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Benedetto XVI Forum Luogo d'incontro di tutti quelli che amano il Santo Padre.


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    00 5/19/2009 6:15 PM

    We thank God for the beautifully memorable pilgrimage that the Holy Father made to the Holy Land..

    See preceding page for stories posted earlier today.

    Here's one of those trash stories that one needs to acknowledge just because MSM is making much of it.

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    Carla Bruni criticises
    Pope Benedict XVI on condoms

    By Henry Samuel in Paris

    Carla Bruni has issued a scathing attack on Pope Benedict XVI saying that she has allowed her Catholic faith to lapse because of his approach to contraception in Africa.

    [MADAME, first of all, your faith lapsed long before the Pope made that statement in Africa. And 'the Pope's approach to contraception in Africa' is the same as his approach to artifical contraception anywhere. Your ill-advised presumptuous comments only show you are not even aware the Church disapproves of any and all artificial means of birth control.

    And no one, least of all you, Ms. Bruni, with your apparently limited world view, can seriously dispute the Pope's stand that condoms do not solve the AIDS crisis at all and may even worsen it by fostering a false sense of security and therefore, does nothing to minimize or prevent acts of random careless sex.]

    France's First Lady said that the Church's teachings had left her feeling "profoundly secular".

    She departed from her post's traditional religious neutrality to accuse the Pope of "damaging" countries like Africa with his stance on birth control.

    The Italian-born former supermodel risked angering believers in France and beyond by declaring that the Pontiff's proclamations showed that the Church needed to "evolve".

    In March, the Pope sparked controversy while on an Africa tour by saying that the AIDs pandemic which has crippled the continent "can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, there is the risk of increasing the problem".

    Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy said: "I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life I feel profoundly secular.

    "I find that the controversy coming from the Pope's message – albeit distorted by the media – is very damaging. [Who has it damaged, exactly? The condom manufacturers and distributors? The believability of those ideologues posing as scientific experts who ignore actual epidemiologic evidence that contradicts their unshakeable faith in the god 'Condom'?]

    "In Africa it's often Church people who look after sick people .[Precisely, and one would trust their witness more than a celebrity who flies in fleetingly now and then.] It's astonishing to see the difference between the theory and the reality. [What theory? What reality? That AIDS continues to rise most precisely in the countries where the main thrust has been to distribute more condoms?]

    "I think the Church should evolve on this issue. It presents the condom as a contraceptive which, incidentally, it forbids, although it is the only existing protection," she told Femme Actuelle, the women's magazine. [Try abstinence, Ms. Bruni!]

    The comments will cause Mr Sarkozy embarrassment in a country where, despite the separation of Church and State, a majority of the population was born Catholic.

    André Roux, a constitutional historian said: "It's unprecedented for a first lady to criticise the Pope. Charles de Gaulle's wife was very Catholic and would never had taken up position, remaining very discreet. The same was true of Bernadette Chirac, who never gave her opinion on religion or international affairs.

    "Even Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of François Mitterrand who was not a believer and aired her political views, never attacked the Pope.

    "In my view, there is a certain obligation to keep counsel when one is the wife of a head of state, such comments are not opportune. Given her public position the effects of her comments risk carrying more weight than just the personal views of Carla Bruni."

    Mr Sarkozy wrote in a 2005 book The Republic, Religions and Hope: "I acknowledge myself as a member of the Catholic Church", even if his religious practice was "periodic".

    When he visited the Pope in Rome shortly after his election in 2007, he left his then girlfriend Miss Bruni – a single, unmarried mother – in Paris to avoid embarrassment.

    After becoming Mr Sarkozy's third wife last year Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has campaigned against the spread of AIDS in Africa. The Pope's stance against the use of contraceptives in Africa was roundly criticised in France – including by many Catholics. Some 43 per cent of them wanted the Pontiff to step down, according to one poll.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/19/2009 6:22 PM]
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    00 5/20/2009 10:56 AM

    The special bond between
    Benedict XVI and St. Benedict

    Translated from
    the Italian service of

    The Church of Montecassino awaits the pastoral visit of Benedict XVI on Sunday, May 24. One of the high points of the visit will be the celebration of Vespers in the Benedictine Abbey with all the Benedictine abbots and abbesses from around the world.

    It is a time to underscore how much Benedict XVI is linked to the figure of St. Benedict of Norcia.

    Alessandro Gisotti reviews some of the reflections Benedict XVI has made on the saint who is the Patron of Europe and the father of Western monasticism:

    St. Benedict is not only in the Pope's chosen name. Above all, he is in his heart.

    On April, 1, 2005, a few weeks before being elected to the Chair of Peter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was at the Convent of St. Scholastica in Subiaco near Rome, where he delivered a memorable discourse on the permanent value of the Christian faith in comparison to the limits to the present rationalistic culture.

    "We need men like Benedict of Norcia," he said then, "who, at a time of dissipation and decadence" succeeded "to found Montecassino, the city on the hill.. that gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed."

    "We need men like St. Benedict," he said, "who have their gaze directed to God, in order to understand true humanity."

    Three weeks later, on April 27, at St. Peter's Square, the new Pontiff held his first General Audience and explained his choice of the name Benedict, underscoring how much the Patriarch of Western monasticism is venerated in his homeland, Bavaria:

    "St. Benedict constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the irrenunciable Christian roots of her culture and her civilization."

    The Pope recalled the recommendation left by Benedict to the monks of his Rule: "Place nothing ahead of Christ" - an exhortation which he made his own at the start of his Petrine ministry:

    "At the start of my service as the Successor of Peter, I ask St. Benedict to help us keep firm the centrality of Christ in our existence. May he always have first place in our thoughts and in our every activity."

    The Pope spoke about the Benedictine model and its actuality when he addressed the French world of culture at the College des Bernardins in Paris in September 2008. The roots of European culture, he reiterated, took hold in the fertile terrain of Western monasticism. The monks, in their search for God, founded a new civilization. An experience that should be rediscovered:

    “Quaerere Deum, chercher Dieu et se laisser trouver par Lui - to search for God and allow oneself to be found by him", the Pope said, "is no less necessary today than it was in the past,"

    And he warns against a culture that is 'merely positivistic' which has dismissed the question of God. This represents, he said, 'a setback for humanism'.

    "That which founded the culture of Europe - the search for God and the readiness to listen to him - " he reiterated, "remains even today the foundation of every true culture."

    And on September 20, 2008, receiving Benedictine abbots from around the world, he exhorted them to announce without compromise the primacy of God, especially in a world that is ever more desacralized:

    "In your monasteries, it is you above all who renew and deepen daily your encounter with the person of Christ, whom you always have with you as guest, friend and companion. That is why your convents are places where men and women even in our day seek out in order to find God and to learn to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ, his charity and his mercy."

    The Pope dedicated his catechesis of April 9, 2008, to the saint whom St. Gregory the Great called a 'luminous star'. The Pope emphasized the significance of the construction of the abbey at Montecassino:

    "In the year 529, Benedict left Subiaco to settle in Montecassino... He came to this decision because he had entered a new phase of his interior maturation and his monastic experience... Monastic life in its hiddenness has a reason for being, but a monastery also has a public end in the life of the Church and of society - it should give visibility to the faith as a force of life".

    Thus the Pope calls on a Europe that has lost its way, that in trying to rediscover its own identity, it should look to St. Benedict and his teachings:

    "In order to create a new and lasting unity, political, juridical and economic instruments are certainly necessary, but one must also awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws from the Christian roots of the Continent. Otherwise, one cannot rebuild Europe... In seeking true progress, let us listen even today to the Rule of St. Benedict as a light for our path. The great monk remains a true teacher in whose school we can learn the art of living true humanism."

    As first reported last December, here are the pastoral visits that the Pope will be making outside Rome this year:


    The three pastoral visits outside Rome announced for the Holy Father in 2009 are all in
    central Italy, fairly near to Rome. Monte Cassino is 80 miles south; San Giovanni Rotondo
    is 180 miles east; Viterbo is 40 miles north, with Bagnoregio 10 miles away.
    Both Monte Cassino and Viterbo-Bagnoregio are in the Lazio region, where Rome is. And
    San Giovanni Rotondo is at the northern top of Puglia, which the Pope has visited twice
    before (Bari in 2005, Brindisi earlier this year).

    San Giovanni Rotondo does not appear on the large map but it is just a few miles directly to the east of San Severo, as the satellite photo shows.

    The Italian service of

    has this interesting take on the places chosen.

    St. Benedict, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, and St. Bonaventure: Benedict XVI's announced pastoral visits in Italy next year will be under the aegis of the three saints associated with Montecassino, San Giovanni Rotondo and Viterbo-Bagnoregio, respectively.

    The first visit will be to Montecassino and its famous abbey on May 24.

    The abbot of Monte Cassino, dom Pietro Vittorelli (left photo, above), spoke to Alessandro Gisotti of the joy in the Benedictine community at the confirmation of the visit.

    DOM VITTORELLI: The enthusiasm was uncontainable. I must say that I received so many manifestations of joy from the diocese, especially since this would come 29 years since a papal visit to Monte Cassino, and 5 years since the last visit of Cardinal Ratzinger who came here in November 2004. At that time, he celebrated a Mass for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a few months later, he was elected Pope.

