While googling for photos of the Holy Father's previous vacations in Les Combes, I came across this article - and a similar one in TIME - reminding me that his first vacation in Les Combes coincided with the completion of his first 100 days in office, for which both articles were written. I thought you might enjoy this lookback, whic a form of Benaddiction... and see how ephemeral and/or hasty some conclusions drawn then may have been. In July 2005, I had not yet discovered Ratzigirl's forum, which I did not join till late August.
The first three months of Benedict XVI:
New Pope, new style
The intelligentsia have turned their backs on him, but the common faithful haven't –
they have a greater appreciation for him than was foreseen.
Initial signs of a different pontificate
ROME, July 15, 2005 – During his first three months as Pope, Benedict XVI has not succeeded in winning over the major Italian and international press, which to a great extent remains hostile to him.
Among Catholic intellectuals, too, the cease-fire that the prince of the dissenters, Hans Küng, conceded to him after the election seems to have expired.
From the beaches of California, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese – who is said to have been dismissed as director of America
at the behest of Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a cardinal – has blasted the new Pope as an irreconcilable enemy of modernity, inspired by the gloomiest form of Augustinianism imaginable.
By way of demonstration, Reese recommended an essay in Commonweal
by Joseph A. Komonchak, who is a priest of the archdiocese of New York, a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and one of the leading collaborators in the five-volume History of Vatican Council II
edited by Giuseppe Alberigo.
The most widely read history of the council in the world, this series was recently the object of criticism from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar in Rome.
And in Italy, professor Achille Ardigò, a guru of the Bologna "school" founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and headed by Alberigo, said during an interview with the newspaper la Repubblica
: " I pray every day to the Holy Spirit, that he may guide the Pope and Cardinal Ruini to turn aside from their rationalist theology," a theology which – as the historian Pietro Scoppola has also said in an interview with Avvenire
– adheres to natural law, throws out everything in politics, and "excludes the role of transcendence in human activity." [????? Something is not right here - but I checked teh original Italian and it says the same thing. How could any theology of Joseph Ratzinger 'exclude the role of the trancendent in human activity', when admitting the transcendent into one's reason and activity is precisely what he argues for all the time?]
In another interview with Repubblica
, Alberigo recalled that in 1953, at his home in Bologna, a "pious and rather famous" Benedictine monk who was staying with him as his guest invited him and his wife to pray for the death of Pius XII – which took place in 1958 – with the explanation: "Now the Holy Father is a burden for the Church; let's pray that the Lord will take him soon." [Alberigo has since died, but the sheer un-Christian malice of the monk's supposed statement, and Alberigo's applying it to Benedict XVI is astounding!]
But for his part, Benedict XVI is captivating the crowds.
The same masses of the faithful that applauded the gestures or striking phrases of Pope Karol Wojtyla, while almost completely missing what it was that he was talking about, are doing the opposite with the new pope.
They follow Ratzinger's homilies word for word, from beginning to end, with an attentiveness that astonishes the experts. Verifying this takes nothing more than mingling among the crowds in attendance at a Mass celebrated by the Pope.
The new Pope's style is sober in terms of his contact with the masses. His symbolic expressiveness comes entirely from the liturgy, which he celebrates with a great sense of authority. But apart from the Masses, catecheses, and blessings, Benedict XVI is a minimalist.
"The Pope must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word," he said when taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7.
And he keeps to this standard even in regard to public gestures. He does very little of his own. He wants the faithful to pay attention to what is essential, which is not his own person but Jesus Christ alive and present in the sacraments of the Church.
He even spends his vacations in his own way. He doesn't go for the mountain peaks and the ski lodges like his athletic predecessor. On July 12, when he went to the mountains in Les Combes, in Valle d'Aosta, he brought a piano and three suitcases full of books.
He writes out by hand the things that are close to his heart: his homilies, the upcoming encyclical, and a few crucial speeches, like the one he gave on June 6 to a convention on the family which unleashed reactions around the world: in Italy, it was applied to the imminent referendum on assisted procreation; in Spain, to law on gay marriage; and in the United States, to the disputes over homosexuality.
Benedict XVI writes everything by hand, in German, in a miniscule script that is perfectly legible to his trusted secretaries, Ingrid Stampa and Birgit Wansing, both of whom are German and belong to the spiritual movement of Schönstatt, which was started in 1914 in a small Marian sanctuary in the Rhine valley and today is found in eighty countries throughout the world.
