Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It is my hope that I see, in my lifetime, peace in the Middle East and an honest and clear vindication of Pius XII and the role he played during W.W. II.

Pope trip to Holy Land to aid Jewish ties - Vatican
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A trip to the Holy Land by Pope Benedict could help overcome "prejudice and incomprehension" marking Catholic-Jewish relations, a senior Vatican official said.

The Vatican is exploring the possibility of Benedict making his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since his election in 2005. The Vatican has said the visit is still possible, despite the latest violence in Gaza.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, in charge of relations with Jews, acknowledged that "problems haven't been lacking" in Catholic-Jewish ties, including outrage over a prayer that some saw as calling for the conversion of Jews.

He also pointed to recent tensions over the role of wartime Pope Pius XII, who some Jews have accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

"I'm convinced then that the pope's hoped-for trip to the Holy Land would be decisive to overcome prejudice and incomprehension that mark our relations with Judaism," Kasper told Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

The Church says Pius worked quietly behind the scenes to help Jews during the Holocaust and that the re-introduction of the prayer in question did not indicate a change in the Church's high regard for Jews or its contempt for anti-Semitism.

"The Jewish world has understood and accepted that (Pius') beatification is an internal process of the Catholic Church," Kasper said.

Many Jewish groups have called on Benedict to freeze the process that could one day make Pius a saint until more Vatican archives on the wartime period are opened.

"We trust now that historic research will bring even more clarity about the Pius XII's work to help Jews during the years in question," Kasper said.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pope's Christmas Condemnation of Transsexuals
By JEFF ISRAELY / ROME Jeff Israely / Rome

"The celebration of the birth of the Lord is at our doorstep ..." Thus began Pope Benedict XVI in his annual pre-Christmas address to top Vatican officials. But rather than a pro forma holiday wish of good tidings, the pontiff delivered his latest heavy-hitting discourse on everything from ecology to ecumenism, with carefully chosen citations from past Popes and even Friedrich Nietzsche. The topic that most grabbed press attention came about halfway through the 30-minute long address: transsexuals.

Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender. Defend "the nature of man against its manipulation," Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered Monday in the ornate Clementine hall. "The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected." The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a "self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator." (See TIME's Top 10 religious stories of the year.)

Critics of the Church hierarchy see such pronouncements as proof of Catholicism's unhealthy "obsession" with sexual matters. In his book Sex and Heaven, Catholic writer John Portmann argues that the Vatican has made having "correct sex" the singular virtue for achieving salvation. In just the past month, the Vatican has announced its opposition to a United Nations proposal to protect gays from being criminalized and punished by governments for their orientation, and released a doctrinal office document reinforcing the Church's opposition to assisted fertility and stem cell research.

Even though these stands don't stray from his predecessor's, we tend to remember John Paul more for his globetrotting, crowd-pleasing ways. Benedict, more a thinking-man's Pope, tends to make news with his words rather than actions.

The question "What is man?" is fundamental both to Benedict's worldview and to his attempts to convince his flock to question the conventions of modern secularized society. Much has been made of the Pope's recent focus on environmental issues. On Monday he repeated his metaphor that the human body should be protected much as environmentalists want to protect the earth.

"The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the creator Spirit, also means that beyond the mathematical order, their rational structures in the experiment become almost palpable, which in itself brings an ethical orientation," he argued Monday, before declaring that one "must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. One must also protect man against the destruction of himself." Thus Benedict's concern with gender manipulation and environmental degradation are all of a precious piece: protecting God's creation. (See pictures of the Pope in Brazil.)

As incisive as his writing is, some Catholics still question the priorities coming from the bully pulpit. Why, for example, does he not use his Christmas address to boldly condemn Robert Mugabe, whose brutal dictatorship has left a largely Christian country crushed and struggling with a cholera outbreak that has already killed more than 1,000 people? Such thoughts naturally recall Benedict's predecessor, whose geopolitical skills were legendary. (See pictures of Robert Mugabe's reign.)

Though their view of internal doctrine and the world at large are virtually identical, the last two papacies have featured a contrast in personalities and skill sets. In his end-of-the-year address, Benedict seemed to confront the expectations that may have been created by the popularity of John Paul. Reflecting on his trip this summer to Australia for World Youth Day, Benedict said it was wrong to think of these kinds of mass Church events as a "type of rock festival modified in the ecclesiastic sense, with the Pope as the 'star'."

