Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Church teachings reflect harmony of God's plan, pope says
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Taken all together, the teachings of the Catholic faith are "a marvelous symphony that sings of God and his love," Pope Benedict XVI said.

In a world where people tend to pick and choose what to believe, what to study and what to specialize in, the church must help people see how all of its teachings about the Trinity, creation, redemption, the sacraments and morality reflect "the harmony of God's plan of salvation," the pope said Dec. 30 at his weekly general audience.

Before expressing his hope that friendship with Jesus would accompany each of his visitors throughout 2010, Pope Benedict delivered another installment in his series of audience talks about Christian theologians and philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Focusing on the work of Peter Lombard, who was born in Italy and died in 1160 as bishop of Paris, the pope emphasized the importance of systematic presentations of the Christian faith. Lombard's famous work, "The Sentences," like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, demonstrates how individual church teachings are linked to one another and must be taken together if one is to have a full understanding of the faith, he said.

Pope Benedict said Peter Lombard is still remembered for providing "the definitive definition" of a sacrament as "an outward sign and cause of grace."The sacraments are not simply rituals or symbols of God's action in people's lives, but "they really have the power to communicate divine grace," the pope said.

"The sacraments are the great treasure of the church," he said. The celebration of the sacraments "is always a surprising event; they touch our lives. Christ, through visible signs, comes to meet us. He purifies us, transforms us and makes us participants in his divine friendship."

Pope Benedict said Peter Lombard raised questions that could interest modern readers, including why God created Eve from the rib of Adam instead of from his head or his feet.

He said the 12th-century theologian explained that God formed woman not as "one who would dominate man, nor one who would be his slave, but one who would be a companion."

The pope encouraged Catholics to read "The Sentences," but even more to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a modern systematic presentation of Christian faith.

- - -Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at:
And this, my friends, is what justice and compassion are all about.

The woman who launched a Christmas Eve attack on Pope Benedict XVI will probably not face charges because of her mental state, Italian news agency ANSA says, citing Vatican sources.

A Vatican court will probably acquit 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, who leapt over a security barrier and knocked the Pope to the ground at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in St Peter's Basilica, ANSA reported yesterday.

Acquittal was "the most likely hypothesis" because of the assailant's mental health problems and the court would rule on the case quickly, Vatican sources told the agency.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Robert Ventresca: Rescuing a pope's spiritual legacy
Posted: December 26, 2009, 9:00 AM by NP Editor

Pius XII — popularly vilified as “Hitler’s Pope” — is inching closer to becoming a 21st century saint. There are still some imposing tests to be met, and his canonization is far from certain, but under Pope Benedict XVI, an important step on that long journey has been taken.

Having spent some time studying the contentious issue of Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust, Pope Benedict has clearly seen nothing, even in the Vatican’s private records, that would prevent Pius’s canonization. Pope Benedict believes that Pius, born Eugenio Pacelli, worked constantly but prudently behind the scenes during the war, directing papal representatives and Catholic institutions throughout Europe to shelter and rescue thousands of Jews. This announcement suggests that Benedict intends to use the full weight of the papal office to challenge the public image of the wartime pope.

What makes Benedict’s decision so potentially provocative is that it will challenge the prevailing tendency to reduce Eugenio Pacelli’s long life of service to merely that period during the Second World War. Pius XII’s role during the Holocaust, important as it is, has obscured our view of this man’s broader legacy. After all, Pius XII continued to reign as Roman pontiff for some 13 years after the end of the war. In some respects, it was the Cold War that defined his pontificate. He was an influential scholar, diplomat and theologian, and left a lasting mark on the Church. Little of this is remembered today.

The judgment of history and historians has tended to obscure Pius XII’s spiritual legacy, which Pope Benedict wants to acknowledge. The Church teaches that the “goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” To say that he exhibited “heroic virtues” in his lifetime is to say that Pius XII gave extraordinary witness in word and deed to the Christian virtues, among them prudence, fortitude and temperance. Above all, it is to say that he made the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity — the cornerstone of his conscience and activity.

Whether in his renowned asceticism and spirituality; his Eucharistic devotion; his concrete initiatives as a diplomat during the First World War and later as Pope on behalf of POWs and refugees; his prophetic warnings about the evils of pagan nationalism and atheistic materialism; even his cautious response to the many demonstrable crimes of Nazism — in all this, his promoters say, Pius XII practiced the Christian virtues in an extraordinary way.

