Monday, July 30, 2007

Interview with Monsignor Gaenswein

Here is a translation by Gerald Augustinus from the German language of an interview with the Holy Father's secretary Msgr. Georg Gaenswein.

Peter Seewald (PS): Herr Praelat, how is the Pope ?

Msgr. Gaenswein (MG): He's well, feels very good, works a lot and is in "high gear".

PS: Does he use the exercise bike that his physician, Dr. Buzzonetti, told him to

MG: The bike is in our Appartamento Privato.

PS: What does that mean ?

MG: It's being a good bike, ready to be used.

PS: When he was a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to retire, stating he was exhausted.

MG: With his election as Pope something happened that he neither strived for nor wanted. But I am convinced that, as he by and by surrendered to God's will, the grace of the office in his person and his actions has shown effect and still is.

PS: How did he react to the election results ?

MG: I entered as the cardinals were kneeling before the Pope in the Sixtine Chapel, swearing him fidelity and obedience. His face was almost as white as his soutane (cassock). He looked pretty stirred.

PS: What was going through your head at that time ?

MG: It was like a hurricane, coming up with a clear thought was entirely impossible. The days afterward were still like a tsunami.

PS: When did you know that your life was about to fundamentally change ?

MG: It happened like this: When I came to pledge my loyalty after the cardinals, I said, "Holy Father, I promise you my obedience, my fidelity, my effort in all that you demand of me. I am at your disposal with all my powers, without reservation."

SZ-Magazin: Und wann wussten Sie, dass sich Ihr Leben grundlegend verändern wird?

PS: The reply ?

MG: He looked at me, nodded and thanked me.PS: Has your salary changed ?

MG: I don't make more or less than before. The only thing that's changed is the address on the salary slip.

PS: The son of a blacksmith from a 450 people village in the Black Forest who now travels with the Holy Father in a helicopter and shares the concerns of the global Church (Weltkirche) - does one ask oneself: Why me? What does God want from me ?

MG: I asked myself this very question, and not just once. It is a task that you cannot plan. In promising the Holy Father fidelity and obedience, I tried to answer that question. In that, I see a message from God, to face this task without reservations.

PS: You're probably the first Papal secretary in history that's also in the spotlight next to the Pontifex: People Magazine swoons over the "Sunnyboy in the cassock", the Swiss Weltwoche calls you the "most handsome man in a soutane". Donatella Versace dedicated a fashion line to you. Does this image as a "ladykiller" (ie someone who looks like one) bother you ?

MG: It didn't make me blush, but it irritated me a bit. It doesn't hurt and it was flattering, and it's no sin. I'd never been confronted like this with my "shell". Then I noticed that it was largely an expression of sympathy - a bonus, not a malus; I can handle that well. But, I don't want that people don't just look at me but also acknowledge the substance.

PS: Do you get love letters?

MG: Yes, once in a while.

PS: You once mentioned "clerical envy".

MG: I said that in connection with statements that people were talking badly about me - "He wants to gain power, he wants to be in the foreground" and so forth. There was, there is, stupid talk, in part people simply lie. But I don't care about that anymore.

PS: Even from inside the Vatican?

MG: The Vatican is after all a courtly state. And there's court chatter. But there are also "arrows" that are aimed on purpose and directly. I had to learn how to handle that.

PS: It's said that you are available as bishop for the vacancy in Munich.

MG: Those are "unlaid eggs". Completely made up.

PS: Nobody thought that after a "millennium Pope" like Karol Wojtyla a successor could be successful this quickly. Now, everything has changed. Not only that Benedict XVI. draws twice as many people. That his books are printed by the millions. Pope Ratzinger is viewed as one of the most important thinkers of our time. And, as opposed to his predecessor, he's rarely criticized. What does he have that others don't ?

MG: With being Pope there comes a greater accessibility, a greater sphere of influence and a greater power of assertion. Someone very familiar with the goings-on in Rome said during the Bavaria trip last fall, "John Paul II. opened the hearts of the people. Benedict XVI. fills them." There is a lot of truth in that. The Pope reaches the hearts of the people, he speaks to them, but he doesn't speak of himself, he speaks of Jesus Christ, of God, and that in a descriptive, understandable and convincing manner. That is what people are looking for. Benedict XVI. gives them spiritual nourishment.

PS:Did John Paul II. want Cardinal Ratzinger to become his successor ?

MG: There's been a lot of speculation about that. I don't know.

PS: After all, despite Ratzinger's asking several times to be dismissed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he did not let him go. Do you view that as an argumentum e silentio, as a conclusion out of silence ?

MG: That may be. Pope John Paul II. said to his close aides many times: I want to keep Cardinal Ratzinger. I need him as the head of theology. You can deduce some things from that.

PS: It has become quieter in the Palazzo Apostolico. Benedict XVI. has reduced the number of audiences considerably and rarely has guests at his table. Of all things, there's less work under a German ?