    We know how Cardinal Ratzinger and now as Benedict XVI has always indicated St. Benedict as a model, especially for Europe today...
    I met the Holy Father last on Sept. 20 in Castel Gandolfo. I had the chance to thank him personally for the beauty of the address he gave at the College des Bernardins in Paris, an address which was all woven through with the Benedictine monastic spirit.

    He was speaking to the men of culture in France, but he was also addressing European culture in general in recalling the symbolic, historical and powerful significance that the Benedictine monks had in the construction of a post-barbarian Europe.

    I believe that with this coming visit, the Pope will address the Benedictine world itself precisely to make us more conscious and responsible for this mission that we Benedictines have not only in Europe but in the world.

    On June 21, the Pope will be in San Giovanni Rotondo, to pray before the remains of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, which has been exposed since last April for public veneration.

    Gratitude to the Pope was expressed by Mons. Domenico D'Ambrosio, Bishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo (left photo, above).

    MONS. D'AMBROSIO: It was, of course, the desire of the entire community, but above all, of the great family of devotees of every kind to Padre Pio. When I made the announcement last night at Church, the joy of everyone was visible, particularly Padre Pio's own brothers, the Capuchin monks.

    And it is beautiful to have the Pope with us. His ministry is to confirm us in our faith. We need to feel validated in our commitment to the faith which here assumes a special character because of the spirituality and sanctity of padre Pio.

    The Pope will also visit the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo...
    Of course. The hospital is the great materialization of Padre Pio's charity, and the Pope will give hope and encouragement to all those who are working in the example of St. Pio who made the hospital 'a temple of prayer and science'. [The saint's Casa di Sofferenze in San Giovanni Rotondo is recognized as one of Italy's finest hospitals offering tertiary (specialized) care.]

    The third visit on September 6 will be to two small cities of Lazio - Viterbo and Bagnoregio. This is what Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli said:

    MONS. CHIARINELLI: There was a great explosion of joy. The community feels the need to be confirmed in their faith. This encounter with the Supreme Pastor is a necessary experience of the Church which will be very beautiful.

    We will be preparing the faithful along this line, not only within the Church, but also in the context of the diocesan territory. The civilian institutions are giving great resonance to the event.

    Then there are our local cultural realities like the University, the theological institute we have expanded at Sant'Anselmo, the fact that people in the area strongly feel a link with the Successor of Peter. [Viterbo, one of the beautiful little walled cities of Italy, has a Palace of the Popes, since it was the seat of the Popes from 1257 to 1281, during which time five conclaves were held in Viterbo.]

    The Pope will also be going to Bagnoregio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure...
    The figure and the work of St. Bonaventure are dear to this Pope, who is a scholar and theologian like the saint. His professorial qualification thesis in Germany was on his work. And just as he visited Pavia for St. Augustine, he said to me one day, "Bagnoregio, too, will be a reference point."

    Additional info from Monte Cassino:

    Pope asks all Benedictine abbots
    and abbesses worldwide to join him
    at Monte Cassino on May 24

    Translated from

    Dec. 9, 2008

    Pope Benedict's visit to Monte Cassino will be historic for two reasons.

    Announcing the visit of the Holy Father on May 24, Ascension Sunday, dom Pietro Vittorelli, the abbot, said the Pope had also asked him to convene all the abbots and abbesses of Benedictine monasteries around the world on that day so they could all pray together at the tomb of St. Benedict, one of Europe's patron saints.

    "We will will celebrate Vespers together, and pray for the whole world," the abbot said, "It will truly be a uniquely special moment for the entire Benedictine order."

    St. Benedict wrote the famous Rule of the order at Monte Cassino around 540. He died in the abbey in 547.

    Dom Vittorelli also said that for the first time, a papal Mass at Monte Cassino will be celebrated in the open on the plain of Campo Miranda at the foot of the mountain.

    He will proceed to tbe mountaintop abbey after the Mass.

    "Benedict XVI comes to our Abbey 29 years after John Paul II made a visit," dom Pietro said, "and five years since his own visit here as a cardinal in November 2004, five months before he became Pope."

    The Pope will also visit the Polish cemetery at the foot of the mountain to mark the 65th anniversary of the Allied bombings in World War II which resulted in the destruction of the abbey (fully reconstructed after the war and now a UNESCO World Heritage site).

    During the visit, Benedict will also inuagurate the Casa della Carita, a center to help the most disadvantaged, established by the Roman Curia in what was a hospital in Cassino town. It will provide temporary shelter for homeless persons and other families in difficulty.

    After the abbot's announcement of the Pope's visit, all the bells in all the parishes of the diocese pealed out for 15 minutes in celebration.

    Last April, another city was added to the Pope's Italian itinerary in 2008:


    At the end of his Chrismal Mass homily today, the Bishop of Brescia (in northern Italy), Mons. Luciano Monaro, made this announcement (translated here) which also appears on the site of the Diocese of Brescia:

    I am happy to be able to officially make an announcement that is cause for joy among our priests and for the entire church of Brescia.

    The Pope will come to visit us on November 8. Of course, the immediate reason is the 30th anniversary of the death of Paul VI. [A belated one, since the 30th anniversary was last year. on August 6.]

    Papa Ratzinger, as you know, was crated a cardinal y Paul VI, and has always had great esteem and affection for our Brescian Pope.

    The program will be defined by the Prefecture of the Papal Household and will be published in the next few weeks, but the significance of this visit is very clear. It will be a day of intense prayer and communion....

    Earlier announced pastoral visits in Italy this year were to Cassino, San Giovanni Rotondo (Padre Pio shrine), and Viterbo-Bagnoregio - all of them fairly close to Rome. Brescia, on the other hand, is 60 miles east of Milan.

    NB: The Pope also made an unforeseen pastoral visit to L'Aquila on April 28 following the earthquake of April 6.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/20/2009 11:11 AM]
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    00 5/20/2009 3:51 PM

    Here is another assessment of the Pope's Holy Land pilgrimage - from a most unusual perspective - and cited by Sandro Magister on his blog

    R.A. Segre is the journalistic name of Dan Vittorio Segre, born in 1922, whom Sandro Magister describes as "one of the legendary figures of 20th century Judaism - Zionist, combatant and diplomat (for Israel), and founder of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies at the University of Italian Switzerland where the teaches international relations".

    I, a Jew, tell you:
    'This is a great Pope'

    by R. A. Segre
    Translated from

    May 15, 2009

    If, as everyone hopes, the Pope's pilgrimage ends without incident, the Israelis will heave a huge sigh of relief at all levels: political, military, theological and protocolar.

    By the very fact that it was made at all, the pilgrimage was already a great success for the Israeli government, but only time will let us measure its real impact.

    Three elements already emerge clearly.

    First, the personality of Benedict XVI.

    At the start, he may have seemed awkward as Pope, a bit uncertain, obfuscated in the media by the explosive extroversion of his predecessor, burdened by his German origin in a land which has had a tragic history with Germany that remains raw

    [I do not think that his German origin has affected how Italians view him at all - he was already quite known to them after more than 20 years of residing in Rome in a high-profile position.

    But some circles like the British media, and those Jews who dislike him, would like to make the world believe that being German and having grown up in Nazi Germany, he is tainted, and they continue to refer to 'questions about his past in the Hitler Youth and the German military' - especially in all of their stories during his recent trip to Israel]

    But he has been able to present himself - and thus create another local and international image - in a way he could not have done so without being Pope.

    It is the image of a servant of the divine, of an anti-star, who asks, in the words of a daily Jewish prayer, to be 'dust to all'. About which Jewish commentators hasten to add: " It is not written anywhere that this dust may be stamped down on."

    And the Pope has not allowed himself to be 'downtrodden' and exploited by those Jews who demanded that he should make an apology for the German uniform he wore as a youth nor by the petulant Palestinians who demanded that he should denounce Israel.

    The image that the Pope leaves behind in Israel is that of a man of faith who was awaited with some suspicion but greeted with respect and understanding.

    What he said in favor of Palestinian sovereignty and about the walls that divide (around hearts more than between territories) is shared by many.

    His condemnation of anti-Semitism, his clear lack of intention to proselytize either Jew or Muslim to Christianity, his denunciation of every manipulation of religion to justify violence and divisions, were much appreciated, along with his concern for the future of Christians not only in Israel where their numbers are coming down, but in the rest of the world, including the Islamic world where persecution of Christians is the order of the day.

    In comparison with the pilgrimage made by John Paul II, the figure of Benedict XVI was at the center of the political and media scene without dominating it.

    But he had an educative effect on a nation - and beyond its frontiers - where ignorance of Christianity and prejudices against it have ancient roots.

    The Church of Rome appeared in all its ritual and spiritual grandeur in comparison to other churches. Benedict XVI placed into evidence the linguistic, historical adn liturgical interweaving between Judaism and Christianity, while making it clear that in Christianity as well as in Judaism, the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, was apolitical.

    He wished for the Christians of the Middle East a point role as vehicles for peace not hostility.

    Finally, this papal visit gave Israelis - who are took caught up in their daily problems of security - a pause to appreciate the immense human, cultural and religious patrimony of their land, and the responsibility to share and defend it with others.