Ingrid Stampa has been his personal assistant since 1991, when Ratzinger was living in his apartment of three hundred square meters in Piazza della Città Leonina, just a few steps away from the Vatican.
Now she shuttles back and forth between that apartment and the Apostolic Palace, where – while the Pope is away for the entire summer, first in Valle d'Aosta and then at Castel Gandolfo – the real work of arranging the pontifical quarters has begun. [I always had the impression Ingrid's role this way had ended much earlier after April 19, 2005.]
Benedict XVI possesses an extensive and carefully ordered library, which covers all of the walls of his old apartment. And that is where he intends to leave much of it. [No, he did not!]
Birgit Wansing has also remained behind after the Pope's transfer to his new residence; as before, she continues to work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Ratzinger was prefect for 23 years.
Ingrid Stampa, for her part, has been integrated into the German section of the Secretariat of State.
But Benedict XVI has brought with him, to his residence at the Apostolic Palace, Carmela and Loredana, members of Memores Domini, the monastical branch of the group Communion and Liberation. They observe the three evangelical counsels, but do not wear a religious habit. They take care of the kitchen, the cleaning, the wardrobe.
The latter of the two has worked in the past with Cardinal Angelo Scola, when he was rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Another two sisters of the same order, Emanuela and Cristina, will soon complete the team.
Then there is the Pope's personal secretary, who like him is Bavarian [he is not Bavarian; he comes from the Black Forest]
, Georg Gaenswein, 48, a priest of the diocese of Freiburg in Bresigau.
Until this year, he taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Rome university of Opus Dei. He has been Ratzinger's secretary for two years.
There is a significant difference between him and John Paul II's famous right-hand man, Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow. Dziwisz exercised an important influence over the thousand decisions of ordinary Church governance that Papa Wojtyla overlooked. And the looming presence of his secretary was never lacking at any of the Pope's working lunches or dinners.
It's no longer that way with Benedict XVI . Gaenswein appears less frequently and exercises less influence. The new Pope doesn't invite anyone to lunch or dinner [though he shares his meals with his household, including Mons. Gaenswein]
, just as in the past he was not accustomed to so doing. He speaks informally with his guests and forms his decisions personally.
The first surprise was the nomination of his successor as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: William J. Levada, an American, was totally unexpected. The future nominations to the curia, beginning with the successor to Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, will probably bring more surprises.
There has also been a change in the wind at the Vatican press office. Joaquín Navarro-Valls has been confirmed as director, but he obviously does not have with Benedict XVI the direct and osmotic relationship that he had with John Paul II.
He can no longer permit himself to shape and amplify the Pope's gestures, statements, and performance. He knows that the newly elected Pope wants to control and make very modest use of his own image and public exposure.
Navarro still has his relationships in the Secretariat of State, to which he belongs administratively. But in the course of three months he has already had two mishaps.
The first was connected with the apparent denial of a preliminary Vatican investigation into accusations of sexual abuse made against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
The second involved the adjective "anti-Christian," which was initially applied to the terrorist attack in London on July 7 and later removed. Neither case was a shining example of clarity in communication from the Vatican press office or the Secretariat of State.
Navarro was the Jack-of-all-trades when it came to the books published by Karol Wojtyla while he was Pope. Not with Benedict XVI. Ratzinger himself took care of all the preparations for the publication of his first book published after he was eleceted Pope, L'Europa di Benedetto nella crisi delle culture
[Benedict's Europe in the Crisis of Cultures]. He personally selected the publisher, David Cantagalli, of Siena.
In the case of another book that he released through the same publisher, Fede, verità, tolleranza
[Faith, Truth, and Tolerance]” he had one hundred numbered copies printed on high-quality paper and personally handed them out as gifts one by one.
Ratzinger was less fortunate with the San Paolo publishing house, which he gave the rights to publish, in Italy, the new "Compendium" of the catechism of the Catholic Church. The result was a volume of mediocre appearance, in terms of both the text and the images.
And yet the images themselves, fourteen masterpieces of Eastern and Western sacred art, were chosen personally by Ratzinger, who wanted them to make up an integral part of the catechism.
The extent of his appreciation for great Christian art, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphonic music is another element that distinguishes the new Pope from his predecessor.
Archbishop Piero Marini, the director of the modernized ceremonies for television so dear to John Paul II, is waiting to be assigned other duties.
