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00Friday, May 1, 2009 5:56 AM

May 1, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
Patron of the Universal Church



NB: Our Pope has four name days during the year:
March 19 and May 1, for St. Joseph; and March 21
(observed by the Benedictines) and July 11
(official Church holiday) for St. Benedict.

I particularly like the photo above showing the Holy Father greeting the Colombian President yesterday, 4/30,
for its luminosity. I think it portrays his spiritual radiance, particularly with his white-and-gold garments,
one of those pictures where he appears like an archangel out of the Bible. Too bad I can't enlarge it any farther

OR today.

The Pope urges Group III of Argentine bishops visiting ad-limina:
'A Church always welcoming and merciful towards the poor'

Other Page 1 stories: The Pope meets the President of Colombia (above right); an editorial commentary on pressures
from within the United Nations to get the Holy See to endorse 'genetically modified organisms' (GMO) cites
a working point in the agenda for the Special Synod Assembly on Africa that says widespread GMO adoption would destroy
the livelihood of small farmers around the world.


General intention:
"That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly
and religious vocations."

Apostolic intention:
"That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith,
may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their
availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world."

It is almost 2 p.m. Rome time, but the Vatican has not issued any bulletin on scheduled events today for the Holy Father.

00Friday, May 1, 2009 1:02 PM

'Prayer opens the heart
to those most in need'

The Holy Father addressed Thursday a third group of prelates from the Argentine Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

[He previously met with them in smaller groups, as he did with the first two big groups whom he saw before the trip to Africa and then before the Holy Week observance.]

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address to them, delivered in Spanish:

Dear brothers in the Episcopate!

1. It is with great joy that I meet again with this group of Pastors from the Church in Argentina, which concludes your ad limina visit.

I greet you all with affection and I wish that this fraternal meeting with the Successor of Peter may help you feel the pulse of the Universal Church and to consolidate the ties of faith, communion and discipline that unite your local churches to the Apostolic See.

At the same time, I thank the Lord for this new occasion to confirm my brothers in the faith (cfr Lk 22,32), and to share your joys and concerns, in your successes and difficulties.

With all my heart, I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me, in the name of you all, by Mons. Luis Héctor Villalba, Archbishop of Tucuman and vice-president of the Argentine bishops' conference, who expressed your sentiments of affection and adherence, along with those of your priests, religious, and the lay faithful of your communities.

2. Dear brothers, the Lord Jesus has entrusted to us a ministry of the highest value and honor: to bring his message of peace and reconciliation to all peoples; to care, with paternal love, for the holy People of God and to lead them along the path of salvation.

This is a task that is beyond our personal merits and our lowly human capacity, but to which we dedicate ourselves with simplicity and hope, sustained by the words of Christ, "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain" (Jn 15,16).

Jesus, the Master. looking at you with the love of a brother and friend, has called you to enter into his intimacy, and consecrating you with the sacred oil of priestly unction, he has placed in your hands the redeeming power of his blood so that, with the certainty of acting always in persona Christi capitis [in the person of Christ the Head], you may be in the midst of the people that has been entrusted to you by "a living sign of the Lord Jesus, Pastor and Spouse, Master and Pontifex of the Church" (John Paul II, Pastores gregis, 7).

In the exercise of his episcopal ministry, the Bishop should always behave among his faithful as someone who serves (cf Lumen gentium,27), constantly inspired by the example of He who did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as ransom for the many (cf Mk 10,45).

Truly, to be a bishop is a title of honor when one lives in this spirit of service to others in humble and disinterested participation in the mission of Christ.

The frequent contemplation of the image of the Good Shepherd will serve you as a model and inspiration in your efforts to announce and disseminate the Gospel, it will impel you to care for the faithful with tenderness adn mercy, to defend the weak adn to spend your life in constant adn generous dedication to the People of God (cf Pastores gregis, 43).

3. As an essential part of your episcopal ministry in the Church, true amoris officium (cf St. Augustine, In Io. Ev., 123,5), I wish to exhort you to foment in your diocesan communities the exercise of charity, especially for the neediest.

Through your nearness and your words, with material help and with prayers, with a call to dialog and to the spirit of understanding which always seeks the common good of the people, and with the light that comes from the Gospel, you must give concrete and visible testimony of the love of Christ among the people, in order to continually construct the Church as the family of God, always welcoming and merciful with the poorest, so that in all dioceses, charity may reign in compliance with what Jesus ordered (cf Christus Dominus, 16).

Along with this, I also wish to insist on the importance of prayer in the face of activism or a secularized vision of Christian charitable service (cf Deus caritas est, 37), That assiduous contact with Christ in prayer transforms the heart of believers, opening it up to the needs of others, without being inspired, however, "by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love" (ibid., 33).

4. I wish to commend to you especially the priests, your closest co-workers. May the embrace of peace with which you welcomed them on the day of their priestly ordination, be a living reality every day that contributes to increasingly tighten the bonds of affection, respect and confidence that unites you to them by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

In acknowledging the abnegation and commitment to the ministry of your priests, I also wish to invite them to an ever greater identification with the Lord, becoming true models for the flock for their virtues and good example, pasturing the flock of God with love (cf 1 PS, 2-S).

5. The specific vocation of the lay faithful leads them to try and configure their social life correctly to illuminate earthly realities with the light of the Gospel. May these secular faithful, conscious of their baptismal promises, and inspired by the charity of Christ, participate actively in the mission of the Church as well as in the social, political, economic and cultural life of the nation.

In this sense, Catholics should stand out among their fellow citizens for their exemplary compliance of their civic duties, as well as for the exercise of those human and Christian virtues which contribute to improve personal, social and work relations.

Their commitment should also lead them to promote in particular those values which are essential to the common good of society, such as peace, justice, solidarity, the good of the family founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and the right and obligation of parents to educate their children according to their moral and religious convictions.

I wish to conclude by asking you to bring my affectionate greeting to all the members of your diocesan churches. To the emeritus bishops, priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and all the lay faithful, tell them that the pope thanks them for their work for the Lord and the cause of the Gospel, and that I hope and trust in their fidelity to the Church.

To you, dear Bishops of Argentina, I thank you for your pastoral solicitude and I assure you of my spiritual closeness and my constant prayers. I commend you from the heart to the protection of Our Lady of Lujan and I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing

00Friday, May 1, 2009 1:52 PM


At 5:30 on Thursday afternoon, April 30, the Holy Father attended a concert at the Aula Paolo VI offered by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary as Pope.

President Napolitano performed the same gracious gesture for the Pope on the third anniversary last year after he came back from his trip to the United States where he marked the actual date while he was in New York.

The Pope and the President have a brief chat before the concert.

The concert was performed by the Verdi Orchestra and Chorus of Milan conducted by Xian Zhang and Erina Gambarini, respectively.

The program featured Haydn's Symphony No. 95, Mozart's Haffner Symphony, Vivaldi's Magnificat in G-minor, and Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's remarks after the performance:

Mr. President of the Republic,
Eminent Cardinals.
Honorable Ministers,
venerated brothers.
ladies and gentlemen:

In addressing to all my heartfelt greeting, I express my most sincere gratitude to the President of the Italian Republic, the Honorable Giorgio Napolitano, who, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the start of my Pontificate, has offered me this excellent musical homage.

Thank you, Mr. President, for this and for the kind words that you addressed to me just now, and an affectionate greeting to your gracious wife.

I am happy to greet the Ministers and other authorities of the Italian State, as well as the ambassadors and other personalities who honor us with their presence.

I was very pleased at the return of the Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra and Chorus of Milan, whom we appreciated last year. As I thank the Verdi Foundation and those who contributed in various ways to organizing this concert, I renew my congratulations to all the orchestra and chorus members, particularly the conductor, Mademoiselle Zhang Xian, and chorus master Erica Gambarini, as well as the three soloists.

The mastery and enthusiasm of each has contributed to an execution which truly gave new life to the pieces offered, the works of three composers of the first order: Vivaldi, Haydn adn Mozart.

I found the choice of the numbers very appropriate to the liturgical time we are going through - Eastertide.

Haydn's Symphony #95 which we heard first seems to contain in itself an itinerary which we might call 'Paschal'. Indeed, it starts in the tonality of C-minor, and through a development that is perfectly equilibrated, but not without drama, it reaches its conclusion in C-major. This recalls the itinerary of the soul - represented particularly by the cello - towards peace and serenity.

Shortly afterwards, Mozart's Symphony Number 35 amplifies and crowns the affirmation of life over death, of joy over sadness. Indeed, the sense of celebration dominates. The tempo is very dynamic and in its finale, truly overwhelming - and in this, our orchestral virtuosi have made us feel how strength can harmonize with grace. It is what happens to the maximum degree, if you will allow me this comparison, in God's love, in which strength and grace coincide.

Then the human voice enters the scene, so to speak: the choir, almost as if to give words to what the music has expressed. It is not by chance that the first word was 'Magnificat'.

From the heart of Mary - who was favored by God for her humility - this word has become the daily song of the Church, precisely at this Vespers hour, the time that invites to meditation on the sense of life and of history.

Clearly, the Magnificat presages the Resurrection, the victory of Christ: in him, God fulfilled his promises, and his mercy was revealed in all its paradoxical power. Thus, the 'word'.

And Vivaldi's music? First of all, it is noteworthy that he composed the soloists' arias expressly for some singers who were his pupils at the Venetian hospital of La Pieta - five orphans gifted with extraordinary singing abilities.

How can we not think of Mary from whom God drew 'great things'? Thus, these five soloists almost represent the voice of the Virgin, while the chorus expresses the Church-community. Together, Mary and the Church are united in the single canticle fo praise to "the Holy", to God, who with the power of love, realizes his plan of justice in history.

Finally, the Chorus gave voice to that sublime masterpiece that is Mozart's Ave verum Corpus. Here, meditation gives way to contemplation: the eye of the mind fixes itself on the Most Blessed Sacrament to recognize the Body of Christ, that Body which was truly immolated on the Cross and from which flowed forth the spring of universal salvation.

Mozart composed this motet shortly before his death, and in it, one can say that music has become true prayer, the abandonment of the heart to God, with a profound sense of peace.

Mr. President, your kind and generous homage has succeeded amply not only to gratify the aesthetic sense, but at the same time, to nourish our spirit, and for this I am doubly grateful to you.

I express my best wishes in the continued execution of your high mission, and I extend that similarly to all the authorities present.

Dear friends, thank you for coming today. Remember me in your prayers, so that I may always fulfill my ministry as the Lord wishes. May he who is our peace and our life bless all of you and your families.

I wish you all a good night.

00Friday, May 1, 2009 2:07 PM

Pope's visit sparks high hopes

April 30, 2009

Religious leaders representing the local Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities met at the Notre Dame Cultural Center in Jerusalem on Thursday to voice their expectations of the Pope during his visit to the Holy Land.

Dr. Munib Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said he hoped Benedict XVI would support a two-state solution and reject "occupation and settlements."

"The security of Israel is important to us," Younan said. "And this security depends on a just treatment of the Palestinian people. Jerusalem should be a city shared by all religions and serve as a model of peaceful religious coexistence. There are extremists on both sides who are trying to turn the conflict into a religious war. Religion must instead be a source of inspiration for peaceful coexistence."

The symposium was sponsored by the US State Department; Mercy Corps, a nondenominational Portland, Oregon-based aid organization; and the Inter-Religious Coordination Council in Israel, a coalition of 70 Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups.

Father William Shomali, rector of the Latin Seminary in Bet Jala, near Bethlehem, said he hoped the Pope would help Jews, Christians and Muslims to recognize the suffering of "the other."

"The Pope will visit Yad Vashem to recognize the suffering of the Jews, he will visit with the Armenians to remember their suffering and the 1.5 million who were killed, and he will also devote time to acknowledging the Palestinian people's suffering," Shomali said. "I hope the Holy Father will help all of us escape our complexities of victimization. Part of the process of reconciliation is admitting one's guilt."

Shomali, a Palestinian, called the present state of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue "an exercise in futility."

"Like Joshua in the Old Testament, we must break down the walls, all of the invisible barriers such as fears, phobias and hatred that prevent us from making peace."

Shomali recalled how during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000, suspicion between Muslim and Jewish religious leaders foiled attempts at religious dialogue.

"Until the last minute it was unclear whether the grand mufti of Jerusalem would arrive," Shomali said. "Neither rabbis nor muftis were willing to submit their speeches in advance. And they refused to join the Pope in a tree planting ceremony.

"And each side spoke exclusively about their own suffering."

Prof. Mohammed Dejani, founder and director of the American Studies Institute at Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem and founder of Wasatia, a new organization for the promotion of peace, said that "extremists have taken power on both [the Israeli and Palestinian] sides."

"Religion should lead politics, not the other way around," Dejani said. "The Pope should take the initiative in this endeavor."

Dr. Deborah Weissman, co-chairwoman of the Inter-Religious Coordination Council, said she hoped the Benedict's "ambivalence" on theological issues affecting Jews would be clarified.

The Pope still had not made it absolutely clear that Jews did not need to embrace the belief that Jesus was the messiah to be redeemed, she said. [Dear God, are we goiong to be hearing more of these absurd demands - each and every group with a vested interest appears to be interested only in exploiting the Pope's visit to their own ends!]

"Recently there have been certain errors in judgment made by the Vatican regarding the Jewish people," Weissman said, apparently referring to the Pope's attempt to heal a schism in the Catholic Church by readmitting four renegade bishops in January. The four had broken with the Church over the Vatican II reforms. One of them, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier.

Weissman said she understood the tensions within the Church but added that she expected to hear a clear message from Benedict.

100 rabbis prepare to welcome
Pope Benedict XVI to Holy Land

JERUSALEM, APRIL 30, 2009 ( More than a hundred rabbis of various denominations will sign a message welcoming Benedict XVI to the Holy Land and encouraging dialogue between Jews and Christians.

The presidents of the International Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Education, Adalberta and Armando Bernardini, told ZENIT that the message is due to be published on the Web site of an Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The initiative is being promoted by one of the foundation's members, Rabbi Jack Bemporard, also director of the New Jersey based Center for Interreligious Understanding.

From May 8 to 15 the Pope will visit the Holy Land, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, in a visit described by the government of Israel as a "bridge for peace."

The Rabbi message, titled "United in Our Age," is inspired by Nostra Aetate, the statement that the Second Vatican Council issued on October 28, 1965, which motivated closer relations between Jews and Catholics.

In particular, the message cites the document that states: "Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues."

Addressing the Pontiff, the message affirms: "In this spirit, we -- rabbis and Jewish leaders -- warmly welcome you and your mission of peace to Israel.

"With one voice, we are united in our commitment to interreligious dialogue, to opening more paths to increased understanding, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide."

"And where better to reaffirm that relationship," it adds, "than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage."

The message concludes: "B'shalom."

00Friday, May 1, 2009 2:47 PM


The Vatican has now posted the missal for all the liturgies that the Pope will celebrate
during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is 286 pp. long:

Muslims in Holy Land are cool
to the Pope's coming visit -
still angry over Regensburg


Excuse me, but did AP really expect the Muslims to be jumping for joy? I doubt whether the ordinary Muslim even cares that the Pope is visiting, unless he is prodded and drawn into any mass hysteria! But the way this item describes the Muslims of Nazareth is very disheartening, if not alarming for the Pope's security.

NAZARETH, Israel, April 29 (AP) — A banner across the main square in Jesus's boyhood town condemns those who insult Islam's Prophet Muhammad — a message by Muslim hard-liners for Pope Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land next month. [The church in the photo background is the Basilica of the Annunciation.]

The Pontiff may have to tread carefully with his visit to Nazareth. Many Muslims are still angry over a 2006 speech in which Benedict quoted a medieval text depicting the prophet as violent.

Even some Christians are nervous that Benedict could stir up trouble for them. They worry that if he says anything contentious about Islam again, Muslims might lash out. [Why would 'Christians', for God's sake, expect the Pope to come to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage and say anything inflammatory about anybody???]

"He must know that every word he will utter will have an impact on Christian Palestinians and religious relations," said Naim Ateek, an Anglican reverend and director of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestinian Christian group that includes Catholics. [And everyone now feels he must give tips to the Pope on how to behave himself!]

The banner was put up by followers of Nazem Abu Salim, a radical Muslim preacher, right next to the Church of the Annunciation, where tradition says the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

It is there for the Pope, Abu Salim said. "He is not welcome here."

The banner — clearly visible from the church, which Benedict is to visit — trumpets a verse from the Quran declaring, "Those who harm God and His Messenger — God has cursed them in this world and in the hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment."

Municipal official Suheil Diab wouldn't say if the banner, along with a small sign in English with the verse, would be removed before the pope arrives May 14.

Benedict plans to meet with Muslim leaders, though not Abu Salim, throughout his May 8-15 tour of the Holy Land, which includes stops in Jordan, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Nazareth, one of Israel's largest Arab cities.

Islamic leaders in Israel are divided over the visit.

One of the leading Muslim groups in Israel, the Northern Islamic Movement, is calling for a boycott of meetings unless Benedict apologizes for his 2006 remarks, said a spokesman, Zahi Nujeidat.

The movement, which has not been invited to meet with the Pontiff, can marshal thousands of supporters, but has not yet decided whether to stage protests.

Other Muslim clerics said they would sit down with Benedict but ask for an apology. One of those is Sheik Taysir Tamimi, a leading cleric in the Palestinian Authority, which has welcomed the Pope's trip.

Muslims are a growing and increasingly assertive majority in Nazareth, which is 70 percent Muslim but has a communist mayor from the city's Christian community.

A decade ago, brawls erupted over Muslim attempts to build a mosque beside the Church of the Annunciation. The project was eventually thwarted. What remains is a stone-paved square and a small mosque, headed by Abu Salim.

Nazareth is one of the main cities for Israel's Arab minority, who make up around 20 percent of the country's 7 million people. Christians number around 120,000 of the Arab community, roughly half Catholic, half Eastern Orthodox.

