Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rest Well Pope-Emeritus: I'm saddened, but not feeling abandoned

With the See of Rome vacant, you will see the above crest, or versions of it, in many places from the Vatican website and the @Pontifex Twitter Feed, which now reads "Sede Vacante" (and is cleared of all tweets made by Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI), to formal communications like this one from Vatican Radio. The papal apartment has been sealed and the Swiss Guards replaced by the Vatican Gendaremerie (the former are there only to protect the pope himself and since he has vacated, they stand down).

I started my day by watching Benedict XVI's meeting with the Cardinals before heading off to work.  I was fortunate to watch the entire helicopter trip live on my iPhone because it happened during my lunch hour! I won't tell you that I shed a few tears watching him fly over the Roman Colosseum where early Christians were martyred in powerful civilizations now read about only in history books.

I am deeply saddened today for one reason only: He has gone "monastic" in a sense, hidden from the world.  My sadness comes not from feelings bruised by any sense of abandonment, but from the fact that we just won't be seeing or hearing from him any more.

At the same time, I am happy - happy that this great man, who has given so much Glory to God by every "yes" when He has called him, has said "yes" one last time when he felt God wanted him in his engine room. There, like the silence and hiddenness of fuel that powers an engine, he will supply power to the Church through his prayer and sacrifices.

Pope John Paul II showed us how age humbly through redemptive suffering, and how to die with dignity; BenedictXVI shows us that we can age humbly, and die with dignity in other ways too.  There is no one way that every pope will go out just as there is no one way that any one of us will go out. Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI remains as close to Christ crucified as did his predecessor, but in a different way.

Abandonment is something I do not feel, yet I know others do.  As I mentioned elsewhere, by the grace of God, I have found peace with his decision to abdicate when I considered the possibility of others running the papacy in his name as he declined. Soon, the conspiracy theories would have started, with people wondering what was really coming from him, and what was coming from members of the hierarchy just trying to keep the work of the pope flowing.

I suspect Benedict XVI saw himself ending up as a boat anchor slowing the Barque of Peter at a time when it needs to run full ahead.  He may have been concerned that well-intentioned members of his staff and Curia would begin to shield him, fearing this or that news might be stressful on him. He short-circuited infighting and anxiety some in the holy office might have over making a decision on when to pull power if illness was so severe that he could not function over a long period of time.  Perhaps he had been consulted many times about this by others in those positions when Pope John Paul II just couldn't go any more. Modern medicine has enabled us to live longer, so it is a new challenge for the papacy.

I'm not concerned about how future popes might feel pressured to resign before their time.  I'll explain why in my next post.

There are many unresolved problems - problems that could not possibly be solved in what little time he felt he had left, with his strength diminishing fast. He's putting those things in the hands of someone who is stronger in terms of health and age - someone who can put many years into the kind of reforms he probably felt needed more time and effort than he could give  As he pointed out yesterday, it's not his Church or our Church, but Christ's Church. One pope's work becomes another's work, and so on.

Perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back for him was World Youth Day.  It was reported that the Pope was told not to travel any more.  Young people who have pinched and saved for several years to go to Brazil for World Youth Day this summer, would end up with a representative in his stead.  They are being given a gift by the Pope-emeritus: They will have an opportunity to bond with a new pontiff.

Papal visits around the world are a part of the New Evangelization.  Modern, affordable transportation and communication have made it much easier for people to gather in large numbers for a pope versus 60 or 70 years ago. It was said that the Pope-emeritus had even bigger numbers than his predecessor.  I don't think it's because they didn't love Pope John Paul II as much; it's because it's easier to get around and get the word out today than it was in past decades or centuries.

As I stated before, we find some nominal Catholics becoming faithful Catholics after a papal visit, and non-Catholics crossing the Tiber, while young people discover their vocations.  Many good priests and religious today point back to being stirred at a papal visit by the last two popes.  He knew this, and I think he feared a prolonged illness that would have put it all on hold, if not for months, then perhaps for many years.

We entered Lent with one pope, and we will exit Lent with another.  It's all very symbolic of the Resurrection and Easter, with a new beginning.  Through my sadness I smile with how he pegged every little detail, and I think we will discover more details about his timing in the years to come. Even the readings in the breviary and the psalms seem so fitting for the occasion.