Caution and prudence often have the feel of indifference or timidity. Pius never explicitly criticized the Third Reich, not even when the Nazis occupied Rome and began to round up the city’s small but ancient Jewish community in October 1943. One thousand Roman Jews were sent to Auschwitz; most were gassed within a week of arriving. All this, it was said, happened “under the Pope’s very window,” without public protest.

In fact, the Pope was not oblivious to the complaints coming from various corners of Nazi-occupied Europe that the Holy See was not responding to the Nazis’ brutality. As he wrote to the German bishops in February 1941, “Where the Pope wants to cry out loud and strong, it is expectation and silence that are unhappily often imposed upon him; where he would act and give assistance, it is patience and waiting [that are imposed].” Pius’s approach — silence, patience and waiting — was to avoid greater evil. This principle of avoiding greater evil was consistent with all of Pius XII’s diplomatic training and careful character. It may even have saved lives.

Pius XII’s oratorical restraint did not equal inaction. Some estimates suggest that Catholic institutions, including Vatican properties, offered shelter or offered assistance to more than 4,000 Roman Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome. In Budapest, 25,000 Jews were sheltered and survived thanks to the efforts of papal representatives acting with Pius XII’s blessing and material assistance. Through his representatives, Pius XII protested directly and forcefully when the Slovak government began to deport approximately 80,000 Jews to Auschwitz.

Was this enough? More to the point: Was this prudence befit the Vicar of Christ? What if Pius XII had issued a forceful, unequivocal condemnation of Nazism and especially its persecution of Jews? What if the Pope had directed his representatives and all European Catholics to resist actively Nazi policies? How many more lives might have been saved?

It is impossible to provide properly historical answers to such imponderables. It is entirely understandable that for many people, especially Jews, such is not satisfactory. To many, Benedict’s decision to advance the process of Pius’ canonization will appear premature and insensitive, given the many fresh wounds and pronounced scars in Jewish-Catholic relations.
However, Benedict’s actions do not render a final verdict on the open questions about Pius’s wartime activities. Benedict simply suggests that Pius lived as a virtuous man striving in extraordinary ways to be like God. The extent to which he succeeded awaits final judgment.

National Post
Robert Ventresca is a historian at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario. He is working on a biography of Pius XII titled Soldier of Christ: The Political Life of Pope Pius XII.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pope Considers St. Francis' Role in Christmas

Notes How Feast Developed in Middle Ages

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2009 ( While the celebration of Easter focuses on God's power, the Christmas feast shows a God who comes without weapons or strength in the hopes that man will receive him, Benedict XVI says.

And this image of God made a Child is particularly visible in the Nativity scene, a tradition that has marked the Christian celebration of Christmas and which can be traced to St. Francis of Assisi. In Greccio, Italy, he made the first Nativity scene in 1223.

The Holy Father reflected on St. Francis' role in the development of the Christmas celebration during the general audience today in Paul VI Hall.

"With St. Francis and his nativity, the defenseless love of God was shown, his humility and goodness, which in the incarnation of the Word is manifested to man so as to teach a new way to live and to love," he said.

The Pontiff explained how a biographer of the saint recounts a vision Francis was given at the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio: "He saw a little child lying still in a manger; the child woke up because Francis approached. And [the biographer] adds: 'This vision was not different than real life, since through the work of his grace acting by way of his holy servant Francis, the Child Jesus was resurrected in the hearts of many.'"

So near

Benedict XVI affirmed: "Thanks to St. Francis, the Christian people have been able to perceive that at Christmas, God truly has become Emmanuel, God-with-us, from whom no barrier or distance can separate us. In this Child, God has come so near to each one of us, so close, that we can address him with confidence and maintain with him a trusting relationship of deep affection, as we do with a newborn.

"In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man's pride, violence and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity."

The Pope invited the faithful to pray to the Father, "so that he concedes to our hearts this simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child, precisely as Francis did in Greccio."

"Then," he said, "we too can experience what [...] happened to those present [...] 'Each one returned to his house filled with an ineffable joy.'"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holy Father's Year in Review

CNS STORY: Inside and outside the Vatican, 2009 was busy year for pope
Pope ‘won't stay at Buckingham Palace during UK visit’

During the first visit by a pontiff in almost 30 years, Pope Benedict XVI will also decline to attend a state dinner with the Queen and other dignitaries as well as open-carriage procession, a Scottish MP claimed.

It is understood that Pope Benedict will stay at the Ambassador to the Court of St James, the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon rather than at Buckingham Palace during his visit from 16 to 19 September, The Tablet, the Catholic weekly, reported.