Benedict's 2006 speech citing an obscure medieval text that characterized some of Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman" sparked protests in the West Bank and Gaza — though not in Israel. Attackers fired guns and threw firebombs at Palestinian churches.

Benedict later said the text did not reflect his views, but many Muslims believe he did not apologize properly.

In Nazareth, the Pontiff is to visit the Church of the Annunciation, host an interfaith discussion and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He'll also celebrate Mass on nearby Mount Precipice, where many Christians believe a mob pursued Jesus and tried to throw him from a cliff.

The Pope will strive to improve interfaith relations throughout his tour, said Wadi Abunassar, a spokesman for the Pontiff's visit.

Nazareth's local government has set aside $5 million to spruce up the crowded, shabby city overlooking the Galilee hills, hoping the papal visit will boost tourism, Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy said.

Few in Nazareth's bazaar show any excitement, however. Many remain bitter over Israel's offensive in Gaza against Hamas militants, which killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in December and January.

"People here are tired and exhausted from this situation," said Amin Ali, 72, an antique seller who described himself as a secular Muslim. "And nobody likes this Pope, anyway."

Benedict should use his visit to censure Israel over Gaza and the lack of progress in reaching peace with the Palestinians, said Ateek, the Anglican reverend.

"If the Pope is brave enough to do that, people will respect him more," Ateek said. [SPARE US THIS SANCTIMONY, PUH-LEEZE!!!!]

Palestinian protesters chant slogans against Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture following prayers
in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City,
on Friday, Sept. 22, 2006

But that Nazareth imam who's leading the protest is not about to miss his 15 minutes of fame on the world staGe. Here's another alarmist - and alarming - report:

Nazareth Muslim cleric
prepares insult for Pope

by Hana Levi Julian

NAZARETH, April 30( - Muslims led by a radical imam in the town where Jesus was said to be raised are not pleased at the prospect of a visit from the Pope, and have prepared a special insult with which to greet him.

Radical Imam Nazem Abu Salim inspired his followers to string up a banner across the main square of Nazareth with a blatant warning for Pope Benedict XVI: "Those who harm G-d and His Messenger – G-d has cursed them in this world and in the hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment."

The words, lifted from the Koran, are translated into English in a small sign next to the banner, which is visible from the Church of the Annunciation, one of the sites the Pontiff will visit on May 18.

Abu Salim was clear that the purpose of the banner was to drive the Pope away: "He is not welcome here," he told an Associated Press reporter this week. [Thie manic imam is really bent on his jihad against the Pope!]

The Nazareth municipality has allocated some $5 million to upgrade its facilities in anticipation of the visit, hoping it will spark new tourism revenues, according to Mayor Ramiz Jaraisey, a Christian.

But another city official, Sueil Diab, refused to tell the AP reporter whether the offensive banner and sign would be removed before the Pope arrives.

More than half of the city's population – 70 percent – is Muslim, and has a record of occasionally intimidating the shrinking Christian community.

Relations have been tense between the two populations, particularly ten years ago, when Muslims attempted to build a mosque next to the church. Fist fights eventually put an end to the project, leaving a stone-paved square and a smaller mosque that serves Abu Salim's group.

The radical Northern Islamic Movement has called on all Muslim leaders to boycott interfaith meetings that are to be held throughout the Pope's visit to the region from May 8-15, unless he apologizes for remarks he made during a speech in 2006.

The Pope will meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and host an interfaith discuss while in Nazareth, and will celebrate Mass on nearby Mount Precipice. Benedict XVI will also be making stops elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority (PA) territories, as well as in Jerusalem and Jordan.

The Muslim anger at the pontiff is connected to his citation of an obscure medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the founder of Islam as "evil and inhuman."

Benedict did not endorse the text, and made it clear that it did not reflect his own views, but Muslims insisted he issue a formal apology for using the citation, violently protesting and rampaging through streets in cities around the world.

Muslims attacked churches in the PA as well, firing guns and hurling firebombs at the buildings and worshippers.

00Friday, May 1, 2009 3:48 PM


The Czech bishops conference has opened an English-language site for the papal visit in September.

Although no official announcement has been made, the site banner indicates that the Pope will be visiting Prague, Brno and Stara Boleslaw.

All the material posted here today comes from the site.
[My thanks to Maklara who is keeping us abreast of the preparations in Prague.]


The motto and logo of the papal visit express its theme and spirit, as well as the general Christian attitude.

The motto is: 'Love of Christ is our strength'.

Christianity doesn't push itself by power, it doesn't struggle for gaining dominance over anyone. It respects the freedom of every person, but it is strong and firm, in trying to win over evil through the power of love.

The logo expresses that we are bearers of the tradition of Prince Wenceslaus (represented by the heraldic symbol of the eagle), patron saint of the Czech nation, who promoted Christian values.

We stand by his flag as a sign of our nation's spiritual life. The flag's spear is directed upwards, to permanent values and noble aims, and it bears the colours of the Czech Republic (blue - red - white) and of the Vatican (gold - white), because the journey is also a state visit, with the Czech nation welcoming one of the most important persons in the world, the leader of the Catholic Church.


The commemorative medal will be a present to VIP guests as well as a valuable souvenir for visitors. It is available in gold or silver (both 0.999 purity).

It was designed by Daniela Kartáková (born 1965), a well-known sculptor, conservator and medalist, who also designed the commemorative medal for John Paul II's 2005 visit to the Czech Republic. She also has a home in Carrara, Italy, site of one of the world's best marble quarries.

The front features a portrait of Benedict XVI with his Latin name, and the Vatican coat-of-arms. The back depicst St. Wenceslas, based on the Gothic statue of the saint by Petr Parléř in the Prague cathedral. The inscription gives the year of teh visit and the names of the three cities to be visited by the Pope.

More information on the medal is available at the website about the medal, (CZ), where it may also be ordered.

00Friday, May 1, 2009 6:51 PM

00Friday, May 1, 2009 8:30 PM

This is the Preface written by Cardinal Ruini, himself an outstanding theologian, for the new 832-page book that puts together various texts by Cardinal Ratzinger and then Benedict XVI on the themes of faith, reason, love and truth.

Translated from

April 30, 2009

The theologian then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has occupied himself with theology practically his whole life and is certainly one of the most elevated and significant voices of contemporary theology, who, with his election to the Pontifical office, has acquired further extraordinary authoritativeness.

It is a good rule, when we seek to grasp the overall sense of a great human and intellectual undertaking, to inform ourselves first of how the author conceives it himself.

Very indicative in this respect are two brief statements by Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI.

The first is found in the book La mia vita [English edition, Milestones]. Differentiating his theology from that of Karl Rahner, Ratzinger writes: "For my part, my whole intellectual formation had been shaped by Scripture and the Fathers, and profoundly historical thinking". [The sentence that preceded this said about Rahner: "His was a speculative and philosophical theology in which Scripture and the Fathers in the end did not play an important role and in which the historical dimension was really of little significance".]

Much more recent is the second statement which comes from the Preface written by Benedict XVUI for the first volume of his Opera omnia:

The liturgy of the Church has been for me, since my infancy, the central activity of my life, and has also become....the center of my theological work.

As my specific subject I chose fundamental theology, because I wanted first of all to pursue to the end the question, 'Why do we believe?'

But this question also includes right from the beginning the other one on the right response to give to God, and therefore, also the question of divine service

Sacred Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and liturgy are therefore the vital humus of Ratzinger's theological reflections, and from this basis, he faces, without half measures, the question of truth - and of beauty and 'livability' [vivibilita, i.e., the possibility of living something], that of the Christian faith, in the actual historical situation and in relationship to other forms of rationality and other modalities of understanding the prevailing ways of living today.

From his first first academic opening lecture [prolusione], held at the University of Bonn in June 1959, dedicated to the God of faith and the God of the philosophers, Ratzinger has given form and expression to the fundamental nucleus of his theology:

The Absolute - which the Greek philosophers had acknowledged in some way, although they considered it inaccessible to men - is really the God of man, the God who speaks to us and listens to us, the God who in Jesus Christ gave himself totally for us.

Thus, between faith and reason there exists a profound and indestructible relation, and Christianity can rightfully present itself as the 'true religion'.

Moreover, since the divine Logos is identical to the Agape - the original Love which is the measure of authentic love - Christian truth therefore finds its concrete expression in the ethic of love for one's neighbor, in caring for those who suffer, for the poor and for the weak, beyond any differences in social conditions.

Thus, the force which allowed the missionary expansion of Christianity resides in the synthesis that it was able to realize between reason, faith and the praxis of life.

This synthesis - linked to Christianity's claim to truth - has held up through the centuries and the succession of cultures, but in the modern era, both appear to be overwhelmed.

"At the end of the second millennium," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger in the book Fede Verita Tolleranza [Faith, Truth, Tolerance], "Christianity finds itself - precisely in the place of its original diffusion, Europe - in a profound crisis, based on the crisis of its claim to truth".

The central commitment of the theological work of our current Pope has been essentially how to emerge from this crisis. To this end, he has analyzed repeatedly the historical reasons for the present difficulty, not concealing those that come from within Christianity and the Church itself.

With the passing of the centuries, indeed, Christianity had unfortunately become largely human tradition and state religion, contrary to its own nature.

It is therefore a merit of the Enlightenment to have re-proposed - mostly in opposition to the Church - those values of rationality and freedom that are nourished by the Christian faith.

But Ratzinger's attention has been addressed to opening the faith to the roads of the future, rather than merely analyzing the past.

"To widen the spaces of reason" is the formula for his fundamental direction. Scientific rationality, based on experiment and calculation, and historical criticism - although both are important and irrenunciable - cannot by themselves satisfy man's desire to know and to give sense and direction to our existence.

Concretely, Ratzinger questions both the attempt to make the theory of evolution [biological] an explanation which seems to be, at the least, potentially universal and self-sufficient to explain all of reality, as well as the tendency of historical criticism to reduce teh figure of Jesus to an evanescent summary of historiographic hypotheses.

On the contrary, it is necessary to open oneself - in an attitude of humble listening - to God who interpellates us in all Creation and who, above all, showed us his face in Jesus.

Even today, Christianity must show itself to be a proposal for a good and authentic life, as the best opportunity offered to man to find hope, happiness and joy.

That is why the theology of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI is deeply concerned with the great ethical and historical problems of our time.

His analyses of relativism and its 'dictatorship', which threatens to dry up the vital lymph of European civilization, and on the other hand, his commitment to propose in appropriate and relevant terms the actual context of the great moral and cultural heritage that comes to us from our history, represent an extraordinarily relevant contribution offered not only to the believer, but to whoever wishes to face responsibly the challenges which are before us.

How evocative and fecund in this respect is the proposal formulated by Cardinal Ratzinger in a lecture in Subiaco on the eve of John Paul II's death.

He called on those who cannot seem to believe to "live as if God exists': "In this way, no one will be limited in his freedom, and all our affairs will find a support and a standard that they urgently need".

We have seen how liturgy was always for Benedict XVI the central activity of his life and the center of his theological work.

Thus, even in dealing with ethical and historical problems, he never indulges in moralism which would entrust the task of overcoming these difficulties principally to the moral effort of the individual adn of teh collectivity.

God's freely given action is always decisive - the presence in our lives of his love and his mercy. That is why prayer - particularly liturgical prayer in which the Church joins Christ to pray and praise God, remains the greatest resource which, even today, mankind can have at his disposal.

00Friday, May 1, 2009 10:01 PM


I am so glad someone authoritative has come out with this, about a subject on which I have so far soft-pedalled my own comments (mostly incidental, when I am summarizing the OR's front-page stories), because L'Osservatore Romano, after all, is supposed to be 'the Pope's newspaper'. And it is obvious why I did not bother to translate a naive and often uninformed or misinformed view of Washington politics.

May 1, 2009

L’Osservatore Romano’s sympathetic front-page editorial by Giuseppe Fiorentino about Barack Obama’s first 100 days is baffling (full text available at

On every contested issue related to the natural moral law, Obama is advancing dangerous policies. Yet this editorial blithely says that even “on ethical issues…Obama doesn’t seem to have confirmed the radical changes he had aired.”

Yes, he has.

Within weeks of entering office -
- he reversed the Mexico City Policy as promised, thereby freeing up the tax dollars of Americans for the promotion of abortion overseas;
- he lifted George W. Bush’s ban on federal tax dollars for embryo-destructive research;
- he took the first steps toward abolishing the Bush’s “conscience clause” that protects the rights of pro-life nurses and doctors at hospitals that receive federal funds;
- he has appointed supporters of gay marriage and euthanasia to a host of important posts;
- and he has enlisted dissenting Catholics such as Kathleen Sebelius to serve as his agents of moral destruction.

“The new guidelines regarding embryonic stem-cell research don’t, in fact, line up with the changes foreseen months ago,” says Fiorentino. “They don’t permit the creation of new embryos for purposes of research or therapy, for cloning or reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used solely for experimentation with surplus embryos.”

Yes, they do. The guidelines forbid reproductive cloning but permit the cloning of embryos for research. And the research can go beyond “surplus embryos.”

It is more than a little disturbing that an editorial as ignorant as this one could appear in the Pope’s newspaper. [My sentiments, exactly!!!]

At the very moment orthodox Catholics in America are reeling from Notre Dame's honoring of Obama, they wake up to find this editorial softpedaling his record. Et tu, L'Osservatore Romano?

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This was how I presented it yesrerday in my little caption summary to the 4/30/09 issue of OR posted in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT in the PRF:

Follow-up stories on the Pope's visit to the Abruzzo quake victims; North Korea threatens another nuclear test, and an editorial commentary about President Obama's '100 days that did not shake the world' [meant to be complimentary in that he has done 'nothing radical']*


*(The)asterisk was for this: I don't understand that this 'analyst' for the Pope's own newspaper seems to shrug off Obama's decisions on funding abortion worldwide and embryonic stem-cell research, but then, OR reporting on Obama from the day he was elected has always been marked by a naive kind of 'idealism' that sees nothing but glowing good about Obama and his policies, making rash conclusions even on the basis of the most tentative hypotheses and statements by his administration - and not mentioning at all his dubious choice for Health Secretary in a woman whose toleration of abortion practices in her state was even more extreme than Obama's support of such practices in legislation.

Why is the OR inching more and more towards the kind of politically correct, if not yet downright liberal, reading that the secular MSM already bury us under????

00Friday, May 1, 2009 10:50 PM

Pope's pilgrimage brings
peace message to a conflicted land

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, May 1 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI is set to begin a weeklong visit to the Holy Land, a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Christ and a journey through a political and interreligious minefield.

In many ways, the May 8-15 visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories is the most challenging of the Pope's foreign visits to date, one that will test his skills of communication and bridge-building in a region of conflict and mistrust.

After recent communications missteps at the Vatican, the Pope can expect to find his every word and gesture under scrutiny by the world's media -- especially when it comes to relations among Christians, Muslims and Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Although the world may measure the success of the visit in terms of international or interfaith diplomacy, Pope Benedict is going to the Holy Land first and foremost as a religious pilgrim.

"The priority is to witness to the truth of the Incarnation by visiting, as head of the church, the places where the events of our redemption took place. That's the point," Franciscan Father David Jaeger, an Israeli priest and adviser to the Vatican, told Catholic News Service.

The pilgrimage has a special focus on peace. The Pope, in announcing the visit, said he would be going to the Holy Land to pray for "the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all humanity."

Father Jaeger said that's extremely important at a time when hopes for peace among the population are the lowest in many years.

"The worst thing that can happen is the loss of hope for peace. So for him to speak openly of the possibility and the necessity of peace and reconciliation should thrust those values into the fore," Father Jaeger said.

"It's not a political negotiation of course; he's not going to produce a peace treaty or try to. But the fact that he keeps the value of peace in front of the people of the region, that will be a tremendous contribution by the Church," he said.

The first leg of the Pope's trip will take him to Jordan for a series of carefully chosen liturgies and encounters, including a visit to a mosque in Amman. That event, and the fact that Pope Benedict is spending several days in Jordan, reflects his aim to reach a wide Muslim audience.

In 2006, Pope Benedict prayed in a mosque in Turkey, a gesture that spoke volumes to the Islamic world. In Amman, the Pope will deliver a speech outside the mosque to Muslim leaders, diplomats and rectors of the University of Jordan.

The audience and the setting make it likely that the pope will revisit the themes of his speech in 2006 in Regensburg, Germany, but this time making sure his remarks on reason and faith do not unintentionally offend his listeners.

For Jordan's Catholic faithful, who number about 75,000 in a population of 6.2 million, the big event will be the papal Mass in an Amman soccer stadium May 10.

Two smaller papal events in Jordan should not go unnoticed. His first appointment in Amman is at the Regina Pacis center, a special needs facility that has inspired Christian-Muslim dialogue and collaboration.

Here the Pope is likely to emphasize the importance of the "dialogue of life" and social cooperation among followers of the Abrahamic faiths.

The Pope also will lay the cornerstone of the University of Madaba, which is being built by the Latin patriarchate; blessing cornerstones is a common activity in papal visits, but establishing a Catholic-run university in a predominantly Muslim country makes this one special.

Much of the Pope's itinerary follows in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II's Holy Land pilgrimage in 2000.

Pope Benedict, for example, will pray at Mount Nebo in western Jordan, where Moses glimpsed the Promised Land before dying. And, like his predecessor, he will visit the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized -- the setting of the opening chapter of Pope Benedict's book, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Pope travels to Jerusalem May 11 and later that day visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in what Vatican aides view as a central event of the trip.

When Pope John Paul spoke at the memorial in 2000, Israelis reacted with warm appreciation; many considered it a turning point in his pilgrimage.

Pope Benedict has spoken eloquently about the Holocaust, and as a German has recalled growing up as a witness to the brutality of the regime that targeted Jews for extermination.

Vatican sources said, however, that the Pope will not be going to Yad Vashem to apologize as a German, but to invoke a wider lesson on the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism.

