Posts Tagged ‘Pope Benedict’

popesfarewellWriting as I do from one of those Pacific nations that greet the new day ahead of anyone else, I’m heralding the day the See of St Peter falls vacant while in Rome it is still the day before. Nonetheless, the writers of the world have been saying farewell to our Pope in their own ways every since he announced that he was stepping down.

Rather than write my own retrospective on the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, I decided to collect a few for you.

Pat Gohn writes about her debt to him – first for the Catechism, and later for his other writings. Like her, I was an early purchaser of the first English translation of Cardinal Ratzinger’s erudite, lucid, and comprehensive Catechism, and later read other books, addresses, and encyclicals. Through them all, he taught us that the heart – the purpose and essence –  of the faith is a relationship with Love Himself.

Benedict taught that the Catechism, as with all Christian study, ought to move us into greater possession of a relationship with God, the pearl of great price (Mt 13:45-46.)

All of the “truths of faith” are explications of the one truth that we discover in them. And this one truth is the pearl of great price that is worth staking our lives of: God. He alone can be the pearl for which we give everything else. Dios solo basta (“God alone suffices”)—he who finds God has found all things. But we can find him only because he first sought and found us. He is the one who acts first, and for this reason faith in God is inseparable from the mystery of the Incarnation, of the Church and of the sacraments. Everything that is said in the Catechism is an unfolding of the one truth that is God himself—the “love that moves the sun and all the stars.” (Dante, Paradiso, 33, 145) (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism, Ignatius, 1997, p. 33-34.) 

Father de Souza also looks at the Pope’s impact as a teacher – through three encyclicals, but even more in five other ways:

Benedict’s homilies constituted a course in biblical theology, combined with poetic expression and an extraordinary capacity to express the truths of faith in a most accessible manner. Already published in various collections, the homilies of Benedict will be spiritual reading for generations.

Second, and closely associated with his preaching, there were the Wednesday audiences which, over eight years, constituted a course in the Church Fathers, saints, biblical commentary and the art of prayer.

It was surprising to many that Benedict’s Wednesday’s audiences often drew more pilgrims than that of his predecessor. The masterful teaching presented may have been the reason.

Third, returning to form as a professor, there were the great magisterial lectures, echoing the academic tradition of a great scholar addressing an important topic of general interest. There were four great lectures — the September Speeches: the University of Regensburg in 2006, College des Benardins in Paris (2007), the Westminster Parliament (2010), and the Bundestag in Berlin (2011). All were given on September trips of the Holy Father, perhaps prepared with care over the preceding summer months. A fifth great magisterial lecture, at La Sapienza University in Rome, was published, but not given in person due to protests from narrow-minded professors…

Fourth, the great biblical theologian wrote books of academic work — three volumes entitled Jesus of Nazareth. Immensely learned, the trilogy demonstrated that scholarly rigor ought not be opposed to the life of faith. The books, which the Holy Father explicitly insisted were personal works not of his papal magisterium, have had a greater reach and greater impact than any ordinary encyclical could hope to have.

A fifth instrument favored by Benedict was the off-the-cuff format, whether in question-and-answer style, or in extemporaneous remarks.

Whether in his annual meetings with priests, or in his famous Q&A with children preparing for First Communion, the great teacher was often at his best in conversational mode…

Peter Smith points out the upswing in vocations in the United States during this papal reign:

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.”

Kenneth Whitehead talks about reactions to the Pope and to his resignation:

…And so it went. What must strike a knowledgeable observer is how many of these characterizations, in spite of the confidence with which they have mostly been delivered, are either distortions or are simply not true! …

This kind of critical account of the pope and his papacy, however, is not so much based on what he has actually said and done, but rather upon what his critics think he should have said and done—based on criteria of theirs often far removed from anything resembling authentic Catholicism. He has been weighed in the balance and found wanting by his critics precisely because he has so faithfully and authentically reflected and represented what the Church and the faith truly are; he has been faulted and vilified because he has been such a “good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

Catholics might rightly be disappointed and even dismayed at how their Church and their faith—along with their Church’s supreme leader over the past eight years—could be so ignorantly and even maliciously characterized and misrepresented. It should not be forgotten, however, that “if the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you” (Jn 15:18).