Rest well, Your Holiness, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Pray for us to have hope and faith in Divine Providence for God to give us the kind of leader we need to build the Body of Christ here on Earth.


Here is an archive with some recent events and there are some video feeds included.

If you want to see some screen shots from the Pope's departure, some are pretty dramatic.  Father Z captured some here:

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Pope Post No. 5: Pope Benedict XVI pledges 'unconditional obedience" to successor

We were told there would be no remarks by the Holy Father and only Cardinal Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, would be speaking.  Then, the Holy Father did what only the Pope could have done, and he broke the rules.  He spoke, and in his short, profound address to the Cardinals, he pledged his unconditional obedience to the next Pope.

UPDATE: Here is full text just released by Vatican Radio.  The Holy Father quoted the great Romano Guardini (see a 2008 post by Sandro Magister to understand the Pope's closeness to him)

Dear beloved brothers I welcome you all with great joy and cordially greet each one of you. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who as always, has been able to convey the sentiments of the College, Cor ad cor loquitur. Thank you, Your Eminence, from my heart. And referring to the disciples of Emmaus, I would like to say to you all that it has also been a joy for me to walk with you over the years in light of the presence of the Risen Lord. As I said yesterday, in front of thousands of people who filled St. Peter's Square, your closeness, your advice, have been a great help to me in my ministry. In these 8 years we have experienced in faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the Churches’ journey along with times when clouds have darkened the sky. 
We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love which is the soul of our ministry. We have gifted hope that comes from Christ alone, and which alone can illuminate our path. Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray to together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord. I would like to leave you with a simple thought that is close to my heart, a thought on the Church, Her mystery, which is for all of us, we can say, the reason and the passion of our lives. I am helped by an expression of Romano Guardini’s, written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, his last with a personal dedication to me, so the words of this book are particularly dear to me.

Guardini says: "The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ. "This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: "The Church is awakening in souls." The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places. Let us remain united, dear brothers, to this mystery, in prayer, especially in daily Eucharist, and thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope. May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart upon you my Apostolic Blessing.

Before the Pope spoke, Cardinal Sodano offered a statement on behalf of the Cardinals.  Here is a partial quote, translated from Zenit.

Beloved and revered Successor of Peter, it is we who must thank you for the example you have given us in the past eight years of your Pontificate. On April 19, 2005 you came to join the long line of successors of the Apostle Peter, and today, February 28, 2013, you prepare to leave us, waiting for the helm of the barque of Peter to pass into other hands. There shall thus continue that apostolic succession, which the Lord has promised to his Holy Church, until the voice of the Angel of the Apocalypse is heard on earth proclaiming: Tempus not erit amplius... consummabitur mysterium Dei"(Rev 10: 6-7) "There will be no more delay: the mystery of God will be fulfilled!" Thus shall end the history of the Church, together with the history of the world, with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth. 
Holy Father, with deep love we have tried to accompany you on your journey, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, after walking with Jesus for a good stretch of road, said to one another: "Were not our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us along the way?"(Lk 24:32). 
Yes, Holy Father, know that our hearts, too, burned while we walked with you these past eight years.Today we want to once again express our gratitude to you. We repeat in chorus a typical expression of your dear native land: Vergelt's Gott, may God reward you!

Later, I will update this post with full text of the Pope's remarks once it is available.  I'm sure not a few people are scrambling to get it translated and out there.

For now, Rome Reports has put together this video brief on the meeting.

You might be able to catch the whole video review at Vatican TV here, where recordings are kept until there is something else.  I'll have to swing back and find the archive later. When we get close to 5:00 PM Rome time, this link will give you a live feed of his departure, explained below.


Tune in to EWTN or Vatican TV before 5:00 PM (11:00 AM ET) and watch the Holy Father depart by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo.  That is about a 15-20 minute ride.  It is expected that cameras will be rolling there and some are hoping he will greet the people through his window there.  No remarks are planned, but... he's still the Pope until 8:00 PM Rome time so anything can happen.