MG: There isn't less work being done, work is done in a more concentrated manner. The Pope is an effective and quick worker. For this he needs time - to read, to study, to pray, to think, to write. That's only possible, if you tighten a lot of things, modify some or eliminate them, for the sake of what's more important.

PS: Does this mean that his predecessor was by design overwhelmed ?

MG: Not at all. With John Paul II., everything became superlative compared to prior pontificates. Just think of the number of audiences, the travels, the documents, the liturgies, or the early morning Masses in the private Papal chapel to which people were always being invited. That costs time, day after day, that has to be taken from somewhere else. For Benedict XVI., such a rhythm would be unthinkable. And, after all, John Paul II. became Pope not at 78 but at 58.

PS: Towards the end of the Era Wojtyla, a lot of things remained unfinished.

MG: It's an open secret that Pope John Paul II. didn't look much after the Roman Curia. That's not a criticism but simply a fact. The current Pope worked in the most important position of the Curia for 23 years. He knows it like no one else. That's an unparalleled experience and a huge advantage.

PS: A Pope can have trouble with the Curia ?

MG: A look at history says yes, that can happen. A weak spot in this context is certainly indiscretion. There are always "porous" spots when it comes to appointments, work on documents, disciplinary measures etc. That's not only irritating, it also means the danger that it is done on purpose, to a certain purpose which can cause troubles. Another point: wherever there is, like in the Curia, an international staff, there are different mentalities, styles of work, views, tempos and personalities that meet. Sometimes that can create friction.

PS: Is the Pope in charge of the procedures?

MG: Do you doubt that? The Pope receives his most important aides/colleagues in his audiences on a regular basis. Day after day, week after week. In addition, the heads of the congregations come to the audiences in regular intervals. This doesn't just guarantee the necessary personal contact and flow of information, but also an exchange that is invaluable for both sides. The Pope listens, gets counsel, thinks it through and decides.

PS: Joseph Ratzinger studies documents quickly.

MG: At lightning speed, and he has the memory of an elephant.

PS: Some criticize that he is in a kind of splendid isolation, a golden cage, that it's impossible to get near him.

MG: That's nonsense. Every morning there are private audiences, in the afternoon the work meetings with his closest aides - and that six days a week. In addition, there are many meetings within and without the walls of the Vatican. Golden cage? Hah! I guess it might be criticism of me, that I shield the Pope too much. Entirely exaggerated.

PS: He is basically a shy man. But at the same time he's always had something "inconvient" about him, a resistance against everything that's too common, against stupidity.

MG: That the Holy Father isn't an impetuous but a more reserved person is plain to see for everyone.

PS: The Pope writes all important texts himself, including the speech in Regensburg with the controversial quote from a historical book on a dispute with Muslims. Why did nobody edit the text?

MG: I find the Regensburg speech, as it was given, to be prophetic.

PS: Was the shock great when the angry attacks from the Islamic world became known ?

MG: We only heard of the crude reactions after we'd gotten back to Rome from Bavaria. It was a big surprise, to the Pope as well. The mighty trouble had started due to newspaper reports which had taken one quote out of context and presented it as the Pope's personal opinion.

PS: In Islam, where it is in charge of state and society, human rights are being constantly violated. ("kicked with feet") The persecution of Christians has increased drastically. The President of Iran announced again that the countdown to the destruction of Israel had begun. Is the condept of a real dialog with Islam not a bit too naive?

MG: The attempts at Islamization of the West cannot be put aside. The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected to it must not be ignored for reasons of a wrongly understood respect. The Catholic sides sees it very clearly and talks about it. Especially the Regensburg speech should counter a certain naivete ("blue-eyedness"). One thing has to be pointed out - there is no Islam as such, no voice that ties all Muslims together and leads them. There are many different currents, often at war with each other, up to extremists that claim the Koran for their actions and go to work with guns. On an institutional level, he Holy See tries to make contacts and lead dialogs via the Papal Council for Interreligious Dialog.

PS: The Papal "family" in the Palazzo Apostolico is the most famous and influential "commune" of the world: four women that belong to the "memores" of Communio e Liberazione, two secretaries and the Pope. They pray together, eat together and in the evening they watch tv together in the Papal living room. How is Pope Benedict XVI. as a roommate ?

MG: The Papal family truly is a happy international "commune": two Germans, a Pole and four Italian women, who hadn't known each other too well before. The first important step was to find a modus vivendi. The right word, the right give and take, silence, non-silence. After only a short while, a cordial familial atmosphere had developed. The language is Italian. The Pope is after all Bishop of Rome. A little correction as far as Papal tv goes: that's pure fantasy; the Holy Father and the two secretaries watch the evening news at the most. The days are determined by the audience and work rhythm of the Pope, but we try to insert some little personal "highlights" once in a while.

PS: Highlights?

MG: Well, highlights is maybe a little exaggerated - I simply mean that personal events, name days and other important personal dates are celebrated accordingly.