The Anchoress looks ahead to the impact that Pope Emeritus Benedict will have in his new role:

Those who think Benedict has simply lain down his staff do not understand that he lays it down to pick up a flamethrower of sorts. For however long he lives as a monastic, he will be a conduit of prayer, praise, adoration and supplication for the rest of the world. He is taking on huge duty.

In faith he will have delivered the powerful lesson that a life of faith is never without resources, because prayer extends beyond time and space, through darkness and into light.

And perhaps we will need to learn that lesson well, to face our future, together.


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Pope Benedict calls us, in these next three days, to recognise that Christ’s love for us is shown by “the total gift of himself on the cross.”

The whole life of Jesus is oriented towards this hour, characterized by two aspects that illuminate each other: this is the hour of  ‘passage’ ( metabasis ) and the hour of ‘love (agape ) until the end’ In fact, it is the divine love, the Holy Spirit of which Jesus is filled, which allows Jesus to ‘pass’ through the abyss of evil and death, and sees him emerge into the new ‘space’ of the resurrection. It is the ‘agape’, the love which brings about this transformation, so that Jesus goes beyond-the limits of the human condition marked by sin and overcomes the barrier that keeps man prisoner, separated from God and eternal life.

By participating in faith in the liturgical celebrations of the Paschal Triduum, we are invited to experience this transformation brought about by agape. Each one of us is loved by Jesus ‘to the end’, that is to the total gift of Himself on the cross when he cried: ‘It is finished!’ (Jn 19.30).

Let us allow ourselves to be touched by this love, to be transformed, so that the Resurrection may really be realized in us. I invite you, therefore, to live the paschal Triduum intensely, and I wish you all a holy Easter!

The Pope made his remarks to 11,000-plus pilgrims who were gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience.

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Pope Benedict returns again and again to the question of the relationship between faith and reason. In his speech to the British Parliament at Westminster Hall, this was a major theme:

Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.Pope Benedict speaks at Westminster HallThe inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

Full text here.

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Ross Douthard has an analysis of the Pope’s visit to Britain. He talks about the crowds, about the crushing of the hopes of those against the visit, and about the value of continuity in a world of change:

And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.

The Vatican of Benedict and John Paul II, by contrast, has striven to maintain continuity with Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch. This has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment, and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion. But continuity, not swift and perhaps foolhardy adaptation, has always been the papacy’s purpose, and the secret of its lasting strength.

An interesting article, and one that neither pulls its punches nor overstates its case. I appreciated the point about sanctity:

Catholics do not — should not, must not — look to the Vatican to supply the church with all its saints and visionaries and prophets… They look to Rome instead to safeguard what those visionaries achieved, to guard Catholicism’s inheritance, and provide a symbol of unity for a far-flung, billion-member church. They look to Rome for the long view: for the wisdom that not all change is for the better, and that some revolutions are better outlasted than accepted.

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For the sake of those who don’t go beyond the home page, I’m taking the liberty of reproducing a comment I received on the previous thread: an eyewitness account of the beatification of Cardinal Newman. My grateful thanks to Manus, whose story it is:

It was a marvellous celebration. We got up at 2am to get to the choir practice for 6.30ish. It was raining at first, and my tongue-in-cheek hope was for a very convenient appearance of a Fatima style dancing sun, so we could roll on into the full sainthood bit there and then and have done with it. Alas we made do with a rainbow and the appearance of an entirely sober (but no less welcome) sun just before the Holy Father arrived. We had no further rain. A very convenient coincidence, gratefully received.