On May 12, his first full day in Jerusalem, the Pope visits sites sacred to Islam, Judaism and Christianity. He begins at the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam's holiest shrines, and proceeds to the Western Wall, sacred to Jews. The two sites lie adjacent to each other and in the past have been the scene of bitter skirmishes between Palestinians and Israelis.

The same day the Pope will meet separately with the city's two chief rabbis and the grand mufti.

The Pope will make a daylong visit May 13 to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and today a key administrative city of the Palestinian Authority, whose officials will welcome the pontiff at the presidential palace. The main religious event of the day is a Mass in Manger Square.

That afternoon, the Pope will visit the Aida Refugee Camp, where some 5,000 Palestinians live. The visit is already politically charged.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem said recently that the camp, which has a giant key installed atop one of the camp's gates, symbolizes the "right to return," the principle that Palestinian refugees have a right to return to the homes in Israel that they have been forced to leave at various times since 1946, when the war for Israeli statehood began.

In addition, Israel has objected that the platform being built to host the Aida event is too close to the Israeli separation wall, which Israel has designed as a 400-mile-long security barrier through the West Bank and which Palestinians see as an instrument of repression.

The Pope will celebrate Mass May 14 in Nazareth, the city where Jesus grew up, and later visit the Grotto of the Annunciation and hold a prayer service with Catholic leaders of Galilee.

Like his Mass earlier in the week in the Josafat Valley near the Garden of Gethsemane, these liturgies are central to the Pope's pilgrimage, offering moral support to the dwindling Christian population in the land where the church was born.

U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, said the Pope's visit would underline the importance of maintaining the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

"He will do what Peter always does: encourage the faithful, recognize them, give them a renewed sense of worth and let them know how much the universal church appreciates them and the importance of their faith," the cardinal said.

Rabbi says Pope's trip
will advance Catholic-Jewish ties

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, May 1 (CNS) -- A leading Jewish rabbi said Pope Benedict XVI's Holy Land visit was certain to consolidate the historic reconciliation process between Catholics and Jews.

The Pope's May 8-15 trip, which includes five days in Jerusalem, will demonstrate the Vatican's respect for the state of Israel as part of Jewish identity, said Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi Rosen made the comments in an article in the April 29 English-language edition of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"In visiting Israel and demonstrating the Holy See's respect for the Jewish state, reinforcing the impact of the pioneering visit of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI will undoubtedly further advance the historical process of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation," Rabbi Rosen wrote.

"Pope Benedict XVI will be walking in the footsteps of his great predecessor both literally and figuratively. Pope John Paul II -- very much the hero of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation in our times -- understood full well that the visit of a Pope to Israel has a special significance of its own," he said.

Rabbi Rosen said that even if the visit of Pope John Paul in 2000 was described as a pilgrimage "it was still a state visit with all the relevant trappings" and recognized the essential relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Pope Benedict, too, will be demonstrating more than good will to the 6 million Jews who reside in the Holy Land today, he said.

The rabbi said a papal visit can give wider expression to some of the principles and values familiar to dialogue experts.

"Most Israeli Jews and especially the more traditional and observant among them have never met a modern Christian," he said.

But when they saw Pope John Paul visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Western Wall and heard what he had to say, they realized the head of the Catholic Church was a "sincere friend," he said.

Pope Benedict will visit the Holocaust memorial and pray at the Western Wall, and will meet with the two chief rabbis of Jerusalem during his visit.

Rabbi Rosen also noted that papal visits can give rise to concrete initiatives.

During his visit in 2000, Pope John Paul proposed establishing a new dialogue commission between the Vatican and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. That commission's work over the last eight years has led to a relationship of genuine appreciation and friendship, and has affected the attitudes of people inside Israel, Rabbi Rosen said.

Rosen's article, which I remarked on in my caption summary for the 4/29/09 OR in the PRF, is the first article by a rabbi published by the OR. I meant to translate it for that reason and because it has to do with the Pope's coming trip, but it was one of those things I ended up not having time to do - I hope I still can.

It's time to open a thread for the Holy Land pilgrimage, too....

Pope to lay 'roots of peace'
in Beit Hanassi visit


April 30

Pope Benedict XVI and President Shimon Peres will inaugurate a new tradition when the Pope arrives in Israel in two weeks: They will plant an olive tree in a stretch of ground on the Beit Hanassi complex that has been designated as a peace garden.

All world leaders visiting Beit Hanassi in the future will be asked to add their olive trees to the peace garden so that world peace will symbolically take root.

Despite attempts in some quarters to envelop the papal visit in political connotations, Benedict XVI is coming to the Holy Land under the banner of peace with goodwill toward all faiths and all nations.

It is in this spirit that he will be greeted at Beit Hanassi by two children, one Christian and one Jewish, from Nazareth and Upper Nazareth who will welcome him to the land of milk and honey and present him with a basket of fruits containing the seven species.

The basket will also contain new fruits and grains developed in the Arava and in the Volcani Institute, and one of them will be named after the Pope.

Other gifts the Pope will receive at Beit Hanassi include a nanochip the size of a grain of rice containing the whole of the Bible, and a specially commissioned Menashe Kadishman painting.

Kadishman, one of Israel's foremost artists, is famous for his paintings of sheep. This painting will feature a shepherd, as the pope is considered the shepherd of his Catholic flock and is widely respected by other streams of Christianity.

Aside from a gala red carpet welcome, the Pope will be greeted by some 800 people, including Voices of Peace, a 50-member children's choir of Jewish, Christian and Muslim singers from Jaffa; righteous gentiles living in Israel; Holocaust survivors; bereaved families; representatives of the Negev and the Galilee; Nobel Prize laureates; leading academics; leaders of Jerusalem's three major faiths; and various dignitaries.

Special prayers for peace will be recited by Jewish, Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders.

Peres and the Pope will have a working meeting and will address the gathering before leaving for Yad Vashem.

Israel launches special stamp series
in honor of the Pope's visit

The Israeli Postal Authority is launching a special stamp series in honor of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit,featuring churches across the country.

The Pontiff is due to arrive in Israel on May 11 for a four-day stay, which will include visits to the Palestinian Authority and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The stamp issue is not just out of good will, of course. The comments on the Haaretz page that carried this item more or less said, "Go to it! Make money out of all those Christian stamp collectors around the world who will not want to miss this!"

00Friday, May 1, 2009 11:31 PM

Jesuit journal says secular media criticism
pf the Pope and the Church is excessive

By Carol Glatz

ROME, May 1 (CNS) -- Incessant and unwarranted criticism against Pope Benedict XVI is part of a larger anti-Church campaign being waged by major newspapers and media outlets in the United States and Europe, said an Italian Jesuit magazine.

"Catholics in Italy and Europe know very well that a preconceived hostility exists against church doctrine, especially in the field of ethics," La Civilta Cattolica said.

The mass media, "which is the voice of powerful forces and interests, is an excellent propagator of this hostility," said a May 2 article released to journalists April 30.

The article, written by Jesuit Father Giandomenico Mucci, said "the media campaign that tends to discredit the Pope finds fodder in the most outrageous interpretations made from papal speeches" and remarks. The Rome-based biweekly magazine is reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication.

The magazine said there have been numerous occasions when commentators have distorted what the Pope says or does because they view his actions through "biased lenses."

Pope Benedict and his teachings have been the target of a constant barrage of "over-criticism, aggravation and unpleasantness," it said.

Even when the Pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II, he was described as Pope John Paul's German Rottweiler -- an "inflexible, cold controller of doctrine," it said.

Instead, anyone who has actually met or knows Pope Benedict would know that he has always been esteemed, even when he was head of the doctrinal office, for being an extremely gentle, spiritual, intellectually curious and peaceful man, said the article.

These "denigrating and delegitimizing efforts" against the Pope, it said, are part of a "much larger campaign, which, at a universal level, tends to discredit the Catholic Church: from the (London) Times to The New York Times and The Washington Post, from Le Monde ... to the Italian press."

While not citing specific press reports, the magazine said the secular press often has put in a negative light Church pronouncements on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, and Church opposition to the legal recognition of civil unions.

The reason for this hostility, said the journal, is people are opposed to religion in general and Catholicism in particular for asserting itself as the keeper of the one absolute truth.

Dogma, rules and morality that are not self-made make the church and the Pope "inconvenient" for people caught up in the secular world and its false sense of freedom, it said.

But the critics are not in the majority [Yes, they are, in the MSM - but I hope not among all the 'simple faithful' like me!], it said, and many people admire and praise the Pope and the Church for proclaiming "a new humanism."

The Church offers humanity "an ethical project that focuses on forming the person in his or her entirety; it is a clear and solid spiritual and cultural project inspired by doctrine and indulgent toward the stumblings of every single individual," it said.

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself when I come on reports like this from any Jesuit outlet, even La Civilta Cattolica.

I have become so 'inoculated' over the decades by exposure to Jesuit progressivism that falls just a little bit shy of full-blown liberation theology that any time I see a Jesuit writing sensibly from an orthodox Catholic viewpoint, I almost have to fall on my knees in thanksgiving to the Lord.

I must say that in the past four years, I have discovered a handful of Jesuits whom I have learned to admire greatly for the impressive ways in which they write about their orthodox views (Fathers Schall, Fessio, Samir, Troll, Baker, and the late Cardinal Dulles, God bless his soul!).

But think, for instance, of the 'new' Jesuit Superior-General who wears his bleeding liberal heart on his sleeve, the Jesuits of America and Commonweal, the Jesuit theologians who question Christ's divinity, Thomas Reese and that ex-Vatican functionary who hosted a terrorist web Q&A right after the Regensburg lecture - with their open defiance and disobedience to the Pope (though in varying degrees) - one must wonder what St. Ignatius would say to them if he were alive today.

I expect Sandro Magister will make the Civilta article available in full soon.

00Saturday, May 2, 2009 12:16 AM

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Spanish congressional committee
approves proposal to sanction Pope

Madrid, Spain, Apr 30, 2009 (CNA).- A Spanish congressional committee has approved a proposal by green party lawmakers to “publicly” reprove the statements made by Pope Benedict XVI about AIDS and condom use during his recent trip to Africa. The measure moved through committee despite a lack of support from the more conservative Popular Party.

Europa Press reported that the proposal was to adopt the same language used by the Belgium parliament, which condemned the Pope’s statements as “unacceptable.”

The vote against the measure by Popular Party members was the second time in a week they have voted against leftist proposals. Last Tuesday, they voted against a proposal to hold hearings on sexual health in Africa and Latin America, although the proposal was adopted.

The denouncements being made against the Pope continue to occur despite scientific evidence that the Pope's statement was correct.

00Saturday, May 2, 2009 3:39 AM

I came across this just now while trolling around for items on the Papal trip to the Holy Land - and I was just as excited at the interview itself as by the tiny photo it came with, showing Rabbi Neusner with the Pope in Washington, DC last year.

The photo is not captioned on the blog, but it has been the only meeting so far bettween the Pope and the rabbi whose book he cited a lot in JESUS OF NAZARETH. And I had been looking for any photo of that meeting for a year now!*

Rabbi Neusner comments on
the Pope's coming trip to Israel

April 28, 2009

In an interview for a major European periodical that will appear next week, Professor Jacob Neusner comments on the Pope's trip to Israel. Here is a preview of his views with our thanks to Professor Neusner for sharing this perceptive interview with us.

Why is the Pope's trip to Holy Land important from your perspective? What are the stakes?
The Pope is a moral authority for the Catholic faithful and for humanity at large. The long-standing conflict between the state of Israel and the Arab neighbors represents an opportunity to exercise the moral authority that the world imputes to the Pope.

How could you describe the political context of the trip after the Gaza crisis last January?
It is a difficult mission, because Hamas refuses to negotiate peace with the state of Israel. The two-state solution is endangered by Hamas intransigence, and no other resolution of the conflict presents itself.

What is your main expectation?
Pope Benedict XVI has shown the capacity to speak bluntly to the world at large, as his address at Regensburg last year showed. He does not dissimulate or mince words. I expect that he will speak truth to all parties and preserve a balanced and just position for all concerned. That is his record.

At the same time the Roman Catholic Church has its interests in the Middle East, which will be on the Pope's mind. The Moslem countries do not accord to Christianity the rights of free expression that they demand and get from the Christian countries. The Pope is likely to pursue that matter too.

In what sense would this trip be a failure?
If one party claims to have been vindicated and the other party claims to have been dismissed unfairly, the imbalance would mark a disaster, because that moral authority that is the Pope's strength will have been wasted,

In what sense would this trip be a success?
If both parties are helped to find steps toward the path to peace in response to the Pope's presence, that will mark success.

How could you describe the symbolic context of this trip after the Williamson polemic or the Pio XII beatification polemic? What is your main expectation relating to latent anti-Semitism?
The Pope has repudiated the Holocaust denial of Williamson and his sect. He acknowledged the error of his original action. [Oops! Not his action - revoking the xcommunication - but that it was not properly prepared for , incluidng prior knowledge of Williamson's record.]

As to Pius XII, until the archives have been studied by all interested parties no determination on the facts of the matter can be reached. The Catholic Church has a long record of anti-Semitism, as shown by Jules Isaac The Teaching of Contemmpt, but from Pope John XXIII onward a record of respect for Judaism and friendship for the Jewish People has taken shape.

That does not mean that old habits of thought have been everywhere abandoned, only that there are now competing views. Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly shown himself part of the tradition begun by John XXIII and John Paul II. He wants to be - and to be known as - a friend of the Jewish people.

Does the fact that this Pope is German change anything or give more importance to the trip?
The Pope has taken pride in his German heritage and, given the record of Germany since 1945 in repudiating its shameful past and its policy of reparation and conciliation with the Jewish People and its consistent support for the state of Israel, there is much in which to take pride. He has shown sensitivity toward Jewish concerns and has corrected and acknowledged errors when they were made.

Above all this trip is a pilgrimage. How do you see it, as rabbi and Jewish intellectual?
When a century ago Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, turned to the Pope for support for a Jewish state, he was told that until the Jewish people converted to Christianity, the Church would do nothing to establish a Jewish state.

Papal visits to the state of Israel - this is not the first and will not be the last - repudiate that original decision and affirm the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish state. It is always important to recognize the implicit statement represented by the Pope's pilgrimage.

What is the main stake from an inter-religious perspective?
The relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the aftermath of Vatican II has defined the task of reconciliation and this visit represents a step toward the realization of amity between the two religions.

Could this trip be a new step in Jewish-Christian reconciliation or will there always be tensions?
This is not a new step, John Paul II took the new step, but in that tradition this is a step forward, beyond tensions.

Do you think that this Pope, as a theologian, has a special responsibility in this matter?
Pope Benedict XVI represents the tradition embodied by John Paul II and has taken it as his special responsibility to nurture that new tradition of friendship with the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

How do you assess the importance of his theological work on Catholic-Jewish relationships?
The ideas that Benedict XVI put forth in his writings mark him as an important figure in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue, he is a great scholar and philosopher and theologian - and the power of his ideas and critical thought will shape the mind of generations to come. Ideas matter and he is a man of great ideas.

In his book 'Jesus' the Pope refers to your book and research about Jesus. Was that a surprise to you? Did you continue am intellectual dialogue with him?
I am always happily surprised to find appreciation for my writing. Over the past decades Cardinal Ratzinger sent me articles he published aas well as his books, and I reciprocated. But JESUS OF NAZARETH stands by itself.

Who is Benedict XVI as you see him?
Before President Bush met with the Pope two years ago I was asked to the White House to offer advice to the President on the man he was about to meet. I told him that I did not know Pope Benedict XVI personally, only through letters, but I had formed the impression of a man who embodied the European tradition of culture and intellect, that he is not only very astute but also civilized, a model of a religious intellectual. His papacy concerns itself with all corners of the world but it embodies the Catholic message to Western civilization.

*I had a rather vivid account of that meeting between the Pope and the Rabbi from a New York rabbi who had witnessed the meeting and recounted what Rabbi Neusner told him about it. Also a red-letter day in my own life as I saw Benedict XVI for the first time, from fairly close, on two separate occasions that same afternoon.

BTW, I checked out some of the entries from the blog that yielded this preview, and found to my horror that the blogger is a stereotype Pope-hater - his topic list shows 81 entries so far for the Pope and the most recent two (not including this, which he ran because he happens to be an ardent supporter of Rabbi Neusner - he seels his books on a related booksite) were horrendous! He reminds me of every Jewish intellectual snob - men and especially women - who seem to typify the garden variety that thrives in the Upper West Side of New York where I live

00Saturday, May 2, 2009 2:49 PM

May 2

St. Athanasius of Alexandria (?296-373)
Bishop and Confessor
First Doctor of the Church

No OR today, since May 1 was a religious holiday.


The Holy Father met today with
- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)
- Bishops of Peru on ad-limina visit
- Mons. Luigi Bianco, Apostolic Nuncio in Hondurasa, with his family
- Members of the Papal Foundation. Address in English.

The Vatican announced that the Holy Father has named Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kian, emeritus Archbishop of Hongkong,
as his special envoy to the celebration of the 35th anniversary of John Paul II's visit to Thailand, to be marked
in Bangkok on May 10-11.


The Holy Father will preside at Holy Mass in St. Peter's Basilica during which he will ordain
19 deacons of the Diocese of Rome. Concelebrating will be all the bishops of Rome, the superiors
of the seminaries concerned, and the parish priests of the ordinands.

00Saturday, May 2, 2009 4:16 PM

Holy See-Israel:
Progress but no agreement
before Pope’s visit

by Arieh Cohen

Tel Aviv, May 1 (AsiaNews) – The Holy See and the State of Israel have made significant progress but the long-awaited economic and tax agreement between the Catholic Church and Israel will not be signed before the visit of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land.

The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met yesterday in plenary session at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The delegations were headed, respectively, by Mgr Pietro Parolin, the Holy See's under-secretary for Relations with States, and Mr. Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister of the Government of Israel.

After a half day of talks the two delegations released a joint communiqué in which they noted that “significant progress” had been made by working-level negotiators in the months since the previous plenary in December of last year, and announced that the next plenary is scheduled to take place on 10 December this year, at the Vatican.

