Thursday, February 28, 2013

Novena for the election of a new Pope

Symposium: Pope Benedict XVI’s Legacy on Catholic Higher Education

With Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation taking effect today, The Cardinal Newman Society asked a variety of Newman Guide Catholic college and university presidents to reflect on the Pope’s legacy with respect to Catholic higher education. Several responded. Their reflections follow.
Embracing Catholic Identity
John Garvey, President, The Catholic University of America
A theologian of the highest caliber, Pope Benedict XVI wrote eloquently on the role of Catholic education in the modern world. He emphasized the importance of engaging in the dialogue of faith and reason, and bringing the resources of the Catholic tradition to a world desperately in need of its wisdom. As leader of the church, he encouraged Catholic institutions to embrace their Catholic identity, and to appreciate the unique gifts Catholicism brings to higher education. He urged Catholic educators to consider the responsibility Catholic education has in encouraging a spirit of evangelization and bringing Jesus Christ to the world. As a spiritual father to the church, he reminded us that love for God must always remain at the center of all we do as educators. We are entrusted with responsibility for the intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth of those in our care. The Catholic University of America is profoundly grateful for the guidance and wisdom Pope Benedict XVI has brought to Catholic education.

Freedom is Seeking the Truth
Reverend Robert W. Cook, President, Wyoming Catholic College
Pope Benedict’s legacy in Catholic education must be acknowledged as seminal and vital.  As he said recently to the Bishops of the United States, “… providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in [the U.S.].”  This connects with his April, 2008 address to Catholic educators in America when he said, “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the Living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”  He decried academic freedom when it amounts to license and when it fundamentally disregards the teaching authority of the Magisterium.  He reminds us that freedom is for seeking the truth, as found by revelation and reason working together. Benedict XVI was a great pope who encouraged higher educational institutions, like Wyoming Catholic College, to do their part in the new evangelization.
A longer reflection from Fr. Cook is available at the Wyoming Catholic College website.
A Question of Conviction
Father Terence Henry, TOR, President, Franciscan University of Steubenville
As if it were yesterday, I remember being at Catholic University of America in 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI addressed a throng of Catholic educators.  Our Holy Father delivered a clear yet gentle message to us all, outlining that which makes a Catholic institution Catholic. This thought in particular stood out to me: ‘A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction.’ 
He went onto tell us the primary purpose of a Catholic university is to witness to Jesus Christ, and he called ‘fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth’ in Catholic schools ‘indispensable.’
I am particularly grateful as a university president for the Holy Father’s guidance on the mission and identity of Catholic education and his call for Catholic educators to ensure that ‘every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith.’
Leading with Love
Stephen D. Minnis, President, Benedictine College
(Pictured with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops)
Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate has coincided with my presidency at Benedictine College.
In my first year as president, I witnessed how deeply our students mourned Blessed John Paul, and how dramatically their moods changed when Pope Benedict XVI was elected (and took the name of our college!).
They clearly loved him, and he loved them back.
Halfway through his pontificate, our paths crossed for the first time in Washington. He had simple advice for university presidents: “To lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love.” It’s a line I have repeated in countless interviews with prospective faculty.
Those of us who got to be with him at the Ecclesiae in America conference last December saw the frailty of this great man. But we also saw his great heart. I salute him for doing the hardest thing in leadership: Leading with love.
Pope Benedict’s Peace and Joy
Dr. Robert Ivany, President, University of St. Thomas Houston
The memory of Pope Benedict XVI that will always remain with me took place during his visit to the United States in 2008. He spoke to the leadership of Catholic higher education at the Catholic University of America.
His words were carefully chosen, his demeanor was warm and his impact was profound. He beautifully and deliberately described why Catholic universities had a unique mission and how the guidance in Ex Corde Ecclesiae was more critical to our future now than when it was published in 1991. He reminded me of the gentle and stalwart shepherd who knew his flock and understood the unique opportunities and challenges that we faced here in the United States.
Even more impressive than his speech was his smile. He exuded joy. Our son served as a deacon on the altar with him for the Mass in Nationals Park. He related to me the same impression after the Eucharistic celebration. “The Holy Father radiated peace and joy,” he said, and it is that peace and joy that I will remember. They both spring from a deep and faithful love of God.
The Center of All Things
Dr. Michael McLean, President, Thomas Aquinas College
Under the banner of his motto, Cooperatores Veritatis – Cooperators of the Truth – Pope Benedict XVI has strengthened the faithful in the conviction that the human mind can come to an understanding of reality -- to the truth about nature, man, and the God who made them. Through the holiness of his life and the rich treasure of his writings, he has taught us that the Truth – who is Christ, the Word of God made flesh – should be at the center of all our learning and all our endeavors. He has made a compelling case against the “dictatorship of relativism” which plagues our contemporary culture and impedes the work of the Church. May God grant our beloved pontiff every grace as he begins a new phase of his service to the Church, and may He bless the great work Benedict undertook during his pontificate.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Vision
Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell, President, Christendom College
I will never forget Pope Benedict XVI, in his historic address to Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America in April of 2008.  He gave a calmly reasoned presentation of the fundamental importance of the Catholic Faith to the mission of Catholic education at all levels.The Holy Father began his address by referring to those present as “bearers of wisdom,” immediately signifying the august nature of their calling and mission of service within the Church. Rather than seeing the college and university as something separate and distinct from the Church, he placed this educational mission right at the heart of the mission of the Church: “Education is integral to the mission of the Church to evangelize.”  A Catholic school is first and foremost “a place to encounter the living God, who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love.”
Here, the Holy Father immediately pointed out the absolute centrality of faith in Catholic higher education. This encounter with the living God is meant to “elicit a desire to grow in knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.” Those who encounter Christ within the Catholic school are drawn by the Gospel to begin to live a new life and to seriously pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Education in truth must guide both the teacher and the student toward objective truth which transcends the particular and the subjective and points the student out of his narrow world towards the universal and absolute.  For it is only when the student comes into contact with universal and absolute truth that he will be able to proclaim the Christian message of hope. This is especially crucial, the Pope observed, when dealing with today’s secular mindset, which struggles constantly with moral confusion and the fragmentation of knowledge and lacks the unified vision that only the Catholic university can give.
Unfortunately, in the wake of the chaos of the ‘60s and ‘70s and the confusion following the Second Vatican Council, the uniqueness of Catholic higher education was compromised by an effort to imitate secular models.  In the Land O’ Lakes decision in 1967 a number of influential Catholic educators proclaimed that, in the name of academic freedom, no Catholic institution of higher learning could acknowledge any authority outside itself.  (In practice, however, the only authority from which the universities could claim independence was the Church herself, not accrediting agencies and the like.)
Tellingly, the Pope clearly pointed out that the Catholic identity of a university is “fundamentally . . . a question of conviction.”  Pope Benedict then asked five radically fundamental questions:
1) Do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man become clear?  (Gaudium et Spes, 22.)
2) Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect, will, mind and heart—to God?
3) Do we accept the truth Christ reveals?
4) Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?
5) Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation?
Only when all these questions can be answered in the affirmative is a college or university truly Catholic: “Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.”  Those teaching in the Catholic university have a particular responsibility “to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith,encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from belief.” It is precisely in making the act of faith and living that faith within the Church, the Pope stated, that “freedom reaches the certainty of truth.” Rejecting the relativism which portrays religious faith as a purely subjective matter, the Pope continues, “In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us by the Church.”
The Holy Father then made what I believe is the central point of his address:
“Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics.  Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely, that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society.  They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others’ (ibid., 28).”
Addressing the false understanding of academic freedom, the Holy Father stated:
“I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom.  In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you.  Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission, a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus operandi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.”
I firmly believe that the inspiring message of this Pontiff and the radical challenge of this address will remain central to any future discussion concerning the purpose and direction of Catholic education in this country.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.
- See more at:

Gentle Shepherd Inspires the Nation

Benedict Encouraged America to Live for ‘Christ, Our Hope.’

Pope Benedict XVI arrives at Andrews Air Force Base on April 15, 2008.
– Wikicommons
WASHINGTON — Five years after his pastoral visit to the United States, Benedict’s presence continues to leave a mark on a Church that faces a rising tide of hostile secularism in American society.

For six days, between April 15-20, 2008, Benedict took up the “Pilgrim Pope” mantle of his predecessor Blessed John Paul II. Scores of thousands of Catholics — bishops, priests, laity and religious representing 195 dioceses — turned out to see the Holy Father as he made his stops in Washington and New York and to hear his inspirational vision of how the Church must engage American society with the Gospel message.

“The whole theme of the visit was ‘Christ, Our Hope,’” Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., recalled. “He was calling us to live our faith in the public square and put into practice our beliefs in the world.”

Bishop Rhoades, then the bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., recounted that Benedict’s “warmth, gentleness and amazing teaching” banished American misperceptions of him as a hard-nosed “Panzer Pope.”
Instead, he said, Benedict presented to the Church “the whole theme of the New Evangelization” and renewed the courage of the U.S. bishops in the face of increasing attacks on life, marriage and religious belief in the public square.
President George W. Bush turned out personally to greet the Holy Father as he stepped off the plane April 15 at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, where cheering crowds greeted him. The next day at the White House, the Pope praised the U.S. founding documents’ recognition of “a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator” and recalled George Washington’s reminder to the nation in his 1794 farewell address that religion and morality are “indispensable supports” of its continued freedom.

The Challenge of Secularism
“The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate,” Benedict said. “It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.”

The Pope later that day addressed the Church’s bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and spoke about confronting the pastoral challenges of secularism, the “quiet apostasy” of Catholics leaving the faith and the decline in vocations.

Since that visit, however, Church-state relations in the United States have deteriorated sharply.
In the most significant current dispute, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with a variety of Catholic and other Christian organizations and businesses in a legal battle against the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services’ mandate, which requires that organizations, including Catholic ones, provide for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization to employees in their health-insurance plans.

And in New York, the state’s bishops are fighting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to make abortion a “fundamental right” in state law, which they warn would make late-term abortion available on demand and could lead to the shut down of Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform abortions.
“I never thought in 2008 that religious liberty would be under attack the way it is today,” Bishop Rhoades said.

These subsequent events make the Pope’s call in 2008 for Americans to uphold their nation’s foundational commitment to religious liberty and to moral values even more relevant now, according to U.S. Catholic leaders.

“If people no longer believe in God, and if the social sciences have weakened the idea that humans have any inherent or permanent ‘nature,’” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told the Register Feb. 27, “then words like ‘freedom,’ ‘rights’ and ‘truth’ don’t really mean anything. They’re just campaign slogans.”

