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8/5/2008 7:25 PM
 
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Stories filed earlier today on the preceding page:
Awaiting the Holy Father's visit to Oies - Includes an interview with Fr. Lombardi about the significance
of this visit; and the Vatican's brief biography of St. Joseph of Oies when he was canonized by John Paul II in 2003.


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THE HOLY FATHER
VISITS OIES


The Holy Father arrived in Oies a little after 5 p.m., according to ANSA. There was a crowd of more than 4,000 waiting for him. Most of them had come up the mountain by foot.

He walked between two wings of welcomers towards the natal house of St. Joseph Freinademetz, greeting as many of the faithful as he could.

Sky-TV in Italy covered the event. Here's a videoclip of the Holy Father's arrival and his visit inside the saint's house.
video.sky.it/videoportale/index.shtml?videoID=1704118580

The Pope was expected to be in Oies at least an hour, including a prayer and remarks to the faithful inside a nearby church.

Lella reports on her blog that, in the Church, according to Sky-TV's Stefano Maria Paci, the Pope improvised a prayer to St. Joseph of Oies, and in his remarks, he spoke about China and the fact that no people should be afraid to embrace Catholicism which has no intention but to spread the message of Christ.


Here are the first news agency photos on Yahoo's service:

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-1A.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-1B.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-2A.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-3A.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-3B.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-3C.jpg[/IMG]



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/6/2008 2:19 AM]
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8/5/2008 9:33 PM
 
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CHINA MUST 'OPEN UP TO CHRIST'
Pope Benedict XVI says cultures reach maturity in the Lord

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-2/ANSA.jpg[/IMG]


Oies, August 5 - Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday said China was becoming an important political and economic force but must open the doors to Christianity.

The pontiff made his comments while speaking in the small church of the Alto Adige mountain town of Oies, the birthplace of Italian missionary St Giuseppe Freinademetz, who spent most of his life in China.

''We know that China is becoming increasingly more important politically and economically, and also in the life of ideas,'' the pope said. ''It's important that this great continent opens up to the gospel of Christ,'' said the pope, speaking three days ahead of a ceremony to inaugurate the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

''St Giuseppe Freinademetz showed us that faith does not alienate any culture or people, because all cultures are waiting for Christ and will not be destroyed. In the Lord, they reach their maturity,'' he said.

Speaking of Freinademetz, who set off for China in 1879 at the age of 27, the pope said the saint ''identified with these people and with the certainty that they will open up to the faith of Christ''.

Pope Benedict is currently on holiday in Bressanone, Alto Adige, with his brother, Georg Ratzinger. During his Angelus service on Sunday, the pope sent China his best wishes for a successful Olympics and called for the Games to serve as an example of peaceful co-existence among people of different backgrounds.

The Vatican will be represented at the opening ceremony by Hong Kong bishop, John Tong Hon.

The pope has called for greater dialogue with the officially atheist state, making it clear he wants to eventually restore full diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Ties were severed in 1951, soon after the Communist Revolution.

United States President George W. Bush expressed the pope's same concerns in an interview published on Tuesday.

Ahead of his trip to the opening ceremony in Beijing, Bush told the Washington Post that he also plans to call for greater religious freedom in China.

''My main objective in my discussions on religious freedom is to remind this new generation of leadership that religion is not to be feared but to be welcomed in society,'' he said.



Pope Benedict tells China:
Open up to Christianity

By DANIELA PETROFF
[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-2/AP.jpg[/IMG]


OIES, Italy, August 5 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI urged China Tuesday to open up to Christianity as he visited the birthplace of a 19th century saint who died as a missionary there 100 years ago.

China's officially atheistic Communist Party forced Chinese Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and the two sides have not restored formal relations. Many of the country's estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church and often are arrested or harassed.

"It is important for this great country to open itself to the Gospel," said Benedict, who has made the improvement of relations with China a priority of his papacy.

The Pope sent a special letter to Catholics in China last year, praising the underground church, but also urging the faithful to reconcile with followers of the official church.

During a public prayer Sunday, the Pope sent greetings to the Chinese people ahead of the Olympics and said he hoped the Games would offer an example of coexistence among people from different countries.

On Tuesday, Benedict flew by helicopter to the remote hamlet of Oies, nestled in the Dolomite Alps in northeastern Italy, from where 130 years ago Joseph Freinademetz took off for China where he worked as a missionary until his death in 1908.

Benedict, who was accompanied by his elder brother Georg, visited an old farmhouse where Freinademetz grew up as one of 13 children. The home features a small museum with memorabilia from the missionary's life in China, including portraits of the saint depicting him with the pointed beard and round cap typical of Chinese culture in his time.

Freinademetz was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

Several thousand people had walked through fields and woods to reach the village and greet the Pope, who is spending a two-week vacation at the seminary in the nearby town of Bressanone.

Addressing them in front of the house, Benedict noted the increasing importance of China in the world.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/5/2008 10:23 PM]
8/5/2008 11:45 PM
 
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I thought these two pictures from Oies today - among the first five that were available - would make an excellent illustration for this essay - for the simple reason that Benedict XVI makes the best 'advertisement' for the virtues he preaches. The essay translated here was written by Cardinal Ratzinger for an Edizione San Paolo book called Il cammino di una famiglia cristiana [The path of a Christian family], and unearthed by Lella's invaluable colleague Gemma for
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Encountering God
when on holiday

by Joseph Ratzinger


In the modern era, our relationship to work and to the mundane tasks of making a living have been essentially modified.

In ancient times, the full liberation from earthly concerns in order to devote oneself to 'leisure in the pursuit of truth' was presented as the ideal condition in life, and occupying oneself with earthly matters appeared as a weight and a deviation from the essential.

In contrast, man today thinks of service to the world with a kind of religious fervor. He does not care at all to escape from the world, and he eschews idleness even more. What he considers to be positive about human possibilities is that man can change the face of the earth in order to realize its full potential and improve its livability.

But what makes the earth more habitable? The moment all the conveniences resulting from technology reach the peak of their development, then there is nostalgia for the simplicity of old. The world which man has built up with his own hands and which now surrounds him everywhere becomes a prison in which he starts to cry for freedom and invokes whatever is Totally Other!

We realize, of course, that free time does not necessarily mean peace and quiet; and that peace and quiet have to be 'learned anew' all the time, if work is to have any sense.

We also realize that whoever wants to 'take the world' completely for himself ends up destroying the world itself and his own vital life space. This is no longer considered a Cassandra-like prophecy by incurable romantics who are enemies of technology, but it has begun to be seen as a realistic evaluation by which technology itself judges itself.

When the apostles came back from the first mission to which Jesus had sent them, they were all in the grip of what they had experienced and achieved. They could not tire of endlessly recounting their own successes, and in fact, they kindled such enthusiasm around them that they ended up having no time even to eat, for all the people who came and went without interruption.

Perhaps they expected to be praised for their zeal, but instead, Jesus invites them to come with him to a lonely place where they can be alone and where they can rest.

I think it is good to see, once and for all, in an episode like this, the humanity of Jesus, who was not always offering words of extraordinary significance, nor trying to deal uninterruptedly with everything and everyone that demanded something of him.

In fact I like to imagine what Jesus's expression must have been when he invited his apostles to take a break. Jesus makes them come down to earth by telling them "All right now, unwind, relax!" One can sense the discreet sense of humor and the friendly irony with which he gets them to put their feet on the ground!

And it is this humanity of Jesus that makes visible what is divine in him, which makes him manifest to us as God. Frenzy of any kind - even if it is 'religious' zeal and frenzy - is totally alien to the man of the New Testament.

Think about it: Every time that we believe we are absolutely indispensable, every time we think that the world and the Church depend on our tireless activity, we over-value ourselves.

It is therefore an act of correct humidity and of creature honesty to know when to stop, to recognize our limitations, to take some free time to breathe freely and rest, because these, too, are needed by the creature called man.

It is not that I wish to sing the praises of laziness, but I do wish to suggest a certain change in the table of virtues as it has evolved in the Western world, for which only action counts as a legitimate and conceivable activity - whereas meditation, wonder, self-communion and silence are seen to be indefensible and worthless, or at the very least, 'activities' that need to be justified.

During some archaeological excavations for the remains of Roman settlements in north Africa, they discovered in the ancient market square of Fimgad, in Algeria, an inscription from the second or third century which read: "To hunt, to bathe, to play, to laugh - that is living!"

I think of that inscription every year when I see the river of vacationing people headed for the south of Europe in pursuit of 'living'. When, in the far future, archaeologists will find the advertisements for travel and vacation from our day, they will discover we had an analogous representation of 'living'.

Obviously, most people consider that spending the whole year working in an office, a factory or other kind of workplace is a form of 'not living'. And so we all look forward to the holidays when we feel we are finally free to 'live' as we wish. To swim, to play, to laugh, to joke - that's the life!

This expectation of relaxation, of freedom, of escaping the constrictions of everyday routine is quintessentially human. And indeed, in the face of the demanding productive rhythm of the world of technology, such breaks for rest are simply necessary.

But even granting all that, we must admit that even in a condition of maximum freedom, of maximum availability of free time, our problems do not disappear. Man realizes suddenly that he has lost his capacity to 'live' - that swimming and playing, laughing and joking, are fun, but that's not really 'living'.

And so the question of how to use free time and vacations has begun to be an object of serious and specific scientific investigation. I am reminded that Thomas Aquinas wrote an entire treatise on the means to fight sadness. And it is a testimony to his sense of reality that he too lists swimming, sleeping and amusements as among such measures!

But he also points out that among the ways to fight sadness one must include being together with friends, which relieves the isolation that is often at the root of our discontents. Free time should above all be a time when one can be available and accessible for relating to others.

Finally, for Thomas, the antidotes to sadness must include looking for Truth, and that means looking for God - through contemplation of the truth, from which man draws authentic living.

If we exclude this from our plans for our holidays, then even our free time can only be false and deceiving. And we ourselves, all looking forward to recovering some of the 'living' we miss out during the rest of the year, will not fare any better.

Seeking God is the most stimulating walk in the mountains and the most enlivening swim one can imagine. To swim, to play, to sleep - of course, they are re all ingredients of a vacation.

But like Thomas Aquinas, when we plan our holidays, we should also consider the possibility of an encounter with God, to which we are invited by all our beautiful churches and all the natural beauties of God's creation. [A textbook description of all the Papal vacations we have been privileged to 'share' with him!]


[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0805-OIES-2-B.jpg[/IMG]



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/6/2008 5:30 AM]
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8/6/2008 1:56 AM
 
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Benedict XVI's tribute:
Paul VI's superhuman work
kept the Church on course
during the post-Conciliar storm

By Gianteo Bordero
Translated from
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August 5, 2008


Papa Ratzinger is never banal. Not even when, following protocol, he remembers a predecessor on the 30th anniversary of his death.

This happened Sunday during the Angelus prayers he led in Bressanone, where Benedict XVI decided to spend his annual summer break this year (as he did every three years while he was cardinal).

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/PAUL6-ECU.jpg[/IMG]


And he was paying tribute to Paul VI, who died on August 6, 1978, at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo at age 81 - after 15 years as Pope.

With just a few words, Papa Ratzinger provided a new key to interpret one of the most difficult and controversial papacies in the history of the Church.

Difficult because it unfolded in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and everything, good and bad, that derived from it.

Controversial because the figure of Giovanni Battista Montini paradoxically finds its most severe critics within the Church itself, both from the 'left' and the 'right'.

The first accuse him of having prevented the Church from evolving in terms of sexual morality, particularly because of the encyclical Humanae Vitae; and the second fault him for an excess of 'opening to modernity', taking specific aim at the resulting liturgical reform in 1969.

Actually, Paul VI was very much outside the categories usually employed to judge his pontificate - certainly not with the customary, tired and really inappropriate labels of 'progressive' or 'conservative'.

As Benedict XVI said on Sunday, Paul VI was the man "sent by Divine Providence to Rome at the most delicate moment of the (Second Vatican) Council, when the inspiration of the Blessed John XXIII risked not taking form."

The Pope does not get down to details, does not state what that 'most delicate moment' was.

But it may be correct to hypothesize (based in part on the critical reflections of this Pope about the Council, which he started to enunciate in the first years after Vatican-II) that he is referring to the moment when some of his fellow theologians at the Council, along with some bishops, sought to unhinge papal primacy itself - and with it the Petrine essence of Catholicism - through a document on collegiality which they intended to have the Council vote on.

It was then that Paul VI (though new to the job) - understood the extreme delicacy of the situation and the dangers of self-destruction that such a move could mean for the Church. To preempt it, he decided to formulate a Nota praevia to accompany Lumen gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution that the Council had framed for the Church in the modern world.

In the note, he reaffirms that the word 'collegio' should not be understood in the 'narrow juridical sense'(namely, 'a group of equals who have demanded power from their presiding officer'] and that there is 'no equality between the head and the members of this particular college' (i.e., between the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the world's bishops).

