Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Good Pope

Pope Says John XXIII's Faith Was His Secret
Remembers Predecessor on Election Anniversary

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2008 ( Faith in Christ and the Church was the secret that made Pope John XXIII a worldwide promoter of peace, Benedict XVI proposed in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the election of the "Good Pope.

"The German Pontiff affirmed this in an address Tuesday to pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter's Square to mark the anniversary with a Mass celebrated by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The hour of the Mass recalled the exact hour when, 50 years earlier, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli (1881-1963) was elected to the See of Peter.

Recalling the "gaudium magnum" (great joy) that the Church experienced at seeing the new Pope on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, his successor recognized that "it was a prelude and a prophecy of the experience of paternity, which God would offer us abundantly through the words, gestures and ecclesial service of the Good Pope."

"The grace of God prepared a vulnerable and promising season for the Church and for society, and found in docility to the Holy Spirit, which characterized all of John XXIII's life, the good soil to bring to germination concord, hope, unity and peace, for the good of all humanity," he added."

Pope John presented faith in Christ and belonging to the Church, mother and teacher, as the guarantee of fruitful Christian testimony in the world," Benedict XVI continued. "In the difficult conflicts of his time, the Pope was a man and a pastor of peace, who knew how to open in the East and in the West, unexpected horizons of fraternity among Christians, and dialogue with all."

The German Pope recalled one of John XXIII's famous audiences -- his first Christmas as Pope in 1958 -- when he asked those who had gathered what was the meaning of their meeting. John XXIII himself responded: "The Pope has set his eyes on yours and his heart next to yours."

"I ask Pope John," Benedict XVI concluded, "to allow us to experience the closeness of his gaze and his heart so as to feel that we are truly the family of God."

Holy pastor
During the homily of the anniversary Mass, Cardinal Bertone also meditated on the faith of John XXIII, as revealed by his writings.

He cited a passage where John XXIII wrote, "My confusion provokes in me sentiments of humility and abandonment in the hands of the Lord. He has truly done everything, and he has done it without me, who would have never been able to imagine or aspire to so much. I do not desire, I do not think of anything else than to live and die for the souls that have been entrusted to me."

Cardinal Bertone also mentioned the Pontiff's dedication to prayer, again citing one of his own writings: "In the few years left to me, I want to be a holy pastor in every sense of the word. My day should always unwind in prayer. Prayer is my breath."


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Few Things

Benedict to Make First Papal Visit to Africa in March
By Associated Press Writer
Frances D'Emilio

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI announced Sunday he will make his first papal pilgrimage to Africa — a continent where the Catholic Church is growing — with visits next year to Cameroon and Angola.

The 81-year-old Benedict gave the surprise news at the end of his homily in St. Peter's Basilica, during a ceremony closing three weeks of discussions by bishops from around the world about the Bible.

Benedict did not give specific dates for the trip, which traditionally are first announced by local Church officials in the host countries. The Vatican usually gives details of papal pilgrimages closer to departure.

"Next March, I intend to go to Cameroon" as part of preparations for an October 2009 bishops' meeting at the Vatican dealing with Africa, Benedict said at the end of his homily.

"From there, God willing, I will go on to Angola, to celebrate solemnly the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country," Benedict said.

The Catholic Church has been growing in parts of Africa and Asia, with those continents sometimes supplying priests for parishes in parts of Europe and North America where vocations have steadily declined in the last few decades.

While the Vatican has been concerned about the flagging faith of some Catholics in the affluent West, Church officials are heartened by the vibrancy of local churches in parts of Africa and Asia.
When the pope visits Cameroon, representatives of Africa's bishops conferences will be meeting there to prepare for next year's Vatican synod on Africa.

Cameroon, formed in 1961 from western African territories governed by the French and British, has an 18 million population that is about 40 percent Christian.

Angola's history as a former Portuguese colony has given the country Christian roots. The southern African country was lacerated by a civil war that started with its 1975 independence and ended in 2002.

