Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pope: Christianity Always Enters Into Dialogue with the Culture of Its Time

Catechesis on Tertullian

Benedict speaks about Tertullian

Vatican City, May 30, 2007 / 09:28 am (CNA).- In his general audience today, Benedict XVI resumed his series of catecheses on leading figures of the early Church, turning his attention to Tertullian. He is known as the first great Christian author to write in Latin and was born in Carthage around the year 150.

Addressing a throng of 32,000 people gathered for the audience, the Pope noted how Tertullian, "yielded vital fruits that it would be inexcusable to undervalue." His influence extended "from language and the recovery of classical culture to the identification of a shared 'Christian soul' in the world and the formulation of new prospects for human coexistence."

Tertullian "converted to Christianity because it seems he was attracted by the example of the martyrs. ... However, an overly individual search for the truth as well as the intemperance of his character gradually led him to abandon communion with the Church."

In his apologetic writings, Tertullian set two objectives for himself: "refuting the terrible accusations made by pagans against the new religion and, in a more constructive and missionary sense, communicating the Gospel message in dialogue with the culture of his time."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Benedict XVI calls the Church to re-launch its missionary activity

The New Evangelization

Benedict calls on the young to evangelize

Vatican City, May 29, 2007 / 09:41 am (CNA).- In anticipation of World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father released his message on missions today. Benedict’s call to the Church is to respond to, “the urgent need to re-launch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time."

Pope Benedict also recalls, that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Servant of God Pius XII's Encyclical "Fidei donum," which "promoted and encouraged cooperation between Churches for the mission 'ad gentes,'” or to the nations.

Contrary to those that claim that the Church is one that is humanitarian only, Benedict insightfully asserts that evangelizing efforts necessarily impact the whole of society.

"Missionary commitment, then, remains ... the Church's primary service to humanity today, in order to guide and evangelize cultural, social and ethical transformations, and to offer Christ's salvation to modern mankind, humiliated and oppressed in so many parts of the world because of endemic poverty, violence, and the systematic negation of human rights."

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Final Appeal: Save Christian Iraq


It is the only country where the liturgy is still celebrated in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But Christianity is in danger of dying out there. Killings, aggression, kidnappings. And now also the "jiza," the tax historically imposed by Muslims on their "infidel" subjects, those who have still not fled the country

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, May 28, 2007 – In Iraq’s bloody war, which is being fought primarily by Muslim groups against other Muslims and “infidels,” the Iraqi Christians are the only ones who are not using weapons or bombs, not even to defend themselves. There aren’t any armed Christian militias in Iraq. In fact, they are the most vulnerable and persecuted group. In 2000, they were more than a million and a half, 3 percent of the population. Today it is estimated that fewer than 500,000 remain.

In an official statement released on May 24, the Iraqi government promised protection for the Christian families threatened and chased out by terrorist Islamic groups. Some Muslim exponents have expressed solidarity. The government’s action – which, however, is devoid of concrete initiatives – follows the dramatic appeal issued on May 6 by Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of the Chaldeans, the most numerous Iraqi Catholic community, in the homily for the Mass celebrated in the church of Mar Qardagh, in Erbil, Kurdistan.

The Kurdish region, to the north of Baghdad, is the only place in Iraq where Christians today live in relative security. The Chaldean seminary of Baghdad, Babel College, was transferred to Erbil together with its library, and its buildings in the capital are now a stronghold for American troops in spite of the patriarchate’s protests.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pope: the Church, as a community of believers, missionary and “Roman” is born at Pentecost

05/27/2007 13:46

With the descent of the Spirit on Mary and the apostles, the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church emerged. Benedict XVI adds that the Church is also missionary and “Roman”, in short “faithful to its origins” and capable of embracing all peoples. Musical bands from Northern Europe present in the square.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his address before the Regina Caeli prayer Benedict XVI gave a short catechesis on the nature of the Church, as is recited in the Credo, to the tens of thousands gathered in St Peters square.
Reflecting on today's feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Cenacle, the pope said this event marked “the solemn birth of the Church”.

“In this extraordinary event – he continued – we find the essential and qualifying characteristics of the Church: the Church is one, as was the community of Pentecost gathered in prayer and 'agreement': ‘the community of believers was of one heart and mind' (Acts; 4,32). The Church is holy, not because of its own merits, but because it is animated by the Holy Spirit, it keeps its gaze fixed on Christ, so as to become one with Him and his love. The Church is Catholic, because the Gospel is destined for all peoples, thus from the very begining, the Holy Spirit makes it so it is announced in all tongues. The Church is apostolic, because it has been built upon the cornerstone of the Apostles, and is the faithful custodian of their teachings down through the unbroken line of episcopal succession”.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pope overrides objections on traditional Mass

By Alessandra Tarantino, AP
Gesu e Maria Church in central Rome celebrates the 16th-century Tridentine Mass every Sunday at 10 a.m. One regular at the church, Ginevra Crosignani, says she started coming about 10 years ago and finds it a much more transcendent experience than modern services.

