Today, we confirm together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, nor a prayer from other times which we only think about with nostalgia. The Rosary is, in fact, undergoing a new spring almost. This is undoubtedly one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the new generations feel for Jesus and for Mary his mother.Two excellent rosary aids, one written by Amy and myself--the other by Father Dwight Longenecker:
In the present world that is so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ in the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated in her heart on all that was said about her Son, and on all that he said and did.
In reciting the Rosary, one relives the important and significant moments in the story of salvation - we retrace the various stages of the mission of Christ.
With Mary, our hearts are oriented towards the mystery of Jesus, Christ is placed at the center of our lives, of our time, of our cities, through meditating on the holy mysteries of joy and light and sorrow and glory in his life...
...The Rosary, when prayed in an authentic way, one that is not mechanical and superficial, but profound, undeniably confers peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and with love at the center of each Ave Maria."
Monday, May 5, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Before the Regina Caeli, the pontiff emphasised the value of today's feast, the Ascension of Christ to heaven and his "return to the Father" with his and our humanity. "He", the pope explains, "in fact came to the world to bring men back to God, not on the level of ideas - like a philosopher or master of wisdom - but really, as a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold . . . It is for us that he came down from Heaven, and it is for us that he ascended there after making himself like men in all things, humiliated to the point of death on the cross, and after touching the abyss of the greatest separation from God".
"God in man - man in God" are "not a theoretical truth, but a real one", an anchor for the life of all men. "And what does man need more in every age if not this: a solid anchoring for his existence?".
"After the Ascension", the pope further recalled, "the first disciples remained gathered together in the Cenacle around the Mother of Jesus, in fervent expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14)". From this arises the invitation "to remain united together in prayer, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, only to those who 'are born again from above', meaning from the Holy Spirit, is opened the entrance to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:3-5), and the first one 'born again from above' is precisely the Virgin Mary".
To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left's demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed, and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.
Then, the movement received a monstrous reprieve. The priest sex abuse scandal implicated not only the predators, but the superiors who shielded them. John Paul remained mostly silent. A new reform group, Voice of the Faithful, arose; the old anger returned, crystallizing around the battle-cry "They just don't get it."
Benedict's visit, however, changed the dynamic. And that's a problem for progressives. Says Fr. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center whom Benedict famously removed from his previous job as editor of America, "Reform movements need an enemy to organize against. As most bishops have gotten their acts together on sex abuse, they have looked less like the enemy and more like part of the solution. Enthusiasm for reform declined. With the Pope's forthright response, it will decline even more."
Not everyone agrees. Says Voice of the Faithful spokesman John Moynihan, "That's funny; I just came from a meeting of COR (Catholic Organizations for Reform), and there were a lot of people very buoyed up. We can now say to people, 'We have made a difference, and if you stick with us we are going to make a further difference'." Adds Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, now a director of Fordham's Religion and Culture Center, "I think there is continuity in terms of the issues and the questions about whether Church structures can be altered." He notes that a social justice group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, formed just three years ago.
But the familiar progressives-versus-Vatican paradigm seems almost certain to be undone by a looming demographic tsunami. Almost everyone agrees that the "millennial generation," born in 1980 or later, while sharing liberal views on many issues, has no desire to mount the barricades. Notes Reese, "Younger Catholics don't argue with the bishops; they simply do what they want or shop for another church." And Hispanic Catholics, who may be the U.S. majority by 2020, don't see this as their battle. "I'm sure they�re happy that the celebration of the Eucharist is in the vernacular," says Tilley, "but they don't have significant issues connected to Vatican II."
And so, unless Benedict contradicts in Rome what he said in New York, the Church may have reached a tipping point. This is not to say that the (over-hyped) young Catholic Right will swing into lay dominance. Nor will liberal single-issue groups simply evaporate. But if they cohere again, it will be around different defining issues. "It's a new ball game," admits Steinfels. As Tilley wrote recently in Commonweal regarding his fellow theologians, "A new generation has neither the baggage nor the ballast of mine. Theirs is the future. Let's hope they remember the Council as the most important event in twentieth-century Catholicism."
It seems that many knew of the crimes of Joseph Fritzl, but remained silent. This is an oft told story when it comes to abuse and it merits a deep meditation on evil and how if we do not confont it, we become silent accomplices--corporate sin, think about that when you recite the Confiteor..."in what I have failed to do." From The Sydney Morning Herald:
EVIDENCE of how a wall of silence hid the crimes of Joseph Fritzl is
mounting as it was revealed that his abuse of his daughter Elisabeth as a
teenager was an open secret among people who knew the family.
at the family house and school friends of Elisabeth admitted on Saturday that
they heard she was being sexually abused and mistreated, yet none contacted
authorities before or after she disappeared.
Joseph Leitner, a former lodger,
said that shortly after he moved in, he learnt that she had been repeatedly
raped by her father.
"I had a good friend from school who was really close to
Elisabeth," said Mr Leitner, who lived at the house in the small Austrian town
of Amstetten between 1990 and 1994. - "She confided in me, and told me what a
monster Josef was - and what he had done to Elisabeth.
"But I decided I did
not want to get involved. I did not want to get kicked out of the flat, I did
not want to lose it. I kept myself to myself."
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Struggling to confront a worsening homicide rate, the mayor of Birmingham asked pastors and citizens Friday to don burlap sacks and ashes Friday in an Old Testament-style sign of biblical repentance.
Mayor Larry Langford said his "sackcloth and ashes" rally at Boutwell Auditorium was inspired by the Book of Jonah, where residents of the ancient city of Ninevah wore rough fabric and ashes as a sign of turning away from sin.