    It is, after all, a nation which, with all its problems and faults, has transformed itself into one of the few laboratories researching a solution to two world problems - the return of religion to public life and politics, and the collaboration between tradition and modernity - in the democratic context of freedom.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:35 AM]
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    00 5/20/2009 4:32 PM

    May 20

    St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)
    Franciscan reformer and preacher
    'Apostle of Italy'

    OR today:

    Page 1 has the belated report on the Holy Father's meeting with the President of Poland (below, right)on Monday afternoon (too late for the OR's Tuesday deadline), and some international news: the resumption of US-Russia nuclear disarmament talks; Pakistan reinforces its nuclear arsenal; the UN says there are now 11 million refugees from wars and natural disasters in east Africa and central Africa; and an editorial commentary on the talks Monday between President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu. The picture below left is sued to illustrate an inside-page story on the Nostra Aetate Foundation under the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog which has been promoting interfaith relations for 25 years.


    At the General Audience, the Holy Father reports on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

    The Vatican released a statement from the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog on the conclusion today in Amman, Jordan, of the first colloquium between the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (R.I.I.F.S.) and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. The meeting was held May 18-20 on the theme "Religion and Civil Society".

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:37 AM]
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    00 5/20/2009 5:44 PM


    At the General Audience held in St. Peter's Square today, the Holy Father Benedict XVI reported on his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Here is how he synthesized it in English:

    My recent Apostolic Journey to the Holy Land was a pilgrimage to the sources of our faith and a pastoral visit to the Christian communities in the lands of our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection.

    I am grateful to the civil authorities, the Latin Patriarch and the Bishops of the local Churches, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land and all those who contributed to the Journey.

    Throughout my visit I wished to be a pilgrim of peace, reminding Jews, Christians and Muslims alike of our commitment, as believers in the one God, to promote respect, reconciliation and cooperation in the service of peace.

    In Jerusalem, "the city of peace" sacred to the followers of the three great monotheistic traditions, this was the message I brought to the holy places, and particularly to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock.

    One of the most solemn moments was the commemoration of the victims of the Shoah at Yad Vashem.

    My visit to the local Churches culminated in the Masses celebrated in Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

    My pilgrimage ended in prayer on Calvary and before the Holy Sepulchre, the empty tomb, which continues to radiate a message of hope for individuals and for the whole human family.

    With gratitude for the many blessings of this pilgrimage, I ask you to join me in praying for the needs of the Church in the Near East and the gift of peace for the entire region

    Today's audience was marked a display of flag twirling and acrobatics by a group recreating a medieval religious procession and the fact that the Holy Father donned the 'saturno' for the first time this year on a summer-warm spring day.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:38 AM]
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    After delivering his plurilingual greetings to the faithful at the General Audience today, Pope Benedict XVI made this special appeal in English:

    This coming Sunday, the Church celebrates World Communications Day. In my message this year, I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

    The new technologies have brought about fundamental shifts in the ways in which news and information are disseminated and in how people communicate and relate to each other.

    I wish to encourage all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.

    Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!

    In this connection, SIR has this report:

    A new papal site on the Web
    will be online on May 21

    Translated from

    A new micro-portal that will allow the 'digital generation' to come in direct contact with the thought and teachings of Benedict XVI will come online on May 21, in anticipation of the World Day for Social Communications on May 24,

    The portal, called POPE TO YOU' (, will allow the user to explore after one click the worlds of Facebook, iPhone, YouTube and Wikipedia, among others, to learn more about the Pope and the Church.

    This is another project in social networking by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications which earlier this year launched a Vatican channel on YouTube (

    The theme of this year's World Communications Day is "New technologies, new relations: To promote a culture of respect, dialog and friendship".

    The portal will be available in five languages initially (English, Italian, Spanish, French and German).

    AP report4d the Pope's message on cmmunications but not the news about the new Vatican portal.

    Pope encourages young people
    to use the Web productively

    VATICAN CITY, May 20 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged young Catholics to use the Internet to spread the church's message.

    The pope promoted the use of the digital world as a means of making the Gospel known in remarks to 20,000 pilgrims at his weekly audience Wednesday.

    He says that the Internet has brought about change in the way news is distributed and how people relate to each other. Benedict urges young people to use the potential of the Internet to build a better world through bonds of friendship and solidarity.

    He also underlines the need for a what he calls a culture of respect when navigating.

    The Vatican is constantly updating its own presence on the Internet. Earlier this year, the Pope got his own YouTube channel.

    DPA, on the other hand, has more details on the Facebook aspect of the Vatican's new Web initiative.

    Vatican to unveil
    Pope's profile on Facebook

    Vatican City, May 20 (dpa) - In the latest bid to broaden Pope Benedict XVI's appeal among computer savvy, younger generations, the Vatican is to post the Pontiff's profile on popular online social networking site, Facebook, officials said Monday.

    "The Pope has a great interest in these things," Archbishop Claudio Celli said in an interview with television news channel Sky TG24.

    Celli pointed to how the 82-year-old Pontiff similarly backed the creation earlier this year of a Vatican site on Youtube, the video sharing internet channel, where clips featuring Benedict's activities regularly appear.

    "The Pope is inviting us to promote a culture of dialogue, of respect and friendship," especially among young people," said Celli, who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

    "We think this pontifical council itself has to use new technologies to promote new relationships around the world," he said, adding that "we must take advantage of what the new technologies are offering us at this very moment."

    The Facebook initiative is sponsored by the Council headed by Celli, and is being developed as part of a new Vatican website, scheduled to go live on the Catholic Church's World Communications day on May 24.

    Titled "The Pope Meets You on Facebook," the new application allows people to send and receive "virtual postcards" of Pope Benedict along with inspiring text culled from the Pope's various speeches and messages.

    Celli said some 20 different postcards would be initially available, but that the choice may be expanded later so that people can "spread around the messages and insights from the Gospel."

    The new site was designed by Italian priest, Paolo Padrini, who has spearheaded recent Vatican forays into cyberspace, including development of the iBreviary, an application that allows Catholics to access Church liturgy on iPhone mobile phones.

    The site also allows viewers to receive news about the Vatican and the Pope through their iPhones or iPod touch portable music players, with video and audio reports in eight eight different languages, including Chinese.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:50 AM]
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    00 5/20/2009 6:28 PM

    Yet another alert on Encyclical #3.... It will come when it will come!

    Pope's social encyclical
    may finally come out on June 29

    Vatican City, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The first social encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, which will probably be called Veritas in caritate (Truth in Charity), appears as if it will see the light of day on June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, a source from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace informed CNA.

    The encyclical "has finally been completed by the Holy Father and should be published by the end of June," the source told CNA.

    The same source also said that originally, Pope Benedict planned to publish his first social encyclical in 2007 to mark the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's memorable social encyclical Populorum Progressio, but the document "got delayed for several reasons."

    According to the Justice and Peace source, the Pope wanted to publish his second encyclical Spe Salvi because he thought it was more important to release it first.

    "But then the current global financial crisis required, last year, a thorough revision of many of the Pope's proposals for global justice," the source said.

    The last social encyclical, Centesimus annus, was published by Pope John Paul II in May 1991.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:39 AM]
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    00 5/21/2009 12:30 AM

    World Jewish Congress praises
    Pope Benedict's trip to Israel

    ROME, May 20 (dpa) - The World Jewish Congress on Wednesday praised last week trip by Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, calling the visit a "milestone" for understanding between Christians and Jews.

    The umbrella organization for Jewish communities around the world made the statement after talks in Rome with the Vatican's Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone on the state of Catholic-Jewish relations.

    In January of this year, Benedict came in for fierce criticism for his decision to rescind the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

    The Vatican later said Williamson, who was not excommunicated for Holocaust denial, could not be accepted back [as a bishop] into the mainstream Catholic Church unless he renounced his views on the subject.

    Cardinal Bertone confirmed this stance Wednesday, saying that there was no place in the Church for Holocaust deniers. [Not in the Church hierarchy, at any rate, because how can it keep out Catholics who take fringe positions on anything, any more than it can keep out dissenters and non-observant Catholics for their liberal views ?]

    The Pope in a visit to the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem, issued a clear denunciation of Holocaust denial.

    Headquartered in New York City, the WJC represents Jewish communities and organizations in 92 countries.

    Bravo for the WJC, and three cheers and more for the Holy Father!

    Most of the MSM were skeptical before the trip not only whether it would be a 'success' but whether the Pope would be able to avoid exacerbating tensions with Muslims and Arabs over well-publicized 'controversies' in the past, in fact, if he could 'avoid setting off a war', in John Allen's unkind and uncalled-for hyperbole.

    This skepticism colored their reporting while the Pope was in the Holy Land and the initial instant analyses of the visit. The verdict of the World Jewish Congress insofar as mainstream Jewry is concerned is a most welcome validation of how Benedict XVI, against all odds and bets stacked against him, actually scored an unusual diplomatic triple play.

    An anslysis in Le Monde on May 16 and quite a few that have since come out in the Italian media are in the same more than positive vein. Will translate as soon as I can.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:40 AM]
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    Catholics and other Americans
    ‘overwhelmingly’ favorable
    towards Pope Benedict XVI

    NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - Both American Catholics and their non-Catholic countrymen have an “overwhelmingly” favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI, a new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus says.

    About 78 percent of practicing Catholics had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Benedict. Non-practicing Catholics were only slightly less likely to profess a favorable view.

    Among all Americans, about 59 percent had a favorable or very favorable view of the pontiff.

    The poll was conducted in late March by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and the Knights of Columbus. It surveyed 2,078 Americans including 521 American Catholics.

    It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent concerning responses from all Americans and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent for Catholic respondents.