Posted 5h 36m ago

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — It was one of the most radical reforms to emerge from the Second Vatican Council. The Mass, root of Roman Catholic worship, would be celebrated in the vernacular and not in Latin.
Now, little more than a generation later, Pope Benedict XVI is poised to revive the 16th-century Tridentine Mass.

In doing so, he will be overriding objections from some cardinals, bishops and Jews — whose complaints range from the text of the old Mass to the symbolic sweeping aside of the council's work from 1962-65. Many in the church regard Vatican II as a moment of badly needed reform and a new beginning, a view at odds with Benedict, who sees it as a renewal of church tradition.

A Vatican official, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, confirmed earlier this month that Benedict would soon relax the restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass because of a "new and renewed interest" in the celebration — especially among younger Catholics.

In recent decades, priests could only celebrate the Tridentine Mass with permission from their bishop. Church leaders are anxiously awaiting Benedict's decision, to see how far he will go in easing that rule

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pope: to counter rising relativism, the Church must renew its missionary vocation

05/24/2007 17:26


In his speech to Italy’s bishops, Benedict XVI underscores the separation of what is God’s and what is Cesar’s, but maintains that the Church works for mankind’s wellbeing, such as safeguarding the family.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In modern society, where the tide of relativism and nihilism is rising, the Church cannot renege on announcing the Gospel, neither can it “reduce or weaken its missionary vocation” or above all give up on formation especially of the young, “perhaps the most difficult task, but certainly its most important”. At the same time, the Church cannot falter in standing up for “the good of mankind”, such as safeguarding the family –the Church appreciates and encourages the State to work in its favour – and the “daily service to the many poor, old and new, visible and invisible”. The Churches actions in favour of mankind, from both the spiritual and material point of view, were at the heart of Benedict XVI’s speech to the Italian bishops, who were gathered today in the Vatican for their 57th general assembly.

“We note on a daily basis” revealed the Pope, “the weight of a culture that is imbued with moral relativism, lacking in certainties but rich in unjustified re-vindications”. As result “there is a need to strengthen our Christian formation” which according to the Pope’s address is first among the Churches priorities, presupposed by the spreading of the Gospel. Continuing on from this, the Pope affirmed that “Esteem and respect toward other religions and cultures, with the seeds of truth and goodness that are present in them and which represent a preparation for the Gospel, are particularly necessary today in a world that is growing closer". At the same time however, this “respect for others cannot diminish awareness of the originality, fullness and uniqueness of the revelation of the true God definitively given in Christ":

An added responsibility for the bishops is their duty to towards the nation. “Dear friends – he said – you have a precise responsibility not only to the Church but also towards the entire nation”. A responsibility, “which fully respects the distinction between the Church and politics, between what be long’s to Cesar and what belongs to God, we cannot help concerning ourselves with that which is good" for the person, created in the image of God; in short for Italian society".

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blair to meet Pope before he steps down

Tony Blair will be meeting Pope Benedict for the second time

In The News
Thursday, 24 May 2007 09:48

Tony Blair will meet the Pope at the Vatican next month as part of a visit to Italy before he leaves office on June 27th.

The prime minister's meeting at the Vatican will be the second time he has talked with Pope Benedict XVI since the German succeeded John Paul II in 2005.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said: "The prime minister hopes to go to Rome to visit both prime minister Romano Prodi and the Pope before he stands down.

"He wants to discuss the EU summit with Mr Prodi and discus interfaith issues, particularly in light of the forthcoming conference on Islam here."

Neither the Vatican nor Downing Street has confirmed when the visit will be, although it is expected to occur during the early part of June.

Mr Blair, whose wife Cherie is Catholic, has been widely rumoured to be prepared to convert to Catholicism when he leaves office.

It is understood that the he took communion from John Paul II while visiting the Vatican in 2003, but the Catholic institution has never confirmed this.

The prime minister has been travelling widely since confirming in a speech at his constituency in Sedgefield that he would be standing down at the end of next month.

He has since visited US president George Bush in Washington and the Iraqi president and prime minister.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pope insists: Gospel did not destroy native cultures in America

Vatican City, May 23, 2007 / 12:42 pm (CNA).- During his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict reflected on his recent apostolic trip to Brazil and insisted that, despite the shadows in the process of announcing the Gospel in the new world, the Evangelization did not destroy but instead ennobled the native cultures.