Some in the media had been expecting the Bilateral Commission to complete its work on the ‘Economic Agreement’ in time for the Holy Father's pilgrimage to the Holy Land (8-15 May), although experts had been warning that that was not a realistic expectation.

The announcement of the next plenary for December means that negotiations are expected to last at least until then. At the same time the delegations repeated their commitment to accelerate the negotiations in order to reach agreement as soon as possible.

The delegations on the Commission are negotiating a treaty that would
- Recognise the Church's historic tax exemptions in the Holy Land (roughly equivalent to those in the United States and other Western countries),
- Establish rules for the protection of Church property, especially the Holy places, and
- Obtain the return to the Church of some lost properties, particularly sacred places, such as the church-shrine in Caesarea that was expropriated and razed to the ground in the 1950's.

These negotiations began on 11 March 1999.

One would think that in 11 years of twice-yearly meetings, something should have moced by now. For instance, rules for the protection of Church property should not be a matter of dispute.

The two other main poibnts on the agenda - Church tax exemptions and return of confiscated Church property - both involve financial considerations.

The state of Israel claims the Church owes tens of millions in back taxes, which religious institutions are exempt from, as a rule, in all democratic states; and presumably, the return of 'lost' property would involve restitution as well for whatever buildings (including centuries-old historic ones) may have been demolished by the Israelis as they put Church property to their own secular uses.

One particular issue that might have been the concession par excellence to start off the Holy Father's pilgrimage is that of control over the Cenacle - the room where the Last Supper was held - which is located in a building Jews believe was built over the tomb of King David and is, of course, one of the most important Jewish shrines (even if this location, according to tradition, does not gibe with the Hebrew Bible's account that indicates David was buried in Ophel (a place in Jerusalem known as 'the city of David') along with other Judean kings.

I haven't had time to research this except for the bare facts but if the Cenacle was located over the site of David's tomb, surely that was a fact significant enough to be mentioned in the Gospels!

The Vatican Press Offfice released this communique yesterday about the Thursday meeting:


The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel has held a Plenary meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel today, Thursday 30 April 2009, for the purpose of advancing the negotiations pursuant to Article 10 § 2 of the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel (30 December 1993).

The Delegation of the Holy See was led by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Under-Secretary for Relations with States at the Secretariat of State, and was composed, in addition, of the following Members:

- H.E. Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Chairman of the Commission at the "Working Level";
- H.E. Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar;
- Msgr. Krzysztof Nitkiewicz, Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches;
- Msgr. Franco Coppola, Official of the Secretariat of State;
- Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, OFM, Legal Adviser;
- Fr. Jacek Dobromir Jasztal, OFM;
- Mr. Henry Amoroso, Legal Adviser;
- Father Giovanni Caputa, SDB, Secretary.

The Delegation of the State of Israel was led by Mr. Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was composed, in addition, of the following Members:

- Mr. Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, Head of World Jewish Affairs and Inter-Rreligious Affairs Department, MFA;
- Mr. Oded Brook, Head of the International Affairs Division of the Ministry of Finance;
- Mr. Bahij Mansour, Director of Inter-religious Affairs Department, MFA;
- Mr. Ronen Gil-Or, Adv., Director of General Law Department, MFA;
- Mr. Moshe Golan, State Attorney’s Office;
- Mr. Yael Weiner, Ministry of Justice;
- Mr. David Segal, Head of Deputy Foreign Minister’s Bureau;
- Ms. Idit Duvdevany, Legal Division, MFA.

The Plenary meeting of the Commission took place in an atmosphere of great friendship and a spirit of cooperation and good will.

The Plenary noted that the Working Level Commission achieved significant progress, on the eve of the upcoming important visit of the Pope in Jerusalem.

It was agreed to hold the next Plenary meeting on 10 December 2009, at the Vatican. In the meantime, the working-level Commission will hold meetings in furtherance of both Delegations’ pledge to accelerate the talks and conclude the Agreement at the earliest opportunity.


The Cenacle today is unmistakably Gothic, having been built by the Crusaders in the 13th century as part of a church, St. Mary of Zion, over what was believed to have been the historic site on Mt. Zion.

It is located on the second floor of a fairly nondescript stone building which is a 16th century reconstruction by the Franciscans, only to yield it to the Ottomans not long after, so that Muslims had control until after the Second World War. During that time the Cenacle was used as a mosque.

The site now known as David's Tomb (right photo)) is on the ground floor and except for the velvet covering draped over it with the appropriate Hebrew symbols, is otherwise found inside a stark and unadorned stone chamber.

The day I visited was a rainy day and visitors had to walk through a partly flooded hallway over an improvised ramp to get to the chamber with the tomb. There were no guards and no other personnel around except for the man at the entrance, and no need for a ticket or an admission fee, as I recall.

On the second floor, one had to go through a sort of walkway connecting to another wing of the building to get to the Cenacle itself, which has no markers and is completely empty. I suppose this is a result of the fact that Christians have no say over the space, the entire building being a property of a Jewish organizstion. (I understand the Cenacle has its own entrance now, through which visitors can go up to it directly, and then go down directly to David's Tomb.)

Tradition has conflated the Cenacle into both the room of the Last Supper, as well as the room where the Holy Spirit came to Mary and the Apostles on the first Pentecost.

00Saturday, May 2, 2009 5:02 PM


The Holy Father met today with trustees and representatives of the US-based Papal Foundation, and asked them to pray for his coming pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Papal Foundation solicits contributions from the faithful and invests the funds in order to support the Pope's missionary and charitableprojects around the world, whether missionary, charitable and ecclesiastical projects around the world, including many in the Holy Land.

Its Board of Trustees is made up of leading US Cardinals:

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Archbishop Emeritus, Philadelphia, PA

William Cardinal Keeler
Vice Chairman
Archbishop Emeritus, Baltimore, MD

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Galveston - Houston, TX

Edward Cardinal Egan*
New York, NY
[The new Archbishop of New York, Mons. Timothy Dolan,
is also a Foundation member
from when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee]

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Chicago, IL

Roger Cardinal Mahony
Los Angeles, CA

Adam Cardinal Maida
Detroit, MI

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus, Washington, DC

Seán Patrick Cardinal O'Malley
Boston, MA

Justin Cardinal Rigali
Philadelphia, PA

Here is the text of the Holy Father's address to them delivered in English:

Dear Cardinal Keeler,
Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to greet the members of the Papal Foundation once again, on your annual visit to Rome.

In this Pauline Year I welcome you with the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7).

Saint Paul reminds us of how the entire human race yearns for God’s grace of peace. Today’s world is truly in need of his peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair.

In just a few days I will have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. I go as a pilgrim of peace.

As you are well aware, for more than sixty years, this region — the land of our Lord’s birth, death and Resurrection; a sacred place for the world’s three great monotheistic religions — has been plagued by violence and injustice. This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear – often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother.

As I prepare for this significant journey I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace.

Our meeting this year occurs during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation. At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties.

As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard.

Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them. For this reason I am pleased to have you here today.

You are examples of good Christian men and women who continue to meet the challenges we face with courage and trust. Indeed, the Papal Foundation itself, through the great generosity of many, enables valuable assistance to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church.

For your sacrifice and dedication I am most grateful to you: by means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed.

Entrusting all of you to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who remains always in our midst as our Mother, the Mother of Hope, (cf. Spe Salvi, 50), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Savior

A list of the projects recently funded by the Papal Foundation can be found on:

00Sunday, May 3, 2009 4:06 AM


FAther Schall's reflections on what Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI
has written and preached about the Resurrection:

May 2, 2009


Someone recently sent me an on-line account of Christopher Buckley's reflections on his parents' deaths within a year of each other in 2007 and 2008. The passage is from the author's new book on his famous father, the late William F. Buckley, Jr. In many ways, it is a touching, even at times humorous, account.

In the course of his comments on life, death, and religion, as an aside, the younger Buckley informs us that he no longer believes in the fact of the Resurrection of Christ. I presume that he once did, but now does not. This information is not presented as an argument but as autobiography about himself, as if we would care to know his theology in the face of the death of his parents.

Lots of folks, of course, do not believe in the existence or Resurrection of Christ. More credibility is usually given to those who once did believe in this fact but now have "wised up" and do not. We can find others, no doubt, who did not believe in the Resurrection but who now do.

The Apostles themselves practically needed clobbering over the head to accept it — a rather consoling fact, I have often thought. We have always to be grateful to the Apostle Thomas, the famous doubting Thomas, for his skepticism about the Resurrection — "Blessed are those, Thomas, who have not seen but who have believed."

If one is a Muslim or a Jew, he cannot believe in this fact and remain what he is. Hindus seem to allow for many resurrections of various sorts. And, if one is a Buddhist, it is hard to see into what Christ would have been subsumed. I have met few atheists who hold this doctrine.

Lots of people will acknowledge it — provided it does not mean what it says it does. Still others will take it on "pure" faith. This means that no suasive grounds in reason exist that would also make it plausible.

Anyone who doubts his own existence or who doesn't think he can get outside his own mind will, admittedly, have a tough time with this doctrine. This will be especially true if he thinks that Christ shared his own philosophic view of reality.

In the history of Christianity itself, this doctrine, from the very first, has had a stormy career. Many have managed so to mitigate or even deny it that it ironically seems possible to be a "Christian" and skip this doctrine, in spite of Paul's famous words to the contrary that without it our faith is "in vain."

Some theories say that Christ did not really rise again, but the Apostles so wanted it to happen that they imagined that it did. The fact that the Apostles themselves were quite surprised by the event seems to be overlooked.

Explanations of the "empty tomb" on Easter morn abound. The only reason for the emptiness that is not admitted is the one that says that in fact Christ rose again, as He said he would.

The early Jews said the body was "stolen" in spite of the guard put there to prevent this very absconding by the disciples. Many psychological theories concoct dream or illusion theories to account for the phenomenon.

For some odd reason, mankind has worked very hard to deny that there is evidence or logic in this event. We find what can only be called a vested interest in its not having happened. The reason for this insistence that it did not happen seems more moral than scientific or metaphysical. For if it did, but we deny it, as some wit used to say, "There'd be hell to pay."

The New Testament actually gives the impression that what we hold and believe also has something to do with our personal destiny as related to how we choose to live.

Catholicism is not indifferent to mind. It thinks events can be put into words that accurately state what happened. We can understand these words both in the here and now and over time. It thinks that witnesses can reliably tell us what they saw.

Finally, it also thinks that, if this event did happen, the best way to make it known down the ages is for others to know that it happened probably in the way that it is reported to us, through the testimony of those who told us what they saw and who, often, died for its truth.

Taking my cue from Chesterton's Heretics, I have always suspected that, when someone bothers to tell me that he "no longer believes in the Resurrection," that itself is probably a pretty good reason why it might just be true. We can detect a subtle relation between what we say we do or do not believe and how we live. Our minds protect our deeds, the ones we want to keep from harm's way.


One of the reasons I like Pope Benedict is that he seems to have thought of just about everything long before he was ever elevated to the See of Peter, and so becoming Pope did not slow him down.

And he covers his case in that careful, thorough German scholarly way that dots all the "i"s and crosses all the "t"s. In what is fast becoming my favorite book of his, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

The world's salvation rests on the transcending of the world in its worldly aspect. The risen Christ constitutes the living certainty that this process of the world's self-transcendence, without which the world remains absurd, does not lead into the void. The Easter Jesus is our certainty that history can be lived in a positive way, and that our finite and feeble rational activity has a meaning. In this perspective, the 'antichrist' is the unconditional enclosure of history within its own logic—the supreme antithesis to the Man with the opened side, of whom the author of the Apocalypse wrote. [1]

This is a statement of political philosophy as well as of theology and metaphysics. Rational activity has a proper meaning. History is not enclosed by man alone. Politics is freed insofar as it is not itself a divine claim, a claim that it often makes implicitly for itself.

In this connection, the Holy Father's Easter Sermon was striking (L'Osservatore Romano, English, April 15, 2009).

Death, Benedict affirmed, does not have "the last word." What follows is extraordinary: "Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in Him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message."

This truth is itself the judgment on those who have no faith in this event. In denying the resurrection we implicitly lock ourselves into this world, by choice.

Following Paul, if we do not believe in the Resurrection, we are not to be praised, we are not to be boastful. We are to be "pitied." Something new began at Easter dawn. The meaning of hope is changed and grounded.

Easter is not just "a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition. Jesus is risen not because His memory remains alive in the hearts of His disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life."

Notice here Benedict corrects any notion that Christ is just a figment in the "memory" of the Apostles. The Resurrection is not just like other passing historical moments. It makes something, history itself, new.

The following passage of Benedict, I think, is of enormous significance. He goes right down the line on the alternative "theories" about what is meant by the Resurrection. He allows no alternate understanding except the clear fact that it happened.

The Resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of His 'Passover,' His 'passage,' that opened the 'new way' between heaven and earth.

We need to look at that sentence again. The Resurrection is not a "theory." It is a reality of history. We may or may not accept the evidence, but we cannot deny that this is what the Church affirms about this event. Many would like the Church to become "modern" by denying the event. The Church remains ever new precisely by not denying it.

The Pope continues in the same mode, again somewhat mindful of Chesterton and the heretics:

It is neither a myth (some say it was), nor a dream (others say this), it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event.

What a strong sentence!

The rejection of the "vision" hypothesis deals with the psychic theorists.

The rejection of the "utopia" deals with the politicians, who have scourged society in the past century seeking to put the Kingdom of God on earth.

The "fairy tale" deals with those who want to make it a nice myth.

But this does not reject the "fairy tales" of C. S. Lewis or Tolkien. They in fact teach what is orthodox. Or as Chesterton and Tolkien put it, this is the one fairy tale that is true.

The Resurrection is an "event" that took place at a definite time, a definite place, to a definite person, and witnessed by others with names. It will not happen again.

History is not cyclical. Its happening once is to be "remembered." That is, it changed the meaning of human history, or better, brought it back to what it was intended to be, the locus of our entrance into the divinity as adopted Sons of God.

The statement of the fact is clear: "Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encounted the risen Jesus."

However we choose to deny the evidence of the Resurrection so that we can comfortably live without it, we cannot avoid the forceful assertion that this Resurrection is what happened. This is a report, not a theory.


This Pope is himself a philosopher of the first rank. He knows the literature and on what it is based. As he said in Spe Salvi, the primary philosophical ground for the truth of this doctrine is provided by a Marxist philosopher (Adorno) trying to figure out the logic of justice.

Adorno could see that the Resurrection of the body has to be true, historically true; otherwise the world is indeed in vain. The Resurrection is "light." This light shines in the "darkest" regions of our hearts in the world.

To what does Benedict refer here?

I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life

This was, eerily, the very sense that I had while reading the Buckley account, especially about the Cross in the garden that was to contain his parents' remains.

This emptiness, as Benedict says, is the logical alternative to eternal life and resurrection. It is indeed "cheerless." It leaves us empty. The destiny of human life is "nothing," "relative," it might be anything else but what it really is.

It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the 'emptiness' would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his Resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion.

How straightforwardly does this Pope speak to us. The circle is closed without the light.

The Pope says: "It is a fact." He does not mince words. Take away the Resurrection. Think logically and reasonably what follows. No real hope for each individual remains.

And the corporate alternatives, the utopias, the political kingdoms, leave us as individual persons behind. They themselves turn into horrors because they are animated by a gnawing despair and a furious activism to avoid it.

No escape exists for each of us to a destiny that includes precisely his individual person unless it is true that Christ has risen and told us that we are to follow Him.

In his Regina Coeli comment on Easter Sunday, Benedict explained: "The divine plan of salvation, despite all the obscurity of history, will certainly be brought about."

We must listen carefully to such direct words if we decide to "deny" the Resurrection. The plan will "certainly" be brought about. Each of us has the purpose of his creation in his soul.

We are made for eternal life. It can be achieved because of this Resurrection.

His Resurrection has formed a bridge between this world and eternal life over which every man and every woman can cross to reach the true end of our earthly pilgrimage.

Notice that Benedict says of this "bridge" that each man and woman "can" cross over it to eternal life.

This "can" implies that we can choose not to cross. We cannot choose not to be resurrected no matter how we live our lives. This will come about for all. But our lives and choices within our polities and our days will be the context in which we live this eternal life, either an eternal life of our own making or that of God's making. Such is our dignity.

No one escapes the choice, no matter when or where he lives his four score years and ten, no matter whether he be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or whatever. These too will pass away to rise again. We will be left with the Resurrection of the dead after the manner of Christ in the manner He described.

But as Benedict often states, God cannot and will not take away our freedom to deny Him and His plan for us. He cannot save us if we do not want Him on His terms, not ours.

I like the image of the "bridge between this world and eternal life." To cross a bridge, we have to choose first to cross it. There is no other way to the other side.

[1] Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, [1977] 1988), 214.

00Sunday, May 3, 2009 5:13 AM

Pope’s visit to Israel
fraught with potential minefields

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

ROME, May 1 (JTA) — The official Israeli government Web site for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Israel and the West Bank promotes the May 11-15 visit as a “Bridge for Peace.“

Others, however, describe it as a potential minefield where various factions may try to exploit the Pope’s presence for political gain. [Amd all these factions have already been busy pushing their own agenda on the Pope!]

“Both Jewish and Muslim ideologues are determined to stop the Pope crossing that bridge,” wrote Catholic religion journalist Damian Thompson in his blog for the U.K. Telegraph, “either by smearing him as an anti-Semite or by making his visit to a Palestinian refugee camp look like a politically motivated reproach to Israel.”

The German-born Pontiff leaves for the Middle East on May 8; he will spend three days in Jordan before flying to Israel.

The trip is the first by a Pope to Israel since the 2000 pilgrimage by Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II. [Well, DUH! There's been no other Pope after John Paul II but Benedict!] John Paul was a historic trailblazer who made promoting Vatican-Jewish relations a central policy goal.