Benedict XVI has already reined in the extraordinary number of saints and blesseds proclaimed by pope Wojtyla. Ratzinger does not proclaim the new blesseds himself, leaving this instead to the appropriate local churches, and he has put the brakes on the proclamation of new saints [but the great number of proposed beatifications and canonizations already in process when he became Pope have been running their course, and so he has proclaimed quite a few saitns and blesseds himself].
Another cutback regards trips abroad. His will be few and tightly focused. He gave the example with his first trip, to Bari on May 29: he made a round trip in one morning, staying only to celebrate Mass. He will stay a bit longer in Cologne in mid-August. He plans a visit to the Jewish synagogue there, the second such visit by a Pope after the historic 1986 visit of John Paul II to the synagogue of Rome.
Concern for the relationship between the Church and Judaism is another characteristic feature of the new Pope, this in full continuity with his predecessor.
Benedict XVI seems no less decisive in his desire to make peace with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. He shares with them a focus on the centrality of the Eucharistic liturgy and respect for tradition. But there are serious obstacles.
Benedict XVI would gladly go to Istanbul on November 30, the feast of Saint Andrew, to meet with the patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who has invited him.
But he also needs an invitation from Turkey, which is aware of the new Pope's opposition to its entry into the European Union. [As we all know, he did not get that invitation till one year later.]
As for Moscow, which was at daggers drawn with the previous Pope, Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Walter Kasper there to check out the situation ahead of time. However, he was not able even to meet with Patriarch Alexei II.
The most critical point of contention here is the Ukraine. With more than five million faithful, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church wants to transfer its headquarters from Lviv to the capital, Kiev, before the end of the year. The plan is to consecrate a new metropolitan cathedral there in October, which would have jurisdiction over almost the entire country.
The Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow – most of whose reserves of faithful, vocations, and money are in the Ukraine – sees this as an intolerable affront and is demanding that Benedict XVI block the move.
The essay by Fr. Joseph A Komonchak in Commonweal
, which was recommended by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, former editor of America
'The Church in crisis; benedict's theological vision'
Here was TIME magazine's take:
Getting to know Benedict XVI
An unsigned article
Monday, Aug. 01, 2005
It is Day 97 [of the Benedictine Pontificate]. At noon sharp, the light rain that has been falling on the village of Les Combes, high in the Italian Alps, gives way to golden sunshine.
Equally punctually, the white-shocked man with an increasingly comfortable smile walks across a small meadow to greet about 8,000 believers. Pope Benedict XVI, officially on a summer "retreat," waves his two-handed wave, sits graciously through a local bishop's introduction and speaks.
With three months' practice at this, he no longer steps on applause lines, such as references to his predecessor and a much anticipated trip to Germany.
His initial remarks are energetic, though his expression while reciting the Ave Maria prayer remains more stoic than rapturous. He implores God to stay the hand of terrorists and convert their hearts, and he intones the Angelus honoring the Incarnation.
And then, after precisely 20 minutes, Benedict works the crowd a bit and heads back indoors to ... what? A first, tone-setting encyclical? The book whose existence is established but whose topic is not? The reorganization of the papal bureaucracy? People wonder.
Much as they have wondered for the past three months. A papacy is not a presidency, with every day's progress tallied obsessively on the march through a limited term.
Yet scholars had hoped by now for a sense of how Benedict's new station would affect his theology and whether his avid pursuit of heretics as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith meant that heads would roll.
Would there be more like Thomas Reese, the open-minded editor of the Jesuit magazine America
, whose departure was apparently sealed with Benedict's election? [I really hope there's some way to get to the root of this canard once and for all! Tt keeps showing up everywhere (Mgister mentioned it in the previous piece) - as though Cardinal Ratzinger (or John Paul II for that matter) had any say in what the Jesuits do internally which is not a violation of canon law. Reese has profited from this widespread impression all these years by becomign the top go-to guy - after Hans Kueng - any time the media wants to diss Benedict XVI.]
When would the new Pope tear into the ecclesiastic "filth" inside his Church and the "dictatorship of relativism" outside it that he had diagnosed preconclave?
Benedict's first 100 days have offered no definitive answers, but occasional modest indicators - plus a frank give-and-take with some of his Alpine hosts on Day 98 [this refers to his first Q&A session with local priests, unprecedented for a Pope, a practice he has continued in Rome and at every summer vacation]
- showed a progress of the man into the office and suggested that those who predicted a "caretaker" papacy may have spoken too soon.