Campus Fidelity
Benedict’s historic address to 400 Catholic university presidents and school superintendents on April 17 at Catholic University of America also set a new tone for Catholic education in America.
“This is the chief idea of Pope Benedict about higher education: It isn’t our job just to provide information about God, but that the Catholic university should be a place where God is in our midst,” John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, told Catholic News Agency.

Garvey said the Pope’s address had “real, noticeable effects,” with universities showing a “greater willingness” to embrace their Catholic identity and academics less suspicious toward the bishops.
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which ranks Catholic colleges and universities based on their fidelity to Church teaching, said Benedict would have been justified to call Catholic educators to account over “the current crisis in Catholic education.”

“He chose instead to re-establish a vision where what Catholic education ought to be (is central),” Reilly said.

Reilly said Benedict’s positive appeal to Catholic educators moved the discussion beyond meeting only the most minimal requirements of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution for Catholic higher education, and reminded the educators that their mission “revolves around bringing young people to Christ.”

Reilly noted positive improvements since the pastoral visit, such as the National Catholic School Standards developed by Loyola University in Chicago to promote Catholic identity in elementary and secondary schools.

Healing After Sex Abuse
Also on April 17, approximately 46,000 people joined U.S. cardinals, bishops and 1,300 priests for Benedict’s opening Mass at Washington’s Nationals Stadium, where he called for Catholics to “foster healing and reconciliation” in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal. The Pope would repeat this theme again at his Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 19.

Benedict also had a private meeting with survivors of priestly sex abuse, accompanied by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, and apologized for the Church’s failures.

“I told him then that he had a cancer in his flock that he needed to do something about,” said Bernie McDaid, 57, who had been sexually abused by a now-deceased Boston priest at 12 years old.
The most heart-rending episode of Benedict’s meeting with sex-abuse survivors came when a woman who was raped as a little girl by a priest rose to tell her story, McDaid said. But when she tried to speak, she burst forth in a wailing torrent of tears.

“The crying was echoing to the roof. It was haunting,” he said. “I never forgot that scene, and I know Benedict never forgot it either.”

Catholic commentator and author Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. bishops’ conference, said the American Church has made “significant progress” against sexual abuse under Benedict. He said the pastoral visit “lent support to what the American bishops have been trying to do since 2002 to remedy the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“The incidence of sex abuse of minors by Catholic priests has gone way, way down in recent years,” Shaw said. “While that’s due to a number of factors, it is certainly the result of the policies and programs of child protection put in place in Catholic schools and churches for quite a few years now.”

Interfaith Dialogue
The Pope also stressed the Church’s solidarity with other people of faith during his visit. He spoke with 200 representatives of religions, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, at Catholic University’s Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on April 18 before making a historic visit the next day to the Park East Synagogue in New York.

“Getting together on American soil, in the land of freedom and democracy, where all religious communities can live together in peace and harmony was a real affirmation of Pope Benedict to Nostra Aetate and the Second Vatican Council,” Rabbi Arthur Schneier said.

Schneier, 82, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, praised Benedict for promoting peace in the world through interfaith dialogue. He and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York later affixed a plaque on the synagogue to mark the first time a pope had visited a synagogue on American soil.

Pope Benedict also addressed the U.N. General Assembly that day, urging them to reject efforts to reinterpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in ways that would exclude God and the natural law.

“It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights,” Benedict said.
Archbishop Chaput said the Pope’s affirmation of the “religious dimension of human rights” was a reminder that individuals aren’t “little godlings,” but, instead, have “binding duties to God, each other and society.”

And the Holy Father highlighted that the concept of human rights depends on a “shared framework of moral obligation within which we exercise our rights,” Archbishop Chaput said.

Inspirational Farewell
On April 19, Pope Benedict arrived at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., to lead a youth rally of 20,000, where he encouraged the young people and seminarians present to have confidence to follow Christ’s call.

“I saw his gaze of love on each of us. It was very real,” recalled Father Michael Roche, 34, a parochial vicar at St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh.

The future priest and a group of fellow seminarians met with Benedict personally that day. “I’ve told people ever since: This guy loves you more than anyone you’ll ever know, even though he’s never met you and will never know your name,” Father Roche said. “But he has just a truly real appreciation for your destiny.”

The next day, the Pope bid farewell to the United States after visiting, praying at and blessing Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center twin towers.
At his closing papal Mass before flying back to Rome, Pope Benedict urged the 60,000 Catholics packed into Yankee Stadium to live daily the words “thy Kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer as a witness to hope.

“This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation,” the Pope said. “It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities. It needs to create new ‘settings of hope’ where God’s Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.”
Peter Jesserer Smith writes from Rochester, New York.
CNA contributed to this report.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The final blessing: Pope Benedict's last general audience

Benedict’s Last Wednesday Audience: God Will Guide Church in Days Ahead

The Holy Father reflects on his last eight years as the bishop of Rome.

EWTN/Peter Gagnon
Pilgrims throng to Pope Benedict’s final general audience Feb. 27 in St. Peter’s Square.
– EWTN/Peter Gagnon

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI told the hundreds of thousands of people who came to his final general audience Feb. 27 that he is filled with trust and peace as he prepares to resign because the Church is not his, but God’s, and he will “not let it sink.”