Inevitably, Benedict’s words and actions are sure to be compared — and contrasted — with John Paul’s.

“It’s unfair, but John Paul’s warmth will be compared to the theological coldness of Benedict,“ Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri told JTA. “The fact that he was in the Hitler Youth, though involuntarily, will make everyone look at every move and turn of phrase.“

[Avineri is obviously speaking in terms of media sterotypes -as though Benedict had never made all those triumphal trips to Cologne, etc. Let's say Avineri did not pay attention to any of those trips (let alone the Wednesday and Sunday lovefests at the Vatican between Benedict and his flock) - surely, he must have had some inkling of how warn and human the 'cold theologian' was widely perceived in the United States where he got a wildly popular welcome from one of the most skeptical and negatively predisposed audiences a Pope could have!]

Several issues have strained Vatican-Jewish ties in recent months.

In Rome, Lisa Palmieri-Billig, the American Jewish Committee’s liaison with the Vatican, told JTA that both sides were striving to minimize lingering problems ahead of the papal trip.

“All the problems that might have loomed on the horizon before the Pontiff announced his trip are being muted within the perspective of the importance of the visit for bilateral relations,“ she said. “Both the Israelis and world Jewry are aware of this and want to nourish good relations.“

On April 12, Benedict, 82, said he would “emphatically” bring a message of “justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love” on his trip.

“Reconciliation — difficult but indispensable — is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,“ he said.

The Pope’s itinerary mixes prayer, politics and pastoral teaching to local Christians with an attempt to improve interfaith relations with both Muslims and Jews.

It includes stops in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. There will be open-air Masses and meetings with Muslim and Jewish religious leaders.

The Pope will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the al-Aida Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. He will hold meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Official Vatican policy is to maintain an equilibrium of sorts in its relations with Israel and the Arab world.

“Its diplomacy is different from that of other states because it is always aware of the Christian populations,“ Palmieri-Billig said.

In Jerusalem, Oded Ben-Hur, a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, said the Pope would be welcomed as a friend of Israel.

The visit, he told reporters, is proof that “relations between Israel and the Holy See are strong and solid.“ Ben-Hur said Benedict “has never missed an opportunity to reiterate his commitment to dialogue and to relations with Israel.“

The two states formalized full diplomatic relations in 1994. But years of fitful negotiations have failed to resolve several lingering issues, including fiscal status and tax issues regarding Church property in Israel and visa restrictions on Arab Christian priests.

Meanwhile, Arab and Muslim sentiment ahead of the visit appears to be mixed. One possible problem could be the Pope’s last day in the region, May 15, which coincides with the day Palestinians commemorate as the Nakba — the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth in May 1948.

“The Pope’s Palestinian hosts will certainly ‘instrumentalize’ this,“ Avineri said.

Already the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, said Benedict’s visit to the al-Aida refugee camp would symbolize the Palestinians’ 'right of return' to the Holy Land, according to a
report on Israel’s Ynet news.

[One can sympathize and appreciate Mons. Twal's patriotism,as he is Palestinian, but it is unfair to impute a specific political motivation - and a very explosive one - to the Pope's humane and necessary visit to a refugee camp

Israeli media reports also said that officials were concerned that security and other infrastructure for the visit were not yet in place in the West Bank.

Pamphlets in some Arab towns have called for protests against the Pope because of remarks he made in 2006 that were construed as insulting Islam. At the time, the remarks sparked protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as elsewhere in the Arab world.

In Nazareth near the Church of the Annunciation, which the Pope is to visit, radical Muslims have hung a banner apparently aimed at Benedict that quotes a passage from the Koran: “Those who harm God and His Messenger—God has cursed them in this world and in the hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment.”

“Everyone is crossing their fingers” that things go well, Avineri said.

Let us all offer special prayers this month, that indeed, all goes well on the Pope's pilgrimage,and that his Christian wisdom will prevail over the multiple conflicting agendas of the factions that so clearly want to exploit his visit for their own purposes.

00Sunday, May 3, 2009 2:53 PM

May 3

Saints Philip and James the Less, Apostles

OR for May 2-3:

Benedict XVI's asks papal Foundation members to pray for his coming trip.
'Pilgrim for peace in the Holy Land'

Other Page 1 stories: the fourth-anniversary concert offered to the Holy Father Friday evening by President Napolitano of Italy;
NATO-Russia tensions increase despite resumption of formal relations; and the anti-Taliban offensive in Pakistan.


Mass of Ordination for 19 new priests for the Diocese of Rome at St. Peter's Basilica.
Homily [Translated - See following post].

Regina caeli. Message [Translated - See first post on the next page of this thread].

00Sunday, May 3, 2009 4:20 PM


At 9:30 this morning, the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Holy Father presided at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica during which he ordained 19 new priests for the Diocese of Rome.

Concelebrating were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's Vicar-General for the Diocese of Rome; Mons. Luigi Moretti, Vice-Regent, along with the auxiliary bishops, superiors of the seminaries attended by the new priests, and their parish priests.

Caterina's montage, as usual, gives a beautiful overview of the rites.
[Her full montages may be seen in the PHOTOGALLERY section of the main forum.]

Here is a full translation of the Pope's homily:


Dear brothers and sisters!

Following a beautiful custom, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd reunites the Bishop of Rome and his priests for the Ordination of new priests for the diocese. This is always a great gift of God - it is his grace!

Therefore let us reawaken in ourselves a profound sense of faith and acknowledgment in living this celebration today.

In this atmosphere I am pleased to greet the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Valli, the auxiliary bishops, our other brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood, and with special affection, you, dear deacons who are candidates for priesthood, together with your families and friends.

The Word of God which we just heard offers us many starting points for meditation: I will cite some of them because they cast an indelible light on the path of your life and on your ministry.

"He (Jesus) is...the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else" (Acts 4,11-12). In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles - the first Reading today - a singular 'homonymy' between Peter and Jesus is striking and makes us reflect: Peter, who had received his new name from Jesus himself, says here that it is he, Jesus, who is 'the stone'.

Indeed, the one true rock is Jesus. The only name that saves is his. The Apostle, and therefore, the priest, receives his own 'name', namely, his self-identity, from Christ. His 'I' becomes totally relative to the 'I' of Jesus.

In the name of Christ, and certainly not in his own name, the apostle can performs acts of healing on his brothers, he can help the 'sick' to get up and walk again (cfr Acts 4,10).

In the case of Peter, the miracle he had just performed makes this particularly evident. Even the reference to the words of the Psalm is essential: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Ps 117[118],22).

Jesus had been 'rejected', but the Father chose him to be the foundation of the temple of the New Covenant. Thus, the Apostle, like the priest, must experience the cross in his turn, and only through the Cross does he become truly useful in the construction of the Church.

God constructs his Church with persons who, following Jesus, place all their confidence in God, as the same Psalm says: "Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in mortals. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in princes" (vv 8-9).

The same destiny as the Master falls to the disciple, which ultimately is the destiny written in the will of God the Father himself! Jesus confessed it towards the end of his life in the great prayer called 'sacerdotal': "Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you" (Jn 17,25).

Even earlier, he had stated: "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Mt 11,27). Jesus experienced in himself the rejection of God by the world - the incomprehension, the indifference, the disfigurement of the face of God.

And Jesus passed on the 'testimony' to his disciples: "I", he confides in the prayer to the Father, "made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them" (Jn 17,26).

Therefore, the disciple - especially, the apostle - experiences the same joy as Jesus in knowing the name and the face of the Father, and also shares his pain in seeing that God is not known, that his love is not returned.

On the one hand, we exclaim, like John in his first Letter: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are" (1 Jn 3,1). And on the other, we note with disappointment: "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (1 Jn 3,1).

It is true. We priests experience it. The 'world' - in the Johannine use of the word - does not understand the Christian, it does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. A bit because in fact, it does not know God, and a bit because it does not want to know him. The world does not wish to acknowledge God and listen to his ministers, because this would place it in crisis.

Here, we must pay attention to a factual reality: that this 'world', always in the evangelical sense, undermines the Church itself, infecting its members and even its ordained ministers.

The 'world' is a mentality, a way of thinking and living that can corrupt the Church itself, and indeed, corrupts it, and thus, it requires constant vigilance and purification.

But until God's will has been fully manifested, even his children are not yet 'like him' (1 Jn 3,2). We are 'in' the world and we risk being also 'of' the world. Indeed, at times we are.

That is why, in the end, Jesus did not pray for the world, but for his disciples, so that the Father would keep them from evil and they could be free and different from the world, even while living in the world (cfr Jn 17,9.15).

At that moment, at the end of the Last Supper, Jesus raised to the Father the prayer of consecration for the apostles and for priests of all time, when he said: "Consecrate them in truth" (Jn 17,17), adding, "And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17,19).

I dwelt on these words of Jesus in the homily of the Chrismal Mass last Maundy Thursday. Today, I reconnect to that reflection, referring to the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, where Jesus says, "I will lay down my life for the sheep" (cfr Jn 10,15.17.18).

To become a priest, in the Church, means to enter into this self-giving by Christ, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and enter into it with all of oneself.

Jesus gave his life for everyone, but in a special way, he consecrated himself for those whom the Father had given him, so that they may be consecrated in truth, namely, in him, and thus be able to speak and actin his name, to represent him, to prolong his salvific actions: to break the Bread of life and remit sins.

Thus, the Good Shepherd offered his life for all sheep, but gave it in a special way to those who he himself, "with affection and predilection", called and calls to follow him on the path of pastoral service.

Then, in a singular manner, Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, having sacrificed himself for him so that he could say to him one day, on the shore of the lake at Tiberiade, "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21,16-17).

Analogously, every priest is the recipient of a personal prayer by Christ and of his sacrifice, and only as such is he made able to collaborate with him in pasturing the flock which belongs wholly and only to the Lord.

Here I wish to touch a point that particularly interests me: prayer and its link to service. We have seen that to be ordained a priest means entering in a sacramental and existential way into Christ's prayer for 'his own'.

It is from this that we priests derive a particular vocation to prayer in a strongly Christocentric sense: we are called, that is, to 'remain' in Christ - as the evangelist John loves to repeat (cfr Jn 1,35-39; 15,4-10) - and this is realized particularly in prayer.

Our ministry is totally linked to this 'remaining' which is equivalent to praying, from which it derives its efficacy. In this perspective, we should think of the different forms of prayer for a priest, first of all, the daily Holy Mass.

The Eucharistic celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the center and the origin from which even the other forms receive their 'lymph': the liturgy of the hours, Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, the holy Rosary, meditation.

All these expressions of prayer, which have their center in the Eucharist, make real in the priest's day and in his whole life the words of Jesus, "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn 10, 14-15).

Indeed, this 'knowing' and 'being known' in Christ and, through him, in the Most Holy Trinity, is none other than the truest and most profound reality of prayer.

The priest who prays a lot, and who prays well, becomes progressively expropriated from himself and more united to Jesus the Good Shepherd and Servant of his brothers.

In conformity with him, even the priest 'gives his life' for the sheep who are entrusted to him. No one takes his life from him: he offers it himself, in union with Christ the Lord, who has the power to give his life and the power to take it back, not only where it concerns himself, but even for his friends, who are linked to him through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Thus the life of Christ, Lamb and Shepherd, is communicated to all the flock, through his consecrated ministers.

Dear Deacons, may the Holy Spirit imprint these divine words that I have briefly commented upon, in your hearts, so that it may bear abundant and laSting fruits.

We ask this through the intercession of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curate of Ars, under whose patronage I have proclaimed the coming Year of the Priest.

May it be obtained for you by the Mother of the Good Shepherd, the Most Blessed Mary. In every circumstance of your life, look to her, the star of your priesthood. As she did to the servants at the wedding in Cana, Mary repeats to you as well: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5).

At the school of the Virgin, may you always be men of prayer and service in order to become, in the faithful exercise of your ministry, holy priests after God's own heart

00Sunday, May 3, 2009 6:00 PM

Earlier posts today on preceding page:
May 3 'almanac' - Saints of the day, capsule view of 5/2.05/3/09 issue of L'Osservatore Romano

Pope ordains 19 new priests at St. Peter's Basilica - Photos and full translation of the homily.

More than 60,000 gather
for Pope's 'Regina caeli' today

VATICAN CITY, May 3 (AGI) - More than 60,000 people gathered today in St. Peter's Square for the noontime Regina caeli led by the Pope, causing him to do this from his study window as usual, instead of on the front steps of the Basilica, as he usually does when the Angelus or Regina caeli follows a Papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

He started his pre-prayer message with an apology for arriving 15 minutes late. This was in part because the preceding ordination event in the Basilica lasted longer than planned, as Benedict XVI took time afterwards to greet the new priests and their families individually.

"I am late because we have just finished celebrating the ordination of 19 new priests, for which we are very happy," the Pope said, to enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

Here is what he said in English after the prayers:

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Regina Caeli, I extend a warm welcome. I pray that as you follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, you will grow ever closer to the Risen Lord and share his Gospel with all those you encounter.

This Friday I leave for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where men and women first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd. I ask you all to join me in praying for the afflicted peoples of that region. In a special way I ask that you remember the Palestinian people who have endured great hardship and suffering.

May the Lord bless them and all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace. Upon all of you visiting Rome during this Easter Season, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God

The only pictures available so far are the thumbnails from Vatican Radio which cannot be enlarged much more than they are above..

As usual, the wire-service stories completely ignored the Pope;s homily at the Ordination Mass, preferring to rely on the English-language synthesis contained in the Vatican handout. The AFP story below typifies what the other wire services reported:

Pope asks faithful to pray
for 'afflicted' Middle East
as he prepares to leave for
the Holy Land on Friday

VATICAN CITY, May 3 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday he was travelling to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to ask God to bless all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace.

"This Friday I leave for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where men and women first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd," the head of the Roman Catholic Church said after his traditional Angelus [Regina caeli!] prayer.

"I ask you all to join me in praying for the afflicted peoples of that region.

"In a special way I ask that you remember the Palestinian people who have endured great hardship and suffering.

"May the Lord bless them and all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace."

Benedict XVI will travel to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories May 8-15.

He will thus become only the third Pope after Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 2000 to visit what Christians, Jews and Muslims refer to as the Holy Land.

On Saturday, he said he was going to the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace in a region plagued by violence and injustice, mistrust, uncertainty and fear.


Dear brothers and sisters:

I am late because we have just finished celebrating the ordination of 19 new priests, for which we are very happy.

[The original sentence in the written text was:
We concluded shortly before now the Eucharistic celebration at St. Peter's Basilica during which I consecrated 19 new priests of the Diocese of Rome.]

Once more, I chose this fourth Sunday of Easter, for such a happy event, because it is characterized by the Gospel on the Good Shepherd (cfr Jn 10,1-18), and thus offers a particularly appropriate context.

For the same reason, the Church marks today the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In my annual message for this occasion, I proposed "Faith in God's initiative and the human response' as the theme for reflection.

Indeed, trust in the Lord, who continuously calls all of us to holiness and some in particular to a special consecration, is expressed in prayer. Both individually and in community, we must pray hard for vocations, so that the grandeur and beauty of God may attract more to follow Christ on the path of priesthood and the consecrated life.

We must pray also for saintly couples who are capable of showing their children, by example most of all, the high horizons towards which they must project their freedom.

The saints, male and female, whom the Church proposes for the veneration of all the faithful, testify to the mature fruit of that linkage between divine calling and the human response. Let us entrust our prayers for vocations to their heavenly intercession.

There is another intention which today I ask you all to pray for: the trip to the Holy Land which I will undertake, God willing, from Friday May 8, to Sunday, May 15.

In the footsteps of my venerated predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, I will be a pilgrim to the principal holy places of our faith.

I hope, with this visit, to confirm and encourage the Christians of the Holy Land who must daily face not a few difficulties. As Successor of Peter, I will make them feel the closeness and the support of the entire body of the Church.

Moreover, I will be making a pilgrimage of peace, in the name of the one God who is the Father of all. I will bear witness to the commitment of the Catholic Church to all those who strive to carry out dialog and reconciliation in order to reach a stable and lasting peace in justice and reciprocal respect.

Finally, this trip cannot but have a noteworthy ecumenical and inter-religious significance. Jerusalem is, from this point of view, the city-symbol par excellence: there, Christ died in order to reunite all the dispersed children of God (cfr Jn 11,52).

Turning now to the Virgin Mary, we invoke her as the Mother of the Good Shepherd so that she may watch over the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, and so that in all the world, numerous holy vocations
of special consecration to the Kingdom of God may flourish.

After the prayers, he had special words for the Spanish-speaking pilgrims:

I affectionately greet the Spanish-speaking faithful who are taking part in this Marian prayer. I wish to express my closeness and assure my prayers for the victims of the influenza virus that is affecting Mexico and other nations.

Dear brothers in Mexico, stay firm in the Lord - he will help you overcome this difficulty. I ask you to pray as a family during this time of trial. May our Lady of Guadalupe assist and protect you always.

In Polish, he had a special greeting for pilgrims gathered in Jasna Gora:

I join in spirit the bishops and faithful gathered in Jasna Gora who, today, with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone presiding, render glory to Mary, Queen of Poland.

I pray that the Mother of Christ protect the Church in Poland, that she may teach and help all to do what her Son says, and to ask for all the nation the gift of peace and everything good. God bless you.

00Monday, May 4, 2009 2:26 AM


Remember the online petitions in support of the Pope soon after the Williamson brouhaha in the media? A picture posted by Flo in the PRF and a link she provided led me to the story below, translated from

Then, going to the sites of the 'movers', I was able to get a few more pictures from their Facebook entries.

As announced on February 25 on the site,
Pope Benedict personally received on April 22, after the General Audience, all the messages collected in three months by
benoîtjaiconfiancenetoi, soutienàbenoitXVI, tHEe Confédération des Associations Familiales Catholiques, and tHE 30 Facebook groups that came together for the April 19 Benoithon.