As he prepares to lead his fourth midnight Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, the soft-spoken pontiff will aim yet again to reach the faithful through the force of his intellect and the grace of his prose. Many however will tune in because the man in white, even one with both academic and doctrinaire tendencies, will always carry serious star power.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the last general audience for this year, celebrated in the Paul VI audience hall, to Christmas, "a universal festivity".

"Even non-believers", said the Holy Father, "perceive something extraordinary and transcendental, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event. It is the festivity that sings of the gift of life. The birth of a child should always be a joyful occurrence".

"Christmas is the encounter with a new-born baby, wailing in a wretched grotto", remarked the Holy Father.

"Contemplating Him in this crèche how can we not think of all the children who still today, in many regions of the world, are born amidst such poverty? How can we not think of those newborns who have been rejected, not welcomed, those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not have this hope fulfilled?" queried Pope Benedict.

"Unfortunately," he added, "under the drive of a hedonist consumerism, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual meaning, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.
"Actually, however, the difficulties, uncertainty, and the economic crisis that many families are living in these months, and which affects all humanity, can truly serve as a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas," the Holy Father said.

Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas could become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth, he remarked.

"Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: The Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity. ... 'Thus the recurring annual cycle of the mystery of our salvation is renewed that, promised at the beginning and given to the end of time, is destined to last without end'".

Pope Benedict said at Christmas, therefore, we do not limit ourselves to commemorating the birth of a great person. We do not celebrate, simply and in the abstract, the mystery of the birth of humanity or, in general, the mystery of life.... "At Christmas we recall something that is quite concrete and important for human beings, something essential to the Christian faith, a truth that St John summarises in these few words: 'The Word became flesh': This is a historical fact that St Luke the evangelist is careful to place in a particular historical context: During the days of the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus".

Pope Benedict pointed out that in the darkness of the night in Bethlehem a great light was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, indissolubly and eternally joining himself to human nature, to the point of being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time truly human. "By 'the Word' ... John also intends the 'Meaning'" and "the 'Meaning' that became flesh is not just a general idea inherent in the world; it is a Word addressed to us".

"The Meaning has power: It is God. A good God who cannot be confused with some being on high and far away who cannot be reached, but God who made Himself our neighbour and who is very near to us", God reveals Himself to us as a poor 'infant' in order to conquer our pride. ... He made Himself small in order to free us from the human delusion of grandeur that arises from pride; He freely became flesh so that we might be truly free, free to love Him".

"Christmas", the Pope said, "is the privileged opportunity to contemplate the meaning and value of our existence.

Source: Vatican Information Service

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pope: Church-State Separation a Sign of Progress
Says Division Between Caesar and God Is Fundamental

ROME, DEC. 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).-

Church-state separation is one of the signs of the progress of humanity, says Benedict XVI.The Pope affirmed this Saturday when he visited the Italian embassy to the Holy See.

The Church "not only recognizes and respects the distinction and autonomy" of the state vis-à-vis the Church, but also "takes joy in this as one of the great advances of humanity," he said.

This separation is "a fundamental condition for [the Church's] very liberty and the fulfillment of its universal mission of salvation among all peoples," the Holy Father added. "This brief visit is conducive to reaffirming that the Church is very aware that the distinction between what is of Caesar and what is of God belongs to the fundamental structure of Christianity."

At the same time, he added, the Church "feels that it is her duty, following the dictates of social doctrine, developed from what is in conformity with the nature of every human being, to awaken moral and spiritual forces in society, contributing to open up wills to the authentic demands of the good."

The Pontiff continued: "Reclaiming the value that ethical principles have, not only in private life but rather fundamentally for public life, the Church contributes to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society."

In this sense, the desired cooperation between Church and state is truly fulfilled."


Benedict XVI is the fourth Pope to visit the Italian embassy. Pope Pius XII started the tradition in 1951.

Saturday's visit marked the upcoming 80th anniversary of the Lateran Treaty, to be celebrated in February, which established the separation of the Italian republic and Vatican City State.

The Holy Father expressed his gratitude for the "contribution of the Italian authorities so that the Holy See can freely develop its universal mission and therefore maintain diplomatic relations with so many countries of the world."

The "fruitful relationship" between Italy and the Holy See, the Pontiff continued, implies "a very important and significant understanding in the current world situation, in which the perpetuation of conflicts and tensions between peoples makes collaboration between those who share the same ideals of justice, solidarity and peace ever more necessary."

Benedict XVI also noted the significance of the Italian embassy using the palace of St. Charles Borromeo, who has a young cardinal and collaborator of his uncle, Pope Pius IV, worked in the diplomacy of the Holy See.

After a deep conversion, the saint was eventually made the archbishop of Milan, a task to which he dedicated himself tirelessly, especially during the plague.

