'BENADDICTIONS': The lighter side...and sheer indulging!

Full Version   Print   Search   Utenti   Join     Share : FacebookTwitter
Pages: [1], 2
00Thursday, June 11, 2009 3:37 AM

One modest 'Benaddiction' I wish for - if only we could have one 'light' or anecdotal story about our beloved Holy Father for every four of so-called 'hard news' stories! In the meantime, let us give thanks for the 'Benaddictions' we do get.....

Texas girl meets the Pope
thanks to 'Make a Wish'

By Elaine Ayala and Lauren M. Sanchez

June 10, 2009

Alyssa Treviño is usually chatty, bubbling over with enthusiasm and the loudest person in the room. But on Wednesday in Rome, the 19-year-old sophomore from St. Mary's University was probably at a loss for words — at least momentarily — when she met the man who leads the world's Catholics.

Though she could not be reached for comment, the photograph of Pope Benedict XVI greeting the young Harlingen native, who is smiling broadly, tells it all. Her parish priest Father Tom Pincelli of Harlingen's St. Anthony Catholic Church calls it “a masterful smile.”

“You will not find a more courageous young lady as this girl,” he added.

Treviño, who was born with heart problems, once faced a life-threatening illness, but received open-heart surgery at 13 that saved her life.

Wednesday's meeting with the Pontiff was the culmination of a wish she made more than four years ago, when the late John Paul II still reigned over the Church. It was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Rio Grande Valley.

Like the national organization, the local chapter strives to grant “life-affirming wishes rather than last wishes.” Overall, the group has funded almost 178,000 requests, ranging from world travel to meeting celebrities.

Sarah Clunie, a nurse at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where Treviño was treated as a child, nominated her for the wish.

Treviño is often reluctant to tell people about her childhood, described as one filled with one medication after another. “I want people to know me for who I am,” she said earlier this spring.

She's now majoring in biology and wants to become a pediatric cardiologist, so she can treat children similarly afflicted.

In April, Treviño also told a reporter that her family is close-knit. “They've gone through the same stuff I've gone through, because they've always been there,” she said.

They accompanied her to Rome, too. Make-A-Wish flew her father Albert, a Border Patrol agent, there, along with her mother Edna, who works at a dental office in Harlingen, and her younger brother Danny, a high school student. Treviño was hoping to visit the city's major sites, including the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.

Back home, many well-wishers were cheering her on.

“I hope she has a life-changing event, that it was everything she wanted,” said Bryan E. Burke, an accountant on the Harlingen Make-A-Wish board.

Father Pincelli said he hoped the papal meeting would “add to the strength she already has.”

Every Wednesday, thousands of people gather in Vatican City for the pope's weekly audience, an event held in the 6,300-person capacity Paul VI Audience Hall [Note to the newwriters: Only in the cold months, or in really bad weather. Otherwise, it's in St. peter's Square, as it was today.]
Before leaving, she said she didn't know what she'd say if she got the chance to meet the Pope. “I think I'll probably be really scared, and I might cry.”

00Friday, June 12, 2009 4:36 PM

I felt I should post this here as well.... Not 'light' news, certainly, but with more mundane considerations - such as Papino's madorable little 'ciuffetto' rising from his cowlick like a miniature halo in the last photo!

A late addition to the Yahoo newsphoto pool from last night:

I have posted a full translation of the Holy Father's Corpus Domini homily two posts above [in the BENEDICT NEWS thread]. Yet another treasure in the Holy Father's Magisterial texts.

More photos of the Corpus Domini procession:

The following 2 photos are an odd juxtaposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the Pope with shop signs along Rome's Via Merulana, the processional road from the Lateran to Santa Maria Maggiore:

As the Vatican Radio commentator noted yesterday, Corpus Domini is the one solemnity that the Holy Father leads primarily as the Bishop of Rome, pastor of this diocese, not as the Pope. A distinctly Roman feast in which even the liturgy at the Lateran Basilica (the Cathedral of Rome) last night was predominantly in Italian. (If you watched the telecast, you may have enjoyed - as I did - the exuberant Italian flavor of the entire Mass, particularly the hymns and the singing.)

Indeed, the Corpus Domini procession in Rome - with its army of followers and devotees who turn out faithfully every year - is one of the remaining grand manifestations of popular devotion in the modern world.

It is a rare glimpse - not always sufficiently shown by the TV coverage - into that still-existing world of religious confraternities and sodalities, with their distinctive and colorful standards and uniforms, that hark back to the Middle Ages.

The Vatican commentator was right about one thing. Anyone visiting Rome would do well to schedule it around Corpus Domini, because it is the one occasion when you have hte best chance of seeing the Pope from fairly near without having to worry about getting any tickets.

From the huge square in front of the Lateran Basilica where the Corpus Domini Mass is celebrated to the mile-long procession route and around Santa Maria Maggiore, a devoted tourist/pilgrim could theoretically have his/her fill of a Eucharistic experience that is also a prime papal event.

Finally, I could not resist cropping and enlarging this image:

00Monday, June 15, 2009 4:46 AM

Meeting the Pope
in the Holy Land

May 15, 2009

I came across this by chance today, one month late, but it's still a good story - and an interesting point of view. The writer, Brad Hirschfield, is an Orthodox rabbi who writes a blog for both the On Faith section of the Washington post, as well as for Beliefnet. He is also the president of National Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

NAZARETH -- My cell phone rang at about ten o'clock last night, it was my brother.

"So, did you meet him? Did you shake his hand?"

And I responded, "Yes, I have met the man in the red Prada loafers."

We talked a bit about the meeting in Nazareth to which I had been invited, but as I also explained to my brother, the best part of the meeting was neither hearing the Pope's remarks (pleasant enough remarks about peace and interfaith cooperation) nor even shaking his hand.

The best part of the meeting was the chance to look into the eyes of the 82-year-old Pontiff.

I appreciate the shaky track record of looking into a world leader's eyes and getting a sense of who he is, especially after former President Bush's experience with then Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But I also know that after days of swirling controversy in which the Pope's every utterance was placed under a magnifying glass, usually to disparaging effect, the look in Pope Benedict's eyes as he walked from the meeting room, provided a context in which to understand his entire visit. It was a look of true gentleness.

It was not the fiery charisma of his predecessor, nor was it even the burning intensity of the custodian of Catholic orthodoxy. And that gentleness, that sense of human caring, became the prism through which to view both this man in general and his journey to the Holy Land in particular.

This was not a trip about who is right and who is wrong, about what was done to whom by which people, when. So, all of that analysis becomes somewhat strange.

In fact, this was a trip by a man who simply wants us all to treat each other a little better; especially in a land we call Holy. I know it sounds a little "Rodney King", and we all like to mock that plea.

But I wonder if we mock its simplicity because of the implicit hard work required to make it a reality. That is the hard work to which each of us in the room was gently called by the Pope.

Interestingly, the encounter with the Pope in Nazareth suggested a way in which the work could be done. The power of the meeting was that by virtue of his office, the Pope has the ability to draw people together to pursue that goal. That is the lasting message of the meeting in Nazareth.

Most of the people gathered in that room do not make it a regular practice to spend time together. Despite sharing a country, the Christians, Jews, Muslims and Druze who came together, did not really share a common language, or if they did, it was Arabic. But that is a topic for another time.

The Pope brought this group together and that convening power should not be squandered. It must be used to continually bring leaders together, especially those who are not naturally inclined to do so.

Such meetings should carry a papal imprimatur: You cannot afford not to show up. I hope that representatives of the Church will continue that work, helping to turn a list of invitees into a network of religious leaders who show up not only to be seen by the Pope, or to represent teir respective communities, but to continue a conversation, or at least begin to find a common language.

I believe that were it to happen, the next time I am privileged to see Pope Benedict, I will see not only gentleness, but joy.

Too bad Rabbi Hirschfield missed the joy that is as characteristic of the Holy Father as gentleness, the quality best conveyed by the Italian word for it, dolcezza, which connotes the sweetness that marks true gentleness.

00Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:41 PM
Thank you, Dr Buzz!!!!!!!!!!
I'd just like to say a big thank you to Dr Renato Buzzonetti for caring for our beloved Benedetto for the past four years. I've checked at every event, Mass etc. to make sure I can see him and I always can. Now I have to find out what Dr Patrizio Polisca looks like. Dr Polisca: please look after our Papa! I'll be watching out for you!

To Dr Buzz
[SM=g9433] [SM=g9433]
00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:05 AM

Mary, pictures and stories on Dr. Polisca were posted yesterday in PEOPLE AROUND THE POPE.

00Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:23 PM

A Pope in Capri
Translated from
the 6/18/09 issue of

Cardinal Ratzinger starting out in Piazza Rosso, Anacapri, on the 'prophetic' walk described in the article. He is accompanied by Raffaele Vacca, one of his hosts in Capri. Mons. Clemens is the red-headed cleric behind them; and the man on the left is Marco Roncalli, later journalist and biographer of his uncle, the late John XXIII.

On Sunday morning, September 12, 1992 [it was actually Sept. 13, going by the records of the Premio San Michele] , Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated Mass at the parish Church of St. Sofia in Anacapri.

The night before, he had received Capri's San Michele Prize for his book Svolta per l'Europa (Turning-Point for Europe) published by Edizioni San Paolo.

After the Mass, as he was walking through the narrow alleys near Piazza Boffe, a five-year-old girl, seeing him with his red zucchetto and cardinal's sash, asked, "Who is he?"

Her cousin, two years older, answered, "It's the Pope!"

And the cardinal broke into laughter, a witness recalls.

A marker recalling the episode will be unveiled on Saturday, June 21, in the presence of Mons. Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who was with Cardinal Ratzinger on that occasion, when he was his private secretary.

On the same day, a photographic exhibit on Cardinal Ratzinger's two succeeding visits to Capri (June 1997 and October 2004) will also be inaugurated.

Additional info from a press bulletin on the Premio San Michele website:

The marker recalls the prophetic event which happened on the morning of Seotember 12, 1992, when a boy from Anacapri refrred to then-Cardinal Raztinger as 'the Pope'.

The 'prophecy' was immediately caught by don Antonio Tarzia, now editor of Edizioni San Paolo's magazine Jesus, who called the cardinal's attention to it.

The placement of the marker was promoted by the Associazione di Varia
Umanità [sponsors of teh Premio Capri San Michele], with the unanimous approval of the Communal Council of Anacapri.

Inauguration of the photographic exhibit on Cardinal Ratzinger's other visits to Capri will precede the unveiling of the marker.

I lucked in - I found all those earlier photos (with captions, too), including the main photo above (previously unpublished, to my knowledge), on the site of the Premio Capri San Michele:

Awards night, Sept. 12, 1992.

Sept. 13, 1992: The cardinal sutographs books; and taking in
the scenery from one of the balconies of Villa San Michele).

Mons. Clemens is on the left here.

June 21, 1997: The Cardinal leaves the Eden Paradiso after visiting an exhibit about the Premio San Michele.
He came on a holiday with his brother Georg.

October 9-10, 2004: Left photo, the cardinal received his second Premio San Michele; right photo, with his hosts (Fr. Tarzia is the priest with him).

The Premio Capri San Michele was started in 1984 to reward what jurors consider to be the best books published in Italy during the year in various categories, but the Premio Capri San Michele itself goes to what is considered the outstanding book of the year. It has tended to favor serious books by Catholic writers.

Cardinal Ratzinger won his second Premio Capri San Michele in 2004 for Fede, tolleranza, verita (Faith, toelrance, truth).

In 2002, the sponsors started giving out the Gran Premio Capri San Michele, whose first recipient was John Paul II for Strade d'Amore (Paths of Love)(no English edition), a collection of reflections and exhortations from his Pontificate.

The second such Grand Prize was given in 2007 to Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's JESUS OF NAZARETH.

00Thursday, June 18, 2009 1:02 PM


I had this serendipitous find today while googling 'Cardinal Ratzinger in Capri"... It was written not too long ago, and I still cannot figure out what occasioned the article looking back after 16 years!... It comes from an online Italian Catholic daily journal of apologetics and Catholic news, about which I knew nothing until I came across it by chance today.

How the cardinal appreciated Capri:
He was knowledgeable about plants,
musical therapy and archeology

Translated from

Sept. 28, 2008

In the autumn of 1992, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was in Capri to receive a prestigious prize and stayed at the famous Villa San Michele in Anacapri, 172 meters above sea level.

The cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI, was very appreciative of Capri and of the famous villa [built by the Swedish physician Axel Munthe who settled on Capri in the late 19th century].

In fact, his host discovered he was very knowledgeable about plants, music and musical therapy, adn even archeology, according to the honorary vice-consul of Sweden on the island, Erdeos Ledental, who lives in the villa.

"The cardinal was very happy to stay in the villa which has many important archeological objects discovered by Axel Munthe. In this regard, the Cardinal often cited a scholarly booklet written by Munthe in the 1930s. He had read it and obviously aroused his curiosity.

"The cardinal had come to Capri for a prize-giving ceremony, traditionally held on the eve of the Feast of St. Michael. He had a room on the second floor of the villa, and sisters were assigned to attend to him. And with great pleasure, I did the honors of the house."

What impressed you about the cardinal?

"His immense culture, coupled with great curiosity. He loved walking through the gardens, and he wished to visit the archeological ruins, which he did, citing Munthe's book almost from memory."

What else do you remember?