The book presented to the Pope contained more than 120,000 messages of affection, support and loyalty for the him in the face of the violent media campaign against him in particular and the Church in general after he lifted the ecommunication of the four bishops of the FSSPX.

At the initiative of Frigide Barjot (a comedian who started the initiative Touche pas a mon Pape) and Antoine Picard d’Estelan (representing Transept, a collective of various Catholic lay organizations in Paris, numerous messages, photos and commentaries, along with the lists of signatories, were put together into a 'golden book' handed to the Pope, thanks to the facilitation of one of the members of benoîtjaiconfiancenetoi, Pierre-Marie de Berny, president of the association Unitas.

"What wonderful news!", the Pope exclaimed, visibly enthused about the mobilization. He was accompanied by the Bishop of Toulon-Frejus, and spent some time greeting the various French communities and parishes who attended this General Audience.

They responded to him with chanting, “Saint-Père, la France vous aime!” and “Benoît, Benoît, on a confiance en toi!”

The following pictures are from the Benoithon venue in front of Notre Dame de Paris on April 19:

00Monday, May 4, 2009 4:41 AM

Misrepresentations of
the thought of Benedict XVI:
When the Pope is 'inconvenient'

by Giandomenico Mucci
Translated from

as published in the 5/2/-5/3/09 issue of

Editor's Note: We preview excerpts from an article in the current issue of La Civilta Cattolica.

Catholics know well that there exists in Italy and in Europe, an a priori hostility against the doctrine of the Church, especially in the field of ethics.

The press, which is an expression of certain powers and powerful interests, is the optimal propagator of this hostility.

This negative prejudice can be attenuated or blocked by those social and pastoral choices which, though always guided by Christian doctrine, can be shared on the practical level by the 'secular' front.

For obvious reasons, the a priori hostility is directed against the Pope, who represents and proposes the doctrine of the Church with the maximum authority.

What is constantly exercised against him is hypercriticality, irritation, uneasiness with respect to his magisterium and to his person.

As a Cardinal, they called him John Paul II's Rottweiler, the inflexible and cold controller over doctrine, this man whom all those who have known him for years esteem as "a man of great kindness, of profound spiritual intensity, of great intellectual curiosity, and above all, of supreme internal tranquillity", as the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote once in Il Foglio.

The media campaign to discredit the Pope is fueled by the most outlandish interpretations of pontifical discourses. Most of these are viewed through a prism of preconceptions.

We would like to show the reader the cultural direction [the word used for direction is regia, i.e., as in a movie or play] which makes that campaign a part of the much larger campaign tending to discredit the Catholic Church on the universal level.

Does this tendency provoke a loss of consensus in the Church? Renato Mannheimer said that the facts behind last year's La Sapienza episode brought the Pope's popularity to greater than 90 percent - that is, well beyond the threshold that pollsters usually consider as maximum for public personalities.

Certainly, the Pope does not advocate the anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss. What he offers is an ethical project aimed at the formation of a person in his totality, a cultural and spiritual project which is firm and clear in its inspiratory doctrine but indulgent towards individual failings.

People sense in his words an awareness of daily common experiences dominated by the slavery of drugs, violence towards the weak, hidden and rejected lives, the weakening of the sense of humanity and solidarity.

It has been noted that among those who seek to discredit the Pope are some who were once distinguished for having been in cultural connivance with totalitarian regimes [i.e., liberal ex-Marxists and socialists], who today accuse the Church of cultural totalitarianism because. with its defense of human rights and its pro-active witness in favor of the defenseless and the poor of the world, it has acquired a singular authoritativeness.

The very same pundits often call on the Church to contribute to forming good citizens, and then accuse her, inconsistently, of violating the secularity of the State or of coercing the consciences of the faithful when she speaks of life, the family, and illness.

There is no lack of illustrious scholars who, on particular occasions, have called attention to the communicative capacity of the Pope not only through words but also through certain symbolic actions.

But generally, the Magisterium of Benedict XVI is read as an attempt by an interlocutor who is always on the defensive - and worse, on the side of pessimism - in relation to the prevailing relativism and nihilism in Western culture.

This attitude, in which political interests are not extraneous, gives rise to the systematic hostility against the Pope who is made out to be incapable of dialog with society, someone who alienates the faithful towards whom he shows no mercy, and who silences lay Catholics with his dogmatism.

Every honest and free observer will see through this gross distortion.

The Italian press tends to purvey an image of the Pope that is almost always hypercritical, almost like a consolidated verdict. But there is no lack of voices, either, who do not think that Benedict XVI is an inconvenient Pope!

Guido Guastalla, for example, cultural adviser to the Jewish community of Livorno, expresses esteem and admiration for the Pope. [Strange that the author should mention Guastalla and not Giorgio Israel - nor Marcello Pera, Giuliano Ferrara, or Enresto Galli delle Loggia, for that matter.]

A very positive evaluation on how the Pope is carrying out his function comes from two English historians. Michael Burleigh, who taught at Oxford, Harvard and the London School of Economics, contrast the teaching of Benedict XVI with "the banality of a discredited multiculturalism that exists only in universities of the left [Aren't most Western universities that these days?] and in some local governments, none of whom are in the avant-garde of European thinking". [Some local governments? What about all the rabidly anti-Church bureaucrats and politicians who hold the true levers of power in the European Union??? They may be in the rearguard of European thinking, but they pass the laws and resolutions that affect European life and culture here and now, and possibly in generations to come!!!!]

They note: "In the place of religion, the liberal elite prefer the incessant recital, like a mantra, of some buzz words like 'diversity', 'human rights' and 'tolerance' almost as if they had invented them, and unaware or ignorant of how much those words go back in fact to a more profound Christian culture. A culture based on ideas and structures in which we are so immersed that we can hardly recognize them."

According to Paul Johnson, who was editor of the weekly New Statesman, the overwhelming majority of mankind recognizes in religion its function as a vital dimension in the existence of men.

And the Pope is committed to sustain the contact of reason with the transcendent. But "all the forces of modern society are against him".

But not Andre Gluckmann, who has not hesitated to declare himself in favor of the Pope whose opposition to any form of post-modern relativism he shares.

These authors represent different cultural circles, but they have in common a recognition that the secular neo-Enlightenment movement is exhausted and the conviction that there cannot exist a conflict between religion and science, between the activity of reason and openness to transcendence.

That is why they do not see the Pope as an inconvenient man but rather, the herald of a new humanism.

In Italy, the secular front has certainly radicalized its opposition to the Church. They like to describe the Church and Catholicism as being in difficulty. To some, this strategy might appear revelatory of more than just ancient acrimony, but of a secret nervousness, almost a case of adolescent psychology, when the son is unable to detach himself from his parents and can only affirm his personality by continuing to talk about them.

Moreover, the secularists never mention those activities - like subsidiarity and the social services that would would never have existed if they had not been nourished by the doctrine of the institutional church - which are embodied in the Catholic laity.

The Magisterium of Benedict XVI reflects limpidly that of Vatican II, apart from some statements that need to be contextualized, and shows a fundamental concern about the developments in that culture to which his opponents have entrusted themselves.

The Pope - as he clarified on December 8, 2005, in his homily at the Mass to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican-II - looks at contemporary man as someone who, being heir to a secular history, "harbors the suspicion that God will take something away from his life, that God is a rival who would limit our freedom, and that we shall be fully human only when we will have set him aside... Man does not wish to count on a love which does not seem reliable to him - he will rely only on knowledge insofar as it gives him power... with which he wishes to autonomously take charge of his own life".

"There are some," the Pope said in his address to the plenary session of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on April 27, 2006 - who have come to theorize the absolute sovereignty of reason and freedom in the field of moral standards: such norms would constitute the field of an ethic that is solely 'human' - that is, it would be the expression of a law which man gives to himself. The advocates of such 'secular morality' affirm that man, as a rational being, not only can, but indeed must, freely decide the value of his own behavior".

The Pope's concern extends from the cultural to the pastoral field: "Secularization," the Holy Father underscored to the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Culture in March 2008, "is not just an external threat to believers, but has manifested itself for some time in the very bosom of the Church. It perverts Christian faith from the inside and profoundly - and consequently, the lifestyle and daily actions of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses, in the practical negation of God - that there is no more need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Moreover, the predominant hedonistic and consumeristic mentality favors, among the faithful as with their pastors, a drift towards superficiality and selfishness which harms ecclesial life... There is the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and a void in the heart".

00Monday, May 4, 2009 3:43 PM

May 4
Blessed Michael Giedroyc (+1485, Cracow)
Augustinian hermit

No OR today.


The Holy Father met today with

- Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

- Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, emeritus President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City
and of its Governatorate

- Bishops of Peru (Group 2) on ad-limina visit.

- Participants in the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Address in English.

00Monday, May 4, 2009 7:31 PM

Vatican plays down differences
on the eve of Pope's Israel trip

by Steven Gutkin

JERUSALEM, May 4 (AP) – The Vatican's representative to the Holy Land on Monday played down the controversies that could mar a visit next week by Pope Benedict XVI: the conduct of a wartime predecessor, a Roman Catholic prayer for converting the Jews and the church's perceived lenience toward a Holocaust-denying bishop.

A papal visit to the Holy Land is not the time to "quarrel for this or that," said Monsignor Antonio Franco, the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel.

The Pope is scheduled to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories May 11-15. It's only the second official papal visit to the Jewish state and comes nine years after a groundbreaking trip by Pope John Paul II, who moved many by praying at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Rabbi David Rosen, one of Israel's leading voices in interfaith relations, portrayed Benedict as a good friend of the Jews and described differences with him as "an issue of style rather than an issue of substance."

Franco said a joint Jewish-Catholic commission is working hard to resolve the controversy over whether Pius XII, the pope who reigned during World War II, did enough to try to stop the Holocaust — the issue that has emerged as perhaps the most difficult in relations between the two religions.

"We are widening the vision and the understanding of a very difficult period of history," Franco said at a news conference in Jerusalem. "For sure this will not be an issue of discussion on the visit of the Holy Father."

Rosen, who held a news conference right after Franco's, had a different take.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it were mentioned in passing" during Benedict's visit, he said.

At issue is a caption under a photo of Pius at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum alleging that he did not protest as Nazis rounded up Jews in Europe and sent them to their deaths.

Benedict has referred to Pius as a "great" churchman and the Holy See insists he used quiet diplomacy to try to help Jews. In September, he praised what he called Pius's "courageous and paternal dedication" in trying to save Jews.

"Wherever possible, he spared no effort in intervening in their favor either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church," Benedict said. A movement inside the church has been seeking Pius's beatification for the past 25 years — stirring great opposition among Jews.

"It's not the business of the Jewish people to tell the Catholic church who its saints are," said Rosen, who heads the American Jewish Committee's Department for Inter-religious Affairs and is the first Orthodox rabbi to receive a papal Knighthood.

However, he said making Pius a saint "would be seen as some sort of whitewashing of the period of the Shoah," using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

[In what way is it a whitewash at all? Beatification of Pius XII does not stop anyone interested to go on 'researching' Pius XII's true actions in World War II. And earlier than that, they can all have the chance to present their case against Pius XII during the beatification and canonization processes which require rigorous examination of the candidate's entire record. All the Jewish militants keep ignoring this obvious fact deliberately!]

Two other controversies have also caused tensions with Jews during Benedict's tenure. Earlier this year, the Pope lifted the excommunication of a bishop who had denied the Holocaust. He later acknowledged mistakes by the Vatican in reaching out to the renegade.

[NO! The Pope acknowledged mistakes in the Vatican's internal and external communications procedures, but not the fact that Williamson happens to be one of four bishops whose excommunication has been lifted, because the excommunication issue has nothing to do with ideology or morals or dogma but with a violation of canon law.]

Benedict's 2007 decision to relax restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass also caused consternation by restoring to prominence a prayer for the conversion of the Jews recited during Easter Week.

[It does nothing of the sort - no one has paid attention to that prayer (said once a year) in over five decades until militant Jews chose to call attention to it. But they never protested even if it was in use by traditionalist groups given an indult during the John Paul II years, when it was used in an even more 'archaic' form which the Jews resented because it referred to their 'blindness' in not recognizing Jesus.]

Franco on Monday said both those issues have been resolved, stressing that Catholics do not pray for the conversion of Jews.

"We leave to God the conversion," he said.

Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic ties in the early 1990s, but they still must resolve a number of issues such as the status of church property in the Holy Land and tax exemptions for the church.

Benedict's visit to Israel is also imbued with a certain poignance because he is German. As a teenager named Joseph Ratzinger, he served in the Hitler Youth movement, though he has written that the Nazis forced him to do so.

Both Franco and Rosen on Monday denied reports that Benedict's decision not to visit Yad Vashem's museum section had something to do with the Pius controversy.

[Why not mention that John Paul II did not visit the museum either when he went to Yad Vashem? It is a huge complex, and the museum is really not an imperative except for regular tourists who want to have the whole Yad Vashem experience. That's not the point of the Pope's visit! Even 'lesser' vhisiting heads of state do not ncessarily visit the Museum. The Memorial Halls are the hearr of Yad Vashem, and that is where one best renders homage to the victims of the Holocasut.]

Like most dignitaries visiting Israel, Benedict will lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem memorial and is scheduled to meet with Holocaust survivors there.

During his visit, the Pope will also head to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, in addition to visits to the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial.

He will hold open-air Masses in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

Benedict has a strong record in building Catholic-Jewish relations [even long before he became Pope, and he provided the theological underpinning for John Paul II's gestured towards the Jews!] He has visited the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland and synagogues in Germany and the United States.

Rosen, who has known Benedict for many years, said the Pope at one point told him that Jews "are the living roots of the Church."

"It's an important comment and he deeply believes in it," Rosen said.

Israeli President proposes
yielding Christian sites
to Vatican control in
goodwill gesture

President Shimon Peres wants to give up Israeli sovereignty over key Christian holy sites to the Vatican, according to an Army Radio report Monday, a proposition which is reportedly opposed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

According to the report, the issue ruffled feathers among senior Israeli officials.

Beit Hanassi [the Israeli presidential residence] could not be reached for comment, as it does not issue statements to the press while the President is abroad.

Army Radio said that the President was exerting pressure on the government to give up sovereignty over six sites including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Coenaculum on Mount Zion, Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Multiplication on the Kinneret.

On Sunday, according to the report, Beit Hanassi requested that the Interior Ministry sign documents conceding sovereignty on the sites, however the interior minister refused.

Yishai was quoted as saying that he opposes all yielding of sovereignty.

"Every concession like this limits the Israeli government's ability to function as a sovereign government in the area," he said.

Referring to Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the region scheduled for May 11-15, he said, "I am certain that the aim of the Pope's visit is not to cause damage and not to gain sovereignty."

Relinquishing sovereignty over the sites would mean that they would legally belong to Vatican City, and that any Israeli request to pave roads, or lay water, sewerage or electrical infrastructure would have to be approved by the Vatican.

"If we were sure that this present to the Christian world would bring millions of Christian pilgrims here, then we would have a good reason to think about it," Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov was quoted as saying.

"But since we're not sure that it will happen, why should we give out gifts?"

Former Meretz chair Yossi Beilin, however, was quoted in the report as saying that Israel had not behaved satisfactorily in recent dealings with the Vatican. "We need to compromise with them," he said.

The Army Radio report also quoted Beit Hanassi as saying that the negotiations had been going on for long enough, and that the time had come to compromise with the Vatican and come to an agreement.

Vatican denies rumors
of Baghdad visit by the Pope

BAGHDAD, May 4 (dpa) - A report published in a leading Baghdad daily that Pope Benedict XVI may visit Iraq in mid-May as part of his tour of the Middle East momentarily sparked excitement among Iraq's Christians on Monday, until the Vatican quashed the rumour.

Baghdad's al-Sabbah newspaper quoted an unnamed lawmaker as saying that the Vatican was considering a visit to Baghdad on invitation from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

But chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, speaking to reporters in Vatican City later on Monday, said the reports did "not appear serious."

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit Jordan, Israel and the West Bank on his tour of the Middle East, which is scheduled to begin Friday.

"I don't expect improvised (changes of plan). The schedule has already been defined," Lombardi said.

The Pope's visit "would let him see situation on the ground, particularly for the (Iraqi) Christian community," al-Sabbah had quoted an unnamed Iraqi lawmaker as saying.

The newspaper has a record of predicting unscheduled visits to Iraq. Most recently, in March, al-Sabbah reported that US President Barack Obama would visit Baghdad in the beginning of April, weeks before the US president arrived in an unannounced visit.

Since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country, driven from their homes in part by the bloodshed that has stalked the country, and in part by specific threats and intimidation from extremist groups specifically targeting them as Christians.

Fewer than 600,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 1.2 million before the 2003 US-led invasion.

00Tuesday, May 5, 2009 6:10 AM

On natural law, human rights,
and the Church's social doctrine

The Holy Father Monday received participants in the current plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences at the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

The session is meeting May 1-5 on the theme "Catholic social doctrine and human rights". After a greeting from Mary Ann Glendon, President of the Academy, the Holy Father delivered the following address in English:

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you gather for the fifteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you and to express my encouragement for your mission of expounding and furthering the Church’s social doctrine in the areas of law, economy, politics and the various other social sciences.

Thanking Professor Mary Ann Glendon for her cordial words of greeting, I assure you of my prayers that the fruit of your deliberations will continue to attest to the enduring pertinence of Catholic social teaching in a rapidly changing world.

After studying work, democracy, globalisation, solidarity and subsidiarity in relation to the social teaching of the Church, your Academy has chosen to return to the central question of the dignity of the human person and human rights, a point of encounter between the doctrine of the Church and contemporary society.

The world’s great religions and philosophies have illuminated some aspects of these human rights, which are concisely expressed in "the golden rule" found in the Gospel: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Lk 6:31; cf. Mt 7:12).

The Church has always affirmed that fundamental rights, above and beyond the different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of importance they may have in various cultural contexts, are to be upheld and accorded universal recognition because they are inherent in the very nature of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God.

If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then they share a common nature that binds them together and calls for universal respect.