Since being elected pontiff in 2005, Benedict has visited several European countries, including France in September, his latest foreign trip. He has also traveled to Brazil, the United States and Australia earlier this year.

His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, visited Africa several times in his 26 1/2 years as pontiff.
On Sunday, Benedict paid tribute to the Church in another distant part of the world — China — where Catholics loyal to him worship in clandestine churches and have sometimes suffered harassment, or in the case of clergy, even imprisonment.

The pontiff noted that bishops from China had been unable to attend this month's gathering at the Vatican. The Vatican and Beijing do not have formal ties, largely due to China's insistence that it make appointments of bishops, a right claimed by the Holy See.

Benedict said he was thankful for the Chinese bishops' "faithfulness" to the pope, and he prayed that they receive the "strength and zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China that we love so dearly."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press
Beirut- Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is due to travel to Vatican City later this week for talks with Pope Benedict XVI, a presidential palace source said Tuesday. Suleiman, 59, a Maronite Christian and former commander-in-chief of the army, will meet the pontiff on Friday, the source said.

Suleiman was elected on May 25, 2008, after months of political crisis in the country, during which Benedict had urged Lebanese leaders to reach an agreement.
From Earth Times
Local rabbi traveling to Rome to meet pope
By Mike Randall
October 28, 2008
CITY OF NEWBURGH — Rabbi Daniel Polish, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Mount Saint Mary College, will be among a group of rabbis traveling to Rome Tuesday to discuss Jewish-Catholic relations with Pope Benedict XVI.
Polish said this is a sensitive time for Jewish-Catholic relations because the Catholic church is considering beatification for Pope Pius XII, a man some Jews believe didn’t do enough to oppose Adolph Hitler’s treatment of Jews.
Pope Says We Owe a Debt to Vatican II
Calls It Ever More Timely in Globalized World
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2008 ( The Second Vatican Council is not losing its relevance with the passing of decades, but rather is "particularly pertinent" for the Church in today's globalized world, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope affirmed this in a message today to participants in an international conference being held in Rome on "Vatican II in the Pontificate of John Paul II."
The event is sponsored by the St. Bonaventure Theological Faculty and the Institute for Documentation and Study of the Pontificate of John Paul II.
Benedict XVI wrote that "all of us are truly debtors of this extraordinary ecclesial event," and that for him it was "an honor to participate as an expert."
"Making divine salvation accessible to the man of today was for Pope John the fundamental motive for convoking the council, and it was with this perspective that the fathers worked."
From God's heartIn this context, the German Pontiff praised his Polish predecessor, saying that "in the council [John Paul II] made a significant personal contribution as a council father," and that later he became its "primary executor during the years of his pontificate, by divine will."
John Paul II "took up practically in all of his writings, and even more in his decisions and actions as Pontiff, the fundamental urgings of the ecumenical council Vatican II, of which he became a qualified interpreter and coherent witness," he added.The council, Benedict XVI continued, "came from the heart of John XXIII, but it is more accurate to say that in the end, as with all the great events in the history of the Church, that it came from the heart of God, from his salvific will."
"The multifaceted doctrinal heritage that we find in its dogmatic constitutions, in the declarations and decrees, moves us even now to go deeper in the Word of God to apply it today to the Church, keeping in mind the needs of the men and women of the contemporary world, who have an extreme need to know and experience the light of Christian hope."
The Holy Father expressed his hope that the conference participants approach "the conciliar documents to seek in them satisfactory answers to many of the questions of our time."
"The ultimate goal of all our activities should be communion with the living God," he concluded. "In this way as well, for the fathers of Vatican II, the ultimate goal of all of the elements of renewal of the Church was to guide toward the living God, revealed in Jesus Christ."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alexy II notes progress in relationship between Orthodox, Catholic churches

Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II affirmed the positive dynamics in the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in his reply to the message by Pope of Rome Benedict XYI. The Moscow Patriarchate website posted the letter on Thursday.

Alexy II said he welcomed the growing prospects for good relationship and interaction between the two churches and explained by common roots and shared attitudes to many modern concerns.