"That he was an amiable, kind and gentle man, without the least arrogance. He would ask information about everything. He was much attracted to plants and I realized that he knew a lot about botany."

How is that?

"He knew the characteristics of various trees and flowering plants.... He was full of praises for the property [the villa and its surroundings] and he admired nature. He was fascinated by the panorama from here, the see, the color of the sky."

You know of course he loves fine music....

"Oh yes, it's not a secret that he likes music, especially classical but there was an additional detail... In reference to Axel Munthe, he was familiar, even if superficially, with musical therapy - the influence of music in healing some ailments. He was well aware of this aspect of music."

Did he ever talk about food in Capri?

He knew about limoncello [the typical Sorrento-Capri liqueur made by steeping lemon peel in syrup] but he had not yet tasted it. The nuns cared for him with great affection and treated him with sweets. I know he was delighted with a 'baba' [cake saturated with liqueur] and the typical sweets of the region. I also know he loves pasta.

"We can only hope he can return to this island as a Pope. He really loved walking out in the park, breathing in the air...."

00Tuesday, June 23, 2009 12:55 PM


'CARITAS IN VERITATE' has been on the ordering catalogs of Amazon and the Catholic Company with the certainty that it is coming out soon:

And while we're at it, here are the titles of books and booklets on papal texts published by the Vatican publishing house in the first half of 2009:

June 2009:

The first three tiles are papal texts on the priesthood, and the fourth is an artistic edition of his catecheses on St. Paul.

May 2009:

The fourth book in this line-up is not a B16 book - it's teh 1009 Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican directory that lists all the members of the Catholic hiearchy and the Vatican administration, starting with the Pope, by name, position and title.

March-April 2009:

January-February 2009:

The first book that does not carry a title on its cover is a compendium of the Pope's Liturgical Celebrations in 2008.

And his latest titles in the Ignatius Press catalog:

LEV, the Vatican publishing house, has this full-page ad in the 6/22/09 issue of Avvenire, for "The Good bread of our faith", the 2009 Lenten spiritual exercises for the Pope and the Roman Curia written by Cardinal Francis Arinze.

"A book on encounters between Christ and his disciples. Reflections for all priests on the year dedicated to them"

It's hard to imagine any other living writer today - or at any time, for that matter who has a catalog of new releases with so many titles!

00Monday, July 13, 2009 2:31 PM

While googling for photos of the Holy Father's previous vacations in Les Combes, I came across this article - and a similar one in TIME - reminding me that his first vacation in Les Combes coincided with the completion of his first 100 days in office, for which both articles were written. I thought you might enjoy this lookback, whic a form of Benaddiction... and see how ephemeral and/or hasty some conclusions drawn then may have been. In July 2005, I had not yet discovered Ratzigirl's forum, which I did not join till late August.

The first three months of Benedict XVI:
New Pope, new style

The intelligentsia have turned their backs on him, but the common faithful haven't –
they have a greater appreciation for him than was foreseen.
Initial signs of a different pontificate

ROME, July 15, 2005 – During his first three months as Pope, Benedict XVI has not succeeded in winning over the major Italian and international press, which to a great extent remains hostile to him.

Among Catholic intellectuals, too, the cease-fire that the prince of the dissenters, Hans Küng, conceded to him after the election seems to have expired.

From the beaches of California, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese – who is said to have been dismissed as director of America at the behest of Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a cardinal – has blasted the new Pope as an irreconcilable enemy of modernity, inspired by the gloomiest form of Augustinianism imaginable.

By way of demonstration, Reese recommended an essay in Commonweal by Joseph A. Komonchak, who is a priest of the archdiocese of New York, a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and one of the leading collaborators in the five-volume History of Vatican Council II edited by Giuseppe Alberigo.

The most widely read history of the council in the world, this series was recently the object of criticism from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar in Rome.

And in Italy, professor Achille Ardigò, a guru of the Bologna "school" founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and headed by Alberigo, said during an interview with the newspaper la Repubblica: " I pray every day to the Holy Spirit, that he may guide the Pope and Cardinal Ruini to turn aside from their rationalist theology," a theology which – as the historian Pietro Scoppola has also said in an interview with Avvenire – adheres to natural law, throws out everything in politics, and "excludes the role of transcendence in human activity." [????? Something is not right here - but I checked teh original Italian and it says the same thing. How could any theology of Joseph Ratzinger 'exclude the role of the trancendent in human activity', when admitting the transcendent into one's reason and activity is precisely what he argues for all the time?]

In another interview with Repubblica, Alberigo recalled that in 1953, at his home in Bologna, a "pious and rather famous" Benedictine monk who was staying with him as his guest invited him and his wife to pray for the death of Pius XII – which took place in 1958 – with the explanation: "Now the Holy Father is a burden for the Church; let's pray that the Lord will take him soon." [Alberigo has since died, but the sheer un-Christian malice of the monk's supposed statement, and Alberigo's applying it to Benedict XVI is astounding!]

But for his part, Benedict XVI is captivating the crowds.

The same masses of the faithful that applauded the gestures or striking phrases of Pope Karol Wojtyla, while almost completely missing what it was that he was talking about, are doing the opposite with the new pope.

They follow Ratzinger's homilies word for word, from beginning to end, with an attentiveness that astonishes the experts. Verifying this takes nothing more than mingling among the crowds in attendance at a Mass celebrated by the Pope.

The new Pope's style is sober in terms of his contact with the masses. His symbolic expressiveness comes entirely from the liturgy, which he celebrates with a great sense of authority. But apart from the Masses, catecheses, and blessings, Benedict XVI is a minimalist.

"The Pope must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word," he said when taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7.

And he keeps to this standard even in regard to public gestures. He does very little of his own. He wants the faithful to pay attention to what is essential, which is not his own person but Jesus Christ alive and present in the sacraments of the Church.

He even spends his vacations in his own way. He doesn't go for the mountain peaks and the ski lodges like his athletic predecessor. On July 12, when he went to the mountains in Les Combes, in Valle d'Aosta, he brought a piano and three suitcases full of books.

He writes out by hand the things that are close to his heart: his homilies, the upcoming encyclical, and a few crucial speeches, like the one he gave on June 6 to a convention on the family which unleashed reactions around the world: in Italy, it was applied to the imminent referendum on assisted procreation; in Spain, to law on gay marriage; and in the United States, to the disputes over homosexuality.

Benedict XVI writes everything by hand, in German, in a miniscule script that is perfectly legible to his trusted secretaries, Ingrid Stampa and Birgit Wansing, both of whom are German and belong to the spiritual movement of Schönstatt, which was started in 1914 in a small Marian sanctuary in the Rhine valley and today is found in eighty countries throughout the world.

Ingrid Stampa has been his personal assistant since 1991, when Ratzinger was living in his apartment of three hundred square meters in Piazza della Città Leonina, just a few steps away from the Vatican.

Now she shuttles back and forth between that apartment and the Apostolic Palace, where – while the Pope is away for the entire summer, first in Valle d'Aosta and then at Castel Gandolfo – the real work of arranging the pontifical quarters has begun. [I always had the impression Ingrid's role this way had ended much earlier after April 19, 2005.]

Benedict XVI possesses an extensive and carefully ordered library, which covers all of the walls of his old apartment. And that is where he intends to leave much of it. [No, he did not!]

Birgit Wansing has also remained behind after the Pope's transfer to his new residence; as before, she continues to work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Ratzinger was prefect for 23 years.

Ingrid Stampa, for her part, has been integrated into the German section of the Secretariat of State.

But Benedict XVI has brought with him, to his residence at the Apostolic Palace, Carmela and Loredana, members of Memores Domini, the monastical branch of the group Communion and Liberation. They observe the three evangelical counsels, but do not wear a religious habit. They take care of the kitchen, the cleaning, the wardrobe.

The latter of the two has worked in the past with Cardinal Angelo Scola, when he was rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Another two sisters of the same order, Emanuela and Cristina, will soon complete the team.

Then there is the Pope's personal secretary, who like him is Bavarian [he is not Bavarian; he comes from the Black Forest], Georg Gaenswein, 48, a priest of the diocese of Freiburg in Bresigau.

Until this year, he taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Rome university of Opus Dei. He has been Ratzinger's secretary for two years.

There is a significant difference between him and John Paul II's famous right-hand man, Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow. Dziwisz exercised an important influence over the thousand decisions of ordinary Church governance that Papa Wojtyla overlooked. And the looming presence of his secretary was never lacking at any of the Pope's working lunches or dinners.

It's no longer that way with Benedict XVI . Gaenswein appears less frequently and exercises less influence. The new Pope doesn't invite anyone to lunch or dinner [though he shares his meals with his household, including Mons. Gaenswein], just as in the past he was not accustomed to so doing. He speaks informally with his guests and forms his decisions personally.

The first surprise was the nomination of his successor as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: William J. Levada, an American, was totally unexpected. The future nominations to the curia, beginning with the successor to Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, will probably bring more surprises.

There has also been a change in the wind at the Vatican press office. Joaquín Navarro-Valls has been confirmed as director, but he obviously does not have with Benedict XVI the direct and osmotic relationship that he had with John Paul II.

He can no longer permit himself to shape and amplify the Pope's gestures, statements, and performance. He knows that the newly elected Pope wants to control and make very modest use of his own image and public exposure.

Navarro still has his relationships in the Secretariat of State, to which he belongs administratively. But in the course of three months he has already had two mishaps.

The first was connected with the apparent denial of a preliminary Vatican investigation into accusations of sexual abuse made against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel.

The second involved the adjective "anti-Christian," which was initially applied to the terrorist attack in London on July 7 and later removed. Neither case was a shining example of clarity in communication from the Vatican press office or the Secretariat of State.

Navarro was the Jack-of-all-trades when it came to the books published by Karol Wojtyla while he was Pope. Not with Benedict XVI. Ratzinger himself took care of all the preparations for the publication of his first book published after he was eleceted Pope, L'Europa di Benedetto nella crisi delle culture [Benedict's Europe in the Crisis of Cultures]. He personally selected the publisher, David Cantagalli, of Siena.

In the case of another book that he released through the same publisher, Fede, verità, tolleranza [Faith, Truth, and Tolerance]” he had one hundred numbered copies printed on high-quality paper and personally handed them out as gifts one by one.

Ratzinger was less fortunate with the San Paolo publishing house, which he gave the rights to publish, in Italy, the new "Compendium" of the catechism of the Catholic Church. The result was a volume of mediocre appearance, in terms of both the text and the images.

And yet the images themselves, fourteen masterpieces of Eastern and Western sacred art, were chosen personally by Ratzinger, who wanted them to make up an integral part of the catechism.

The extent of his appreciation for great Christian art, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphonic music is another element that distinguishes the new Pope from his predecessor.

Archbishop Piero Marini, the director of the modernized ceremonies for television so dear to John Paul II, is waiting to be assigned other duties.

Benedict XVI has already reined in the extraordinary number of saints and blesseds proclaimed by pope Wojtyla. Ratzinger does not proclaim the new blesseds himself, leaving this instead to the appropriate local churches, and he has put the brakes on the proclamation of new saints [but the great number of proposed beatifications and canonizations already in process when he became Pope have been running their course, and so he has proclaimed quite a few saitns and blesseds himself].

Another cutback regards trips abroad. His will be few and tightly focused. He gave the example with his first trip, to Bari on May 29: he made a round trip in one morning, staying only to celebrate Mass. He will stay a bit longer in Cologne in mid-August. He plans a visit to the Jewish synagogue there, the second such visit by a Pope after the historic 1986 visit of John Paul II to the synagogue of Rome.

Concern for the relationship between the Church and Judaism is another characteristic feature of the new Pope, this in full continuity with his predecessor.

Benedict XVI seems no less decisive in his desire to make peace with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. He shares with them a focus on the centrality of the Eucharistic liturgy and respect for tradition. But there are serious obstacles.

Benedict XVI would gladly go to Istanbul on November 30, the feast of Saint Andrew, to meet with the patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who has invited him.

But he also needs an invitation from Turkey, which is aware of the new Pope's opposition to its entry into the European Union. [As we all know, he did not get that invitation till one year later.]

As for Moscow, which was at daggers drawn with the previous Pope, Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Walter Kasper there to check out the situation ahead of time. However, he was not able even to meet with Patriarch Alexei II.

The most critical point of contention here is the Ukraine. With more than five million faithful, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church wants to transfer its headquarters from Lviv to the capital, Kiev, before the end of the year. The plan is to consecrate a new metropolitan cathedral there in October, which would have jurisdiction over almost the entire country.

The Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow – most of whose reserves of faithful, vocations, and money are in the Ukraine – sees this as an intolerable affront and is demanding that Benedict XVI block the move.


The essay by Fr. Joseph A Komonchak in Commonweal, which was recommended by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, former editor of America magazine,
'The Church in crisis; benedict's theological vision'

Here was TIME magazine's take:

Getting to know Benedict XVI
An unsigned article

Monday, Aug. 01, 2005

It is Day 97 [of the Benedictine Pontificate]. At noon sharp, the light rain that has been falling on the village of Les Combes, high in the Italian Alps, gives way to golden sunshine.

Equally punctually, the white-shocked man with an increasingly comfortable smile walks across a small meadow to greet about 8,000 believers. Pope Benedict XVI, officially on a summer "retreat," waves his two-handed wave, sits graciously through a local bishop's introduction and speaks.

