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Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict’s Ash Wednesday Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter


Pope Benedict’s August Prayer Intentions

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VATICAN CITY, 29 JUL 2011 (VIS)

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for August is: “That World Youth Day in Madrid may encourage young people throughout the world to have their lives rooted and built up in Christ”.

His mission intention is: “That Western Christians may be open to the action of the Holy Spirit and rediscover the freshness and enthusiasm of their faith”.

Pope Benedict Tweets on an iPad

Pope Benedict launches a new Vatican news site and tweets from an iPad as part of the New Evangelization–bringing the Gospel to the world using all available means.


Pope Benedict’s June Prayer Intentions

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAY 2011 (VIS) – Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for the month of June is: “That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God”.

His missionary intention is: “That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities many missionaries who are ready to be fully consecrated to spreading the Kingdom of God.”.


Lord, awaken in us the desire for you!

I believe history will look back on the pontificate of Pope Benedict not as a footnoted successor of Saint John Paul II, but as one of the greatest popes.  He has a brilliant mind and a gifted capacity for distilling a lifetime of study, prayer and reflection in simple terms.  Following is Pope Benedict’s homily from the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  Continuing on this morning’s theme of God’s desire for us and how “driven by love, God has set out towards us”, Benedict begins with Jesus’ desire to draw us to Himself.  But what about us?  Do we desire Him?  Have we become a people of unbelief and distance from God?

HOMILY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
HOLY THURSDAY EVENING MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
BASILICA OF ST JOHN LATERAN
21 APRIL 2011


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment – they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks: Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead.


From all four Gospels we know that Jesus’ final meal before his passion was also a teaching moment. Once again, Jesus urgently set forth the heart of his message. Word and sacrament, message and gift are inseparably linked. Yet at his final meal, more than anything else, Jesus prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke use two words in describing Jesus’ prayer at the culmination of the meal:“eucharístesas” and “eulógesas” – the verbs “to give thanks” and “to bless”. The upward movement of thanking and the downward movement of blessing go together. The words of transubstantiation are part of this prayer of Jesus. They are themselves words of prayer. Jesus turns his suffering into prayer, into an offering to the Father for the sake of mankind. This transformation of his suffering into love has the power to transform the gifts in which he now gives himself. He gives those gifts to us, so that we, and our world, may be transformed. The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ. The Eucharist is directed to the new man, the new world, which can only come about from God, through the ministry of God’s Servant.
From Luke, and especially from John, we know that Jesus, during the Last Supper, also prayed to the Father – prayers which also contain a plea to his disciples of that time and of all times. Here I would simply like to take one of these which, as John tells us, Jesus repeated four times in his Priestly Prayer. How deeply it must have concerned him! It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf: the prayer for unity. Jesus explicitly states that this prayer is not meant simply for the disciples then present, but for all who would believe in him (cf. Jn 17:20). He prays that all may be one “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to him, to Jesus. Faith and love for Jesus, faith in his being one with the Father and openness to becoming one with him, are essential. This unity, then, is not something purely interior or mystical. It must become visible, so visible as to prove before the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Consequently, Jesus’ prayer has an underlying Eucharistic meaning which Paul clearly brings out in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16ff.). With the Eucharist, the Church is born. All of us eat the one bread and receive the one body of the Lord; this means that he opens each of us up to something above and beyond us. He makes all of us one. The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity. Let me say it again: it is an extremely personal encounter with the Lord and yet never simply an act of individual piety. Of necessity, we celebrate it together. In each community the Lord is totally present. Yet in all the communities he is but one. Hence the words “una cum Papa nostro et cum episcopo nostro” are a requisite part of the Church’s Eucharistic Prayer. These words are not an addendum of sorts, but a necessary expression of what the Eucharist really is. Furthermore, we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.

Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors. We know that Peter, who walks towards the Lord upon the stormy waters of history and is in danger of sinking, is sustained ever anew by the Lord’s hand and guided over the waves. But Jesus continues with a prediction and a mandate. “When you have turned again…”. Every human being, save Mary, has constant need of conversion. Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion. But what did Peter need to be converted from? When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things. We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.

After Peter was converted, he was called to strengthen his brethren. It is not irrelevant that this task was entrusted to him in the Upper Room. The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfil his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”. Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen.