A pastor who helped organize the rally said Langford purchased 2,000 burlap bags that will be handed out at the event.
"We believe things begin to dramatically change when the mayor, or leader, calls for prayer. I don't think there's ever been a city called to sackcloth and ashes," Green said.
Since he took office last year, Langford has held three prayer rallies as a way of addressing crime and violence. Bibles were handed out at one of the events.
"This city needs to humble itself," said Langford, a professing Christian.
So far this year 27 people have been killed in Birmingham, compared to 19 at the same time last year.
Which of course has raised the ire of some as witnessed in this piece entitled Sackcloth and Asses:
At any rate, the Birmingham prayer rally has serious goals. The News reports that Langford admonished the pastors surrounding him and others not to attend the rally for spectacle, but for a religious experience.
“Do not come looking pretty,” he said. “If you’re too cute to put a little ash on your hands, stay home. If you’re too cute to pray, stay home.”
I’ve got a better idea. Langford should stay home, and he should read the Constitution of the United States. Government officials have no authority to meddle in religion, and he should repent of his unconstitutional activities.
As I followed the pastoral visit of the Holy Father on television, switching between EWTN and FoxNews, I could not help but contemplate how far we have come. I remember the coverage of the visits to the United States of John Paul the Great in 1979 and 1987. Then the coverage focused on dissenters. The commentators wanted to know when the Church would change its teachings of life, sexuality, marriage and women. When would the Church come into the modern age and cease to cling to ideas that everyone knew were outdated? To the media it was clear, the Church was not attracting new vocations to the priesthood and religious life; it was not engaging the younger generation and if the Church didn’t come around quickly it would soon sink into irrelevance. The dissenters assured us change would come; it was only a matter of time.
By John Paul’s third visit in 1995, the critics recognized that things would not change under his pontificate, but they still held out the hope that he was a passing phenomenon. He was ill. His death was expected and then there would be a new pope who would bring the Church into the 20th century. By 1995, the pundits grudgingly admitted that John Paul had achieved rock star status, he had stopped the decline of vocations and he had attracted the young, but they consoled themselves with the belief that his successor would not be able to match his appeal. The critics were, however, less confident than they had been.
Then the scandal hit and the pundits were sure that this would be the nail in the coffin. Surely, now the Church would at least give up on celibacy, let priests marry, ordain women. The scandal caused terrible harm. Many good souls found their faith tested and some left.
But here we are in 2008 and here is Benedict XVI. This shy, humble scholar is getting the same enthusiastic welcome as his predecessor. We saw stadiums full of young people, young women religious in full habit reaching out to touch his hand, and young priests and seminarians distributing Communion to thousands. One commentator noted that the College of Cardinals seemed to be a better system for picking a leader than our electoral process.
Of course, there are still dissenters, but rather than being lauded, they are the ones who are marginalized. An anti-Catholic comic who slandered the Holy Father was forced to offer an apology. The mainstream media seems to have accepted the fact that the Catholic Church is not going to “modernize.” And why should it? The religious denominations that have bent over backwards to accommodate 20th century sensibilities have found their congregations shrinking, their influence waning. Some are being torn apart in a battle between the modernizers and the traditionalists who refuse to surrender biblical truth.
The new century has come and the Church still stands uncompromisingly for the truth and for Christ. It now appears that there is nothing less relevant as yesterdays “modern.”
What has changed is the media. In 1979, most people got their news from the major networks and newspapers. The dissenters within the Church were probably never as numerous as the media made them appear to be, but for a long time they were the only voices we heard.
Today it is different. First, we have EWTN. The Eternal World Television Network now reaches 80 percent of homes in the United States. This has allowed the pope and teachers faithful to the Church to speak directly to the people. Catholics can hear the truth without distortion.
We have seen the rise of talk radio, which has undermined the ability of the mainstream media to shape the news. The pro-lifers discovered they were not alone.
We have the Internet, which in spite of its many dangers is a way for Catholics to educate themselves and to engage in various forms of activism. My favorite Internet news source is www.lifesitenews.com out of Canada. LifeSiteNews covers the pro-life, pro-family, and religious freedom news from around the world with its own writers and links to local coverage. It’s like having an international newspaper delivered every morning with all the news a concerned Catholic needs.
Television is no longer dominated by the three major networks. The extensive coverage of the Holy Father’s visit on FoxNews was fantastic. The anchors were enthusiastic. The priests/guests knew what they were talking about. One of Fox’s lovely blond ladies beamed as she exclaimed that Catholics really know how to put on a show. What is more amazing is that the “show” she was praising was nothing more than a beautifully celebrated Mass.
Of course, much of the credit for the success of the visit must go to the Holy Father himself. Benedict never missed a beat. He had the right word for every occasion.
The world has changed and John Paul the Great must be credited for leading the way. But we the faithful have played our part. We listened, we responded, we made our voices heard. There is much more to do. Benedict XVI has pointed the way and we will follow.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Amid the great public spectacles of his visit to America, Pope Benedict XVI made time for a private, poignant encounter with Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, on April 19 at New York’s St. Joseph’s Seminary.
Cardinal Dulles, suffering the effects of post-polio syndrome, now lives in the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University. As his muscles atrophy, he is no longer able to walk and is unable to speak. He was therefore unable to participate in the papal events alongside the other cardinals.
Instead, the Holy Father decided to meet him privately as a gesture of esteem and affection...
...Benedict, the university professor, saluted America’s greatest scholarly theologian. And, suitably, the latter encounter was private, at Fordham, a place of teaching, with the two scholars speaking about their earlier theological collaborations and their books.
“Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Commission in the 1990s,” said the Holy Father as he greeted Cardinal Dulles with obvious enthusiasm. Cardinal Dulles kissed the papal ring and smiled back at Benedict. Unable to speak, Cardinal Dulles had prepared a text that was read to the Holy Father by a fellow Jesuit priest.
Cardinal Dulles then presented Benedict with a copy of his most recently published book, a splendid collection of the McGinley Lectures he has been delivering at Fordham for 20 years under the title Church and Society.
Benedict immediately took it in hand, read the inscription and began to look through the pages — as happy as any scholar is to get a new book by a respected friend.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Dear brothers and sisters,
Although several days have elapsed since my return, I wish to dedicate today's catechesis, as is usual, to the apostolic voyage that I made to the United Nations Organization and the United States of America on April 15-21.
First of all, I renew my most heartfelt acknowledgment to the United States Catholic bishops conference and to President Bush for having invited me and for the warm welcome that I was accorded.
My 'thank you' extends to all those who, in Washington and New York, came to greet me and to show their love for the Pope, or who accompanied and sustained me with prayer and offering their sacrifices.
As you know, the occasion for the visit was the bicentennnial of the elevation to a metropolitan see of the country'[s first diocese, Baltimore, and the foundation of the dioceses of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville.
On such an ecclesial occasion, I had the joy of coming, for the first time as the Successor of Peter, to visit the beloved people of the United States of America, to confirm Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to all the message of 'Christ our Hope', which was the theme of the visit.
In the meeting with the President at his residence, I paid tribute to that great nation which, from its beginnings, was founded on the basis of a happy conjunction between religious, eethical and political principles, and which still constitutes a valid example of healthy secularity, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as the 'spirit' of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of human rights and responsibilities.
In such context, the Church can develop with freedom and commitment its mission of evangelization and human promotion, and even of being a 'critical conscience', contributing to the construction of a society worthy of the human being, and at the same time, stimulating a nation like the United States - which everyone looks to as one of the principal actors on the international scene - towards global solidarity, which is ever more necessry and urgent, and towards the patient exercise of dialog in international relations.
Naturally, the mission and the role of the church community were at the center of my encounter with the bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. In the liturgical context of Vespers, we praised the Lord for the path taken by the People of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors, and the fervor and generosity of its faithful, manifested in their high and open regard for the faith, and in innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country and abroad.
At the same time, I sustained my brother bishops in their not-easy task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by not a few contradictions which threatens the coherence of Catholics and even the clergy themselves.
I encouraged them to make their voices heard on actual moral and social questions and to form faithful lay persons in such a way that they may be good 'yeast' for the civilian community, starting with the fundamental cell of society which is the family.
In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the sacrmament of Matrimony as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment for nurturing and educating children.
The Church and the family, together with schools - especially those of Christian inspiration - should cooperate to offer young people a solid moral education. But in this task, those who work in communications and entertainment also have a great responsibility.
Thinking of the sorrowful events of sexual abuses committes by ordained ministers against minors, I wished to express to the bishops my closeness, encouraging them in the committment to bind up the wounds and to strengthen their relationship with their priests.
Responding to some questions posed by the bishops, I was able to underline some important aspects: the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and 'natural law'; a sane concept of freedom with includes love and is realized in love; the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the exigency of announcing in a new way, especially to young people, 'salvation' as the fullness of living, and to educate them in prayer, from which generous responses to the call of the Lord may germinate.
In the great festive Eucharistic celebration at the Nationals Park Stadium of Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit on the entire Church in the United States of America, so that, firmly rooted in the faith transmitted by their fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it may face present and future challenges with courage and hope - that hope which "does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).
One such challenge is certainly that of education, and therefore, at the Catholic University of America, I met the rectors of Catholic universities and colleges, the diocesan officials responsible for teaching, professors and student rerpresenatives.
The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the Church, and the ecclesial community in the United States has always been very engaged in it, rendering at the same time a great social and cultural service to the entire nation. It is important that this goes on.
It is equally important to look after the quality of Catholic institutions, so that they may truly be able to form students according to 'the full stature' of Christ (cfr Eph 4,13), uniting faith and reason, freedom and truth. It was with joy that I confirmed the educators in this, their precious task of intellectual charity.
In a multicultural country like the United States of America, my meetings with the representatives of other religions were especially important: in Washington at the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York, the visit to a synagogue.
These were very heartfelt moments, especially the latter, which confirmed a common commitment to dialog and to the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values.
In that nation which may be called the homeland of religious freedom, I wished to underscore that this must always be defended with united efforts to avoid any form of discrimination or prejudice. And I pointed to the great responsibility of religious leaders, both in teaching respect and non-violence as well as in keeping alive the most profound questions of the human mind.
The ecumenical celebration in the parish church of St. Joseph was likewise characterized by great cordiality. Together we prayed to the Lord so that he may increase in Christians the capacity to give reason - especially with increasing unity - for the great hope that is in us (cfr 1 Pt 3,15) through our common faith in Jesus Christ.
Another principal objective for my trip was the visit to the central headquarters of the Untied Nations Organization - the fourth by a Pope, after that of Paul VI in 1965 and John Paul II's two visits in 1979 and in 1995.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence gave me the opportunity to confirm, in the widest and most authoritative [forum for] universal consensus, the value of that declaration, recalling its universal basis, namely, the dignity of the human being, created by God in his image and likeness, in order to cooperate on earth with his great design of life and peace.
Like peace, even respect for human rights is rooted in 'justice' - that is to say, an ethical order that is valid for all times and for all peoples, that can be summarized in the famous maxim, "Do not do to others what you do not wish done to you", or expressed positively in the words of Jesus: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you." (Mt 7,12).