With three months' practice at this, he no longer steps on applause lines, such as references to his predecessor and a much anticipated trip to Germany.

His initial remarks are energetic, though his expression while reciting the Ave Maria prayer remains more stoic than rapturous. He implores God to stay the hand of terrorists and convert their hearts, and he intones the Angelus honoring the Incarnation.

And then, after precisely 20 minutes, Benedict works the crowd a bit and heads back indoors to ... what? A first, tone-setting encyclical? The book whose existence is established but whose topic is not? The reorganization of the papal bureaucracy? People wonder.

Much as they have wondered for the past three months. A papacy is not a presidency, with every day's progress tallied obsessively on the march through a limited term.

Yet scholars had hoped by now for a sense of how Benedict's new station would affect his theology and whether his avid pursuit of heretics as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith meant that heads would roll.

Would there be more like Thomas Reese, the open-minded editor of the Jesuit magazine America, whose departure was apparently sealed with Benedict's election? [I really hope there's some way to get to the root of this canard once and for all! Tt keeps showing up everywhere (Mgister mentioned it in the previous piece) - as though Cardinal Ratzinger (or John Paul II for that matter) had any say in what the Jesuits do internally which is not a violation of canon law. Reese has profited from this widespread impression all these years by becomign the top go-to guy - after Hans Kueng - any time the media wants to diss Benedict XVI.]

When would the new Pope tear into the ecclesiastic "filth" inside his Church and the "dictatorship of relativism" outside it that he had diagnosed preconclave?

Benedict's first 100 days have offered no definitive answers, but occasional modest indicators - plus a frank give-and-take with some of his Alpine hosts on Day 98 [this refers to his first Q&A session with local priests, unprecedented for a Pope, a practice he has continued in Rome and at every summer vacation] - showed a progress of the man into the office and suggested that those who predicted a "caretaker" papacy may have spoken too soon.

An inside look at seven telling days of the new Pope's stewardship:


In a gesture probably intended to mollify a press that had been portraying him as an unrelenting hard-liner, the newly chosen Benedict invited journalists as guests to his first public appearance in the Vatican's Paolo VI auditorium on April 23.

But he was ill at ease, and the ever vigilant Italian scribes noted that the hemline of his robes was cut far too high, offering an unusually revealing look at his ruby papal slippers. It was the kind of gaffe his predecessor, as a former actor, would have been unlikely to commit.

A day later the hem had fallen. And over time Benedict found his office's public aspect an increasingly comfortable fit. His smile offset the famous dark circles beneath his eyes [DIM]8pt[=DIM][which, have hardly ever shown up in his pictures as Pope all these past four eyars and couting. One suspects that photographers may have deliberately favored poor lighting to bring up those shadows when he was cardinal!]

Eventually he was tolerating such photo ops as a public cell-phone conversation with an ailing nun and the donning of a fire fighter's hat.

"He'll never be a celebrity," says a Vatican official who has worked closely with Ratzinger. "But he seems more joyful and sure of himself." [I believe this remark was made by Cardinal Kasper. Nut how does he define 'celebrity'?]

Ratzinger's brother was once worried that the job might harm his health. On the contrary, asserts Walter Cardinal Kaspar, a fellow German, "he is reinvigorated" by it.


In a bravura balancing act, on May 13 Benedict simultaneously fast-tracked John Paul II for sainthood and appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada as his own replacement to head the Vatican office on doctrine.

The first announcement may run counter to Benedict's natural inclinations: he appears to frown on mass-market saintmaking (he has said he will not attend beatifications, which are a step before canonization).

However, he clearly regards John Paul as a special case for sainthood and not just because of his own admiration. In the days before his election, the then Cardinal not only heard the cries of "Santo subito' ringing over St. Peter's Square but also reportedly saw a petition by a substantial number of his peers asking that John Paul's "cause" proceed without the usual five-year wait.

Thus Vatican watchers regard the exemption - which Benedict announced personally, in Latin, to roars of approval from a group of seminarians - as not simply a bow to overwhelming lay sentiment but also a kind of political nod to the Cardinals in the name of their collective mentor.

That nicely offset the independence Benedict signaled by choosing Levada. "Everybody," says a powerful Rome-based Cardinal, "was expecting a European" for the key slot.

Rome was certainly not anticipating a relatively obscure Archbishop from the scandal-plagued U.S. Church. By tapping Levada, a personal acquaintance with a reputation as a practical if unspectacular thinker, Benedict may or may not have been arranging to act as the de facto head of his old shop. But he certainly showed a willingness to go his own way.


In his first extra-Roman excursion, to the Adriatic port of Bari on May 29, Benedict seemed uncomfortable with the chants of "Be-ne-det-to!" by young Catholics eager to pick up the old "Gio-van-ni Paolo!" tradition. (In subsequent weeks, he even shushed them.)

"John Paul built a rapport based on [such] enthusiasm," says a Rome-based Cardinal. "This Holy Father tends to diminish the importance of enthusiasm." [No, he does not, as long as it is at the right time in the right place, not in the middle of a liturgy for instance, where enthusiasm for anything other than the sacrament being performed is certainly out of place. It's amazing how the media tend to 'imortalize; such trivial - and erroneous - conclusions.]

While preaching, Karol Wojtyla would wave, gesticulate and repeatedly make the sign of the Cross [He did? I must not have been paying attention!] Benedict's pulpit style is austere by contrast, which more and more seems a philosophical choice rather than a personal reticence. During his Bari homily, which lauded observation of the Sabbath as an antidote to modern life's "unbridled consumerism" and "secularism closed to transcendence," Benedict allowed himself only a small circling gesture of his cupped hands. He displayed the Host with a simple up-and-down movement rather than the slow-motion drama that is a current Eucharistic vogue.

His former colleague calls this part of Benedict's attempt to "simplify the papacy" and "deflate" the Pope's image in favor of his ideas. He expresses those ideas simply so that the author's style does not obscure the primacy of Christ.

Observes Cardinal Kaspar: "John Paul would make longer, maybe more poetic discourses. Benedict is more precise. He is a theologian." An explainer of symbols, not the symbol itself.


Much has been made of how "gentle" the new Pope is. And his comportment and rhetoric have been relatively mild, especially in contrast to his 24 years as a heresy hunter. [Heresy hunter! The media penchant for linking the CDF to its Reformation embodiment as the Inquisition is relentless!]

(While discussing AIDS prevention with African bishops, for instance, rather than restating John Paul's opposition to condoms, he simply called abstinence the only "fail-safe" way to prevent HIV.) [All this, four years before the airplane-interview flap!]

But those who missed the "Panzer Kardinal" were rewarded in the weeks before an unusual political triumph on June 13. It was clear that Benedict regarded Europe as the epicenter of the secular relativism he scorned, but it was less so what he might do about it.

When an Italian referendum threatened to end restrictions on in-vitro fertilization, the Pope joined the fray, telling Italian bishops fighting it, "I am close to you with my words and my prayers."

When the initiative failed, Italian television called the Church the winner. Three weeks later, Spain legalized gay marriage over Catholic objections and Benedict's (indirect) criticism.

But the Italian vote galvanized prelates who had suffered decades of defeat on divorce and abortion and suggested that if Benedict picks his political fights wisely, he may be rewarded.


The deadly July 7 bombings in London exposed the Pope's desire to be heard on the topic of Islam. Within hours of the carnage, the Italian newswire ANSA reported that he intended to call the attack "anti-Christian." It seemed a harsh and narrow attribution, and indeed his actual statement replaced the term with "barbaric."

Yet Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano subsequently muddied the waters by saying that "anti-Christian" had been intended to suggest that the attacks were inconsistent with Christian values rather than aimed at Christian targets.

That in turn led to a careful clarification by Benedict that the bombings represented "not a clash of civilizations, but only a small group of fanatics."

Asked whether Islam is a religion of peace, he mused, "I wouldn't want to label it with big general words. Certainly there are also elements that can favor peace and other elements. We must try to find the best elements to help."

The response's nuance may not endear him to the Muslim group he intends to visit in Germany, but his notion of the Catholic Church "helping" moderate Islam was a telling excursion beyond typical interfaith vocabulary into the language of realpolitik. What sort of help Benedict might offer remains to be seen. [No one certainly expected Regensburg 13 months into the future - and all that it catalyzed, especially in positive ways!]


July 27 may be remembered as the day the Pope finally opened up. Officially, reporters were barred from the 12th century cathedral in Introd, just down the hill from Les Combes, while he had a few words with local priests as his vacation ended.

But a day later, he passed the proceedings to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and they were riveting. In a rat-a-tat-tat strafe of global Christianity, he asserted that traditional Protestantism is in "profound crisis," that evangelicalism owes its popularity to a "certainty" that he said derives from its willingness to settle for a "minimum of faith," and that although Catholicism "isn't in such bad shape," the West is "a world that is tired of its own culture ... that has arrived at a time in which there's no more evidence of the need for God, much less Christ, and in which it seems that man alone can make himself."

He acknowledged that a Pope is not an "oracle" and "is infallible only in rare situations" - a truism, but fresh, given what critics called the papal triumphalism of his predecessor.

Benedict also challenged a phenomenon in which John Paul often reveled - the explosion of priestly vocations in the developing world, which the new Pope said sometimes owes less to faith than to seminarians' quest for material gain and "social promotion" in their villages. If the global south is the church's future, he apparently plans to vet it.

Most concretely, he dashed the hopes of those who begged him to let Catholics who have divorced and remarried without managing to get an annulment take Communion. Yet he did so with some delicacy, acknowledging their suffering and saying they should feel they still belong to the Church.

Did his talk break new ground? Perhaps not doctrinally, but it demonstrated qualities that the Vatican has missed at least since the latter years of John Paul's illness: a questing, nuanced intelligence; a willingness to understand issues in their complexity even when he does not change his mind; a certain humility and a spirit of practical engagement that, rather than retreat behind rank or theological niceties, seem eager to take on the world of the Church and the Church in the world.

A few days earlier, when the Pope seemed to be playing his cards close to his chest, his spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls assured reporters who had made the pilgrimage to Les Combes not to worry.

"We'll have a lot of work to do," he said. "There will be a lot to analyze." Indeed, well before the next 100 days are up.

00Thursday, July 16, 2009 3:50 AM
Benedict XVI: Best-selling author

I am cross-posting this item here as an intro to an old item I came across tonight which I had missed when it came out in 2008, but which was a surprising etenrprise article to come out in the UK newspaper Daily Telegraph (which was responsible for floating the initial 'Pope wears Prada' canard and whose headline announcing Cardinal Ratzinger's election as Pope was 'God's Rottweiler").

Who tops Italy's best-seller list this week -
surpassing a weeks-long fictional bestseller?

Adapted from

So only "four cats have the courage and patience to listen to the words" of Benedict XVI!

Then who has been buying Caritas in veritate which, in less than a week climbed to the top of Italy's best-seller list, ahead of a novel that had been the chart-topper for weeks?

"Italians are in search of values and reference points - and they show this
by their mass acquisition of Benedict XVI's new encyclical".

LEV, the Vatican publishing house, printed an initial 530,000 copies in Italian, augmented by at least another half a million distributed as supplements to Avvenire and Famiglia Cristiana. Not to mention the texts published by Italy's 150 diocesan newspapers.[And with so many giveaways, people are still buying the commercial edition!]

The supplement that came with the Wednesday (July 8) issue of L'Osservatore Romano has already become a collector's item.

[Frankly, I am happily surprised by the popular interest in Caritas in veritate - a very 'technical' text compared to the 'pure' theology and philosophy of the first two encyclicals. But then, the popular success of thw first two encyclicals was a great big surprise to everyone as well. Not to mention Sacramentum caritatis, the post-Synodal exhortation on the Eucharist.

Since when have papal documents - teaching papers! - ever been best-sellers competing up there with 'regular books'? Only with Benedict XVI!]

Here's the old article:

Pope turns out to be
one of Italy'best-selling authors

By Malcolm Moore in Rome

June 6, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has emerged as one of Italy's most popular authors, after selling more than 2.5 million copies of his latest book in just over a year.

The sales of Jesus of Nazareth, the first part of a two-volume biography of Christ, has convinced Helder, the largest Catholic publisher in Europe, to reprint a series of Benedict's earlier scholarship.

The book came eighth on last year's bestseller chart in Italy, despite costing £15.50, and outsold the latest releases by Paolo Coelho and Wilbur Smith. Over £1.6 million in royalties has gone to the Ratzinger Foundation, the Pope's charity which gives bursaries to poor students.

The popularity of the Pope [since when has the Telegraph acknowledged any 'popularity' for Benedict XVI?] to the has also helped sales of his two encyclicals, God is Love and Saved by Hope. Around three million copies of the two works have been sold.

The Pope said thatJesus of Nazareth represented his "long interior journey" in search of "the face of the Lord".

He began the work before his election in 2005, and wrote the final six chapters "using all my free moments" afterwards. The British edition of the book is published by Bloomsbury, the publishers of Harry Potter.

The Pope's previous career as a senior theologian means there is a vast back-catalogue of his work that publishers are eager to capitalise on.

Before becoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Benedict had penned 132 books, monographs and commentaries.

"We are going to reprint 13 volumes to start with," said Father Giuseppe Costa, an official at the Vatican's publishing house who is cooperating with Helder.