Papa Montini also specified that the Pontiff, "in ordering, promoting and approving the exercise of collegiality, proceeds according to his own discretion, bearing in mind the good of the Church. The Supreme Pontiff, as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, can exercise his own power at any time, at his discretion, as required by his very office."

This Nota praevia constituted an authentic rescue operation on the Boat of Peter, which risked being submerged in the waves of a mentality that intended at all costs to transform the Church into a modern and mundane institution like any other, relegating the mystery of the presence of Christ in the Church to the background.

Paul VI himself, some years later, indicated how difficult and dramatic those moments were for him when, to everyone's surprise, he said "it was thought that the Council would be followed by a sunny day for the history of the Church. What came instead were clouds, storms, darkness.... Through some crack, the fumes of Satan had entered the Temple of God."

It was June 29, 1972, feast of St. Peter. Feast of the first Pope. That 'crack' through which the Demon had entered - could that have been the intended text on 'collegiality' that the Pope succeeded to contain?

In any case, it is from such high drama that one must start in order to understand the figure and the Magisterium of Paul VI. That is why Benedict XVI in Bressanone ended his commemoration of Papa Montini by saying, "As our perspective grows wider and more knowledgeable with the passing years, the merit of Paul VI appears greater than ever - almost superhuman, I might say - in presiding over the Council sessions, in bringing the Council to a happy end, and in governing the agitated post-Conciliar phase."

'Almost superhuman'! These are words that finally render justice to a Pope who governed the Church through a raging storm and knew - through his own infinite spiritual pain and suffering - how to keep firm the helm of the Church that had been entrusted to him as the Vicar of Christ.


[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/1977-P6-CONSISTORY-2PIX.jpg[/IMG]
Paul VI created Joseph Ratzinger a cardinal at his last conistory in June 1977.

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I have always wondered what was the extent of direct relations between Paul VI and the man whom he would name Archbishop of Munich 12 years after the end of Vatican-II. I have only seen the few pictures of them together taken at the consistory such as the two above, and would appreciate anyone contributing more pictures and information in this regard.

The fact that the formal commendation of Joseph Ratzinger read at the Consistory referred primarily to his work as a theologian proves, among other things, that Paul VI appreciated - or came to appreciate - the German's positions during and after Vatican-II; and that Ratzinger's kind of robust traditional but informed Catholicism was what Paul VI must have felt the Church needed at the time. I have alsowondered whether he ever had a glimmer in his mind that the shy German had it in him to be a potential Pope.

In any case, it is one of the things for which we Benaddicts can be thankful to the Servant of God Paul VI.



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8/6/2008 3:04 PM
 
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Paul VI
Before everyone gets all emotional about Paul VI, while he may have employed "almost superhuman" efforts to see the Church through the post-Vatican II turmoil, he also did everything he could to modernize and secularize the Church, including his Novus Ordo. He was also the Pope whose failure to discipline dissident bishops and clergy set the stage for 40 years of lay dissent, something we're only just beginning to come out of. John Paul II just basically held the line for 26 years, but didn't enforce Liturgiam authenticam or Ex Corde Ecclesiae. I must disagree with Benedict XVI on one point especially: Paul VI's hand on the helm of the Church was not "firm." At best, it was tenuous.
8/6/2008 4:34 PM
 
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L'Osservatore Romano today does not have a single word on its front page
nor in its selection of online postings from today's issue, on the Holy Father's
activities in Bressanone. The issue, however, contains 4 major articles on
Paul VI to mark the 30th anniversary of his death today, including a front-page
editorial on the late Pontiff as a
"Witness to Christ for our time'
[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/P6-CG-POND.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/080806.jpg[/IMG]

The other articles include John Paul II's tribute on the first anniversary of Paul VI's death; a look at the 1968
'Creed of the People of God', the Profession of Faith pronounced in his homily on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul,
as one of Papa Montini's significant legacies; an interview about the surprising range of activities of the Istituto Paul VI,
a study center based in the Pope's hometown of Brescia; and an article about Paul VI and his words about Sacred Scripture.
Photo above shows Paul VI in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, where he died in 1968. Another inside photo (below) shows
Paul VI with his friend, the French philosopher Jacques Maritain, whom he consulted in drafting the 1968 Credo.

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/PAUL6-MARITAIN-2.jpg[/IMG]


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As an ordinary onlooker to events, who gets information only from the little I can access of what is publicly available out there, I am obviously in no position to hold an informed brief for Paul VI or any other Pope, for that matter.

And although I will always have personal affection for him as the first Pope I had the privilege to meet, and even more, for having taken Joseph Ratzinger out of academe into the mainstream of the Church, I have expressed myself on this Forum before on my inability to understand why he decided on the form that his Novus Ordo took in 1969.

But I also realize that none of us can know what goes into the crucial decisions made by persons sui generis like the Pope (or on the secular level, the President of the United States) - because none of us can get into the mind and heart of the individual at the moment of the decision and all the other moments that led up to the decision.

What seems clear to me, however, from the disclosures made more public, in recent months is that the Church would have indeed begun to 'self-destruct' critically if the progressive document on collegiality had passed Vatican-II, or if Paul VI had not decided to promulgate Humanae Vitae despite the majority recommendation of the study commission to slacken Catholic teaching on artifiial contraception. He stood firm where it mattered most - on essential doctrine.

The forms of liturgy can and do change - in different ways which may be right or wrong, as history has shown - and fortunately, the misguided overnight imposition of a deliberately devised Novus Ordo instead of organic changes in the traditional liturgy is even now being corrected.

Also, the experience thus far with Summorum Pontificum - not to mention with updated Church guidelines on dealing with sex offenses by priests - shows that it is not within a modern Pope's powers to impose obedience on dissenting bishops, priests and laymen, much less to 'discipline' them in any concrete way. If one would fault Paul VI for failing to do that, then let us fault Benedict XVI himself, and John Paul II as well - after all, 27 of those 40 post-conciliar years of dissent were under the great and sainted Polish Pope.




[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/6/2008 6:31 PM]
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8/6/2008 5:57 PM
 
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THE HOLY FATHER MEETS
DIOCESAN CLERGY



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[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/0806-CLERGY-4A.jpg[/IMG]


Outside Bressanone Cathedral after the session with the clergy:
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Because of my very late start to posting in the Forum today, it is now possible to post - with my initial entry on the event - the OR report on the Holy Father's encounter with the diocesan clergy in Bressanone today, as it appears in tomorrow's issue (8/7/08) which has been posted online.

The visit to Oies was not reported in today's issue (8/6) because it took place after the issue had already gone to press. It is well-covered in the 8/7/08 issue, meriting the main banner story because of the Pope's words about China. The meeting with the clergy was the secondary story.

The issue also contains two more articles about Paul VI - one about Cardinal Bertone's homily at the Mass he said today in the parish church of Castel Gandolfo to mark the Pontiff's 30th death anniversary; and a lengthy appreciation written by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.



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Benedict XVI in Oies:
'Important that China opens up to the Gospel'
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Benedict in Oies: Left photo, signing the guest book at the house-museum of St. Joseph Freinademetz.
The 8/7/08 OR also has a front-page commentary on the Beijing Olympics as a symbol of China's opening to the world, and a story on an apparent easing of tensions between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine.


Here is the OR report on the meeting with the clergy, which remarkably omits any reference to the Pope's answers - I suppose, pending transcription of the session - though Fr. Lombardi briefed the press briefly afterwards on the answers.


Priests face ever-new challenges
by Giampaolo Mattei
Translated from
the 8/7/08 issue of

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BRESSANONE, August 6 - The priest faced with solitude and ever-new challenges, as well as the problems of a pastoral ministry with a marked crisis in vocations, and the relationship between faith and reason as mediated through art and respect for the environment.

These were among the problems presented in six questions by the priests of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone to Pope Benedict XVI in a session Wednesday morning at the Cathedral of Bolzano.

Love of God and the possibility of living the faith in today's world were the two central themes that emerged in Pope Benedict's responses.

The Pontiff opened with a thought on the day's Feast of the Transfiguration, saying that being a priest is "like being on Mt. Tabor, and having the duty to bring the light of God to all men".

He invited priests to open up totally to the love of God and to 'structure the day' in order to give priority to an authentic life of faith: the Word of God, the Eucharist, prayer and penitence.

Recalling John Paul II "who taught us that God is love even in the midst of our suffering", he called him "a giant of faith", a Pontiff who had "opened new paths" and "caused walls of every kind to come down."

Finally, he advised that love should always guide the attitude of priests towards the Sacraments, that they should open up to people at the margins and show them mercy, that they should try to involve parents in catechizing their children from the very beginning.

The session opened with the Mid-Morning service of the Liturgy of the Hours.

In their questions, the priests did not hesitate to probe the open wounds of a pastoral ministry that must make do with an aging clergy (the median age of priests in the diocese is 66!) and of a true vocational crisis (at present, the diocese only has five seminarians).
[That is really shocking - that entire Seminario Maggiore only has five students availing of it! The only plus side I can think of is that the faculty then has time to contribute to pastoral work instead of being confined to teaching!]

Almost all 300 priests of the diocese attended, along with some 200 members of religious orders.

Bishop Wilhelm Egger opened the session by presenting it as a singular version of the Pope's Wednesday catechesis but an audience at which "questions come directly from the priests" and that the questions were chosen as "those that best represent the feelings of everyone, as well as the realities of the diocese."

He also paid tribute to Paul VI on the anniversary of his death, recalling that he had redefined the diocesan territory and constituted the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone.

The first question was asked by seminarian Michael Horrer, based on his experience at World Youth Day in Sydney. He said the encounter with thousands of other young people had brought him to reflect on how one can be an effective witness for Christ in the routine life of everyday, outside great events. He asked the Pope for practical counsel in this respect.

Fr. Willibald Hopfgartner, a Franciscan priest who works as an educator, referred to the Pope's discourse in Regensburg and related it to the use of art and of beauty as instruments to approach the mystery of God.

After the fist two questions in German, don Willi Fusaro asked the Pope for some advice to priests like him who must live with personal ailments. Don Willi, who works in the parish of Corpus
Domini in Bolzano, has been ailing since the day he was ordained, and said he recognized in John Paul II's example a reference point on the redemptive value of suffering when it is lived the Christian way.

The fourth question, again in German, was presented by Fr. Karl Golser, professor of moral theology, who had worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when the Pope was its Prefect. Referring to Benedict XVI's statements about respect for the environment, he said this issue was of particular interest in the German-speaking world, and he asked how Christians can be more attentive to the relationship between Creation and redemption.

Fr. Franz Pixner, dean of Kastelruth and parish priest of two (?) large dioceses, dwelt on the problems of priestly life: the duties which overburden priests, the lack of recognition for what they do, loneliness and celibacy - but also how priests can better develop lay charisms, particularly those of women who, he said, could assist in baptism and preaching.

The last question, on pastoral work, was asked in Italian by don Paolo Rizzi, parish priest and theology professor at the Institute for Religious Sciences, on the problem of following through with children who, after their First Communion and Confirmation, and finishing their course in catechism, easily fall off and even stop coming to Sunday Mass. He said the problem was common throughout the diocese.

The session ended with the Pope leading in the Angelus prayers, after which he imparted his blessing. Then, he met with sick and handicapped priests who attended the encounter.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/8/2008 9:40 AM]
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8/6/2008 6:08 PM
 
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Pope tells priests to be generous giving sacraments to young people

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
August 6, 2008

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said the church should be generous when it comes to administering the sacraments to young people, recognizing that Jesus would have done the same.

The pope made the remarks in a closed-door meeting Aug. 6 with about 400 priests and religious in the northern Italian city of Bressanone, where the 81-year-old pontiff was vacationing.

Although reporters were not allowed inside the city's cathedral for the one-hour encounter, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, described some of the give and take in an interview with Vatican Radio.

One of six questions posed by priests touched on the pastoral care of children, Father Lombardi said. In his response, the pope spoke about the need to take a broad approach to the administration of sacraments, reflecting the merciful attitude shown by Christ.

"The pope said, 'I used to be more strict about this, but the example of Christ led me to become more welcoming in cases in which, perhaps, there is not a mature and solid faith, but there is a glimmer, a desire of communion with the church,'" the spokesman said.

The pope concluded that in such cases one can be "broader and more generous in the administration of the sacraments," Father Lombardi said.

The spokesman said the pope answered questions with a combination of clarity and humility, underlining at times that what he was imparting was his own best advice, not an infallible response.

Asked about environmental issues, the pope said that in recent times the church has made a greater effort to connect its teachings on redemption with the need to safeguard the gifts of creation.

He said the real threat facing the planet and the human being today is a materialistic vision that denies God and denies the need to use creation responsibly.