Pope Benedict’s April Prayer Intentions


VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2011 (VIS)
Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for April is:
“That through its compelling preaching of the Gospel, the Church may give young people new reasons for life and hope”.
His mission intention is:
“That by proclamation of the Gospel and the witness of their lives, missionaries may bring Christ to those who do not yet know Him”.

Fasting and Alms Giving – the Wings of Prayer

“Today, with the austere symbol of the ashes, we enter the period of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey which prepares for a worthy celebration of the Paschal mysteries. The ashes … are a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord”

In Church tradition the period of Lent is characterised by practices such as fasting, almsgiving and prayer, said Pope Benedict, explaining how fasting “means abstaining from food, but it also includes other forms of privation for a more abstemious life”. It “is closely linked to almsgiving … which under the one name of ‘mercy’ embraces many good works”. Moreover, during this period the Church “invites us to a more trusting and intense prayer, and to prolonged meditation on the Word of God”.
“On this Lenten journey”, the Pope concluded, “let us be attentive to welcoming Christ’s invitation to follow Him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'”.

Pope Benedict’s February Prayer Intentions

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for February is: “That all may respect the family and recognise it for its unmatched contribution to the advancement of society”.
His mission intention is: “That Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ in serving those who suffer from disease in those mission territories where the fight against disease is most urgent”.


A Day in the Life of Pope Benedict

Rocco had a link to this video from CatholicTV.  I remember seeing this raw footage a few years ago filmed by a German documentary crew (but I have yet to find the source).  CatholicTV did a great editing job and it is a rare glimpse at a day in the life of Pope Benedict.
Click here to see the video.


Egypt Recalls Vatican Ambassador…Really

The deadly New Year’s bombing at the Coptic church in Alexandria sparks clashes between angry Christians and Egyptian riot police. (Reuters / January 1, 2011)

File this under “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  Here’s what has transpired:

Bombing in Egypt
On New Years Eve a car bomb detonated as Coptic Christians were leaving Mass in the East Alexandrian Coptic Church of All Saints.  21 worshipers were killed along with 79 injured, the latest victims in an uptick  of growing anti-Christian violence throughout the world.

Pope Benedict Responds
The following day at the Noon Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict said the following:

“This vile and murderous gesture, like that of placing bombs near the houses of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all humankind, which only yesterday prayed for peace and began a new year with hope. In the face of these strategies of violence, which aim against Christians but have consequences on the entire population, I pray for the victims and their relatives, and encourage ecclesial communities to persevere in the faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel. I think also of the many pastoral workers killed in various parts of the world in the course of 2010. For them too we equally express our affectionate remembrance before the Lord. Let us remain united in Christ, our hope and our peace!”

Egyptian Imam Accuses Pope of Meddling in Egypt’s Affairs
Ahmed el Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic seat of learning, told reporters the Pope’s comments were “an unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs…I disagree with the pope’s view, and I ask why did the pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?”

Pope’s Spokesman Reiterates Commitment to Religious Liberty for All
Jesuit Fr. Lombard said:

Pope Benedict XVI’s position is very clear, and always has been: a radical condemnation of violence, closeness to the community that has been so horribly stricken, and concern for the religious freedom of Christian minorities. As he said in his Peace Day Message, the Pope’s concern for the religious freedom of Christians has always been within the context of his concern for the religious freedom of all people, not only Christians.

Time and again, the Pope has condemned violence against all people – not only that, which is perpetrated against Christians. We recall his recent discourse to the new Ambassador to the Holy See from Iraq, in which the Holy Father spoke of the innocent victims of violence, both Muslim and Christian.

Pope Addresses Holy See Diplomats in  “State of the World” Speech
Each year the pope issues an important foreign policy speech to the Diplomatic Core.  This year he eloquently spoke about religious freedom and directed comments to governments of countries where religious persecution seems to be on the rise.

Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it?

Egypt Recalls Vatican Ambassador
“Egypt asked its ambassador in the Vatican to come to Cairo for consultation after the Vatican’s new statements that touch on Egyptian affairs, and which Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.