    According to the survey results, about 65 percent of Americans in general and 85 percent of Catholic Americans said they had a favorable view of the Catholic Church.

    Of practicing Catholics, 92 percent had a favorable view of the Church while only 73 percent of non-practicing Catholics did.

    The poll reported that about half of Americans said they would like to hear Pope Benedict XVI on issues like abortion and stem cell research, while 57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family.

    Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson, commenting in an column for Zenit news agency, said the positive responses were “a great testament to the Pope’s ability to communicate the Gospel directly to people.”

    “It is an unswerving commitment to the truth -- and the ability through his own prayerfulness to introduce people to Jesus Christ -- that has made Benedict XVI a beacon of moral courage whose message the American people and people worldwide respect and wish to hear. We might call it a triumph of truth over television,” he wrote.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 12:59 AM]
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    00 5/21/2009 1:57 AM
    [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470][SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470] [SM=g1782470]

    About time....

    At last, someone with creds has come forward and brought the OR problem out in the open - far more than George Neuumayr did in Catholc World Report two weeks ago.

    Deal Hudson (born 1949) is an American conservative political activist - a former Baptist who converted to Catholicism in 1984. He is currently the Director of Operations at and is the author of several books on religion, oncluding some on the philosophy of Jacques Maritain and Thomism.

    He taught philosophy at Fordham from 1989-1995, and was director for Catholic outreach in George W. Bush's presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004. He edited the Catholic journal Crisis. His most recent book is Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon & Schuster/Threshold, 2008).

    L'Osservatore Romano
    needs a new editor

    by Deal W. Hudson

    May 20, 2009

    Something is seriously wrong at L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. When it wrote glowingly of President Obama's first 100 days in office, everyone scatched their heads and wondered "What's going on?"

    The article stated there had been no radical changes in Obama's first 100 days -- "Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed."

    There was no mention of the rescinding of the Mexico City Policy, the ending of the conscience protection for medical care workers, increased funding for abortion providers, pro-abortion appointments to key administration positions like the head of Health and Human Services.

    Most importantly, there was no mention of the widely-recognized White House strategy of approximating the effect of FOCA in a piecemeal fashion.

    Yesterday OR published an article praising Obama at Notre Dame for seeking "common ground" on abortion. It's now clear that the paper needs a new editor.

    The article did not even mention the 79 U.S. bishops who openly criticized Notre Dame for giving Obama an honor at its recent commencement. One of those bishops was the president of the USCCB, Cardinal George of Chicago.

    "The search for common ground seems to be the road chosen by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to confront the sensitive abortion issue," L’Osservatore Romano says.

    And then this:

    Strong polemics have marked the weeks following the invitation to President Obama made by (ND) President, Fr. John Jenkins. And also yesterday, as was completely predictable, demonstrations were not missing.

    Completely predictable? Why? Perhaps, because President Obama is the most pro-abortion president in the history of the United States and some Catholics found it offensive he was being honored by the best-known, best-loved Catholic Univeristy in the nation?

    OR does not delve into this point of view or quote from any of the bishops who expressed it.

    The damage will be done by the Associated Press story being published around the country, giving the impression that the Vatican officially approves of both Notre Dame's decision and -- most tragically -- Obama's position on abortion.

    OR has had a new editor since September 2007: Giovanni Maria Vian. Prior to his appointment at OR, Vian had been a professor of the philology of ancient Christian literature at Rome's La Sapienza University and a regular writer for the newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference.

    What OR publishes should not be considered the official position of the Vatican unless it is published under the name of the appropriate Vatican archbishop or cardinal.

    However, it is certainly natural for the public to view anything published in the "Vatican" newspaper as having the blessing of the Curia and the Holy Father himself.

    It should be mentioned, as the Catholic News Agency notes, that the same edition of OR contained an article criticizing Obama with quotes from Archbishop Chaput, which both the Associated Press and the USCCB"s news service did not mention.

    Vian has already caused the Vatican to officially deny an article he published in OR about the need to reopen the Catholic position on brain death. In September 2008, the Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, S.J., stated the article in OR "cannot be considered a position of the magisterium of the Church."

    We need Rev. Lombardi to make a similar statement regarding Vian's positioning of Obama as a president seeking "common ground" on abortion.

    Vian evidently does not realize that Obama's idea of seeking "common ground" is to hold a conference call with his 28-year old head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois, and a handful of pro-life leaders to discuss the bogus promise of "abortion reduction."

    If L'Osservatore Romano continues to treat Obama and his administration this way, the Catholic supporters of Obama will believe themselves completely vindicated, and understandably so.

    I can only imagine how a good number of our bishops are feeling about OR and Giovanni Maria Vian this morning.

    It is possible, of course, that Vian is simply misinformed. If so, that can be corrected, and Vian can begin publishing accurate information and commentary on the new administration. If not, the Vatican newspaper definitely needs new leadership.

    [I believe it is a deliberate editorial choice, as I have noted since the kowtowing trend became apparent after Obama's inauguration. No editor can be so misinformed as to allow his reporters to write only about one side - the positive side - of Obama, patently ignoring all his statements and actions that directly do violence to core Catholic values.]

    I urge our readers to write to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and to indicate to him the great harm that is being done by these articles. His address is simply:

    Secretariate of State
    00120 Vatican City State

    I am so relieved someone with the public creds I don't have has now come out and openly challenged the obvious and blatantly uncritical pro-Obama slant of the Vatican newspaper, best exemplified by how it finally reported - for the first time - on the Notre Dame crisis, reporting Obama's address, unbelievably omitting any mention at all of the opposition of the USCCB and at least 80 Catholic bishops, not to mention the sign-in petition from some 400,000 concerned Catholics - and the grounds for their opposition.

    Thus ignoring both John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesiae defining the responsibility of Catholic educational institutions in upholding Catholic doctrine, and the USCCB statement prohibiting Catholic institutions from honoring or awarding persons who are publicly in violation of Catholic dostrine.

    Even more unbelievably, accepting and reporting prima facie Obama's glib assertion that 'we can find common ground' on the abortion issue.

    What common ground, in God's name, is possible between a President who amorally thinks nothing at all of killing babies in the womb even in the last stages of ptegnancy if the mother so demands, and the doctrine of the Church based on the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill"?

    And yet, the OR sees that 'common ground' statement as a positive for Obama, without any attempt to analyze it at all, and even worse, without any mention of Obama's factual record in words and deeds on the matter of abortion on demand.

    Indeed, what has most appalled me about the OR reporting on Obama - and as I mentioned a few times in the past, its zeal in drawing the most optimistic conclusions (and headlines) from the slightest straw in the wind let loose by Obama or one of his collaborators - is the shameless onesidedness of the reporting in defiance of all journalistic standards. To a degree almost worse than what we have become used to in the secular MSM.

    No attempt at balance. A deliberate effort to report only the positive and avoiding any negatives at all. In fact, a bending over backward to find something positive even in something obviously negative [as in authorizing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, the OR writer said, "but he specified such research should not be used for cloning"!]. The slant would not be so objectionable if there was any attempt at all for fairness, for presenting both sides.

    But perhaps the OR editors and writers cannot afford to present the negative side of Obama on the core issues because it would make their cheerleading for him so obviously untenable - in the 'Pope's newspaper' of all places!

    If Cardinal Bertone, who chose Vian for editor, and who nominally oversees the OR, thinks that this almost ass-licking attitude is 'necessary' in any way to build good relations with the new US administration, why do so at the expense of truth and fairness, and of standing firm for Catholic doctrine?

    It is as foolish and unrealistic to think that by seemingly 'aweet-talking' Obama, he will suddenly change his views on abortion and embryonic stem-cell research - he is about to appoint a Supreme Court justice who will most certainly do his/her best to strenghten the pro-choice legislation already in place - as it is foolish and grandstanding on the part of Obama to think that by telling Iran's Ahamadinejad, "We want to be friends, let us talk", he will stop him from going ahead with his nuclear bomb program!

    Perhaps, it is another indication of the OR's pro-Obama tendentiousness that it has not reported at all how in the past week, Obama changed his mind about releasing further classifed memos as well as alleged torture pictures that would only be used by Amereica's enemies as propaganda fodder; about the wisdom of closing Guantanamo just to keep a campaign promise, even in the absence of any plan as to what to do with its inmates; and about resuming the trials of these inmates by the military commissions as started in the Bush administration, instead of turning them over to civilian courts.

    At times like this, I heartily wish I did not understand any Italian at all.

    In the following article, both LifeSite News and the prelate interviewed are trying to treat the OR question gingerly - too gingerly, I think. And it can't be out of consideration that perhaps the Pope might be behind all this, since the article correctly identifies the OR as an organ of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Deal Hudson was right to suggest that all protests should be addressed to Cardinal Bertone, tout de suite!

    And though Mons. Barreiro does take a direct shot at the illogic of OR's glomming onto Obama's 'common ground' on abortion as the most important thing he said, I do not see the virtue in trying to rationalize why kowtowing to Obama in defiance of the Magisterium is necessary at all, in the futile hope of getting him to soften his stand on anything that seeks to muzzle the Catholic voice in the public arena.

    Vatican attempting to build
    diplomatic bridges with Obama coverage
    in L'Osservatore Romano, according to
    Rome pro-life official

    By Hilary White

    ROME, May 19 ( - With a series of articles in their daily newspaper, the Vatican is signalling that it is willing to "build bridges" with the Obama administration, a prominent pro-life advocate in Rome has said.