8/6/2008 7:07 PM
 
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Paul Vi
Teresa,

You can be a defender of Paul VI if you like - but that does not mean Paul VI is beyond criticism. He was ineffectual in many ways. He waffled on many issues. He himself was not vigilant enough about the perils of modernity. Of course, we can't know what was "in his heart," but his actions reveal what he was thinking and what he believed (unless he was schizophrenic). Therefore, we are in a position to evaluate the effect his pontificate has had on the Church. It's mixed, at the very least. Too often, he presented an ambivalent, whiny face to the world. He did not appear resolute, whether he was (in his heart) or not. But there is a closer connection between thinking and doing than you suggest, Teresa. What a person does CAN tell us about their innermost convictions. And, in the case of Paul VI, too often he gave way before outside pressures.
8/6/2008 9:19 PM
 
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Dear Janice -

Please understand: I have no interest in a 'running debate' with anyone on any subject, as I think I have often stated in various ways on various occasions in various parts of the Forum. You express an opinion. I express mine. The readers of the Forum will have their own. That is all.

Far be it from me to think that anything I write will change what anyone thinks about anything - I believe circular discussions that go on and on among people who will never think the same way on a specific issue are pointless (except perhaps as an exercise in rhetoric for those who are so inclined, and I am not). In the same way, I don't read the newspapers or blogs or opinion columns necessarily expecting to change what I think because of what I read.

TERESA






[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/6/2008 9:58 PM]
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8/6/2008 9:40 PM
 
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Re Pope Paul VI

----------------------------------------------------
You can be a defender of Paul VI if you like - but that does not mean Paul VI is beyond criticism. He was ineffectual in many ways. He waffled on many issues. He himself was not vigilant enough about the perils of modernity. Of course, we can't know what was "in his heart," but his actions reveal what he was thinking and what he believed (unless he was schizophrenic). Therefore, we are in a position to evaluate the effect his pontificate has had on the Church. It's mixed, at the very least. Too often, he presented an ambivalent, whiny face to the world. He did not appear resolute, whether he was (in his heart) or not. But there is a closer connection between thinking and doing than you suggest, Teresa. What a person does CAN tell us about their innermost convictions. And, in the case of Paul VI, too often he gave way before outside pressures.
--------------------------------------------------------

Well, amazingly enough, he was a human being.  I've read that Pope Paul was a very sensitive, reflective man.  I don't agree that he could be described as "whiny" ... but considering the uproar ensuing over Humane Vitae, and the fact that he never issued another magisterial writing after that could demonstrate his human reaction by his flock to his decisions on birth/life issues.  He was trained in diplomacy, a career requiring tact and finesse and sublety.  How courageous, actually, to lead the worldwide Church in such an age of uproar.  Not perfect, but perhaps courageous, at least?

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8/6/2008 10:04 PM
 
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BENEDICT'S NEW MESSAGE TO CHINA
by Marco Rizza
Translated from
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August 6, 2008


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OIES - From Oies to China, from this tiny cluster of homes perched above Pedraces, to the world's largest and most controversial nation, Pope Benedict XVI availed of his visit to the birthplace of St, Joseph Freinademetz - who served as a missionary in China for 29 years - to address a strong message to that Communist nation:

"It is important that this great nation opens up to the Word of Christ. Faith does not alienate any people, Rather, in Christ, civilizations reach their maturity."

The Pope added that "we must thank God for giving us St. Joseph Freinademetz".

It as a day of great celebration, with more than 4,000 faithful present.

The Pope's visit to Oies was a small masterpiece of organization. Imagine 4,000 people coming to a hamlet that does not even have ten houses. But everything proceeded without any problems and in an festive atmosphere.

The faithful came from every part of Italy - many were tourists who happened to be in the area, but many also came here only for this. Obviously, there were a great many Ladinos ('native' inhabitants of the region). And obviously, the forces of law and order were conspicuous.

The road to Oies was closed to traffic from San Leonardo. To get there, one had to go on foot or try to get on a shuttle bus. The first pilgrims arrived in the morning, and by 4 p.m., people had staked their positions, seated on the meadow or behind police barriers set up along the route between the place where the Pope's helicopter would land and the Freinademetz house. Those who had arrived first chose to wait inside the nearby church.

From 4 p.m. onwards, everyone was on the lookout for the first signs of the papal helicopter. It arrived shortly after 5 p.m. In the Pope's entourage was his older brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger.

The distance between the landing place and the saint's house was less than a hundred meters, but it took the Pope more than half an hour to go through. He generously greeted everyone, shifting from one side of the path to the other, shaking hands and kissing babies and children. all to the now-familiar chants of BE-NE-DET-TO, BE-NE-DET-TO!

The climate was even more festive and warm than at the Angelus in Bressanone on Sunday. With families seated on the meadow, picnic style, and even with the omnipresent streamers of Comunione e Liberazione, it felt more intimate.

At the saint's house, the Pope was welcomed by Bishop Wilhelm Egger, by the mayor of Badia, Ugo Dorigo, and by Fr. Irsara, custodian of the house-museum.

He was accompanied inside the house by several priest of the Society of the Divine Word, the order to which the saint belonged, among them, some African priests.

After visiting the various rooms, the Pope was offered refreshments - myrtle juice and pastries prepared by Roberta Mellauner, who owns a hotel in La Villa.

Before he left, he signed the museum guest book and visited the chapel.

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He then proceeded to the church, where he was presented with a wooden statue carved in Val Gardena. He then addressed the faithful. After a brief greeting in German, he continued in Italian:

"Thank you for this warm welcome - I am profoundly moved. And let us thank God for having given us St. Joseph Freinademetz."

He added that the saint of Oies was one of 'great relevance' today, because China, which he served to the end of his life, "is a nation that is increasingly important" in the world.

He said the message of St. Joseph of Oies was that "faith does not alienate any people or culture, but rather that in Christ, civilizations reach their maturity."

And thus from this Badia hamlet comes another message for the world's most populous nation, after the message given by the Pope on Sunday, wishing the best for the Beijing Olympics, with the hope that the Games may be a symbol of 'respect for our common human dignity".


Rizzi also wrote this sidebar, which is the kind of detail I love to see in news reporting:


The Pope leaves a written record
in the Oies guestbook

Translated from
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August 6, 2008


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OIES - At the end of his visit to the house where St. Joseph Freinademetz was born, Benedict XVI left a message in German.

On the guest book of the house-museum, the Pontiff wrote: "May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Joseph Freinademetz, grant many spiritual vocations and open China ever more to faith in Jesus."

The Pope referred to the relationship between the saint and China when he addressed the faithful afterwards at a nearby church.


Additional photos here of the visit to Oies are from the photo gallery of
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The story in tomorrow's issue (8/7/08) of Osservatore Romano has quite a number of interesting details, some of which give betetr context to the photos shown:


The Pope recalls the Ladino saint
who became 'Chinese in everything'

Translated from
the 8/7/08 issue of

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August 7, 2008


Bressanone, Aug 6 - The Pope flew up Tuesday afternoon to the 1500-meter altitude of Val Badia to a village called Oies with 15 residents and a handful of houses.

He did it because among these mountains is a piece of China - the birthplace of St. Josef Freinademetz, born 1852, a Divine Word missionary who came to call himself 'Chinese in everything and for all purposes'.

Speaking extemporaneously in the new church of Oies, which is shaped like a Chinese pagoda, Benedict XVI expressed the wish once again that China may open to the Gospel.

Faith, he said, does not alienate any people or culture, much less the Chinese who are becoming ever more important in politics, economics, and even 'in the life of ideas'.

All cultures, the Pope said [repeating a concept that was widely misunderstood when me said it in Aparecida], await Christ, and civilizations can only become fully mature in him. This holds true in China as well.

He referred to the great relevance of St. Joseph Freinademetz's testimony in opening the great Chinese nation to the Gospel. A testimony, he said, that strengthens the faith of every believer - in China as elsewhere.

While he spoke, the Pope faced the church's great Crucifix, in which Jesus is portrayed with almond-shaped eyes.

The Pope summarized his thoughts in the guest book at the natal house-museum of St. Joseph, writing in German: "May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Joseph Freinademetz, grant many spiritual vocations, and open China ever more to faith in Jesus."

The guest book lists many Chinese visitors, among them, the first Chinese cardinal, Thomas Tien Chen Sin, who came here in 1963.

This last was a surprise to the Pope, who had come here to celebrate the story of a man of the Tyrolean Alps who became as Chinese as the people he came to serve and love.

The Pope's visit to Oies and his words came as yet another signal to the people of China on the eve of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Able to work a true inculturation of the Gospel - he had left for China as a colonizer sure of his cultural superiority only to enter into his adopted land's culture so thoroughly that he ended up wearing Chinese clothes only, St. Joseph of Oies died one hundred years ago.

Paul VI beatified him in 1975, and John Paul II canonized him in 2003. And Benedict XVI, for his only 'official' visit so far outside Bressanone during his current summer holiday, chose to come to Oies, a place he had not visited in his previous visits to the region, and one that he and his brother had always intended to visit.

Freinademetz is the only canonized saint from the diocese but this is not the only reason why he is extremely popular among the local folk. His adventurous life story is still able to fascinate. He lived in China for 29 years until he died, and he wished to be buried there.

His total identification with the Chinese is impressive, having written "I wish to be Chinese even in heaven". They called him Fu Shentu (which means 'priest of happiness'). He is portrayed in pictures with a Chinese-style goatee and wearing Chinese garments.

The Pope arrived in Oies by helicopter shortly after 5 p.m. Ont he wya, he was flown over the Sanctuary of the Holy Cross and the abbey of Novacella/Neustift.

Flying with him were Mons. Wilhelm Egger, bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone; as well as his brother Mons. Georg Ratzinger and his private secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein.

In Oies he was greeted with an exceptional sight: almost 5,000 people who had come up the mountain on foot, taking as long as four hours to do so, since the only access road to Oies had been closed for security reasons.

The Pope spent 40 minutes to traverse the 200 meters from the helipad to the saint's house. He shook a forest of hands and kissed so many children.

He laughed when a mother literally threw her months-old daughter into his arms, and appeared quite entertained when a baby boy started to play with his nose.

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The Pope very much seemed to enjoy the affection shown by the crowd, and kept saying 'Thank you, thank you".

In his brief tour of the Freinademetz house-museum, the Pope was guided by Fr. Girardi, procurator general of the Society of the Divine Word (the order to which St. Joseph belonged), and by the museum custodian Fr. Irsara.

He spent more time than scheduled in the house, staying more than half an hour and listening with emotion as his guides recounted the highlights of St. Joseph's life.

Before leaving, he knelt in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the museum's small chapel, and then proceeded to the church built in 2003 for the benefit of the increasing number of pilgrims to the shrine.

He was given a wooden statue of the Madonna that had been carved in Val Gardena. In turn, he gave a chasuble to the Church. After his remarks to the faithful, he led them in reciting the Lord's Prayer in Latin, and then imparted his apostolic blessing.

Before leaving, he added a few words to thank all those present for the 'sacrifice and courage' they showed in coming to see him.

His helicopter left Oies at 6:45 and landed in Bressanone 20 minutes later.


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This commentary actually led off the well-rounded coverage of the Pope's visit to Oies in the 8/6/08 issue of Alto Adige:


The China of Freinademetz -
and of Benedict XVI

by PAOLO VALENTE
Translated from
[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-3%20052208/ALTO-ADIGE1.jpg[/IMG]
August 6, 2008


From the wooded mountainside of Oies, Benedict XVI looked to China.

His visit to the village and natal home of St. Josef Freinademetz was the second time occasion for this within a few days.

At the Angelus on Sunday, he sent a greeting and a wish about the Olympic Games which open in Beijing on Friday: "I have followed with great interest this great sports encounter - the most awaited and important one on the international level - and I sincerely wish that it (the Beijing Olympics) will offer the international community a valid example of coexistence among persons of the most diverse origins, with respect for their common dignity. May sports once again be a symbol of fraternity and peace among peoples."

It is evident that the Pontiff is not thinking only of coexistence among athletes and of Olympic brotherhood. Respect for minorites and for cultural plurality is for the most past 'unresolved' in China.

China is a place where freedom of expression and the media, for instance, is still curtailed, where civil and political rights are not adequately respected, where the death penalty is widely applied, and where the state interferes heavily in religious affairs.

Several Catholic bishops and priests are in prison, or have disappeared without a trace. The authorities interfere in the nomination of community pastors. Indeed, there is an official Church, ostensibly meant to be simply administrative, and a church that is not recognized by the government because it is loyal to Rome.

For all these reasons, Benedict XVI looks to China with great attention - and prudence. From Oies, he sent out a new message: "It is important that China can open up to Christ".

In fact, the past few years have seen some steps to bring the Vatican and Beijing closer. And last year, Benedict XVI addressed a long and unprecedented pastoral letter to the Catholics of China.