The Church, assimilating the teaching of Christ, considers the person as "the worthiest of nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia, 9, 3) and has taught that the ethical and political order that governs relationships between persons finds its origin in the very structure of man’s being.

The discovery of America and the ensuing anthropological debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to a heightened awareness of human rights as such and of their universality (ius gentium).

The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ – because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely – demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom. At the same time, we must always remember that "freedom itself needs to be set free. It is Christ who sets it free" (Veritatis Splendor, 86).

In the middle of the last century, after the vast suffering caused by two terrible world wars and the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by totalitarian ideologies, the international community acquired a new system of international law based on human rights.

In this, it appears to have acted in conformity with the message that my predecessor Benedict XV proclaimed when he called on the belligerents of the First World War to "transform the material force of arms into the moral force of law" ("Note to the Heads of the Belligerent Peoples", 1 August 1917).

Human rights became the reference point of a shared universal ethos – at least at the level of aspiration – for most of humankind. These rights have been ratified by almost every State in the world. The Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, as well as my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, forcefully referred to the right to life and the right to freedom of conscience and religion as being at the centre of those rights that spring from human nature itself.

Strictly speaking, these human rights are not truths of faith, even though they are discoverable – and indeed come to full light – in the message of Christ who "reveals man to man himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). They receive further confirmation from faith.

Yet it stands to reason that, living and acting in the physical world as spiritual beings, men and women ascertain the pervading presence of a logos which enables them to distinguish not only between true and false, but also good and evil, better and worse, and justice and injustice.

This ability to discern – this radical agency – renders every person capable of grasping the "natural law", which is nothing other than a participation in the eternal law: "unde…lex naturalis nihil aliud est quam participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura" (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, 91, 2).

The natural law is a universal guide recognizable to everyone, on the basis of which all people can reciprocally understand and love each other. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately rooted in a participation of God, who has created each human person with intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical and political basis is ignored, human rights remain fragile since they are deprived of their sound foundation.

The Church’s action in promoting human rights is therefore supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious affiliation they may have.

Nevertheless, as I have observed in my Encyclicals, on the one hand, human reason must undergo constant purification by faith, insofar as it is always in danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by disordered passions and sin; and, on the other hand, insofar as human rights need to be re-appropriated by every generation and by each individual, and insofar as human freedom – which proceeds by a succession of free choices – is always fragile, the human person needs the unconditional hope and love that can only be found in God and that lead to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 18, and Spe Salvi, 24).

This perspective draws attention to some of the most critical social problems of recent decades, such as the growing awareness – which has in part arisen with globalisation and the present economic crisis – of a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights.

For Christians who regularly ask God to "give us this day our daily bread", it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry. Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global security.

Dear friends, dear Academicians, in exhorting you in your research and deliberations to be credible and consistent witnesses to the defence and promotion of these non-negotiable human rights which are founded in divine law, I most willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing

Very rarely, we are provided with the text of the words addressed to the Holy Father by the ranking member of any group that has a private audience with him, and ZENIT has done this service for Prof. Glendon's opening address on this occasion:

'Academy focus has always been
the dignity of the human being'

President, Ponitifical Academy of Social Sciences

Holy Father,

Your Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences comes before you this morning with immense gratitude for the encouragement you have given us, as we strive to be ever more useful to the Church in the development of her social teachings.

Over the years, no matter what aspect of economics, law, sociology or political sciences claimed our attention, there has been one central theme, one golden thread that has stitched all our work together. Our central focus has always been on the dignity of the human person and the common good.

This week, Your Holiness, our Plenary Session has been entirely devoted to the way that theme has found expression in the concept of universal human rights.

In so doing, we have been mindful of the Church's long engagement with human rights, of her own decisive contributions to the dignitarian vision of rights embodied in so many human rights instruments, including a Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and of the Holy See as a fearless champion of that vision in international settings.

That engagement has been characterized by a prudent recognition that the modern human rights project, like all human enterprises, constantly needs to be called to what is highest and best in its aspirations.

We have also been mindful of the fact that in today's world, ironically, many threats to the dignity of the person have appeared in the guise of human rights.

As you pointed out in your memorable speech to the United Nations last year, there are mounting pressures to "move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests."

Accordingly in these days, with the help of experts in all the social sciences, we have reviewed the long reciprocal relationship between Christianity and human rights ideas.

We have explored the expanding circle of human rights protection in an effort to discern how new rights claims are, or are not, conducive to human flourishing.

We have paid special attention to rights that are currently under assault such as the right to life, the right to found a family, freedom of conscience and religion, and to rights that have too long awaited fulfillment such as the right to decent subsistence.

Then building on our previous studies of globalization, we have taken up the question of the proper roles of states, private actors, and international entities in bringing human rights to life.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of all our members for your teachings on faith, hope and charity that provide an unconditional foundation for human rights, and for the example you set in the difficult Petrine mission to which Providence has called you.

We are deeply grateful for your constant solicitude towards our Academy, which is also manifested in the appointment of our new Academician Lubomir Mlcoch.

It only remains for me, dear Holy Father, to ask you to bless this Academy and all those who have generously shared their wisdom with us over the past few days. We thank you most sincerely for the gift of this encounter.

00Tuesday, May 5, 2009 1:49 PM

In addition to the website on the papal visit launched by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism,
the Israeli Foreign Ministry has also opened a special site on the papal visit.

Here is their welcome message:

And of course, it links to the site opened by the Ministry of Tourism in March:

The Jordan Tourism Board has a very snazzy website with great graphics and videos that mainly promote the Christian sites in Jordan with lots of good information, as well as biographical date on Pope Benedict XVI and an account of Pope John Paul II's visit to Jordan in 2000.

00Tuesday, May 5, 2009 2:48 PM

May 5

St. Hilary of Arles (France, 400-449)

OR for 5/4-5/5:

Benedict XVI reaffirms to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
that human rights require a solid ethical base:
'Hunger in the world is a shameful tragedy'

Other Page 1 stories: The Holy Father's appeal to the faithful last Sunday to pray for his coming pilgrimage to the Holy Land
and his ordination of 19 new priests for the Diocese of Rome. In world news: Syrian President Assad calls on President Obama
to dialog with Hamas and Hezbollah; and the Taliban violate ceasefire in Pakistan's Swat valley, as the US expresses concern
that terrorists may get hold of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

The Holy Father has no scheduled events today.

00Tuesday, May 5, 2009 4:44 PM

Damian Thompson has written a profile of the Pope for an Abu Dhabi newspaper.

Unfortunately, I can't be overly enthusiastic about it because, like John Allen, Thompson appears to have a tendency to pander to readers of every persuasion by citing and sharing quite a few opinions that simply perpetrate the wrong impressions about the Pope.

Here is the article:

Benedict XVI will pay his first visit as Pope to the Holy Land on Friday. His itinerary will bring him into proximity to the sacred shrines of three religions in Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

Those famous red shoes – not Prada, as legend has it – will be tiptoeing through a religious minefield.

[Benedict XVI, thank God, never tiptoes, literally or figuratively. He will stride forward as briskly as he always does, surrounded by his guardian-angel 'minesweepers' who will clear the way of the real 'mines', but not, alas, of any new mines that the media and other self-interest factions will be strewing willy-nilly!]

This is a gruelling challenge for an 82-year-old theologian who, until 2005, was convinced that he was going to spend his retirement browsing happily in libraries and listening to his beloved Mozart.

And matters are not made easier by the fact that this Pope has upset both Muslim and Jewish communities in the past three years, by accident rather than design.

The world was surprised when the name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had been John Paul II’s doctrinal watchdog for many years, was proclaimed from the balcony of St Peter’s four years ago.

Many Catholics were dismayed. One of them was Ratzinger himself, who had assumed that, at 78, he was safely out of the running. When conservative cardinals put him forward as a candidate he tried to dissuade them. He was too old for the job, he felt – and perhaps too controversial.

On the morning after the election, The Daily Telegraph in London announced that the leadership of the world’s billion Catholics had gone to “God’s Rottweiler”. That was indeed Ratzinger’s nickname, acquired when he disciplined renegade theologians and approved documents reiterating the Catholic Church’s strict line on homosexuality.

Some liberal Catholics were beside themselves with rage and disappointment when they heard of Ratzinger’s election – one Vatican commentator, Robert Mickens, burst into tears on the spot.

They envisaged the Church being taken over by a hard-faced, ultra-conservative Bavarian, stroking a white cat like a Bond villain as he fed Catholic lefties and gays to the Vatican piranhas.

They soon changed their minds. These days, no one thinks that Benedict XVI is by nature a cruel enforcer. Now that his job no longer involves snapping at liberal heels, he has changed breed [DIM88pt[=DIM][In the eyes of some observers, perhaps. He never has 'changed breed' - he is still the same Joseph Ratzinger who, in his 1977 memoir, called himself 'God's donkey...carrying my load to Rome".]

As they say in Rome, the Rottweiler has revealed himself to be a German shepherd. ['Revealed himself"? Everyone who knew him and met him knew this for decades!]

This does not mean, however, that Pope Benedict’s liberal opponents inside the Church have been won over to his policies. They realise that many of his instincts are profoundly, even radically, conservative.

They strongly disapprove of his attempts to revive the traditional Latin Mass (effectively outlawed in 1970 after the Second Vatican Council) and they scan the media eagerly, anxious to exploit any papal misjudgements. They have been having a field day in the last few months.

Until this year Pope Benedict was judged by world opinion to have made only one gaffe. In September 2006, addressing the University of Regensburg in Germany, he quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor’s damning opinion of Islam.

He was not endorsing the opinion; the quotation formed part of a complex argument about faith and reason, but the clumsy translation of the Pope’s German text into English made matters worse.

Benedict’s speech was carefully nuanced and certainly not crudely anti-Islamic. Nevertheless, the Pontiff and his advisers had failed to anticipate the predictable outrage of many Muslim commentators.

Suspicions that this exceptionally clever Pope ['clever' is somehow quite inappropriate when applied to someone like Benedict XVI, since it connotes calculation and even scheming, whereas he is genuinely wise and astute!] lacked media skills were confirmed this year when, in a move designed to heal a tortuous dispute with the rebel traditional Catholics of the Society of St Pius X, he lifted the excommunications on four bishops, one of whom, an Englishman named Richard Williamson, was a Holocaust denier.

This was a crisis of the Vatican’s making: evidence of Williamson’s extreme views could be found all over the Internet [Thompson is perpetrating this terrible untruth - it was not, before January 21, 2009, yet apparently no one had warned Benedict that he was about to make a gesture that would outrage the worldwide Jewish community.

Likewise, when the Pope visited Africa in March he answered a question about Aids and condoms aboard the papal plane in a way that could be taken to imply that condoms spread, rather than contained, the disease.

In fact, neither the Pope nor the Church has made a definitive statement about the morality of using condoms against disease. The Vatican press office later tried to tinker with the transcript of the interview to make the comments less controversial, confirming Catholic anxieties that Pope Benedict was badly advised. [Again, a wrong term, because low-level decisions like some translator's wrong-headed initiative in the Secretariat of State to tamper with the Pope's actual words are obviously never cleared with the Pope!]

What went wrong? The answer lies in the remarkable fact that Joseph Ratzinger, despite working for nearly 30 years in the Vatican, is a loner.

[Again, perpetrating a wrong impression. That he spends a lot of time by himself is not because he shuns company but because it's his only time, outside of official duties, to read and write and pray - in other words, to keep up the routine he has kept since he became a priest and which he advocates to all priests. He is a loner only in the sense that he has never been identified with a cabal or faction within the Curia, even if some of them are his personal friends.]

There are few visitors to the Apostolic Palace: the Pope wants to spend his spare time reading, writing and playing the piano (badly, alas). [Is this comment really necessary? The Pope is an amateur pianist, after all, not a professional one!]

He does not possess, or want to possess, allies among the ambitious and gossipy monsignori of the Curia.

This gentle, cultivated Bavarian policeman’s son did not seek to become a bishop, let alone a cardinal or the supreme Pontiff. His personality bears the mark of the flowery piety of his childhood Bavaria and, in contrast, the dry rigour of the German universities where, as a young priest-professor, he made friends with Protestants and Catholic leftists.

Well into middle age he sometimes dressed in a suit and tie, just like the fashionable radical professors of the era. (These days, however, he proudly wears beautiful antique vestments [for official and liturgical events, obviously, not as regular wear! The Vatican is not spending money on these vestments - they are already there - and the Pope is paying tribute to other Popes by wearing vestments they wore] , much to the horror of liberal puritans.)

Ratzinger’s compulsory membership in the Hitler Youth is utterly irrelevant to his thinking: nowhere in his writings is there the slightest sympathy for the clerical fascism embraced by Catholic ultra-traditionalists.

His politics, in so far as he has any, seem to be middle-of-the-road Christian Democrat. He flirted with mild theological liberalism at the time of the Second Vatican Council, but abandoned that after he became convinced radicals were interpreting the Council – which affirmed the role of lay people, reached out to other faiths and prepared the way for vernacular worship – as a moment of total rupture with the past.

Cardinal Ratzinger saw the papacy of the charismatic John Paul II as an opportunity to reassert the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church while reaching out to new audiences. His own project depends less on personal charisma or the thunderous condemnation of modern society.

At the heart of Benedict’s papacy is the belief that Catholics must worship God properly. He wants to heal the wounds caused by the liberals’ cruel repudiation of beautiful Latin services. In 2007 he dramatically removed all the restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. Old and new worship should live side by side, enriching each other, he believes.

This policy has alarmed a generation of middle-aged and elderly Catholics (including bishops) brought up to regard Vatican II as a new beginning, a year zero.

And Benedict has paid a price for his lack of allies in the Vatican: some cardinals sought to exploit the crisis.

However, the new generation is on the side of the Pope, for younger active Catholics are surprisingly conservative. They see the Pope as a grandfatherly figure who is introducing them to ancient treasures rejected by their hippy parents. Rome these days is full of black-clad seminarians inspired by this “Benedictine” conservatism.

There are interesting parallels here with Islam. Benedict does not believe that Christianity and Islam can converge theologically [a thoroughly gratuitous and illogical statement, since nowhere in the Church is there any assumption that inter-religious dialog means 'convergence' on doctrine! Inter-religious dialog is not meant to promote syncretism, or to interfere with each other's religious doctrines!] , but he shares an understanding with Muslim leaders who believe that the strength of a religious community lies in its traditions.

Liberal Catholicism and liberal Islam have one thing in common: they have a very poor track record of attracting followers. [I don't know about liberal Catholicism's track record - it has a very good track record of attracting liberals in the West, who predominate in the ruling cultural classes. As for for 'liberal Islam' - is there is any such thing at all? There is a 'moderate Islam' at best, perhaps, but 'liberal Islam"? If they were liberal in the sense of the 'liberal' Catholics, they would promptly be the object of worldwide fatwas!]

Benedict rejects extremists of all faiths, but he is also unimpressed by diluted religion. And he is curious to learn more about how Islam is walking the tightrope of modernising without surrendering its identity because he is walking a similar tightrope.

[Excuse me, but what evidence is there that Islam, as a rule, is modernizing, or even wanting to modernize? It remains inflexible about its adherence to the very letter of the Koran and the approved commentaries on it, along with the sharia law that is based on their fundamental scriptures. Yes, King Faisal and the Jordanian Royal Institute and many moderate Muslim intellectuals are now reaching out for dialog with other faiths, but that does not mean modernizing Islam itself, any more than Vatican II 'modernized' Catholic doctrine.]

His visit to the Middle East is fraught with difficulties. So many things could go wrong. But Pope Benedict has a secret weapon: a deep, unaffected charm that breaks out through the shyness to win friends in unlikely places.

When he was a senior cardinal, he walked across St Peter’s Square every morning. He did not march ahead with an entourage of advisers: he was often on his own and only too delighted to chat to pilgrims, sometimes for as long as 20 minutes. That is the side of Joseph Ratzinger that the Muslims, Jews and Christians of the Holy Land are about to discover. Whether it is enough to produce a diplomatic triumph remains to be seen.

This is the rather questionable biographical outline that goes with the article:

April 16 1927 born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, son of a police officer.

1941 enrolled in the Hitler Youth.
[The way it is presented, one would think he did it voluntarily!]

1943 called up to join the German anti-aircraft corps.

1945 placed in a prisoner of war camp by US troops and released at the end of the war.

June 29 1951 ordained with his brother in Freising.

1959 appointed professor at the University of Bonn.

1963 becomes Archbishop of Munich and Freising.

1966 takes up a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen.

1977 made a cardinal.

Nov 25 1981 named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Inquisition.

Sept 1991 suffers stroke, temporarily impairing his eyesight.

April 19 2005 elected the successor to Pope John Paul II by papal conclave.

Sept 12 2006 upsets Muslim world by quoting a medieval Byzantine emperor’s damning comments on Islam during an address at the University of Regensburg
[If this was going to be singled out because the newspaper audience addressed is mainly Muslim, why not include the response A COMMON WORD and the Catholic-Muslim Forum that was born as a result of Regensburg?]


00Tuesday, May 5, 2009 6:02 PM

Robert Moynihan, editor of INSIDE THE VATICAN magazine, has written a very informative article on Patriarch Kirill's stewardship so far of the Russian Orthodox Church, and signs that he may yet come around to meeting with Benedict XVI as the Patriarch of Moscow, breaking the logjam to greater Catholic-Russian Orthodox rapprochement that has persisted since the days of Pope John paul II and Patriarch Alexei.

Moynihan is one of the few writers about religion in the West today who has followed the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church closely and appears to have the necessary inside contacts to write authoritatively about it.

Will Kirill and Benedict meet?

Just about 100 days ago, on January 27, Russian Orthodox Church leaders chose a new Patriarch, Kirill,
to succeed the later Patriarch Alexi II, who had died on December 5, 2008.

What has Kirill done since his election, and what are the prospects for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI?