“In this moment,” the Pope said, “there is in me a great trust because I know, we all know, that the word of truth of the Gospel is the strength of the Church; it is her life. … This is my trust; this is my joy.”

The Pope made his way through St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile and was welcomed by cheering throngs of pilgrims from all over Europe and abroad.

“The heart of a pope,” he told the assembly, “reaches out to the entire world. I would like my greeting and my thanks to reach all people.”

Benedict XVI will abdicate the Chair of St. Peter tomorrow; and, at that time, the Church will be without a pope.

His impending departure led the Pope to reflect on his last eight years as the successor of St. Peter, whom Jesus called to be a fisher of men.

“When, on April 19 nearly eight years ago, I accepted to assume the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: ‘Lord, what are you asking of me? This is a great burden that you place on my shoulders, but if you ask it of me, on your word, I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me.’

“And the Lord has truly guided me; he has been close to me. I have been able to perceive his presence daily. It has been a piece of the path of the Church that has had moments of joy and light, but also moments that were not easy,” the Pope told the crowd.

He also said he “felt like St. Peter and the apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee.The Lord has given us so many days of sun and light wind, days in which the catch was abundant; there have also been moments in which the waters were agitated, and the wind blew contrary, as in all of the history of the Church, and the Lord appeared to be sleeping.

“But I have always known that in that boat there was the Lord, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine; it is not ours; but it is his [Christ's]. And he does not let it sink. It is him who steers it, certainly also through the men he has chosen, because he has wanted it this way,” the Pope stated.

Because God guides and protects the Church, Pope Benedict said that “today my heart is full of thanks to God because he has never made his consolation, his light, his love be absent from the entire Church or from me.”

He also told the crowd that he carries “all of you in my prayer, in a present that is that of God, where I gather up every encounter, every trip, every pastoral visit.

“Everything and everyone, I gather up in prayer to entrust them to the Lord, so that we might have full awareness of his will, with every wisdom and spiritual intelligence, and so that we may act in a way that is deserving of him, of his love, bringing fruit in every good work.”

Pope Benedict also demonstrated the depth of his pastoral heart by telling the sea of pilgrims that he “would like every person to feel loved by that God that gave his Son for us and who has showed his boundless love for us. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian.”

He finished the main part of his remarks by saying, “In these last few months, I have felt my strength has diminished, and I asked God insistently in prayer to illuminate me with his light to help me to make the most just decision, not for my good, but for the good of the Church."

“I took this step in full knowledge of its gravity and also novelty,” he said, adding that it was also “with a profound serenity of soul."

“Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult and painful choices, keeping always the good of the Church at the fore and not our own,” Pope Benedict stressed.
His final public audience as pope will take place tomorrow at Castel Gandolfo. The local mayor, parish priest, bishop and the faithful will welcome Benedict XVI to his residence. After that, he will give one last speech from the window that overlooks the courtyard of the residence.

Read more:

The pope in retirement: What to expect

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) - Don't expect a lot of shuffleboard games for the soon-to-be former Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the Universal Church: Pope Benedict XVI.

On Thursday, at 8 p.m. in Rome, Benedict will become the first retired pontiff in 600 years. And with no modern guides, everything he does will be pioneering for a 21st century papal retiree.

The leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe will leave his seat at the ornate Apostolic Palace and retire to a former gardener's house at the Vatican to lead a life of prayer, likely removed entirely from public life.

The Vatican said Tuesday he will keep the name Benedict XVI and still be addressed as "his holiness." He will also be known as pope emeritus, emeritus pope or Roman pontifex emeritus.
He will forego his ornate papal wardrobe and elbow-length cape, called a mozzetta, for a simple white cassock. He also will retire his famous red shoes in favor of a brown pair picked up on his trip to Mexico last year.

The 85-year-old will first leave Rome to go to the papal seaside retreat Castle Gandolfo until a successor is named. Then he will head to the Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) building, which formerly housed a cloistered convent in the Vatican gardens.

While "convent" or "monastery," as officials have been calling it, may be the right name for the former home of a group of cloistered nuns tasked with prayer for the pope, the space does not have the long stone-arched hallways and massive common areas evoked by such terms.

The pope's new home

"It used to be the gardener's house," Sister Ancilla Armijo said. "It's just a small house. What they added was just a library for the sisters and a new chapel."

Armijo is a nun in the Benedictine Order at the Abbey of St. Walburga in Colorado, not far from the Wyoming border. From October 7, 2004, to October 7, 2009, she and six other Benedictine sisters from around the world lived in Mater Ecclesiae praying for the pope - first for an ailing Pope John Paul II and then all the way through to the election and papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

Armijo joined the order in 1972 at age 16. She said joining a cloistered group of international nuns on the Vatican grounds was unique.

While the house has a sense of being removed from the Vatican, she said it provides views of the papal apartment, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.

"We felt connected to the Vatican itself," she said, although "it's not like there's any access to the Vatican itself, the main buildings or anything like that."

The Mater Ecclesiae is "very small" and "very hot," she said. "There's no trees shading it. I think it'll work for him if they have air conditioning for him. They'll have to remodel the kitchen and things like that because it was so simple."

While she lived there, bars adorned the windows and separated the nuns from their visitors in the meeting room, in keeping with a cloistered, set-apart lifestyle.