Speaking before more than 25,000 people on a sunny day, the Pontiff said that his journey to Latin America, where he inaugurated the 5th General Conference of Latin American Bishops, "was primarily an act of praise to God for the 'wonders' worked among the people of Latin America, and for the faith that has animated their lives and culture over more than 500 years."

The Holy Father acknowledged that the "remembrance of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization on the Latin American continent: ... the suffering and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous peoples whose fundamental human rights were often trampled underfoot."

"But the obligatory mention of those unjustifiable crimes, condemned even at the time by missionaries like Bartolomeo de las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria, must not prevent us from recognizing with gratitude the marvelous work achieved by divine grace among those peoples over the course of the centuries."

On the Latin American continent, the Holy Father continued, "the Gospel has become the mainstay of a dynamic synthesis that has different aspects in the different nations but everywhere expresses the identity of the Latin American people."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Jesus Beyond Politics

Pope Benedict becomes the teacher he always wanted to be.

By George Weigel
Special to Newsweek

May 21, 2007 issue - At one poignant moment in Chaim Potok’s novel The Promise, Abraham Gordon, a distinguished Jewish scholar with a skeptical cast of mind, muses on one of modernity’s discontents while walking through Central Park with Reuven Malter, a brilliant, Orthodox rabbinical student: “Of course, that’s the problem … How can we teach others to regard the tradition critically and with love? I grew up loving it, and then learned to look at it critically. That’s everyone’s problem today. How to love and respect what you are being taught to dissect.” In that elegiac passage, written almost forty years ago, Potok defined precisely the problem that Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, addresses in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth. “Everything” in Christianity, the Pope writes, depends on building an “intimate friendship with Jesus.” That was true in first-century Galilee; it is just as true in the twenty-first century. But twenty-first century believers have a problem that their forebears didn’t face: the many issues posed by modern methods of reading ancient texts. Now, after two centuries of reading the Bible according to the historical-critical method-“dissecting” the biblical text, as the fictional Abraham Gordon might put it-many Christians are “in danger of clutching at thin air” in seeking this friendship with their Lord. Or so the Pope worries.

And not without good reason. Caricatures notwithstanding, Benedict XVI is no reactive anti-modern. He readily and gratefully acknowledges that, thanks to historical-critical scholarship, we know much more, today, about the different literary genres of the Bible; about the ways in which a Gospel writer’s intent affected his portrait of Jesus; about the theological struggles within early Christianity that shaped a particular Christian community’s memory of its Lord. The difficulty is that, amidst all the knowledge gained in the biblical dissecting room, the Jesus of the Gospels has tended to disappear, to be replaced by a given scholar’s reconstruction from the bits and pieces left on the dissecting room floor. And that makes “intimate friendship with Jesus” much more difficult, not just for scholars, but for everyone.

Monday, May 21, 2007

In Moscow Catholics remember John Paul II’s birthday

05/21/2007 12:18

The “Days of John Paul II,” a series of conferences and prayers commemorating the late pontiff on his 87th birthday, ended yesterday. Mgr Kondrusiewicz highlighted the fact that the commemoration coincided with the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church. Following the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, the Vatican expressed hope for greater dialogue between the two sister Churches.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The “Days of John Paul II,” a three-day series of conferences sponsored by the Catholic Church of Russia to commemorate the late Pontiff, ended yesterday. Begun on Friday May 18 and John Paul II’s birthday, they included prayers in Roman Catholic churches in Russia, and were brought to a close by a memorial meeting on Sunday in the presence of Mgr Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio, and Mr Jerzy Bahr, Poland’s ambassador to Moscow.

At the opening of the event, Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, archbishop of the diocese of the Mother of God, stressed the fact that the commemoration of John Paul II was happening at the same time that the Russia Orthodox Church was officially ending 80 years of division.

How to Lobby the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI in Aparecida do Norte, some 180 km north of Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 2007.
Martin Bernetti/ AFP / Getty

Postcard from The Vatican
Friday, May. 18, 2007

Matt Keller spent a decade in Washington lobbying senators and congressmen on campaign finance reform and ethics legislation. But lobbying the Pope presented a unique challenge to the 42-year-old former senior staffer at Common Cause, who could once get John McCain or Warren Beatty on the phone. Keller has, since 2003, worked for the United Nations World Food Program in Rome, and his mission, ahead of the Pope's trip to Brazil, was simple: get Benedict XVI to mention the aid group's annual worldwide anti-hunger march, Walk the World, which coincided with the final day of the pontiff's trip. And Benedict could be assumed to be amenable: After all, he has repeatedly called for action against hunger, and even commended last year's Walk the World march during a weekly prayer in Rome. Still, a papal endorsement amid the raised visibility of the Brazil trip would be both a bigger boost and a bigger challenge, given the clamor of demands on the papal agenda while he's abroad.