"There is a rich and extraordinary catalogue and today's readers are looking at it with growing interest," he added. "In the pope there is a strong point of reference, both for religion and culture."

I suppose we must be thankful that one newspaper, at least, has had to acknowledge objective facts such as actual book sales to concede that the Pope enjoys a popularity not one of this critics had expected and which many of them can't get to admit. Especially since the writer could simply not have written the item at all - it was an etenrprise story (some of his figures for the Italian book sales I had not seen before) and yet he wrote it, even if he really did not have a newspeg for it.

As FAther Z likes to say about the traditional Mass, brick by brick, we will get there...Brick by brick, some cnronic Benedoct detractors may well end up being Benaddicts.

00Saturday, July 25, 2009 1:12 AM
Local deacon meets the Pope

Published: Thursday, July 23, 2009

TORRINGTON, Connecticut — Steven Marcus’s lifelong dream was realized last month when the St. Maron’s Maronite Church deacon met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

“I think after my marriage, the birth of my children, and my ordination, this was one of the greatest highlights of my life,” the forty-four-year-old father of two said of his half-hour private audience with His Holiness on June 25.

Marcus, who was ordained as a deacon at St. Maron in May, traveled to Rome as part a mission for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWFA is a charity supporting Catholics in the Middle East, Eastern Africa, India, and Eastern Europe where Catholics are religious minorities.

Marcus sits on the association’s board.

He said his connection to the Middle East was both personal and spiritual. His wife, Winsted native Renee Simon Marcus, 47, is of Lebanese descent.

“Catholics are being pushed out of places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem,” Marcus said, adding that CNEWFA’s mission was to raise awareness for the plight of Catholics as well as build orphanages, hospitals, and health care clinics.

Along with a half-dozen other members of the association, Steven and Renee were accompanied by their two sons, Steven Jr. 18, and Ben 15. The group was escorted through the Papal Apartments by the Swiss Guards.

Marcus said that the experience of meeting the Pope “blew me away,” not least of which because His Holiness appeared to be at least familiar with Litchfield County.

“He looked me in the eyes and asked us where we’re from,” Marcus said. “I told him we were from Connecticut. He asked me ‘Where in Connecticut?’ I told him I was from Torrington. ‘Torrington.’ He said it in his strong German accent. I will never forget it.”

The Pope ended their meeting with a prayer for peace, saying “I renew my prayer and appeal for no more war, no more violence, no more injustice.”

Marcus said his two sons were as impressed as he was with His Holiness.

“Ben was just beaming afterwards, and I think Steven is going to use it as part of his college entrance paper,” he said.

Marcus said he was taken aback by the number of churches in Italy, as well as the number of fellow Catholics who could be seen in prayer.

“Afterwards we were standing in St. Peter’s Square and I had to pinch myself,” he said. “What a glorious place to be.”

For now, Marcus said he has incorporated his half hour with Pope Benedict XVI into his preaching at St. Maron and has recounted the story several times for his parishioners.

Marcus has a long-history at the ninety-year-old Eastern Rite Catholic Church. It’s where he studied to be a priest in the seminary, and where met his wife, then a parishioner.

00Sunday, July 26, 2009 2:16 AM

Messori's article is by no means 'light' or trivial, but it is obvious why I am posting it in this thread.... I missed the item when it first came out in Corriere della Sera, but I picked it up from his website.

The Church, Harry Potter
and signs of 'searching'?

by Vittorio Messori

Translated from

July 18, 2009

In which, among other things, Messori dispels the myth that Cardinal Ratzinger denounced the Harry Potter books....

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in a recent pastoral letter to his Archdiocese of Genoa, wrote: "Certain tendencies, even if not consistent with the faith - like occultism and superstition, Eastern philosophies, the search for exotic spiritualities, the various forms called 'New Age' - are, in their own way, signs of searching."

And L'Osservatore Romano published a bylined article which gives a cautiously positive (or at least, not negative) review of the sixth Harry Potter movie which is being shown these days.

The media, as we know, are always in search of links among disparate news reports in order to present supposed 'new tendencies' or improbable 'unprecedented perspectives' and build misleading reports out of these.

It has happened this time, by linking a quotation extrapolated from the precise-speaking president of the Italian bishops' conference to the latest cinematic adventures of the fictional British 'wizard'.

The hypothesis they wish to advance is this: "There's a new openness in the Church towards the supernatural", meaning an 'openness' that is alien to its Tradition.

Let us be clear about something. There were rumors in the past about a supposed negative judgment by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about Harry Potter. A judgment which - it was shown later - was not his, but that of a co-worker, which was then exploited by a German writer [who had written a book against the Harry Potter phenomenon].

In fact, as an article in La Civilta Cattolica later explained, and as the item in L'Osservatore also does, any a priori crusade against the Potter saga is unjustified.

Because although it does not have any explicit references to Christianity, Christian values are constantly reaffirmed by its basic premise which sees the forces of Good placed in difficulty by - but eventually triumphant over - the forces of Evil. These fine sentiments are all over the work and are never mocked.

As for magic, even the moviegoer or the reader knows the story is nothing but a fable, which does not lack irony. The comic sidelights are positive and contribute to demythify the events and relieve tension.

There is no 'Vatican' absolution in this case, because there was never a 'condemnation', except by some traditionalists who always think in terms of 'anti-Christian conspiracies', and see Harry Potter as a lethal occult weapon against religion.

These are the same people who will listen to an audiotape backwards to look for blasphemous messages, or who look everywhere for any hidden '666', the 'number of the Beast' according to the Apocalypse; or who try to divine subliminal diabolical signs in advertisements.

The Church generally leaves them alone with their suspicions but does not participate in them, obviously.

So there is nothing new, even in the words of Cardinal Bagnasco, tough and impenitent disciple of the great Cardinal Giuseppe Siri (who is increasingly being rediscovered with admiration in Church circles).

A colleague of his, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, likes to say that "the opposite of faith is not reason but superstition".

And G. K. Chesterton's aphorism is often quoted that "the trouble with man today is not that he does not believe in anything, but that he believes in everything".

Perhaps it is something new, as Bagnasco points out, that the decline of Christianity has been accompanied in the West by a luxuriance of seers, witches, gurus, soothsayers, astrologers, esotericists, shamans? And is it an original thought to say that all this, 'in their own ways', constitute a sign of seeking something?

This is not the Church 'opening up' as someone has suggested, but rather, simply taking note of what is happening. Without surprise, but with some disappointment. Because abandonment of what the Church and the cardinal consider the right path brings the seeker down paths which lead nowhere. But even in this, the Church attitude has nothing of fanaticism.

Authentic Christianity of the non-sectarian kind is always inclusive, never exclusive, according to the word of Jesus ("I have come not to destroy but to fulfill') and the exhortation of St. Paul ("After examining everything, hold onto what is good").

Thus, for example, the present acceptability of some Oriental (meditative) techniques in many places for spiritual exercise.

If the advice still holds today to refrain from astrology, for example, it is given out of prudence and not because of a priori rejection, since after all, there were astrologers in the papal court in the past, and the prince of theologians himself, St. Thomas Aquinas, believed in the influence of the stars and conciliated this with free will.

It cannot be otherwise since the so-called Three Magi were almost certainly Chaldean astronomers who 'read' about the arrival of the Jewish messiah through scrutinizing the stars.

The exhortation to stay away from occultism is not because it is always deception and trickery but because it can sometimes be a real danger.

Not a few saints have experienced what it is to have to defend themselves from dark happenings, about which the institutional Church itself, though prudent and showing dutiful skepticism initially, has had to recognize the devil's work.

In short, we can say with Ernst Renan, "Alas, the truth is always sad", and the sadness of truth in this case is in the fact that there is absolutely nothing new - nor anything in common - between the words of the Archbishop of Genoa and those of the L'Osservatore writer who reviewed the Harry Potter movie.

Those in search of 'sensational developments' must search for these in other things.

I will use this opportunity to put known facts on the record about the cardinal and Harry Potter, once and for all.

I do not doubt at all that Messori, a punctilious journalist and writer, has the appropriate sources for what he says above about the matter.

For my part, I can only refer to facts available online which I will summarize here. The basis for the 'myth' that Cardinal Ratzinger denounced the Harry Potter books - which no one believes he had read, nor is there any reason to believe he has - are two letters he wrote in 2003 to a German woman, Gabriele Kuby, who had written a book against the Potter books and sent a copy to the cardinal.

In March 2003, the cardinal wrote a letter - which apparently did not get sent till May 2003 according to the second letter which is merely an apology that his reply to her somehow got lost in a pile of routine mail and was not sent promptly - in which, according to the best translation I can make, he says:

Many thanks for your friendly letter of February 20 and for the informative book that you sent with it. It is good that, with respect to Harry Potter, you can clarify that there are subtle seductions which imperceptibly - but precisely in this way - work deeply to undermine Christianity in the soul before it has properly matured.

I recommend that you write directly to Mr. Peter Fleetwood (Pontifical Council for Culture, Piazza S. Calisto 16, 1-00153 Rome) and send your book to him.

Kuby publicized these letters after the cardinal became Pope, and understandably got scant attention except from Catholics who disapprove of Harry Potter. [I have not had time to check out how her book has sold, since she promptly used the cardinal's letter as a publicity blurb.]

The letters did attract some attention a few months later when the sixth Harry Potter book came out. CNS summarized the case in this report

New attention given to 2003
Ratzinger letter on Harry Potter

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, July 14, 2005 (CNS) -- With the sixth volume of the adventures of Harry Potter, the teen wizard, about to be released, new attention was being given to a 2003 letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Although the Vatican press office July 14 said it would have no comment on the letter since Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary were on vacation in the northern Italian Alps, a former Vatican official said Harry Potter books must be read as children's literature, not theology.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, wrote to Gabriele Kuby to acknowledge receipt of her book, Harry Potter: Gut oder Boese (Harry Potter: Good or Bad?), which expresses her concern that children can become fascinated with the occult through reading the series.

In the cardinal's letter, excerpted on Kuby's Web site and published widely since late June, he praised the author's attempt to "enlighten people about Harry Potter" [an incorrect translation of "dass Sie in Sachen Harry Potter sufklaeren', in which the sense of 'aufklaeren' is 'clarify' not 'enlighten' and it is used as an intransitive verb, not with a direct object 'people'] and the possible "subtle seductions" that can distort children's thinking before they mature in the Christian faith.

Cardinal Ratzinger did not say if he had read any of the Harry Potter books.

In connection with the July 16 release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the letter to Kuby received new attention.

In the letter, Cardinal Ratzinger further suggested that Kuby send a copy of her book to Msgr. Peter Fleetwood, then an official at the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Msgr. Fleetwood told Catholic News Service July 14 that he received a copy of the book in 2003 and wrote Kuby a four-page letter explaining where he thought she may have misunderstood or read too much into the books. He said he never heard back from her.

The monsignor, now an official of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, said the primary focus of parents and teachers he has spoken with about the books is how enthusiastic children are about reading them.

On a moral level, he said, the books "pit good against evil, and good always wins."

"The people who complain about Harry Potter are the same people who complain about priests, bishops and catechists watering down church teaching about the devil and evil," he said.

In J.K. Rowling's books, he said, "Harry is the only one not afraid to name Voldemort -- whom the others all refer to as 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.' Because he names evil, he is not afraid of it, but can confront it".

Msgr. Fleetwood said the most appropriate way to judge Harry Potter is not on the basis of theology, but according to the criteria of children's literature and whether children will read the books willingly.

A fuller account of how the cardinal's letter has been used and even exploited can be found on

I stand by my translation of the cardinal's letter. My own first impression when I first read it was that 1) it sounded like a polite letter which nonetheless points out the possible pitfalls for children in books like Harry Potter, and 2) it was probably written by an assistant who answers routine solicitations, and then routinely signed by the cardinal because, after all, it expressed an unexceptionable caveat (that even an HP fan like me considers not only reasonable but also necessary for parents who have young children reading HP).

No one can think the Prefect of the CDF would have had the time or the inclination to read a Harry Potter book, though he could not have been unaware of what it was all about, because it was such a cultural phenomenon and he reads the papers daily.

Finally, even assuming he himself wrote the letter quoted above, he was not denouncing the Harry Potter books outright (he could not possibly do so if he had not read them himself) but warning against the insidious workings of, in effect, all books that can undermine a young mind's attachment/development/interest in the Christian faith before it has taken root.

00Thursday, July 30, 2009 8:15 PM

I had not checked the Pentling site for several months now, which has since expanded its web page on the Pope
to a full-blown feature, from which I got these 'new' visuals:


Also worth seeing is the flyer for the 2006 exposition on the Pope at the Pentling town hall, entitled "One of us is Pope':

Unfortunately, the exhibition catalog is not available online but may be ordered.

And here's a variation on the photo in the MILESTONES cover - I hope I can assemble the various versions so far available on line (at least 3 I can remember before this) - it's a gorgeous series:

00Sunday, August 2, 2009 4:48 PM

I came across this June 2009 item belatedly.

A question of language:
Philologist study shows that
despite conventional assumption,
Benedict XVI is 'more communicative'
than John Paul II was

Translated from

An Italian philologist has made a study comparing the discourses of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and notes some interesting differences.

For example, says Antonella Palia, the Polish Pope often refers to God in the second person singular ('familiar' you), whereas his German successor never does so.

And where John Paul II spoke about 'Christ' often, Benedict clearly uses 'Jesus' more.

