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12/22/2008 2:45 PM
 
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Posted earlier today in the preceding page:

THE POPE'S DAY

The Holy Father makes his annual year-end report to the Roman Curia. An unusual catechesis that touches
on basic elements of the faith, such as man's responsibility to safeguard Creation, including himself,
from destruction; and the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of individuals and the life of the Church.
Translated two posts below.

The soundbite that much of MSM will pick up from it: Speaking about WYD in Sydney and his other trips abroad,
he said - "The Pope is not the star around which everything turns [in these events]. He is totally and only
the Vicar of Christ".



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


There have been a few reactions by some fair-minded journalists to what amounted to a recent anti-Pope, anti-Church offensive in the Italian MSM, which I will translate as I am able to. Here is one of them:


It's not innovations
that make a Pope great

by Lucio Brunelli
Translated from
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What then, after almost four years as Pope, are the great reforms worked by Benedict XVI? [Or accomplishments, at any rate.]

Just two, scoffs Marco Politi in Repubblica: liberalizing the Latin Mass, and the new uniforms for the Vatican police. Everything else, he claims, is 'a rosary of NOs'.

In comparison, Politi says, even Pius XII seems like a modernizing Pope. [Seems? He was! But Pius XII was pre-Vatican II, while Benedict XVI is dutybound to see that the entire complex of what Vatican-II intended - i.e., 'modernizing' the Church - is carried out appropriately and well: changes which have not been fully nor always correctly implemented 43 years since that Council ended.]

Politi's opinions may all be well-founded if his starting assumption is right at all. Namely, that the greatness of a Pontificate is measured by the number of innovations that are decreed, as if the more changes he introduces to Catholic doctrine and practice, the more a Pope will be judged great!

But that is not the mandate received by the successors of Peter. To the fisherman from Galilee, Christ said: "On this rock I will build my Church."

That rock is the faith, not Peter's opinions, who recognized Jesus thus: "You are the Christ the Son of the living God". A recognition that came 'not from flesh and blood', but from the evidence of a presence so extraordinary as not to be explained in merely human terms. A recognition born of attraction to the transcendent.

It may seem strange, but a Christian believes (and experiences among all the world's inconsistencies) that man's salvation lies in the gift of this recognition. That it is the key to the meaning of life and the foretaste on earth of eternal happiness.

The Church has no other reason to exist. Much less Popes.

In his 33 days as Pope, Albino Luciani never published an encyclical, he never issued any decrees. And in the few Wednesday catecheses that he held, he spoke of the three theological virtues - faith, hope and charity. Things that he learned as a boy from the catechism of Pius X and which life had shown him to be true.

He was a great Pope - he brought a gale of fresh air to the Church without changing an iota in its doctrine or practice. The Christian who saw him speak was confirmed in his faith. He could see more easily the reasons for the joy of his faith.

But even laymen, skeptics, rejoiced at John Paul I's humanity and apparent goodness. They had - and many among the faithful still have - a nostalgia for a Church that is still anchored to what is essential.

Every Pope has his own story, his own temperament. As a boy, Luciani herded cows to pasture. As a young man, Wojtyla was acting on stage.

And Ratzinger devoured books. And yet the faithful who see and hear him on Wednesdays and Sundays, or when he visits a Marian shrine, for example, do not see any professorial detachment in him.

He is a gentle man, who carries out with shyness but obvious joy his mission as custodian of the deposit of faith.

He does it in his own way - not with gestures or words meant for effect - but, for instance, distilling in his homilies and catecheses the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, a forgotten treasure that he has studied as few others today have done. And he succeeds in transmitting these clearly and simply, with appropriate and wisely chosen citations, to the People of God.

These are things which, understandably, are not news nor news-making for the media. But for the faithful - and certainly, for Benedict XVI - these are essentially the teachings that count, that are most important.

Not even those Church prelates who call themselves 'Ratzingerians' can imitate his amazing simplicity which is the heart of Christianity.

The critic Piero Citati had some reason when, also in Repubblica, he said that the image of the Church today is that of a city under siege. And therefore forced to set up walls and fortifications - with the risk that it sees those who are outside these walls no longer as souls to be saved and to love, but as aggressors that it must defend against. Obviously not the spirit that moves Benedict XVI!

But a part of the media, the dominant secular culture - and this Citati does not mention, of course - revels in presenting the Church as an institution that instead of carrying out its mission (to announce the Gospel, administer the sacraments, practice spiritual and corporal works of mercy) is perennially at war with someone or with something. [Blind to the the obvious irony that it is they who are perennially making war against the Church!]

Church critics and enemies extrapolate and emphasize those aspects of its moral teaching which, when isolated from the totality of its teachings, would make the Church objectionable to the public. The dagger is always right at hand when they write about the Church.

Unfortunately, there are many Catholics who fall for their snares.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 2:04 AM]
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12/22/2008 3:07 PM
 
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Here's the first Anglophone report on the Pope's speech to the Roman curia today. The Pope never used the word 'rock star' in the address, just 'star', but even the Italian news agencies have headlined their initial reports using the term 'rock star' as dpa does in the ff. item, which also omits the rest of the Pope's soundbite which is certainly short enough, namely that statement that "the Pope is totally and only the Vicar of Christ":



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Pope says he's not a rock star
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Vatican City, Dec. 22 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday fondly recalled his participation in July at the massively attended Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, but warned such events should not be mistaken for "rock festivals."

Benedict's remarks came during Christmas greetings to the Vatican Curia in which he reflected on his highlights for 2008, including the "radiant days" of the papal visits to the United States and France.

"Australia had never seen so many people from all the continents as witnessed during World Youth Day. Not even during the (Sydney 2000 Summer) Olympics," Benedict said.

The Pontiff observed how the event turned into a "a feast of joy" in which people came together to celebrate their faith in the name of the Holy Spirit.

"Fashionable analyses" that see such Roman Catholic gatherings as a "variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of ecclesiastical rock festival with the Pope as the star," should be avoided, Benedict said.

The week-long festival culminated in a Mass celebrated by Benedict in Sydney attended by some 350,000 people.

In his address to the Curia, Benedict also recalled the Catholic bishops' synod in October which focused on the "Word of God" and featured the first ever participation by a Jewish rabbi.

Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, had made a "precious contribution" when he spoke about the "Holy Scriptures of Israel, that are in fact also our Holy Scriptures," Benedict said.

The German-born Pontiff did not refer to controversial remarks made by Cohen when he indirectly suggested in his speech to the bishops, that Pope Pius XII had remained silent during the Nazi atrocities against the Jews in World War II.

Benedict has repeatedly defended Pius's wartime record and has praised what have been described as behind-the-scenes attempts [they obviously were behind the scenes, but much of it worked] by that Pope to save Jews in Italy and elsewhere in Europe from being sent to Nazi death camps.



But this late in the year, Reuters perhaps takes the prize for wilfully skewing its news for maximum headline 'sensation'. From a 5-page speech, this is what its Vatican reporter chose to report first, and unfortunately, the headline is all that anti-Church critics will need - or read - to start anti-Pope lynch mobs in defense of homosexuals :


Pope likens 'saving' gays
to saving the rainforest

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 22 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

"(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the Pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration. [The Pope clearly says saving man 'from the destruction of himself', not from gays, nor saving 'gays' or homosexuals, or any other way of parsing his statement uncharitably and erroneously.]

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound."

The Pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work."

He also defended the Church's right to "speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected."


P.S. Now that I have translated the Holy Father's address in full, it is instructive to look at what he actually said, and compare it to the way Reuters reported it in the above item. First, he never once mentioned homosexuals or homosexuality. Rather, his presentation was a seamless reflection on creation and man's responsibility for protecting it, which includes protecting man himself from self-destruction:

Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Creed, the Church cannot and should not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful only the message of salvation. She has a responsibility for Creation, and it should validate this responsibility in public.

In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself.

It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.

This has to do with faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, which, if disregarded, would be man's self-destruction and therefore a destruction of God's work itself.

That which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from Creation (nature) and from the Creator. Man wants to do everything by himself and to decide always and exclusively about anything that concerns him personally. But this is to live against truth, to live against the Spirit Creator.

The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less as a Creature of the Spirit himself, in whom is inscribed a message that does not mean a contradiction of human freedom but its condition.

The great theologians of Scholasticism described matrimony - which is the lifelong bond between a man and a woman - as a sacrament of Creation, that the Creator himself instituted, and that Christ, without changing the message of Creation, welcomed in the story of his alliance with men.

Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God.

One must reread the encyclical Humanae vitae with this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against consumer sex, the future against the exclusive claim of the moment, and human nature against manipulation.

The address is one of those exquisite compositions and marvelously simple syntheses of complex concepts of which only Benedict XVI among everyone else in the public eye today is capable. Truly amazing and literally wonder-ful!.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 6:13 PM]
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12/22/2008 6:58 PM
 
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THE POPE'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
TO THE ROMAN CURIA




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Here is a full translation:

Eminent Cardinals,
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters!

The Nativity of the Lord is at hand. Every family feels the desire to get together in order to enjoy the unique and unrepeatable atmosphere that this feast is able to create.

Even the family of the Roman Curia finds itself gathered today, according to a beautiful custom thanks to which we have the joy of meeting together and exchanging best wishes in this special spiritual climate.

To each of you I address my heartfelt greeting, with full acknowledgment of the much appreciated collaboration that you render to the Successor of Peter.

I sincerely thank the Dean of Cardinals Angelo Sodano , who has spoken in behalf of all who are here and those who are at work in the various offices of the Vatican, including the Pontifical Representatives.

I have referred to the special atmosphere of Christmas. I like to think that it is almost a prolongation of that mysterious joy, that intimate exultation, that was felt by the Holy Family, the angels and the shepherds in Bethlehem the night when Jesus was born.

I would call it 'the atmosphere of grace', thinking of the expression St. Paul used in the Letter to Titus: "Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus" (The grace of God has appeared, saving all men)(cfr Tt 2,11).

The Apostle affirms that the grace of God manifested itself 'to all men'. I would say that this also shows the mission of the Church, and in particular, that of the Successor of Peter and his co-workers, namely, to contribute so that the grace of God, the Redeemer, may be ever more visible to everyone, and may bring salvation to everyone.

The year that is about to end was rich in retrospective looks at significant dates in the recent history of the Church, but also rich in events which brought with them signs of orientation for our path towards the future.

Fifty years ago, Pope Pius XII died. Fifty years ago, John XXIII was elected Pope. Forty years have passed since the publication of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae and thirty years since the death of its author, Pope Paul VI.

The message of these events has been reported and meditated in many ways during the course of the year, so I will not dwell on them again at this time.

But memory looks beyond just those events in the past century, and in this way, also brings us to the future.

On the evening of June 28, in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and the representatives of many other Churches and ecclesiastical communities, we inaugurated the Pauline Year at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls to commemorate the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles 2000 years ago.

For us, Paul is not a figure of the past. Through his letters, he still speaks to us today. And whoever enters into contact with him is impelled by him towards the crucified and resurrected Christ.

The Pauline Year is a year of pilgrimage not only in the sense of a visit to the Pauline sites, but also and above all, a pilgrimage of the heart, along with St. Paul, towards Jesus Christ.

Paul teaches us definitively that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the Head and the Body are inseparable, and that one cannot love Christ without loving his Church and her living community.

Three specific events of the year drawing to a close stand out particularly.

First of all, World Youth Day in Australia, a great feast of faith, which gathered together more than 200,000 young people from all parts of the world, bringing them together not only externally - in the geographic sense, but, thanks to sharing the joy of being Christian, bringing them together interiorly.

Alongside WYD, there were the two trips to the United States and to France, in which the Church was made visible before the world and for the world as a spiritual force that can show ways of living that through the testimony of faith, brings light to the world. These were, indeed, days that radiated luminosity. They radiated confidence in the value of life and in the commitment for good.

Finally, we must recall the Bishops Synod - pastors coming from around the world met together about the Word of God which they exalted together, around the Word of God, whose great manifestation is found in Sacred Scripture.