When Benedict arrives, he can stroll the private courtyard and take in the perfumed aroma from the 15 or so John Paul II rose bushes, a white-petaled flower cultivated in honor of his predecessor. Armijo said a group donated the rose bushes to the Vatican in honor of the late pontiff. Benedict gave them to the sisters to grow. Every two weeks they sent a bouquet up to the papal residence.
In the gardens, Armijo said, Benedict can also find lemon and orange trees in addition to a small vegetable garden used by the house for meals.

The monastery, when Armijo lived there, had a few bedrooms, a kitchen, a living area, a library and a chapel. The walls were plain and whitewashed. It does not bear the artistic treasures other parts of the Vatican hold, like Michelangelo's masterworks the Pieta sculpture in St. Peter's, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or the massive Last Judgment painting above the altar in the Sistine Chapel.

"The only real piece of art is in the chapel. It has a beautiful bronzed life-sized crucifix," Armijo said.

A life of prayer

In the chapel, the pope might say Mass every day for his small household, said Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Divine Worship.

Benedict has said he will devote his life to prayer. There is no playbook for the life of prayer for a retired pope, Hilgartner said. "Nothing beyond the normal routine” for a monk or a priest.
He said that would include "prayer throughout the day and the liturgy of the hours, morning prayer, evening prayer, Mass every day."
Benedict is likely to keep a small staff at the house to tend to his needs. "He has some German sisters" - nuns - "who cared for him in his domestic needs at the Apostolic Palace and they're apparently moving with him to this monastery. So he'll provide for their spiritual needs, saying Mass every day," Hilgartner said.

There may be a stipend for the retired pope. Italian news outlets have reported retired clerics receive up to €2,500 a month. Hilgartner said Benedict won't need much if any money. The Vatican will take care of his lodging and his health care.

"He didn't have a pension because the presumption was he would be in office until he died," Hilgartner said. "His needs will be cared for. Because of the way he'll be living, those needs will be somewhat limited."

Back to the books

Benedict, a theologian by training, is likely to switch from universal pastor back to scholar.
"My sense is that he will lay low out of deference to the new pope, that he will stay out of the way and under the radar," Hilgartner said. He expects Benedict to behave mostly like a retired scholar, doing lots of reading and maybe a little writing.

Benedict was rumored to be working on his fourth encyclical before he announced he would resign, Hilgartner said. Encyclicals are papal letters to the church, often on pressing matters that carry the weight of the office the pope with them.

"He had written the encyclical on hope, the encyclical on love, and another one on social justice and charity," Hilgartner said, adding that the rumored fourth may be on faith. As a retired pope, Benedict's final encyclical would not carry the weight of the office.

That is something Benedict had not imposed on his previous scholarly works while in office.
"He was careful not to bless his own writings with the papacy," said Pia de Solenni, a moral theologian from Seattle.

When he published books as the pope, his byline was "Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI," de Solenni noted.

"I think he was willing to engage with others." She said his books are "a sharing of ideas, and he's putting his ideas out on paper. To me it's an incredible mark of his humility."

One thing is fairly certain: He won't be tweeting any longer. The Vatican said his official Twitter handle @pontifex will be retired along with Benedict.

Life beyond the walls of the Vatican

Benedict said he no longer had the strength to go on. After he announced his retirement, the Vatican said he had begun thinking about leaving the office after a strenuous papal visit barnstorming across Mexico and Cuba.

When he leaves the office he will give up his Fisherman's Ring, which takes its name from St. Peter's occupation. It will be destroyed along with "the lead seal of the pontificate," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

He will also be giving up his personal security detail, the 100 to 120 members of the Swiss Guard who are responsible for round-the-clock protection of the pope.

"He received security like any other head of state," former Swiss guard member Andreas Widmer said.

While best known for their Renaissance-era dress uniforms - brightly striped, puffy-sleeved shirts and pants - along with their ceremonial battle axes, they are a formidable modern security detail, according to Widmer, who now runs the entrepreneurship program at the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America.

Widmer had a kinship with Benedict in the late 1980s while he was a young German-speaking member of the guard and Benedict, whose native tongue is German, was a top cardinal serving John Paul II.

He described Benedict as an "unbelievable introvert." He said Benedict was always friendly with people at the Vatican one on one, even beggars on the streets, but large crowds sapped his energy.
The task of protecting two popes would have meant doubling the Swiss Guard force, a group unaffiliated with other Swiss security forces, as the guard predates the Swiss state.

But Widmer suspects that would not have been an issue anyway. His hunch is that Benedict will retire and remain cloistered.

"My guess is Benedict is not going to leave the Vatican," Widmer said. "It's not like he's going to make these huge moves. My guess is anything he's going to write and say will only come out after he dies."

A turbulent time

Before he became pope at age 78, Benedict had talked at length about retiring.
Speculation has swirled over what finally pushed him to step aside - Vatileaks, the sexual abuse crisis, or the growing tide of secularism.

The "Vatileaks" scandal began with his butler leaking documents showing disarray and mismanagement and led to an internal review that was reported to contain details of gay sex scandals - reports which the Vatican calls baseless - and money woes. Three cardinals reported their findings to the pontiff this week.

The Vatican spokesman said the matter was concluded and the pope would reveal the contents of the report only to his successor.

The sexual abuse scandal continues to haunt the church as reforms have slowly taken hold across the American church and other cases have surfaced around the globe.