Where John Paul II used 'we', Benedict XVI says 'the Church'.

Benedict XVI's sentences are 'longer and more complex' than his predecesssor's - average 27.06 words per sentence vs. 20.94.

Benedict XVI also uses scientific (rational) argumentation more often, whereas John Paul appealed more to the emotions.

The study also notes that in Italian, Benedict likes to use the adjective before the noun, as in 'eterna bonta' (eternal goodness) [Italians more often place the adjective after the noun].

In Italian, John Paul often dropped the article for greater rhetorical force, e.g., 'vero Dio incarnato per nostro amore' (true God incarnated for love of us). [I believe it's also a carry-over from Polish/Slavic syntax which generally omits the article, definite or indefinite.]

The study also looked at the body language of both Popes [through videos] and concluded that Benedict smiles more often than John Paul did, and that he delivers his discourses like a teacher, who accompanies his words with gestures. Example: When he says the word 'one', he often raises one finger.

Both Popes use the words, peace, hope and confidence frequently. The key word for the present Pope is 'love'. [The item does not metion what it was for John Paul.]

The study concludes that compared to his predecessor, Benedict XVI is more communicative, contrary to conventional wisdom.

The study was published in a June issue of the Italian magazine Lido.

[I am still trying to find the origial article online].

The people who know Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI - and us Benaddicts - would say that the study simply confirms what has been a known fact about him from his earliest days as a professor.

He is Goldmund - the German form for the Greek Chrysostomos, 'golden-mouthed' - whose lectures drew overflow crowds, which included non students, even at 8:30 in the morning, people on their way to work, who had heard the word of mouth about the priest whose lectures were always 'print-ready' and 'made you want to go to Church afterwards'.

Unfortunately, his reputation for shyness overshadowed if not completely obscured that fact in the media accounts that have become his biographical staples in the public mind. (Though where is it written that shyness necessarily precludes communication skills?)

As I commented about the Holy Father's extemporaneous homily in Aosta on July 24, the vastly over-rated Barack Obama and his fans should learn from Benedict XVI's spontaneous discourses to see what genuine eloquence is - it has nothing to do with declamatory skills while reading off a teleprompter, and everything to do with sincerity and a solid fund of knowledge and wisdom to draw from.

00Wednesday, August 5, 2009 6:46 PM

What a wonderful article this is!

Mens sana in corpora Benedetto:
On the extraordinary memory
and physical agility of the Pope

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

August 5, 2009

"The Pope told me he watched all my races," swimming champion Federica Pellegrini said radiantly on Saturday after meeting Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo.

"They will miss seeing the first half of the game," the same Pope said once, about a crowd that had gathered to hear him at the same time as a crucial Italy-Netherlands football game last year.

Those who talk to the Pope find him surprisingly aware and up to date on what's happening even in unexpected areas like sports.

My most vivid experience of the prompt awareness of the man Ratzinger had to do with that Italy-Netherlands game on June 9, 2008, which, alas, we lost 3-0.

That was the evening that the annual diocesan congress of Rome opened in the Basilica of St. John Lateran which always begins with an address by the Bishop of Rome.

I had been requested by Cardinal Ruini - who was to step down as the Pope's Vicar for Rome at the end of that month - to address the convention that evening about "a newsman's testimony to hope".

So I was in the Basilica among the guests seated in the front row, with our names on place cards in the chairs, feeling - as newsmen often do on such occasions - a bit out of place.

As he left the Basilica after his opening address, the Pope surprisingly approached me and thanked me for 'having agreed' to speak at the convention. I do not even remember what I answered him, probably simply 'Thank you' as did Federica who said she was so overcome with the Pope's comment to her that "All I could do was say Thank you".

I was in the same position, especially since I did not think the Pope even knew who the other speakers at the convention were.

But what was more interesting was not the Pope's unexpected attention to me, but what Cardinal Ruini said later, when I told him of my amazement that the Pope had greeted me.

"You wouldn't be amazed," he answered, "if you had heard what he said as soon as he got out of the car earlier tonight."

"Do we have an audience?" the Pope had asked, and when the cardinal replied that the Basilica was full, the Pope remarked: "But isn't tonight Italy's first game for the European (soccer) cup?"

The cardinal assured him that "nonetheless, our participants are here". The Pope looked at his watch and commented, "They're going to miss the first half, at least!"

As a Vatican correspondent, I always followed the live broadcasts of papal events if I was not personally present. On Sunday, December 13, 2005, at the beatification of Charles de Foucauld, I saw that upon entering St. Peter's, the Pope stopped to talk to Mons. Lorenzo Chiarinell, Bishop of Viterbo, who had played a role in advocating the French missionary's cause.

I called the bishop afterwards to ask him what they talked about, and he said: "He commented on the article I had written for L'Osservatore Romano that day, which he said he read just before he came down to the Basilica."

Another time, I saw that when he entered Aula Nervi (Aula Paolo VI), he stopped halfway down the central aisle to speak to Mons. Vincenco Paglia, Bishop of Terni. In fact, he sat down next to him, while the assembly was singing warm-up songs, for the conversation.

Mons. Paglia later told me that the Pope had said "he saw on TV what was happening about the steel industry in our region" and he had wanted to know "if there was any progress in negotiations to save jobs".

This was exactly like it was with Pellegrini, who was in all of our newscasts the previous week for her gold medals and setting new records in the World Swimming Championships, who was so moved by the fact that he had told her he saw all her races on TV.

But it is not just what he sees on TV that he remembers. Even little-noted things that get published in the papers.

A colleague of mine retired after 33 years reporting on the Vatican for the newspapers and had an occasion to meet the Pope at a public event soon after. When the Pope saw him six months later in Aula Nervi, the Pope remarked: "You have officially retired but I see we can still read your articles!"

Another indication of this remarkable memory of events connected to individuals was narrated to me by Mons. Giuseppe Anfossi, Bishop of Aosta in 2006.

He said that the first time Benedict XVI came to Les Combes for his summer holiday in 2005, the bishop asked him for a blessing for his ailing mother. During their conversation in the car driving from the airport to Les Combes, he also told him that the diocese was undertaking its nocturnal pilgrimage that night to the shrine of the Black Modanna of Oropa from Fontainemore, and that as bishop, he was going to 'walk all night' with the pilgrims.

When the Pope came back to Les Combes in 1976, as soon as he got into the car with Anfossi, he asked "And how is your mother?", and later, "How did your night pilgrimage turn out?"

In the morning liturgy of Good Friday, the principal celebrant is called on to prostrate himself before the Cross and pray. No one can help being impressed by the agility and quickness with which the Pope has been able to do this, without the help of anyone, for a man who is now 82.

The very same agility characterizes his mind.

00Thursday, August 6, 2009 3:49 PM

For this item, thanks to Lella on her

I checked this out in today's online BILD, of course, but they have presented it as a photo-gallery, and I can't even find a supporting note to describe how the survey was done, how many were polled, etc.

Benedict XVI is Germany's
third most-loved German

Translated from

BERLIN, August 6 - Pope Benedict XVI must content himself with the bronze medal in a recent survey of the 100 'most loved Germans' by the daily newspaper BILD.

Number 1 in the poll was 44-year-old singer-comedian Horst Schlaemmer, and #2 was tennis great Steffi Graf.

"The German Pope has given us a new consciousness and has helped many people to rediscover faith", the newspaper said about the Pope. [It's the single-line caption that comes with each photograph.]

In Germany, Catholics are about half the population - the other half being mostly Protestant.

In fourth place is Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary football star and coach, followed by race-car champion Michael Schumacher, TV personality Guenther Jauch, the new Economic Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, another TV personality Thomas Gottschalk, and ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Chancellor Angela Merkel ranks #12, President Horst Koehler is #22 along with Guido Westerwelle, the homosexual leader of the FDP political party.

If one goes by the top names that emerged in this poll, one might conclude that the Germans polled are mostly celebrity-struck - which is consonant with the more familiar yearly polls of women and men most admired by Americans, in which generally whoever is President or First Lady ends up being Number 1 in the corresponding list (the hapless George W. having been the exception, though his wife was consistently #1 among women), and the rest of the names are celebrities in show business or sports.

It's disconcerting that a showbiz personality whose name many of us have probably not heard before is #1 on the German list, and that even such a likable personality as Steffi Graf ranks higher than the Pope.

But as Lella points out, the fact that the Pope ranks at all and quite highly is in itself remarkable; and that Hans Kueng and other lionized dissident theologians - not to mention any German Catholic bishop - do not seem to be on the list at all.

The latter observation would seem to show that for all the hype that the media have lavished on Catholic dissidents - bishops or otherwise - they have not actually made a dent in the popular consciousness. At least for purposes of making them 'loved'.

00Friday, August 7, 2009 3:04 PM
From the folks whose motto is 'We laugh because we believe' at

a timely spoof:

Mass For Clunkers!

Are you tired of having that same old dinosaur? Have you been worried for years about the deleterious effect that those old clunkers have had on the environment and art in our worship? Have you been thinking about upgrading but were just not sure if now was the right time? Well think no more!

Thanks to an exciting new Vatican Program you can trade in your tired, old, progressive Priest, Liturgist, or Music Director for a brand new - certified orthodox - model.

The Vatican has begun a a new program officially called "Faith and Tradition Recovery Act" but otherwise known as "Mass for Clunkers." Under this program you can trade in your harmful old "Community Faith Director in the Catholic faith tradition" for a brand new Priest in the Order of Melchizedek! This exciting program also applies to progressive liturgists and music directors.

A brand new orthodox model comes with many benefits! First and foremost, a new model is guaranteed to save more souls! These antiquated and out of date models have wrecked our churches for too long! Save our environment and trade in your old progressive clunker now and as a bonus you will receive a 4500 days indulgence absolutely free!

So trade in you old clunker now! This is a limited time offer!

00Saturday, August 15, 2009 1:00 AM

I came across this on the site of the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Baltimore

Authors' views on Benedict's theology
leave less room for reflection

Reviewed by Brian Welter

Ethical relativism and increasing secularism, the elimination of the Greek influence on Christianity, ecumenism, liberation theology: So much of the leadership and writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI have dealt with the most controversial issues of our time.

This one man, so faithful to Catholic belief, seems to symbolize much about our constant culture wars. Perhaps one reason for this is his ability to keep his fingers on the pulse of modern thought, which includes seeing the harsh future results of many current ideas.

Neither William G. Rusch's The Pontificate of Benedict XVI nor Jesuit Father Thomas P. Rausch's Pope Benedict XVI sidesteps the contentious issues, and both look to the deeper philosophical, psychological and religious roots in the pope's outlook.

The Pontificate of Benedict XVI is a collection of essays by theologians from a wide spectrum of churches. While they focus on Cardinal Ratzinger's teachings that affect them, they tend to come to similar conclusions -- that the German pope is remarkably consistent and well-grounded in his thought, even if some of the authors identity a sharp break in his thought in the late 1960s, which they say was a result of student unrest and division within the Catholic Church.

Naturally, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 2000 document, Dominus Iesus, on the uniqueness of Christ and universal salvation in him -- issued when Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect of the congregation -- figures high in the consciousness of the two books.

The authors carefully examine what this document means when it says that the non-Catholic churches cannot be called churches "in the proper sense." What doesn't get through the media sound bites gets through in these books -- the sophisticated, subtle thinking of the current pontiff. [The problem with sound bites is that they fail to show the thought process that goes into them, which, in the case of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, is always so direct, linear and crystal-clear. That is why most news reports about what he says or writes end up being so unsatisfactory and necessarily sketchy.]

Thus Cardinal Ratzinger's ecumenical view is not triumphalist, as the media portrays, where he would call for a return of Protestants to the Catholic Church en masse and their redoctrination as Catholics.

Instead, his ecumenical vision calls for the various denominations to retain a great deal of their distinctiveness when they would return to full communion with Rome.

The authors of the two books do come out a bit more harshly on Pope Benedict's view of Christianity's fusion of Greek philosophy and Hebrew spirituality in Europe, which the pontiff believes is normative for Christianity, or at least the highest expression of the religion.

Writing in The Pontificate of Benedict XVI, Dale Irvin sees a connection between the Pope's apparent Eurocentrism and his dislike of many aspects of secular pluralism, and challenges the Pope on both counts: "Cultural pluralism is not a threat, but the answer to the problems of Christian faith being ideologically narrowed to the history and culture of a Western European past."

[But his main problem with pluralism is that it generates relativism, and in religion, a tendncy to syncretism - when the problem of theChurch in the third millennium is to establish the Catholic identity in the public eye and more importantly, in each and every Catholic. That is what cultural pluralism must be balanced against!]

Both books also emphasize an important core belief of Pope Benedict, that of receptivity. Christians are in a state of receptivity in relation to the tradition they receive: They do not create the church or doctrine, but receive it and decide to accept it and live it [This is such an essential concept that the Vatican-II 'spiritists' do not seem to see at all.]

The Church is therefore primarily apostolic rather than communal; ecclesiology is centered on the Eucharist and the other sacraments since these are gifts from God.

This informs Cardinal Ratzinger's traditional view of liturgy. The Mass is for him a sacrifice first and foremost.

Father Rausch in Pope Benedict XVI brings out the unitary view of Cardinal Ratzinger, in which the Pope ties different strands of his thought into a whole, where each element fits together into the greater sum.