PS: When you watch tv at night, does the Pope wear private clothes ?

MG: No, the Pope wears white. Always.

PS: Does a Pope have to wear Prada shoes ?

MG: Not at all. Journalists have a lively fantasy.

PS: Is he wearing them?

MG: I'll have to owe you that answer.

PS: Like the Pope, you grew up in modest circumstances, you both grew up in small villages. What is the heritage of such a background ?

MG: Certainly a good portion of a healthy, fresh natural way of being, which is an untouchable filter for everything unhealthy, no matter in what disguise. An instinct that helps to tell genuine from fake.

PS: Growing up, you were five children, the father a blacksmith, the mother a Hausfrau (housewife).

MG: My father ran a smithy in the seventh generation, later he haded a store for agricultural equipment, but it wasn't a whole lot of money. Until I was six, we also had a little farm going. Sometimes we had to make the money last. My father was also very active in local politics, in many clubs and associations. Because of that, he was rarely home at night. Our mother had to do all the more, bear the burden and duty of bringing up the children. Us five had a childhood without worries, but of course we also fought.

PS: Because everything didn't always go the way the firstborn wanted it?

MG: As the oldest, you're supposed to be the wisest and give in - but giving in isn't exactly my strength.

PS: Born to be wild - was that you ?

MG: At times maybe, between 15 and 18. I listened to Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd and some others, among them the Beatles. I had pretty long curly hair then, which my father didn't like, so there were fights at times about going to the barber. But that phase came to an end pretty unspectacularly.

PS: Where did you stand politically ?

MG: I was never very political. My interests outside of school were more sports - soccer, skiing.

PS: Which is how you earned money for college.

MG: No, not as skiing instructor, I only worked as that for the skiing school of my local ski club. I worked as a mailman. At first on the bike in a little village in the Black Forest, then later by car.

PS: You once said, "I had good senses, and when you have good senses, you use them." Sounds like a lot of experience with girls.

MG: I have two sisters, several cousins, who helped me to have no troubles with the female sex. I grew up completely normal, entirely without hang-ups.

PS: Did you have a steady relationship?

MG: No, there were a few smaller romantic youthful friendships.

PS: You wanted to become a stock broker.

MG: Inititally, I was, as the oldest, supposed to take over my father's agricultural appliances business but the happenings at the stock exchange interested me more. My idea was that there was a lot of money being made and that you had to be bright and fast. Later, a bit more mature, when I thought about it more intensively, I thought, ok if I can do all that and have money, what happens then ? Suddenly, existential questions took center stage. So I started to search and ended up, completely unplanned, coming across philosophy and theology.

PS: A long process.

MG: And a difficult one. At first, the world of theology drew me close very strongly, the priesthood was added as a second step. Of course celibacy was also a question. At some point I felt that I couldn't drive at half speed, either I'd do it completely or I'd quit. A little theology, that's not possible. So, step by step, I approached the priesthood.

PS: A quote from one of your homilies, on the occasion of some ordinations: "You are granted to know that you have a dignity that distinguishes you from all who aren't priests. You are allowed to have the consciousness that you are doing something great, that you are allowed to do something great." Pretty aloof.

MG: I'd say that again without ifs ands or buts.

PS: You take it seriously.

MG: Yes, I do.

PS: It also sounds a bit romantic.

MG: I don't think so. They are words that were made true by life, and life wasn't romantic. The sentences quoted by you may sound a bit ceremonious on paper but behind them there is a lot of personal experience and I did not want to keep it from the new priests that there is something grand ahead of him, that it costs something and that he has to be willing to pay that price.

PS: In 1984 you were ordained a priest, then you spent two years in the Black Forest. In 1993, you wrote your dissertation in Munich, about "Ecclesiology according to the Second Vatican Council." Did you have moments of great doubt ?

MG: After two years as Kaplan (assistant pastor), I was sent back to Munich for more studying - of something that's not really my preference - Canon Law. After half a year I was so fed up I said to myself, now I'm going to the archbishop and ask him to take me back into the diocese because I can't stand it anymore.

PS: That bad ?

MG: I'd always studied gladly and easily, but studying Canon Law I felt to be as dry as work in a quarry where there's no beer - you die of dryness. I was saved by my professor, Winfried Ayman who later made me his assistant. He helped me greatly to get out of this situation by showing me new perspectives. That helped me a lot and kept me from quitting. I am very grateful to him.

PS: Time and again these "verdicts" surface: dutiful, pious, conservative; a man of form and strictness.

MG: In the sense of "mild in form, strict in content" I can't let that stand. When I think something to be right, I stick to it. Admittedly, patience is not my strength. Sometimes I get pretty "in your face" (literally "I drive up pretty close"), which can irritate people.

PS: What abilities does the private secretary of the head of a Church with 1.1 billion members have to have ?