Crowds greet Pope

Pope arrives at Crofton for the Mass

What struck me about the service was its homeliness. It was still just Mass, albeit with tens of thousands (50,000 I heard) and the Pope and scores of bishops. Mass is Mass – I’ll never forget that now. The people who attended need to commit months in advance, and so tended to be devout and committed. The silences were comfortable and intimate.

This contrasts with the sheer exhilaration of Hyde Park last night – 200,000 attendees, including my teenage son. Fairly wild and a very positive experience for him, but there was still the astonishing silence around Benedition.

We are still pinching ourselves about how well the whole visit has gone. It has been heart speaking unto heart and the spontaneous enthusiasm for the Holy Father has shone through. It’s nice for even the hostile media to accept the Pope as an academic and an intellectual – no more than a statement of fact, of course – but they have had further to acknowledge the depth of affection the Pope inspires in so many people.

And so to bed …

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From Pope Benedict’s homily on the eve of the Feast of St Peter and St Paul:

The Church is an immense force of renewal in the world, not because of her strength, but because of the force of the Gospel, in which the Holy Spirit of God breathes, the God Creator and Redeemer of the world. The challenges of the present age are certainly beyond human capacities; they are the historical and social challenges, and with greater reason, the spiritual challenges. At times it seems to us pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy persons followed Jesus, and he asked: What can we do for all these people? They then experienced their impotence. But Jesus had in fact demonstrated to them that with faith in God nothing is impossible, and that a few loaves and a few fish, blessed and shared, could satiate all. But it was not — and is not — only hunger for material food: There is a more profound hunger, which only God can satiate.

Man of the third millennium also desires an authentic and full life, he has need of truth, of profound liberty, of gratuitous love. Also in the deserts of the secularized world, man’s soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

The Pope went on to announce a new Pontifical Council on Evangelisation. It will have as its mission:

the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of “eclipse of the sense of God,” which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.

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The Year of the Priest ended yesterday with a massive gathering in Rome – thousands of priests concelebrating Mass with Pope Benedict (some sources claim 10,000, others 15,000 – let’s just say ‘lots’). The year has had its ups and downs, as you know, but it has reminded us of the importance of the priestly role: to teach, to sanctify and to govern.

Priests in St Peter's Square before Mass starts

So, as the year closes, I’d just like to say thank you – to all 400,000 priests of the world, and to God who called them for us.

To teach

Thank you to the priests who have taught me – in word and in action. Thank you to the Irish priest who prepared this protestant for what we used to call a mixed marriage, and who patiently answered all my questions. Thank you to the Dutch priest who, when I began to seriously consider what separated me from Catholicism, accepted that I couldn’t come to regular catechetical classes: I had two children under two, no car, and no bus service. He found me a book on the Catholic faith and came each week to talk it through with me, chapter by chapter.

Thank you to the Dominican priest who taught me how to trust and hope through the journey with a child undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and who walked with me on that journey. Thank you to the Rosminian priests who challenged me to dig more deeply into the riches of Catholic theological thinking. Thank you to the parish priests in 12 home parishes and unnumbered others I have visited who have always, every Sunday, opened to me a thought or idea to chew on in the coming week. Thank you to the priests who blog – whose teaching ministry extends across the wide world web.

Thank you to the priests who, in their quiet unassuming ordinary lives, give themselves to each of us every day  in witness to the gospel.

To sanctify

Thank you to the priests who bring me God in the sacraments.  I’ve received three of these once: baptism, confirmation, marriage. I was baptised an Anglican, married in a Catholic church before two Catholic priests and an Anglican vicar, and confirmed some seven years later by the Catholic bishop of Auckland. They had given the bishop a list of the children to be confirmed. He called them out one by one, then turned to the next part of the liturgy, and I had to stand in a church full of strangers and call out: ‘What about me?’ I’ve occasionally claimed since that the Holy Spirit knew I would be a disruptive influence.