That which we often take for granted daily, we grasped freshly in its sublimity:

- The fact that God speaks to us, that he answers our questions.

- The fact that he, using human words, speaks to us in person and we can listen to him, and in listening, learn to know him and to understand him.

- The fact that he enters our lives to shape it, and we can step out of our life in order to enter the vastness of his mercy.

Thus we realised all over that God in his Word addresses each of us, speaks to the heart of every being. If our heart is awake and opens itself to listen, then everyone can learn to hear the Word that is addressed specifically to him.

But only when we hear God speaking to each of us in such a personal way, then we can also understand that his Word is meant to bring us each closer to one another, so that we may find the way out of what is only personal.

This Word has shaped our common history and will continue to do so. And so we realize all over that precisely because the Word is so personal, then we can understand it correctly and totally only within the 'we' of the community instituted by God - always conscious that we can never exhaust it completely, that it always has something new to say to each generation.

We have understood that, of course, the Biblical texts were written in specific times, and therefore constitute in this sense a book from the past. But we also saw that their message does not remain in the past nor can they be kept there. God fundamentally always speaks in the present, and we will have heard the Bible fully only if we discover the 'present' of God, which calls to us now.

Finally, it was important to experience that in the Church, there is a Pentecost even today - that the Church speaks in many tongues, and this, not only in the external sense that all the languages in the world are represented in her, but in an even deeper sense: in her are found the multiple ways of experiencing God and the world, the richness of different cultures, and only thus can we see the vastness of human existence, and because of this, the vastness of the Word of God.

We have also learned that Pentecost continues to be 'under way', it is still incomplete. There are a multitude of languages which still await the Word of God in the Bible translated for them.

And it has been moving to see the multiple testimonials of lay faithful who in every part of the world not only live the Word of God, but suffer for it.

A precious contribution was the address of a rabbi on the Sacred Scriptures of Israel, which are our Sacred Scriptures too.

And an important moment for the Synod was when Patriarch Bartholomew, in the light of Orthodox tradition, and with penetrating analysis, opened for us another way of access to the Word of God.

Let us now hope that the experiences and acquisitions of the Synod may effectively influence the life of the Church: on personal relations with Sacred Scriptures; on their interpretation in the liturgy and in catechesis as well as in scientific study - so that the Bible does not remain a Word of the past, but that its vitality and actual relevance may be read and disclosed in the vast dimensions of its meanings.

The pastoral visits this year also had to do with the presence of the Word of God. Their true meaning can only be in serving that presence.

On such occasions, the Church makes itself publicly perceptible, and in this way, the fact that faith is at least the question of God. This public manifestation of the faith calls out to all who seek to understand the present and the forces which operate in it.

The phenomenon of the World Youth Days, particularly, has become increasingly an object of analysis, by those who seek to understand this particular species, one might say, of youth culture.

Before this, Australia had never seen as many people from all the other continents as during the last World Youth Day in Sydney, not even during the Olympics. And if earlier, there had been apprehensions that the appearance of such great numbers of young people would represent a threat to public order, paralyze traffic, block daily activities, provoke violence and make room for drug use, all such fears were proven to be unfounded.

It was a feast of joy - a joy that ultimately involved even those who were reluctant. Ultimately, no one felt it as an annoyance or a disturbance.

The days of the youth became a feast for everyone. Or rather, it was the first time everyone realized what a feast is, a celebration - an event during which everyone is, so to speak, outside himself, beyond the self, and therefore, truly with oneself and with others.

What then is the nature of what takes place during World Youth Day? What are the forces that act? Fashionable analyses tend to consider WYD as a variant of modern youth culture, as a type of rock festival modified in the ecclesial sense, with the Pope as somewhat of a star; and that with or without faith, these festivals would basically be the same thing. In this way, such analyses would do away with the question of God.

There are even Catholic voices who share this tendency, seeing WYD as a great spectacle, beautiful even, but with little meaning for the question of faith, and on the presence of the Gospel in our time. They would consider them days of festive ecstasy which, in the end, would leave everything just as before, without making any deep influence on life. Thus, they can find no explanation for the specialness of those days and the particular nature of their joy, the creative power of communion.

But first of all, one must note that the World Youth Days do not simply consist of that one week during which the events are publicly visible to the whole world. There is a long exterior and interior path that leads to them.

The Cross, accompanied by the Icon of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage through the countries of the world. Faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched.

The encounter with the Cross, which is carried and touched by the faithful, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us. The encounter with the Cross inspires within the hearts of young people the memory of the God who made himself man and suffers with us. And we see the woman whom he has given us to be our Mother.

The solemn WYD days are only the culmination of a long road along which young people proceed to encounter each other and to encounter Christ.

In Australia, it was not by chance that the Via Crucis through the inner city became a climactic event of those days. It synthesized once more all that had happened in preceding years and called attention to him who brings us all together - the God who loved us to the point of death on the Cross.

And so, the Pope is not the star around which these events take place. He is totally and only the Vicar [of Christ]. He points to the Other who is among us.

Finally, the solemn Liturgy is the center of all the celebration, because in it, what we cannot realize takes place, that for which we are always in wait. He is present. He is among us. He has torn open the heavens and this makes the earth bright. It is this that makes life joyous and open, and that unites us with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "The problem is not how to organize a feast, but to find the persons who are able to enjoy it". According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cfr Gal 5,22): this fruit was abundantly perceptible in the days at Sydney.

Just as a long road precedes every World Youth Day, another long road follows. Friendships are formed which inspire a different lifestyle that is interiorly sustained. The great World Youth Days, not least of all, have the purpose of inspiring such friendships capable of making new places of faith emerge in the world, which are also places of hope, and of charity that is practised and lived.

Joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit - thus we come to the central theme of Sydney which was, in fact, the Holy Spirit. In this retrospective, I wish once more to point out in summary the orientation that was implicit in the theme.

1. First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us from the start of the story of Creation, which tells of the Creator Spirit that moved over the waters, created the world and continuously renews it.

Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian Creed. The fact that matter has a mathematical structure, is full of spirit (energy), is the foundation of the modern science of nature.

Only because matter is structured intelligently, our mind is able to interpret it and actively remodel it. The fact that this intelligent structure comes from the same Creator Spirit that also gave us our spirit, implies a task and a responsibility.

The ultimate basis of our responsibility towards the earth is our faith in creation. The earth is not simply a property that we can exploit according to our interests and desires. It is a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and through this, has given us the orientative indications to follow as administrators of his Creation.

The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit also means that their rational structure - which beyond their mathematical structure, become almost palpable through experimentation - carries in itself an ethical orientation.

The Spirit that shaped them is more than mathematics - it is Goodness itself, which, through the language of creation, shows us the road to correct living.

Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Creed, the Church cannot and should not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful only the message of salvation. She has a responsibility for Creation, and it should validate this responsibility in public.

In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself.

It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.

This has to do with faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, which, if disregarded, would be man's self-destruction and therefore a destruction of God's work itself.

That which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from Creation (nature) and from the Creator. Man wants to do everything by himself and to decide always and exclusively about anything that concerns him personally. But this is to live against truth, to live against the Spirit Creator.

The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less as a Creature of the Spirit himself, in whom is inscribed a message that does not mean a contradiction of human freedom but its condition.

The great theologians of Scholasticism described matrimony - which is the lifelong bond between a man and a woman - as a sacrament of Creation, that the Creator himself instituted, and that Christ, without changing the message of Creation, welcomed in the story of his alliance with men.

Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God.

One must reread the encyclical Humanae vitae with this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against consumer sex, the future against the exclusive claim of the moment, and human nature against manipulation.

2. I would like to add some more brief observations on other aspects of pneumatology [knowledge of the Holy Spirit]. If the Creator Spirit manifests itself above all in the grand silence of the universe, in its intelligent structure - faith, beyond this, tells us something unexpected: namely, that the Spirit speaks, so to say, in human words; it has entered history, and as the force that shapes history, is also a Spirit that speaks. It is the Word which comes to us in ancient Scriptures and in the New Testament.

What this means for us was expressed wondrously by St. Ambrose in one of his letters: "Even now, as I read the Divine Scriptures, God is taking a walk through Paradise" (Ep 49,3).

Reading Scripture, even today we can ourselves almost roam the garden of Paradise and meet God as he walks there. Between the theme of World Youth Day in Sydney and the general Assembly of the Bishops' Synod, there is a profound internal connection.

The two subjects "Holy Spirit" and "Word of God" go together. Reading Scripture, we also learn that Christ and the Holy Spirit are inseparable.

When St. Paul with surprising synthesis says, "The Lord is the Spirit" ( 2 Cor 3, 17), we see not just the trinitarian unity between the Son and the Holy Spirit, but above all, their union with respect to the story of salvation.

In the passion and resurrection of Christ the veils of purely literal sense are taken down, making visible the presence of the God who speaks.

Reading Scripture together with Christ, we learn to hear in human words the voice of the Holy Spirit, and we discover the unity of the Bible.

3. We come now to the third dimension of pneumatology which consists, precisely, in the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is perhaps most beautifully manifested in St. John's narration of the first apparition of the Resurrected Christ to his disciples: the Lord breathed on his disciples and thus gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Just as the breath of God at the dawn of Creation had transformed the dust of the earth into living man, thus the breath of Christ welcomes us to ontological communion with the Son - it makes us new creatures. And this is why it is the Holy Spirit that makes us say with the Son, "Abba, Father!" (cfr Jn 20,22; Rm 8,15).

4. Thus, as the fourth dimension, there emerges spontaneously the connection between the Spirit and the Church. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, showed how the Church as the Body of Christ is thus an organism of the Holy Spirit, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit merge all individuals together into a single living organism.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Body of Christ. In the entirety of this Body we find our mission - to live for each other, each dependent on the other, within the depth of him who lived and suffered for all of us, and through his Spirit, draws us to himself into the unity of all the children of God.

"Do you, too, want to live in the Spirit of Christ? Then, be in the Body of Christ", Augustine says in this respect (Tr. in Jo. 26, 13).

Thus with the subject of the Holy Spirit which oriented World Youth Day in Australia, and in a more hidden way, the weeks of the Bishops Synod, the entire breadth of Christian faith is made visible, a breadth which leads, from responsibility for Creation and for man's existence in tune with Creation, through Scriptures and the story of salvation, to Christ, and from there, to the living community of the Church - in its structure and responsibility, as in its vastness and freedom, expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the Pentecostal image of the multitude of languages and cultures.

An integral part of celebration is joy. The feast iself can be organized, but not joy. This can only be received as a gift. In fact, it is given to us in abundance, and for this, we are grateful.

Just as St. Paul describes joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, so too, John in his Gospel, links the Spirit and joy closely. The Holy Spirit gives us joy. He is joy itself. Joy is the gift in which all the other gifts are contained. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation.

Part of the nature of joy is to radiate itself, the need to communicate itself. The missionary spirit of the Church is nothing but the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given to us.

That such joy may always be alive in us and thus irradiate the world in its tribulations - that is my wish at the end of this year. Along with a sincere gratitude for all your efforts and work, I wish that this joy which comes from God may be given to us abundantly in the New Year.

I entrust these wishes to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mater divinae gratiae, asking her that we may experience the Christmas festivities in the joy and peace of the Lord.

With these sentiments towards all of you and the large family of the Roman Curia, I impart the Apostolic Blessing from my heart.



CARDINAL SODANO'S GREETING
TO THE HOLY FATHER


In a rare occasion, the Vatican Press Office has also released the text of the introductory message read by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, before the Holy Father spoke today.

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Most Blessed Father,

At the start of Advent a beautiful hymn at morning Lauds invited us to hear a clear voice from heaven that announced: the light of Christ the Savior is about to emerge!

"Vox clara ecce intonat...
ab aethre Christus promicat ".