The life of this saint, to which the chapel of the reformed palace of the embassy is dedicated, "shows how divine grace can transform the heart of man and make it capable of love for one's brother to the point of sacrificing oneself," the Pope said. "

Those who work here can find in this saint a constant protector, and at the same time, a model in whom to find inspiration.

"Finally, the Holy Father took the opportunity to wish a merry Christmas to the authorities of Italy and the whole world, "whether or not they have diplomatic relations with the Holy See."

"This is a desire," he said, "of light and authentic human progress, of prosperity and concord, all realities to which we can aspire with trusting hope, because they are gifts that Jesus has brought to the world by being born in Bethlehem."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Church Is a Body, Not a Corporation, Affirms Pope
Says Christ and Neighbor Are Inseparable in Eucharist
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).-

The Church is not an organization or a corporation, but an entity of an entirely different class, says Benedict XVI: It is the body of Christ, present in the Eucharist. This was the Pope's conclusion today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall, during which he left aside his prepared speech and gave the intervention extemporaneously.

Due to his total departure from his notes, ZENIT will not be offering the customary transcription and translation of his talk today. The Holy Father continued with his series of catecheses on the thought and person of St. Paul. He reflected particularly today on the Eucharist, especially on its "personal and social character."

"Christ unites himself personally to each one of us, but at the same time he unites himself to the man and woman who are next to me," explained the Pontiff, according to L'Osservatore Romano's commentary.

"And the Bread is for me and for the others. Thus, he unites all of us with himself and all of us mutually. In communion we receive Christ, but Christ unites himself in the same way with my neighbor. "

Christ and neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. All of us are one bread, one body. Eucharist without solidarity with the rest is an abuse of the Eucharist."

Benedict XVI said that this understanding is the root and the center of the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ."

Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body and in this way makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body," he explained. "If man eats normal bread, this bread becomes part of his body, transformed into substance of human life. But in Communion, an inverse process takes place.

Christ, the Lord, assimilates us, introduces us into his glorious body and in this way, all together, we become his body." The Holy Father noted: "In Roman political science, this parable of the body with different members that form part of a unity was used by the state itself, to show how the state was an organism in which each one had his function: The multiplicity and diversity of functions form one body and each one has his place."

However, in St. Paul's letters, one can see that the Church is something very different from the "state-organism," he contended. "Because Christ really gives his body and makes us his body. We are really united with the risen body of Christ and in this way remain united with one another."

Because of this, he concluded, "the Church is not only a corporation as the state is; it is a body. It is not an organization, but an organism."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pope: Mary's Conception Points to Basic Truths
Says She Is Reflection of Beauty That Saves the World

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).-

Benedict XVI says the feast of the Immaculate Conception points to two fundamental Christian beliefs: original sin, and Christ's triumph over it.

The Pope said this Monday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he prayed the Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.Christ's victory over sin "shines sublimely in Mary Most Holy," the Holy Father affirmed."

The existence of what the Church calls 'original sin' is, sadly, a crushing truth, suffice it to look around us and above all in our interior," he noted. "

The experience of evil is, in fact, so consistent, that it imposes itself and makes us ask the question: From whence does it come? […] If God, who is absolute goodness, has created everything, where does evil come from?"

The Pontiff explained that Genesis offers the answer to these questions: "God created everything so that it would exist, in particular he created man in his own image; he did not create death, rather, the latter entered the world because of the envy of the devil, who, rebelling against God, also attracted men with deceit, inducing them to rebellion."

This, Benedict XVI continued, is the "drama of freedom, which God accepts totally out of love." However, from the beginning, God promised that the head of the ancient servant would be crushed.

The Holy Father said that in God's eyes, the "Woman predestined to be mother of the Redeemer […] always had a face and name: 'full of grace,' as the Angel called her when visiting her in Nazareth."

Thus, the Pope added, "in Mary Immaculate we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God that shines on the face of Christ. In Mary, this beauty is totally pure, humble, free of all pride and presumption."

A Need Very Close To My Heart

Pope Benedict XVI starts Rome holiday season, prays for jobless
Mon Dec 8, 1:46 PM

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for those who have lost jobs or are struggling to pay bills as Rome's holiday season began today with a traditional appearance by the pontiff near the Spanish Steps.

Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded into the square near Rome's posh shopping streets to hear Benedict pray near a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Rome's holiday season begins every Dec. 8, when the pontiff arrives in his popemobile in the square at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

Benedict said he was asking the Virgin Mary to help families struggling to make ends meet and those who can't find work or who have just lost their jobs.