Getting access to the Pope proved incomparably more difficult than lobbying Washington lawmakers. "Talking to someone like me is part of certain people's job description [on Capitol Hill]," says Keller. "At the Vatican, it all seems so shrouded in mystery." But as an advocate for the global poor, his objective is not crafting legislation, but "raising visibility." And on that front, Keller quips, "The Pope is a 2-for-1 deal. He's world famous, and can speak with moral authority."

Keller began in March by helping draft a letter addressed to the Pope from the U.N. agency, asking him to again announce his support for Walk the World. But he knew that in order to achieve his goal, he had to find someone who both shared his agenda and also had direct access to the pontiff.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pope condemns sex, violence in media

Reuters - Sun May 20, 9:24 AM ET

Pope Benedict XVI gestures during his Angelus prayer at the Vatican May 20, 2007. The Pope on Sunday criticised media that transmitted anti-social and violent programmes as well as images that "vulgarise human sexuality".
Enlarge photo...

Reuters via Yahoo! News
Sun May 20, 9:11 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Sunday criticized media that transmitted anti-social and violent programs as well as images that "vulgarize human sexuality."

The Pope made his comments in a message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Communications, whose theme this year is "Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education."

"Programs that instill violence or anti-social behavior or vulgarize human sexuality are unacceptable, more so if they are presented to minors," the Pontiff said, addressing crowds of faithful in St. Peter's Square.

The Pontiff further called on the heads of the media industry to "promote human dignity, marriage and the family."

The Pope's comments followed a written message for the World Day of Communications released earlier this year which criticized animated films and video games, among other products, that exalt violence and trivialize sexuality.

"How could one explain this 'entertainment' to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation and abuse?" he asked in the message.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Benedict’s New Book

Catholic Culture
by Dr. Jeff Mirus
May 18, 2007

My parish church is blessed to have a very enthusiastic priest who recommends many excellent books from the pulpit. At morning Mass on the day on which Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth was to be released, he described how he had tried to get an advance copy the evening before at the local Barnes & Noble. But it hadn’t yet arrived, so it wasn’t until the next day that he began his homily by kissing Benedict’s book.

My own copy had been on advance order from Amazon for some time, and it arrived on my doorstep just an hour too late for me to hold the book up gleefully from the front pew while our priest was explaining how hard he had tried to get it. (Oh well, into every life, a little rain….) But I share his enthusiasm for this wonderful book.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cardinal: Pope to Relax Latin Mass Rules
Friday, May 18, 2007

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican official has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI plans to loosen restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, reviving a rite that was essentially swept away by the revolutionary reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos told a meeting of Latin American bishops in Brazil this week that Benedict wanted to give all Catholics greater access to the so-called Tridentine Mass because of a "new and renewed interest" in the rite.

Benedict is also acting in a bid to reach out to an ultraconservative schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X, and bring it back into the Vatican's fold, Castrillon Hoyos said Wednesday, according to a copy of his speech posted on the meeting's Web site.

The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the society in 1969 in Switzerland, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, particularly its reform of the Tridentine Mass into the modern liturgy celebrated today in the vernacular.

The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent. Benedict has been keen to reconcile with the group, which has demanded freer use of the old Mass as a precondition for normalizing relations.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Catholic Democrats chide Pope based on wrong information, says Catholic League

New York, May 17, 2007 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Catholic League president Bill Donohue said the 18 House Democrats, who chided Pope Benedict XVI, “are twice a disgrace.” The Democrats took it upon themselves to correct the Holy Father for allegedly saying he agreed with the Mexican bishop who reportedly invoked excommunication against the Catholic lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

The Democrats wrote: "Religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America -- it clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment and do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done."

The problem for the Democrats is that they got their facts wrong, thus disgracing them for the first time, said Donohue.

“What happened was at first confusing, but was quickly clarified,” Donohue acknowledged. First, no Mexican bishop ever invoked excommunication against any lawmaker for legalizing abortion. In fact, the Mexican bishop in question merely noted that support for abortion is incompatible with receiving Communion, and politicians who have done so should not attempt to receive it.

“On May 9, in his extemporaneous remarks aboard a plane going to Brazil, the Pope initially gave the impression that he favored excommunication of the lawmakers. Shortly thereafter—on that same day—his remarks were amended, making moot the idea that he favored such a penalty.”

“On May 10, the Vatican presented the pope’s official statement. That statement did not speak to excommunicating anyone—it simply restated Church teaching that Catholic legislators who advocate abortion rights should not go to Communion.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pope Encourages Defense of Europe's Heritage

Joins Leaders in Addressing Ecumenical Meeting

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2007, - Benedict XVI encouraged representatives of European Christian movements to work toward safeguarding the "particular richness" of the continent -- its faith.