Merry Christmas! – We Need a Savior Now More Than Ever

Agnolo Bronzino c.1535

At the beginning of Advent my pastor brought up a question in his homily that has haunted me and was the focus of my reflection this season: “Do we need a Savior?”  Those of us interested in apologetics or evangelizing often get mired in the important details and often hair-splitting distinctions and reactions to current affairs, yet fail to present the big picture.  Faithful and inactive Catholics alike rarely reflect on the most basic and fundamental presuppositions of our Christian faith–and apologists err in presuming these presuppositions are equally understood and held by both.  I believe this is the key to the New Evangelization and my intention this coming New Year is to focus on these fundamental questions.  I hope readers will find here a valuable resource to especially share with those interested in seeking the Truth.  God Bless and Merry Christmas.  I’ll let Pope Benedict take it from here:

But does a “Saviour” still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a “Saviour” still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.1

 Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Saviour? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers — we are sure of it — some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness.

So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today “the true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9) came into the world. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more “unto his own”, and to those who receive him he gives “the power to become children of God”; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today “our Saviour is born to the world”, for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his “heart”, that man always needs to be “saved”. And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?

[…]

[T]he One [the Church] proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17). 2

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.3

1. Urbi et Orbe 2006

2. L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 3 January 2007, page 18

3. Thought for the Day Christmas Message to UK 12-24-2010


Pope Benedict’s Prayer Intentions for September

Pope Benedict XVI leads the weekly general audience in his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, September 1, 2010.   REUTERS/Max Rossi  (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)

VATICAN CITY, 1 SEP 2010 (VIS)

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for September is: “That in less developed parts of the world the proclamation of the Word of God may renew people’s hearts, encouraging them to work actively toward authentic social progress”.

His mission intention is: “That by opening our hearts to love we may put an end to the numerous wars and conflicts which continue to bloody our world”.


The Greatest Persecution of the Church Comes from Sin Inside the Church

Vincenzo Pint/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Today’s NYT reports statements made by Pope Benedict, who embarked on a pastoral visit to Portugal (He’ll be in Fatima for 13 May):

“Attacks on the pope and the church come not only from outside the church, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church.  This we have always known but today we see it in a really terrifying way.  The greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from sin inside the church.  The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice.  And forgiveness does not substitute justice.” 

More evidence that this pope is the best person to have at the helm to address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.


Happy 83rd Birthday, Pope Benedict XVI


Solemnity of the Annunciation…Life Begins at Conception

In the liturgical year, the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.  Nine months later, on December 25, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  The baby conceived on March 25 is the same baby born on December 25.  His name is Jesus from the first moment of his conception, as we all know.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI (link)

“Children have the right to be conceived, … brought into the world and brought up within marriage. In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is ‘the first and indispensable teacher of peace’, the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life”.
Pope Benedict XVI to Scandinavian Bishops (25 March 2010)


The Priest is an Alter Christus, Bridging the Human and Divine

During this Year for Priests it is the intention of the Holy Father to educate the faithful’s understanding of what a priest is and to encourage priests to renew their own priestly identity.  On the Friday after Ash Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI addressed the priests of his diocese and referred to the priest as a bridge and mediator; his mission “unites and thus brings man to God, to His redemption, to His true light, to His true life”.

If the priest is a “bridge” bringing humankind into communion with the divinity, his soul must draw nourishment from constant daily prayer and from the Eucharist, said the Pope.  “A priest, who is above all other things a completely-fulfilled man, has a heart dedicated to “compassion”.  For St. John Vianney, patron of priests and of the Year for Priests, “the Priesthood is the love for the heart of Jesus”.

Below is a three part video produced by the Congregation of the Clergy in order to promote The Year for Priests. It is well done and pretty comprehensive.


Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina

At the Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience earlier today, Pope Benedict directed our attention to the formula of the imposition of ashes, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”–or “Convert and Believe the Gospel”:

“Conversion means changing the direction of the path of our lives. (…) It is going against the current when the “current” is a superficial, incoherent, and illusory way of life that often drag us down, making us slaves of evil or prisoners of moral mediocrity. Nevertheless, through conversion we tend to the highest measure of Christian life, we trust in the living and personal Gospel who is Jesus Christ. He is the final goal and the profound path of conversion, the path that we are all called to travel in our lives, allowing ourselves to be illuminated with his light and sustained by his strength, which moves our steps”.
“With the distribution of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, letting ourselves be transformed by his paschal mystery so that we may conquer evil and do good, so that we can let our ‘old selves’, tied to sin, die and let the ‘new person’ be born, transformed by the grace of God”.