He said he hoped those suffering would feel the "warmth of God's love."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ex-Muslim Forms Party to Defend Europe's Christian Values
An Egyptian-born writer who renounced Islam and was baptized a Roman Catholic by Pope Benedict XVI said he has formed a political party that would enter candidates in next year's European Union elections.
Sun, Dec. 07, 2008

ROME (AP) — An Egyptian-born writer who renounced Islam and was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he has formed a political party that would enter candidates in next year's EU elections.

Magdi Cristiano Allam said his "Protagonists for Christian Europe" party would work to defend Europe's Christian values, which he sees threatened by secularism and moral relativism. He said his new party would be open to people of all faiths and would be close to the conservative European People's Party.

Allam built his career in Italy as commentator and book author attacking Islamic extremism and supporting Israel.

In March, Allam angered some in the Muslim world with a high-profile conversion during an Easter vigil service led by the pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

Allam, who took the name Cristiano upon converting, has credited Benedict with being instrumental in his decision to become a Catholic and has said the pope had baptized him to support freedom of religion.

The 56-year-old Allam has lived most of his adult life in Italy, becoming a citizen in 1986. In recent years he was given a police escort after receiving death threats from radical Islamic groups.

While working to encourage tolerance between cultures he has also grown increasingly critical of his former faith.

He said in leading daily Corriere della Sera, where he has worked as deputy editor, that the "root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Liberalism Needs to Rediscover God, Says Pope
Writes Forward to Marcello Pera's Latest Book
By Jesús Colina , DEC. 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).-

At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis of ethics in Europe and the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope wrote this in a letter sent in September to Italian philosopher and senator Marcello Pera, in response to the latter's latest book titled "Perche dobbiamo dirci cristiani. Il liberalismo, l'Europa, l'etica" (Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians: Liberalism, Europe, and Ethics").

Published by Mondadori, the Italian-language book will be presented Thursday in Rome. The letter appears as a forward in the text. Marcello Pera, 65, president of the Italian Senate during the last legislature, dedicated his academic research to his friend Karl Popper, Austrian philosopher of the "open society."

In his letter, Benedict XVI acknowledged the text to be "a fascinating read," and he applauded Pera's analysis of liberalism. "With an exceptional knowledge of the foundations, and with convincing logic, you analyze the essence of liberalism from its principles, showing that rooted in the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God."

"With irreproachable logic, you show how liberalism loses its base and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation," he added.

The Pope also expressed his admiration for Pera's analysis of liberty, and the concept of multiculturalism, in which he "shows the internal contradiction of this concept and, therefore, its political and cultural impossibility."

"Of fundamental importance is your analysis of what Europe and a European Constitution can be in which Europe is not transformed into a cosmopolitan reality, but finds -- from its Christian-liberal foundation -- its own identity," he notes.

The Holy Father also reflects on the senator's analysis of the concepts of interreligious and intercultural dialogue: "You explain with great clarity that interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible, while intercultural dialogue is particularly urgent, which analyzes the cultural consequences of the underlying religious decision."

"Although it is true that as regard the latter, no true dialogue is possible without putting aside one's own faith, in the public debate it is necessary to address the cultural consequences of the underlying religious decisions," he indicates.

The Holy Father said he believed Pera's proposals are necessary to overcome "the contemporary crisis of ethics."

"You show that liberalism, without failing to be liberalism -- rather, to be faithful to itself -- can refer to a doctrine of the good, in particular the Christian, which is familiar to it, thus truly offering a contribution to overcome the crisis," he continued.

In an interview Saturday on Vatican Radio, Pera explained the reasons why on occasions liberalism has become anti-Christian.

"In so far as Europe is concerned, in particular, a historic explanation is given. Many have often found themselves in conflict with the Catholic Church, and it is a bitter fact of the history of Europe, which is not the case in the history of the United States," he explained.

"Some national States -- Italy, France, etc. -- have constituted themselves as nation-states with a struggle, with a dispute against the Catholic Church," he noted.

"This has generated what is known as the phenomenon of anti-clericalism, and anti-clericalism has generated another: what in the book I call 'secular equation,' namely, 'liberal equals non-Christian.'"

"This is an error," he said, "as one can argue historically on the merits and demerits of the Catholic Church in Europe at the time of the foundation of the national states, but the importance of the Christian message cannot be disputed."

If one opts for anti-Christianity, what the Pope calls "the apostasy of Christianity," added Pera, "we lose the very virtues, the very foundations of those liberties and rights on which are liberal States are founded."