    In today's coverage of President Obama's speech at Notre Dame, the Italian language edition of L'Osservatore Romano called abortion a "delicate issue," and emphasized the President's assertion that he is attempting to find "common ground" with those who support the right to life.

    "The 'search for common ground' seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to address the delicate issue of abortion," the unsigned article said.

    The article repeated without comment Obama's assertion that he wishes to "reduce the number of abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, facilitating adoptions and ensuring assistance and support to those who decide to keep the baby."

    Italian press coverage noted that L'Osservatore Romano had declined to mention the more than 80 American bishops who have thus far objected in the strongest terms to the President having been invited to Notre Dame.

    Also not mentioned were the protests by hundreds of students and pro-life advocates, as well as the arrests of dozens of pro-life advocates on Sunday, including priests.

    In recent weeks L'Osservatore Romano has produced a number of articles that have either praised Obama or have placed his extreme pro-abortion position into a carefully diplomatic soft focus.

    An article published on April 30 titled, "Obama in the White House: 100 Days that Didn't Shake the World," was strongly criticised by pro-life advocates in the US for its use of the language and logic of the abortion movement.

    It raised concerns among pro-life Catholics who said it and others like it constitute a signal that the Vatican is moving away from its support for the pro-life position.

    A pro-life advocate and former diplomat based in Rome said in an interview with that these articles make it clear that the Vatican's diplomatic sections are trying to "build bridges" between the Church and the new US administration.

    Monsignore Ignacio Barreiro, the director of the Rome office of Human Life International, told LSN that though he "respects" the effort, it is essential to address issues of simple logic.

    "Someone has to ask the question," he said, "of whether we [as pro-life persons] can speak of a 'common ground' with those who believe that killing a baby in the womb is a right of women? That no authority, no human authority, can force a woman to respect the life of a child?"

    "From a logical perspective I cannot see how we can speak of a common ground."
    [Exactly my point!]

    Msgr. Barreiro noted that L'Osservatore Romano, effectively an organ of the Vatican's Secretariat of State, had included an article in the same edition on statements by the US bishops against the Obama administration's plans for expanding human embryonic stem cell research, and said, "This is to be praised." But it is clear, he said, that the Vatican is attempting to prepare for a diplomatic "dialogue"..

    The Secretariat of State, he said, is being "prudent." "It is the normal function of the diplomat to build bridges. To try to dialogue in areas of disagreement."

    The purpose of these diplomatic bridges, he said, is to attempt to slow the advance of Obama's anti-life policies, particularly the Freedom of Choice Act that threatens to erase all legal protections for the unborn in the US.

    Barreiro said that although he respects the effort, he remains sceptical about the possibility of success.

    Referring to the well-known commitment of the Obama administration to the abortion agenda, he said, "I understand the need to dialogue with political authorities, but we have to be realistic."

    But whether the efforts of the Vatican will succeed, he said, is dependent upon the strength of the support by American Catholics for their Church's stand against abortion.

    "Our ability to negotiate," he said, "depends on the commitment of Catholics. The more Catholics are ready to defend life, the stronger is going to be our negotiation position. It is not on the ability of single diplomats, that the issue will be decided, but on the strength they can show of the support of millions of Catholics, and even Evangelicals, who are ready to do the utmost to defend life."

    Any way you look at it, to try and 'build bridges' or 'create dialog; by shameless pandering - which is utterly hypocritical - at the expense of creating confusion among the faithful [Is it morally OK for the Pope's newspaper to soft-pedal its stand on core Catholic issues just to make nice with Obama? As though he would not negotiate with the Vatican at all unless it kowtowed to him first? This is all extremely distressing - and worse, unnecessary!

    Did the OR in the past, pre-Vian, pander this way at all to any other leader??????

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/22/2009 4:46 PM]
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    OMG! Guess what, Cardinal Bertone and the OR! See what you get for all your huffin' and puffin'? Perhaps No-bama's just playing coy and keeping you on tenterhooks for now, but at the very least, this looks very much like a diplomatic snub.

    Vatican off Obama’s itinerary
    by Edward Pentin

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    The White House disclosed over the weekend that President Barack Obama is to make a weeklong foreign tour in July that will include Russia, Italy and Ghana. However, noticeably missing from the list is the Vatican.

    It’s been widely thought that Obama would visit Pope Benedict XVI when the president attends the G8 summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila July 8-10.

    But there was no mention of the Holy Father or the Holy See in the statement, despite the fact that, according to sources in Rome, the president will be staying at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Italy in Rome.

    The White House says the reason is because the precise details of his tour have yet to be worked out. “We won’t go into the details of who he’s meeting and the places he’ll be visiting until nearer the time,” said a spokesman, adding that the President’s “primary purpose” for coming to Italy is the G8 summit.

    “I imagine as we get substantially closer to the date, we’ll have more details.”

    The Vatican is hopeful of a presidential visit. Father Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, told me the Holy See is “waiting” to hear from the administration but noted the U.S. embassy to the Holy See is still without an ambassador.

    Father Benedettini said it’s usual for a visiting head of state to visit the Holy Father when passing through Rome, but he added that so far “nothing concrete” had been planned.

    According to Rome sources, just over a week ago the Vatican had still not received “first contact” from the administration to start visit preparations.

    In all likelihood, Obama will have an audience with the Pope. But the fact that the Vatican was not on the itinerary released over the weekend, that steps have hardly been taken to arrange a meeting, and that a Vatican ambassador has yet to be appointed is perhaps revealing of how low down on the list of priorities the Holy See is at the White House.

    I, for one, can't wait for the Holy Father to meet Obama face to face because I somehow think he will see through the veneer quite easily.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 7:22 AM]
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    Benedict XVI:
    A political Pope
    in the Middle East

    by Stéphanie Le Bars
    Translated from

    Three sensitive destinations. Four burning issues. In one week and some 30 discourses in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Pope Benedict SVI had at least seven good reasons to trip.

    But he did not. All in all, Benedict XVI showed a mastery of the geopolitical aspects of the region, even if, in the course of the trip which ended Friday, May 15, he was unable to avoid all the predictable reefs in the context of a region where religion adn politics are often one and the same.

    Without abandoning his firmness and his temperament as a theologian, the Pope spoke of politics and acted as an advocate of dialog among religions and cultures.

    For his 12th international trip, the agenda was ambitious. And the context unfavorable.

    Benedict XVI had to promote inter-religious dialog with the Muslims first and then with the Jews; he had to favor peace between Israel and Palestine, and push for the creation of a Palestinian state; and support the presence of Christians in the region.

    The Christian-Muslim dialog, which has become an important challenge for this Pontificate after the controversy sparked by the Pope's Regensburg lecture in September 2006 - which the Muslims read as a criticism of Islam [Many of them never read it at all - all they read was his citation of a Byzantine emperor who criticized Mohammed] - was at the heart of his visit to Jordan and to Jerusalem.

    Despite the attempts at political profit by some Muslim authorities, important steps were made. Just the Pope's visit alone to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, was a significant token of the trust between the Vatican and part of the Muslim elite. [Le Bars is another MSM journalist -and Vaticanista, to boot - who completely (an unbelievably) ignores the significance of the Pope's address at the Hussein Mosque in Amman, as the philosophical follow-through of the Regensburg lecture!]

    The score is less positive for Jewish-Christian relations and for the image of the Pope in Israeli society. There was an expectation that he could put an end to a period of tension in the Jewish world, resulting from the Williamson case - and from the Israeli point of view, Benedict XVI missed the mark.

    Some Israeli rabbis considered his address at Yad Vashem too distant, and that he had not spoken at all about the role that the Church played in fostering anti-Semitism.

    These controversies will not endanger the more committed efforts for dialog among Jews and Christians, bust statements of good will will not suffice to clear away , as Benedict XVI had hoped before the visit, "the obstacles to reconciliation among Jews and Christians".

    The inter-religious dialog, whether bilateral or trilateral, has not yet matured, notwithstanding the desire, fairly well shared among the religious authorities of all three faiths, to push it.

    The picture of the Pope hand in hand with a rabbi and a Druse dignitary in Nazareth will remain one of the iconic images of his trip.

    Fundamentally, the Pope intended to stress the 'common values' of the three religions, rather than their differences. Even if he has not yet committed to theological dialog [Another one who ignores the Pope's own statement of the impossibility of theological dialog among three different faiths - and the fact that such a dialog is not only illogical and impractical, but also totally unnecessary!], this is a perceptible evolution for a Pope who, at the start of his pontificate, had thought it urgent to suppress the Vatican dicastery in charge of inter-religious dialog.

    {And now, Le Bars is just plain factually wrong. Benedict XVI decided to reassign the man who headed the CIRD under John Paul II to become the Nuncio to Egypt and permanent Vatican observer to the Arab League. Instead of naming a new head, he had the CIRD headed by the President of the Pontifical Council on Culture, although the two dicasteries remained separate and autonomous.]

    He re-established it after Regensburg. [Also factually wrong. Pope Benedict named Tauran president of the CIRD in June 2007 and the latter did not assume the position until September 2007, one year after Regensburg. There was no cause-and-effect association!]

    Nonetheless, the tensions and suspicions in the region raise doubts about the possibility of a peaceful and lasting coexistence [DIM]8pt[=DIM][among whom? Jews and Muslims, or Jews, Muslims, and Christians?]

