do not reflect anything official. I think what the Holy Father is trying to is to wisely bring together traditional things with the new, in order to carry out, in letter and spirit, what Vatican II intended, and to do it in such a way that papal liturgies can be exemplary in all aspects.

Whoever takes part in a papal liturgy should be able to say, "Yes, this is the way it should be done. Even in my diocese, in my parish!"

But I wish to say that these 'novelties', as you call them, have not been introduced in an authoritarian way at all. For the most past, they have been preceded by an interview given by Mons. Marini to L'Osservatore Romano or another newspaper.

We consultants from time to time publish articles in tne Vatican newspaper to explain the historical and theological sense of liturgical elements and the decisions that are taken in this regard.

To use current language, I would say it has been a 'democratic' way - not in the sense that the decisions come from a majority consensus, but that the Vatican seeks to make the reasons for the changes understood - that there is always a historical, theological and liturgical reason for decisions taken, which are never purely esthetic, much less ideological.

We might say that the effort is to make known the ratio legis - the reason for the 'law' or norm - and I think that this in itself is a 'novelty' of some significance!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2009 1:11 PM]
12/23/2009 1:48 PM
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Wednesday, December 23

ST. JAN KANTY [JOHN CANTIUS)(Poland, 1390-1473
Priest and Professor
Born near present-day Auschwitz, Jan went on to brilliant studies in Krakow
where he was to be a professor Sacred Scriptures until his death, except for
a brief early stint as a parish priest. He lived only on what was absolutely
necessary and gave away all his earnings to the poor. He made four pilgrimages
to Rome on foot and travelled once to Jerusalem hoping to be martyred by the
Turks. Even in life, many miracles were attributed to him, and his tomb in
Krakow quickly became a pilgrimage site. Canonized in 1767, he is one of the
patron saints of Krakow. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who was himself a professor
priest for some time, called Jan Kanty the patron saint of academic priests.
The present-day Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are dedicated to the
celebration of liturgy.

OR today.

No papal stories in this issue. Even Page 1 stories are not strictly news:
A post-mortem on the failed Copenhagen climate summit; a US academic
report claiming Wall Street had its worst decade in history; continuing
civil war in East Congo; China claims it expects an 8% increase in GDP
in 2010; and an interview with Cardinal Roberto Tucci, 88, an Anglican
who became Catholic as an adult, joined the Jesuits, went on to found
and become editor of La Civilta Cattolica in 1959, then director of
Vatican Radio from 1969-1985, when John Paul II named him coordinator
of his papal trips. He worked closely with John XXIII, Paul VI and John
Paul II, who named him cardinal at age 80, exempting him from the
requirement of becoming a bishop.


General Audence - The Pope spoke on the significance of Christmas, starting from how St. Francis
originated the tradition of re-creating the Nativity scene at Christmas.

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