MG: In a way, he has to be a jack of all trades ("generalist"), but he also has to acknowledge that he can't do everything, and he shouldn't demand it from himself. He has to do what the Pope tells him to do, and that with all his force, heart and mind.

PS: Was there some kind of introductory training, like a school for Papal etiquette ?

MG: Not at all. The only thing there was was a private conversation with my predecessor, Monsignore Stanislaus Dziwisz, the current Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow. That was about two weeks after the Conclave and the move into the Appartamento. He handed me an envelope containing some papers and a key for a safe. An ancient safe, German precision work. He only said, "You now have a very important, very beautiful but also a very, very difficult task. The only thing I can tell you is that the Pope must not be "suffocated" by nothing and no one. How to go about that, you have to find out for yourself." Period, the end. More he didn't say. That was the entire school for Papal etiquette.

PS: And what was in the envelope?

MG: That I won't tell you. They are things that are given from Papal Secretary to Papal Secretary.

PS: Your initial mistakes?

MG: I realized soon that the speed I demanded of myself was too high. To start in the pole position is one thing, to get through the laps and arrive at the finish line quite another. Starting at full speed, so to speak. So I had to find out the right speed. Another difficult point was the handling of the countless requests for private audiences and other encounters which were all tied to noble motivations. Requests without end - "just for a minute", "just once, as an exception", "the Pope has known me for a long time, he'd be very happy". Here, the right "filter system" was needed. I had to put in a stronger filter.

PS: What do you keep from the Pope?

MG: Nothing important. All important official letters and documents, everything coming from bishops and cardinals, from the world of politics and diplomacy, I present to the Holy Father in the daily briefing. Apart from that there is a huge pile of letters, pleas, requests, proposals that he doesn't get to see, because he simply doesn't have the time. There, the Pope has given me room for my own judgment.

PS: Do people try to instrumentalize you?

MG: It happens, but I know how to defend myself.

PS: Does one "take off" in your position at times ?

MG: The opposite is more the case, that you're being suffocated, pressed down. If there is a danger, it's isolation. At one point friends said that I wasn't around anymore and was withdrawing. That was an alarm signal, and I immediately tried to make free time to better take care of personal relationships and existing friendships. It's important for one's psychological health.

PS: What impact can this pontificate have?

MG: A strengthening of faith and an encouragement of faith - and the consciousness that the Catholic Faith is something great, a gift from God, that's however not forced on people but is supposed to be accepted freely. In that, there are great challenges that the Church has to face.

PS: For example ?

MG: The "God question", the engaging of various forms of Relativism, the dialog with Islam, the strengthening of our own identity. The fact that a continent like Europe cannot live when its Christian roots are cut, because that means taking away its soul.

PS: The announcement of a desired "full and visible union" with the Orthodox churches was the first sensation of the "Ratzinger government". Isn't that a rather illusory concept ?

MG: That's nothing sensational, that's always been the declared goal. That a Pope who's especially influenced this area theologically over the last years and decades formulates this explicitly should go without saying. Let's not forget that the orthodox churches stand in Apostolic succession and therefore have a valid institution, the Eucharist and also the seven sacraments. What still needs to be clarified is the question of the primacy and the jurisdiction of the Pope. But it is a scandal that Christianity is still fractured. The restoration of the full unity of faith is certainly a great goal of the theologian-Pope.

PS: Will Pope Benedict rebuild the Papacy in favor of this unity ?

MG: The question is asked wrongly. Ecumenism cannot be undertaken at the expense of the truth. A Pope can't just rebuild, reorganize the Papacy to achieve certain goals faster. The important thing is that the Papacy helps to stay true to the demand of truth as regards this unity.

PS: A change in the relationships of the Catholic Church to Moscow, Constantinople and especially Beijing would dramatically alter the religious map of the world.

MG: The ecumenical dialog with the various orthodox churches is in full steam and there has been considerable progress. But ecumenism is a difficult struggle. This has to do also with tensions within the Orthodox world. Constantinople and Moscow are two precarious points. The whole world could observe the meeting of the Pope with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul last November. A meeting with the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow has still to happen.

PS: Do you already picture the Pope with the Russian Patriarch in Moscow ?

MG: I hope that there will be a meeting wherever.

PS: In the West, the Roman Church is in a monumental change. The Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn spoke, as an alternative of the old "people's Church", of a "Church of confession" (decision), a Church that the faithful truly call their own and to whom they profess allegiance. Is the time of the pseudo-Christianity approaching its end ?

MG: "Pseudo-Christianity" sounds unfair and derogatory and doesn't do justice to reality. We can perceive that these people-church (meaning...a Catholic country by tradition) elements are vanishing, being melted off and that "nuclear" communities appear; this process has been underway for years. Cardinal Schoenborn calls this the "confessional/decision Church". A person who is a Christian today wants to be a Christian, has decided to be one, is resolved, maybe more resolved than in past years. And someone who doesn't want to be a Christian, simply isn't one, without suffering any personal, social, political or other disadvantages.