By Robert Moynihan

April 30, 2009

The new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, 62, has met Pope Benedict XVI, who turned 82 a few days ago, three times already — but that was before Kirill became Patriarch.

Now, after nearly 100 days in office, Vatican observers are sensing that Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict may meet again — and that such a meeting will be a major step on the way to the long-hoped-for reunion of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which have been divided for nearly 1,000 years, since 1054. But where and when could such a meeting be held?

Kirill is an imposing figure, with a grey-flecked beard and sonorous voice. And he has important friends. When he was enthroned Alexi’s successor in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the church was filled with celebrities and political leaders, and the first person to receive communion from him was... President Dmitry Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana.

Patriarch Kirill took charge of the Russian Orthodox Church, becoming the first leader of the world's largest Orthodox church to take office after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In the Soviet era, the officially atheist Communist government treated the devout like moral lepers, imprisoning tens of thousands of clerics of all creeds. Now the Orthodox Church “has become a serious power in society,” former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told The Associated Press in March.

Kirill met most recently with Pope Benedict XVI a year and a half ago, on December 7, 2007, privately at the Vatican. The Vatican did not release any details about the meeting, but an interview with Metropolitan Kirill was published on the same day by L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The meeting with the Pope was "very positive and very beautiful," Kirill said at the time. "On our agenda there are many important themes such as the promotion of basic values."

But great obstacles still remain to a closer collaboration between the two Churches, not to speak of full reunion.

Indeed, Metropolitan Kirill's December 2007 meeting with the Pope came just four days after Russia's Interfax news agency quoted him as saying that the four Roman Catholic dioceses John Paul II established in Russia in 2002 should be downgraded again to their prior status of "apostolic administrations."

"We shall never recognize them and will always dispute the presence of ordinary Catholic dioceses in the territory of Russia and consider it a challenge to our common idea" of Church organization, Interfax quoted Kirill as saying.

Kirill said then that when the Orthodox or the Catholics have communities outside their traditional homelands, a bishop should be in charge of their pastoral care, but that bishop should be an administrator, not the head of a normal diocese erected on a territory already assigned to another bishop.

(Russia’s Catholic community numbers an estimated 600,000 people in a country of 144 million where about 80% of the people identify themselves as Orthodox.)

Still, Kirill added that regular contact between Vatican and Russian Orthodox officials was "essential" for promoting the growing understanding of the other needed to resolve the tensions and the theological differences that keep Catholics and Orthodox apart.

And there has been regular contact since Benedict's election as Pope in April, 2005, and especially since Kirill's election as Patriarch in January, as representatives of the Holy See and representatives of the Russian and other Orthodox Churches have met many times in many different venues.

One milestone occurred in the fall of 2007, when Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians, after a week of meetings in Ravenna, Italy, drafted a joint document that acknowledges in a certain sense the primacy of the Pope.

The 46-paragraph “Ravenna Document” envisages a reunified Church in which the Pope could be the most senior patriarch among the various Orthodox churches.

Another milestone also occurred in 2007, on June 16, when Pope Benedict XVI told a visiting Greek Orthodox leader, Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus, that he hoped the Catholic and Orthodox Churches could be united, despite centuries of painful division, and discussed how Catholics and Orthodox could work together on social, moral and bioethical issues, including opposition to same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Chrysostomos had offered to play the role of mediator to try to arrange a groundbreaking meeting between the Pope and the then-Patriarch of Moscow, Alexi II.

In a speech to the archbishop after their private session, Benedict said he held “firm hope” of uniting the two Churches. Despite “centuries-old divisions, diverging roads and despite the hard work of closing painful wounds, the Lord has never ceased to guide our steps on the path toward unity and reconciliation,” Benedict told Chrysostomos.

Chrysostomos then told reporters that the chief problem was a "lack of communication" between the Pope and the Patriarch. He said he would pursue his offer to help organize a possible meeting when he met with Alexi in Moscow in mid-2007.

Chrysostomos believed Benedict’s background as a theologian with a good grasp of Orthodox theology would help the process of reuniting the two churches, but he failed to broker a meeting between Benedict and Alexi II.

Now, four years into Benedicts's pontificate and nearly 100 days into Kirill's patriarchate, nearly all Vatican observers agree that, as Pope John Paul II was driven by the desire to end the scourge of atheist Communism, so Pope Benedict XVI still hopes passionately to see the restoration of a unified Church.

And the path toward achieving that vision passes by way of Kirill.

Benedict's hopes for reunion stem from his religious conviction that Christians should present a united witness to the world, but also from his pragmatic judgment that the increasingly relativistic and "anti-life" West needs the spiritual and moral support of the Orthodox world to overcome a secular mindset which has begun to penetrate into the western Church herself.

This explains why Benedict has, since the moment Kirill was elected, made numerous gestures toward him of welcome and appreciation.

Benedict XVI publicly expressed his joy at Kirill's January 27 election at a general audience the next day in Rome, saying, "I invoke upon him the light of the Holy Spirit for a generous service to the Russian Orthodox Church, entrusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God."

In a telegram sent to the newly-elected Patriarch, the Pope wrote:

"May the Almighty bless your efforts to maintain communion among the Orthodox Churches and to seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue. I assure Your Holiness of my spiritual closeness and of the Catholic Church's commitment to co-operate with the Russian Orthodox Church for an ever clearer witness of the truth of the Christian message and to the values which alone can sustain today's world along the way of peace, justice and loving care of the marginalised."

The Catholic Archbishop in Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, called the election "very positive news" and said that it promised "continuity and recognition of the work of the former patriarch, Alexi II."

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity noted that Kirill was "a Patriarch with whom we have maintained fraternal relations for many years, and who met the Holy Father immediately following his election in April 2005, and again in the months of May 2006 and December 2007."

The Council statement continued: "We trust we will be able to continue together down the path of mutual understanding we have already begun. We do not, of course, wish to lose sight of the difficulties that still remain, but we are ready and willing to co-operate in the social and cultural fields in order to bear witness to Christian values while, nonetheless, not forgetting that the ultimate aim of dialogue is the realisation of the testament of Jesus Christ our Lord: the full communion of all His disciples."

The John Paul II of the Orthodox Church?

Who is Patriarch Kirill?

He is relatively young — at age 62, he is 20 years younger than Pope Benedict is, and nearly the same age, 58, as Pope John Paul II was when he was elected Pope in 1978.

And Kirill is energetic. For years he has hosted his own weekly television program "Words of a Pastor." He has traveled widely around the world. and he is willing to take risks to preach the Gospel (he recently agreed to speak to Russian young people in a sports stadium, something previous Patriarchs would have found unthinkable).

He is also open to new ways of doing things. This winter, while he was acting Patriarch, he went to a rock concert in Kiev and delivered a homily to tens of thousands of young people.

"Today Church and society are in fact one and the same thing," a spokesman for Kirill later explained. "Our Church believers go to discos and rock-concerts, and if there's a chance to give some Church tinge to such youth meetings, if young people are glad to hear a few words from a priest, why doesn't he go there and say these few words?

"The example of the Patriarch will surely inspire bishops, priests and laymen. When we speak about mission, we mean that we will go and preach, not that people will come to us. We mean that priests should come out from their churches, officials of Church departments should step out of their organizations. We should go and meet people, even at the so-called youth hangouts, even if it's not usual to see a man in cassock there," the Russian Church official said.

And Kirill is evidently a capable administrator. He has gathered around himself a "team" of well-trained and capable younger clerics and laymen to help him implement his vision for the Russian Church and nation, including the man he has chosen to take the post he himself held as head of the External Relations Department of the Patriarchate, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev (now promoted to archbishop).

On March 31, the news agency Interfax reported that the Holy Synod, the group of seven leading Russian Orthodox archbishops who form the highest ruling council of the Russian Orthodox Church, had named Bishop Hilarion as External Church Relations chief "unanimously."

The agency reported that several other young clerics who are close to Kirill were promoted:

(1) Archpriest Nikolay Balashov was named Patriarchate Secretary for relations with other Orthodox Churches;

(2) Priest Georgy Ryabyh was named acting secretary for liaison between the Church and public, and both were appointed deputy chairmen of the Department for External Church Relations;

(3) Bishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, a former deputy chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, was appointed Patriarchate Secretary for the Church's institutions abroad;

(4) Priest Antony Ilyin was put in charge of the Church's relations with European international organizations; and

(5) Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a 41-year-old, gravel-voiced cleric close to Kirill, was appointed to be the first head of a new Department for Relations between the Church and Society set up within the Church's administrative structure.

On April 22, a further promotion was announced:

(6) Fr. Igor Vyzhanov, 38, secretary for Inter-Christian relations in the Department for External Church Relations, the Patriarchate official responsible for relations with non-Orthodox confessions, was ordained an Archpriest by Patriarch Kirill personally during a Divine Liturgy in Moscow.

The promotions of Hilarion, Mark and Chaplin, all relatively young men in their early 40s, are perhaps the most significant of these first appointments during Kirill's first 100 days.

What has happened to these three "rising stars" is not without precedent. At the beginning of his own clerical career, Patriarch Kirill was the personal secretary to Metropolitan Nikodim (1929-1978) of Leningrad and Novgorod. Metropolitan Nikodim had encouraged Kirill to become a priest and was a very important figure in Kirill's early life.

Nikodim was himself a very rapidly rising star. He had become the head of the Church's Department of External Relations at the very young age of 30.

Nikodim, who many consider a saint, persuaded the Soviet government to allow the Russian Orthodox Church at have contacts with the world churches.

From this, the Soviet government was able to create an appearance of freedom of religion in the USSR, while the Church in turn received a little breathing room in which to exist.

Nikodim was also allowed to mentor and advance within the Church certain very bright and talented young men. These young men, such as Kirill, Juvelany, and Alexi, later became the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tragically, on September 5, 1978, Metropolitan Nikodim died of a heart attack at the age of 48 in the presence of Pope John Paul I.

A decade later, on November 13, 1989, Kirill was appointed to be head of the External Relations Department and a permanent member of the Holy Synod. Kirill was 42 at the time — the same age as Hilarion today.

Like his mentor Nikodim, Kirill created in his department a small group of very talented and bright young men — the best of the best. These men advanced to key positions within the External Relations Department. They are now Bishop Hilarion, Bishop Mark, and Father Vsevolod. They are all extremely talented, hard-working, and articulate.

Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that in the first session of the Holy Synod since the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill, these three have been given key positions in the Moscow Patriarchate.

In this regard, it appears that the former functions of the External Relations Department may have been divided in three parts. The part relating to the interface with the Russian government and civil society has been given to Father Vsevolod, the supervision of foreign parishes to Bishop Mark, and the general functions of the department and the key permanent seat in the Holy Synod to Bishop Hilarion.

Among Catholic observers of the Russian Orthodox Church, all of these appointments are regarded as "good news" because of the deep faith, learning and openness of these men.

Bishop Hilarion was the first person to propose an alliance between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches — an idea that has been subsequently echoed by many in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

He is also active in the culture field, as an accomplished pianist and composer of sacred music. Bishop Hilarion's monumental composition, Passion According to St. Matthew, first performed in Moscow and Rome in March 2007, was recently performed (on April 8) by the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in St. Stephen's Basilica, the most famous Catholic church in Budapest.

A capacity crowd of more than 2,000 attended and the basilica was not able to accommodate all that came. The concert was broadcast live by "Radio Maria." Among the guests of honor were Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, the apostolic nuncio to Hungary (Archbishop Juliusz Janusz), Archabbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma (Asztrik Varszegi), and the prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany (Dr. Korzensky Richard).

Before the concert, Cardinal Erdo welcomed the crowd. He stated, "Today's event is not just another musical event but a sign of genuine and long-awaited collaboration between our Churches. I wholeheartedly congratulate Bishop Hilarion on his appointment to the high and responsible post of Chairman of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. I sincerely hope that our cooperation, rooted in his tenure as head of the Hungarian diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, will continue in his new capacity." (Photo: Bishop Hilarion with Cardinal Erdo.)

Father Vsevolod, though the living embodiment of "toughness," has been a very positive influence in the dialogue between the Russian Orthdoox and the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation. Father Vsevolod was also one of the very few non-Catholic Church officials to come to the defense of the Pope in the recent worldwide "condom controversy" which erupted during the Pope's March trip to Africa.

Bishop Mark, a deeply spiritual man, who has lived and worked in Jerusalem, has traveled several times to Italy and to the Vatican, and is also a very positive influence.

That a Catholic can appreciate these men does not mean that the three will not be zealous defenders of Orthodoxy, but it does mean that they are reasonable men open to dialogue. And for this reason, they can count on our prayers in the great responsibilities that they are assuming.

Arguably, today Kirill is one of the 10 or 20 most influential men in Russia, one of the key countries in the world, and his relative youth means that he will likely be an important factor in national decisions for years to come.

Kirill now heads of a Church with more than 100 million adherents — larger than the Anglican Church — including millions of Russian Orthodox living abroad, which gives the Russian Orthodox Church a "global" aspect.

Statistically, the Russian Orthodox Church is the second most numerous Christian Church after the Roman Catholic Church itself.

But statistics are less important here than suffering and faith. The Russian Orthodox Church is a Church that suffered greatly under Soviet rule. Now it has "re-emerged from the catacombs" following the dissolution 18 years ago of the USSR (1991) to take on an ever-greater role in post-Soviet Russia.

Russia's powerful Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and its President, Dmitry Medvedev, both attend church on feast days. Other Slavic leaders, like Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, do so as well.

So it a time of hope for Russian Orthodoxy — despite the enormous challenges the faith confronts in Russia, which has become highly secularized. Kirill evidently hopes it will be a "Orthodox Moment" for his country, and his Church.

Collaboration with Catholics

Following the new Patriarch's enthronement on February 1, Benedict sent a second message, reiterating the importance of collaboration in seeking Christian unity.

The Pope recalled his meetings with the new Patriarch in Kirill's previous role as the president of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Pope characterized these encounters as full of "good will" and recalled Kirill's role in "forging a new relationship between our Churches, a relationship based on friendship, mutual acceptance and sincere dialogue in facing the difficulties of our common journey."

On March 8 in Moscow, Kirill showed the type of spirit he is bringing to his pastoral task.

He warned his hearers during a Sunday sermon not to trust some radical Orthodox fighters for the "purity" of faith, whose motto is "Orthodoxy or Death!"

"When we meet a man who claims to be fighting for the purity of Orthodoxy, but in his eyes is lit the fire of anger, someone ready to shake the foundations of Church life to defend orthodoxy, if we do not find love and find anger, this is the first sign of that we have a wolf in sheep's clothing," the Patriarch said in his Sunday sermon at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

"In the eyes of these people you will not find love; they shine with the fire of pride. The most important criterion for evaluating any Church leader — from a Patriarch to a simple layman — is 'love' because 'where there is love, there is Christ.'"

On April 8, Kirill wrote to Benedict, expressing his condolences over the loss of life in an earthquake in Italy's Abruzzo region and said he was praying for the peace of the victims' souls.

"I am conveying my most profound condolences over the loss of hundreds of lives in the earthquake in Abruzzo,"Kirill wrote to Benedict. "Sharing the grief of the families and relatives of those who have fallen victim to the natural disaster, we remember the Gospel saying: 'God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.'" The message was published on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate. (According to reports, 207 people were killed in the earthquake, 15 remain unaccounted for, and 178 people were injured, of whom 100 seriously.)

Then the authoritarian leader of Belarussia came onto the stage. Just a few days ago, on April 26, Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, joining the "club" of Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Tony Blair and other heads of state who have recently paid a visit to Pope Benedict XVI, came to the Vatican.

Before the meeting, the Belarusian president said he was going to present the Pope with a number of questions from the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill.

Talking to the Pope, he also expressed hope that Benedict XVI would come to Belarus. The Belarusian leader seems to want to play a role in organizing the meeting of the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow (the "third Rome").

If Lukashenko’s proposal is accepted, Belarus will play an important role as a conciliator and a peacemaker. In this sense, Lukashenko is improving Belarus’ image on an international level and doing a favor for Kirill who seems interested in meeting the Pope yet a fourth time — this time, as Patriarch.

Kirill's vision seems to have "Europe-wide" scope. Just yesterday, on April 29, an Interfax report cited the acting representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the European International Organizations Archpriest Antony Ilyin, as saying that the Russian Orthodox Church believes it is "crucial" for the Russian Church “to introduce problems of Christian values on the agenda of the next European Parliament.”

And today comes the news from Moscow that the consecration of a Russian Orthodox church of Great Martyr Saint Catherine being built in Rome on the hillside above St. Peter's Basilica, under the direction of a committee headed by Kirill, has been set for three weeks from now: May 24.

It is not clear whether Kirill himself will come to Rome for the consecration.


A medieval Catholic prophecy states that the Eastern and Western Churches will indeed one day unite again.

And, in this prophecy — which admittedly has no authority from any religious or scientific perspective — the Cistercian Abbot Joachim* of Fiore, writing sometime before his death in 1202, "foresaw" that the reunion would come about through the efforts of an extraordinary Pope. (The prophecy is cited in Edward Connor, Prophecy for Today, Tan Books, Rockford, Illinois, 1984, pp. 31-32).

Here is the text from more than 800 years ago (about 150 years after the East-West schism began).

A remarkable Pope will be seated on the pontifical throne, under special protection of the angels. Holy and full of gentleness, he shall undo all wrong, he shall recover the states of the Church, and reunite the exiled temporal powers. As the sole Pastor, he shall reunite the Eastern to the Western Church… This holy Pope shall be both pastor and reformer. Through him the East and West shall be in everlasting concord. The city of Babylon shall then be the head and guide of the world. Rome, weakened in temporal power, shall forever preserve her spiritual dominion, and shall enjoy great peace…

The writings of Joachim of Fiore happen to have been be the starting point for Prof. Joseph Ratzinger's study of St. Bonaventure, past of which became his dissertation for his Habilitation process to receive official authority to serve as a professor in German universities. Surely, when he was elected Pope, he would have recalled Joachim's prophecy!

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