Today I wish to be myself 'a clear voice' to express to Your Holiness all the joy of the Roman Curia in being able to celebrate with you the Feast of the Nativity, in that atmosphere of love that emanates from the Birth of the Savior.

Precisely for this, gathered today around you, Most Holy Father, are the eminent cardinals and many others among your co-workers in the Curial Dicasteries and the Government of the State of Vatican City - all desirous of expressing to you their wishes for a joyous and blessed Christmas holiday season, and to asuure you of their devotion.

From afar, we are joined in spirit by the Pontifical Representatives around the world who express to you their best wishes.

At this time of intense joy, we feel your spiritual paternity which carries on that of the Apostle Peter whom Christ named as the "Vicar of his love" (In Lucam, X, 175).

Our meeting today is a propitious occasion to thank you for your generous service to the Holy Roman Church. Every day you show us a luminous example of apostolic zeal for the diffusion of the Kingdom of God in today's world.

"I will do everything for the Gospel", St. Paul wrote to the faithful of Corinth (1 Cor 9,23). "Omnia propter Evangelium" - everything for the Gospel - might well be the synthesis of your Petrine ministry.

With profound attention, we have listened to the teachings that you have addressed to us in your documents and your homilies, in the addresses delivered at the Vatican or in the places you have visited.

The message to the American people in April - 'Christ our hope" - found particular echo among us. Similarly, we listened to your appeal, at United Nations headquarters in New York, addressed to the family of nations to construct their own future on the solid basis of ethical principles and with the necessary openness to inernational solidarity.

In Sydney, Australia, Your Holiness similarly filled with hope the hearts of many youth who had gathered there for the XXIII World Youth Day, rmeinding them of the theme for their encounter: "You will have power from the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1,8).

Finally in October, the General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod was a providential occasion to give the Church firm guidelines for spreading the Word of God throughout the world, or, as St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "ut sermo Dei currat et clarificetur " - that the Word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified (2 Thes 3,1).

Like a Good Samaritan on the highways of the world, during the year, you have inclined your heart to so many populations tried by poverty, hunger, disease and wars, teaching us the surpeme law of love.

On our part, we particularly treasure your recent message for the coming World Day of Peace: "Fight poverty and build the peace".

Holy Father, continue to lead us towards the future with your firm hand and your big heart!

Merry Christmas, Holiness, and a New Year blessed by the Lord!



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As a passionate devotee of the Holy Spirit, I am always very happy when attention is called to the 'neglected' Third Person of the Holy Trinity. And I am completely in awe at how the Holy Father always manages to present the Spirit in a fresh way. Not the least for using it as a thematic link for the events of 2008 and for its inseparable role in the Church.

What he said in Sydney, and what he said in Paris, about the Holy Spirit, and now this - constitute an invaluable catechism and 'appreciation' of the Holy Spirit that every Christian can take to heart.

The emphasis in this 'year-ender' to WYD also shows once again how close to his heart young people are - and how he does not downplay their faith, their understanding, their seriousness and their basic good sense.

I think back to his sweet little lesson of faith and love for the Italian Catholic Action children the other day. Between those remarks and this address to the Roman Curia, one could hardly find more shining examples of perfect communication and communicability by anyone, on a subject as sensitive and not so easily communicable as faith and its implications.

His voice today as he delivered the address to the Curia was particularly paternal, more than ever like a caress.

I am just afraid that besides the distortions already operated on what he said about not being a star, and about preserving the nature of man and woman, someone will soon pick out the phrase 'intelligent structure' which he used twice to describe what God created - and claim that he is advocating 'intelligent design'!

BTW, one cannot report the Holy Father's major texts as politicians' speeches are reported - because it is just impossible, and unfair, to pick out a 'sound bite' which is never representative of the whole speech.

One indication of this is OR itself, which often picks out something random to use as a headline for the papal texts - not always the most 'important' point he makes, nor even the most attention-getting.

For example, the address to the Curia today. OR ended up with the headline 'Listening to the language of creation saves man from destruction'; and because the Holy Spirit catechesis is such an important part of the speech, they use a sub-headline 'The Spirit and the Church', which is actually the headline for a brief editorial about the subject.

The Italian news agencies have devised a way out of the dilemma. They hardly ever give a wrap-up story, but send out as many stories as there are sub-topics within the address. That way, they only have to deal with one subject at a time.

Me, I've always thought that with Benedict's major texts [and even the Angelus mini-homilies], nothing compares to reading the full text itself. That's why I try to post full translations of the important texts, icluding each Angelus message and each catechesis, as soon as I can. And why I have trouble with AsiaNews reports which usually string together, almost at random, a number of separate quotations that fail to show the Pope's thought flow.




On a trivial note, note Papino's abundant 'ciuffetto' in the picture - makes up for the uneven shearing his 'barbar'
wrought on the sides of the head. Some pictures on Felici from the weekend showed more pink scalp than hair!

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[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 3:32 PM]
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12/22/2008 11:25 PM
 
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Liturgical novelties in the Christmas rites
to be presided over by the Pope

by Gianluca Biccini
Translated from
the 12/22-12/23/08 issue of

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A sculpture of the Virgin on a throne carrying the Baby Jesus will be set next to the the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica starting Christmas Eve to the the Feast of the Epiphany, and not only on the Feast of the Most Holy Mother of God (Dec. 31).

The Kalenda (Christmas Proclamation chant) will no longer be sung within the Eucharistic celebration on Christmas Eve but before the entrance procession.

The customary floral offering by children representing the five continents will take place not at the Gloria but at the end of the Mass, when the Pope goes to deposit the figurine of the Baby Jesus in the creche of the Basilica.

And finally, rather than the customary cope and miter, the Pope will be wearing the mozzetta and stole to grant the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

These are the changes to be introduced this year in the Christmas liturgies presided by the Pope, as explained to us by the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, Mons. Guido Marini, who also explains the reasons for the changes.


We are almost at Christmas. What does it mean for the liturgical life of the Church?
The liturgical celebrations at Christmastime, starting with the Midnight Mass, lead the faithful to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of our salvation.

The Church stops to contemplate yet again the face of he who is the only Savior of the world. Before the mystery of the Incarnation, everything should contribute to inspire wonder: the words, the gestures, the silences, the symbols, the music, the songs, the rite in its entirety.

Indeed, how can the event of the Son of God becoming a baby for us and for our salvation not inspire wonder? And so, our liturgies should express the extraordinary beauty of this mystery of the Lord and of his love which is full of infinite mercy, the wonder of God among us.


But for many, perhaps the birth of Christ is just an event of the past.
Nonetheless, one that is made present and alive today in the celebration of liturgy. That is why Christmas is characterized by joy.


From liturgy to life: How does one live this necessary relationship?
We come to liturgy with all the baggage of our life, but we must come away from it and back to ordinary life profoundly renewed. Encountering the mystery of God, when the encounter is authentic, can only bring a change in one's existence.

That is why it is important that the rite shines, that it is luminous, inviting everyone to participate in the celebration of the mystery. It has nothing to do with introducing new things, but with having a sense of newness or freshness about the things the liturgy calls on us to do, including the ritual gestures.

This is the great task of every liturgy that is celebrated in exemplary manner and truly lived. This happens when one has the active participation of everyone - not only by taking part in the celebration but by being spiritually involved at every step - entering into the sacrifice of Christ and the action of the Church, and thus growing in sanctity.


Is there something different to note in the Pope's Christmas liturgies this year?
This year, the beautiful polychrome wooden sculpture of the Virgin on a throne carrying the Baby Jesus who gives a blessing, will be found beside the main altar starting Christmas Eve until the Feast of the Epiphany, and not only on the Feast of the Most Holy Mother of God.

This is to underscore that the Nativity season is also a Marian time. The Blessed Virgin does not distract at all from the mystery of the Son of God made flesh, but on the contrary, helps to better appreciate it in its true significance.

We also thought we should highlight the time of preparation for the Eucharistic celebration [during the pre-Mass vigil]. The alternation of readings, prayer and music will help to prepare the spirit of everyone present for an appropriate attitude of contemplation.

At the same time, the Massgoers will have time to look at the simple instructions given in the liturgical booklets of what to do and when, including the brief silence that now follows the homily of the Holy Father and after Holy Communion.

These are pauses that help meditation and prayer, especially to assimilate the gift of the Word of God and the gift of the Eucharist from which we nourish ourselves.


Let's get to the Midnight Mass and the Urbi et Orbi blessing on Christmas Day...
As in the past few years, there will be a brief prayer vigil in preparation for the Midnight Mass. But this year, this vigil will be enriched by the singing of the Kalenda, no longer to be done within the Mass.

The ancient text that announces the historical birth of the Savior will be the last part of the vigil before the entrance procession that precedes the Mass itself.

The Roman Martyrology manual provides for singing the Kalenda on Christmas Eve after Lauds or at a minor hour of the Liturgy of the Hours. In this sense, placing the Kalenda at the end of the prayer vigil is more in keeping with its original character.

During the Mass, when the Gloria is sung - after the Holy Father intones it - bells will be rung, with the usual organ accompaniment. But it will not be followed by the customary floral offering by children representing the five continents. This homage has been transferred to the end of the Mass, when the Pope proceeds to the Creche in order to lay down the statuette of the Baby Jesus on the manger.

As for the Urbi et Orbi blessing, the Holy Father will no longer wear a cope and miter. He has decided to use the mozzetta and stole, since this is a solemn blessing that does not involve a liturgical act.


Last year, for the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, the Pope celebrated Mass at the traditional altar of the Sistine Chapel. Will he do that again this year?
Yes. The reason is simply in order not to detract from the harmony and beauty of the chapel which is an architectonic gem. This keeps it the way it was designed for liturgical worship, while providing an opportunity to celebrate Mass in a way that is allowed by liturgical norms.

Of course, it means, among other things, that at certain parts of the Mass, the Pope, like the assembly, will be facing the Crucifix on the altar, which is the right orientation for the celebration of the Eucharist: facing the Lord.

Otherwise, everything else will be done the usual way, and the Pope will baptize 13 babies.


Any other details we should know?
Only that it may be useful to point out that the languages chosen for the readings and for the prayer intentions of the faithful are meant to reflect the participation of persons coming from different parts of the world.

At the same time, the Latin used in the other parts of the Mass expresses unity and catholicity even amid the diversity of languages.

I will add that the Vespers celebration on the last day of the year, like last year, will again be followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a Te Deum in thanksgiving, and a Eucharistic Benediction, to underscore the centrality of adoration in the life of the Church.

Also, at the Mass on New Year's Day, some children and adults from Lebanon will take part in the presentation of gifts and the prayers of the faithful.

Finally, for the solemnity of Epiphany, the Pope will wear a fiddleback (Roman) chasuble that belonged to Pope Paul VI, as he has used liturgical vestments belonging to his predecessors in the past. This is part of trying to strike a balance between using old and new things in terms of liturgical accessories.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 4:04 PM]
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12/23/2008 1:59 AM
 
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The Spirit and the Church
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Editorial
Translated from
the 12/22-12/23/08 issue of

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A long reflection on Christian faith - specifically on the presence of the Spirit of God and on the responsibility of the Church - was Benedict XVI's Christmas message this year to the Roman Curia.

The traditional pre-Christmas meeting with his closest co-workers in order to exchange Christmas wishes was also an occasion for the Pope to reflect on the year which is ending.

The words of the Bishop of Rome were by no means ritual, but a true and proper contribution in terms of reflections that need to be taken into account if one is to understand the intentions of Benedict XVI and his Church, even for purposes of criticizing them.

But this does not often happen. Indeed, often there is not even any desire to understand, but a preference for using any opportunity for polemics that are as crude as they are prejudicial and above all, unfounded.

But what exactly does the Church want? Only what it has always sought - a sense of tradition and its continuity, from the apostle Paul to the teachings of the more recent Popes, that will allow, despite human imperfections, that the grace of God "becomes ever more visible".

That is why the Bishop of Rome speaks and travels, why the Holy See and the Church intervene in different ways as a 'spiritual force' that wants to show the way. Without imposing anything, but proposing and reasoning out.