In it, he points out that "The Church discreetly offers its contribution to promote and defend the human being, his values, his spirtuality and his transcendent calling. The Church particularly has at heart those values and objectives that are of primary importance even for modern China: solidarity, peace, social justice, the intelligent management of the globalization phenomenon."

These words elaborate what John Paul II said when he affirmed that the third millennium would be the age of evangelizing Asia (after Europe, the Americas and Africa) .

"Even in China," Benedict XVI wrote, "the Church is called to be a witness for Christ, to look ahead with hope and to measure itself - in announcing the Gospel - against the new challenges that the Chinese people must confront."

He declared the Church's openness to dialog with the Beijing government and its readiness for negotiations. He called on the Chinese Catholics to resolve their existing tensions through forgiveness and reconciliation.

Benedict XVI considers it central for Christians to devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel. "To announce the Gospel is to announce and testify to Jesus Christ who was crucified and resurrected - the new man. He allows human beings to enter a new dimension, where mercy and love even for one's enemy testify to the victory of the Cross over every human weakness and misery. "

"Your path of reconciliation," he advised the Chinese Catholics, "is sustained by the example and prayers of so many 'witnesses to the faith' who have suffered and forgiven, offering their lives for the future of the Catholic Church in China."

And right here in Val Badia is where one of those witnesses to faith was born. St. Joseph of Oies was a precursor of the present phase of the Church's missionary and evangelizing impulse.

He undertook his path of 'getting to the heart' of China in the late 19th century. At that time, the West was in the process of carving up the Far East into spheres of influence.

If initially, Freinademetz shared the colonial mentality which he had learned as a European, the saint of Oies quickly changed his attitude, becoming, as John Paul II said, 'an exemplary model of evangelical inculturation."

"Would you believe me," he wrote to the people back home, "if I tell you that China is not less pretty than our beautiful Badia?" He continued: "The major scourge for us (missionaries) and the poor Chinese is starting to be so many Europeans who are without faith and corrupt, and who are beginning to flood into China. They may be Christians, but they are worse than pagans - they care for nothing but to make money and to follow every worldly pleasure. If Europe were truly Christian, I do not doubt that this could be the time for the conversion of China. But unfortunately, we can only look to the future with fear and apprehension. There is no time to lose (for us missionaries) and we cannot spare ourselves."

For his part, he was already a 'convert': "I want to remain Chinese, even in heaven," he famously wrote.

That is why Pope Benedict looks kindly on the Ladinos. Not just because the last Christmas tree at St. Peter's Square came from Val Badia. But because the Ladinos help him to speak to China. It is a truly Ladino calling to be a mediator, to be an instrument of communication between factions.

St. Joseph of Oies, an example of "faith in God and love for the Church", is also Alto Adige's message to itself. His ability to place himself within a strange culture, to consider that other culture as his own, to wish to present himself as a person always open to dialog - all this can be summarized in a statement he made which, when stated without gushing and understood in all its power, could truly be the motto for every inter-cultural coexistence: "the language that everyone understands is love."


The Pope in the Freinademetz house-museum:
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THE POPE'S REMARKS IN OIES

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's extemporaneous remarks at the church of Oies afterwards He spoke in Italian except at the very end:



Dear brothers and sisters,

I am profoundly moved by this very warm welcome that I have found here, and I can only say thank you with all my heart. And I thank the Lord who gave us this great saint, St. Joseph Freinademetz, who shows us the way of life and is a sign for the future of the Chirch.

He is a saint of the greatest relevance today. We know that China is becoming increasingly important in political and economic life, and even in the life of ideas. It is important that this great nation opens itself to the Gospel.

And St. Jospeh Freinademetz shows us that faith does not alienate any culture, any people, because all cultures await Christ and will not be destroyed by the Lord - rather, in him, they would reach their maturity.

St. Joseph Freinademetz, as we heard, not only wanted to live and die Chinese, but to 'remain Chinese even in Heaven'. That is how he had identified himself ideally with this people, in the certainty that they would be open to faith in Jesus Christ.

Now let us pray that this great saint may be an encouragement for us all to live anew in our time a life of faith, towards Christ, because only he, Christ, can unite people and can unite cultures.

Let us also pray that he gives to many young people the courage to dedicate their life totally to the Lord and his Gospel.

Once again, I can only say Thank you to the Lord who has given us this saint, and thank you to all for this welcome which shows me visibly that the Church is alive today and that faith is the joy which unites us and guides on the way of life.

Thank you all.

Before leaving the Church, the Holy Father added these words:

Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say thank you for your presence. I was told that some of you waited for hours. Thank you for this patience, for your courage. God bless you all.

Then he spoke in German:

And of course, I also greet most heartily all the German-speaking people present. Thank you (Vergelt's Gott) for your presence. May God's blessing be with you all. A most heartfelt Vergelt's Gott [literal meaning - May God reward you]!



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2008 7:16 PM]
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8/7/2008 5:43 AM
 
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Yawn and Ho-hum! But for the record, since this is reported as 'news'....


Vatican warns against speculating
on Benedict-Alexei meeting

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Moscow, August 6 (Interfax) - A Vatican officials says a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow is possible, but urges to avoid speculations and not to force it.

"Again, we hope that a meeting between Pope Benedict and the Patriarch Alexis will be possible (because) the Patriarch (Alexei-II)said to me, 'All things go in this direction'," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, in an interview for a special Russian edition of the magazine 30 Giorni.

This edition was made possible thanks through a cooperation between the magazine published by many-time former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations.

"This is still not concretely on the agenda. We must be honest, and avoid speculations that harm everyone. There is willingness on both sides, it is true, but we must not force it. Rather, we should promote reconciliation in an attitude of active patience," Cardinal Kasper stressed.

He also stressed the importance of a theological dialogue between the two Churches in promoting this erconciliation.

"I have the impression that we are on the right path. I don't expect that full unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches will be reached tomorrow. It will be a long process, because an exchange at the top is not sufficient. It is fundamental that the faithful are also involved, and this takes time," Kasper said.

He went on to say, "A full union doesn't mean uniformist unity. The Orthodox tradition and the Latin one are at bottom the same faith but different expressions, and this diversity is also a richness. Therefore nobody thinks to impose the Latin system on the Orthodox Churches or viceversa. It will be the Holy Spirit who will grant us this unity, but it will be a unity in pluriformity, a pluriformity in unity," the Pontifical Council chair said.

According to him, the problem "that cannot be overcome overnight" between the two Churches is the question of Petrine primacy.

"Long discussions will be needed, and these have begun in our meetings in Belgrade and Ravenna. We will see how it will end... I am not just superficially optimistic. Hope sustains me," the cardinal summed up.




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8/7/2008 9:07 PM
 
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Vatican Radio has said that a transcript of the Holy Father's encounter with the diocesan clergy of Bolzano-Bressanone will be published in tomorrow's issue (8/8/08) of L'Osservatore Romano. The online edition is usually posted around midnight Rome time, a few hours from now. Here is the only report I have seen so far from the regular wire services.



Pope says Catholic Church
has undervalued environment

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ROME, August 7 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI has told a meeting of priests that protection of the environment had been undervalued by the Catholic Church in the past, but said materialism was the biggest threat to the planet.

There have been times when man has ignored "God's teaching on creation," Pope Benedict said in response to a question on the environment yesterday.

But he rejected criticism that Christianity had encouraged the squandering of resources under the pretext of following the commandment to rule over the Earth.

The wastefulness was due to a "materialistic world" where "God is denied," Pope Benedict said.

"God entrusted man with the responsibility of creation" and "creation and redemption are closely bound together," he said.

Pope Benedict's comments came at a closed meeting of 400 priests from the north of Italy where he is spending his holiday. Reporters were briefed by the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi.

Lombardi said Pope Benedict cited St Francis of Assisi as an example in urging Catholics to adopt "a way of life that is respectful of the environment."



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2008 9:26 PM]
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8/7/2008 9:27 PM
 
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Pope invites ex-President Cossiga
for a belated birthday lunch

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Bressanone, August 7 (Translated from Apcom) - Joseph Ratzinger, theologian Pope, is a cheerful man, "extremely cheerful", says former Italian President Francesco Cossiga who had lunch with the Pope at the Seminario Maggiore here today.

[The Pope invited him after learning that the ex-President was vacationing nearby and that he had turned 80 recently.]

"He is very well - and happy. People may not believe it, but he is a cheerful man, extremely cheerful," Cossiga noted. "I tell him jokes and he laughs!"

Spending his summer holiday in nearby Selva di Val Gardena, Cossiga arrived at the seminary around 12:30, and the two spent two hours together, in the company of the Pope's brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger, his private secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein, and the seminary rector, Fr. Ivo Muser.

It was a simple lunch ("We had spaghetti in tomato sauce", Cossiga says) - just the right occasion to chat ("We did not talk of politics - that's something the Holy Father discusses with his Secretary of State!") and go over mutual recollections.

The ex-president, who turned 80 on July 26, says he first met Joseph Ratzinger when the latter was still a university professor, then met him again as Archbishop of Munich, and several times after he came to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In fact, they have even met before in Bressanone at vacation time. The last time was in August 2004, less than a year before the cardinal became Pope.

"I brought him luck," Cossiga jests. "He used to love taking walks in the city. Now he does not have that choice..."

"He is a serious person, obviously, but one who is always up to the occasion," Cossiga told a group of newsmen who waited for him at the Hotel Elephant. "He is one of the most intelligent and cultured persons I know."

Cossiga has been a senator for life since ending his term as President of the Italian Republic (1985-1992). He tried to resign as senator in 2006 but the Senate turned down his request.

"He is very reserved and modest - he likes to say he understands 'some theology'," he says about Benedict XVI. "When President Napolitano offered him a Brahms concert to be performed at the Vatican, he expressed his thanks, and then for those who might not be too familiar with Brahms, he started to describe the composer's musical history."

Apcom's earlier report:

Bressanone, August 7 (Translated Apcom) - "President Cossiga has previously expressed a few times the desire to meet with the Holy Father, and Pope Benedict, taking the occasion of the ex-president's recent 80th birthday, invited him to lunch today at the Semianrio Maggiore in Bressanone," according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press director.

But the respect and admiration for Benedict XVI of the emeritus President, now senator for life, is nothing new. They have known eachother a long time, and in August 2004, they met here at the seminary in Bressanone.

Cossiga vacations in Selva di Val Gardena south of Bressanone.

The last tiem they met was during a special audience that Benedict XVI gave last year to Comunione e Liberazione. At that time, Cossiga set aside the crutches he generally used in order to kneel before the Pope. When he got up, teh Pope embraced him.

Cossiga has often called himself an 'infant Catholic', a mocking reference to former Prime Minister Romano Prodi's statement that he was an 'adult Catholic' [who decides according to his conscience and not necessarily according to what the Church teaches].

Recently Cossiga said: "I am loyal to Pope Benedict XVI as I was to the theologian Joseph Ratzinger. Can we be sure that the various Martinis and Tettamanzis are loyal to the Pope?"


Here's an earlier report from Vatican Radio:

Pope invites Cossiga
Translated from the
Italian service of

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Alessandro Gisotti spoke with Fr. Federico Lombardi:

FR. LOMBARDI: President Cossiga habitually comes to the Alto Adige for his summer vacations. This time, he is spending it in Val Gardena. In 2004, he also came from his vacation place to the Seminario Maggiore in Bressanone expressly to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger. And they have met here before previously.

He turned 80 on July 26, and so the Holy Father thought to invite him here. They know each other well, and President Cossiga has always shown nothing but great admiration for him.


Yesterday, the encounter with the clergy, today this lunch which is private but with a very important guest. What are the Holy Father's remaining appointments in Bressanone?
In the next two days, nothing is really scheduled. His next public event will be Saturday evening at 6 p.m., when he will be granted honorary citizenship by the city.

The city council and board, led by the mayor, will come to the Seminary. If the weather is fine, the ceremony will be held in the courtyard of the Seminary which is very beautiful. But if it rains, then it will be held in the library.

Bressanone rarely confers honorary citizenship and for good reason. There are only two living honorary citizens, adn teh Pope will be the third.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/7/2008 11:15 PM]
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8/7/2008 11:13 PM
 
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Here's the front-page editorial commentary in L'Osservatore Romano today about the Olympics. It is hopeful but also honest and realistic.


BEIJING 2008:
The Olympics of China's opening

by Pierluigi Natalia
Translated from
the 8/7/08 issue of

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The eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of this millennium. On August 8, 2008, the Games of XXIX Olympiad begin in Beijing.

The triple-8 date was specifically targeted by the Chinese since 8 is a lucky number in China.