An inside look at seven telling days of the new Pope's stewardship:
DAY 5 TAILORING HIMSELF TO THE NEW JOB
In a gesture probably intended to mollify a press that had been portraying him as an unrelenting hard-liner, the newly chosen Benedict invited journalists as guests to his first public appearance in the Vatican's Paolo VI auditorium on April 23.
But he was ill at ease, and the ever vigilant Italian scribes noted that the hemline of his robes was cut far too high, offering an unusually revealing look at his ruby papal slippers. It was the kind of gaffe his predecessor, as a former actor, would have been unlikely to commit.
A day later the hem had fallen. And over time Benedict found his office's public aspect an increasingly comfortable fit. His smile offset the famous dark circles beneath his eyes [DIM]8pt[=DIM][which, have hardly ever shown up in his pictures as Pope all these past four eyars and couting. One suspects that photographers may have deliberately favored poor lighting to bring up those shadows when he was cardinal!]
Eventually he was tolerating such photo ops as a public cell-phone conversation with an ailing nun and the donning of a fire fighter's hat.
"He'll never be a celebrity
," says a Vatican official who has worked closely with Ratzinger. "But he seems more joyful and sure of himself." [I believe this remark was made by Cardinal Kasper. Nut how does he define 'celebrity'?]
Ratzinger's brother was once worried that the job might harm his health. On the contrary, asserts Walter Cardinal Kaspar, a fellow German, "he is reinvigorated" by it.
DAY 25 CHARTING HIS COURSE WHILE HONORING THE PAST
In a bravura balancing act, on May 13 Benedict simultaneously fast-tracked John Paul II for sainthood and appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada as his own replacement to head the Vatican office on doctrine.
The first announcement may run counter to Benedict's natural inclinations: he appears to frown on mass-market saintmaking (he has said he will not attend beatifications, which are a step before canonization).
However, he clearly regards John Paul as a special case for sainthood and not just because of his own admiration. In the days before his election, the then Cardinal not only heard the cries of "Santo subito' ringing over St. Peter's Square but also reportedly saw a petition by a substantial number of his peers asking that John Paul's "cause" proceed without the usual five-year wait.
Thus Vatican watchers regard the exemption - which Benedict announced personally, in Latin, to roars of approval from a group of seminarians - as not simply a bow to overwhelming lay sentiment but also a kind of political nod to the Cardinals in the name of their collective mentor.
That nicely offset the independence Benedict signaled by choosing Levada. "Everybody," says a powerful Rome-based Cardinal, "was expecting a European" for the key slot.
Rome was certainly not anticipating a relatively obscure Archbishop from the scandal-plagued U.S. Church. By tapping Levada, a personal acquaintance with a reputation as a practical if unspectacular thinker, Benedict may or may not have been arranging to act as the de facto head of his old shop. But he certainly showed a willingness to go his own way.
DAY 41 DEFLATING AN IMAGE
In his first extra-Roman excursion, to the Adriatic port of Bari on May 29, Benedict seemed uncomfortable with the chants of "Be-ne-det-to!" by young Catholics eager to pick up the old "Gio-van-ni Paolo!" tradition. (In subsequent weeks, he even shushed them.)
"John Paul built a rapport based on [such] enthusiasm," says a Rome-based Cardinal. "This Holy Father tends to diminish the importance of enthusiasm." [No, he does not, as long as it is at the right time in the right place, not in the middle of a liturgy for instance, where enthusiasm for anything other than the sacrament being performed is certainly out of place. It's amazing how the media tend to 'imortalize; such trivial - and erroneous - conclusions.]
While preaching, Karol Wojtyla would wave, gesticulate and repeatedly make the sign of the Cross [He did? I must not have been paying attention!]
Benedict's pulpit style is austere by contrast, which more and more seems a philosophical choice rather than a personal reticence. During his Bari homily, which lauded observation of the Sabbath as an antidote to modern life's "unbridled consumerism" and "secularism closed to transcendence," Benedict allowed himself only a small circling gesture of his cupped hands. He displayed the Host with a simple up-and-down movement rather than the slow-motion drama that is a current Eucharistic vogue.
His former colleague calls this part of Benedict's attempt to "simplify the papacy" and "deflate" the Pope's image in favor of his ideas. He expresses those ideas simply so that the author's style does not obscure the primacy of Christ.
Observes Cardinal Kaspar: "John Paul would make longer, maybe more poetic discourses. Benedict is more precise. He is a theologian." An explainer of symbols, not the symbol itself.