It is singular that an institution generally accused of being a pitiless machine of obscurantist power is also frequently accused of being dogmatic at the very moment when it proposes a discussion of issues such as the beginnings and end of life, of genetic manipulations and the signs of death.

Benedict XVI recalled his trips, World Youth Day in Sydney and the Bishops Synod on the Word of God - different events linked to each other by the fact that even today the Church lives the presence of the Holy Spirit as on that Pentecost 20 centuries ago.

God speaks and is present among us even today, and the Church wants to listen to him and asks every human being to listen to him, or at least take him into consideration.

Faith - based on the Incarnation of the Son of God - nonetheless needs to be seen and touched, said the Pope. And that was the true sense of WYD in Sydney - which was not a rock festival around a Pope-star, as even some 'Catholic voices' consider it - but a celebration with a long preparation, and destined to continue. Definitely, an event during which the question of God and the presence of the Spirit Creator are taken seriously.

Opening oneself to God - or at least, to the possibility of God, a possibility that is not unreasonable - has its consequences: on one's attitude towards Creation, and towards matter that is 'structured intelligently' and on the necessity of an 'ecology of man.'

This does not derive from an 'outdated metaphysics', Benedict XVI asserts clearly, explaining that instead, it comes from 'listening to the language of creation' - refusing the ideology of gender which denies that human beings are male and female, and thereby, denies sexuality itself.

Yes, the Spirit of God has entered history and offers us joy. It is for every human being to pay attention.



THE POPE:
YES TO SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY,
NO TO GENDER IDEOLOGY

by Salvatore Izzo
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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 22 (Translated from AGI) - "it is not outdated metaphysics, when the Church talks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected."

Benedict XVI chose the most solemn occasion - his pre-Christmas audience with the Roman Curia - in order to show, from the height of his authority, the basis for the positions of the Holy See (which is against discrimination of homosexuals but also against the equiparation of same-sex unions to normal matrimony) that have been bitterly attacked in recent weeks.

"This has to do," Benedict XVI said, "with faith in the Creator and listening to the language of Creation, disregard of which would be self-destructive for man and therefore destroy the work of God himself."

According to Benedict XVI, "that which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from Creation (nature) and from the Creator. Man wants to do everything by himself and to decide always and exclusively about anything that concerns him personally. But this - according to the Church - is to live against truth, to live against the Spirit Creator".

The Pope's tone distinguishes itself from that which has characterized comments by the media and politicians these days about his Magisterium. Indeed, the Pope was very calm as usual, along the lines of the 'gentle firmness' that he has shown since the start of his Pontificate.

The Pope's gentle nature emerged even in another 'sensitive' part of his speech today, when speaking about the recent Bishops' Synod on the Word of God as something almost like a new Pentecost, he praised the "precious contribution ... of a rabbi on the Sacred Scriptures of Israel, which are our Sacred Scriptures too".

It showed a Pope incapable of holding a grudge: Because, after his words to the Synod and on the margins of the Synod session, the chief rabbi of Haifa, Sheer Yashuv Cohen, managed to use the Synod, for a day at least and through the media, as a kind of tribunal against Pius XII, whom he accused of silence over the Holocaust.

But the Pope also made a necessary clarification of some 'green' interpretations of his Magisterium: "The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less as a Creature of the Spirit himself, in whom is inscribed a message that does not mean a contradiction of human freedom but its condition."

Essentially, the Pontiff affirmed the necessity that alongside a commitment to the defense of nature there should be "something like an ecology of man, understood in the correct sense."

For Benedict XVI, "the fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Spirit Creator also means that their rational structure - which beyond their mathematical structure, become almost palpable through experimentation - carries in itself an ethical orientation".

On the subject of Creation, Benedict XVI once again held out his hand to science.

After his words at Angelus on Sunday to pay homage to Galileo and "so many men and women of science who in the course of centuries have made us understand increasingly more about the laws of nature", urging us "to contemplate with gratitude the works of the Lord", today the Pope exalted mathematics (as Cardinal Camillo Ruini recently did - the ex-president of the Italian bishops' conference can probably be considered the best interpreter of Ratzingerian thought in Italy today, and at the end of his address today, the Pontiff greeted him very affectionately).

"The fact that matter has a mathematical structure," the Pope observed, "is the foundation of the modern science of nature." Which does not in any way contradict any reflection on God.

"Only because matter is structured intelligently, our mind is able to interpret it and actively remodel it," Benedict XVI said.

But the address to the cardinals, bishops and prelates of the Roman Curia today was also an opportunity for the Pope to dot the i's, so to speak, on criticisms of his actions which evidently have not been lacking even within the Church itself.

He commented: "Fashionable analyses tend to consider WYD as a variant of modern youth culture, as a type of rock festival modified in the ecclesial sense, with the Pope as somewhat of a star; and that with or without faith, these festivals would basically be the same thing. In this way, such analyses would do away with the question of God".

And he added: "There are even Catholic voices who share this tendency, seeing WYD as a great spectacle, beautiful even, but with little meaning for the question of faith, and on the presence of the Gospel in our time."

Such analyses, he said, are wrong. "In Australia," he recalled, "it was not by chance that the Via Crucis through the inner city became a climactic event of those days. It synthesized once more all that had happened in preceding years and called attention to him who brings us all together - the God who loved us to the point of death on the Cross."

Thus, he said, "the Pope is not the star around which these events take place. He is totally and only the Vicar [of Christ]. He points to the Other who is among us".

For Papa Ratzinger, "World Youth Day in Australia (was) a great feast of faith, which gathered together more than 200,000 young people from all parts of the world, bringing them together not only externally - in the geographic sense, but, thanks to sharing the joy of being Christian, bringing them together interiorly."


Here is how John Allen reported the Pope's address - in what was a service to Anglophone readers, because he translates substantial parts of what the Pope said about World Youth Day and human ecology, omitting however, the integral catechesis on the Holy Spirit. Whereas the news agencies - AP and AFP - have chosen so far not to report about it, and Reuters picked out what he said about rainforests to skew what the Pope said as a slur against homosexuals.


Pope defends World Youth Day,
environmental concern

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
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Dec. 22, 2008


It’s Vatican tradition for the Pope to deliver a sort of “Year in Review” address to his staff in the Roman Curia each December, and over time these speeches have come to play two roles – one overt, the other implicit.

The first is to give the Pope a chance to frame how he’d like the year to be remembered; the second is to subtly defend aspects of his activity or teaching over the last 12 months which may have raised eyebrows, or set tongues wagging, in his own house.

This year, Benedict XVI used his annual address to the Curia, delivered the morning of Dec. 22, to highlight two such elements of his track record in ’08: World Youth Day, and his growing emphasis on environmentalism. He suggested that both pivot on a core Christian doctrine: the role of the Holy Spirit.

[I object to the use of the term environmentalism in connection with the Pope's repeated exhortations about 'safeguarding Creation'. For him, this is not an -ism (which in popular use, implies faddishness). On the contrary, what he has been saying all along is that care and concern of the earth and its resources are responsibilities of every human being, explicit and implicit in God's directives when he created man.]

In a vintage twist, this consummate cultural-critic-cum-Pope even enlisted Friedrich Nietzsche in his defense.

Also in connection with the Holy Spirit, Benedict touched briefly on the intrinsic bonds linking Christ, the Spirit, and the church -- a point with important, though in this case unstated, implications for Catholic theology.

World Youth Day

World Youth Day, of course, is among the more universally acclaimed innovations of Pope John Paul II. Yet some more traditionally minded Catholics have their doubts, wondering if the feel of the event is more secular than sacred – if sponsoring a “Catholic Woodstock,” as WYD is sometimes dubbed, offers too much of a concession to the “spirit of this world.” Other critics grouse that World Youth Day fosters a cult of personality around the pope. Both criticisms have, at times, been heard within the halls of the Vatican itself.

With the election of Benedict XVI, some expected that World Youth Day would be “dialed down” several notches. Last July, however, Benedict XVI traveled to Sydney, Australia, where the massive crowds, upbeat pop liturgies and rock star-style adulation were generally of a piece with the John Paul era.

In his address to the Curia, Benedict reflected at length on World Youth Day.

“The phenomenon of World Youth Day is becoming ever more an object of analysis, in which people are trying to understand this form, so to speak, of youth culture,” Benedict said. “Australia had never seen so many people from every continent as it did during World Youth Day, even on the occasion of the Olympics. Before, there was fear that such a massive turnout of youth would disrupt the public order, paralyze traffic, make daily life more difficult, provoke violence and lead to drug use. All that turned out to be unfounded.”

“It was a festival of joy – a joy that, eventually, swept up even the reluctant. In the end, no one felt disturbed. Those days became a festival for everyone, and it was only than that it become clear what a festival really is – an event in which all are, so to speak, outside themselves, beyond themselves, and precisely because of that, with one another.”

Benedict laid out the traditional critique of World Youth Day – one that he knows well a few of his own lieutenants are, at times, inclined to share.

“What, therefore, is the nature of what happens at World Youth Day?” the pope asked rhetorically. “What are the forces which run through it? Fashionable analyses tend to consider these days as a variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of rock festival with the pope as the star. With or without faith, these festivals would be more or less the same thing, and in this way the question of God can be taken off the table. There are also Catholic voices that cut in this direction, seeing the whole thing as a big show, perhaps attractive, but ultimately of little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. By that account, these would be moments of joyful ecstasy, but at the end of the day they leave everything as it was before, without influencing one’s life in a deep way.”

Benedict then proceeded to take the critique apart.

“That analysis fails to explain the uniqueness of these days, and the special character of the joy they create, their capacity to create communion,” he said.

“First of all, it’s important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days don’t consist just of that one week which is visible to the world,” Benedict said. “There’s a long path, exterior and interior, that leads to it. The Cross, accompanied the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the nations. The faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us. The encounter with the Cross awakens in the intimacy of the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become human and suffer for us. We also see the woman that He wanted as his mother. The solemn days are simply the culmination of this long journey, with which the young people meet one another and move together towards meeting Christ.”

“In Australia, it wasn’t an accident that the long Via Crucis through the city becoming the culminating event of these days,” the pope said. “It expressed anew all that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who brings all of us together: that God who loves us all the way to the Cross.”

“Thus, the pope is not the star around which everything turns. He is totally, and solely, the Vicar. He points to the Other who stands in our midst.”

“In the end, the solemn liturgy is the center of the gathering, because in it everything happens that we can’t accomplish on our own, and for which we are always waiting,” the pope said. “He is present. He enters in our midst. Heaven is opened, and this makes the earth luminous. This is what makes life joyful and open, and what unites us one with another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival.”

“Friedrich Nietzsche once said: ‘Success does not lie in organizing a party, but in finding people capable of drawing joy from it.’ According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), and this fruit was absolutely palpable during those days in Sydney.”

“Just as a long journey precedes World Youth Day, a succeeding path is also derived from it,” Benedict said. “Friendships are formed that encourage a different style of life, and that sustain it from the inside. These great days have, not last, the aim of inspiring such friendships and nurturing places of life in the faith in the world, which are at the same time places of hope and of lived charity.”

The Environment

In a similar vein, reflection on the Holy Spirit also led Benedict to underscore the Christian concern for the environment.

“Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential component of the Christian creed,” the pope said. “The ultimate basis for our responsibility towards the earth lies in our faith regarding creation. It is not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our own interests and desires. It is instead the gift of the Creator, with certain intrinsic rules that offer us an orientation we must respect as administrators of creation.”

The pope insisted that the church must get involved in today’s environmental debates.

“Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting only the message of salvation to its faithful,” Benedict said. “It has a responsibility for creation, and must express this responsibility in public.”

At the same time, Benedict clearly distinguished the church’s approach from secular environmental movements – insisting that concern for tropical rain forests and the church’s traditional pro-life commitments, including sexual morality, are indissolubly linked.