PS: It's plain to see that so many priests of the new generation discover the spiritual, cultural and aesthetical treasures of the handed-down liturgy. With the new Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum", an Apostolic letter of the Pope it has been stated that every priest may celebrate the Holy Mass also according to the earlier, Tridentine Rite. Will this bring new conflicts ?

MG: The opposite is the purpose and goal. Conflicts are supposed to be ended, existing fractions and schisms overcome. With the Motu proprio a spiritual home has been opened to a lot of the faithful. I am convinced that the letter of the Holy Father to the bishops which was released together with the Motu proprio and in which the Pope explains the goals and motivations of the document at length is the right key to its proper understanding.

PS: The French philosopher Rene Girard, member of the Academie francaise, is predicting a decisive Christian Renaissance. According to him, we are at the "eve of a revolution of our culture." This change is supposed to make the Renaissance of the 15th century pale by comparison.

MG: The religious element enjoys an attention it hasn't had in years. After a phase of indifferentism, people once more concern themselves with religion, questions of faith. I see that especially young people who have everything or could have everything, realize: One can do anything, one can even destroy the world - but one can't win the soul, when the essential is missing. The Catholic Church has treasures to offer that no one else can offer. Greater and more enduring than all politicial offers of "salvation." But, that doesn't happen automatically. Faith comes from being heard, as Saint Paul says, it has to be proclaimed.

PS: Just six weeks after its relase the Pope's book "Jesus of Nazareth" had been printed 1.5 millikon times. One feels that the Pope "puts on" this Jesus from scratch.

MG: The Jesus book is the quintessence of a man who has concerned himself with the person of esus of Nazareth his entire life - as priest, theologian, bishop, cardinal and now as Pope. It is his great spiritual testament.

PS: What do you like about this work in particular ?

MG: I'm just reading it once more. It is written in a manner that it is as deep as it is understandable. It is the sum of the life of an important person. The book takes its place in the tradition of the great Church Fathers. I am convinced that this book will strengthen many people in their faith and will lead them to faith - and not just a particular group of intellectuals, but people of all backgrounds and education.

PS: The theologian Joseph Ratzinger delivers a forceful logic: This Jesus is the one who has all powers, who is Lord of the Universe, God Himself, who has become man. Jesus of Nazareth would seem bound to start a revolution

MG: Yes, but without bloodshed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ss. Joachim and Anne, GrandParents of Jesus


From Catholic Culture

It was in the home of Joachim and Ann where the Virgin Mary received her training to be the Mother of God. Thus, devotion to Ann and Joachim is an extension of the affection Christians have always professed toward our Blessed Mother. We, too, owe a debt of gratitude to our parents for their help in our Christian formation.

Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar, today was the feast of St. Ann; St. Joachim's feast was celebrated on August 16.

Sts. Joachim and Ann

Who does not know about the great shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, where miracles abound, where cured cripples leave their crutches, and where people come from thousands of miles to pray to the grandmother of Jesus? At one time, July 26 was the feast of St. Anne only, but with the new calendar the two feasts of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been joined and are celebrated today. Our information about Mary's parents comes from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi (or Gospel of James), written about the year 170. According to this story, Joachim was a prominent and respected man who had no children, and he and his wife, Anne, looked upon this as a punishment from God. In answer to their prayers, Mary was born and was dedicated to God at a very early age.

From this early Christian writing have come several of the feast days of Mary, particularly the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of Mary, and her Assumption into Heaven. Very early also came feast days in honor of SS. Joachim and Anne, and in the Middle Ages numerous churches, chapels, and confraternities were dedicated to St. Anne. The couple early became models of Christian marriage, and their meeting at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem has been a favorite subject of Christian artists.

Anne is often shown in paintings with Jesus and Mary and is considered a subject that attracts attention, since Anne is the grandmother of Jesus. Her two great shrines — that of Ste. Anne d'Auray in Britanny, France, and that of Ste. Anne de Beaupre near Quebec in Canada — are very popular. We know little else about the lives of Mary's parents, but considering the person of Mary, they must have been two very remarkable people to have been given such a daughter and to have played so important a part in the work of the Redemption.

There is a church of St. Anne in Jerusalem and it is believed to be built on the site of the home of SS. Joachim and Anne, when they lived in Jerusalem.

Plan to make a pilgrimage for the 350th anniversary of the
Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre

The Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec Canada.

Photo by
David McDonald

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pope Says To Live In Peace Would Resemble Paradise

Dear brothers and sisters!

In these days of rest which, thanks to God, I am spending here in Cadore, I feel even more intensely the sorrowful impact of the news that reaches me about the bloody encounters and episodes of violence which are taking place in so many parts of the world. This has led me to reflect even more on the tragedy of human freedom in the world.

The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been placed by God to 'cultivate and protect' this 'garden' which is Earth (cfr Gn 2,81-7). If men lived in peace with God and among themselves, then earth would truly resemble a Paradise. But sin unfortunately ruined the divine plan, generating divisions among men and bringing death to the world.