Cardinal Ratzinger's eucharistic interpretation of the Old Testament reflects this: "In reviewing worship in the Old Testament (Cardinal) Ratzinger illustrates convincingly how Israel's whole sacrificial system underwent a transformation, a critique from within the tradition. What was developing was a justification of the concept of sacrifice."

In both works, the authors' personal viewpoints on Pope Benedict's theology unfortunately leave less space for a more involved discussion of this demanding topic.

The diversity of authors in The Pontificate of Benedict XVI gives it a fragmented, somewhat inconsistent feel, and fails to reflect adequately the consistent, unitary thinking of the pontiff himself.

Welter is a freelance contributor to the B.C. Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia, and is studying for his doctorate in systematic theology.
00Sunday, August 16, 2009 11:40 PM

Here's a little anecdote from the OR coverage of the Pope's visit to San Giovanni Rotondo last June that may well have been drowned in the welter of items and photos on that occasion. so I thought I should psot it here as well.

Does anyone else remember that
Joseph Ratzinger's second
baptismal name is Alois? He does!

Translated from
the 6/22-6/23/09/09 issue of

After the Mass, some moments of familiarity among the ministrants. The Pope, having taken off his liturgical robes, greeted his ministrants (local clergy) one by one. They were presented to him by Archbishop D'Ambrosio.

Presenting one young altarboy, the prelate said, "Holiness, you may wish him a happy name day - today is the feast of St. Aloysius (Luigi in Italian) and his name is Luigi."

The Pope smiled, held out his hand, and said, "Now, wish me back too, because my second name is Luigi (he was of course christened Joseph Alois!).

NB: Jose Luis - the Spanish transcription of Joseph Aolis - is a very popular name combination in the Spanish-speaking world. And guess who's the most prominent 'Jose Luis' that our Pope shares his baptismal names with - none other than the relentlessly secular Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Luis Zapatero.

00Monday, August 17, 2009 12:35 PM

Now that Amy Welborn has decided to retire from active blogging, it is providential that The Anchoress now blogs for First Things - another extremely literate Catholic lady with a determined orthodox outlook and a most engaging writing style, whose views I find most congenial indeed. She has been on retreat the past several days, during which she arranged for some of her old material to be re-posted. This beautiful refelction on Benedict XVI is a piece that I totally missed when it came out originally.

by Elizabeth Scalia

August 13, 2009
(Originally posted April 2008
for Pajamas Media)

[Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
– John 21:17-18

Of the countless stirring moments we have seen or heard about over the six days of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States, one image has struck me as the most moving and deeply meaningful of the whole sojourn: the moment when the 81-year-old bishop of Rome exited his shiny, protective popemobile to walk down the last part of the ramp leading to the small gathering at Ground Zero.

Many times this past week Benedict revealed himself to have an exquisite sense of proportion, of knowing what is appropriate to the moment — and never more so than at the footprint of the North Tower.

At his age, in the chill morning, the Pope might have been excused for slowly motoring down to the assembly, but he instead shed a worldly trapping of convenience and made his solemn way.

Although his aides moved with him, he walked with a grave air of solitude, a small gray-haired man in a beautifully tailored light coat, his arms at his side.

Benedict wore an expression of obedient resolution and moved as though he was being pulled inexorably in, and further in, to the place he would rather not go — into our national gaping wound of horror, confusion, evil, and despair — and he fell to his knees and prayed.

There was nothing dramatic in his expression. He did not mug for the camera or demonstrate his prayer beyond his posture and closed eyes; he allowed us our dignity while keeping his own. One sensed that had his secretary not interrupted, his prayer would have gone on and on.

America has been spiritually and politically reeling since 9/11, struggling to find balance in a world full of new challenges and ugly realities. It has been a bloody and divisive effort and Americans are weary.

In a tumultuous election year, we are trying to regroup and find our way. And we still mourn; we mourn our dead and the loss of our youthful, trusting innocence. Benedict came into all of that. He prayed; he met; he listened; he entered into the pain.

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

The terrible sin of some of our priests, compounded by their bishops, has been a source of sickening and unrelenting shame for us. We have felt the disgust in our bellies and wished we could push the whole story away, because the pain is so abysmal and vast.

But it can be pushed away no longer, and Benedict said that even before his plane hit the ground at Andrews AFB, and every day after.

But speaking difficult words is easier than looking into the eyes of innocent lambs wounded and left to fend for themselves by neglectful and self-interested shepherds within the family.

Benedict trusted and was led to look into those agonized eyes, and to tend the wounds, because it needed to be done if the flock is to survive. He did it for an American church which — scattered, divided, and needing to regroup — simply could not bear to do it on her own. He met; he listened; he entered into the pain. A healing process is begun. Within the flock, there is hope renewed.

Who would have thought it? After the glamor and punched-up charisma of John Paul II, many in America had set low expectations for this man who was known mostly by his media caricature, that of “hard-line enforcer.” For six days we watched and listened; we came to know Benedict as a cerebral and soft-spoken man whose body language was endearingly awkward and whose pen seemingly never rested.

He is warmer than we expected, and he is braver than we knew. Overwhelmingly, though, Benedict is gentle and exceedingly, edifyingly humble. He is a “Supreme Shepherd” but one who allows himself to be led, and ever led, by the Divine one.

Looking back, we should have realized it sooner. When he understood, during the papal conclave, that he was going to be John Paul’s successor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prayed, “Lord, don’t do this to me.”

At his inaugural Mass in 2005, Benedict begged of us: “Pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

Three years later, upon being informed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral that it was the exact hour and anniversary of that election, he echoed that sentiment: “I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter.”

[I remember listening to him say this, over the PA system in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral that day, about which I wrote at the time: "Two of the three moments that made me cry earlier today: hearing the Holy Father's paternal voice with its characteristic lilt two feet away from the front speaker mounted on the steps of St. Patrick's [what a physical presence the voice becomes - it envelops you at that volume level (no, it was not excessive)!]: his words about the Second Vatican Council, and his off-the-cuff response to Cardinal Bertone's tribute in Spanish. [The first 'crying' moment was seeing him at the top of the steps shortly after he arrived at St. Patrick's, before he went in for the Mass.]... I was dabbing my eyes so often the Hispanic lady next to me asked me if there was something wrong!

...His words about himself were so unexpected, reminiscent of his 'humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord' but even humbler - referring to his 'spiritual poorness' and to the 'flaws and sins' that he shares with Peter, but that like Peter, he, too, must seek to remain the rock of the Church. It was wonderful to share the anniversary of his Papacy this way in New York!"]

Always when a Pope travels, much is made of the external trappings — the vestments, the red shoes, the miter and crosier — and often there are criticisms that the pope is too richly dressed, too well-shod.

But the Successor of Peter does not dress himself; he is dressed by his Office, and not for his own vanity but for the benefit of the sheep who seek him out amongst the merchants, politicians, pilgrims, and other shepherds.

His sheep mill around and graze; they frolic and fight; they stray and get caught in snares and attacked; and they look to that recognizable shepherd for guidance and rescue — to be gathered safely back, and to be walked home.

But even the shepherd — if he is a good and mindful one who truly loves his sheep — allows himself to be led. He is aware of the hour. And obedient to the sun.

00Tuesday, August 18, 2009 12:16 AM

Earlier today, in the preceding page, I posted a beautiful reflection about Benedict XVI by First Things blogger Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress).

I must admit I was not really paying attention - beyond ntoing the authors unusual first name and German family name - when John Allen referred to this book in a recent article because I thought it was a general book on environmentalism.

It turns out it was inspired by Benedict XVI and is all about his messages on 'safeguarding Creation'
, and is therefore a precedent-setting book. This is a write-up from the author's local newspaper.

Author sheds light
on Pope’s greenness

To the surprise of many, the Pontiff
is a strong environmentalist

By Emily Smith

Monday, Aug 17, 2009

EUGENE, OREGON - Even some of the most devout Catholics are astonished to learn that Pope Benedict XVI powers his home in Germany by solar panels.

Although snippets of environmentalism have snuck into many of the pontiff’s speeches and writings, Catholic author Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, 57, of Eugene, was as surprised as anyone to learn of the Pope’s fierce environmental advocacy, which she sheds light on in her new book, Ten Commandments for the Environment.

The notion of a green papacy is unfamiliar to most, she said.

“People expect the Pope to talk about God, sex and marriage,” she said. “So the environment comes as a surprise to people.”

The Pope’s latest encyclical, a letter to bishops, touches on his own 10 commandments for the environment, but is hardly succinct, the author said. So, her book serves to enlighten on the Pope’s message and his own history with environmentally sound practices.

For instance, the Vatican set out to become the first carbon-neutral nation-state in the world just more than two years ago. In taking strides toward that goal, it has been outfitted with solar panels and has begun a reforestation project in Hungary.

And, of course, there’s Pope Benedict’s own home in Germany, which, like the Vatican, is heated by solar panels.

For a world leader — and a religious figurehead at that — to lead by example, not just pontificating, sets a new precedent for leadership, she said.

“Yes, he’s a theologian, but he’s also practical,” she said.

The environment was not a burning passion of Koenig-Bricker’s when she and her editor first discussed the Pope’s work as a book idea. But, she said, researching and writing about the green papacy led her to take the Pope’s message to heart.

“It forced me to change my life,” she said.

The Pope’s activism departs from the realm of politics and religion, Koenig-Bricker said, and enters that of morality.

“Care for the environment is truly a moral issue,” she said. “It’s not a religious issue, it’s not a dogmatic issue, but it is a moral issue.”

Although the Pope has given numerous talks on the environment, there has been little publicity of it. As she delved into the Pope’s writings, she was struck by his insistence that nations rich and poor alike have a responsibility to preserve the planet, each other, and all living species.

“I was taken aback a little by the intensity of his message and the extent of it,” she said.

Since humans alone are capable of destroying the environment, she said, the Pope urges that people take on the mission of saving it.

“The Pope makes a point of saying we have a responsibility to all the species on the planet,” she said. “We don’t have the right to force other species into extinction just because we can.”

Koenig-Bricker found the Pope’s message on potable clean water especially moving.

In a place with abundant clean water, she said, it’s easy to forget that people worldwide fight to survive without access to the same.

“Clean drinking water isn’t a privilege, it’s a right,” she said.

Since her research for the book, the writer has become vigilant about her own water waste.

From shutting off the water while she brushes her teeth to installing a sprinkler system to help eliminate excess water runoff in her yard, Koenig-Bricker said conservation has become a priority.

An exhaustive exercise in research, she said writing the 152-page paperback, with its 11 pages of footnotes, felt like preparing a dissertation. But it had its rewards.

“On a real personal level, it was an exciting intellectual stretch,” she said.

Koenig-Birkcer Has written several books and many articles on a variety of subjects. She edited Catholic Parent magazine for 15 years and now edits books. She was born to an Irish Catholic mother, raised Catholic and has written extensively on spirituality.

NB: I wish Koenig-Bricker had consulted a Benaddict on the cover picture she used for her book. There are variants of that picture that don't show Papino's 'pancino' so obviously!

In case you have not seen it before, check out this videoclip - it has some brief 'sequences' not usually seen:

00Tuesday, August 18, 2009 3:53 AM

My day for coming across previously unseen oldies but goodies. This is a Catholic Herald interview with Alessandra Borghese in June 2008 at the time her book, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JOSEPH RATZINGER, came out in English. I have excerpted only the one where she talks about Cardinal Ratzinger. The rest of the itnerview is about her 'rebirth' as a Catholic.



Donna Alessandra's journey to faith made her another friend, one whom she admires and respects very much: Joseph Ratzinger. Such is her admiration for the Holy Father that a Roman wit remarked at the Pope's election: "Now Alessandra Borghese will probably become a cardinal."

She rates him as one of the greatest thinkers of our time, but describes him as a gentle and humble man who has taken a great burden on his shoulders.

"He has changed a lot since he became Pope. I mean, he is still himself - gentle, humble and amiable to everybody, always saying thank you - but he has had to adapt and become the Pope of everybody. As Cardinal Ratzinger he was a lot more free to say what he thought, but now, while he still says what he has to in a straightforward way, he has to temper it.

"The reaction to his speech at Regensburg caused him great suffering, I think. He went there as a professor, to address his colleagues and it spiralled out of control. Since then something has changed. Maybe he has understood that being Pope is a tough job. He has carried the cross many times, but he's a free man.

"He would have been very well in the house at Pentling, relaxing with his friends and writing. Becoming Pope is not winning the lottery, it requires a big sacrifice and is a great weight that you have to put on your shoulders."

She speaks a great deal of the personal encounter with Christ, with the person and not an abstract idea which is at the heart of faith.

"It is a very personal, very real and loving relationship we Catholics have with Christ," she says. "Pope Benedict writes about it beautifully in Deus Caritas Est. It is an encounter and through his love, he is real."

In a way, it is the same personal encounter with Christ, the sense of his humanity, which prompted her to write In the Footsteps of Joseph Ratzinger. She wanted people to see Pope as a child, see the places Benedict visited and the places where he prayed and see him, perhaps not as the follower of Peter, a distant figure, but as someone who is human and approachable.

And this April 2005 report shows the impact Cardinal Ratzinger made among the bishops of Hongkong and Macau when he visited those dioceses in 1993.

Most striking is Cardinal Zen's description of Benedict XVI as 'a person who defends truth in love'.