    But the surprise from this Pope was on the Israeli-Palestinian question. His trip, undertaken barely four months after the Israeli offensive in Gaza and a few weeks after the election of a new Israeli government that is quite hawkish, was a minefield for those reasons.

    The Palestinians feared that the trip would end up in Israel's favor. {A baffling conclusion by LeBars, considering all the public statements the Pope made during the Gaza offensive condemning the Israeli military actions!]

    The Pope was 'aware' of this, according to a Vatican spokesman, and it must be said that id didn't turn out as anyone had feared.

    [How could it? The Pope has always expressed publicly that both Israel and Palestine have a right to their own state. The only news is that this time, he was saying it on the spot, rather than from his study window in the Vatican!]

    Careful to maintain a 'balanced' position, Benedict XVI evoked the 'security of Israel' and condemned 'terrorism' [But why the quotation marks - as though the Pope were simply saying those phrases for show? He, like any right-thinking person, is concerned about the security of Israeli citizens who are at the daily mercy of attacks by militant Palestinians, and about Palestinian terrorism which is very much alive and well in Hamas], even as he showed strong support and understanding of the Palestinians and repeatedly expressed his wish for a Palestinian state.

    Putting aside the thorny question of Jerusalem - which he called 'city of peace, spiritual home for Jews, Christians and Muslims' - and his reticence, which the Palestinians underscored, at speaking about Israeli occupation [Right now, Israel is not occupying any Palestinian territory militarily. But there is the presence of some Jewish settlements within Palestinian territory - the most indefensible and neither morally nor legally unjustifiable element of the Israeli border strategy], the Pope did not avoid any questions that his hosts in the West Bank asked him to raise with his Israeli hosts.

    Respectful of United Nations resolutions, he did evoke, sometimes in
    strong terms, the situation in Gaza, the difficulties caused by the security fence, the question of refugees [Ah-ah! Though he sympathized with the plight of the refugees, he steered clear of endorsing their so-called 'right to return' to places in Israel that their families left 60 years ago during the Arab war that sought to prevent the state of Israel from becoming reality], access to holy sites and political prisoners.

    "Walls can be taken down," he said in Bethlehem, saddened by the sight of the Israeli security wall which the Israelis started constructing shortly before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. [Le Bars pointedly omits that the line was followed by, "First, though, it is necessary to remove the walls that we build around our hearts, the barriers that we set up against our neighbors" - in which respect, I think that objectively, the barriers are far more on the Palestinian side than on the Israelis, who have never committed an unprovoked act of aggression against the Palestinians, but always in self-defense after acts of aggression committed against them. Practically all the reports I read on this statement by the Pope omitted the second line, which I felt, at the time I heard it, was a masterful way for the Pope to remind his hosts respectfully - it was his farewell speech to President Abbas - that they too had a responsibility in why that wall was necessary, to begin with.]

    Even if the Pope's words [on political matters] do not have the same weight as that of, say, a Barack Obama, this hope [that the wall may come down] will remain one of the key statements of his visit.

    [Of course, the other thing that the reports never mention when denouncing the Israeli fence is that, so far (knock on wood!), it has succeeded in its objective to keep away suicide bombers from entering Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. And yet the cause-and-effect has been so dramatic and obvious as to merit at least an acknowledgment.]

    Contact between the Pope and the local Christians, however, was one of the weak points of the trip. Their presence at the various masses, in Amman, Jerusalem and Nazareth, was eclipsed by the thousands of foreign pilgrims.

    [That was not the impression one got from the TV coverage. And in any case, their numbers are few, According to the news reports, many chose not to come to the Mass in Jerusalem because they did not wish to be inconvenienced by all the security checks; the only hitch in the Bethlehem Mass was that the 270 Catholics of Gaza did not get more than 100 passes to go to Bethlehem; and the Nazareth Mass appeared to have been the best chance for the Christians to take part in a papal event. Surely, foreign pilgrims could not have represented the majority in that assembly of at least 40,000.]

    The Pope's call that they be vectors of peace and 'bridge builders' may have sounded unreal real in view of the constant reduction in their numbers and tensions among the ethnic and religious communities.

    Well, the article seems unfinished, doesn't it?

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 6:52 PM]
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    May 21
    (Celebrated at the Vatican on the sixth Thursday after Easter
    but in many places now celebrated on the following Sunday)

    Saints Cristobal Magallanes
    and Companions
    (Mexico, d. 1915-1928)
    20th-Century Martyrs

    OR today.

    Illustration depicts the Ascension in a Byzantine icon.
    At the General Audience, the Pope speaks of his recent apostolic journey:
    'In the Holy Land, it is possible to escape the spiral of violence'

    Other Page 1 stories: Iran tests a long-range missile capable of reaching Israel, US bases in the Mideast and southern Europe; Israeli warplanes retaliate against new rocket attacks from southern Gaza; and an essay on the Byzantine celebration of the Ascension.

    There are no events scheduled for the Holy Father today
    (a religious holiday at the Vatican).

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    00 5/21/2009 7:31 PM
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    And now, someone with near-impeccable creds speaks out against the 'foolishness' of the OR.

    THANK YOU, George Weigel for just the kind of precise statements by someone who has more experience and knowledge than most Vaticanistas - and the editors and staff of OR, for that matter - about how the Vatican works. I only hope you could syndicate this particular item for wider readership!

    Parsing the Vatican newspaper:
    It doesn’t always speak for the Pope

    By George Weigel

    May 21, 2009

    The newspaper published by the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, has created more than a little mischief recently, featuring essays by ill-informed European journalists who imagine that they understand American history, the American political scene, and the grave moral issues being contested in these United States.

    Pro-administration American journalists and activists have leaped with barely concealed glee on several unfortunate articles in this genre, claiming that they demonstrate that “the Vatican” believes the U.S. Catholic bishops overreacted to Notre Dame’s award of an honorary doctorate of laws to President Obama, and that “the Vatican” is taking a wait-and-see, so-far-so-good attitude toward Obama after the horrors of the arch-demon Bush.

    About which, several points must be made.

    1. The first thing one learns in Vaticanology 101 is that there is no such thing as “the Vatican.”

    The Holy See is as complex and confused a bureaucracy as one finds in national governments. Many points of view coexist within the Vatican walls, and there are more than a few curialists who like to talk to reporters. Very few if any of these chatty people count, in terms of expressing the settled judgment of the senior leadership of the Catholic Church.

    That leadership, when it wishes to make a serious point, does so through its major figures, not through the bureaucratic munchkins and not via commissioned essays in a newspaper that, while published by the Holy See, is not taken all that seriously there. The last is a shame, for it suggests yet another facet of the Holy See’s communications problems; but it’s the truth, nonetheless.

    As for the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, what counts is what is said by the Bishop of Rome, who does not exercise his teaching office through some generic institution called “the Vatican” but in his own unmistakable voice. And he lets you know when he’s doing it.

    2. In the normal course of events, L’Osservatore Romano does not speak authoritatively for the Church in matters of faith, morals, or public-policy judgment.

    The exceptions are when a senior churchman offers a commentary on a recent papal document (an encyclical, for instance), or on those exceedingly rare occasions when an editorial in the paper is followed by three dots, or periods, a traditional convention signaling that the opinion being expressed is from “high authority.”

    No knowledgeable or responsible analyst of Vatican affairs would regard commissioned essays in L’Osservatore Romano, even if they appear on page one, as somehow reflecting an authoritative view from the Holy See or the Pope. The same is true for statements by the paper’s editors or editorials without the dots [????]

    In other words, without those dots, there is nothing here but opinion, to be weighed and judged as any opinion is weighed and judged — on its tether to facts and its argumentation.

    It is unfortunate that several recent pieces on the Obama administration in L’Osservatore Romano have been both factually questionable and analytically dubious. [It's the most obvious thing about these articles, other than their slant - and they are factually and analytically defective precisely because they are deliberately intended to project only the slant given by its editors and/or the writer, not any other facts which get in the way or contradict their slant!]

    That is a problem for the senior officials of the Holy See to address, and they ought to address it soon. Any American commentator trying to spin these articles as a “Vatican” attempt to tell the bishops of the U.S. to “chill out” (as Time’s Amy Sullivan put it recently, in an article whose spin was similar to that of the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne) is playing political games.

    3. It is true, however, that the offices of the Holy See are replete with middle- and lower-level officials who are enamored of Barack Obama.

    Why? In most cases, because [S}they are Europeans who share the typical European Obamaphilia and whose sources of information and analysis are manifestly skewed.

    On the other hand, no one in a serious position of authority in the Vatican can doubt that the Obama administration poses the gravest challenges to the Holy See’s positions on the life issues since the Clinton administration tried and failed to get abortion-on-demand declared a fundamental international human right.

    The Obama administration will also be at loggerheads with the Holy See when the defense of marriage rightly understood is contested in international institutions.

    Moreover, several officials at very high levels — men I can say with confidence are not in conversation with E. J. Dionne, Amy Sullivan, or Obama administration fronts like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — spoke to me last fall of their deep appreciation for the Bush administration’s positions on the life issues, AIDS prevention in Africa, AIDS and malaria relief, and religious freedom.

    Indeed, one very senior official told me that, at his level, it was understood that no American administration of the immediate future was likely to be as supportive of Holy See positions as the Bush administration had been — and this, despite the obvious and serious disagreement over the administration’s 2003 decision to enforce the resolutions of the United Nations and depose Saddam Hussein by force.