Jim Murphy, a Catholic MP who is Secretary of State for Scotland and heads the government team in charge of the visit, said that while it would have the status of a state visit, the Vatican did not want the trappings that accompany such a visit.

“It’s a unique constitutional arrangement as the Pope is head of a faith and the head of state,” Mr Murphy, who is leading the government’s planning of the visit, told the paper.
“The official title is ‘papal visit with the status of a state visit’.

“Normally state visits include banquets and gold carriages but the Vatican doesn’t want that.”
Pope Benedict XVI's tour would be only the second papal visit since Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England 475 years ago.

Mr. Murphy confirmed the Pope will spend three days in England and one day in Scotland. It is understood he will avoid visiting Ireland despite pleas from Irish church members, who want him to visit them and apologize in person for decades of child abuse by members of the clergy.

The paper reported a meeting with the Queen, in Scotland, when she holidays at Balmoral, during the Pope’s visit.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Scottish Bishops’ Conference had drawn up an itinerary that was now with the Holy See, he added.

“It’s a pretty imaginative mix of public Masses, ecumenical events and other functions,” he said.
“Obviously, however, it’s up to the Vatican to make the final decision on it.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “I am delighted to help provide a place of worship for these traditionalist Anglicans, taking the lead from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II.”

A series of events over the course of the visit is likely to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators. There are four million Roman Catholics in Britain.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insanity rum amuk - yes, it can run amuk.

This post comes from I just HAD to share it here. Can things get anymore disturbing? Probably so but short of the Pope saying the same thing, probably not.


Just when you thought an Anglican bishop couldn't do anything crazier they do something crazier. England is in an uproar this morning because Bishop Venner-- the newly appointed bishop of the armed forces-- has publicly praised the 'faith, religious conviction and their loyalty' of the Taliban to their religion. The news story is here. Damian Thompson's typically waspish comment is here.

I am sure Bishop Venner meant well, and the media has probably taken his words out of context and bashed him with them. At very least he should choose his words carefully and have someone who is media saavy look them over first. At worst, he actually means to give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt. What tickles me most about this ridiculous comment is that an Anglican bishop (like all the naieve and snobbish English chattering class) bend over backward to accomodate Muslims while they run down their own church.

Here's an Anglican bishop who tries to cut the Taliban a break. The Taliban themselves rape boys and girls then set them up as teen suicide bombers. These are people who throw acid in the face of girls who dare to go to school. But I wonder what the bishop's attitude

The underlying problem with Bishop Venner's remarks is the shaky relativistic foundation on which his religion is built. He's used to making room for everyone and allowing everyone to 'agree to differ'. The only traits which validate one's view would be toleration and sincerity. The Taliban aren't tolerant, but at least they're sincere. So that's all right then. We can praise them for that.

Last week on this blog we were making fun of sincerity as a virtue on its own. I commented that most anyone could be sincere, but without truth, sincerity was about as substantial as a greeting card. I said sincerity on its own was not only sentimentality combined with silliness, but that it was also sinister.

Bishop Veneer's remarks prove my point.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pope, Russia agree to upgrade diplomatic ties
By DANIELA PETROFF (AP) – 1 day ago
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed Thursday to upgrade Vatican-Kremlin relations to full diplomatic ties, the Vatican said.
The step forward on the diplomatic front comes at the same time as a warming in previously tense relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

A Vatican statement said Benedict and Medvedev agreed that Russia will upgrade its representation at the Vatican from a special mission to embassy level and that the Vatican will reciprocate in Moscow.

The two men also discussed challenges to "security and peace" in the world and "themes of mutual interest such as the value of the family and the contribution of believers to the life of Russia," the Vatican said.

Medvedev, on a one-day visit to Rome, met with the German pope for 30 minutes, speaking through interpreters. He had earlier met with Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
After decades of hostility between the Vatican and the Kremlin during the Cold War, the major breakthrough came when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met with Pope John Paul II in December 1989.

But the lifting of restrictions on religion led to new tensions with the Orthodox church, which accused the Vatican of poaching for souls in traditional Orthodox territory — a charge the Vatican denied.

The standoff prevented John Paul II of fulfilling his wish of making a pilgrimage to Russia.
Vatican officials, however, say that despite improved atmosphere such a trip is not on Benedict's agenda now. The Vatican statement after Thursday's meeting did not mention it.

Benedict had met with Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, two years ago. As a gift, Medvedev presented Benedict with 22 volumes of an encyclopedia on the Russian Orthodox Church to complete a set brought by Putin.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press.