The Pope said this in a message to the meeting Together for Europe 2007, sent on his behalf by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. The one-day meeting was held Saturday in Stuttgart.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called the gathering of some 250 Christian movements one of the most important ecumenical initiatives of the year.

"The Together for Europe initiative," the papal message read, "has come to life through the good ecumenical intuition of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican groups, associations, movements and communities, and seeks to underline the need to reaffirm together faithfulness to the Gospel in a Europe that risks losing its original values and giving up on its Christian roots."

The message quoted Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa": "I would like to mention in a particular way the loss of Europe's Christian memory and heritage, accompanied by a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history."

The message affirmed, "Benedict XVI echoes this consideration. From the beginning of his pontificate he has never missed an opportunity to recall the importance of safeguarding the Christian inheritance, the particular richness of the European continent."

The message called for "defending a human and spiritual heritage that is vital for the authentic development of Europe."

Benedict XVI expressed his wish that the meeting of Together for Europe would "strengthen the desire for communion that animates lay movements and communities of the different churches."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tough side of Pope is glimpsed on way to Brazil and sets clearer definition of him

These astute observations about Pope Benedict come from Spirit Daily:

The surprise of Pope Benedict who we have long called the "Pope who will surprise" is that there are two of him.

We are speaking, of course, of public perception.

One of the images is Cardinal Ratzinger, the persona everyone thought they knew.

He would be a "rottweiler," many believed -- reining in wayward members of the Church, clergy and laity alike.

Such was glimpsed when the editor of a liberal Catholic journal bowed out upon the Pope's elevation to the Throne of Peter, and it was glimpsed more recently when a Jesuit named Father Jon Sobrino was disciplined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for his "liberation theology."

The other image, the second Benedict persona, was the one who issued an encyclical on love -- as his first major piece of writing.

That has been the biggest surprise thus far in a papacy that is taking form as this Pope who (so long was in the giant shadow of John Paul II) begins to define himself.

Confounding it was to those who predicted that a "hardliner" was in the Vatican: not only the encyclical, but the repeated harping on love. Meanwhile, this ultimate theologian also has shown a proclivity for the mystical in the setting he chose for a major address in Brazil -- near a miraculous image -- and his stated desire to visit Fatima.

It is a crucial message -- a wonderful undertaking for any Pope (to underscore the single most important aspect of life on earth), the lessons on love, and the acknowledgment of the mystical (without which the Church suffers great loss) -- but there is also Cardinal Ratzinger the Enforcer and that side appeared during his trip to Brazil, where a Pope who many expected to be more like an attorney general showed his prosecutorial and tough-love side, if only for a few moments.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pope Benedict defends the truth of Christ against "the dictatorship of relativism"

A Portrait of Faith
With 'Jesus of Nazareth,' Pope Benedict XVI fights back against 'the dictatorship of relativism' by showing the world his vision of the definitive truth of Christ.

By Lisa Miller

May 21, 2007 issue - Who was Jesus, really? It has become acceptable, even fashionable, lately to speak of the Christian Lord in casual terms, as though he were an acquaintance with a mysterious past. Pope Benedict's trip to Brazil last week revived an old retelling of the Christian story in which Jesus is cast as a social revolutionary determined to overthrow the established order. The massive success of "The Da Vinci Code" reflected the hunger of millions to see Jesus as a regular person—a man with a wife and a child, a popular teacher whose true life story was subverted by the corporate self-interest of the early church. A look at any best-seller list reveals a thriving subcategory of readable scholarly and pseudo-scholarly books about the "real" Jesus: he was, they claim, a sage, a mystic, a rabbi, a boyfriend. He was a father, a pacifist, an ascetic, a prophet. In some parts of the Christian world, the aspects of Jesus' story that most strain credibility—the virgin birth and the physical resurrection—have become optional to faith.

One can almost hear Pope Benedict XVI roaring with frustration at this multiplicity of interpretations. Benedict, a theologian by training with an expertise in dogma, has been fierce in his condemnation of the creep of Western secularism, and the promiscuity of recent Jesus scholarship must seem to him another symptom of the same disease, all ill-founded and subjective claims. "We are building a dictatorship of relativism," he declared at the beginning of the 2005 enclave that elected him pope, "that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires." Benedict's answer to secularism is Christ, and this week the American publisher Doubleday releases "Jesus of Nazareth," Benedict's portrait of his Lord. It is an orthodox biography—one that acknowledges the role of analytical scholarship while in fact leaving little room for a critical interpretation of Scripture. This approach is not surprising, given Benedict's job description, but in a world where Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and other proponents of secularism credit belief in Jesus as one of the sources of the world's ills, Benedict offers an unvarnished opposing view: belief in Jesus, he says, is the only thing that will save the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Half a million pilgrims in Fatima on 90th anniversary of apparitions of Virgin Mary

Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 14:54
Subject: /Portugal-Religion/

Half a million pilgrims in Fatima pray for missing British girl

Lisbon (dpa) - About half a million pilgrims were in Fatima, Portugal on Sunday, the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary that appeared to three children in the pilgrim site.