    It would, of course, be helpful if the newspaper published by the Holy See did not display a sorry ignorance of recent American history (including the history of the civil-rights movement) and a fideist credulity about the magic of Barack Obama.

    To assume that the Pope and his most senior advisers have drunk the Obama Kool-Aid and wish the American bishops would chill out is, however, another story altogether, and not a very credible one — no matter what foolishness finds its way into the pages of L’Osservatore Romano.

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    OR editor says
    'Obama is not a pro-abortion President'

    To put it all in clear perspective now, here are statements made by OR editor Giovanni Maria Vian in an interview given to Il Riformista's Paolo Rodari after the Notre Dame speech, and which clearly brand him as the principal culprit in the OR's Obama-sanctification campaign:

    Obama has not upset the world. His speech at Notre Dame has been respectful toward every position. He tried to engage the debate stepping out from every ideological position and outside every 'confrontational mentality.' To this extent his speech is to be appreciated....Let me be clear, L'Osservatore stands where the American bishops are: we consider abortion a disaster. We must promote, always and at every level a 'culture of life'.

    What I want to stress is that yesterday, on this precise and very delicate issue, the President said that the approval of the new law on abortion is not a priority of his administration. The fact that he said that is very reassuring to me.

    It also underlines my own clear belief: Obama is not a pro-abortion president.

    Is Vian out of his mind? The Obama Kool-Aid has gone to his brain! He is clearly going out of his way and bending over backwards as far as he can to put a good spin on Obama's pap-and-pablum speech at Notre Dame!

    And Obama himself would be stunned to learn that 'OBAMA IS NOT A PRO-ABORTION PRESIDENT' as Vian would make him out to be!

    Besides, he said no such thing at Notre Dame about signing an abortion law, he was referring to the Freedom of Conscience Act. And once again, this looseness with fact is unforgivable in the editor of 'the Pope's newspaper', for God's sake. What can we now trust - other than the Pope's own texts - about what Vian chooses to report in the OR and how he reports it?

    For instance, he is clearly ignoring all that Obama has said and done before he became President and since he became President about abortion on demand: defending pro-choice, defending Roe v. Wade, reversing Bush-era policies that opposed the culture of death (Obama resumed US funding for international programs that promote abortion, and approved of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research?

    And the terrible thing is that Rodari did not ask him about these obvious facts, but merely and meekly accepted Vian's bald and factually wrroneous statement!

    Vian has no buisness acting like an ideologue, promoting his own personal views, instead of being an objective journalist who has a duty to present all the facts to his readers. And this is just disastrous for the OR.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 9:41 PM]
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    00 5/21/2009 9:33 PM

    Here is an excerpt from an interview with Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and a recent convert to Catholicism - IT is interesting not just for what Gingrich says about why he converted, but his observations about Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II.

    Gingrich on seeing Benedict XVI:
    'I was just struck by how happy he was'

    Excerpted from

    May 20, 2009

    ...Part of what led to my conversion is the first time we [he and his wife Callista] went to St. Peter's together.

    It's St. Peter's. I mean, you stand there and you think, this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached. You think to yourself, two thousand years ago the apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced. And there it is.

    The last time we were there we were allowed to walk in the papal gardens and you get this sense that is almost mystical.

    The moment that finally convinced me [to convert] was when Benedict XVI came here [to the United States] and Callista in the church choir sang for him at the vespers service and all the bishops in the country were there.

    As a spouse, I got to sit in the upper church and I very briefly saw [Benedict] and I was just struck with how happy he was and how fundamentally different he was from the news media's portrait of him. This guy's not a Rottweiler. He's a very loving, engaged, happy person.

    I'd first seen Pope John Paul II when he came to the U.S. when Carter was president and I was a freshman congressman. And I [later] met him as Speaker.

    The other sense is that the Church has had two of its most powerful popes back to back, in their intellectual ability to engage the secular world on behalf of Christ.**

    And the weight of all that, and going with [Callista] to church every Sunday to the Basilica [in Washington, D.C.], a magnificent church with a wonderful mass. In that sense I felt differently a long time ago, which is why I converted.

    And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern

    **It's the first time I've ever seen anyone acknowledge outright, in public and in print, something I never hesitated to say from the very beginning, though using a different adjective ('great' instead of 'powerful') - the Church must thank the Lord for having given it two great Popes in succession.

    And I think we ought to 'catechize' Newt Gingrich that the adjective for Benedict XVI is 'joyful' and 'joyous' rather than just 'happy'!

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 9:38 PM]
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    00 5/21/2009 11:25 PM

    Here is what seems to the typical middle-of-the-road Jewish attitude towards Benedict XVI - a persistent suspicion and doubt about his attitudes towards Judaism and anti-Semitism overlying any positive assessment there may be.

    It is most annoying because there is no ground for such skepticism towards such a transparent and open person like Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI who has never hesitated to put himself on the record about the things he believes in.

    Hidden meaning of
    Pope’s Israel visit

    by Dr. Adam Gregerman

    Issue of May 22, 2009

    Dr. Gregerman is Jewish Scholar at the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies.

    Hundreds of rabbis recently signed a statement, coordinated by the Center for Religious Understanding, welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to Israel.

    While they expressed a heartfelt sense of appreciation for the Catholic Church’s efforts over the last few decades to improve Jewish-Christian relations, the final sentence seems unreasonably optimistic: There is nowhere “better to reaffirm that relationship than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage.”

    Indeed, many Jews now feel that Benedict’s trip has been a disappointment. By bringing the Middle East conflict into the mix, and ensuring intense scrutiny of his every word and deed, he only increased the possibility that his lack of skill in handling inter-religious relations would again be revealed.

    During the trip Benedict was been criticized for insensitivity to Jewish suffering, poor choreography of meetings likely to become contentious, and political meddling.

    Knowing of Benedict’s stumbles in relations with Jews, seen in recent controversies over a Holocaust-denying bishop and revisions to Catholic liturgy, one might reasonably have suspected that a trip to Israel was unlikely to improve the relationship.

    Looking back over his visit, the rabbis’ admirable wish seems sadly unfulfilled: Coverage of his trip has focused largely on Benedict’s perceived gaffes and unsatisfying statements. Not surprisingly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has intruded at nearly every event.

    What was, however, largely overlooked were the ways that Benedict’s statements and actions reflect remarkable changes in Catholic views of Jews and Judaism, changes that long-predate him and will, I hope, continue unabated.

    This is surely the most significant lesson of his trip. I fear that it can be lost amid noisy disputes over, for example, how close his podium in Bethlehem can be to Israel’s separation wall/fence, or his opinion about the location of the capital of a future Palestinian state. Even during this rocky visit, we find striking confirmation of changes in Jewish-Catholic relations.

    These changes began at the epochal Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, initiating a stunning turn away from Catholic anti-Judaism. In particular, two traditional claims were rejected, that all Jews are guilty of the crucifixion, and that God’s covenant with the Jews was abrogated with the coming of Jesus. The rabbis were right to focus on these changes in their recent statement.

    We find welcome confirmation of them in Benedict’s remarks. Speaking at Moses’s traditional burial place, he expressed “a desire to overcome all obstacles” to an improved relationship, despite centuries of acrimony and mistrust. Such efforts must be founded on a spirit of “mutual respect and cooperation.”

    When meeting Israel’s chief rabbis, he affirmed a continuing commitment to Vatican II and hopes for “genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews.” (Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger in response movingly expressed his own yearning for “love and brotherhood” with Catholics.)

    Yet respect and tolerance, Benedict insisted, is not enough. Catholics must strive to know more about Judaism, in order to see Jews as Jews see themselves. Catholics must commit to learning about Jews’ distinctive approaches to worship and study.

    Using language reminiscent of the most remarkable post-Vatican II statements, he extols the shared “spiritual patrimony” of Jew and Christian and hopes in the end that dialogue leads to “love.” [And who more than Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has made the most wide-ranging statements of rapprochement and fraternal love towards the Jews since Vatican II?]

    Interviewed just prior to his arrival, he admitted that setbacks were inevitable. The Catholic Church has had to address enormously complex theological and historical issues. Catholics simultaneously must grapple with hateful religious traditions and centuries of terrible Jewish suffering in Christian lands.

    [Wait, that statement needs to be qualified. I may not have a detailed grasp of world history, but persecution of Jews in Christian lands as a policy and practice was limited to certain periods in history and specific nations, such as after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval Spain - and not a widespread, continuing process in all Christian lands, even if anti-Jewish sentiment may have been sort of 'traditional'! Despite such sentiment - linked to traditional cultural upbringing and not necessarily preached by the Church - Jews prospered all over Europe after the Middle Ages - until the Nazis began their pogroms that led to the Holocaust.]

    However, these shifts in relations are immensely significant, and have increasingly deep roots in contemporary Catholic thought. They are, he said, “irrevocable.”

    We should not discount real worries about backsliding by some in the Church. These last few years have been difficult. Sometimes, Benedict himself has been disappointingly ambivalent about improving relations with Jews, and insensitive to complaints about decisions he has made (about reviving prayers for Jewish conversion, for example).

    [When hass he ever been ambivalent about improving relations? ... And as for the revision of the prayer, it was precisely because of Jewish obkections raised after he 'normalized' the use of the traditonal Mass that he revised the John XXIII version of the prayer [which John Paul II left as is in all the indults he granted for the traditional Mass during his 27 years as Pope] to reflect eschatologic hope about the Jews - using St. Paul's language in the Letter to the Romans, which Jews have accepted without question for centuries - instead of the implied need to convert the Jews in the old prayer.]