While the vast majority of the abuse cases happened in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, the recent revelation of more cases and the failings of the church in dealing with many of them have left fresh scars that have been slow to heal, victims' advocates say.

Cases are still in the process of being litigated. Two top American cardinals gave depositions shortly before they were to leave for Rome for the pope's farewell.

Benedict was unable to stop the tide of growing secularism in Europe and the United States, though he often railed against it.

All of this likely took its toll on the 85-year-old, who walks with a cane, has a pacemaker, and has looked increasingly frailer in recent months.

In retirement, he will have none of those global problems to sort out anymore. Those responsibilities will fall to the next pope.

Instead, Benedict has said his task will be prayer and reflection.

Sister Armijo said she cried when she found out the pope was resigning. But now that she has had time to process the idea, she said her feelings have shifted from sadness to gratitude.

"He's a person of great courage to do something like this. To dedicate his life to prayer. I think it will help people to see there's a value to dedicating your life to prayer," she said.

"Prayer is something worth dedicating your life to."

Benedict’s Men: U.S. Vocations Strengthen During His Eight-Year Papacy

Seminarians and young priests credit the Holy Father’s example of fidelity with opening their own hearts to the call of Christ.

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Pope Benedict speaks April 19, 2008, to a Young Catholics event at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.– Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy may have lasted eight years, but the retiring Holy Father and his reforms have left their mark on the American priesthood and sparked a new uptick in vocations.

Father Michael Roche, 34, remembers when he left his desk at a Pittsburgh accounting firm to watch the news of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s election to the papacy in 2005.

“I was just thrilled and filled with tremendous joy,” Father Roche recalled. He had walked away from his cubicle at the Grossman, Yanak and Ford building upon hearing the news of “white smoke” to watch the television in the company cafeteria. He was a layman asking questions about his vocation at the time and felt a surge of excitement to learn that Cardinal Ratzinger, whom he viewed as “a figure of strength in the Church,” had accepted the call to take the Chair of Peter.

Father Roche recounted the words of Pope Benedict to young people at his inauguration Mass that inspired his priestly vocation: “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. ... Open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life.”
“That was pivotal in my life,” Father Roche told the Register. “I can’t say I had been afraid of Christ, but I was not convinced that a vocation to the diocesan priesthood could be lived in this day and age.”
But Benedict’s words filled the young Catholic with a new confidence to discern his vocation. Less than a year later, he joined the seminary to become a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

As Pope Benedict leaves the papacy to make way for a new successor, U.S. vocations directors say they’ve seen a surge in new applicants to their seminaries in recent years.

Father Carter Griffin, vice rector at Blessed John Paul II Seminary in Washington, said the Archdiocese of Washington’s new seminary opened its doors in 2011 and is already near capacity.
“Benedict was able to open up new vistas to people,” Father Griffin said. “For them, to see this man of profound faith, love and hope on the world stage has been an enormous benefit on the world and on vocations.”

It’s a scenario that is also playing out at already established seminaries such as Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md.

“We’re experiencing the largest numbers that we have had in years,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, who teaches pre-theology to seminarians at the Mount.

Msgr. Swetland said that most of the men he teaches are between the ages of 21-25 and were teenagers when Blessed John Paul II died.

“They are more affected by Benedict,” he said. “I think the young are responding to the fact that he takes them seriously enough to do something beyond themselves.”

A Seminarian’s Perspective
Pope Benedict’s challenge to young people to embrace the faith and the New Evangelization captured the imagination of Andrew Buonopane, 24, now a second-year seminarian for the Washington Archdiocese.

“The Year of Faith and the call to the New Evangelization are right up my alley, personally,” Buonopane said. “It addresses the concerns of skeptics and non-believers in ways that make sense to them.”

Buonopane knows this from personal experience. Encountering the Pope during his historic April 2008 visit to Washington played a key part of Buonopane’s return to the Catholic faith during his college days at George Washington University.

“It’s solely during his papacy that I’ve been conscious of God and my faith life,” he said, adding that he continued to deepen his faith by reading the Pope’s works. “As I started to learn more about my faith, Benedict was there for me.”

Worldwide, the Catholic Church has seen an increase of more than 6,000 priests during Benedict’s papacy, most of them to the diocesan priesthood, according to data collected by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The number of diocesan priests in the world exceeded 277,000 in 2010, levels higher than those recorded in 1970, the year Paul VI introduced the new form of the Roman liturgy.

Father Sean McKnight, executive director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee of Clergy, Religious and Consecrated Life and Vocations, said that the United States experienced the depths of its decline in the numbers of new priests and seminarians during the 1980s and 1990s.
The U.S. defied a global turnaround in the Church’s vocation decline that occurred under Blessed John Paul II. Worldwide, the annual number of new diocesan priestly ordinations had increased by nearly 2,500 between 1985 and 2005, when 6,614 men were ordained. Graduate-level seminarians increased from more than 43,000 to about 58,500.

Yet, over the same time period in the U.S., the annual number of priestly ordinations had dropped from 533 to 454, and new seminarians had declined from 4,000 to 3,300.

Halting the Decline
Father McKnight said that Blessed John Paul II did much to staunch the hemorrhaging of U.S. vocations, but Benedict was able to take additional action that helped change the priesthood’s image of corruption and embolden “good, healthy candidates to come forward.”