On October 1 Alexy II received Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe in Moscow. Sepe delivered the pontifical message, which presented cordial greetings and said that Orthodox and Catholic believers were bound to present an example of peaceful life and mutual respect. Alexy II expressed his sincere regards and profound respect to the Pontiff.

Christian fraternal love must be the main driving force of Orthodox-Catholic relations, he said.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pope's Reflection at Synod on Word of God
"The Foundation of Everything, It Is the True Reality"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 ( Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of the reflection Benedict XVI gave Monday at the first general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The Pope addressed the assembly in Latin.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of our Synod the Liturgy of the Hours proposes a passage from Psalm 18 on the Word of God: praise for His Word, expression of the joy of Israel in learning it and, in it, to learn about His will and His face. I would like to meditate on a few verses of this Psalm with you.

It begins like this: “In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet”. This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which we must base our life. Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath. As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.

Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.

The following verse says: “Omnia serviunt tibi”. All things come from the Word, they are products of the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”. In the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it is “creatura Verbi”. All is created from the Word and all is called to serve the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is thought to create the meeting place between God and His creature, a place where the history of love between God and His creature can develop. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing, which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motivation for everything, the motivation for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and His creature. In this sense, the history of salvation, Covenant, precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This material world seems to have been created solely to make place for the Torah, for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love. The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ is the prototypos, the first-born of creation, the idea the universe was conceived for. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting with Christ. One can say that, while material creation is the condition for the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ, His living word that is the aim of all creation. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. In serving the Lord we achieve the goal of the being, the goal of our own existence.

Let us take a leap forward: “Mandata tua exquisivi”. We are always searching for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. Just reading it does not mean necessarily that we have truly understood the Word of God. The danger is that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within, the Holy Spirit. We cannot find the Word in the words. Saint Augustine, in this context, recalls the scribes and Pharisees consulted by Herod when the Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where the Savior of the world would be born. They know this, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are great specialists, who know everything. However they do not see reality, they do not know the Savior. Saint Augustine says: they are signs on the road for the others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger as well in our reading of the Scriptures: we stop at the human words, words form the past, history of the past, and we do not discover the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today with the words from the past. This is not how we may enter the internal movement of the Word, which in human words hides and opens the divine words. Therefore, there is always a need for “exquisivi”. We must always look for the Word within words.

Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only by conforming to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words. Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to look for the word, not only with our intellect but also with our entire existence.

At the end: “Omni consummationi vidi finem, latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. All human things, all the things we can invent, create, are finite. Even all human religious experiences are finite, showing one aspect of reality, because our being is finite and can only understand one part, a few elements: “latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. Only God is infinite. And therefore His Word too is universal and knows no boundaries. Coming into communion with the Word of God, we enter a communion of the Church that lives the Word of God. We do not enter into a small group, with the rules of a small group, but we go beyond our limitations. We go towards the depths, in the true grandeur of the only truth, the great truth of God. We are truly a part of what is universal. And thus we go out into the communion of all the brothers and sisters, of all humanity, because the desire for the Word of God, which is one, is hidden in our heart.

Therefore even evangelization, the proclamation of the Gospel, the mission are not a type of ecclesial colonialism, where we wish to insert others into our group. It means going beyond the individual culture into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers. Let us pray once again that the Lord may help us to truly enter the “vastness” of His Word and thus open the universal horizon to humanity, what unites us despite all the differences.

At the end, we return to a preceding verse: “Tuus sum ego:salvum me fac”. This translates as: “I am yours”. The Word of God is like a stairway that we can go up and, with Christ, even descend into the depths of His love. It is a stairway to reach the Word in the words. “I am yours”. The word has a face, it is a person, Christ. Before we can say “I am yours”, He has already told us “I am yours”. The Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 39, says: “You gave me a body... Then I said, ‘Here I am, I am coming’”. The Lord prepared a body to come. With His incarnation He said: I am yours. And in baptism He said to me: I am yours. In the Holy Eucharist, He always repeats this: I am yours, so that we may answer: Lord, I am yours. In the path of the Word, entering the mystery of his incarnation, of His being among us, we wish to appropriate His being, expropriate our existence, giving ourselves to Him, He who gave Himself to us.“I am yours”.