Certainly this edition of the Olympic Games needs all the good luck, not only and not so much for what it represents in sports, but for its general socio-political significance, seeing that "From here on, China is open", as Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said Monday, re-stating what Pope Benedict XVI had said at the Angelus on Sunday in Bressanone.

This is the same perspective that has been taken by the top leaders of China as well as those of the sports world.

"We will continue to follow overall reforms, including reforms in our political system," said Chinese President Hu Jintao recently, weighing each word carefully, as he articulated that China sees these Olympics as its moment of passage towards more important openings: "...to accelerate the construction of a modern nation, realize the great rebirth of the Chinese people, and aim for peaceful progress, friendly coexistence and harmonious development with the peoples of the world."

Hu underscored that while these Games "belong to the Chinese people, more significantly they belong to the peoples of the world" and that his government "has worked sincerely to honor the commitments it made" to the International Olympic Committee not only out of obligation but "so that China may continue to grow".

The Olympic Committee of Beijing has announced that the government has unblocked many Internet sites that are normally inaccessible in China. But there remain notably blocked sites such as that of the anti-Communist sect Fa Lun Gong, or those of Tibetan exiles who are hostile to the government in Beijing.

The Foreign Press Association in Beijing says that the "adequate and convenient" conditions of access to the Internet that the government offers are deficient with respect to China's commitment to 'complete freedom of the press" that it made to the IOC.

In 2001, when China won the bid to host the 2008 Olympics, Wang Wei, secretary-general of the promotional committee for Beijing 2008, said: "We will guarantee complete freedom of information. We are confident that the Games will not only promote our economy, but will improve all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

But in this respect, the major international watchdog organizations on human rights have expressed reservations.

The city that is hosting the Games this year is very different from what residents and visitors have known until two years ago.

The 31 sites for sporting competitions - most notably the 100,000-seat National Stadium now called the Bird's Nest for its design (already the symbol for the Beijing Games), and the swimming center that looks like a huge inflatable plastic cube - have been ready for weeks and used for actual competitions as a sort of dress rehearsal for the actual event.

Three new metropolitan subway lines were designed, financed and constructed in record time, rerdy to transport millions of persons daily, from north to south and east to west of the metropolis.

A third airport terminal at Beijing international airport has been opened, and the city has inaugurated an immense egg-shaped Opera House as well as a skyscraper center for state television.

Fifteen international architects won the bids for urban designs that have changed the imperial and feudal face of the Chinese capital into a city of the future.

The physical changes in Beijing are far more wide-ranging and relevant than anything done in Athens, Sydney, Atlanta, Barcelona and other previous postwar Olymic sites.

But all these physical changes have to do with image. Whether there are substantive changes in parallel can only be judged after the last spotlight dims at the end of the Games. In some way, perhaps, these Olympics will indicate a model for China's immediate future.

On sensitive questions which can be confronted without prejudicial hostility, there may be genuine opening, as with some international human rights associations and the international media.

But others, like the military repression of demonstrators at Tienanmen Square in 1989, continue to be 'off limits' to public discussion. And there is definite closure against movements like teh Falun Gong and some Tibetan exile organizations.

Nonetheless, Jacques Rogge, IOC president, spoke of "a historic event for the Olympic movement" when he opened the 120th session of the IOC general assembly in Beijing on Monday.

"The mere fact that the Games have come to China, which contains 20 percent of the world's population, is significant." But he avoided 'inconvenient' topics and limited himself to making references to 'certain challenges'.

"I think these Games will be historic," he reiterated, "and I am confident for the future - that it will leave a great legacy for China. The role of China as organizer of these Games has opened a window toteh world on the planet's most populous country."

Rogge then enumerated the figures which by themselves are record-setting for the Beijing Games: 205 nations will be represented; 45 percent of participating athletes are women; 4,500 anti-doping tests have been carried out so far on athletes; and new measures have been taken to counteract clandestine betting.

Experts predict that China will win more gold medals than the United States which has topped all the Olympics that followed the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Much of the commentary from visiting sports observers has projected the image of a modern country which is growing at a vertiginous rate.




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The Pope appeals to China
by MARCO POLITI
Translated from
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August 6, 2008


VAL BADIA - May China open up to the Gospel!

Pope Benedict's appeal to Beijing to make room for Christ is pregnant like the lines of a Chinese poem.

Benedict XVI never sounded so passionate, and the place where he chose to do this is itself dense with symbolism.

Oies in Val Badia - with 15 residents - gave birth to St. Joseph Freinademetz, a Divine Word missionary who left these mountains in 1879 to venture forth in China.

Like so many others, he arrived sure of his superiority, and like some of them, he came to understand that one must enter into the viscera of a millennial culture in order to be able to dialogue seriously with the sons of the Celestial Empire.

Freniademetz never wanted to return to Europe anymore. His statue in the church of Oies shows him with the goatee typical of the Chinese of that era, wearing a round Chinese cap and a Chinese jacket with wide sleeves.

A photo in the small museum shows the straw-roofed hut of wood and mud
in which he was accommodated by a Chinese he had baptized. And the Christ shown embracing some children in a picture frame, among other memorabilia of his life in China, has almond eyes. Freinademetz even chose to die among his beloved Chinese.

It was from this place, on the eve of the Olympics which represents China's international trial by fire, that Benedict XVI spoke his appeal.

This saint, he said is a sign for the future: "We know that China is increasingly more important in the world's political and economic life, and even in the life of ideas."

"It is important," he exclaimed before the crowd packed into the small and very modern church, while thousands more stood in the meadow outside, "that this great continent open itself to the Gospel."

And here, Papa Ratzinger hit a poetic note: "St. Joseph Freinademetz not only wanted to live and die Chinese, but to remain Chinese even in heaven". [The Pope was, of course, quoting the saint himself.]

It was a transparent message to affirm that Christianity is very much in tune with all the cultures of the world, a message that the Pontiff explicitly stated as if to reassure the leaders of China.

Faith, he said, does not alienate 'any people or any culture' because all cultures can encounter Christ and not be destroyed.

The saint of Oies, concluded the Pope, lived in total identification with the Chinese people in the certainty that "this people would open up to the Christian faith".

The Pope's appeal shows the desire of the Vatican to come to definitive negotiations with Beijing.

"They (the Chinese) take one step forward then two backwards," some people lament at the Vatican Secretariat of State. But at the same time, the Holy See is very careful to appreciate every positive signal.

Cardinal Bertone publicly commended the fact that during the weeks of the Olympics (and the succeeding Paralympics), "three churches will be open in Beijing where Catholics may go to pray and hear Sunday Mass".

Beijing has also officially invited the Bishop of Macao and the Bishop-Coadjutor of Hongkong to be official guests at the Olympic opening.

In any case, the Vatican has been quite satisfied with the current 'agreement' with Beijing on the ordination of several Chinese bishops lately.

Under the surface, there appear to be many micro-initiatives under way. Don Francesco Sottaro, parish priest of Oies, tells us that a community of Don Benzi [Fr. Oreste Benzi, an Italian priest who died in 2006, founded the John XXIII Community dedicated to working for young people, women, families and the disadvantaged] is operative in Beijing to take care of handicapped people. In fact, a girl from Oies just came back from working there for a year.

Don Giuseppe Da Pra', church dean of Val di Fassa, said that a local group had just returned from a pilgrimage to Shanghai, Beijing and Shantung where St. Joseph of Oies had lived and worked.

"They visited parishes and heard Mass in local churches," he said. "And they found active Catholic communities, in which many young people are very much involved. Perhaps, they said, they pray with more fervor than we do."


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/8/2008 10:23 AM]
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8/8/2008 2:08 AM
 
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I was once 'more severe' than today, Benedict XVI tells priests

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
National Catholic Reporter
Posted on Aug 7, 2008 05:19am CST.

Pope Benedict XVI told a group of priests yesterday that he was once “more severe” in terms of administering baptism and confirmation to ill-prepared or lukewarm candidates, but today he’s inclined to be generous wherever there is even “a flicker of desire for communion in the faith.”

The pope also conceded that, over the centuries, Christianity’s commitment to environmental protection may not always have been sufficiently clear. He argued, however, that belief in God is essential to sound ecology, because ultimately a materialist philosophy places no limits on humanity’s exploitation of nature.

Benedict XVI spoke to a group of more than 400 priests of the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone in northern Italy, where he is currently passing two weeks of vacation. The behind-closed-doors session with the priests, which has become an annual custom for the pope, took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Bressanone, and lasted approximately 90 minutes. The pope took six questions and provided impromptu answers.

The Vatican is expected to release a transcript of the session shortly. Yesterday, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, briefed reporters on the highlights of the exchange.

The six questions, according to Lombardi, were:

• Fr. Willy Fusaro, a 42-year-old priest diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991, the year of his ordination, and today confined to a wheelchair, asked the pope about the Christian meaning of suffering in light of the example of Pope John Paul II;
• Seminarian Michael Horrer, who recently returned from World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, asked the pope about pastoral outreach to the young;
• Franciscan Fr. Willibald Hopfgartner posed a question about the relationship between reason and faith;
• Fr. Karl Golser, a professor of moral theology and a former staffer in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who served briefly under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asked his former boss about Christianity and the environment;
• Fr. Franz Pixner asked the pope to comment on priestly life;
• Fr. Paolo Ruzzi asked Benedict for advice on how generous a priest should be in administering the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.

In response to Fusaro’s question on suffering, Lombardi said that Benedict divided the pontificate of John Paul II into two phases. The first came when an athletic, strong John Paul bestrode the world as a “giant of the faith,” while the second came with his slow physical decline and growing weakness. These years, Benedict said, were “not of lesser importance.”

“With this witness of his own passion, he carried the Cross of Christ with humility,” Benedict said. “With deep humility he accepted the destruction of his body, and thus showed us clearly the truth of the passion of Christ.”

When Golser posed his question on the environment, Lombardi said that Benedict laughingly replied, “You could answer that better than I can.” (Golser serves as director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Bressanone, and has published widely on environmental ethics.)

According to Lombardi, Benedict said that in the past the connection between the church’s teaching on redemption, and on care of creation, may not always have been underlined with enough force. Today, however, the pope said Christians are clearly called to ecological concern, especially by offering examples of “lifestyles” respectful of the environment.

In fact, Benedict argued, if God is denied and the world seen as mere “matter,” then it’s far easier for human beings to justify arbitrary and selfish exploitation of natural resources.

Finally, Lombardi called the pope’s response on sacramental discipline “very interesting.”

“When I was younger, I was more severe,” Lombardi quoted Benedict XVI as saying in response to the question about baptism and confirmation.

“With time, I came to understand the importance of taking the path of mercy, following the example of the Lord, who welcomed even a flicker of desire for communion in the faith,” the pope said.

Benedict quickly added, however, according to Lombardi, that this doesn’t mean the sacraments should be administered when faith is absent.

8/8/2008 3:09 PM
 
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L'Osservatore Romano inexplicably never posted its 8/8/08 issue online in which it was to have printed the transcript of the Holy Father's encounter with the clergy in Bressanone on Wednesday. But the Vatican Press Office did publish the transcript. Here is the full translation.

Clearly, the transcripts of the Holy Father's unscripted discourses show that they are not reducible to soundbites, and that is why none of the preliminary summaries really do justice to what he actually says, and the way in which he says it.



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THE HOLY FATHER'S ENCOUNTER
WITH THE DIOCESAN CLERGY OF
BOLZANO-BRESSANONE
Bressanone Cathedral, August 6, 2008



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Opening Remarks by Bishop Wilhelm Egger

In German -

Holy Father, in the name of the priests and deacons present, I greet you most cordially.

Holy Father, every Wednesday you normally give a catechesis for the faithful. We thank you that today, on the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, you are giving this catechesis for us - diocesan priests as well as members of the religious orders - through your answers to our questions.

He continued in Italian-

Holy Father, we are thankful that you are with us to help us to see with the eyes of the faith our situation, our joys and our problems.

Today, we remember Paul VI 30 years after his death. It was under his Pontificate that our diocese was reorganized, an event that has borne much fruit.

[He says a sentence in Ladino about St. Peter having been a witness of the Transfiguration, and that Christians are witnesses for Jesus Christ today. I cannot make out the sense of the connecting phrase as I do not understand the word that appears to be the main verb!]



THE HOLY FATHER

In German -

Dear Bishop Egger, dear brothers in the priestly service, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to Bishop Egger for having enabled me to be with you all on this beautiful feast day, the Transfiguration of Christ, in the Cathedral of Brixen, which has an Altar of the Transfiguration.

I think it is as if, in this majestic cathedral, with this beautiful music and being together, we too can experience something like being on Mount Tabor [site of the Transfiguration], to see something of the radiance that lit up the figure of Christ, after which, like the apostles, we must descend once more to the valleys of our daily routine.

But we ask of him that from such hours spent with him, especially from our daily celebration of the Eucharist, something of this light may remain in our soul, to help us to get through the day, with the gift of being able to pass on the light of Christ to others.