“[The church] must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all,” he said. “It must also defend the human person against its own destruction. What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”

“Here it’s a question of faith in creation, in listening to the language of creation, disregard of which would mean self-destruction of the human person and hence destruction of the very work of God,” the pope said. “That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit.”

“Yes, the tropical forests merit our protection, but the human being as a creature merits no less protection – a creature in which a message is written which does not imply a contradiction of our liberty, but the condition for it,” the pope said.

On that basis, Benedict offered a defense of traditional marriage and Catholic sexual morality.

“Great Scholastic theologians defined marriage, meaning the lifetime bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator instituted and which Christ – without changing the message of creation – then welcomed into the story of his covenant with humanity,” the pope said. “This witness in favor of the Creator Spirit, present in the nature of this bond and in a special way in the nature of the human person, is also part of the proclamation which the church must offer. Starting from this perspective, it’s important to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae : the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against treating sexuality as a kind of consumption, the future against the exclusive demands of the present, and the nature of the human being against manipulation.”

Christ and the Church

Later in the address, Benedict offered two other implications of faith in the Holy Spirit with important implications for Catholic theology: the Holy Spirit, he said, cannot be separated from Christ or from the church.

In that regard, Benedict quoted his great intellectual patron, St. Augustine: “Do you too want to live in the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ,” meaning the church.

In recent years, the Vatican has sometimes accused some theologians working in the field of inter-religious dialogue of pressing the idea of the Holy Spirit’s presence in non-Christian religions too far, as if the Holy Spirit acts apart from any explicit connection with Christ or the Christian church. While non-Christians may be saved, Vatican authorities have insisted, that does not mean they are not in some sense “oriented” towards Christ and the church – a point, they have suggested, with important consequences for Christian missionary efforts.



And here is how the New York Times reported it:


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Yup! All of one paragraph - and yet it even has a byline!!!


And I must correct myself - AP did report about it, though I had to find their report on a local newspaper feed, not as an AP post. It chose to zero in on the 'I am not a star' part. It's just a little more wordy than the NYT story .


Pope says he’s no rock star
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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 22 (AP) — He may draw adoring crowds, but Pope Benedict XVI said today he’s no rock star.

And the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day celebrations, which take place every three years in different cities around the globe, are more than just a party for young faithful, he said.

Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II, often described as having a rock star-like following among Catholic youth, began the World Youth Days to inspire the faithful.

"Popular analysis tends to consider these days a Church version of modern youth culture, as a type of rock festival with the Pope as star," Benedict said in his Christmas greetings to the Vatican Curia.

But he said the ability of young Catholics to create a sense of community during the meetings shows they are more than just parties.

"In this way also the Pope is not the star around which everything revolves," he said. "He is totally, and only, the vicar."

Benedict attended the youth event in Cologne, Germany in 2005, this past summer in Sydney, Australia, and has said he plans to attend the next one in Madrid, Spain, in 2011.




[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 12:51 PM]
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12/23/2008 12:02 PM
 
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OR for 12/22-12/23/08:
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Addressing the Roman Curia, the Pope advocates a 'human ecology'
that does not contradict freedom but is a condition for it:
'Listening to the language of creation saves man from self-destruction'
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Other Page 1 stories: An editorial on the Pope's Curia speech; a story on the Pope's Sunday Angelus
homily in which he reflects on how astronomy and science help man to realize the greatness of God; and
in secular news, the IMF says governments need better plans to deal with the worldwide financial crisis;
and Israel alerts the United Nations it will move against Hamas for its rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.




No scheduled events for the Holy Father today.



In the Italian MSM, everyone reported the Pope's Sunday Angelus homily yesterday, but only because
he mentioned Galileo. And while they could not claim that the homily was anti-science in any way -
it was in praise of science and scientists, in fact - they had occasion for their habitual muckraking
against the Church for subjecting Galileo to the Inquisition.....And today, everyone predictably headlined
their story about the address to the Roman Curia as a variant of 'Pope slams homosexuals and trans-sexuals'.





[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/23/2008 1:04 PM]
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12/23/2008 1:17 PM
 
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Pope's 'human ecology' remarks
trigger angry gay response


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Here's the first Anglophone reaction story I have seen to the Pope's Curia speech - er, to what has been selectively reported about his remarks. Of course, quite predictable!



Rome, Dec. 23 (dpa) - Remarks by Pope Benedict XVI suggesting that safeguarding "human ecology" - intended as the concept of men and women created as distinct beings by God - is as important as "protecting tropical forests" have angered gay rights activists.

The Vatican did not immediately comment Tuesday on the remarks made by the Pontiff the previous day, but the editor of the Holy See's newspaper lamented what he said was criticism based on "prejudice."

"Often there's no willingness to comprehend (the Pope's words) and there is a preference to use every opportunity for polemics which are as sour as they are based on prejudice, but above all baseless," Osservatore Romano editor Giovanni Maria Vian wrote in the daily's Tuesday edition. [See translation posted earlier on this page.]

[This report makes it appear that Vian wrote the comments in connection with the gay protest, but it was a general statement in today's editorial referring to recent virulent attacks in the Italian MSM against the Pope by secularists who dislike the Church's teachings.]

On Monday, Benedict used the English-language term "gender" in a speech delivered in Italian to the Vatican Curia in which he also reiterated Catholic teaching on marriage intended as a union between men and women.

The Catholic Church considers same-sex unions sinful, and the pontiff appeared to criticize these when he noted that "what is often described with the term 'gender,' leads to man's self-emancipation from creation and the creator."

Critics noted how Benedict's remarks came against the backdrop of the Vatican's recent opposition to a proposed resolution at the United Nations seeking to decriminalize homosexuality.

"Gay people have become a real obsession" for the Pope, said Aurelio Mancuso of the Italian rights group Arcigay.

The Catholic Church "has for weeks spoken on the danger posed to the world by homosexuality in dubious statements made to the UN," Mancuso said.

He was referring to the decision last week by Vatican's envoy to the UN, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, not to support the resolution on decriminalizing homosexuality because if approved, according to the Vatican, the document implied the possibility that nations which did not recognize same-sex unions as "matrimony" would face pressure to do so.

Earlier this month the Vatican's chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Roman Catholic Church believes homosexuality must not be considered a crime, but added that initiatives aimed at "putting all forms of sexual orientation on the same level" are wrong.

Homosexuality is currently punishable by law in more than 85 countries.

It is punishable by death in a number of them, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.


Here's the blog by the reporter who wrote the skewed-to-be-inflammatory Reuters report yesterday on the Pope's speech tothe Curia. His headline is even more explicit - and rather absurd - than in the news report:


Pope says saving heterosexuality
like saving the rainforest

Posted by: Phil Stewart
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Dec. 22, 2008


Pope Benedict took an unconventional approach today to stand up to what he sees as gender-bending, saying protecting heterosexuality was as important as saving the rainforest.

“(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the Pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration. “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

The Pope stressed that the Church would defend the traditional roles of “a man and woman, and to ask that this order of creation be respected”.

He turned his attention to those people who call themselves in Italian “gender” or “transgender” — a broad term that includes anyone who doesn’t identify entirely with their assigned sex and can include homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals and others.

[I don't think the Pope was referring to the Italian use of the word 'gender' at all, but to its use in 'gender ideology' as advocated by many in the West, especially in the United Nations. It was English-speaking Americans who first started using the term to distinguish it from 'sex' (as in male and female), claiming that 'gender' is more appropriate - I suppose because gender categories include 'neuter' - and 'non-judgmental'. Where is the world coming to when saying male or female, man or woman, is considered 'judgmental' or, alternately, 'discriminatory'? Oh yes, Spain has legislated out the terms 'mother' and 'father' from its official forms - I believe it is now Parent A and Parent B instead. )

“What’s often expressed and understood with the term ‘gender’, is summed up definitively in the self-emancipation of man from the created and the Creator … But in this way, he lives in opposition to truth, he lives in opposition to the Creator,” the Pope said.

The New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reacted promptly*, saying: “In a season in which the immorality of genocide, lawless governments, lust for money and power and the destabilization of the world’s economy are destroying the lives of hundreds of millions around the world, the Pope’s obsessive focus on gay, lesbian and trans people who simply seek the right to live and love is out of touch with what humanity needs right now from its religious leaders.”

[*And the prompt reaction was to Stewart's original skewed report, of course, because I doubt that anyone at IGLHRC read the Pope's full statement at all - even just the paragraphs that refer to their concern.]

What do you think of Benedict’s idea of an “ecology of man”?



Frankly, my first reaction when I heard the Holy Father refer to the 'foreste tropicali' (I listened to Vatican Radio's live broadcast) was that he was indirectly addressing those misguided ultra-environmentalists who would preserve exotic plants and animals even at the expense of humans.

I still think that was the context for his remark on the tropical rainforests - and thus, the very opposite of what Stewart and the gay groups would make it appear - that he is equiparating people with rainforests (giving them the same value on every scale), just as ultraliberals would equiparate same-sex unions to traditional marriage.


****

The deliberate distortion of what the Pope said about male and female being the natural order of creation is only getting worse.... This is from the Times of London today - whose headline parrots Reuters's original report but takes the absurdity one step further.

As for the Pope stoking homophobia - when he did not even mention homosexuals or homosexuality at all - who is stoking what? What about all the Pope-phobia that the MSM are stoking - and have been stoking from Day 1 of Benedict's Pontificate?

I will not comment any further besides pointing out where and how this report primes its own 'stoking'
.


Pope accused of stoking homophobia
after he equates homosexuality
to climate change

by Philippe Naughton
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Dec. 23, 2008

Pope Benedict was accused of stoking homophobia today after a speech in which he declared that saving humanity from homosexuality was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

The Pontiff made the remarks yesterday in an end-of-year address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration. He said that humanity needed to listen to the "language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman and behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations was a "destruction of God’s work".

[The underlined statements are the reporter's extrapolations obviously designed to skew what the Pope really said.]

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less," he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

"What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected."

It is not the first time that the Pope has used the Curia speech to throw out a controversial idea – two years ago he complained that Islam had yet to learn the lessons of the Enlightenment – but the comments were quickly denounced by gay and lesbian groups, both inside and outside the Church.

The Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, described the Pope's comments as "totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form".

She said: "It is more the case that we need to be saved from his comments. It is comments like that that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and it is comments like that that justify gay-bashing.

"There are still so many instances of people being killed around the world, including in Western society, purely and simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

"When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way because they feel that they are doing God’s work in ridding the world of these people."

Her views were echoed by the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney and president of Inclusive Church, the pro-gay Anglican movement. "I thought the Christmas angels said ’Fear not’. Instead, the Pope is spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet. And that’s just absurd ... Can’t he think of something better to say at Christmas?"

Pam Spaulding, a leading lesbian blogger from the United States, was even more direct. She said: "The Prada Papa Ratzi opens his trap again, and the homophobia stinks like trash piled up during a NYC garbage strike."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

The Pope's speech was also seen, however, as a denunciation of "gender theory" – the study of how gender assignments affects the behaviour of individuals. The Catholic Church has repeatedly spoken out against gender theory, which gay and transsexual groups promote as a key to understanding and tolerance.

"That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator," the Pope said.

"Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit."

Mark Dowd, campaign strategist at Operation Noah, the Christian environmental group, who is a gay man and a former Dominican friar, said that the Pope’s remarks were "understandable but misguided and unfortunate".

He said that he understood the Pope’s vision of creation in which rainforests were protected and men and women "complement one another, reproduce and live happily ever after".

But he said: "The problem is that if you study ecology seriously as any intelligent man would do, and the Pope is a fantastically intelligent man, you realise that ecology is complex, it has all sort of weird interdependencies and it is the same with human sexuality.

"It is not a one-size-fits-all model, there are lots of differences, so therefore I think it is really sad that these comments betray a lack of openess to the complexity of creation."