Bishops of Hongkong
and Macau on Benedict XVI

HONG KONG, April 27, 2005 (UCAN) - Catholic leaders in Hong Kong and Macau have welcomed Pope Benedict XVI 's election and say they hope he will soon revisit them.

The new Pope visited both territories in March 1993 when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At that time, Hong Kong and Macau were respectively British and Portuguese colonies but they have since become part of China.

When the 78-year-old cardinal was elected on April 19 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II, he took the name Benedict XVI.

Hong Kong diocese celebrated a Mass on April 25 to mark the Pontiff's inauguration at the Vatican the day before. In a homily during that Mass, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong described the new pope as one who does not escape from labor and as a person who defends the truth in love.

Bishop Zen insisted the new pope "is not a 'Rottweiler,' as dubbed by the media, nor a judge with a heart of stone."

Rather, "he welcomes dialogue and with his professional expertise, patiently expounds the doctrine of faith handed down to us by the apostles." Some media dubbed Cardinal Ratzinger "God's Rottweiler" for enforcing Church doctrine in his previous position.

About 1,400 people, including consulate representatives and leaders of various religions and Christian denominations, attended the Hong Kong Mass.

The 80 or so concelebrants included retired Archbishop Joseph Ti-Kang of Taipei, who was in Hong Kong on his way back to Taipei. He later told UCA News he met Cardinal Ratzinger several times when the German prelate headed Munich archdiocese in Germany. Archbishop Ti also recalled that the cardinal showed great interest in Chinese culture and history.

In nearby Macau, Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau presided at a Mass on April 24 afternoon, just as the Pope's inaugural Mass was underway at the Vatican. About 1,000 people, including government officials, attended.

Macau's churches and chapels chimed bells three times that day to welcome the new pontiff and to give thanks to God. Macau diocese also declared a holiday on April 25 for all Catholic organizations and schools.

Bishop Lai told UCA News on April 21 Pope Benedict "was close to Pope John Paul II because they worked together for 26 years." Thus, the bishop said, he expects him to continue his predecessor's "unfinished mission, such as ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and concern for Catholics in China."

Father Pedro Chung Chi-kin, vicar general of Macau diocese, told UCA News on April 26 the new Pope, "with his wisdom," will cooperate with bishops "to lead the Church's evangelization ministry in the new generation."

Both Macau Church leaders said they hope he will step on Chinese soil. Hong Kong and Macau reverted to Chinese rule respectively in 1997 and 1999.

In the 1993 visit to Macau, Father Chung recalled that Cardinal Ratzinger met the then diocesan ordinary, Bishop Domingos Lam Ka-tseung, and also visited famous places, including the Ruins of Saint Paul Church, a local landmark.

In Hong Kong, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke at a meeting that the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences held March 2-6.

He told the Asian bishops that the Church's mission is more a matter of "inter-culturality" than "inculturation." He coined the new term and urged its use, he explained, to express more precisely "the meeting of cultures" that should take place when the culture of Christian faith encounters other cultures.

Father Edward Hsueh Kwan-ho, who also met Cardinal Ratzinger during that 1993 event, told UCA News on April 25 he found him to be "a kind and humble theologian." The priest, a member of the Focolare Movement, said he chatted with Cardinal Ratzinger for a few minutes about inter-religious dialogue.

Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong told UCA News that, also in 1993, he drove Cardinal Ratzinger to meet Governor Christopher Patten, a Catholic, at the Governor's House. He also recalled that Cardinal Ratzinger met as well with the late Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung of Hong Kong and visited Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Seminary and Holy Spirit Study Centre.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar general of Hong Kong, told UCA News he hopes the new Pope will visit Hong Kong again. However, Father Louis Ha Ke-loon, director of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocesan Archives, says such a visit would be hard to arrange before the Holy See establishes diplomatic ties with China. Even so, Father Ha told UCA News, a visit to Hong Kong or mainland China would be "not impossible for Pope Benedict XVI."

Until now, the only Pope to visit Hong Kong was Pope Paul VI. He presided before a crowd of about 15,000 at an open-air Mass in Hong Kong Stadium on Dec. 4, 1970.

00Thursday, August 20, 2009 4:22 PM

Sri Lankan amputee meets Pope
with new prosthetic limbs

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An 18-year-old Sri Lankan youth who lost his arms and legs had a wish come true today as he met and spoke personally with Benedict XVI.

Rajiv Janine, whose limbs were amputated after a rail accident, was able to meet with the Pope after the general audience at the Pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Janine told the Holy Father his story, and asked for a blessing on himself and his brother, who will soon be ordained a priest, and his sister, who is a religious in the Philippines. Another sister was with him to assist him on the trip to Italy.

The youth stood with prosthetic limbs, bought with money raised by a solidarity campaign in Italy, L'Osservatore Romano reported.

The Vatican newspaper reported that this campaign was initiated by an Italian priest, Father Giuseppe Iasso, pastor in Mercogliano, in the Avellino province of Southern Italy.

For 25 years he has been promoting initiatives like this to help the needy in Sri Lanka.

Father Iasso told the newspaper that over the years they have been working in two villages to advance interreligious dialogue among the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.

He noted that they have been collaborating closely with the civil and religious authorities in supporting schools and hospitals in the area.

The priest affirmed that these projects have been made possible thanks to many Italians whose generosity "reached exceptional levels" after the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004.

He stated that the money for Janine had been collected by sending letters and knocking on the doors of parishes and families.

In the end, Father Iasso reported, an amount of 40,000 euro [$57,000] was gathered, from many benefactors, including children who emptied their banks and one elderly woman in a wheelchair who gave up her life savings.

After this successful campaign, the priest wrote to the Pontiff in order to tell him about Janine.

"I opened my priestly heart to the Pope," Father Iasso said, and Benedict XVI expressed the desire to receive this youth personally "in order to encourage him."

The priest concluded, "The testimony of Rajiv, with his serenity in spite of the pain and disability, is an invitation for all who suffer to not be discouraged and to never lose hope."

00Tuesday, September 1, 2009 3:29 AM

From the Angelus yesterday - so adorably boyish!

But he still has a swollen right arm and hand, and a new 'scar' - I must look up the technical term for that dent left by whatver intervention tehy did to get the wires in and leave the ends sticking out so they could be removed after the fracture healed.
00Saturday, September 19, 2009 2:58 PM
Little Emma meets her Pope
Posted by Tim Drake

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Last Wednesday, 7-year-old Emma Watson of Craigmont, Idaho, finally got her wish to meet Pope Benedict XVI. Register readers will remember first meeting Emma through this story.

Nearly aborted, Emma was born with mosaic Turner syndrome and hypoplastic left heart syndrome and has undergone five open-heart surgeries for palliation of her congenital heart condition. She has wanted to meet the Pope since age 3.

Originally scheduled to meet the Pope in February, that trip had to be canceled because Emma had to be hospitalized for intestinal bleeding. The trip was made possible through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which granted 13,425 wishes to children last year.

This time around, she almost missed seeing the Pope for two different reasons. First, only three weeks before the trip, she was hospitalized with pancreatitis. Then, on the morning of the general audience, the Watson family couldn’t find the Make-A-Wish volunteers in the plaza.

Eventually, they found one another, and the Watsons were rushed in and seated for the general audience just minutes before it began. Emma and her mother, Patti, were given front-row seats.

“Mom was looking the other way when the Pope came out,” said Emma. “I was in awe, and I started crying.”

“She kept saying, ‘It’s the Pope. That’s the Pope,’” said Emma’s mother, Patti.

After the audience, Emma and her mother were brought to greet the Pope.

The Holy Father blessed Emma “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and then put his hands on Emma’s shoulders.

“He asked us where we were from,” said Patti. “I said the U.S., and then we were ushered aside.”

Normally quite talkative, Patti said that Emma was “speechless for the first time in her life.”

Emma said that when she looked into the Pope’s eyes she saw “happiness”. [Out of the mouth of babes. Time to teach Emma the word 'joy' which goes beyond happiness!]

How I wish I could find more items for this thread - one a day would be nice!

00Friday, September 25, 2009 12:56 AM

[SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503]

[SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503] [SM=g9503]

Not having enough new anecdotal and otherwise 'lighter' material on our beloved Papino, I have decided to make up for the slack by posting a STUNC photo (not necessarily new, but thank God Il Bellissimo has dozens of STUNC pictures worth 'recycling' again and again) at least once a day - as I did for some time when I had a separate 'almanac' thread in the PRF.

00Thursday, October 1, 2009 4:07 PM

Frankly, the album cover design is decidedly disappointing, almost thoughtless!
For a Christmas-release album, why did they choose to be so gloomily autumnal?

Music From The Vatican:
'Alma Mater' to be released
Nov. 24 in the USA

Decca Label Group

NEW YORK, Oct. 1 -- Stemming from an unprecedented worldwide record deal with Universal Music Group International, Decca (a division of Universal Music Group in America) is set to release the new CD, Music From The Vatican - Alma Mater, featuring the voice of Pope Benedict XVI. The disc will be released in the U.S. on November 24th.

Alma Mater is a stirring and highly emotional collection of eight original pieces of modern classical music. The release is a true event, marking the very first time that the Voice of Pope Benedict XVI has been captured on disc, speaking and singing in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German, thanks to the audio recordings of Vatican Radio.

Proceeds from the album sales will be used to provide music education for underprivileged children around the world.

The album will feature His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, reciting and singing passages and prayers, accompanied by The Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, conducted by Monsignor Pablo Colino, Maestro Emeritus of St. Peter's Basilica and recorded in St Peter's Basilica.

The world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays on all of the specially commissioned contemporary tracks, and was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road studios in London.

Simon Boswell, Stefano Mainetti and Nour Eddine are the three contemporary composers who have contributed the eight specially commissioned pieces of music for Alma Mater.

Vincent Messina, producer of Alma Mater, commented, "These three composers are world class and my first choices for the album. A happy co-incidence is that Stefano is Catholic, Simon is 'undeclared' and Nour Eddine is Muslim, thus perfectly representing our aim to produce an album that has universal appeal to all of those who love beautiful music." Collectively, the trio of writers boasts an impressive resume of film scores, TV series and stage productions from around the world.

Plans for a series of international concerts to launch the album will be announced soon

Update on the papal CD
'Alma Mater'

ROME. Oct. 2 (Reuters) – A Muslim, a Catholic and an agnostic composer have contributed music to an album featuring Pope Benedict singing and reciting prayers, which is due for release in November.

Producer Vincent Messina said his choice of Nour Eddine, Stefano Mainetti and Simon Boswell -- who describes himself as "undeclared" -- reflected "our aim to produce an album that has universal appeal to all those who love beautiful music."

"I certainly didn't intend to select or hire composers on the basis of their faith," Messina told Reuters.

"These three composers, I have known them for many, many years and they are all some great film composers ... In particular with regard to the Muslim composer from Morocco, Nour Eddine, the idea came because the roots of Gregorian music somehow we share with the Arabian melodic tradition."

The "Alma Mater" album features recordings from Vatican radio of Pope Benedict singing Marian litanies and reciting passages and prayers in St Peter's Basilica or during trips abroad.

"We will be able to listen to one track in particular where he is singing the Regina Coeli along with a choir from the beginning to the end," Messina said.

"Alma Mater" also includes the backing vocals of The Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome blended with modern classical recordings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

It will be released by Geffen Records, the label that signed up Snoop Dog and Ashlee Simpson, on November 23 in Europe and the United States, and on November 29 in Britain.

Messina said he had yet to hear the Vatican's official reaction to the album.

"The Vatican is always very careful about communication and so you can imagine using the voice of the Holy Father and use it in a musical album," he said.
00Friday, October 2, 2009 1:24 PM

Here's a small item from recent days which led me to 'new' discoveries online, mostly stuff from the sites of Traunstein and Sankt Oswald parish, which will require another post.

Fire hits Pope Benedict's
old boarding school

Traunstein, Germany, Sept. 30 (dpa) - A boy playing with fire nearly burned down Pope Benedict's old boarding school in Germany, police said Wednesday. Fire crews rushed to St Michael's College after an electronic fire alarm detected smoke in the building late Tuesday.

A pupil, 18, who had burned part of a papier-mache egg carton for fun had then thrown it on a stack of paper with an edge still glowing. The rest of the paper began to smoulder.

Fire brigades quickly put out the fire, police in nearby Rosenheim said, and the damage was slight, but 30 boarders needed treatment after inhaling smoke.

Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, boarded at the Catholic school from 1937 until it was closed down by Nazi authorities during the Second World War. At the time it was known as the Archdiocesan College of Traunstein.

St Michael's currently has 70 boarding pupils.

The following article was written for Catholic Digest on the occasion of the Pope's visit to the United States in April 2008 and previously posted in the PRF. It's a beautiful read!

Can a Pope's childhood roots
shape a Church?


BAVARIA, GERMANY - Unsullied by time, the picture-postcard landscape unfolds in visual cliché: Immense round hay bales balance in bucolic fields. Red geraniums pour from flower boxes hanging from windows of whitewashed chalets. Brown cows graze calmly on grass so green it glints yellow in sunlight. Trees brood blackly in the shade. A craggy horizon of pale purple Alpine peaks reaches as far as the eye can see.

Panoramas of Traunstein, dominated by the steeple of St. Oswald parish church, where Joseph Ratzinger offered his first Mass.