In Italian-

Excellency, dear brothers, thank you for this informal meeting in this beautiful cathedral of the diocese of Blozano-Bressanone. It is a great joy for me to be with priests - the Bishop of Rome is the bishop and the brother of all priests; his mandate is to confirm his brothers in the faith.

On this beautiful feast today, we see in this Cathedral, with the beautiful music, something of the splendor from the face of Christ, and we pray to the Lord that we can carry this light even in the darkest days to be able to bring it to others in order to illuminate the world and life in this world.

Unfortunately, I am unable to speak in Ladino. Please forgive me. But on Sunday I will have a text to say in your Ladino language.


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The Holy Father now answers questions presented to him. The first Q-and-A was conducted in German.


Question #1

Holy Father, my name is Michael Horrer and I am a seminarian. At the 23rd World Youth Day in Sydney, in which I participated along with other young people of this diocese, you referred to the working of the Holy Spirit among young people and in the Church. The theme of the gathering was: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1,8).

Now, strengthened anew by the Holy Spirit and your words, we have returned to our homes, to our dioceses, and to our daily lives. Holy Father, how can we now - concretely in our daily life - experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit and make others experience it, so that even our relatives, friends, acquaintances and all those we deal with, may feel experience the power of the Holy Spirit and can thus carry out the task of being witnesses to Jesus Christ?

What would you advise so that our diocese, despite the aging of the clergy, remains young and remains open to the working of the Holy Spirit under the guidance of the Church?



THE HOLY FATHER:

Many thanks for this question. I am happy to meet a seminarian, a candidate for priesthood in this diocese, in whom I can see the young face of the diocese, and I am happy that you and your colleagues were in Sydney where we, in fact, experienced together the 'youngness' of the Church in a great feast of faith.

It was a great experience even for the people of Australia. Earlier, they had looked at it with great skepticism because, of course, it would bring many inconveniences to their daily routine, many problems, for instance, with traffic, etc.

But in the end - as we saw in the media, whose prejudices crumbled piece by piece - they were all caught in the grip of the atmosphere of joy and faith: young people came but they did not bring with them any problems with security or any other kind, but rather simply got together joyfully.

They saw that even today, faith is an actual force, a force that orients men correctly. We can say we truly felt the breath of the Holy Spirit which swept away prejudices to make it visible that, yes, this is what concerns us, this the direction in which we must go, this is the way one can live, this is the way to the future.

Now, you have correctly said that it was a great moment from which we could bring back with us, so to speak, a flame. But in daily life it is far more difficult to feel the working of the Holy Spirit or to be its instrument, so that he may be present, so that his breath can be felt which can sweep away the prejudices of our time, bring light to darkness, and make us feel that faith not not only has a future but is the future.

How can we do this? We cannot do it by ourselves, of course. In the end, it is the Lord who helps us do it, but we must be ready to be his instruments.

I would simply say: No one can give something that he himself does not have. Which means that we cannot transmit the Holy Spirit and make him felt when we ourselves are not close to him.

And so I think, the first thing is that we ourselves should remain within range, so to speak, of the Holy Spirit, to be in touch with him. Only when we ourselves are in touch with him, renewing ourselves interiorly when he is present in us, can we then be able to transmit him to others, because he himself gives us the imagination and creative ideas on how to do this - ideas which one cannot plan beforehand but which arise with the occasion whenever the Holy Spirit is at work. Therefore, Point #1 is to remain ourselves within reach of his breath.

The Gospel of St. John tells us how the Lord, after the Transfiguration, came to the Apostles, breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." It is a parallel to the Creation story, when God breathed on the clay which took on life and became man. This time Christ breathed once again on man, who had become all dark inside and half dead - with this, the breath of God gave man a new dimension of life, life with the Holy Spirit.

We can therefore say that the Holy Spirit is the breath of Jesus Christ, and we must always let ourselves receive anew, so to speak, the breath of Christ, so that this breath becomes alive in us, and can exert its power even on the world around us.

And this means that we must always be close to Christ. And we do that by surrounding ourselves with his Word. We know that the Holy Ghost is the main author of Sacred Scripture. When, through Scriptures, we converse with God - we do not only seek the past in it, it is actually God speaking to us - then, as I said in Australia, we walk together in the garden of the Holy Spirit, talking to him as he talks to us.

To be at home in this space, the space of God's Word, is very important. It leads us to the breath of God itself. Then, of course, this listening, this walking through and with the Word of God, should be transformed into an answer, which we give in prayer, in reaching out to Christ. Especially in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which he comes to us and into us, almost dissolving into us. But also in the Sacrament of Penance, in which we allow ourselves to be purified anew, to wash out the dark stains that daily life leaves in us.

In short, a life with Christ in the Holy Spirit, in the Word of God, and in the communion of the Church, in its living community. St. Augustine said, "If you wish to have the Spirit of God, then be in Christ's body". God's spirit finds its space in the mystical Body of Christ [the Church].

All this should therefore determine our daily routine - our day must be structured so that God will always have access to us, so that the contact with Christ can take place all the time and thus allow the Holy Spirit to breathe on us.

When we do this, when we are not too lazy or undisciplined or otherwise too inert, then something happens in us - the day takes shape, our own life takes shape, and light radiates from us without us even thinking of it, no need, so to speak, to advertise it. It comes by itself because it reflects our inner being.

Which leads me then to a second dimension logically linked to the first: If we live with Christ, then we also do human things right. Faith is not simply about the supernatural, rather it restores man's humanity, as the parallel between Genesis and John 20 shows. In fact, it is built on natural virtues: on honesty, on joyousness, on the readiness to listen to others, on the capacity to forgive, on generosity, goodness, sincerity. These human virtues are signs that faith is truly present, that we are truly with Christ.

And therefore, I believe, that we should take care that we allow simple humanity to mature in us, that our faith must be incarnated in our humanity, that it is our duty to do all human things right and well, with consideration for others, with the same concern for others that we have for ourselves. It is in 'being' for others that we do best for ourselves.

And out of this comes the corresponding initiatives that one cannot program: togetherness in prayer and in reading Scriptures, actual help for those who are in need, those who are at the margins of life, the sick, the handicapped... Then, too, we can see - what am I best able to do, so that I can undertake what I must do and thereby give encouragement to others. And to the degree that we strengthen these human activities, the more we are in touch with the Spirit of God.

The Grand Master of the Order of Malta told me in Rome that one Christmas, he went with some young people to the train station in order to bring a piece of Christmas to the indigent and abandoned. And he overheard one of the young people say, "This is much much better than going to the disco! It feels really good that I can do something for others." It is with such initiatives that we share the Holy Spirit with others. Without need for words, the power of the Spirit makes itself felt which confers a readiness and wakefulness for Christ.

I have perhaps said too little that is concrete, but I think it is important that we ourselves should live in the Holy Spirit - and we live in him when we live in the Body of Christ - in order to renew our humanity; to tend to simple human virtues; and to learn to be good in the broadest sense of the word. From all this, missionary power develops of itself, bringing us to the point where we can speak sensibly and understandably about Christ and our faith.


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Question #2
[This exchange was also conducted in German.]

Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, a Franciscan. I work in a school and perform other leadership activities for the order. In your Regensburg lecture, you underscored the important relationship between the divine Spirit and human reason. On other occasions, you have also underscored the significance of art and beauty, of aesthetics. Therefore, besides the conceptual teaching about God (in theology), should not the aesthetic experience of the faith be constantly a theme as well in the Church, in our preaching and in the liturgy?


THE HOLY FATHER:

Thank you. Yes, I believe that both go together: reason, precision, honesty in reflecting on the truth - and beauty. Reason which does away with beauty would be diminished and blinded. But both together make a whole, and this belonging together is important for the faith.

Faith must alays confront the challenges of the present so that it does not appear to be some irrational legend that we keep alive, but is really an answer to the great questions - so that it may not simply be a habit but the truth, as Tertullian once said.

St. Peter in his First Letter wrote something that the medieval theologians took to be a legitimization, and even an assignment, of what their theological work must be: "Always be prepared at any moment to give a reason for the hope that is in you" - an apologia for the Logos of hope, meaning, to transform the Logos, the reason for hope, into an answer for men.

Evidently, he was convinced that faith is Logos, that it is reason - light which comes from Creative reason itself, and not some jumble that we ourselves put together. And that is why it is universal, it can be communicated to everyone.

But this creative Logos is not just technical reasoning - we shall return to this later. Rather it is wide-ranging, it is a Logos which is love, one that can be expressed in beauty and in goodness. In fact, I once said that, for me, art and the saints are the greatest 'apologia' (explanations) of our faith.

The arguments of reason are absolutely important and indispensable, but they will always be subject to some dissent. But when one looks at the saints - at the broad swath of light with which God has marked history - then we can see that there is really a power of good that withstands through centuries, the presence of the Light of Lights.

In the same way, when we see the beauties created out of faith, then I would say, simply, this is the living evidence of faith.

When I look at this beautiful cathedral, it is a living message in itself. It speaks to us directly. Through the beauty of a cathedral, we can visibly proclaim God, Christ, and all the mysteries. They have taken form here and look down on us.

All the great art masterpieces, the cathedrals - the Gothic as well as the splendid baroque churches - they are all luminous signs of God, real manifestations of the divine, an epiphany of God. Christianity is all about this epiphany: God made manifestly brilliant.

Earlier we heard the organ in all its splendor, and I think that great music born in the Church is likewise the audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith. From Gregorian chant to cathedral music in the time of Palestrina, through Bach, and finally in Mozart, Bruckner and so forth...

When we hear these great works - the Passion of Bach, his Mass in A-minor, the great spiritual compositions, from the 16th century polyphony to the School of Vienna, all music, even by minor composers - then suddenly we feel, "This is true!" Wherever such things are hidden, there is Truth.

Without the intuition to discover the creative center of the world, such beauty cannot be born. That is why I think we should always make sure that reason and beauty go together, that we bring them together.

When we dispute in our day over the rationality of faith, then what we are disputing is that reason does not end where experimental knowledge ends; that it does not end with positivism; that the theory of evolution sees the truth but only half of it; that it does not see the creative Spirit behind it.

We are fighting for a broadening of reason, for reason that is open even to the beautiful, which is not to be considered as something to be left aside because it is totally alien and unreasonable.

Christian art is rational art - one thinks of Gothic art, or great music, or even of our own baroque art - the artistic expression of a much wider ratio, in which heart and reason meet each other.

That, I think, is the proof of Christianity's truth: that reason and heart, truth and beauty, come together. The more we ourselves live in the beauty of the truth, then the more faith in our time can be more creative and express itself in convincing artistic form.

Therefore, my dear Fr. Hopfgartner, thank you for the question. Let us act in a way that both categories - the esthetic and the noetic - are united, so that the integrity and profundity of our faith may be manifested in this broad perspective.


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QUESTION #3
[The following exchange was carried out in Italian.]

Holy Father, I am don Willi Fusaro, 42 years old, and I have been ailing since the year I was ordained as a priest. This took place in June 1991, and the following September, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I work in the parish of Corpus Domini in Bolzano.

The figure of John Paul II has made a deep impact on me, especially the last part of his Pontificate when, before the whole world, he carried his human frailty with courage and humility.

Since you were close to your beloved predecessor, and on the basis of your own personal experience, what words can you offer to me and to all of us that can truly help priests who are old or sick to live their priesthood well and fruitfully, in their ministry as well as in the Christian community? Thank you.



THE HOLY FATHER:

Thank you, Reverend. Yes, I too would say that for me the two parts of Pope John Paul II's pontificate were equally significant. In the first part, we saw him as a giant of the faith: when, with incredible courage, extraordinary force, true joy in the faith, and great lucidity, he brought the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.

He spoke to everyone, he opened new paths with the ecclesial movements, inter-religious dialog, ecumenical encounters, new attention to hearing and understanding the Word of God, his love of Sacred Liturgy.

We can say that he caused to come down - not the walls of Jericho - but the walls between two worlds, through the sheer force of his faith. And his testimony remains unforgettable, and will continue to be a light for this new millennium.

But I must say that the last years of his Pontificate were not any less significant, because of the humble testimony of his personal Passion [suffering) - how he carried the Cross of the Lord before our eyes, making real the words of the Lord: "Follow me, carry the Cross with me and after me!"

This humility, the patience with which he accepted what was virtually the destruction of his body, his growing inability even to use words - he who was a master of words - thus did he show us visibly the profound truth that the Lord redeemed us with his Cross, with his Passion, as the extreme act of his love for us.

John Paul II showed us that suffering is not simply something negative, the lack of something, but a positive reality; that suffering accepted for the love of Christ, for the love of God and our fellowmen, is a redemptive force - showing the power of love, no less powerful than the great things that he achieved earlier in his Pontificate.