At a mass, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano lamented the increasing alienation in Europe of the Catholic Church.

"In our countries a decline of faith is spreading, to which we cannot be indifferent," he said on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI who was in Brazil.

Europe was tempted to forget the faith that strengthened the continent for hundreds of years.

Believers in Fatima were this year called upon to pray for the safe return of Madeleine McCann, the 4-year-old British toddler, missing in Portugal's Algarve coast since May 3.

Portuguese authorities said Fatima on Sunday experienced the largest inflow of pilgrims since former pope John Paul II visited in 2000.

Located about 120 kilometres north of Lisbon, Fatima became legendary after the Virgin Mary was first said to have appeared to three shepherd children - Lucia dos Santos and brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto - on May 13, 1917.

Today, the place ranks among the most important sites for Catholic pilgrims worldwide, attracting over 3 million a year.

Church grows by attraction, not proselytism, Pope says

Pope in Brazil

Aparecida, May 13, 2007 / 10:13 am (CNA).- The Church grows by the energy of Christ’s love and not by the power of ideologies, Pope Benedict XVI said on Sunday morning, during the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of Latin American Bishops at the Marian shrine of Aparecida, Brazil.

Addressing a crowd of more than 300,000, including the some 200 Latin American cardinals and bishops arrived for the meeting that will last until May 31, the Pope said that “Mary welcomes us to this Upper Room and, as our Mother and Teacher, helps us to pray trustingly to God with one voice.”

Commenting on the Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Benedict said, “Church’s leaders discuss and argue, but in a constant attitude of religious openness to Christ’s word in the Holy Spirit.”

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Family, human life, fallen away Catholics priorities of the Pope for Church in Brazil

Pope in Brazil

Sao Paulo, May 12, 2007 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- In an extensive discourse on Thursday to the bishops of Brazil at the Cathedral Da Se in Sao Paulo, Pope Benedict XVI presented a systematic outline of the issues that should be a center of the Church’s pastoral ministry in that country, including the family and fallen away Catholics.

The Holy Father noted that in today’s society, “The sanctity of marriage and the family are attacked with impunity, as concessions are made to forms of pressure which have a harmful effect on legislative processes; crimes against life are justified in the name of individual freedom and rights; attacks are made on the dignity of the human person; the plague of divorce and extra-marital unions is increasingly widespread.”

“Even more: when, within the Church herself, people start to question the value of the priestly commitment as a total entrustment to God through apostolic celibacy and as a total openness to the service of souls, and preference is given to ideological, political and even party issues, the structure of total consecration to God begins to lose its deepest meaning,” the Pope stated.

Catholic Church Losing Ground in Latin America

Listen by Julie McCarthy

Weekend Edition Saturday, May 12, 2007 · Pope Benedict is on a five-day trip to Brazil. Latin America is home to to a large percentage of the world's Catholics, but the church is losing members to a booming evangelical Protestant movement. The pope is expected to address the Vatican's concerns over the exodus in a meeting Sunday with Latin American bishops.

In Brazil, Pope Stresses Morality

Pope Benedict XVI Visits Brazil
Pontiff makes his first papal trip to Latin America, a region considered by many to be the heart of his church, home to nearly half the world's Roman Catholics.

Washington Post
By Monte Reel

Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 12, 2007; Page A11

SAO PAULO, Brazil, May 11 -- Pope Benedict XVI used an open-air Mass on Friday to stress the importance of sexual morality, directly confronting what many here say represents the widest gap between the church hierarchy and a country with a reputation for tolerance.

Taking advantage of the largest crowd he is expected to attract during his five-day visit to Brazil, Benedict called for a rejection of those elements of popular culture that trivialize the church's prohibitions on sex out of wedlock.

"The world needs clean lives, clear souls and pure minds that refuse to be considered mere objects of pleasure," Benedict said during the Mass, which was held at a military airfield here and attended by hundreds of thousands of people. "It is necessary to say no to the elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and of virginity before marriage."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fatima: The secret's out, despite claims to the contrary

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite claims there are still secrets connected to the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary of state said the entire message has been published and has been interpreted accurately.

The Marian apparitions to three children in Fatima, Portugal, began 90 years ago May 13, and Pope John Paul II ordered the so-called "third secret" of Fatima to be published in 2000.

As the Fatima anniversary approached, the Vatican bookstore was selling copies of "The Last Fatima Visionary: My Meetings With Sister Lucia." The 140-page, Italian-language interview with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, opens with a letter of presentation from Pope Benedict.