This evening (Rome time) the Holy Father gathered in the Benedictine monastery of S. Anselmo and processed to Santa Sabina, the first Stational Church of Lent.  Santa Sabina is a pristine Roman Basilica built in 422.  Pope Honorius III entrusted the basilica to the Dominican Order in 1219, three years after its founding.  Considered “Dominican Headquarters”, it’s walls have seen the likes of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Pius V.


The Mendicant Friars Necessary Today

Pope Benedict has dedicated these past Wednesday Audiences to teaching about the great mendicant friars, St. Francis and St. Dominic.  These two pillars of renewal were called by the Spirit to transform the “dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church at that time, with her superficial faith that neither formed nor transformed life, her clergy little committed to its duties,…and the interior decay of her unity due to the rise of heretical movements”.

At last week’s Wednesday Audience Pope Benedict dedicated his catechesis to St. Francis of Assisi, referring to him as “a true giant of sanctity who continues to enthrall many people of all ages and religious beliefs”.  The Holy Father mentioned Pope Innocent III’s dream in which he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran about to collapse, but a ‘small insignificant friar’ held it up to prevent its fall.  Pope Innocent recognized the friar to be Francis.  “Innocent III was a powerful Pontiff, who possessed profound theological culture as well as great political power, but it was not he who renewed the Church.  It was the ‘small and insignificant’ friar, it was Francis, called by God.  Yet important to recall that Francis did not renew the Church without the Pope or against the Pope, but in communion with him.  The two things went together: Peter’s Successor, the bishops and the Church founded on apostolic succession, and the new charism that the Spirit had created at that moment to renew the Church”.

At today’s audience Pope Benedict heralded the life and legacy of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers.  Shortly before his birth in Caleruega, Spain in 1170, his mother, Bl. Juana of Osma, dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth and seemed to set the world ablaze.  Dominic “distinguished himself for his interest in the study of Sacred Scriptures and his love for the poor”.  After his ordiantion to the priesthood and election as a canon of the cathedral of Osma “he did not consider this as a personal privilege, nor as the first step in a brilliant ecclesiastical career; rather, as a service to be rendered with dedication and humility.  Do not career and power represent a temptation to which even those who have roles of leadership and government in the Church are not immune?” the pope asked.

Upon traveling on diplomatic missions St. Dominic became aware of “the existence of peoples still un-evangelized,…and of the religious divides that weakened Christian life in the South of France, where activity of certain heretical groups created disturbance and distanced people from the truth of the faith”.  Dominic was asked by Pope Honorius III “to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians” and he “enthusiastically accepted the mission, which he undertook through the example of his own life of poverty and austerity, through preaching the Gospel and through public discussions”. 

It was Dominic’s itinerant apostolic life, rooted in “solid theological formation”, “founded on Holy Scripture but respectful of the questions raised by reason” that sparked renewal in the Church.  Pope Benedict teaches that “Christ is the most precious treasure that men and women of all times and places have the right to know and love!  It is consoling to see how also in today’s Church there are many people (pastors and lay faithful, members of ancient religious orders and of new ecclesial movements) who joyfully give their lives for the supreme ideal of announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel”.  He encouraged everyone, “pastors and lay people, to cultivate this ‘cultural dimension’ of the faith, that the beauty of Christian truth may be better understood and the faith truly nourished, strengthened and defended.  In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to respect the spiritual value of study.  The quality of priestly ministry also depends on the generosity with which we apply ourselves to studying revealed truths”.

Pope Benedict concluded, “With his sanctity, he shows us two indispensable means for making apostolic activity more incisive; firstly Marian Devotion, especially the praying of the Rosary which his spiritual children had the great merit of popularizing, and secondly, the value of prayers of intercession for the success of apostolic work”.

Pray for all Franciscans and Dominicans, an increase in vocations to their consecrated life, and a renewed fidelity to their great founders’ calling to make the most precious Treasure known, loved and defended.