“Benedict has helped ensure that Catholics know there is a very good program and norms for the formation of our priests in place at seminaries,” Father McKnight said.

Under the authority of Pope Benedict, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education put in place new strict directives for seminaries in 2005, calling for screening requirements that barred candidates with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or psychological immaturity from entering the priesthood.
The same congregation also launched an apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries, sending teams of three and four to inspect more than 200 U.S. seminaries and formation houses between 2005-2006. The teams were tasked with examining the seminaries' intellectual and moral formation of candidates, especially in the area of chastity, their fidelity to the magisterium and their criteria for evaluating candidates to the priesthood.

The final report recommended that seminary rectors keep “barriers to ordination high,” encouraged bimonthly confession for seminarians, advocated a return to traditional acts of piety and a shoring up of seminarians’ intellectual formation and training in moral theology.

Benedict’s encouragement of the U.S. bishops to look for “quality not quantity” in potential new priests also relieved bishops of the pressure to try to remedy the priest shortage by accepting unsuitable candidates, Father McKnight said. And U.S. seminaries greatly benefited from the influx of highly qualified and credentialed formators the bishops commissioned in response to the Vatican’s report, according to Father McKnight.

“The seminary-formation programs require a critical number of priests that are properly credentialed in the various philosophical and theological fields,” he said. “In general, the more we improve the quality of formation in our seminaries, the more vocations we retain, and the more ordinations we have."

Father McKnight said his committee has witnessed a steady increase in new ordinations and seminarians since 2006. According to CARA, new U.S. ordinations rose to 480 in 2012, and the number of seminarians had increased to more than 3,700.

Bishop Bruskewitz
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., said the Church needed to screen out candidates with same-sex attraction, which he said has fueled “a great deal of sexual scandal and misconduct” that has roiled the Church.

“The priesthood is a precious and wonderful gift that God gave to his Church,” Bishop Bruskewitz said. “There are certain people who are just not suitable to the priest’s function of standing in the person of Christ.”

Father Griffin, who is responsible for directing vocations at Blessed John Paul II Seminary, said the clear norms put in place by Benedict assist the Washington Archdiocese in ensuring they are forming priests as good pastors.

“If someone is not mature in all respects, it will be impossible for him to be properly formed,” Father Griffin said. “It doesn’t mean he can’t become a saint, but it does mean he can’t be a good candidate for holy orders.”
Bishop Bruskewitz oversaw a surge of vocations in the Diocese of Lincoln under both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He said that both Popes were “in sync” with each other and inspired seminarians to adopt the “authentic interpretation” of the Second Vatican Council and its spiritual reforms. But he said Pope Benedict brought to the papacy a much stronger emphasis on liturgical prayer and the learning of Latin.
Bishop Bruskewitz cited the Holy Father’s 2007 motu proprioSummorum Pontificum, which authorized wider celebration of the old form of the Roman rite, and said Benedict’s own example in celebrating the liturgy had increased “attention to liturgical tradition [among priests and seminarians] more than in years before.”

Lesson of Humility
Benedict XVI’s last act in the papacy has left the priests and seminarians whose vocations he inspired with a profound lesson of humility.

“It’s a reminder that the priestly ministry is never about me,” Buonopane remarked. “It’s not based off what a great person I am, my particular gifts, charisma or anything that I might provide for myself. It’s only founded on the instrumentality God entrusts me with.”
Buonopane said Benedict’s influence will forever leave its mark on his vocation.
“The Church is certainly worth my life,” he said. “Benedict gave me confidence in the Church that I was dedicating myself to.”
Peter Jesserer Smith writes from Rochester, New York.

Read more:

A Father’s Farewell, Shepherding Us Forward

February 27, 2013 By

Cardinals have gathered in Rome to say goodbye to Pope Benedict, to thank him, and to focus in prayer and deliberation on the papal conclave to come, to elect a new man to the Chair of St. Peter.
They do so with full knowledge that there is deep renewal (see George Weigel here) and reform (see George Weigel here) that needs to happen in Rome and throughout the world. The Holy Father has set the lead, focusing the Church on catechesis — creed! –- and prayer.

This next role, one of spending his final days in prayer, might just be the most powerful role of Joseph Ratzinger’s life.