On this basis, which constitutes the typical contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations, I renewed - and even today, I renew - the concrete commitment of the Catholic Church to contribute to the strengthening of international relations that are imprinted with the principles of responsibility and solidarity.
Also firmly impressed in my spirit are other moments of my stay in New York.
At St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan - truly a 'house of prayer for all people' - I celebrated the Holy Mass for priests and consecrated persons who came from every part of the counhtry.
I will never forget the warmth with which they wished me well on the third anniversary of my election to Peter's Chair. It was a moving moment, during which I directly experienced - in sensory form - the support of the entire Church for my ministry.
I can say the same for my meeting with the young people and seminarians which took place in the diocesan seminary, preceded by a very significant visit among handicapped children and youths, along with their families.
To the young people, by nature thirsting for truth and love, I proposed the example of some men and women who testified in exemplary manner on Amerian soil to the Gospel of truth which gives us freedom to love and to serve in a life spent for others.
Facing the shadows which threaten their lives today, the youth may find in the saints the light which disperses these shadows: the light of Christ, hope for every man!
This hope, stronger than sin or death, also inspired the emotion-charged moments which I spent in silence at the vortex of Ground Zero, where I lit a candle and prayed for all the victims of that terrible tragedy.
Finally, my visit culminated in the Eucharistic celebration at New York's Yankee Stadium. I still carry in my heart that feast of faith and fraternity with which we celebrated the bicentennials of North America's oldest dioceses.
The small flock from those beginnnings has developed enormously, enriching itself in faith and with the traditions of successive immigrant waves. To that Church, which is facing the challenges of today, I had the joy of announcing once more "Christ our Hope" -yesterday, today and always.
Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to join me in giving thanks for the comforting success of this apostolic voyage and in asking God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it may produce abundant fruits for the Church in America and in all parts of the world.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
A Mystic of the Blood
It is evident, I think, that today’s feast of Saint Catherine of Siena is a further invitation, a pressing exhortation, to fix our gaze on the Blood of the Lamb, to adore that Precious Blood, to yield every impurity and sin of ours to the torrent that gushes from Christ’s pierced side, and to drink of the Chalice of Salvation. Saint Catherine is one of the great blazing mystics of the Blood. One could also speak of Julian of Norwich and, again, of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation. The Blood of Christ is sprinkled over every page of Catherine’s writings. The Blood of Christ opens and seals her correspondence. The Blood of Christ is on her lips and in her heart.
For Catherine, that Blood is a Divine Fire. It is the remedy for every ill: medicine for a Church in crisis, purity for a priesthood fallen into the filth of the world, strength for the weak, hope for the despondent, healing for the sick. For Catherine, the Blood of Christ is the power by which lives are changed, by which sinners become saints, by which monasteries are reformed.
Cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb
The Blood of the Lamb is given us in the sacraments. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Blood of Christ is applied to the wounds of the soul. “The Blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). The Blood of Christ bathes the soul, cleansing of it of every trace of sin and making it resplendent in the eyes of the Father.
Antidote for Every Poison
In the Most Holy Eucharist, the Blood of Christ is given us as the fountain of immortality, the antidote for every poison of body, mind, and soul, an infusion of divine joy in this valley of tears. This was the experience of Saint Catherine and, because it was her experience, it became her teaching. Even more, it became the cry of her heart to all who would listen.
The Mystery of the Precious Blood
The Precious Blood of Christ is among those heavenly mysteries “hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to infants” (Mt 11:25). The mystery of the Blood is revealed to those who taste it with the palate of the soul, to those who approach the holy Chalice with the fear of God and with faith.
Take My Heart
One’s dying words are not improvised. They are the expression of a lifetime. Saint Catherine, having lived immersed in Blood of Christ, died with the Blood of Christ on her lips. On the January 30th before her death, she prayed for the Church, the Bride of Christ: “O Eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life within this Mystic Body of holy Church. I have nothing to give but what you have given me. Take my heart, then, and squeeze it out over this Bride’s face.” For His Heart’s Blood, she gave her heart’s blood and, like her Bridegroom and Lord, she gave it for the Church.
Your Son's Most Sweet Blood
Her last recorded prayer, uttered three months later, is this:
you are calling me to come to you,
and I am coming to you —
not with any merits of my own
but only with your mercy.
I am begging you for this mercy
in virtue of your Son’s most sweet Blood.
into your hands I surrender my soul
and my spirit.
Q: Can you explain your involvement in that unannounced meeting in Washington that brought together the Holy Father with five local victims of sexual abuse by clergy?
A: After it was announced that the Holy Father was going to Washington and New York and that Boston was not included, the bishops of the region joined me in writing a letter to the Holy Father asking him to reconsider and talking about the pastoral needs that we have in New England. Then the response came back that, given the very taxing nature of the trip, that they (Vatican officials) really hesitated to add anything else. So I wrote back again asking if the Holy Father would meet with victims and after that the Holy Father responded and asked me to make the necessary arrangements.
Q: Why was this meeting not part of the official schedule?
A: We did our best to keep it a very discreet meeting because we did not want to turn it a media circus and we were afraid that if people found ahead of time that that was just what would happen. Also, some of the survivors who accompanied us wished to remain anonymous and it would have made it impossible for them to participate under the public scrutiny. So, I am just thankful that we were able to carry it off without becoming public before hand.
I was very grateful to the Holy Father. The many times he addressed the sexual abuse crisis indicate how deeply he understands the situation of our Church and what happens here. He obviously feels a great sorrow over what has happened and that he is ashamed but, at the same time, wants to encourage us on the path to healing and reconciliation.
At the Thursday morning Mass at the Nationals’ stadium he talked about the need of giving pastoral care to the victims, and then in the afternoon he gave us a very concrete example of that in his own encounter with them.