Saint Francis and Saint Dominic pray for us!


Pope John Paul II Closer to Sainthood

CNS reports that the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Causes of Saints unanimously recommended that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognize that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues.  The Holy Father approves such requests three times a year and is expected to declare his predecessor “Venerable” this December.  This is the next ‘official’ step in declaring John Paul II a saint, and considering a miracle has already been attributed to him, beatification should be right around the corner.

John Paul the Great.  Pray for us.

On Anglican Unity: “De Lisle’s Dream Come True”

Originally posted on Friar Blog:

On October 20, 2009, the day on which simultaneous news conferences were held in the Vatican and London, at which the promulgation of a new Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, was announced, that provides for the reception of members of the Anglican Communion into Full Communion with the Catholic Church in their own “Ordinariates,” Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, asked us to convey to his Dominican brothers and sisters that this was the intention for which he had asked them to pray the “Litany of Dominican Saints” back in February 2009.  Archbishop DiNoia has now asked that a remarkable article, written by one of our Dominican confreres in England, the Very Rev. Leon K. Pereira, O.P., the Prior and Pastor at the Priory of the Holy Cross in Leicester, England, be shared with our readers.  In this article, it is made clear that the Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman (to be beatified in 2010) had prayed for such a provision that might allow a greater number of his fellow countrymen to find their way back into Communion with the Holy See.  His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, a student and devotee of the thought and writings of Cardinal Newman, has been made aware of this article.  With the permission of Fr. Pereira, his article follows below.
 
Two hundred years ago an extraordinary man was born in Leicestershire, Ambrose Philips de Lisle. He was a scion of the ancient De Lisle family, and the founder of Mount St. Bernard’s Abbey. His descendants still come to Mass at Holy Cross. Ambrose de Lisle was a visionary ahead of his time. A convert to the Catholic faith, he dreamed of Christian unity. He wrote a pamphlet in 1876, voicing the idea of a corporate re-union of the Anglican Communion with the Catholic Church, whilst retaining Anglican juridical structures, liturgy and spirituality. When his friend Cardinal John Henry Newman read it, he wrote to him,

“Nothing will rejoice me more than to find that the Holy See considers it safe and promising to sanction some such plan as the Pamphlet suggests. I give my best prayers, such as they are, that some means of drawing to us so many good people, who are now shivering at our gates, may be discovered.”


The plan was doomed to be thwarted in De Lisle’s lifetime. To console him, Newman said:

“It seems to me there must be some divine purpose in it. It often has happened in sacred and in ecclesiastical history, that a thing is in itself good, but the time has not come for it … And thus I reconcile myself to many, many things, and put them into God’s hands. I can quite believe that the conversion of Anglicans may be more thorough and more extended, if it is delayed – and our Lord knows more than we do.”

In our own time, Pope Benedict XVI has rightly been called the ‘Pope of Christian Unity’. Two years ago, the Pope said that in the critical moments of the Church’s history, when divisions arose, the failure to act on the part of Church leaders has helped to allow divisions to form and harden. He observed, ‘This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.’

It is with this in mind, no doubt, that Pope Benedict has made this unprecedented and overwhelmingly generous response (N.B. the Pope is responding to a request, not enacting his own initiative) to the many requests submitted to him by Anglicans left in dismay within their own Communion. Already such Anglicans are being castigated as misogynist homophobes – an uncharitable, prejudiced aspersion. Some Anglicans see them as traitors; some Catholics see them as less-than-desirable for our Church.

The real issue is one of unity, genuine unity: that those who seek communion with the Barque of Peter should not be left to founder amidst the waves, but be brought safely aboard where Christ is not asleep, but Master of wind and waves, standing on Peter’s deck. The Pope has shown that real ecumenism is not about courteous disagreement trying to increase each other’s insipidity until one church cannot be distinguished from another in a cosmic-beige mélange. No, the call of the Gospel still holds: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. These are our brothers and sisters, shivering at our gates, to be received as brothers and sisters, and not as traitors or second-class Catholics.

