00 9/3/2009 2:38 PM

Posted earlier today in BENEDICT XVI NEWS:

Ratzinger's debt:
Benedict XVI comes to Bagnoregio
to honor one of his mentors in thought

by Saverio Gaeta
Translated from

Issue of 9/6/2009

The pastoral visit to Viterbo and Bagnoregio on Sunday, September 6, represents for Benedict XVI above all 'settling' a debt of gratitude with one of his intellectual mentors: St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

He also thereby confirms the importance to the Church of the 'City of Popes' and its involvement in the history of the Papacy.

Benedict XVI first gave his informal consent to the this visit in January 2008 to Mons. Lorenzo Chiarinelli.

On that occasion, a delegation from the Diocese of Viterbo, along with local civilian authorities and officials of the Centro Studi Bonaventuriani had presented to the Pope the papers from a conference entitled "Faith in history: St. Bonaventure and Joseph Ratzinger".

They used the opportunity to invite the Pope to come to Viterbo and Bagnoregio. His response was immediate, "Of course. I have already been to Pavia" [where St. Augustine is buried].

The reference was explicit for anyone who knows the scholastic 'itinerary' of the budding theologian Joseph Ratzinger.

His doctoral thesis in 1953 was dedicated to The people and the house of God in St. Augustine's doctrine of the Church. Subsequently, one of his professors suggested that he study a medieval Catholic author for his thesis of Habilitation to qualify as a professor in German universities. Ratzinger chose St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.

"The resulting text was published in 1959, under the title The theology of history in St. Bonaventure'", continues Mons, Chiarinelli, "and it represented a new interpretation of the Doctor Seraphicus, especially his concept of revelation, understood as the way in which God communicates himself to man, and what his vision of history owe to Joachim of Fiore.

Prof. Ratzinger overturned the prevailing hypothesis that Bonaventure had completely condemned Joachim's thought, and showed instead how much he tried to accommodate what could be integrated into the tradition of the Church.

Monsignor Chiarinelli, how would you describe the relations of the Popes with this diocese?
I think some figures will tell the story: Fifty Popes have visited the city, 18 have lived here for more then 6 months, five were elected here, and four are buried here.

And of course, one cannot forget that the first true 'conclave' in history took place in Viterbo, after the infamous story of 33 months of 'sede vacante' [without a Pope] in 1268-1271, after which Gregory X was finally elected.

Research has now shown that it was St. Bonaventure who suggested to the 'people's captain' Raniero Gatti the closure under lock and key [cum clave'] of the 17 cardinals who could not come to an agreement.

What is the 'snapshot' of the diocese that Benedict XVI will see?
He will see a composite ecclesial entity, in which the various components are gradually settling into effective interaction. With the reform decided by John Paul II in March 1986, Viterbo absorbed four ancient dioceses and an abbey.

Top photo, Viterbo panorama. Center panel, from left, clockwise: Acquapendente, Bagnoregio, Tuscania and Montefiascone. Bottom photo, the Cistercian Abbey of San Nichele in Cimino.

Each of these components has a specific cultural and religious background: Viterbo has a natural tendency towards Rome; Acquapendente has a Tuscan sensibility; Bagnoregio is very much linked to Umbria; Tuscania has a Maremman context [the Maremma is the area of west central Italy adjoining the Tyrrhenian Sea]; Montefiascone is some sort of island in High Tuscia [Tuscia is the historical-geographical area in the region of Lazio that was the ancient homeland of Italy's pre-Roman Etruscan culture]; and then, there is the Abbey of San Martino in Cimino with its own rich history.

Viterbo also has a rich spiritual tradition that is dense with exceptional saints and highly popular devotions...
The principal spiritual reference is the Madonna della Quercia (Our Lady of the Oak), who is venerated as the patron of the diocese in her own shrine, where Papa Ratzinger will meet privately with the cloistered nuns from 12 monasteries.

Then we have the emblematic figure of Santa Rosa, a model of charity and firmness in the faith, to whom is dedicated the famous annual procession with the so-called 'Macchina di Santa Rosa' [a towering float elaborately designed and lit to carry the image of the saint].

We have other exemplary women models: St. Lucia Filippini, who founded the Maestre Pie [Pious teachers] religious congregation; St. Rosa Venerini, who started the first girls' schools; Blessed Gabriella Sagheddu, who was named by John Paul II as the patron of spiritual ecumenism.

Then we have the Capuchin St. Crispin and the Passionist Blessed Domenico Barberi, who was the one who welcomed John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church in Birmingham.

What do you expect to come out of the Pope's visit to this land?
The principal outcome is expressed in the motto we have given to the visit: 'Confirm your brothers'. It is also the pastoral theme that has guided us in the diocese, since faith itself is the true challenge for the Church in contemporary society.

In this respect, we are trying to actively involve the youth - we have 10,000 students in Viterbo attending the University of Tuscia - who run the grave risk of a religious-cultural rupture with preceding generations.

Finally, a new impetus for charity, in a diocese that already has 62 volunteer associations and numerous institutions for hospitality and solidarity with the needy.

- 2,161 square kilometers
- 172,839 residents
- 97 parishes
- 168 priests
- 8 deacons

The theological lesson from
St. Bonaventure's 'little old woman'

Translated from

September 2, 2009

On Sunday, Benedict XVI will be in Bagnoregio, birthplace of St. Bonaventure, one of his intellectual references.

As a young priest, Joseph Ratzinger obtained his habilitation to be a professor in Germany with a study on the theology of history of the Franciscan saint and Doctor of the Church who made clear, much more than anyone before him, the idea that Christ is the center and axis of human history.

There is much of Bonaventure in Papa Ratzinger. Above all, the awareness that reason alone does not suffice. Both Bonaventure and Benedict insist on trusting rationality and the goodness of theological science, but are also equally convinced that without a a relationship of love with God, reason and knowledge are incomplete.

"A little old woman could love God much more than a master of theology," Bonaventure observed.

At an audience last year, the Pope underscored this central aspect of Bonaventure's theology: "Love sees more than reason. Where there is the light of love, then the shadows of reason have no access. Love sees, love is an eye, and experience gives us more than reflection. Love makes the difference".

On Sunday, Benedict XVI will kneel before a relic of the saint. It is almost like a response to the muggy media polemics in August, which centered on the easy abortion pill and an official decision to relegate religious instruction to a a free-time option in Italy's public schools.

If these represent what secular scientific rationality today has achieved, then Italy needs a gust of fresh air. May St. Bonaventure help us open ourselves to wider perspectives.