And so it happens that men yield to the temptations of the Evil One and make war against each other. The consequence is that, in this wondrous 'garden' which the world should be, spaces of 'hell' have opened up.

War, with its trail of mourning and destruction, has always been rightly considered a calamity that opposes the plan of God, who has created everything for life, and in particular, wished to make of the human species a family.

I cannot, at this moment, fail to go back to a significant date, August 1, 1917, just about 90 years ago, when my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, addressed his famous note to the belligerent powers, calling on them to put an end to the First World War (cfr AAS 9 [1917], 417-420).

While that tremendous conflict raged, the Pope had the courage to say that it was a 'useless slaughter.' This expression of his has been inscribed in history. It was justified in the concrete situation of that summer of 1917, specially on this front in the Veneto.

But those words 'useless slaughter' also contain a much wider prophetic value and can be applied to so many other conflicts which have carried off so many human lives.

This very land where we are, which in itself speaks of peace and harmony, was a theater of the First World War, as we are still reminded today by some moving Alpine songs. They tell us of events that cannot be forgotten.

We must`guard in memory the negative experiences which unfortunately, our fathers had to suffer in order that they may not be repeated.

Pope Benedict XV's note was not limited to condemning the war. It also indicated, on a juridical basis, the means to construct a just and lasting peace: the moral force of the law, balanced and controlled disarmament, arbitration of controversies, freedom of the seas, reciprocal condonation of war damages, restitution of occupied territories, and equitable negotiations to resolve disputes.

The proposal of the Holy See was oriented towards the future of Europe and the world, according to a plan with Christian inspiration that could be shared by all because it was founded on the rights of man.

It is the same formulation that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II advocated in their memorable addresses to the General Assembly of the United Nations, repeating, in the name of the Church, "War never again!"

From this place of peace, in which the inhabitants are more vividly aware how unacceptable are the horrors of 'useless slaughters', I renew an appeal to follow tenaciously the rule of law, to reject the arms race with determination, and in general to resist the temptation of facing new situations with old ways.

With these thoughts and hopes in our hearts, let us now raise a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to the Most Holy Mary, Queen of Peace.

From Papa Ratzi Forum
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Happy Feast day to the Mount Carmel Bloggers!


O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graaces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands. Since you look with special kindness on those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen my weakness with your power, to enlighten the darkness of my mind with your wisdom, and to increase in me Faith, Hope and Charity that I may repay each day my debt of humble homage to you.

May your Scapular bring me your special protection in my daily struggle to be faithful to your Divine Son and to you. May it separate me from all that is sinful in life and remind me constantly of my duty to imitate your virtues. From now on, I shall strive to live in God's Presence, and offer all to Jesus through you. Dearest Mother, support me by your never-failing love and lead me to paradise through the merits of Christ and your own intercession. Amen.

From here

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pope May Visit Lourdes and New York


LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI hopes to visit New York and Lourdes, France, in 2008, and plans to deliver an important speech to diplomats during his upcoming trip to Vienna, the Vatican spokesman said Sunday.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi didn't specify what the speech would cover during the pope's Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria, but Vienna is the headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency. Lombardi said Benedict would deliver an "internationally important" speech to diplomats accredited to Vienna-based international organizations.

He said early plans are under way for a papal trip next year to the shrine at Lourdes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Madonna. The trip will also be a significant emotional one, Lombardi said, since Pope John Paul II's last foreign trip was to Lourdes."We also hope to go to the United Nations," Lombardi said. No date for the trip has been set; heads of state and government gather each September in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly session.

More here HT to PBXVI Blog

Vacation Is Important Says Pope


Dear brothers and sisters,

I thank the Lord for offering me the opportunity to spend these days of rest in the mountains, and I thank all who have welcomed me here to Lorenzago, to this enchanting scenery against the background of the Cadore peaks, which was visited several times by my beloved predecessor John Paul II.

I thank specially the Bishop of Treviso and the Bishop of Belluno-Feltre, and everyone who has contributed to assuring me of a peaceful and fruitful vacation. These meadows and woods and peaks raised towards heaven spontaneously inspire in the spirit the desire to praise God for the wonders of his work, and our admiration for these natural beauties is easily transformed into prayer.

Every good Christian knows that vacations offer us a chance not only to be physically relaxed but also to nourish the spirit during more ample occasions for prayer and meditation, to grow in our personal relationship with Christ and conform ourselves ever more to his teachings.

Today, for instance, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the famous parable of the good Samaritan (cfr Lk 10,25-37) which goes to the heart of the Gospel message: love of God and love of our neighbor.

But who is my neighbor?, his interlocutor had asked Jesus. And the Lord answered by turning the question around, showing through the story of the good Samaritan, that each of us should make ourselves the neighbor of whoever we come in contact with. "Go and do the same," (Lk, 10,37), says the Lord.