Q: Why do you think this was a crucial meeting?
A: I think it was important for the victims to feel as though they had access to the Holy Father. Obviously, not all victims but someone representing them and in a small enough group, in a context that it would allow for a very personal interchange between the Holy Father and the victims. It was not a formal address; the Holy Father made his initial comments and then he spoke with each of the victims individually, he clasped their hands, he blessed them, he prayed with them.
I think for the Holy Father, pastorally, it was very important to experience this. Certainly he has heard through the bishops and through others the devastation of sexual abuse but it is another thing to encounter personally the survivors and to learn first hand of their suffering and pain.
Monday, April 28, 2008
"Today many Eastern Churches, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate the great solemnity of Easter. I would like to express my fraternal spiritual nearness to these brothers and sisters of ours.
"I cordially greet them, praying that the God who is one and three will confirm them in the faith, fill them with the splendorous light that emanates from the resurrection of the Lord and to comfort them in the difficult situations that they often find themselves living and witnessing to the Gospel."
He continued, "I invite all to join with me in invoking the Mother of God, that the road of dialogue and collaboration that was started upon sometime ago will soon lead to a more complete communion among all the disciples of Christ, that they may be a luminous sign of hope for all humanity."
The Council of Nicaea established that the day of Easter should fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The difference of dates for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is due to fact that they follow different calendars.
The Catholic Church, following the Gregorian calendar, normally celebrates Easter earlier than the Eastern Churches, which are mainly Orthodox, that follow the Julian calendar. Last year the two coincided with the celebration of Easter on April 8.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
A prayer card commemorating the papal visit made right here in northeast Indiana. The 50-thousand-plus people who attended mass this morning at the Washington stadium, each took one home.
The prayer cards were made by the 'Our Sunday Visitor' publishing company, located in Huntington, Indiana. The cards have a picture of pope benedict the 16th on the front and a quote from the holy leader on the back. Our Sunday Visitor' is one of the most-read catholic publications in the country, with more than 300-thousand households receiving it. The paper's publisher says they've had the prayer cards ready to go since January. He thinks the pope's visit and material like this will help excite Catholics and non-Catholics alike about the faith.
Greg Erlandson/Publisher. 'Our Sunday Visitor': "Truthfully what we are asking is how can we serve the Church and make this visit a success. Particularly, in this case, where you have various conservatoires, you've got the death threats from Osama Bin Laden, all these issues. I think praying for the success of the visit was really important. I mean if we really say what we are about, than we should start praying for the success. And, I think most Catholics have been."
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Remains are displayed, from the BBC:
The body of the popular Italian saint, Padre Pio, has gone on display in a glass coffin in southern Italy.
Padre Pio was said to have had stigmata, or bleeding wounds of Jesus, on his hands and feet.
His body was exhumed in March on the 40th anniversary of his death. He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
More than a million people are expected this year to see his body, which is said to be well-preserved. But there is reportedly no sign of the stigmata.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community. At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness. Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Church’s unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is God’s indefectible gift to his Church.
The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church’s unity is “apostolic”. It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).
“Authority” … “obedience”. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace”.
Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
and something that didn't even make the Sports page here this morning:
Danica Patrick won the IRL race last night in Japan--becoming the first woman ever to win a major auto race!
There is another aspect of prayer which we need to remember: silent
contemplation. Saint John, for example, tells us that to embrace God’s
revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard
and seen (cf. 1 Jn 1:2-3; Dei
Verbum, 1). Have we perhaps lost something of the art of
listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth
into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen
to God, adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an
unfolding of holiness.
My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.
Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.
The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds! (cf. Prayer at the Lighting of the Easter Candle).
What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ─ a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.
The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.
Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).
For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family. We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or older than ourselves, and ultimately hear “what the Spirit is saying” to us and to the Church (cf. Rev 2:7). In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Even within the ecumenical movement, Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division. Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching: a teaching which indeed underlies the inspired word of God and sustains the sacramental life of Christians today.
Only by “holding fast” to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us. Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the “reasons for our hope”, so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope! God has revealed his love for all peoples through the mystery of his Son’s passion and death, and has called us to proclaim that he is indeed risen, has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed).
May the word of God we have heard this evening inflame our hearts with hope on the path to unity (cf. Lk 24:32). May this prayer service exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8); for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul. Let us give thanks to Almighty God for the progress that has been made through the work of his Spirit, as we acknowledge with gratitude the personal sacrifices made by so many present and by those who have gone before us.
By following in their footsteps, and by placing our trust in God alone, I am confident that – to borrow the words of Father Paul Wattson – we will achieve the “oneness of hope, oneness of faith, and oneness of love” that alone will convince the world that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father for the salvation of all.
Benedict’s trip has been a surprise for me. To be honest, I was one of those (many) liberal Catholics who was disappointed by his election. (At the time, I told someone that when Pope Benedict XVI first stepped onto the Vatican balcony after his election, I felt like jumping off of one!) In his previous role as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, charged with serving as the church’s theological watchdog, it was his job to ensure doctrinal purity, especially among theologians. During his many years in that position, he disciplined many good scholars and writers, even some of my friends, who were doing their best to advance Catholic theology.
And Rosemary Radford Reuther, who strangely escaped the silencing she bemoans has been inflicted on Catholic scholars like Hans Kung and Thomas Reese--(question for Rosemary Radford Reuther...has this silencing actually silenced anyone? Has Hans Kung stopped publishing his works?--short answer--no--, so your contention is false), again from the New York Time Papal Blog:
When Pope Benedict XVI met with Catholic educators yesterday, he used the occasion to warn them of the limits of academic freedom in Catholic schools. “Any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the church would obstruct and even betray the university’s identity and mission,” he said.