The Dominican Order has a small role in all this. On 21 February this year, our brother Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., then Under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked all Dominicans to pray the Litany of Dominican Saints from February 22 (the Feast of the Chair of St Peter) till March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation) for an at-the-time undisclosed intention – it was for this intention. It is no wonder that in our history people have remarked, ‘Beware the Litanies of the Dominicans!’

Fr. Leon Pereira, O.P.


And on the Eastern Front…

Pope Benedict has said that healing the schism and uniting all Christians is a fundamental priority of his papacy. Standing on the shoulders of a giant, Pope Benedict seems to be pruning and reaping what the Servant of God John Paul II began. Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit Orthodox Greece in 1,231 years, as well as the first pope to visit and Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism of 1054.

Quietly happening behind the scenes…
Theological discussions have been occurring in Cyprus between Catholic and Russian Orthodox representatives. Most recently on the agenda were discussion on Ecclesiology and the primacy of the Pope. Serious progress has been made since Patriarch Kirill was elected following the death of the more hard-lined Alexy II last January. He had headed the external relations department of the world’s largest Orthodox Christian church for nearly 20 years, making him point man for ties with the Vatican. In that capacity, he met with Benedict in December 2007. They share a mutual respect for each other and it is reported that Kirill is a big fan of Benedict’s writing.

Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and leading the talks, said “The main problems that need to be addressed are the ones of Ecclesiology: what is the Church, where does it find itself? Who are its ministers? Apostolic Succession, etc. These problems have consequences in the Eucharist, for example, because the ordained person is the minister of the Eucharistic celebration.”

On September 18, Pope Benedict met with Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion, president of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. The private meeting took place at the pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. AP reported on October 1st that Pope Benedict is planning a June 2010 trip to the island of Cyprus at the invitation of a Cypriot Orthodox archbishop, Chrysostomos II. Speculation abounds that Chrysostomos II’s meetings with both Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill indicates a Catholic/Orthodox Ecumenical Summit.

Perhaps today’s big news about the Anglican Personal Ordinariates has set the precedent for the canonical structure to reunite the Orthodox as well. Deo Volente!


New Bridge Over the Tiber

At a Holy See press conference this morning, Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Di Noia O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, made a stunning announcement regarding the fruit of ecumenical efforts reuniting the Anglican Communion with Rome. Presenting a “note” they explained a forthcoming Apostolic Constitution defining a new legal structure–Personal Ordinariate–by which Anglican clergy and faithful can reunite with the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Levada explained “with the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion”.

An “apostolic constitution” is the form of document used by the Holy See to make the most significant canonical and disciplinary provisions for the Church. It is not, then, a simple “decree” (1983 CIC 29 etc), say, or an “instruction” (1983 CIC 34).

The establishment of a “personal ordinariate” will be something of an innovation in modern canon law, although this ordinariate is apparently going to be similar to “personal arch/dioceses” such as those used for the military (1983 CIC 368 and ap. con. Spirituali militum), or to personal prelatures (1983 CIC 294-297), with Opus Dei being the only example thereof to date. One wonders, though, why both of these structures were apparently found to be inadequate for the reception of Anglicans, and why a third way was invented? We’ll have to see. [from Canon Lawyer Ed Peters]

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, who helped draft the new structure in his former capacity as under-secretary of the CDF, said: “We’ve been praying for unity for 40 years. Prayers are being answered in ways we did not anticipate and the Holy See cannot not respond to this movement of the Holy Spirit for those who wish communion and whose tradition is to be valued.” He said there has been a “tremendous shift” in the ecumenical movement and “these possibilities weren’t seen as they are now.” He rejected accusations that the new Anglicans be described as dissenters. “Rather they are assenting to the movement of the Holy Spirit to be in union with Peter, with the Catholic Church,” he said. Technical details still need to be worked out, and these Personal Ordinariates may vary in their final form, Archbishop DiNoia said. Full details of the Apostolic Constitution will be released in a few weeks but today’s press conference went ahead because it had been planned sometime ago.

Cardinal Levada stated “It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’”

Meanwhile in London…Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury affirmed that the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution “brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution”, which is a “consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. “With God’s grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England’s House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission”.

“The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing co-operation”, the declaration adds. “The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.