He taught us a new love for those who suffer, he made us understand the meaning of the words "We are saved in the Cross and through the Cross".

Even in the life of the Lord, we saw these two aspects: the first part when he teaches us the joy of the Kingdom of God, bringing his gifts to all men; and then, in the second part, when he plunges into his Passion up to his final cry on the Cross.

That is how he taught us that God is love, and that in identifying himself with our suffering as human beings, he takes us in his hands, he immerses us in his love, the love which is the bath of redemption, of purification and of rebirth.

And so I think that all of us - in a world that lives for activism; for youth; for being young, strong, and beautiful; for success and great achievements - should learn ever anew the truth about love which ia capable of suffering, and which, precisely in that way, redeems man and unites him with God.

So I want to thank all those who accept suffering, who suffer with the Lord, and to encourage all of us to keep our hearts open for those who suffer, for older people, and to understand that their very suffering is a spring of renewal for mankind, it creates love in us and unites us to the Lord.

But ultimately, suffering is always difficult. I remember a sister of Cardinal Mayer. She was very sick, and when he became impatient with her, he would tell her, "Look, you are now with the Lord." And she answered, "That's easy for you to say because you are healthy, but I am suffering."

And that's true. When one is truly suffering, it becomes difficult to unite oneself with the Lord and maintain a willingness to be one with the suffering Lord. So let us pray for all those who suffer, and let us do what we can to help them, to show them our thanks for their suffering [in our behalf], to help them, showingh great respect for the value of human life, and in particular, of a life of suffering to the very end.

This is a fundamental message of Christianity, which comes from the theology of the Cross: that suffering, passion, is also the presence of Christ's love; it is a challenge for us to unite ourselves with his suffering.

We should love those who suffer not only with words, but in all our actions and with our commitment. Only then, I think, are we really Christians.

I wrote in the encyclical Spe salvi that the ability to accept suffering and those who suffer is a measure of the humanity that we possess. When this ability is lacking, then man is diminished, re-dimensioned. So let us all pray the Lord to help us in our suffering and bring us close to all those who suffer in this world.


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Question #4
[The following exchange was in German.]


Holy Father, my name is Karl Golser, I am a professor of moral theology here in Brixen and also director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and the Protection of Creation. I am also a canon, and I think back happily to the time when I had the opportunity to work with you in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As you know, the Catholic Church has had a lasting influence on the history and culture of our land. Today however, we often get the impression that as a Church, we have voluntarily retreated to the sacristy. The statements of the Papal magisterium on the great questions of society do not, on the whole, receive the attention that they deserve at the level of the parishes and church communities.

Here in the Tyrol, for instance, the authorities and various associations pay great attention to environmental problems and especially to climate change, to issues like the melting of glaciers, landslides in the mountains, energy costs, traffic and air pollution problems. Many initiatives have been undeertaken to protect the environment.

However, in our average consciousness as Christians, all this has little to do with our faith. What can we do so that we can bring a sense of responsibility for the environment into the lives of Christian communities? What can we do so that we are able to see that Creation and Redemption belong together? How can we unite these aspects in an exemplary Christian lifestyle that can be engaging for all men on earth?



THE HOLY FATHER:

Many thanks, dear Professor Golser. You can certainly answer better than I can, but I will try nonetheless to say something. Yes, you have brought up the link between Creation and Redemption, and I think that this unbreakable link must receive new emphasis.

In the past few decades, the doctrine of Creation has almost been fully silenced in theology and is now hardly perceptible. And now we can observe the resulting damage.

The Redeemer is the Creator - and if we do not proclaim God in his total grandeur, as Creator and Redeemer, then we also debase Redemption. If God has nothing to do with Creation, when he is present only in some part of history, then how can he encompass our life? How can he bring healing to man in his wholeness and to the world in its totality?

That is why a renewal of the doctrine of creation and a new understanding of the inseparability of Creation and Redemption is of great importance.

We must learn this anew: God is the Creator Spiritus, the creative reason that is the origin out of which everything comes, and of which our reason is but a spark. And it is him - the Creator himself - who entered history, who can enter history and affect it, because he is the God of everything and not just of part.

When we acknowledge this, then it is clear that Redemption, being
Christian, the mere fact of Christian belief, always implies a responsibility for Creation.

Twenty to thirty years ago - and I don't know how much the allegation continues to be held - Chistians were accused of being responsible for the destruction of Creation, because the words in Genesis to "master the earth" had led to an arrogance over creation whose effects we now observe.

I think that we must learn once again to understand this accusation in all its falseness: As long as the world is thought of as God's creation, then the task of 'mastering' it can never be understood as an order to enslave it, but as an assignment to be the protector of Creation and to develop all its bounty - for us to collaborate ourselves actively in the work of God, in the evolution he has imposed on the world, so that the gifts of Creation can be properly valued and appreciated, not trampled on and destroyed.

When we look at what was born around the medieval monasteries, how so-called little Edens, oases of Creation, were born and continue to be born, it becomes visible that we are not simply using words, but that where the Word of the Creator is correctly understood, where life is lived with the concept of a redeeming Creator, there is where Creation is sought to be redeemed and not destroyed.

This is the relationship referred to in Romans 8, where it is said that Creation suffers and groans under the subjection in which it finds itself and awaits the coming of the children of God, who will feel liberated when human creatures come who are children of God and who will treat them in that light.

And that, I think, is what we can observe today as reality: Creation groans - we feel it, we can virtually hear it - and it waits for men who will look at it with the eyes of God.

The brutish abuse of Creation arises where God is absent, where matter is simply matter for us, where we ourselves are the final ends, where we claim possession of the whole to be used only by us.

The abuse starts where there exists nothing beyond death, in which we feel compelled to grab everything for ourselves and seek to possess as much as we can, and must have everything that can possibly be had.

Thus, I think that genuinely effective actions against the waste and destruction of Creation can only be realized and developed, understood and experienced, when Creation is seen as originating with God, where life itself is seen as originating from him, and has larger dimensions - a responsibility to God - and that once God has given us life in its fullness, it can never be taken away. Rather, in giving life, we receive life.

I believe we should, with all the means we possess, show our faith publicly in this way [responsibility towards Creation], especially in places where such consciousness already exists. And I think the feeling that the world is perhaps slipping past us - because we ourselves want it out of the way, this feeling of being oppressed by environmental problems, is an opportunity for us to speak openly of our faith, an opportunity which can serve to further show its real worth.

This has to do not only with finding ways to prevent technology from causing damage, but equally important, to find alternative enrgy sources and so many other initiatives.

But all that will not be enough if we ourselves do not adapt a new lifestyle, a discipline that is capable of renunciation, a discipline that recognizes that creation belongs to others as much as it does to us who can more freely do with it as we please; a discipline of responsibility for the future, ours and that of others, because it is our responsibility to him who is our Judge, and as Judge, also our Redeemer, but nonetheless our Judge.

So I believe that we must bring together both dimensions - Creation and Redemption, earthly living and eternal life, responsibility for Creation and responsibility for others and for the future - and that it is our task to speak about this openly and understandably.

At the same time, we must show with our own example, our own lifestyle, that it is a message we ourselves believe and one that can be put into practice.

And let us pray to the Lord that he may help us all to live our faith, the responsibility for our faith, in such a way that our lifestyle will be a testimony, and to speak such that our words can credibly convey that faith is indeed a guideline for our time.


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Question #5
[The following exchange was also in German]

Holy Father, my name is Franz Pixner and I am parish priest of two large parishes. I myself and my brother priests and even laymen are worried over the increasing weight of pastoral work because of things like the pastoral units which are now being created; heavy work pressures; lack of recognition; difficulties about the Magisterium; loneliness; the shrinking number of priests and also of the community of believers. Many are asking what God wants of us in these circumstances and how the Holy Spirit can encourage us.

Then there are questions about celibacy, for instance, about the consecration of viri probati as priests, on how to make use of various charisms, especially that of women, in pastoral work, on allowing theologically trained collaborators, men and women alike, to undertake tasks in preaching and in baptism.

There is also the problem of how, in the face of new challenges, we priests can help each other in brotherly solidarity on the levels of the diocese, the diaconate, pastoral and parochial work.

We ask you, Holy Father, to give us good advice on all these questions. Thank you.



THE HOLY FATHER:

My dear Dean, you have gone through the entire spectrum of questions that concerns and occupies pastors and all of us these days, and you surely know that I am in no position to answer all these questions here.

These are questions that you must have discussed repeatedly with your bishop, and that we will discuss yet again during the next Bishops Synod.

I believe we all need to dialog with each other, in a dialog of faith and responsibility, in order to find the right way for these times that are in many ways difficult for the faith and exhausting for priests. No one has any ready prescriptions. We must all try to find a way out together.

With the understanding that I stand with you all in the middle of this process of great effort and interior struggles, I will try to say a couple of words, as part of a dialog that must be much larger.

I would like my answer to consider two essential parts. One is the irreplaceability of the priest, the meaning and the ways of priestly service today.

The other - which concerns us more now than before - is the multiplicity of charisms and that everyone together is the Church, everyone together makes up the Church, and that therefore we must all commit ourselves to awakening charisms, to tending this living communion which will then sustain the priest himself. He sustains others, who sustain him in turn, and it is only in these many-layered and many-sided togetherness that the Church can grow today and in the future.

For one thing, there will always be need for priests who are fully dedicated to the Lord and therefore, fully dedicated to man as well.

In the Old Testament, there is a 'call' to holiness that somewhat corresponds to what we call consecration when we refer to priestly ordination: it means something given over to God, and therefore removed from the sphere of the ordinary, to be given to him. But that means that now, it is at everyone's disposal. While it has been given to God, it is not isolated, but elevated to be there 'for' all. I think this can be said also of the priesthood in the Church.

It means that, on the one hand, we are consecrated to the Lord, taken out of the ordinary, but on the other hand, we are consecrated to him so that we belong totally to him, and through him to all others.

I think that we must always try to show especially to young men, who are idealistic and eager to do something for 'the whole', that being 'selected out' of the ordinary means being dedicated to the whole, and that this is a great way - the greatest way - to serve others.

But an important part of this is to place one's entire self at the disposition of the Lord, and in this way, at the disposition of all. I think that celibacy is an expression of this total dedication, and for this very reason, a great sign to the world, because it makes sense only if we truly believe in eternal life and if we believe that God calls us and we can be there for him.

And that is why the priesthood is irreplaceable. Because, starting with God in the Eucharist, it is always building the Church; and in the sacrament of Penance, it dispenses purification; because in the Sacraments, priesthood means being involved 'for' Jesus Christ.

But I know how difficult it is today to live such a life - when a priest finds himself having to lead not just a single parish but several, so-called pastoral units, when he must be available for this advice or that... and so on.

I think that in this situation, it is important to have the courage to set limits and to have clear priorities. A fundamental priority of priestly existence is being with the Lord and therefore, to have time for prayer.

St. Charles Borromeo always said, "You cannot care for the soul of others when you allow your own to wither away, so that in the end, you cannot do anything for others. You must find time to be with God yourself."

And so I wish to emphasize: No matter how much we are overwhelmed, it is an important priority to make time every day - I would say, an hour, to be in silence for the Lord and with the Lord, as the Church recommends that we do with the Breviary and the prayers for the day, so that we may renew ourselves interiorly every day, and so that - as I said in my answer to the first question - we can come within range of the Holy Spirit's breath.

And after this, then we can order our priorities: I must learn to see what is really essential, where my presence as a priest is absolutely required and where it cannot be delegated. At the same time, I must also acknowledge humbly that much of what I must do and what I am expected to do I cannot do, because I recognize my limitations. I believe that people will understand this kind of humility.

To which I would also add this: be able to delegate and call on others to collaborate. I have the impression that people can see, they can recognize, if a priest is with God, when he is conscious of his function as someone who prays for others. We cannot pray much, they say, you must do it for me - that is your metier, so to speak, to be someone who can pray for me.

People want a priest who strives honestly to live with the Lord, and therefore is really there for others - for those who suffer, those who are dying, for children, for the youth (I would say they should be the priorities); and one who also knows what others can do better than him and makes room for these charisms.

I am thinking of the movements and the many other different forms of forms of collaboration in the parish. But these are all things that are discussed and considered together in the diocese, where the ways of collaboration must be devised and exchanges are facilitated.

You have said rightly that is is important in these matters to look beyond the parish to the diocesan community, and to the universal Church, which for its part, must always look to see what is concretely going on in the parishes and what consequnces these have for each individual priest.

You have also addressed another point, which I find very important, namely that priests, although they may perhaps live geographically far apart from each other, are a true community of brothers, who must help and sustain each other. This communion among priests is even more important today.