I'm almost tempted to open a thread called TOXIC WASTES just to dump such poison into. Unfortunately we can't just ignore all these negative things - WHICH i WILL NOW LABEL WITH TEH INTERNATIONAL WARNING SIGNS OF toxicity and lethal danger - because even when they are not purveyed in the most high-profile media outlets (which in this case they are), even the slightest hint of 'scandal/sensation' in any remote, unheard of source, gets to be rehashed/exaggerated/distorted/amplified ad infinitum on the Internet.... all of it based on prejudiced reporting.



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 12:44 PM]
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12/23/2008 3:35 PM
 
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WWF

He's absolutely right! Animal/environmental rights are more important nowadays than the protection of the traditional family, or the forming of tender, young minds by all involved institutions of today's society.
At least here in the overly developed engineering world, people have become nothing but human resources for the mighty, powerful, gigantic industrial machinery.
Ethical behavior in the sense of moral and emotional truths is horribly neglected. It was somehow lost along the line. At least one generation ago.

Maybe we should start some type of WWF for Humans. 'Protection Society For The Endangered Human Mind, Heart And Soul' or whatever clever title one could imagine.
12/23/2008 5:55 PM
 
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The Media and Papa

I sometimes wonder whether Papa's problem with the media is due to the sheer ineptitude of people writing for the media these days or whether it is blatant malice on their part. They seem to twist and turn in every direction trying to find anything at all in Papa's speeches that they can use against him. Their almost nonstop effort to make him look like he is bashing homosexuals would be boring already if it weren't so dangerous. People who read their trash believe it and do think Papa is a mean, vicious old man who hates gays and is trying to persecute them.

I have to wonder if some of the media types that write that stuff are gay themselves and are just trying to get back at him or whether various media organizations are just trying to spice up their headlines and stories to increase their readership. Regardless, they are throwing gasoline on fire. I wish they would stop before someone gets hurt.






12/23/2008 6:00 PM
 
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On the other hand.....
I support the WWF, Born Free, WSPA, The Donkey Sanctuary, Cats Protection and the RSPCA.......I think we have to protect the whole of creation. But I am also Pro-Life and I agree completely with Papa's views on homosexuality and what they call "gender identity". You can't mess about with nature.

Thank you for all the recent news, Teresa, and especially for the news about changes to the Christmas and New Year liturgies.Your colourful photo strip lends itself to the making of a bookmark - thank you for that!

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12/23/2008 6:12 PM
 
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Benefan....
Just seen your post, which you must have been writing simultaneously with mine. Yes! To give an example: on this morning's "Today" programme on Radio 4 one of the news items was that "the Pope has spoken out against trans-sexuals and gender changes" - true, but it was only within a multi-faceted speech. Yet that was picked out. Now, even a friend of mine from church, said that she believes some people ought to have been born in the opposite sex. Whoooooppps! No. Either you are male or female, surely. I know that there is something called "hermaphroditism", but don't tell me, I don't want to know......

The trouble with the people in the media, too, is that they give the impression that these are the Pope's "views" [which they are], but they are the teaching of the Church. He's re-iterating what Christ said 2000 years ago and what His Church has always taught. "Male and female created He them". Plus: one man, one woman united in marriage for life!
It's so obvious to us, but we are bombarded by secular media. One reason why I mostly watch EWTN. Listen to Father John Corapi on the subject!!!! Oh boy!!!!!!

And another thing.......I expect all of you have come across people who say that Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae" wasn't an "infallible dogma", so it's all right to practise artificial birth control. No! It wasn't a new dogma, but it was and is Church teaching. He didn't write it for fun.
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12/23/2008 6:47 PM
 
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The clarity of Benedict XVI
in defense of the natural order:
Interview with Sandro Magister

Translated from
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December 23, 2008


Benedict XVI's address yesterday to the Roman Curia at their traditional pre-Christmas exchange of greetings was a sort of year-end review. An occasion to review the most important events for the Pope and the Church in 2008, along with some of the fundamental elements of his Magisterium.

So there was no lack of passages open to discussion: particularly, that about the natural order of human beings, male and female, which obviously has drawn much of the initial attention.

But even more important, according to Vatican observer Sandro Magister of L'Espresso magazine, were the Pope's references to some criticisms within the Church itself about which Benedict XVI evidently welcomed the occasion to make himself clear.


The Pope, reviewing the events of the past year, emphasized the importance of occasions when the Church could make itself "visible to the world" (World Youth Day in Sydney and the papal trips to the United States and France). What exactly does 'making the Church visible' mean?
The Pope is bringing up one of the concepts that he considers very important - namely, that the Church should show itself to the world through specific actions and words, and this can be done through its celebrations. [And better yet, through each individual Catholic living the Gospel message in his own life - the importance of Christian witness, which Benedict XVI has always invoked].

The trips and WYD, as the Pope cited, were not brought up to recall his travels, but as moments when the Church showed its true face - in the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of that Word which becomes reality through the Sacraments.

Indeed, speaking of WYD in Sydney, the Pope singled out two specific events which are emblematic in this respect: the first is the Way of the Cross [presented as a moving pageant through the streets of Sydney], at which the Pope was not a participant at all, much less a leading player, but simply the Vicar who introduced the true protagonist, Christ who was crucified; and the other was the great solemn liturgies, at which, as the Pope says, something happens which we by ourselves cannot achieve, but by the workings of the Word, the revelations from God, which the Church passes on to the world.


Why do you think he decided to say explicitly that World Youth Day is not to be seen as a youth festival with the Pope as a star?
His concern about criticisms which are not only from outside the Church - and which we can take for granted - but even from within the Catholic world.

In fact, there is a current of thought among some Catholics - from the time John Paul II 'invented' WYD - that has directly criticized this kind of gatherings, saying they are manifestations that have nothing substantial to add to the profession of the faith, but are simply mass phenomena not different from huge secular gatherings such as rock concerts.

Benedict XVI decided to rebut this criticism forcefully. And not in the manner of someone who is simply putting up with something inherited from his predecessor, an event, some people would say Cardinal Ratzinger [at least, their idea of Cardinal Ratzinger] probably tolerated poorly. In fact, there are those who think that.

Instead, Benedict XVI showed what he sees significant in these World Youth Day events: that they are moments of faith, visible in acts like the Via Crucis and the liturgies, and he sees these as the sowing of new communitarian forms of living the faith for the young people who take part in these events. That faith is built also through such direct experiences of the proclamation and visibility of the faith itself. And Benedict XVI does all he can so that this is indeed what the World Youth Days promote.

In fact, he has not limited himself to the previous models of WYD; In Cologne as in Sydney, he made the prayer vigil [preceding the grand Concluding Mass of every WYD] an occasion for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - with he himself setting the example, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament and remaining for some time in silent adoration.

That was not done in previous WYDs. But he does it deliberately to show what actions count during these mass gatherings, compared to those that don't.


Then there's the part of the Pope's address yesterday most reported by the media - about the human being as male and female, saying this was not 'outdated metaphysics'. What did he mean?
The Pope started out by speaking about the Holy Spirit as Creator, which is an essential element of the Christian Creed. This led to the observation that the Creator Spirit imposed on creation (nature) a mathematical structure, a rational and ordered design.

[In the Catholic view], the world is not an accumulation of elements put together at random but is held together by a grand design, which has itself allowed modern sciences to learn more about the laws of nature, and without which man would be less able to predict natural phenomena and to make calculations about them.

So from this great cosmic order ['cosmos' means order - the opposite of 'chaos', disorder], the Pope proceeded to speak of the human order, which is male or female in structure - a concept that is literally 'meta-physics', namely not something manipulable, not something that can be changed at will.

And that therefore, to presume to change this human order means to attack human nature itself, which amounts to self-destruction. So, the Pope concluded, creation (nature) must be defended, but all of it - not only the air, water, tropical forests, but man himself.


The Pope's reference to cosmic equilibrium and the mathematical rules that explain it appeared to continue the scientific references he made in his Angelus message the day before. What is the cultural value of the Pope's statements on science?
The Pope, of course, could not discuss science in detail during the Angelus message, but he did indicate his thoughts about it.

He began with the liturgical fact that the celebration of the Lord's Nativity coincides with the winter solstice - that the light of Jesus as 'Sol iustitiae', the Sun of Justice, comes to the world at a time when the period of daylight starts to lengthen again.

Then he pointed out that the Obelisk on St. Peter's Square marks a great meridian which runs through the Vatican, and that it casts its longest shadow on the winter solstice, which led him to remark on the World Astronomy year in 2009 to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of an astronomical telescope, and going on to recount the psalm which says 'the heavens declare the glory of God'.

This glory is, of course, not disordered - it is a marvelous symphony of lights and colors and the mathematical structures that govern the cosmos.


What other elements of the speech to the Curia are particularly important?
Yes, one very relevant element which must be underscored. During his reflections on the natural order of things and man, and on the metaphysical value of such an order, the Pope once again came to a vigorous defense of Humanae vitae.

Just as the Pope answered criticism by some Catholic circles of mass events like WYD, here he answers direct attacks within the Catholic world against Humanae Vitae, not just from laymen but from bishops and even some cardinals.

Such criticism, for instance - and let's not hide the fact - from Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, whose latest book, which now tops the best-seller lists in Italy, dedicates an entire chapter against Humanae Vitae.

So this criticism is current, not a thing of the past. And the Pope made it clear where he stands.


[Magister also devoted his blog yesterday to more comments about this Ratzinger-Martini divergence [more correctly a Church-Martini divergence] on Humanae Vitae.

'Humanae Vitae':
Benedict XVI's defense,
Cardinal Martini's offense

Translated from
[IMG]http://img490.imageshack.us/img490/2376/settcielorednak7.png[/IMG]
Dec. 22, 2008


In his important pre-Christmas address to Roman Curia yesterday (Dec. 22), Benedict XVI cast himself in defense of Humanae Vitae, the most contested encyclical of the 20th century, within the Church and out of it.

Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Creator Spirit present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God.

One must reread the encyclical Humanae vitae with this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against consumer sex, the future against the exclusive claim of the moment, and human nature against manipulation.

The last attack on Humanae Vitae, a frontal one, came from Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in his book Conversazioni notturne a Gerusalemme, a best-selling book with strong ecclesiastical support, since it is being given as a bonus to subscribers of the Milan-based Jesuit magazines Popoli(Peoples) and Aggiornamenti Sociali(Social Updates). The editor of the latter magazine gave it a most enthusiastic review.

The other enthusiastic reviewer of Martini's book is that major secular ideologue Eugenio Scalfari [founder and publisher of the ultra-liberal, virulently anti-Church, anti-Pope La Repubblica newspaper, who sanctions blatantly false reporting - and is not above making false though easily verifiable statements himself - if he sees any opening at all to lambaste the Church and deride Benedict XVI].

Interviewed by TG-1 [the premier newscast of Itaalian state TV-s first channel], Scalfari said Martini's book was an authentic 'bomb' capable of making the Church explode to pieces, with Martini's attack on Humanae Vitae as a trigger.

But Martini himself claims to have no such incendiary intentions. In an interview published in the latest issue of the Rivista del Clero Italiano (Magazine of the Italian Clergy), published by the Catholic University of Milan, he repeated what he has said several times since he retired from active ministry: "Rather than working myself over in thinking about the Church, about its forms today and in the future, I prefer to concentrate on praying for it." [Maybe it's just me, but doesn't that sound quite sanctimonious?]

Ora et non labora... Or perhaps we should gather that 'prayer' for Martini is not opposed to, but coincides with, 'work' on a new church that he seems to suggest in every page of this last book - to replace the Church as it was and is under Montini, Wojtyla and Ratzinger?

In the book, Martini attributes to Paul VI having adopted the following attitude [to rationalize his decision about sayign NO to artificial contraception in Humanae Vitae]: "Even if one should not lie, sometimes it is not possible to do otherwise - in which case one must hide the truth, or inevitably tell a lie." [Takes great Jesuit chutzpah to accuse a Pope of lying in order to make his point!]