To love, he tells us, is to act like the good Samaritan. We know that the good Samaritan, par excellence, is Jesus himself. Despite being God, he did not hesitate to come down and become man in order to give us life.

Love is the 'heart' of Christian life. Only love, inspired in us by the Holy Spirit, makes us witnesses for Christ.

I wanted to re-state this important spiritual truth in my message for the 23rd World Youth Day which will be published on Friday, July 20: "But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1,8).

This, dear young people, is the theme on which I invite you to reflect in the coming months, to prepare for the great encounter which will take place in Sydney, Australia, within a year, precisely at this time of year.

The Christian communities of that beloved nation are actively working to welcome you, and I am grateful to them for the organizational work which they are doing.

Let us entrust to Mary - whom we invoke tomorrow as Our lady of Mt. Carmel - the work of preparation and the event itself of this next meeting of youth from all over the world, to which I invite you all, my dear young friends in every continent, to participate in great numbers.

From Papa Ratzi Forum
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Motu Propio Q&A


Let us welcome and rejoice on the release of Pope Benedict's Motu Propio. First of all, what does this all mean to us?

Q. What is Motu Propio anyway?

A. This is legal latin meaning "of one's own initiative".

Q. What does it mean for Pope Benedict to issue a Motu Propio?

A. It means that he has issued a directive upon his own initiatve by way of an apostolic letter.

Q. What is the apostolic letter and what does it say?

A. The apostolic letter is called "Summorum Pontificum". It says that there are new norms that will allow the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962 to be used as an extraordinary form of the liturgical celebration. Today, the Church celebrates the Novus Ordo mass (the mass that is celebrated in most parishes). The 1962 Missal uses the Tridentine mass (the mass celebrated in Latin). Both forms should be considered under one Roman rite. The letter further states that a priest can now celebrate mass using the 1962 missal without having to get approval from the Holy See or his ordinary (bishop). The faithful can now freely attend also, in fact, parish groups can now request their parish priest to celebrate mass using the 1962 missal. The norms allow for only one pre-Vatican II Mass to be said in parishes on Sundays and feast days.

Q. Why did Pope Benedict make this iniative?

A. For many years there has been a gap between those who considered each form of celebration as the more proper. Pope Benedict's decision was motivated by a desire to bring about "an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church." According to Fr. Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, "The Pope wishes that the coexistence of the two forms of the rite will lead both, not to oppose each other, but to mutually enrich each other, on one side through a greater depth of sacrality, and on the other side through a greater variety and expressiveness of elements." Father Lombardi said that there is a message in the letter for all: "The liturgy must be celebrated with care and respect precisely because through it we communicate with the mystery of God. If this respect is lacking, it is not only the individual but the whole Church that suffers, because abuses are always the seed of division."

Q. Won't this initiative move us backward?

A. Absolutely not. Fr. Lombardi says "Benedict XVI will not move us backward but leads us forward, keeping us well inserted in the continuity of the historical path of the Church. It is a going forward that aims above all to make progress -- as persons and as community -- into the depths of the encounter with God."

Q. Where can I attend a mass celebrated according to the 1962 missal?

A. Call your archdiocesan office and they will give you the name of the parish and the schedule of masses. You can also go to this link.

Q. How can I learn how to follow the 1962 missal?

A. You can go to the link for the full text.

Summorum Pontificum


Here is the full text of the Pope's motu propio ("of one's own initiative") issued apostolic letter.

On Saturday 7 July 2007 Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962. The following text is the unofficial Vatican Information Service translation of the official Latin text.

Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church.'

Since time immemorial it has been necessary - as it is also for the future - to maintain the principle according to which 'each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church's law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.' (1)

Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern, particularly outstanding is the name of St. Gregory the Great, who made every effort to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He commanded that the form of the sacred liturgy as celebrated in Rome (concerning both the Sacrifice of Mass and the Divine Office) be conserved. He took great concern to ensure the dissemination of monks and nuns who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, together with the announcement of the Gospel illustrated with their lives the wise provision of their Rule that 'nothing should be placed before the work of God.' In this way the sacred liturgy, celebrated according to the Roman use, enriched not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.

Many other Roman pontiffs, in the course of the centuries, showed particular solicitude in ensuring that the sacred liturgy accomplished this task more effectively. Outstanding among them is St. Pius V who, sustained by great pastoral zeal and following the exhortations of the Council of Trent, renewed the entire liturgy of the Church, oversaw the publication of liturgical books amended and 'renewed in accordance with the norms of the Fathers,' and provided them for the use of the Latin Church.

One of the liturgical books of the Roman rite is the Roman Missal, which developed in the city of Rome and, with the passing of the centuries, little by little took forms very similar to that it has had in recent times.

"It was towards this same goal that succeeding Roman Pontiffs directed their energies during the subsequent centuries in order to ensure that the rites and liturgical books were brought up to date and when necessary clarified. From the beginning of this century they undertook a more general reform.' (2) Thus our predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St. Pius X (3), Benedict XV, Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII all played a part.