These words should be put in the context of the Pope’s former job as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Inquisition). During the 25 years when he headed this office (1981-2005), Cardinal Ratzinger cracked down on progressive Catholic thought, closed down seminaries dedicated to educating priests in the context of the issues of poverty and injustice, and, again and again, progressive bishops were replaced with conservative ones.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts!
There is a need for all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions, and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into a future of hope.
A crowd of 46,000 is expected, and the demand for tickets doubled the supply, organizers said.
Barbara and Michael Loh of Williamsburg, Va., sat alone in the stands taking in the scene. They were among the first to arrive.
"I've been Catholic all my life and ... my dream has always been to see the pope," said Barbara Loh, tearing up.
At 5:45 a.m., more than four hours before the Mass, it was standing-room only on Metro trains. Vendors hawked Vatican flags and souvenir buttons, but there were few takers as people hurried toward the stadium.
For others, there was nothing more important than getting in, and many people without tickets stood outside the Metro station with signs pleading for extras.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.
...the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.
a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30). People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).
giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love - for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God (cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.
Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of
the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese – Baltimore – to a
metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans.
I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great
respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are
proud to be citizens.
From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents
drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious
beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America’s Catholic community,
but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country. Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here the freedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in which each individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time,
I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.
Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. 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. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John
Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation”, and a democracy without values can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality
represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.
The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political
leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.
For well over a century, the United States of America has played an important role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, I will have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where I hope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an ever more effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world’s peoples. On this, the
sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers and sisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God’s bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish – a world where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are
cherished, protected and effectively advanced.
Mr. President, dear friends:
as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace.
God bless America!
The following is a rush transcript of comments made by Pope Benedict XVI to reporters aboard the papal plane, on his way to his first pastoral visit to the United States.
Late last week, the Vatican asked reporters travelling with the pope to submit questions for the pope by 3:00 pm Monday afternoon, the day before the trip began. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, selected four of these questions and asked four different reporters to put them to the pope aboard the papal plane. There was no opportunity for follow-up.
In response to a specific request, Pope Benedict answered one question in English, on the subject of the sexual abuse crisis. His other responses were given in Italian. The following is an NCR translation and transcription of the exchange.
Lombardi: In the name of all those present, thank you for your kind willingness to be with us this morning, to greet us and also to give us some ideas about this trip. It’s your second inter-continental trip, and your first as Holy Father to the United States and the United Nations. It’s a very important trip, much anticipated. Can you say something to us about your sentiments and your hopes with which your approach this trip, and what your fundamental objectives are?
My trip has basically two objectives. The first is a visit to the church in America, in the United States, and naturally also the entire country. There’s a particular motive, which is that 200 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese, and at the same moment two or three other dioceses were created … Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville. It’s a great jubilee for the church in the United States. It’s a moment of reflection on the past, but also on the future, on how to respond to the great challenges of our time that will present themselves in the future.
Naturally, the inter-religious and ecumenical encounters are an important part of this trip, as is the encounter in the synagogue with our Jewish friends on the vigil of their Passover festival. That’s the religious and pastoral aspect … the church in the United States in this moment of our history, and the encounter with all the others in this common humanity which leads to a common sense of responsibility.
At this point, I want to thank President Bush who is coming to the airport and has devoted considerable time to our meeting, and who is also receiving me on the occasion of my birthday.
The second objective is the visit to the United Nations, and also here there’s a particular motive. This is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s an expression of the founding philosophy of the United Nations and the human and spiritual basis upon which it’s constructed. Thus it’s a moment of reflection and to refresh awareness of this important moment in history, that in this declaration of human rights diverse cultures came together. There’s an anthropology that recognizes the human being as a subject of rights prior to all institutions, with a value that must be respected by everyone. This trip, given a moment of a crisis of values, gives us the opportunity to build upon what was begun in this moment and to exploit it for the future.
Lombardi:: Now we’ll turn to the questions that you yourselves presented in recent days and that some of us will present to the Holy Father. We’ll start a question from John Allen, who I don’t think needs an introduction. He’s a well-known commentator on Vatican affairs in the United States.
Allen: Holy Father, I’ll ask my question in English. I know you will speak principally in Italian, but we would be grateful for at least a few words in English. The Catholic church in the United States is large and dynamic, but also suffering, above all because of the recent sexual abuse crisis. The American people are waiting to hear what you have to say on this subject. What will your message be?
It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. As I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.
I think we have to act on three levels.
The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.
The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.
The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.
Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Another theme upon which we had many questions from our colleagues was that of immigration, reflecting the growing presence of Hispanics in the society of the United States. We’ll have a question from our colleague Andres Beltramo, from the Notimex agency in Mexico.
Beltramo: I’ll ask the question in Italian, but we would love to have just a greeting in Spanish. With the enormous growth in the Hispanic presence, the Catholic church in the United States is becoming steadily more bilingual and bicultural. Yet there’s also a growing “anti-immigrant” movement in America. Do you intend to invite the United States to welcome immigrants well, many of whom are Catholic?
Unfortunately I’m not ready to speak in Spanish, but I offer a greeting and blessing for all the Spanish-speakers! Certainly I’ll talk about this subject. I recent had the ad limina visit from the bishops of Central America, also South America. I saw the scope of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. This is truly dangerous for the social, human and moral fabric of these countries.
It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.
On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.
In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.
I’d like also to say that although there are many problems, so much suffering, there’s also much hospitality [in America.] I know that the bishops’ conference in America collaborates a great deal with the Latin American bishops’ conference. Together they work to help priests, laity and so on. With so many painful things, it’s also important not to forget much good and many positive actions.
Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have a question that refers to American society, the place of religious values in American society, from our colleague Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican writer of the newspaper Il Giornale.
Tornielli: Holy Father, in receiving the new ambassador of the United States of America, you cast in a positive light the public value of religion in the United States. I’d like to ask if you consider this a possible model also for secularized Europe? Also, is there also a risk that religion and the name of God can be abused for supporting a certain political stance, including war?
Certainly we can’t simply copy the United States. We have our own history, and we must learn from each other.
What I find fascinating about the United States is that they began with a positive concept of secularism. This new people was composed of communities and people who had separated from state churches, and they wanted to have a secular state which would open possibilities for all the confessions and all the forms of religious expression. It was an expressly secular state, and it was directly opposed to a state-church. It was secular precisely out of love of religion, for the authenticity of religion, which could be lived only in freedom. Thus we find a state that’s expressly secular, but favorable to religion in order to give it authenticity.
We know that the public institutions in America, albeit secular, draw on a de facto moral consensus that exists among the citizens. This seems to me fundamental and positive to consider, also in Europe. But in the meantime, more than 200 years of history have passed with so many developments. Also in the United States, they’ve had a new form of secularization, a new secularism, which is entirely different. They also have new problems, such as immigration, the “Wasp” ideology, and all these problems. The situation has become complicated and differentiated in the course of history, but the fundamental idea seems to me even today worthy of being observed.
Lombardi:: Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we’ll have the last question, dealing with the theme of the visit to the United Nations. It will be asked by John Thavis, the bureau chief in Rome of the Catholic News Service.
Thavis: Holy Father, the pope is often considered the conscience of humanity, and this is one of the reasons your address at the United Nations is highly anticipated. Do you think a multi-lateral institution such as the UN can protect the non-negotiable principles defended by the Catholic church, meaning those rooted in natural law?
This is precisely the fundamental objective of the United Nations, to protect the common values of humanity upon which the peaceful coexistence of nations is based, the pursuit of justice and development against injustice. There’s an idea I’ve already touched upon which seems to me to be fundamental for the United Nations, and that’s the idea of human rights, the rights expressed by them as non-negotiable in all situations, are the fundamental principles of the institution. It’s important that there be this convergence among the cultures, which found a consensus that these values are fundamental and are written in the being of the human person. To renew this awareness, that the United Nations and its peacekeeping mission can work only if it’s based on fundamental rights held in common by all. To confirm this fundamental conception and to reinforce it as much as possible is an objective of my mission.
At the beginning, Fr. Lombardi asked about my sentiments. I’d like to say that I’m going with joy. I’ve been in the United States several times, I know this great country, and I also know the great life of the church despite all the problems. I’m happy to be able to meet in this historical moment, both through the church and my visit to the United Nations, this great country.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was "deeply ashamed" of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church and will work to make sure pedophiles don't become priests.
Benedict was answering questions submitted in advance by reporters aboard a special Alitalia airliner as he was flying from Rome to Washington to begin his first papal pilgrimage to the United States.
"It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."
"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.
Benedict pledged that pedophiles would not be priests in the Roman Catholic church.
"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in English. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."
Benedict's pilgrimage was the first trip by a pontiff to the United States since the scandal involving priests sexually abusing young people rocked U.S. dioceses and triggered lawsuits that have cost the Church hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.
Vatican officials selected four questions to be read by the journalists to the pontiff aboard the plane.
Benedict described his pilgrimage as a journey to meet a "great people and a great Church." He spoke about the American model of religious values within a system of separation of church and state.
From a presidential welcome, to two Masses at baseball stadiums, to a stop for prayer at ground zero in New York, Benedict will get a heavy dose of the American experience.
President Bush planned to make the unusual gesture of greeting him at Andrews Air Force Base — the first time the president has greeted a foreign leader there.
The pope said he will discuss immigration with Bush, including the difficulties of families who are separated by immigration.
Monday, April 14, 2008
When I first read The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983, about eight years ago, I was struck by Father Schmemann's commentary on the Masses celebrated in Yankee Stadium by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and by Pope John Paul II in 1979. The boldface is my own. Father Schmemann asks some hard questions.
Wednesday, October 3, 1979
The Pope of Rome is in New York. We watched him on television in Yankee Stadium. A mixed impression. On one hand, an unquestionably good man and full of light. Wonderful smile. Very genuine — a man of God. But, on the other hand, there are some "buts"! First of all, the Mass itself. The first impression is how liturgically impoverished the Catholic Church has become. In 1965, I watched the service performed by Pope Paul VI in the same Yankee Stadium. Despite everything, it was the presence, the appearance on earth of the eternal, the "super earthly. Whereas yesterday I had the feeling that the main thing was the "message." This message is, again and again, "peace and justice," "human family," "social work," etc. An opportunity was given, a fantastic chance to tell millions and millions of people about God, to reveal to them that more than anything else they need God! But here, on the contrary, the whole goal, it seemed, consisted in proving that the Church also can speak the jargon of the United Nations. All the symbols point the same way: the reading of the Scriptures by some lay people with bright ties, etc. And a horrible translation: I never suspected that a translation could be a heresy: Grace — "abiding love"!
Crowds — their joy and excitement. Quite genuine, but at the same time, it is clear that there is an element of mass psychosis. "Peoples' Pope . . ." What does this really mean? I don't know. I am not sure. Does one have to serve Mass in Yankee Stadium? But if it's possible and needed, shouldn't the Mass be, so to say, "super-earthly," separated from the secular world, in order to show in the world — the Kingdom of God?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Benedict is no conservative in the sense that the term is often thrown around--he has presented us with a new theology--a new way of understanding our faith that is a corrective break from the pre-Vatican II church. Jesus Christ is at the center of this faith--the Scriptures are central to this presentation and the way of the early Church Fathers is resurrected.