It’s almost as if change knocked at Bavaria’s door and, unlike the rest of the West, Bavaria said no thanks. Though the region is known for its folksy hospitality, friendly Bavarians won’t say “hello”; or “guten Tag,” they’ll say “Grüß Gott” (“Greetings, in God’s name”). Enter a shop to buy an Alpine hat in Oberammergau, and before asking if you need help, the shopkeeper will smile, “Grüß Gott.”

Faith is the sustenance to which Bavaria cleaves: More than half its citizens identify as Catholic, and by some measures the figure could be as high as 70 percent. In Regensburg, where Professor Josef Ratzinger taught university theology from 1969 until he was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, 83 percent of residents are Catholic.

There’s no separating Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, from his native land. His philosophical roots remain planted in fertile, faithful, hardworking Bavaria — Germany’s most economically productive region. “My heart beats Bavarian,” he once told a flock of reporters in Rome.

Father Markus Moderegger grins indulgently, head tilted toward the ceiling. The thin, bespectacled rector of the Student Seminary of St. Michael in Traunstein, where Josef Ratzinger lived his high school years, acknowledges the thundering soles of boys running overhead. The young priest shrugs. "Tomorrow is the first day of school…”

Cardinal Ratzinger's last visit to Traunstein and St. Michael's, with his brother Georg, in 2002.

St. Michael Seminary is a dormitory built to encourage vocations. Saving souls and forming souls, along with a healthy indulgence in sport, were its mainstays even when young Josef Ratzinger lived here in the 1940s. Gold- and silver-plated soccer trophies fill a case in the hall.

Opposite the sports board hang photocopies of German press clippings. There’s no whitewashing here. The articles chronicle controversies surrounding the newly elected Roman Catholic pope. Hints of a Nazi past. Explanations of how the teenage Josef Ratzinger ended up briefly joining the Hitler youth. It’s a candid collection, aimed at encouraging discussion.

But St. Michael’s most famous graduate wouldn’t likely have come boisterously down the stairs. Still smiling, Moderegger explains that Ratzinger didn’t like sports and didn’t even like life in Traunstein, population 18,000, when he first arrived.

“He grew up in a humble farmhouse, very close to his family. This was so different from his life in the country.” Ratzinger hails from a typical Bavarian family, with ties that bind.

Yet the food for thought posted on the bulletin board hints at the deeper story. It was here that Josef Ratzinger first encountered the art of theological polemics and academic disputation. And, he liked it.

Up at 5 a.m., Mass at 5:30, next a Bible study and a quick bite to eat before heading off to school — such a life might not suit every young man, but it suited the future pope once he began meeting like-minded friends at St. Michael.

From the beginning, by all accounts, the introverted Pope liked a good debate that required him to use his wits. What he lacked competitively on the soccer field he made up for in the classroom. Josef Ratzinger grew to love St. Michael, returning annually for extended stays and vacations right until the day he became pope.

Widmar Tanner was a vice president of the University of Regensburg and a full biology professor when Professor Josef Ratzinger served as co-vice president with him from 1975 to 1976. Tanner represented the college of sciences; Ratzinger, who’d been ordained in 1951 and earned his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich in 1953, headed up the college of humanities.

“We were told when he was presented that he was one of the great theologians of Germany.” Tanner’s personal encounters with the newly appointed vice-president reinforced the rumors.

Though Ratzinger proved formidable with an argument, Tanner fondly remembers his colleague. “He was very friendly. He was an exceptional speaker, but he was very modest. He stayed in the background. But when he made his argument, he made it brilliantly. We had great respect for him as a leader in his field.”

Tanner chuckles. “When we had arguments against each other, he usually won!”

The halls at Regensburg buzzed when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19, 2005. Tanner says those who knew Benedict XVI held a different opinion than those who did not.

“On the day he was elected, people were critical. For many years he had been prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Since then, you hear people talk about him changing or softening, but I don’t think he’s changed.”

While others talked that spring of having an inquisitor for a pope, Tanner remained silent. Knowing him, I didn’t speak of him in this way. When people take on more responsibility, they often change. They have to change. But I would say that, rather, in my short time of knowing him, he did lead me to think that he is capable of listening and conciliation.”

Father Rupert Berger, retired professor of liturgy science at the University of Freising, sits in his study in a small parish house in Traunstein. A newspaper lies open on his dining-room table, and a homey jumble of books and papers cluttering the room pegs him for an academic. A pair of glasses resting on the outspread newspaper suggests he has been following Pope Benedict’s travels here in Bavaria. For Berger, the news stories evoke mixed emotions.

Although they were ordained together on June 29, 1951, the three friends held their first Mass on different days. Fr. Berger came first, on July 1, with Joseph and Georg serving him as subdeacons. The two brothers celebrated their Primiz one week later.

St. Oswald parish rightfully prides itself as Benedict XVI's 'Primizkirche'.

The three friends concelebrate Mass at St. Oswald's in 1976 to mark the silver jubilee of their ordination. From left, Prof. Michael Muellner from the seminary, Joseph Ratzinger, Georg Ratzinger, Rupert Berger, and the then parish priest Georg Els.

Josef Ratzinger, Rupert Berger, and Ratzinger’s older brother Georg attended seminary and were ordained together in 1951. The Pope is one of Berger’s closest friends. Often, they concelebrated Mass at St. Oswald, the village church here, and then went afterward to the pub next door.

Berger would have a glass of wine, but Josef Ratzinger usually drank water. “He doesn’t like it,” shrugs Berger when asked why the future pope rarely indulged in something stronger.

In those postwar days, there were no typical teenage high jinks.The seminary in Munich had been bombed to ruins. Seminary candidates were charged with clearing the site for rebuilding. Rupert, Josef, and Georg staggered under the weight of wheelbarrows laden with chunks of concrete and shards of steel. In payment, they received rations from the Marshall Plan: rice, cornbread, grains, and cereals. It was strange fare to youth accustomed to bratwurst and potatoes.

But they were grateful to have food at all. “We didn’t get into trouble not because we were good boys,” said Berger, “but because we were so relieved to have survived the war and to have found ourselves back in school.”

Josef was even slighter than his friend and his brother, but he hoisted and pushed load after load of rubble without complaint. All the while, the boys attended lectures in anticipation of taking high school graduation exams. They were all good students. “But he was always the best.”

Regulations also required the boys to submit to “re-education” during the Allied occupation of post-World War II Germany. Berger says they didn’t mind the repatriation.

“The lectures were really interesting. We had lived through these things (the atrocities the Allied indoctrination underscored). We had seen it all for ourselves!”

Was Josef Ratzinger ever a sympathetic member of the Hitler youth, as some reports imply?

Berger sits forward in his chair and waves his arms. “Nein, nein, nein — no, no, no.”

“We were not Nazis! Quite the opposite!” Berger’s father, also named Rupert, had been a leader in the Nazi resistance from the early days of Hitler’s regime and spent six months in Dachau for his work in the Bavarian People’s Party. Afterward, the family was banished from Traunstein.

Even as a young seminarian, Josef Ratzinger made an impression. “We all admired [Josef] because he worked so hard,” continues Berger. “We would go for walks, but he never joined us forentertainments. He sat at his desk and read all the time.”

In a region noted for its industry, Ratzinger proved even more industrious than your average Bavarian. Berger would have to drag his friend from the books to gain a social companion for an afternoon. A lot of the seminarians liked ballet, but Ratzinger didn’t care for it and neither did Berger. Once or twice a month, though, Ratzinger could be persuaded to visit the theater for a play or an opera.

Ratzinger’s bookishness goes hand in hand with his introversion. Berger says Ratzinger always was friendly but left others to make the introductions. “His privacy is extremely important to him.”

Yet the Pope is hardly humorless. Berger, with great amusement, points out that we have a joyful pope, not a comedian. “He loves to laugh, but he is not the one who tells the jokes!”

The two pals have not met since Cardinal Josef Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to Benedict’s papacy, they annually spent time together during Ratzinger’s extended vacations in Traunstein.

On his visits, Ratzinger bunked at St. Michael, where his love for books and his passion for priesthood first converged. His brother Georg always joined him.

In the evening, Josef would read the paper to Georg, whose eyesight is reportedly delicate. Then Georg, an accomplished pianist, would begin working the piano while Josef turned on the lamp in the room across the hall and got down to business.

Father Markus Moderegger stretches one palm above the other, about 15 inches apart. “He always brought work with him, a big stack of papers.”

The Sisters who handle St. Michael’s housekeeping miss the beneficent Ratzingers. Both brothers regularly hiked into Traunstein. “You would see their two white heads going off down the road. When they returned, they carried sacks of presents. They’d gone shopping. For the Sisters!”

In a simpler world, these intimate vacations would continue. But modern security concerns and an international press corps make such dreams impossible.

Could Rupert Berger pick up the phone just now and call his friend, the pope? Berger’s smile is slow and warm and fond and sure.

“Yes, I think so. I am very careful with the word friend. There are really only very few people you can call your friends in life. The pope is one of mine.”

The world doesn’t yet understand Benedict XVI. Is he the shy academic who brushes away his security detail to hold a young altar server’s face in his hands while she throws out her arms for a bear hug? Or is he the hardworking Vatican watchdog whose Traunstein housekeepers cry because he no longer can visit?

With Benedict, you get equal helpings of Bavarian geniality and Bavarian self-discipline. You get singular intelligence and deep affection in the same man.

“What people who know him admire is that he is so bright and so pious. This combination you just don’t find very often,” Berger says. “And I admire his sermons because they come from the heart inspite of his living so much in the head.”

Hand-cut stacks of wood nestle tidily beside each doorstep of every home in the rolling Bavarian hills, a testament to hearth, family, and a diligence and conformity that mirror the inner world of the current pope.

Bavarians embrace the rigors of life and its comforts too. Warm pretzels and warm beer equal warm hospitality. Hard work and hard winters are God’s reminder that life requires serious toil amid the play. Some things don’t change because they aren’t meant to change. “Grüß Gott.”

Father Berger and Professor Tanner assess the new pope similarly. Berger sees both orthodoxy and flexibility going hand-in-hand. “Whatever job he is given, he adapts to the task. As a cardinal, he adapted. As a pope, he is a completely different man than the Defender of his Faith. He is always open. He is always learning and adapting.

“To touch the children, to wave — he learned this from his predecessor.” But Berger jumps a little in his chair when asked if this change will be reflected theologically.

When the pope’s friend speaks of change, he is talking not about the essence of theology but about the essence of human behavior. Such precision with phraseology is a rhetorician’s domain, and it is here where Benedict and his friend Berger feel most at home.

The pope has been known to speak with a lover’s yearning about missing his academic debates, mourning his loss of time for theological endeavor.

In the speech in Regensburg, where the Pope compared Christian relativism to Muslim fundamentalism, using a stark (and to orthodox Muslims, offensive) illustration, he perhaps intended to spark a dialogue between the two faiths.

Clearly, he was warning both Christians and Muslims to guard against deferring to the self ’s rationalizations in living their faiths: It’s not what makes sense to us but what makes sense to God that matters. For Benedict, being a little bit Catholic is like being a little bit Bavarian: There’s no such thing.

A sidebar to the article:

Does the pope like beer?

Not really. Press reports that Pope Benedict XVI likes his beer are inaccurate, says the Pope’s longtime friend Father Rupert Berger.

“He doesn’t like the taste of alcohol,” Berger says with a shrug. “He just never did.” At home, the Pope drinks orange juice.

But never let it be said that Benedict XVI is a party pooper. “On special occasions, when everybody else is having a drink, he will join in so he doesn’t spoil the fun.”

Then, the pope will sip a radler, or what Germans call a bicycler. The drink, a combination of beer and lemonade, derives its name from the source of its invention: In the 1920s, Alpine bicyclists wanting to avoid wobbling along the twists and turns of a long ride diluted their beer at lunchtime to avoid riding under the influence.

Radler recipe

•½ glass of lemonade
•½ glass of German beer
Mix gently and serve.
(serve at room temperature — as is the German custom.)

00Thursday, October 8, 2009 2:32 PM
I expect there will be more stories like these from the hundreds of Hawaiians who are in Rome or coming to Rome for Father Damien's canonization on Sunday. We can't have enough of these stories - and I am really surprised there aren't more online, considering the tens of thousands who get to see the Pope every week. This is particularly 'cute'...

Oct. 7, 2009

Just an hour ago, we had an audience with the Pope. The Scouts were very close….as a matter of fact, we were in the main section…. on the same level as the Pope….Awesome exerience.

Various Bishops from all over welcome pilgrims in their own language from all over… then the Pope blesses everyone and all objects they bring for blessings… and yes, for those who bought the Scout fundraising items and asked for them to be blessed, they all were!

We gave our gift to a Swiss Guard, who in turn gave it to the Pontiff…The Pope will surly understand Aloha!

00Saturday, October 10, 2009 1:53 AM
Nothing new here....Just one of those items I did not notice at the time. Another pre-visit article in Catholic Digest before the Pope's tript to the USA in 2008, with recycled information and pictures, but nicely laid out. It reads very much like an article published in Paris-Match in 2006 or 2007, but updated to 2008.

Questa è la versione 'lo-fi' del Forum Per visualizzare la versione completa click here
Tutti gli orari sono GMT+01:00. Adesso sono le 10:38 PM.
Copyright © 2000-2021 FFZ srl - www.freeforumzone.com