In more recent times, Vatican Council II expressed a desire that the respectful reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted to the needs of our time. Moved by this desire our predecessor, the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, approved, in 1970, reformed and partly renewed liturgical books for the Latin Church. These, translated into the various languages of the world, were willingly accepted by bishops, priests and faithful. John Paul II amended the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. Thus Roman pontiffs have operated to ensure that 'this kind of liturgical edifice ... should again appear resplendent for its dignity and harmony.' (4)
But in some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms. These had so deeply marked their culture and their spirit that in 1984 the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, moved by a concern for the pastoral care of these faithful, with the special indult 'Quattuor abhinc anno," issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted permission to use the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in the year 1962. Later, in the year 1988, John Paul II with the Apostolic Letter given as Motu Proprio, 'Ecclesia Dei,' exhorted bishops to make generous use of this power in favor of all the faithful who so desired.

Following the insistent prayers of these faithful, long deliberated upon by our predecessor John Paul II, and after having listened to the views of the Cardinal Fathers of the Consistory of 22 March 2006, having reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these Apostolic Letters we establish the following:

Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the 'Lex orandi' (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same 'Lex orandi,' and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church's Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's 'Lex credendi' (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite. It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church.

The conditions for the use of this Missal as laid down by earlier documents 'Quattuor abhinc annis' and 'Ecclesia Dei,' are substituted as follows:

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.

Art. 3. Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or "community" celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues.

Art. 4. Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may - observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted.

Art. 5. § 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.

§ 2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.

§ 3 For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages.

§ 4 Priests who use the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.

§ 5 In churches that are not parish or conventual churches, it is the duty of the Rector of the church to grant the above permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.

Art. 7. If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5 õ 1, has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".

Art. 8. A bishop who, desirous of satisfying such requests, but who for various reasons is unable to do so, may refer the problem to the Commission "Ecclesia Dei" to obtain counsel and assistance.

Art. 9. § 1 The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it.

§ 2 Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it.

§ 3 Clerics ordained "in sacris constitutis" may use the Roman Breviary promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962.

Art. 10. The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.

Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", erected by John Paul II in 1988 (5), continues to exercise its function. Said Commission will have the form, duties and norms that the Roman Pontiff wishes to assign it.

Art. 12. This Commission, apart from the powers it enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See, supervising the observance and application of these dispositions.We order that everything We have established with these Apostolic Letters issued as Motu Proprio be considered as "established and decreed", and to be observed from 14 September of this year, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.

From Rome, at St. Peter's, 7 July 2007, third year of Our Pontificate.

Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Pauline Year


Rome, Jul 2, 2007 / 08:09 am (Catholic News Agency).- While preparing for the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of the Apostle Paul for Christians today and announced that the year dedicated to him will focus on ecumenism. The Holy Father was at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to begin the solemnity honoring the two saints who helped found the Church.

Speaking about St. Paul, the Pope said that he, "was 'set apart for the Gospel of God,' to spread the announcement of divine grace that, in Christ, reconciles man with God, with himself and with others."

The Apostle of the Gentiles, said the Pope, "was anything but a gifted speaker," and hence "the extraordinary apostolic results he was able to achieve are not to be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or to refined apologetics and missionary strategies. The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in announcing the Gospel of Christ with total dedication to Him, a dedication that feared no risks, difficulties or persecutions."

"From this," he continued, "we can draw a very important lesson for all Christians: The activity of the Church is credible and effective only in as much as those who are part thereof are ready to pay their faithfulness to Christ in person. ... If such willingness is lacking, then the decisive argument of truth upon which the Church depends also fails. ... As in the beginning, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves ... like St. Paul."

Benedict also officially announced that the Church will dedicate “a special jubilee year to the Apostle Paul from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, for the occasion of the 2000th
anniversary of his birth, which historians place between 7 and 10 AD."

The Pope explained that the year’s events will be hosted primarily in Rome and consist of "a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events, as well as pastoral and social initiatives." In addition, "special attention" will be given to penitential pilgrimages to the tomb of the Apostle while, all over the world in dioceses and places of worship dedicated to St. Paul, similar initiatives may be held.

The Holy Father highlighted the fact that the Pauline Year will be characterized by its "ecumenical dimension" because "the Apostle of the Gentiles, particularly dedicated to bringing the Good News to all peoples, concerned himself with the unity and harmony of all Christians.

"May he guide and protect us in this bi-millennial celebration," the Pope added in conclusion, "helping us to progress in a humble and sincere search for full unity among all members of the mystical Body of Christ."

The Pope's Intentions For July 2007


General: That all citizens, individually and in groups, may be enabled to participate actively in the life and management of the common good.

Mission: That, aware of their own missionary duty, all Christians may actively help all those engaged in the evangelization of peoples.
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Apostolic Blessing by Pope Benedict XVI

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