I’ve received another three often, reconciliation, the Eucharist, the anointing of the sick. I remember my first reconciliation – 27 years worth of sin. The feelings of lightness and relief are the same; if anything, they grow. As to the Eucharist, perhaps I appreciate the importance of a priest even more than most people, because – as a coeliac – I can receive only when a priest is present to consecrate the wine. Thank you to the Australian priest at the Eucharistic conference, where the Eucharist was offered only under the appearance of bread. To my whispered: ‘Just a blessing, Father.  I’m a coeliac,’ he responded, ‘Would you like to receive the blessed wine?’ I nodded. ‘Then wait over by the steps.’ And when he had finished with the communion line, he retrieved the chalice and brought me our blessed Lord.

As to the anointing, once called the Last Rites – I like the line, passed on to us by our PP – that people used to leave that blessed sacrament till the last minute, as after they received it they felt obliged to die! The power of renaming!

To govern

Thank you to the priests who have governed the parishes and diocese I have been part of. A few of them confused governance with management – most were brilliant. The man who stopped our Rosary group because no priest was present was the same man who banned the sign of peace because he ‘wasn’t going to have a promiscuous orgy of hand shaking in his church’. I’ve known dozens of priests well, and many more by reputation, and he was one of only a handful of autocrats. Thank you to him, for teaching me by example that you accomplish more walking quietly with people than chasing them with sticks. And thank you to the vast majority who lead, support, strengthen and encourage their people, with a word of wisdom when required, a decision when necessary, and respect for lay expertise when appropriate.

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From Pope Benedict’s homily for Corpus Christi:

Giving thanks and with a blessing, Jesus transformed the bread and wine. It is divine love that transforms: the love with which Jesus accepts in advance to give himself completely for us. This love is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, which consecrates the bread and wine and changes their substance into the Body and the Blood of the Lord, rendering present in the Sacrament the same sacrifice that is made later in a bloody manner on the cross.

We can conclude that Christ was a true and effective priest because he was full of the power of the Holy Spirit, he was the culmination of all the fullness of the love of God “on the night he was betrayed,” precisely in the “hour of darkness” (cf. Luke 22:53). It is this divine power, the same that brought about the Incarnation of the Word, which transformed the extreme violence and the extreme injustice [of his death] into a supreme act of love and justice.

This is the work of the priesthood of Christ, which the Church has inherited and continues to perpetuate, in the twofold form of ordinary priesthood of the baptized and that of the ordained ministers, to transform the world with the love of God. All, priests and faithful, are nourished by the same Eucharist, all of us prostrate ourselves to adore it, because present in it is our Teacher and Lord, present is the real Body of Jesus, Victim and Priest, salvation of the world. Come, let us exult with hymns of joy. Come, let us adore! Amen.

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Happy Trinity Sunday, all. This is from Pope Benedict’s Angelus on Trinity Sunday last year.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance” (Preface).

He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love.

God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love.

He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles.

The “name” of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the “name”, the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the “fabric” of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. “In him we live and move and have our being”, St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28).

The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his “genome”, the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father’s will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.

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In his homily for Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Father reminds us that true unity comes from the Holy Spirit.

I’ve often noticed that those who live their lives centred on the Gospel are uniquely individual, quite unconcerned about societal expectations and norms. Dictators have a depressing sameness about them – from Hitler to Stalin to Mugabe to the Beloved Leader – differing in impact and in power, but not in type. Saints, though, are bewildering, gloriously, diverse.

The unity that the world imposes is a unity of sameness – a Brave New World type of unity where thinking and behaving differently to others is punished. The unity of the Holy Spirit is a unity of diversity – many different people, each living their mission, but one Spirit, one Body in Christ Jesus.

This is part of what the Pope had to say:

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles — we listened to it in the first reading (Acts 2:1-11) — presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s resurrection, a work that involves man, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit.

And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church.

This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages.

The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it.

This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language.

At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.

Zenit has the full text.

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