Precisely in order not to fall into isolation, into loneliness and all its sorrows, it is important that we can regularly meet one another. The Diocese should look to this, to how meetings among priests can best be worked out - today we have cars which makes it much easier for us to come to each other - so that we can always be able to experience being together, learn from each other, correct each other, help, strengthen and comfort each other so that in this communion of priests, together with the bishop, we can best render our service to our local churches.

Indeed, no priest is a priest alone. We are a priesthood, a presbyterium, and only in communion with the bishop can each of us render his service. This beautiful communion, which is universally recognized on what we might call the theological level, must be translated into practice in ways that are for the local Church to determine.

And this concept must be broadened. No bishop is a bishop by himself, but only a bishop in collegium, in the greater conmmunion among bishops. We must all commit ourselves to this communion.

I think that's what is beautiful in Catholicism: through the Primacy, which is not an absolute monarchy but a service to communion, we can be sure of this communion, so that in a greater community of many voices, we can all together bring the great music of the faith to the world.

Let us pray the Lord that he may always comfort us when we think we cannot go on. Let us sustain each other, and the Lord will then help us to find together the right ways.


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QUESTION #6
This last exchange is in Italian.


Holy Father, I am Paolo Rizzi, parish priest and professor of theology at the Superior Institute of Religious Sciences. We would like your pastoral opinion on the situation with the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation.

Increasingly and more often, the children who receive these sacraments are prepared intensely through catecheses, but afterwards, they even stop coming to Sunday Mass, and so we ask ourselves - what sense is there in all this? Sometimes, one wants to say, "Then just stay home, all of you!"

Nonetheless, we continue to accept this fact, thinking that in any case, it is better not to extinguish the wick to a flickering flame. One thinks that the gift of the Spirit may work its effect beyond our sight, and that in a time of transition such as this, it would be more prudent not to take drastic action.

More in general, some 30 to 35 years ago, I thought that we were already on the way to becoming a smaller flock, more or less a minority community in Europe; and that therefore, one should give the Sacraments only to those who can be truly committed to a Christian life. Later, in part due to the style of John Paul II's Pontificate, I reconsidered this. Do you think it is possible to provide for the future in this respect? What pastoral attitude should we take? Thank you.



THE HOLY FATHER:

Well, I cannot give you an infallible response at this time! I can only try to answer according to the way I see it. I must say that I have followed a course similar to yours. When I was younger, I was quite severe. I would say: the Sacraments are Sacraments of the faith, and therefor where there is no faith, where faith is not practised, then the Sacrament cannot be conferred.

Then when I was Archbishop of Munich, I would discuss this with my parish priests: and even then, there were two factions, one severe, the other more accommodating.

Even I, in the course of time, came to understand that we should instead follow the example of the Lord, who was very open even to persons who were marginal in the Israel of those times. He was a Lord of mercy, too open - according to the official authorities - with sinners, welcoming them or allowing himself to be a guest at their dinners, drawing them to him in communion.

Therefore, I would say substantively, that of course, the Sacramentss are Sacraments of faith: where there is no element of faith, where First Communion is only a feast with a grand meal, beautiful clothes, and beautiful gits, then it is no longer a sacrament of the faith.

But, on the other hand, as long as we can still see a tiny flame of desire for communion with the Church, a desire even by children who want to come into communion with Jesus, I think we should be more accommodating.

Naturally, it should be an aspect of our catechesis to make them understand that Communion, First Communion, is not just a singular event, but something that requires a continuity of friendship with Jesus, of walking with Jesus.

I know that children often want to go to Church on Sundays but their parents may not give them this possibility. If we see that the children want this, that they have the desire to go to Mass, it almost seems to me like a Sacrament of desire, a 'vote' to participate in Sunday Mass.

In this context, we must do all we can during their preparation for the Sacraments to reach their parents as well and, let us say, to awaken in them a sense of the path that their children are taking. They must be able to help their children follow their desire to enter into friendship with Jesus as a way of life, a way to the future.

If parents want their children to have First Communion, this desire, even if it may be purely social, should be broadened into a religious desire, so that they can see it as a way to be with Christ.

I would say then that in the context of catechesis for children, working with tthe parents, involving them, is very important. This is precisely one of the opportunities to meet with parents, to make the life of the faith present even among adults, so that they themselves can learn the faith anew from their children, and they may understand that this great solemnity [First Communion] only makes sense - can only be true and authentic - if it is realized as a journey with Jesus in the context of a life of faith.

Therefore, we must be able to convince parents, through their children, of the need for this preparatory journey, which is demonstrated by participation in the mysteries, so that they can begin to love these mysteries.

I know this is certainly a rather inadequate response, but the pedagogy of the faith, teaching the faith, is always a journey, and we should accept the situations today but also open it up a bit so that ultimately, sacraments do not remain simply exterior manifestations but truly touch the heart.

The moment one is convinced, then the heart is touched, it will have somehow felt the love of Jesus, felt the desire to move in his direction. That is the moment when we will have made a true catechesis.

In fact, the true sense of catechesis should be this: to carry the flame of Jesus's love, no matter how tiny that flame, to the heart of children, and through the children, to their parents, in this way opening up anew the places of faith in our time.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Translation note: The Vatican transcript included an Italian translation of the German portions of the encounter. I translated the German parts directly, and used the Italian translation provided simply to check that I had not misunderstood anything. However, in case of a disparity in translation (choice of synonyms used or the way of expression), I gave preference to my direct translation from the German, because of course, it captures better the Holy Father's speech pattern and rhythm.

8/9/08
P.S. This note becomes more relevant as I have just seen that John Allen has posted his own translation. Feel free to compare!



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/9/2008 3:34 PM]
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8/8/2008 6:03 PM
 
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Comfort zone: Pope's dialogues with priests flow freely

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world sees the public side of Pope Benedict XVI generally at big ceremonial events in Rome or on foreign travels, when he's under the glare of the media.

But over the last three years, the "real Benedict" has emerged most fully in a series of semiprivate encounters with an audience he feels at home with -- groups of priests.

In the northern Italian city of Bressanone in early August, the 81-year-old pope engaged in what has become a summer tradition: a question-and-answer session with the region's diocesan and religious priests.

The dialogue ran the gamut from environmental problems to papal primacy, and the pope took more than 10 minutes to answer each of the six questions. There weren't many softballs tossed his way.

One priest asked whether pastors should administer sacraments of Communion and confirmation to young people who aren't really aware of their significance.

The pope, in a moment of self-revelation that's become typical of these encounters, said he used to be more strict about administering the sacraments, but he's come to see that it's more important to be generous if it can encourage even a "glimmer" of faith.

The comment immediately prompted speculation that Pope Benedict might prove to be somewhat more lenient than expected on other sacramental issues, including the church's current policy of no Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment.

Another priest, picking up on a strong papal theme of late, wondered whether the church over the centuries had dropped the ball when it comes to moral teaching on environmental protection.

The pope acknowledged some gaps in the church's attention to ecology, but said it was false to suggest that the Christian understanding of "subduing" the earth meant carelessly exploiting its resources.

"The brutal consumption of creation begins where there is no God, where material is considered only material for us," he said. "And the squandering of creation begins where we no longer recognize any power over us, but see only ourselves."

People today have the strong sensation that "the world is slipping away," he said, and it's a perfect opportunity for the church to publicly promote the Christian solution, which must include a more humble and moderate lifestyle.

What distinguishes these encounters is that the pope obviously feels he is speaking as a priest among priests, not an authority figure doing an obligatory drop-by.

During his first summer meeting with priests in 2005, he told his audience: "I also want to say that the pope is not an oracle, that he is infallible in only the rarest of situations, as we know." That's a point the pope has made more than once as a preface to his responses; he's there to provide reflection and some guidance, not prefabricated answers to pastoral dilemmas.

In addition to the summer meetings in various parts of Italy, the pope holds the same kind of informal meetings each year with the several hundred priests of the Diocese of Rome. The first came shortly after his election, when he fielded 12 questions and comments.

The get-togethers allow the pope to hear what's on the minds of priests these days. For the most part, the focus has been on modern pastoral trials: the continuing drift away from the sacraments, the difficulties in educating young people beyond a certain age, the loss of church members to religious sects and the challenge of invigorating parish life.

One repeated issue in these dialogues has been the shortage of priests.

In Bressanone, for example, one questioner spoke of the lack of priests in connection with priestly celibacy and the role of women. In other contexts, this might have been seen as raising a taboo subject. The pope took it in stride, although, as Italians would put it, he "dribbled" the question without really confronting the issue of women's ordination or the relaxation of celibacy rules.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service that the pope wants to keep the free-flowing atmosphere of these encounters. He's made only one rule -- that it take place away from the public and the media.

The content comes out when the Vatican publishes a transcript a few days later. That's usually long enough to take the edge off the media's appetite.

Of course, the pope has been generous with the media, too. On his recent flights to the United States and Australia, he gave reporters 20 minutes of question-and-answer time.

His clerical audiences, on the other hand, are often treated to nearly two hours of unrehearsed dialogue. With priests, the pope is clearly in his comfort zone.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *




...as Italians would put it, he "dribbled" the question without really confronting the issue of women's ordination or the relaxation of celibacy rules.

Having now seen the full transcript, I think Thavis 'mis-speaks' on two counts in the above sentence. First, the Pope clearly said he was not going to be able to answer the 'full spectrum' of questions that were raised and that he was going to comment only on two important points with respect to all these problems. Which he did. Incredibly well and cogently, as he always does. Second, in his general comments, what he said about celibacy, although not specific, was an unequivocal insistence on the need for it as a priestly virtue.

TERESA



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/9/2008 12:39 PM]
8/9/2008 2:10 PM
 
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L'Osservatore Romano's issue for today, 8/9/08, leads off with the full transcript of the Holy Father's encounter on Wednesday (which leads me to think that for some reason, it did not come out with an issue on 8/8/08, after having said on 8/7 that the transcript would come out the next day).

The newspaper has this brief editorial commentary preceding the transcript, the full translation of which I posted yesterday and last night - last 2 questions were delayed, because I took time off to watch NBC's telecast of the Olympic opening ceremonies from Beijing.



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The secondary story on Page 1 today was a report (with photo) of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Other stories: Russia invades Georgia in the separatist region of Ossetia; and Israel plans new West Bank settlements.


Benedict XVI to the clergy
of Bolzano-Bressanone:
Catholicism is a great community
with multiple voices

Translated from
the 8/9/08 issue of

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The indispensable link between Creation and Redemption was one of the focal points of the long colloquium by Benedict XVI with the clergy of the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, which took place behind closed doors last Wednesday at the Bressanone Cathedral, of which L'Osservatore Romano today publishes the full transcript.

Conserving the environment, a theme which the Pontiff has repeatedly turned to during his vacation in the mountains of the Alto Adige/South Tyrol, was already one of the recurring themes on his recent trip to Australia.

In one answer - an ample look at the relationship between faith and reason and the beauty of being Christian in today's world - the Pope also faced the questions that are most raised in contemporary discussions about the Church.

This has been one of these interventions that contribute to throw more light on understanding the Ratzinger Pontificate. On the matter of the environment, Benedict XVI is never perfunctory.

Even while admitting that in the past few decades, the doctrine of Creation has practically disappeared from theological studies, he says this does not justify accusations against Christians, particularly in recent years, of having been the true agents responsible for the indiscriminate exploitation and destruction of the environment [because of a quotation in Genesis in which the Lord exhorts man to be master of the earth].

The causes, said the Pope, should be sought in materialism: "Brutish consumption begins where there is no God, when we ourselves become the final ends. And the waste of creation begins when we no longer recognize any authority above us."

The other issues answered by the Pope were more pastoral in nature, answering for almost an hour to questions posed by six persons - a seminarian and five priests - representing some 400 priests assembled at the Bressanone Cathedral.

He answered with simple words and linear arguments, making some references to his own personal experience, as when he acknowledged that he was rather more severe in the past about administering Sacraments then there was not enough proof of faith, and to not possessing 'an infallible answer' to the current issues that confront the church.

"In the course of time," he explained, "I have come to understand that we should follow the example of the Lord, who was very open even to those persons who were marginal in the Israel of his time - he was a Lord of mercy."

But he offered guidelines for facing the problem, referring to his pastoral experience as Archbishop of Munich.

He used the same criterion in responding to the difficulties connected with serving as a priest, whose numbers are decidedly scarce with respect to the demands of the faithful.

On this issue, the Pope reiterated the irreplaceability of the priest, and of priestly celibacy as the fundamental expression of the totality of a priest's self-dedication to his mission, recalling that 'no priest is a priest alone' nor for himself alone.

Among the other topics of the encounter were the recent World Youth Day in Sydney and the relationship between faith, beauty and art.

Benedict XVI also paid homage to his predecessor John Paul II in responding to a priest afflicted with multiple sclerosis. He referred to his encyclical Spe salvi, in which he had underscored that the ability to accept suffering and people who suffer is a measure of our humanity.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/9/2008 3:14 PM]
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