Let us pray the Lord that we may learn to say this word with our whole being. That way we will be in the heart of the Word. That way we will be saved.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Vatican City -
Pope Benedict XVI's bestselling book, Jesus of Nazareth, can help thwart the "confusion" caused by books such as US author Dan Brown's The Da Vinci code, a top Roman Catholic cleric suggested Monday. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the General Reporter of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, referred to the pontiff's book during the first session of the synod - a series of discussions involving top Catholic clerics from around the world.

While the pontiff's book, published in 2007, and which recounts Jesus'life, is not meant as an official text of Church teaching, it "remains a lighthouse which protects from the rocks and shipwrecks," Ouellet said.

"It is a work that helps dissipate the confusion propagated by certain media phenomena, and serves to relaunch the Church's dialogue with contemporary culture," he added.

Ouellet did not name The Da Vinci Code, but a note on the text of his remarks issued by the Vatican, specifically referred to Brown's 2003 book as an example of the "media phenomena" the cardinal mentioned.

The Da Vinci Code, which speculates on the possibility that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered children has, together with its 2006 Hollywood blockbuster film version, drawn criticism from the Vatican and other Christian representatives.

The theme of the Synod which lasts until October 26 is The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church and centres on how the clergy can help the faithful become better acquainted with the Bible - carrying forward one of the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

For centuries, the Catholic Church had taught that the holy scriptures should be left for the clergy to interpret on behalf of the faithful.

During the Synod participants are called to express their opinions on matters on an individual basis. The Pope may also approve and promulgate decrees or resolutions stemming from the discussions.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pope: Millions are losing their religion and declaring God is dead
06 October 2008

MODERN culture is so devoid of faith that some people are declaring God "dead" and entire nations are losing their identity, Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday.

The 81-year-old pontiff said that God was being pushed out of people's lives under the "harmful and destructive influence" of today's society.

His comments, made during a Mass at the start of a month-long synod of Roman Catholic bishops from around the world, come amid growing concern about the decline in church attendance and interest in religion in many Western nations.

Pope Benedict is particularly worried about a growing indifference to religion in Europe.Speaking at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, the Pope said: "Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture.

"There are those who, after deciding that 'God is dead', declare themselves to be 'god' and the artisan of their own destiny, the absolute master of the world."

Pope Benedict said attempts to "brush God aside" lead to arrogance, selfishness, injustice, exploitation and violence."

When men proclaim themselves to be absolute masters of themselves and sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?" he asked.

In recent decades, the Catholic Church's influence has seen a decline in developed countries, although it is growing in the Third World.

Both the Church of Scotland and Scottish Catholic Church have seen a drop in worshippers in recent years – the Church of Scotland has seen numbers fall nearly 60 per cent since 1960, and between 1994 and 2003, Mass attendances fell from 250,000 to 194,728. Earlier this year the Vatican also reported a dramatic fall in the number of Roman Catholic monks and nuns. Ronnie Convery, spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, said Pope Benedict's comments reflected the concerns religious leaders had been aware of for some time.

"What we are seeing is that our culture has changed, subtly but significantly," Mr Convery said. "Many people today, even though they wouldn't declare themselves atheist, behave as though God doesn't exist. One of the main challenges of the Catholic Church is to remind people of their Christian roots and the important role that the Church has played in the shaping of our culture."

Seven days of non-stop Bible reading

THE Pope was the first of more than 1,200 people to take part in a marathon non-stop reading of the Bible, expected to last a week. It will be broadcast on Italian state television, RAI.

The Pope read from Genesis yesterday. All 73 books of the Catholic edition of the Bible will be read. Each speaker will read for about five to eight minutes. Giulio Andreotti, a former Italian prime minister, former presidents Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and several ministers in the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi will also be among the readers.

The Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni will be joined by film-maker Michele Placido and tenor Andrea Bocelli; the Brazil and AC Milan football star Kak√° will also read.