This Week In Rome

John Allen writing for NCR recaps this weeks events:

Rome certainly has its own rhythms, which can be either charming or annoying depending upon your point of view. On the ecclesiastical scene, periods of relative calm alternate with occasional bursts of near-frenzy. This week is one of those peak moments, as even a partial run-down of what’s going on will illustrate:

  • The Synod for Africa, a gathering of almost 300 bishops from around the world to discuss the promise and the perils of the faith on the continent where it’s experienced the most explosive recent growth, is meeting Oct. 4-25. So far, the synod has considered a bewildering variety of topics, from the challenges of Islam and Pentecostalism to the perennial problems of tribalism and ethnicity — including, notably, echoes of ethnic prejudice inside the church.
  • The officers of the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops are in town, making their regular annual rounds of Vatican offices. (On Wednesday, I almost literally ran into Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., vice-president of the conference, on his way to a meeting with Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We were both walking through a tunnel linking two sides of a street, and I stopped just short of plowing into Kicanas — who was his usual gracious self.)
  • Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the USCCB, presented his new book, The Difference God Makes, at the Lateran University on Wednesday. Present were the new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, and his wife Marian, along with legendary Italian philosopher, politician, and confidante of Pope John Paul II, Rocco Buttiglione.
  • Five new saints will be canonized on Sunday, including Fr. Damien of Molokai, the famed Belgian “missionary to the lepers.” (Among other things, that’s made for the unusual spectacle of Belgian and Hawaiian pilgrims mingling in the streets of Rome).
  • Díaz is making his first round of public events and comments to the press since presenting his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 2.
  • Leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious, one of two groups for superiors of women’s religious orders in the United States — by reputation, the more conservative one — are in Rome for regular annual meetings in the Vatican. (I bumped into three officers of the CMSWR in a coffee bar Thursday morning while meeting an old friend who works in the Vatican. That’s the thing about Rome; stand near the Vatican long enough, and you’ll probably see every Catholic you’ve ever met, or even heard about.)
  • Several religious orders are currently in the middle of their general chapter meetings, or getting ready for them.
  • An article on Tuesday in the Italian paper Il Foglio by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, responding to a friendly essay about U.S. President Barack Obama by Swiss Cardinal George Cottier over the summer, set tongues wagging. (The headline was especially striking: “The Axe of the Redskin Bishop,” a reference to Chaput’s Native American ancestry, which goes to show that the canons of political correctness often just don’t apply in Italy.) In the piece, Chaput suggests that Cottier, while well-meaning, doesn’t quite appreciate American political realities.

In light of all that activity, to call this week “eventful” would be an exercise in understatement.


Pope Benedict: "The Role of Priests is Irreplaceable"

From the Vatican News Service today comes highlights of Pope Benedict’s address to the Bishops of Brazil, who just completed their “ad limina” visit. Commenting on the various roles in the Church, the Pope explained how “the particular identity of priests and laity must be seen in the light of the essential difference between priestly ministry and the ‘common priesthood’. Hence it is important to avoid the secularization of clergy and the ‘clericalization’ of the laity”.

“In this perspective the lay faithful must undertake to give expression in real life – also through political commitment – to the Christian view of anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church. While priests must distance themselves from politics in order to favour the unity and communion of all the faithful, thus becoming a point of reference for everyone”.

“The lack of priests does not justify a more active and abundant participation of the laity. The truth is that the greater the faithful’s awareness of their own responsibilities within the Church, the clearer becomes the specific identity and inimitable role of the priest as pastor of the entire community, witness to the authenticity of the faith, and dispenser of the mysteries of salvation in the name of Christ the Head”.

“The function of the clergy is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. … For this reason it is vital to ask the Lord to send workers for His harvest; and it is necessary that priests express joy in their faithfulness to their identity”.

“The shortage of priests must not come to be considered as a normal or typical state of affairs for the future”. In this context he encouraged the prelates “to combine efforts to encourage new priestly vocations and find the pastors your dioceses need, helping one another so that all of you have better-trained and more numerous priests to support the life of faith and the apostolic mission”.

Pope Benedict once again focused on St. John Vianney as a model for priests. In this Year For Priests, remember to keep your parish pastors and priests in your daily prayers. Thank them for their commitment and offer them encouragement to continually renew their awareness of their identity, dignity, responsibility, and irreplaceable role.