The two men worked with Pope John Paul to publish the "third secret" and to write an official commentary on it, describing its depiction of a "man dressed in white" shot down amid the rubble of a ruined city as a prophetic vision of the 1981 attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul.

In the new book, Cardinal Bertone said Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, at the time the last surviving visionary, confirmed the Vatican's interpretation.

Pope Benedict canonizes First Brazilian Saint and makes call for reconciliation with God

Pope in Brazil

Sao Paulo, May 11, 2007 / 12:18 pm (CNA).- Today, before more than a million faithfull gathered at the Campo de Marte in Sao Paulo, Pope Benedict canonized Brazil's first native-born saint before hundreds of thousands of flag-waving followers in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation. Pope Benedict made reminded the necessity for reconciliation with God and among men, calling for clean lives and clear souls.

The Pope urged the faithful to follow the example of the new saint, the 18th century Friar Antonio Galvao, in helping the poor and needy in a world he said was "so full of hedonism".

Catholics came from across Brazil and other Latin America countries for the open-air mass, many camping out overnight in chilly weather on the Campo de Marte military airfield on the edge of Sao Paulo.

Pope Benedict's canonization of Friar Galvao was an important part of his mission on this trip to revitalize the Church in Latin America, home to nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

Pope Makes Appeal to Brazil's Youth


Listen by Julie McCarthy

Morning Edition, May 11, 2007 · Brazil is about to get its first native-born saint. Pope Benedict XVI will canonize 18th-century Franciscan monk Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao at an open-air Mass.

It's the third day of the pontiff's five-day visit to Brazil.

Thursday night, he told tens of thousands of young Catholics who packed a soccer stadium in Sao Paulo to resist ambition for wealth and power and what he called other "snares of evil."

The issue of abortion has been a consistent theme in this papal visit, and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church urged young people to promote life from "its beginning to natural end."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pope condemns abortion on Latin America trip

Benedict arrives in Brazil with harsh words about Mexican lawmakers

Sergio Moraes / Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI is welcomed upon arrival at the Guarulhos Air Base in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Wednesday.
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Updated: 5:00 p.m. ET May 9, 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Pope Benedict XVI began his first trip to Latin America Wednesday by laying down church law on abortion, suggesting that he agrees with bishops who said Catholic politicians in Mexico had excommunicated themselves by legalizing abortion in that nation’s capital.

Benedict, who will inaugurate an important regional bishops’ conference during his trip, also spoke strongly against abortion during his first speech in Brazil. Speaking in Portuguese, he said he’s certain that the bishops will reinforce “the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature.”

Hundreds of faithful waiting in the cold rain for a glimpse of Benedict seemed not to care about the major challenges the Vatican says he hopes to confront during his visit, such as the church’s declining influence in Brazil, the rise of evangelism, or his in-flight comments about Mexico City’s politicians.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pope heading to Brazil on first trip to Latin America

Boston Herald
By Associated Press
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Updated: 05:05 AM EST

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI departed Wednesday on his first pilgrimage to Latin America - a test of the 80-year-old pontiff’s stamina and how he intends to deal with pressing challenges to his church in the region.

The Vatican is promising he will deliver a tough message to politicians on poverty and crime during the five-day visit to Brazil - the world’s most populous Roman Catholic country - as well as try to strengthen a church battling to retain its leading role in the region.

The German-born pope plans to lay out his strategy when he opens a once-a-decade meeting of bishops from throughout Latin America in the shrine city of Aparecida, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, South America’s largest city.

The Vatican’s No. 2 official said Benedict will issue a "strong message" on poverty, social inequality, drug trafficking and violence and on the exodus of Catholics joining Protestant evangelical churches.

"We hope these messages are heard, not only in the Catholic communities but by the political class," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told reporters.

European Bishops acknowledge uphill road to re-Christianize Europe

Vatican City, May 8, 2007 / 10:58 am (CNA).- European bishops gathered in Rome for the seventh meeting of the Special Council for Europe of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops acknowledged today that the impulse for a new evangelization faces serious challenges on the old continent.

During the meeting, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, made reference to John Paul II's 2003 Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa” and recalled “the challenges and the signs of hope facing the Church on the European continent.”

According to the statement "the challenges of the current moment should encourage all the living forces of the Church to renew the impetus of evangelization on the European continent, which is showing signs of some weariness but also of revival.”

“In the face of the modern challenges facing the Church throughout the continent of Europe, it is Episcopal collegiality that represents the appropriate space for the communion of pastors among themselves and with the Holy Father, with a view to renewed evangelizing activity,” the statement adds.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pope's Brazil Visit Puts Social Justice in Spotlight

Giuseppe Cacace

Pope Benedict XVI, seen blessing parishioners in Vigevano, Italy, last month, is about to embark on a tour of Latin America. Getty Images
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Listen by Julie McCarthy

Morning Edition, May 8, 2007

When Pope Benedict XVI arrives this week in Brazil, he will no doubt recall the stir he made in the world's largest Roman Catholic country two decades ago.