    I detect hints of tentativeness in some of his statements, perhaps reflecting a reluctance to break with past teachings or admit to the failings of Catholics.

    [That's sheer fault-finding, Name such a statement! And when has he ever been reluctant to 'admit to the failings of Catholics"? More than regular Catholics, the Pope above all is the first to say we are all sinners in the Church - we have been guilty and will be guilty of all kinds of shortcomings including intolerance for others, adn he says so over and over in his writings about Catholic-Jewish relations in the past.]

    However, when taking a broader view, we should be reminded of just how much has changed.

    While it can be foolhardy to underestimate the significance of the Pope for the Catholic Church, these changes are bigger and deeper than Benedict. Usually he nurtures them, sometimes he retards them [Again, a sweeping judgment that has no objective basis], but they remain the norm in the Catholic Church today.

    Jews should recognize how much has been accomplished, while also encouraging the Church to remain faithful to its own vision.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 11:27 PM]
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    00 5/22/2009 5:51 AM

    Thanks to Beatrice on her special site on the Holy Land pilgrimage
    for this item and the cover photo.

    Benedict XVI in the Holy Land
    by Marie-Joëlle Guillaume
    Famille Chrétienne

    "I sensed a great desire for peace".

    On the plane that was taking him back to Rome, this statement from Benedict XVI was not banal: perhaps it is the key to the true fecundity of this trip, that which could change the world because it can change hearts.

    What was striking, in the course of Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was the change in perspective that gradually took place. The religious and political expectations by the various sides in conflict all had to do with the personality of the Pope. Each side sought to use him to their own advantage.

    But Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas must have experienced, each in his own way - that in the Pope's presence, they were not being judged, but rather, were revealed to themselves, and with this, their desire for peace. Not the peace that the world can give, which is imperfect and even revanchist, but a superior peace, the fruit of justice, of love, of recognition for the other, which is rooted in God.

    Benedict XVI clearly places inter-religious dialogas ahead of all other dialogues. [Yes, but in a cultural and spiritual sense, not in a theological sense.]

    His gesture in Nazareth, where he took the hand of the rabbi on his right and the Druze on his left, and held them up in his during a chant for peace, condensed the messages of this trip: no 'clash of civlizations', but reciprocal listening; no peace that does not also embrace a common impulse towards the 'merciful God'...

    And the peacemaker is the Christian, caught between enemies who believe themselves intractable, but whom he can help to find true joy along the path of reconciliation.

    To all the communiies he met, the Pope brought a message of liberation from the sad fatalities of 60 years of conflict: an appeal for the 'universal recognition of Isael' and 'the creation of a Palestinian state' and an assertion that the cycle of violence can be broken...

    And above all, the described the presence of Christians as 'fundamental for the Holy Land', and so he asked them to stay, "on this land that Christ sanctified by his presence" - to be the artisans of reconciliation among the children of Abraham.

    In doing so, Benedict XVI not only gave strength and sense to their courage - he entrusted the Holy Land to the eschatology of love.

    In the footsteps of Christ, he preceded us into Galilee.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/22/2009 5:53 AM]
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    00 5/22/2009 2:47 PM

    May 22

    St. Rita of Cascia (Italy, 1381-1457)
    Widow and Augustinian nun
    Paton Saint of Lost Causes

    No OR today (Yesterday was a religious holiday).


    The Holy Father met today with

    - H.E. Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria, with his wife and delegation

    - H.E. Gjeorge Ivanov, President of Macedonia, with his wife and delegation

    - Bishops of Peru on ad-limina visit (Groups 4 and 5, separately)

    And in the afternoon with

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

    The Vatican also announced the official program of the Holy Father's pastoral visit on Sunday
    to the Diocese of Cassino and the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino.

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    00 5/22/2009 5:46 PM



    Sunday, May 24, 2009


    09.00 Departure by helicopter from the Vatican

    09.30 Arrival at the Salveti sports field in Cassino

    Piazza Miranda, Cassino
    Homily by the Holy Father

    12.00 Regina Caeli prayer
    Words by the Holy Father

    12.30 Travel by car to the Abbey of Montecassino
    Brief visit to the Casa della Carità of Cassino

    13.30 Lunch at the Abbey

    16.30 Grreting to the monastic community of the Abbey
    and to the organizers of the visit

    with Benedictine abbots and
    the community of Benedictine monks and nuns
    Basilica of the Abbey
    Homily by the Holy Father

    18.00 Private visit to the Polish Military Cemetery in Montecassino

    18.30 Departure by helicopter

    19.00 Arrival at the Vatican

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    00 5/23/2009 12:13 AM

    Any Benaddict could have contributed a much better photo for the home page!

    500,000 hits on Day 1
    of POPE2YOU portal

    Translated from
    the Italian service of

    Starting yesterday, the Church moved its presence forward another step on the constantly moving Internet frontier .

    Hundreds of thousands of hits and thousands of virtual postcards featuring images of Benedict XVI and one of his 'thoughts' came across the new portal Pope2you which was officially launched yesterday by the Pontifical council for social Communications within Facebook, the social network that now has some 2000 million subscribers.

    The target of the new portal - which is plurilingual and links to the principal Vatican media - are the young people around the world.

    The goal: to create a platform for dialog and friendship with what the Pope calls 'the digital generation;.

    The mini-portal was opened days before the World Day for Social Communications to be observed by the Church on Sunday.

    Alessandro De Carolis interviewed the site coordinator, Fr. Paolo Padrini, of the Italian bishops' conference:

    FR. PADRINI: The novelty in POPE2YOU is that of placing the Vatican in a relational dimension with the youth, allowing them to experience on the Web, not only the possibility of exchanging information or living through superficial moments, but also to create a community of affiliation and participation with the Church, by getting close to the Holy Father.

    To access the Pope's 'profile; on Facebook is the news that has most caught attention around the world. What has been the outcome after the first day of POPE2YOU?
    It has been enormous! On the first day - between the portal directly or through Facebook - almost 10,000 postcards were sent, not counting the single visits in the tens of thousands, and the contacts on POPE2YOU which yesterday surpassed half a million.

    Just one clarification: What we have on Facebook is not a profile but a space for sharing, because obviously, the Pope does not need to present himself nor even to start a one-on-one 'dialog' with the faithful.

    The dialog with him is intended to be based on day-to-day reality at school, at work, in the parish, at home - something that is stimulated by him and his thoughts, but which is then concretized in sharing them with friends on the net.

    You are a connoisseur of that which the Pope calls new digital relationships. What are the pluses and minuses of a scenario in which it is practically impossible to place any limits?
    Let me start with the downside. The great defect - or more properly, risk - is that these tools modify our ways of relating to persons. If these tools become the only means used to communicate - and in Japan, they have already identified pathologies linked to a compulsive use of the Internet - then they risk changing negatively how we relate to others.

    Nonetheless, multi-relationships are here to stay in a multi-media world. And the positive elements are the potential inherent in these instruments.

    For instance, Facebook has brought back the word 'friendship' [I did not realize it had been lost!] As Christians, we know we have a lot to say about this word 'friendship', and the Pope says so clearly in his message(s). And I think that this is the 'added value' in POPE2YOU: to make its users experience how a tool that everyone uses - like Facebook and the others in our package - can become useful in making us live the multimedia experience optimally.

    How will the new generations of priests and laymen be trained who must be able to interact with this new world?
    It is obviously a complex matter. The great technological changes require great preparation and mastery of the tools themselves. And the most important thing, after mastering your tools, is structuring a strong identity.

    Paradoxically, the more we get into the digital era, the more we should structure ourselves to be strongly human. I think this is something taht remains to be figured out, because none of us can say that we already have a throough knowledge of the new tools which so far have been used mostly in superficial ways.

    The Church seems to be constantly opening up new spaces to announce the Gospel in very unusual terrain, from You-Tube to iPhone and nwo to the portal that you manage. Can we foresee now the prospects for this new frontier of evangelization?
    From the time it started calling on the best painters to decorate its churches, the Church has always sought the best ways to communicate its message.

    It has done that in the world of film, where it was in the avant-garde [???? Did I miss a whole chunk of cinema history all those years I was selecting films for an annual international film festival?], in TV and in radio. Think of Marconi and how he gave the start to Vatican Radio.

    The prospect today is this: apart from the unknown of how this new information technology will evolve, the Church will always have the capacity - because it is a master of humanity - to use these tools in order to deliver a message that is careful, serene and pro-active.

    Oh dear, I feel like a relic from the 20th-century! I have more than enough problems as it is doing my day-job that is increasingly tied to data management and data presentations. And off duty, my little chores on the Forum are really variations on what I do in my day-job (except it requires much more time trawling around for sources and indispensable background info), which leaves me no time at all for exploring or even getting to know the new frontiers of You-Tube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. since I must live a life as well!

    Where does everyone find the time for social networking on the Web and still live life directly as opposed to the virtual world?

    Hence, I must confess that since the announcement about POPE2YOU the other day, I have not had the chance at all to check what it's all about - only enough just now to lift the image of the home page - nor do I expect to find the time. I suppose I will continue getting to 'know the Pope' the 'old-fashioned' way that has not served me badly so far.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/23/2009 12:38 AM]
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