How is this different from the post Vatican school where "ratzinger" was a swear word? Well there, man and woman are the center, experience is central to the presentation and the Scriptures are used at the service of this experience. So there is no truth, no call from what I am to what I must become--just the way things as they are and how that's okay with God, thus theology becomes liberation, feminist, etc. Give theology an adjective and you are no longer talking about God with a big "G" but an idolatry.
Recalling that the Pauline year will begin on June 28, to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the apostle Paul, "the missionary par excellence", among the vocations the pope first of all cited "missionaries ad vitam, meaning those men and women who dedicate themselves completely to proclaiming Christ to those who still do not know him: this vocation still maintains its full validity". Benedict XVI emphasised that there is above all a need for missionary priests, who dispense "the Word of God and the Sacraments, manifesting to all with their pastoral charity, above all to the sick, to the least, to the poor, the healing presence of Jesus Christ".
In the donation of their lives to their brothers, they often encounter martyrdom. The pontiff recalled that two religious died yesterday, in Kenya and in Guinea.
"Let us pray also", the pope added, "that the ranks may grow continually of those who decide to live the Gospel radically through the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience: these are men and women who have a primary role in evangelisation. Of them, some dedicate themselves to contemplation and to prayer, others to various forms of educational and charitable action, but all are united by the same goal: that of bearing witness to the primacy of God over all, and of spreading his Kingdom in every realm of society".
Mission is the heart not only of consecrated vocations, but also of the vocation to matrimony: "Spouses, in fact, are called to live the Gospel in their families, in their places of work, in their parish and civil communities. In certain cases, moreover, they offer their precious collaboration in the mission ad gentes".
The other concern of the pope is that of a request for prayer for his upcoming visit to the United States, from April 15-20.
Invoking "the maternal protection of Mary over the many vocations existing in the Church, that they may develop with a strong missionary imprint", Benedict XVI also entrusted to Mary "the special missionary experience" that he will have in the coming days "with the apostolic voyage to the United States of America, and the visit to the UN". "I ask all of you", he concluded "to accompany me with your prayer".
After the Marian prayer, in the greetings in various languages, he exhorted the young people to "listen to the call of the Good Shepherd", and to follow him in a radical way, in order to be "truly happy". He asked all to pray for his "apostolic pilgrimage" to the United States.
Friday, April 11, 2008
"A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous!" Joseph Ratzinger
An excellent interview with Austrailan Theologian Tracey Rowland the author of the excellent new book Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI that appeared several years ago in Zenit in two parts:
Benedict XVI, Vatican II and Modernity
Benedict XVI, Thomism, and Liberal Culture (Part 2)
Our Sunday Visitor is also presenting a Papal trip blog here and the Tim Drake is doing one for the National Catholic Register.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Des Moines: Bishop Richard Edmund Pates
Little Rock: Father Anthony Basil Taylor
Auxiliary for Denver: Monsignor James Douglas Conley
Auxiliary for San Antonio: Father Oscar Cantú
Auxiliary for San Francisico: Father William J. Justice
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The "true humanism" of Saint Benedict, which means a journey toward God, remains today an antidote against the culture of the "easy and egocentric" self-realisation of man, a temptation "that is often exalted today", in a Europe that "just having left behind a century profoundly wounded by two world wars, and after the collapse of the grand ideologies, revealed as tragic utopias, is searching for its identity".
The figure of the founder of Western monasticism, "and also the patron of my pontificate", was at the centre of the reflection that Benedict XVI presented today to the 30,000 people in Saint Peter's Square for the general audience, the last before his departure for his visit to the United States, on April 15. Today's address brought his expression of the hope that "Europe may be enlightened by the religious and moral teaching that emerges from its Christian roots", which was expanded to the vision of the Benedictine rule as a model for all men of today, since by his life Saint Benedict "demonstrates that God is not a faraway hypothesis about the origin of the world, but a concrete presence in the life of man". Thus, on the Old Continent, "in order to create a new and lasting unity, political, economic, and legal instruments are certainly important, but there is also the need for a spiritual and ethical renewal that draws upon the Christian roots of the continent, otherwise Europe cannot be rebuilt. Without this vital sap", he continued, "man is exposed to the risk of succumbing and of wanting to redeem himself". This is "a utopia that in various ways, as Pope John Paul II showed, represents an unprecedented step backward in tumultuous history of humanity".
The pope then recalled that Saint Benedict, who was born around the year 480, was sent by his prosperous parents to study in Rome. But, "disgusted by the lifestyle of many of his companions", and not wanting to fall into the same errors, but "to please God alone", he withdrew to the mountains east of Rome, before his studies were concluded. During the three years when he lived as a hermit in a cave near Subiaco, he experienced a period of "solitude together with God". That period allowed him to overcome three fundamental temptations: that of self-affirmation, of placing himself at the centre, that of sexuality, and that of anger and vengeance".
"In the anxiety and confusion of his time", caused by the fall of the Roman Empire and by the crisis in public behaviour, "he lived under the eyes of God, and with his own eyes directed toward him, without losing sight of man and his concrete problems". "Thus he understood the reality of man and his mission". The pope then emphasised St Benedict's life of prayer, which for him was "in the first place an act of listening, which must then be translated into concrete action. The Lord is waiting for us to respond practically, every day, to his holy instruction". The rule of St Benedict, in conclusion, is still today "a light along humanity's path", and is "the search for the humble and obedient Christ", and precisely in this way is at the service of the other and of peace.