Then, as Cardinal Ratzinger, the Defender of the Doctrine of the Faith, he clashed with Brazil's leading liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff. Ratzinger warned that his teachings conflated Christ's mission with Marxism, which drained Jesus of his divinity and unique role as the Son of God.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Holy Father consecrates his trip to Mary, the Mother of the Church

Apostolic Journey to Brazil

ROME, May 7, 2007 / 07:52 am (CNA).- Scattered sprinkles did not stop thousands of pilgrims from gathering in St. Peter's Square yesterday to hear the Pope's Regina Caeli address. In his first address of May, his Holiness drew attention to the fact that May "is the Marian month par excellence."

"After the Second Vatican Council," Benedict continued, "the Marian Cult has experienced a profound renewal." This year, May coincides with part of Eastertide, "and it is, therefore, a good time to illustrate the figure of Mary as the Mother who accompanies the Community of the Disciples gathered together in prayer while waiting for the Holy Spirit."

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pope asks for prayers ahead of Brazil trip


“ It is my first pastoral visit to Latin America and I am preparing spiritually to meet the Latin American subcontinent, where almost half of the Catholics of the entire world live, many of whom are young people. ”

- Pope Benedict XVI
Associated Press
Sunday, May 6, 2007 (Vatican City)

Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers on Sunday ahead of his trip to Brazil this week, saying he was travelling to a 'continent of hope' because of its young population.

''It is my first pastoral visit to Latin America and I am preparing spiritually to meet the Latin American subcontinent, where almost half of the Catholics of the entire world live, many of whom are young people.''

Benedict said this during his traditional weekly appearance from his studio window overlooking St Peter's Square.

Benedict's five-day pilgrimage, which begins on Wednesday, is a key part of Church efforts to strengthen its battle to retain its predominant role in the region where evangelical Protestants are growing in influence and winning converts from Catholicism.

''I think the Pope's trip to Brazil is very important for us and for the growth of our country. He represents hope, especially for our youth,'' said Sister Lucia, a nun from Brazil.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Benedict XVI meets Mohammad Khatami for dialogue about the Middle East

Catholic Muslim Dialogue

Vatican City, May 4, 2007 / 11:15 am (CNA).- "This morning, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, visited His Holiness Benedict XVI. He also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

This meeting is of particular importance because of Pope Benedict’s call at Regensburg for a dialogue between civilizations. In a world, where the turmoil in the Middle East is constantly on display, Khatami’s meeting with Benedict is a sign of hope that constructive efforts towards peace are being made.

"The conversations provided an opportunity to consider the importance of serene dialogue between cultures, with the aim of overcoming the severe tensions that mark our time and of promoting fruitful collaboration in the service of peace and of the development of all peoples.

"Mention was also made of the situation and problems of Christian communities in the Middle East and in Iran.”

"Concerning the situation in the Middle East, the need was reiterated for robust initiatives from the international community - such as is happening at the meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh - with a view to beginning serious negotiations that take into account the rights of everyone, while respecting international legality and with an awareness of the need to rebuild mutual trust."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Remarks by President Bush on the National Day of Prayer

Contact: White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 202-456-2580

WASHINGTON, May 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following text is of remarks by President Bush on the National Day of Prayer:

East Room

9:23 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. And welcome to the White House. I'm honored to join you for this National Day of Prayer. I'm sorry Laura is not here. She is camping in one of our national parks. (Laughter.) I appreciate the chairman -- Chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, Shirley Dobson. Thank you for your leadership on this important day. And I see you brought your husband, Jim. (Applause.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pope's General Audience: The Highest Knowledge of God Flows from Love

Reuters - Wed May 2, 1:12 PM ET

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing at the end of his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican May 2, 2007. (Dario Pignatelli/Reuters)
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The Highest Knowledge of God Flows from Love
Vatican Information Service via EWTN

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2007 (VIS) - During his general audience this morning, the Pope returned to consider the figure of Origen, the famous third century historian. Last week the Holy Father had focussed on the life of this Father of the Church and on his literary works, this week he turned to Origen's teachings on prayer and the Church.

Origen, the Pope told the 30,000 people gathered in a rain-swept St. Peter's Square, "constantly intertwines his exegetical and theological works with experiences and suggestions concerning prayer."

For Origen "the understanding of Scripture requires, more even than study, intimacy with Christ and prayer. He is convinced that the best way to know God is love, and that there can be no true 'scientia Christi' without being enamoured of Him."