I have not sought out other reviews of the book after Magister's own review in www.chiesa, posted in NOTABLES on 11/3/08
freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=355175&p=23
and the direct attack on the book by Archbishop Hector Aguer in far-off La Plata, Argentina (report posted on the next page of NOTABLES) who minced no words and said, among other things -

It is noteworthy that such an important, intelligent and outstanding cardinal such as Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has echoed and made his own the criticisms that the secularized culture and those elements within the Church that have embraced dissent against the Magisterium have aimed at the Church for decades.

Meanwhile, as Magister pointed out in November, neither L'Osservatore Romano nor Avvenire have said a word about the book - and probably never will... And where's John Allen in all this? Or Father Z, for that matter? They read Italian!

Maybe Marco Politi has reviewed it. He could well be a charter member of the 'Martinian Church'. Hans Kueng could be another, but he's setting up his own church - the world ethos thing.... But perhaps no one in Italy who disagrees with the cardinal's views will ever speak up, for the same reason OR and Avvenire don't: Martini is 82 (will be shortly).



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 1:48 PM]
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12/23/2008 7:54 PM
 
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Pope to visit Czech Republic
in September 2009




Prague - Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected in April 2005, will pay his first visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009, Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk confirmed to the Aktualne.cz server.

The Pope is to spend about three days in the country, the server reported.

Vlk did not elaborate, saying the preparations of the visit are still being discussed.

"The Vatican publishes all information about such visits only after the preparation is completed," Vlk told the server.

The Czech Catholics have been striving for the Pope's visit for long.

The Czech Bishops' Conference invited him last January. According to a CTK source, the visit was also debated this November.

The Vatican must receive a written invitation from President Vaclav Klaus to launch negotiations about the Pope's visit.

Ladislav Mravec, from the Presidential Office, said the Vatican had already received both invitations, from the president and from the Bishops' Conference.

The Czech Republic has not yet signed a treaty with the Vatican that is to modify the position of the Roman and Graeco Catholic churches in the Czech Republic.

The Vatican passed the treaty, but the Czech Republic did not adopt it, Pavel Vosalik, Czech ambassador to the Vatican, said.

The treaty was agreed on during the Social Democrat (CSSD) government of Milos Zeman. Though it was signed in 2002, its ratification process has not yet been completed as the Chamber of Deputies rejected it in the following year.

Deputies argued that the treaty was disadvantageous for the state and that it violated the equal position of churches.

The Czech stance stirred up indignation in the Vatican.

Vlk told Aktualne.cz that the Czech-Vatican treaty might be re-opened and signed next year.

Benedict XVI's predecessor, John Paul II, visited the Czech Republic in 1995 and 1997, and in 1990 he paid a visit to the former Czechoslovakia.

Author: ČTK
www.ctk.cz



GOSH, MAKLARA! WHAT A DOUBLE CHRISTMAS TREAT FOR THE FORUM!


First, a real scoop about the Pope's trip to the Czech Republic -

And then, hearing from you again!

I was wondering how busy you might be these days and thought about you during the last international Rosary telecast with the Pope, since you had been a participant in 2007....

Anyway, thank you and welcome back - I am sure I say this for all your friends in the Forum - and I hope this means you have some time for the Forum again.

Have a blessed Christmas, and say a prayer for Papino and for the Forum to the Infant Jesus of Prague.

TERESA



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

Teresa, thank you for such invitation. Yes, I'm quite busy but I believe I'll visit and participate our forum more often than in previous months.
Marketa

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 1:42 PM]
12/24/2008 2:39 AM
 
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Congratulations, Maklara


And welcome back! That is so great that Papa will be visiting your country in 2009. You will need to brush up on benaddict surveillance tactics and disguises so you can get as close to Papa as possible. I hope you will be our official forum reporter and photographer for his visit there as Yvonne was during his visit to Poland.


12/24/2008 6:30 AM
 
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Pope revealed to be Catholic, shock horror

Posted By: Damian Thompson
Telegraph.co.uk
Dec 23, 2008 at 11:05:38

He's done it again. The Pope has reiterated unfashionable Catholic teaching on sexuality. And at Christmas! What poor taste. Moreover, he has dared to do so in the context of a discussion of (pause to genuflect) the environment. Is nothing sacred?

Benedict XVI stands accused today of ecclesiastical gay-bashing. When I was woken up very early this morning by a radio station looking for a quote, I was given the impression that he'd given a speech saying homosexuals were as big a threat to the planet as climate change.

That would have been an own goal, I admit. But look at the text of the Pope's speech to the Curia and he doesn't even come close to saying that. The point Benedict is making is that God's plan for creation encompasses both stewardship of the planet and the expression of human sexual relations within (and only within) marriage.

Nowhere in his speech does he say that "homosexuaity" is a sin, because that's not Catholic teaching. On the other hand, and there's no getting round this, all homosexual genital activity is condemned. But that teaching is implicit in the Pope's speech, not explicit.

Read this report of the speech by John Allen, the American doyen of Vatican analysts. Here's his intro:

It’s Vatican tradition for the pope to deliver a sort of “Year in Review” address to his staff in the Roman Curia each December, and over time these speeches have come to play two roles – one overt, the other implicit. The first is to give the pope a chance to frame how he’d like the year to be remembered; the second is to subtly defend aspects of his activity or teaching over the last 12 months which may have raised eyebrows, or set tongues wagging, in his own house.

This year, Benedict XVI used his annual address to the Curia, delivered the morning of Dec. 22, to highlight two such elements of his track record in ’08: World Youth Day, and his growing emphasis on environmentalism. He suggested that both pivot on a core Christian doctrine: the role of the Holy Spirit.

In a vintage twist, this consummate cultural-critic-cum-pope even enlisted Friedrich Nietzsche in his defense.

Also in connection with the Holy Spirit, Benedict touched briefly on the intrinsic bonds linking Christ, the Spirit, and the church - a point with important, though in this case unstated, implications for Catholic theology.

Any mention of homosexuality in Allen's report? Nope. Perhaps that was because Benedict himself didn't refer to it. On the other hand, he does say that humanity needs saving from "outmoded metaphysics" that blur the distinction between men and women. The destruction of traditional heterosexual relations is part of the wider destruction of God's creation.

The liberals will hate that juxtaposition. In the view of the secular world, and more than a few Tabletistas, "saving the planet" has become an alternative or successor project to the defence of the family. Pope Benedict has had the nerve to argue, in effect, that marriage is yet another aspect of the planet that needs saving.

So it boils down to this, really. Pope Catholic, shock horror. Admittedly, the shock and the horror are real. But that's Catholicism for you: a sign of contradiction.

12/24/2008 10:18 AM
 
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Marketa!!


Frohe Weihnachten aus Bayern!! Schön von Dir zu hören!!
12/24/2008 11:46 AM
 
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[SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796] [SM=x40796]


The Pope's Christmas condemnation of trans-sexuals

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from transsexual behavior
is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

By Jeff Israely
[IMG]http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/4627/enuslogotimehl9.gif[/IMG]
Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008


Condemnation of trans-sexuals! What a curious way of interpreting the Pope's words! Even as an extrapolation. And even if by 'trans-sexual', Israely means - as he appears to - anyone who chooses to behave in opposition to his/her sexual differentiation, though I doubt that homosexuals who have not had sex-organ changes would appreciate being called trans-sexuals.


"The celebration of the birth of the Lord is at our doorstep ..."

Thus began Pope Benedict XVI in his annual pre-Christmas address to top Vatican officials. But rather than a pro forma holiday wish of good tidings, the Pontiff delivered his latest heavy-hitting discourse on everything from ecology to ecumenism, with carefully chosen citations from past Popes and even Friedrich Nietzsche. The topic that most grabbed press attention came about halfway through the 30-minute long address: transsexuals.

Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender.

Defend "the nature of man against its manipulation," Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered Monday in the ornate Clementine hall. "The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected."

The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a "self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator." (See TIME's Top 10 religious stories of the year.)

Critics of the Church hierarchy see such pronouncements as proof of Catholicism's unhealthy "obsession" with sexual matters. In his book Sex and Heaven, Catholic writer John Portmann argues that the Vatican has made having "correct sex" the singular virtue for achieving salvation. [GEEZ! Anyone can claim anything, even absurd and patently untrue statements like this! Writing a book about it does not make it true, and just because the writer is Catholic doesn't make him right.]

In just the past month, the Vatican has announced its opposition to a United Nations proposal to protect gays from being criminalized and punished by governments for their orientation, and released a doctrinal office document reinforcing the Church's opposition to assisted fertility and stem cell research.

Even though these stands don't stray from his predecessor's, we tend to remember John Paul more for his globetrotting, crowd-pleasing ways. Benedict, more a thinking-man's Pope, tends to make news with his words rather than actions.

The question "What is man?" is fundamental both to Benedict's worldview and to his attempts to convince his flock to question the conventions of modern secularized society. Much has been made of the Pope's recent focus on environmental issues. On Monday he repeated his metaphor that the human body should be protected much as environmentalists want to protect the earth.

"The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the creator Spirit, also means that beyond the mathematical order, their rational structures in the experiment become almost palpable, which in itself brings an ethical orientation," he argued Monday, before declaring that one "must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. One must also protect man against the destruction of himself."

Thus Benedict's concern with gender manipulation and environmental degradation are all of a precious piece: protecting God's creation. (See pictures of the Pope in Brazil.)

As incisive as his writing is, some Catholics still question the priorities coming from the bully pulpit. Why, for example, does he not use his Christmas address to boldly condemn Robert Mugabe, whose brutal dictatorship has left a largely Christian country crushed and struggling with a cholera outbreak that has already killed more than 1,000 people? Such thoughts naturally recall Benedict's predecessor, whose geopolitical skills were legendary. [Oh, the eternal comparison! But did John Paul II ever specifically condemn any single person by name? Popes never do - they denounce and even condemn actions and circumstances, never persons by name. And in any case, an address to the Roman Curia is hardly to place to denounce political events - the direct audience here is not the bishops of the world, who interact with local societies, but the men who run the government of the Church, its internal workings.]

Though their view of internal doctrine and the world at large are virtually identical, the last two papacies have featured a contrast in personalities and skill sets. [One must thank Israely for acknowledging this identity of 'view' openly, for once. Most in MSM do not, and usually report Benedict's affirmations of Catholic doctrine - those they disapprove of - as though they were merely his personal opinions, not the teaching of the Church, and as though the Popes before him, John Paul II included, never preached them or even supported them! But Israely also refers here to "their view of internal doctrine" - as if Popes preach 'their view' of the doctrine, rather than the doctrine itself!]

In his end-of-the-year address, Benedict seemed to confront the expectations that may have been created by the popularity of John Paul.

[WHAT???? Israely shares with many of his colleagues in MSM a now thoroughly predictable way of refracting everything he says about Benedict through the prism of his predecessor.

First, what expectations does he mean? Benedict's point precisely was that even Catholic circles seem to think WYD is simply all show, i.e. the "expectations that may have been created by the popularity of John Paul II" were not entirely positive!

Next and more fundamental: this Pope, almost from the get-go - against all expectations - simply shattered all the smug certainties of the media Cassandras (Israely being one of them) who were so sure no one could ever step into John Paul II's shoes, to begin with, in terms of popularity, taken to mean the power of attracting people. Benedict is not playing 'also ran' at all in this respect.

And yet, people like Israely continue to speak of John Paul's popularity as though it is something his successor can only dream of! It is their way of blocking out the fact that Benedict has been amazingly popular, even in his few trips abroad so far - trips at which John Paul II was also held to be an unrepeatable phenomenon in terms of popular success [in terms of number of trips, his record is likely to be challenged only by the next Pope who will be Pope for a quarter century] - and continues to be so regarded.

What MSM types - especially those who are not serious Catholics - do not seem to grasp is that any Pope is bound to be the object of 'mass appeal ', if you want to call it that (veneration is what I call it), simply because he is the Pope, in whom most Catholics do see the Vicar of Christ on earth, which is arguably the most awesome function any human being can hold!