On the eve of his flight to Rome, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan, spoke a little about the need for reform, acknowledging the reality of the Church in the world, full of sin, and also grace.
Dolan started first by addressing some of the recent allegations surrounding Wikileaks and gossip surrounding Vatican leaks. He cautioned:
Even from a human, earthly logical point of view it seems that we would react by saying, “Whoa, wait a minute. All of this is speculation. All of this is opinion, all of this is innuendo, gossip, whispering.” We really don’t know what it says, do we? I presume there’s only four people who know what it is says … namely the Pope and the three Cardinals. By the way, what a credit to Pope Benedict that when all this started he said, “I want this looked into and I don’t want any stone left unturned. You find out the news and however difficult it is for me to see, I still want to see it.” So that was laudable, right? So we really don’t know what it says.”
And he added a bit of caution:
“Not that we would ever lose our sense of shock, but we know that the Church is not spared sin, right? The church is sinless; her members aren’t. … The Church, the mystical body of Christ, the spotless bride of Christ, the presence of Jesus on Earth, the Church is sinless. Her members – and the two are pretty closely tied together –- her members are not. So from the beginning we’ve had sin, we’ve had corruption, we’ve had scandal. This can do one of two things from a spiritual point of view, from an otherworldly point of view. Either it can sicken us and so nauseate us that we say, “I don’t want to be part of this Church.” Or, it can say, “You know what, this does sicken me, this does nauseate me, but the Holy Spirit sure must be in charge of the Church because we’ve been going for 2,000 years in the midst of all this garbage.”
That disgust, that adament outrage and horror echoes the Holy Father. And it is backed up by action throughout the Church — with the United States in a leading reform role. And yet we know, even in our diligence: There will be other sins. There will be other failings. That’s not an excuse. That doesn’t make us work any less harder to be pure and to protect, most especially, innocent children. We also must know what we are facing, where we are living, the reality of evil, even as we are vigilant.
Cardinal Dolan continued, on his Catholic Channel radio show Monday:
[A critic of the Church] said, “You know, as a historian and as no fan of the Catholic Church, I have to admit that the Catholic Church is divinely inspired because no mere human institution run with such knavish imbecility” — those were his words — “would have survived a fortnight.” So even he was saying, in one way, the very things that, from a natural point of view, would sicken us — sin, corruption, scandal in the life of the Church — really ends up enhancing our faith because we know that in spite of ourselves, in spite of the sin, the church continues to flourish, doesn’t it? What did St. Paul say? “Where sin abounds…” — and what you’re saying is that unfortunately sin does abound in the members of the Church, sin even abounds within the Vatican — “Where sin abounds, Grace abounds all the more.”
I daresay, this is, in no small part, why the Holy Father has made the decision he has to step aside as pope. We need prayers! We need a vigor he no longer has, that he no longer believes God needs him to pray for for himself. I’ve watched this man for almost eight years, unmistakably asking the Lord to guide the boat of St. Peter, as he put it this morning.

He walks in no small way with Mary, as she keeps Him close to our Lord, pleading for him for the strength he needs.
- See more at:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Bishop Dressed in White?

By Robert J. Siscoe POSTED: 2/25/13

( In the portion of the Third Secret revealed by the Vatican in the year 2000, there is a vision of the Holy Father passing “through a big city half in ruins”, who is then “killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions”. Earlier in the same vision, Sister Lucy also reports seeing one she identified as “a Bishop dressed in white”. 
 Interestingly, she did not refer to the Bishop in white as the Holy Father, but only said “we had the impression that he was the Holy Father”.
Contrary to what was reported by the Vatican in 2000, the vision of the pope being killed quite obviously did not refer to the failed assassination attempt of John Paul II, who was not “killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him”, but instead survived being shot by a lone gunman. Neither did the failed assassination attempted on John Paul II see “other Bishops, Priests, men and some Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions”, being killed by the same “group of soldiers”. Clearly, the vision was referring to another event. 
But the question that has puzzled many is why Sister Lucy used the term “Bishop dressed in white” in the first part of the vision, rather than the name “Holy Father”, who she later identified as being killed? Does this vision refer to two different men: one who is the Pope and another who is only dressed like a pope? Prophecies are usually unclear until they unfold, but recent events may shed a new light on this curious phrase used by Sister Lucy.
On February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by announcing that he would abdicate his office as Pope effective on February 28, 2013. Due to this shocking news, the media was abuzz, not only with the reaction of Catholics, but also with many questions that the unexpected announcement raised. For example, an article from Reuters, dated February 13, reported that “Church officials are still so stunned by the move that the Vatican experts have yet to decide what his title will be and whether he will continue to wear the white of a pope, the red of a cardinal or the black of an ordinary priest”.
On February 20, one of these questions was answered by Fr. Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, who reported that the Pontiff will continue to wear white after his abdication takes effect. Two days later, on February 22, the Vatican answered the other question when it reported that Benedict XVI will retain his papal name: following his resignation, the former Pope will be referred to as His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome.
On March 1st, not only will Benedict XVI be a former pope who has retained his papal name, but he will also be “a Bishop dressed in white”. Is the future “His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome”, the bishop dressed in white that Sister Lucy was referring to? If so, is it he who is killed by the group of soldiers, as shown in the Vision? Or is the Vision perhaps referring to a future pope – the one Sister Lucy calls “the Holy Father” – who is reigning while Benedict XVI is still alive? 
It is interesting to note that Pope St. Pius X had two visions that were similar to the Fatima Vision of Sister Lucy. In 1909, during an audience with members of the Franciscan Order, St. Pius X had a vision of a future pope fleeing Rome. He said:
"What I have seen is terrifying! Will I be the one, or will it be a successor? What is certain is that the Pope will leave Rome and, in leaving the Vatican, he will have to pass over the dead bodies of his priests!" 
Just before he died Pope St. Pius X had another similar vision, in which he saw a future pope of the same name fleeing over the bodies of his brethren, before being killed himself.
"I have seen one of my successors, of the same name who was fleeing over the bodies of his brethren. He will take refuge in some hiding place; but after a brief respite, he will die a cruel death”.
In light of this vision, it will be very interesting if the next pope takes the name Pius XIII - “the same name” as Pius X. Time will tell how the events play out, but what appears certain is that we are progressing rapidly to the events foretold at Fatima. May we renew our courage and zeal for the Faith, always remembering the words of Our Lady of Fatima: In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.