A number of Muslims and Jews will also take part, but Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, pulled out of the event last month, saying it had become "too Catholic" for him. The reading ends on Saturday night.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pope says Church has right to speak out
Oct 5, 2008 1:37 PM

Pope Benedict paid a state visit to Italy on Sunday and assured its leaders that the Church had no intention of imposing its will in political affairs but defended the right to express itself on social issues.

"There is no reason to fear that the Church and its members will impose themselves and limit freedom," the 81 year-old Pontiff said in a speech in the Quirinale Palace of President Giorgio Napolitano.

"(Church members) also expect to be allowed the freedom to not betray their conscience enlightened by the Gospel," he said, adding that Catholics must be allowed "to play their part in the construction of the social order."

The Vatican has had a sometimes tense relationship with left-leaning Italian governments in recent years over ethical issues such as homosexual unions, stem cell research and the role of Catholic schools in the country.

It sees much more eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's current centre-right administration, though the Vatican has expressed concern over some of the aspects of a government crackdown on immigration.

The pope greeted onlookers from an open topped car during the roughly two-mile journey from the Vatican to the Quirinale, where he was greeted as a head of state by Napolitano and met with Berlusconi and his top ministers.

Napolitano said the relationship betwen Church and State in Italy was one of "mutual respect and collaboration," as the country prepares to celebrate 150 years since its unification.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I found this article to be of particular interest because a few years ago my son was in Vladivastok, Russia. He was there participating in a two week mission with the tiny, re-emerging Roman Catholic community in the region. The group was free to visit and go wherever they liked but they were prohibited from volunteering why they were there. Interestingly, whether in a college classroom or on the street, the purpose of their visit always presented itself. Quanah's experience was that the young people were very poor in faith and were much influenced by TV shows they watched dating back to the 80's. In a 2003 world, this was a very strange experience to encounter.

Pope warns about aggressive conversion efforts

By Frances D'emilio
ASSOCIATED PRESS - October 2, 2008
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI cautioned Roman Catholic bishops in former Soviet republics on Thursday against aggressive means of gaining converts, an issue that has complicated attempts to reconcile his church with Orthodox Christians.

A Vatican envoy to Moscow, meanwhile, reported progress in improving relations between the two communions that could one day pave the way for a papal visit to Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church has accused the Vatican of poaching for converts. The Roman Catholic Church contends it is simply looking after its tiny flock in former Soviet nations, where Orthodoxy is the predominant Christian denomination.

In general, such countries do not forbid Orthodox worshippers to convert to Catholicism, but Orthodox authorities have complained about other faiths.

For instance, the U.S. State Department recently reported that respect for religious freedom in Tajikistan has declined over the last year.

That was evident on Thursday when Nozirdzhon Buriyev, a spokesman for the former Soviet republic, said a court has ordered the banning of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Central Asian country. He said the group was found by a military court to have breached religious legislation and illegally imported faith literature.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI thanked an audience of visiting bishops from former Soviet republics in Central Asia for having worked to keep “the flame of faith lit, despite the tough pressures exercised during the years of the atheist and communist regime.”

But while the pope urged the bishops to keep the Christian faith alive, he said he wanted to remind them that “the Church never imposes, but freely proposes the Catholic faith.”

“That is precisely why any form of proselytizing, which forces, or induces and attracts someone with inopportune subterfuge to embrace the faith, is prohibited,” Benedict said in his speech.
Tensions with Orthodox leaders after the demise of Soviet Union prevented Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, from realizing his dream of a pilgrimage to Moscow.

Meanwhile, Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, just back from a trip to Moscow, told Vatican Radio that there has been “a notably important step” made toward creating a climate of mutual respect between Catholics and Orthodox.

He said his talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II centered on how both sides can work together to revive Europe's Christian roots, a theme dear to Benedict who sent Sepe on the mission to Moscow.

As for any papal visit to the Russian capital, Sepe would only say, “Let Providence do its work. ... When, how and where, let's leave that up to providence.

The 15 independent nations that split from the Soviet Union during its breakup include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.