Reflecting on his trip this summer to Australia for World Youth Day, Benedict said it was wrong to think of these kinds of mass Church events as a "type of rock festival modified in the ecclesiastic sense, with the Pope as the 'star'."

As he prepares to lead his fourth midnight Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, the soft-spoken Pontiff will aim yet again to reach the faithful through the force of his intellect and the grace of his prose. [Again, thank you, Mr. Israely, for acknowledging this - and for having resisted this time (not explicitly, at any rate) your usual schoolmaster reflex of rapping Bad Boy Benedict's knuckles for yet another literal faux pas (false step) as you have been so ready to do in the past. Why not this time, though? Is it because you consider 'trans-sexuals', as you call them, less worthy of being 'defended' from this white-capped bully compared to Muslims (Regensburg) or indigenous Americans (Aparecida)? Or maybe it's your way of expressing some Christmas goodwill towards Pope Benedict.]

Many however will tune in because the man in white, even one with both academic and doctrinaire tendencies, will always carry serious star power. [Oh, so at least Israely sees this! But why "the man in white will always carry serious star power" is because he is the Vicar of Christ, and those who report on the Pope should never forget that that is who he is to most Catholics, even if they may scoff at the idea.]



[SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799] [SM=x40799]

But not all is 'doom and gloom' from TIME. Check out their photo essay on the Papal visit to the US:
www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1731374_1567755...

and one on 'Pope Benedict's style' annotated by Fr. Guy Selvester:
www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1730229,00.html
that notably omits, however, the Pope's re-introduction of the Roman chasuble, and generalizes that Benedict prefers 'taller miters' than John Paul did (even if the very next picture shows him wearing a very short miter!




[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 1:43 PM]
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12/24/2008 1:23 PM
 
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OR today.
[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/081224.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-1%20TO%20041408/DUNS-SCOTUS-RELIEF.jpg[/IMG]

No Papal 'news' in this issue. The headline is about the genocide going on in Somalia that
the world is ignoring, annd there is a front-page editorial commentary about the Church
and sexuality. But the paper is only now printing the Apostolic Letter from the Holy Father
to Cardinal Meisner of Cologne on the occasion of the 7th centenary celebration of the death
of Blessed John Duns Scotus (portrayed in the relief, photo above), which the Vatican posted
online two days ago (translated and posted on this thread in the preceding page). In it,
the Pope called on the participants in the international congress of scholars last November
in Cologne (where Duns Scotus taught and died) to follow his example of harmonizing reason
with faith.



Obviously, no General Audience today.

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-3%20052208/FORUM-5%20LOGOSBANNERS/VATICAN-LIT-OFC-SML.jpg[/IMG]

Dec. 24, Wednesday
Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity
24:00 St. Peter's Basilica
CAPPELLA PAPALE
Midnight Mass

Dec. 25, Thursday
Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity
12:00, Central Loggia of St. Peter's
'Urbi et Orbi' Blessing




[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/2008-CHRISTMASCARD.jpg[/IMG]
Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus(Titus 2,11)
(The grace of God has appeared, saving all)




A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!






[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 2:12 PM]
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12/24/2008 2:35 PM
 
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Paul Badde
Theresa, I found this article on kath.net - I don't know if you've seen that one. Have a look.

www.kath.net/detail.php?id=21682


Thanks, Heike, for pointing it out - and thanks to Paul Badde (from whom I don't remember seeing any article on Benedict XVI this year, and who has written great things in the past) for his sensible treatment of the issue.

For those who do not read German, it is entitled 'Pope Benedict and the accusation of homophobia', but it is also a very good essay in which Badde describes how Westerners have managed to start changing concepts and definitions of human sex and gender, which is all of a piece with their rejection of the embryo or the fetus as a person.

I will translate as soon as I can, I hope before I get caught up in my Christmas Eve duties later today.

TERESA






[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 2:53 PM]
12/24/2008 2:40 PM
 
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Pope's visit announced
by Patriarch of Jerusalem

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/FORUM-2/BBC-1.jpg[/IMG]
Dec. 24, 2008



Pope Benedict XVI is to make his first visit to the Holy Land in May, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem has said.

Fouad Twal said the Pope wished to pray with the people of Jerusalem and acquire first-hand knowledge of the difficult conditions facing the region.

Archbishop Twal did not give specific dates for the visit but reports suggest the Pontiff could travel to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank in mid-May.

He is expected to visit Nazareth and Bethlehem during the trip.

While he is there, Pope Benedict will also meet the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The trip will be his first visit to the Middle East since his election as pontiff in 2005.

[IMG]http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/ii232/TERESA7_album/TWAL-4IN.jpg[/IMG]

Archbishop Twal, the Vatican's most senior representative in the Holy Land, gave the first official confirmation of the trip during his Christmas message.

He said that Pope Benedict would, just like his immediate predecessors, be visiting Jerusalem as a pilgrim.

"The Supreme Pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire first-hand knowledge of the hard conditions of our region," he added.

In his Christmas message, the archbishop expressed the hope that the region would see an end to "occupation... injustice... fears, hardships and [the] internal divisions that beset this land".

The building of Israeli settlements "strangles" the land, the archbishop added.

He called on the international community to reach a "just and final peace in the Holy Land", and encouraged Palestinians to seek political reconciliation.

"We also call upon the Palestinians themselves to return to unity in the context of a recognised Palestinian legal structure, and in this way to spare the people the continuing and degrading siege," Archbishop Twal added.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been run by separate administrations since June 2007, when the Islamist militant group Hamas ousted forces loyal to Mr Abbas and his Fatah movement from the Gaza Strip.

The Patriarch, who was born into a Christian Bedouin tribe in Jordan, was appointed to his current post by the Vatican in June.

He replaced Michel Sabbah, who was also known for his passionate appeals for an end to violence in the Middle East.

Relations between Israel and the Vatican have become tense in recent months, after news leaked out that the Vatican was considering making the wartime Pope Pius XII a saint, reports the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Some Israelis accuse Pius of having turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, although the Vatican denies this.

However the beatification of the sometimes controversial Pope has been put on hold by Pope Benedict for the time being, as he wants to create a positive atmosphere for his first visit to the Middle East, says our correspondent.

Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit Israel, in 1964. The last Pope, John Paul II, visited in 2000.


Pope set to visit Holy Land in May
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May on his first trip to the region as pontiff, Jerusalem's Latin patriarch says.

"With joy we would like to announce to you the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim next May," Fuad Twal, the Catholic leader in the Holy Land, told reporters on Tuesday.

It was the first official confirmation of Benedict's widely mooted trip to the region - his first since being elected pope in 2005.

"The supreme pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a first-hand knowledge of the hard conditions of our region," Twal said in his Christmas message.

"We are confident in the Lord that this pontifical pilgrimage and pastoral visit will be a blessing for all of us as well as a substantial contribution to better understanding among the various nations of the region, lifting the barriers and helping solve the problems, removing distress and consolidating good relations among people, religions and denominations," Twal said.

He did not give specific dates. "We are studying the program with the local authorities," he said. Last week the Italian newspaper Il Foglio said the Pope would travel to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories from May 8 to 15.

According to Il Foglio, the Pope will celebrate mass in Jerusalem and again in Nazareth and Bethlehem where he will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

No meeting is planned with representatives of the radical Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, the report said.

Earlier in December, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he met a Vatican delegation to discuss preparations for a possible visit by Benedict to Israel next year.

During a visit to Italy in September 2007, Peres invited the Pope to Israel. The Pope responded that he would be happy to accept the invitation, but no date was set.

Already uneasy relations between the Vatican and Israel have been further strained by the prospect that Nazi-era Pope Pius XII will be declared a saint, despite widespread criticism of his inaction during the Holocaust.

The controversy, which has lingered for decades, resurfaced in October as the pontiff defended the memory of his wartime predecessor and said he hopes his beatification - the first step towards sainthood - would go forward quickly.

But, citing Jewish sensitivities, the Vatican later indicated that Benedict was holding off the beatification process.

Peres has stressed that the row should not affect plans for the proposed papal trip.

Benedict's visit will come at a time when Church leaders bemoan a shrinking Roman Catholic population in the Holy Land over recent years.

"Churches suffer from the ongoing emigration of the Christians due to the lack of peace and the deterioration of the political situation," Twal said.

He also railed against the greed, injustice, violence and persecution that he said beset the Holy City, as well as "the building of settlements that strangle it".

"All this makes us anxious for the future of the Christian community in the Homeland of Christ," Twal said.

Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit Israel, in 1964, and Pope John Paul II visited in 2000.



Jerusalem patriarch confirms
visit by Benedict XVI

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Jerusalem, December 23 (ANSA)- The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, has officially confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May.

The announcement was made in the patriarch's first Christmas message.

''It is with great joy that we announce the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim next May. The Pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us and to have first-hand knowledge of the difficult situation in our region,'' Jerusalem's archbishop said.

Although the Vatican has confirmed Benedict's intention to visit the Holy Land in 2009, it has yet to give any precise dates.

Some observers believe the pope will announce his visit over the Christmas-New Year holiday period.

Last week the Italian daily Il Foglio cited Vatican sources who said that the pope would begin his visit in Jordan on May 8 and would be in Israel May 11-15. [Report was translated and posted on this thread.]

According to Il Foglio, Benedict also intends to meet with Palestinian Authority officials during his visit.

The daily wrote that the pope will celebrate three important masses, one in Jerusalem, one in Nazereth and one in Bethlehem.

Il Foglio also reported that Benedict has no intention of meeting with representatives from the Hamas Islamic party but would visit the Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and hold talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The possibility that the pope would visit the Holy Land in 2009 was first confirmed by the Vatican last month after it was reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

At the time the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, said the visit was ''very probable''.

''We're working hard on it,'' he said. ''A visit by the pope to the Holy Land would have incomparable historic value and he himself has already announced his desire to go there,'' Lewy added.

The ambassador admitted that there were ''certainly differences of opinion'' between the Vatican and the Israeli authorities, but that these did not constitute an obstacle to the pontiff's visit.

The main cause of contention between the two states centres around wartime Pope Pius XII, who many Jews have criticised for failing to speak out against the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust.


In messages, Holy Land church leaders
call for peace, reconciliation

By Judith Sudilovsky
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 23 (CNS) -- Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal's first Christmas message as patriarch of Jerusalem was one of hope and encouragement, without ignoring the Holy Land's difficulties.

"Christmas has come and so we are full of hope. We are thankful for hopeful signs around us, such as recent international encounters at the highest levels among religious leaders and among other peacemakers," Patriarch Twal said in his Dec. 23 message.

He told journalists at a press conference that after his first six months as patriarch he felt "fine" in the "most beautiful and most complicated diocese in the world."

"There are many problems, yet at the same time I do not feel alone in this mission. It will be OK," he added.

In his message, he said hope did not prevent the daily sadness from the "instability, insecurity, the unclear vision for the future and not least the aggression against citizens and their land and property."

The patriarch called Iraq "the second tragedy" which could not be ignored. Iraq's population, culture, heritage and history have been undermined "because of its occupation by foreign military forces."

"It is our wish that all Iraqi citizens should be able to remain in their homeland," he said. "We pray for the unity of Iraq and for its return to normal life."

The patriarch also confirmed that a papal pastoral visit to the Holy Land will take place in May.

In a separate Christmas message Dec. 18, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, addressed the world financial crisis.

"The torments that today most brutally afflict society are of an economic nature. Materialistic society discovers with dismay its deepest fragility. Being poor or becoming poor becomes a real possibility for everyone," he said. "But this is only the outward sign of a deeper poverty that afflicts the soul. We too discover that we are shepherds in the night."

"This year more than ever we are certain that we will not be alone in seeking the child," he added.

In a separate Dec. 22 Christmas message, the patriarchs and heads of churches in the Holy Land urged believers to stand alongside those who suffer.

They said they prayed that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and other world leaders would see the "urgent need for peace in the Middle East."
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/24/2008 3:05 PM]
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