DAY 56 BATTLEFIELD EUROPE
Much has been made of how "gentle" the new Pope is. And his comportment and rhetoric have been relatively mild, especially in contrast to his 24 years as a heresy hunter. [Heresy hunter! The media penchant for linking the CDF to its Reformation embodiment as the Inquisition is relentless!]
(While discussing AIDS prevention with African bishops, for instance, rather than restating John Paul's opposition to condoms, he simply called abstinence the only "fail-safe" way to prevent HIV.) [All this, four years before the airplane-interview flap!]
But those who missed the "Panzer Kardinal" were rewarded in the weeks before an unusual political triumph on June 13. It was clear that Benedict regarded Europe as the epicenter of the secular relativism he scorned, but it was less so what he might do about it.
When an Italian referendum threatened to end restrictions on in-vitro fertilization, the Pope joined the fray, telling Italian bishops fighting it, "I am close to you with my words and my prayers."
When the initiative failed, Italian television called the Church the winner. Three weeks later, Spain legalized gay marriage over Catholic objections and Benedict's (indirect) criticism.
But the Italian vote galvanized prelates who had suffered decades of defeat on divorce and abortion and suggested that if Benedict picks his political fights wisely, he may be rewarded.
DAY 80 A PLAYER ON ISLAM?
The deadly July 7 bombings in London exposed the Pope's desire to be heard on the topic of Islam. Within hours of the carnage, the Italian newswire ANSA reported that he intended to call the attack "anti-Christian." It seemed a harsh and narrow attribution, and indeed his actual statement replaced the term with "barbaric."
Yet Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano subsequently muddied the waters by saying that "anti-Christian" had been intended to suggest that the attacks were inconsistent with Christian values rather than aimed at Christian targets.
That in turn led to a careful clarification by Benedict that the bombings represented "not a clash of civilizations, but only a small group of fanatics."
Asked whether Islam is a religion of peace, he mused, "I wouldn't want to label it with big general words. Certainly there are also elements that can favor peace and other elements. We must try to find the best elements to help."
The response's nuance may not endear him to the Muslim group he intends to visit in Germany, but his notion of the Catholic Church "helping" moderate Islam was a telling excursion beyond typical interfaith vocabulary into the language of realpolitik. What sort of help Benedict might offer remains to be seen. [No one certainly expected Regensburg 13 months into the future - and all that it catalyzed, especially in positive ways!]
DAY 98 SPEAKING OUT AT LAST
July 27 may be remembered as the day the Pope finally opened up. Officially, reporters were barred from the 12th century cathedral in Introd, just down the hill from Les Combes, while he had a few words with local priests as his vacation ended.
But a day later, he passed the proceedings to L'Osservatore Romano
, the Vatican newspaper, and they were riveting. In a rat-a-tat-tat strafe of global Christianity, he asserted that traditional Protestantism is in "profound crisis," that evangelicalism owes its popularity to a "certainty" that he said derives from its willingness to settle for a "minimum of faith," and that although Catholicism "isn't in such bad shape," the West is "a world that is tired of its own culture ... that has arrived at a time in which there's no more evidence of the need for God, much less Christ, and in which it seems that man alone can make himself."
He acknowledged that a Pope is not an "oracle" and "is infallible only in rare situations" - a truism, but fresh, given what critics called the papal triumphalism of his predecessor.
Benedict also challenged a phenomenon in which John Paul often reveled - the explosion of priestly vocations in the developing world, which the new Pope said sometimes owes less to faith than to seminarians' quest for material gain and "social promotion" in their villages. If the global south is the church's future, he apparently plans to vet it.
Most concretely, he dashed the hopes of those who begged him to let Catholics who have divorced and remarried without managing to get an annulment take Communion. Yet he did so with some delicacy, acknowledging their suffering and saying they should feel they still belong to the Church.
Did his talk break new ground? Perhaps not doctrinally, but it demonstrated qualities that the Vatican has missed at least since the latter years of John Paul's illness: a questing, nuanced intelligence; a willingness to understand issues in their complexity even when he does not change his mind; a certain humility and a spirit of practical engagement that, rather than retreat behind rank or theological niceties, seem eager to take on the world of the Church and the Church in the world.
A few days earlier, when the Pope seemed to be playing his cards close to his chest, his spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls assured reporters who had made the pilgrimage to Les Combes not to worry.
"We'll have a lot of work to do," he said. "There will be a lot to analyze." Indeed, well before the next 100 days are up.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 7/13/2009 3:09 PM]