Some were perplexed by the Holy Father's remarks that he could not return to private life.  On the other hand he won't lead a public life.  My take on that was that the Pope Benedict XVI was going "monastic." A monk becomes hidden to the world as he leads a life of prayer and sacrifice.  This is how I took his message.  My thought was that he wouldn't want to risk that people would try to pit his words against those of the new pope, or for others to look for approval from him on anything the new pope does.  For this reason, he feels the need to be hidden.  He cannot take retirement like others and just go about business.  One thing I hope the next pope will do, is to invite him to finish an encyclical on faith, which is reportedly in draft.  It wouldn't be completed in encyclical form, but perhaps could be completed as a book.  Many were anticipating this to complete a trilogy of encyclicals (on faith, hope, and charity). The one on charity was completed in 2007 (Caritas in Veritatis); the one on hope in 2009 (Spe Salvi). He also wrote the social encyclical Deus Caritas Est in 2005.

The commentary I want to pass along is one I read by Phil Lawler.  He explains the challenges of having a living emeritus pope along with the new pope.


If you have not done so yet, Adopt a Cardinal to pray for now, and through the Conclave, and for 3 days after.  It was 19,000 the other day, and it now shows nearly 100,000 participating at the time of this posting.

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pope Post No. 4: FULL TEXT - Pope Benedict XVI's Last General Audience

Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Pope says he is not abandoning us, he is not "returning to private life", and he is not leaving the Cross; he is remaining at the foot of the Cross, in prayer.

Here is a link to full text at Vatican Radio:

Here is a video link to CTV at the Vatican's website where you should be able to watch the video on demand later.

I'll offer a few of my favorite lines:

I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

And this:

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own. 

The “always” is also a “forever” - there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.
Photo: Max Rossi/Reuters
All along the route the popemobile stopped and Archbishop Georg Ganswein
would hand a baby to Pope Benedict XVI as seen here. 

I was very disappointed with AP.  They sent out two tweets over roughly 20 minutes during the General Audience.  Of all the great things Pope Benedict said, this is likely the headline you will see in secular headlines across the US. 

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pope Post No. 3: Watch the Pope's Last General Audience Live

Pope Benedict XVI will give his last General Audience tomorrow morning.  EWTN is broadcasting live at 4:00 AM Eastern Time (10:00 AM Rome in Rome).

If you do not have cable, you can catch it streaming online. Choose a live option here:  That should give us English translations on the fly.

Raw feed will likely be available through the Vatican website:  or try this link:

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pope Post No. 2: Adopt a Cardinal heading into Conclave!

What a grand idea someone came up with!

Catholics, take note.  If you want to do something beneficial, adopt a Cardinal heading into Conclave so you can pray for him.  They don't tell you what sacrifices to make or what prayers to do - it's up to you.  Each Cardinal could have thousands praying for him.

The most important thing each Cardinal will do is to act on the graces given to them when they enter the Conclave.  They are mere men, subject to the effects of Original Sin that affects all of us. But in a situation like this, God's grace will flood their hearts.  However, God also gives to each of them, free will.  What we must pray for is that many more cardinals will act on God's grace than don't.

Now, please, go adopt a Cardinal and simply pray that he acts on God's grace in electing a new pope.   Right now they have English and German language options.  I'm sure it's open to anyone anywhere in the world.

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pope Post No. 1: Running the papacy as a pope declines

Photo of Pope at last Angelus of his pontificate (Reuters)

There is so much out there, and so much more to come.  I'm beginning a series called the "Pope Post" that will try to capture, if not daily, then several times weekly, some of the most interesting material out there concerning Pope Benedict XVI's abdication of office, and the upcoming selection of a new pontiff.  I won't always provide commentary; sometimes I'll just pass along some interesting links.  If you are looking for stories and reports of a scandalous nature, you'll have to look elsewhere.  I've had enough of that and prefer to keep my head down, mainly in prayer, and checking in on some insightful reports and commentaries.

One thing I do want to pass along to you is the Holy Father's Angelus message from earlier today - the last of his pontificate.  He opened with a bang:

(Vatican Radio) “Dear brothers and sisters…The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this, it is so I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength”. "We will always be close in prayer!".

That's deep.  Read the entire Angelus message for February 24, 2013 at

See Rome Reports video brief at bottom of this post.

Wednesday, he will have his last General Audience, and Thursday is his last day.


I am aware that there are some who want to see Pope Benedict XVI re-elected.  There are others who feel strongly that he should not be stepping down.  I know it is painful.  As much as I wanted to see this  man, whom I believe will some day be named a doctor of the Church, to reign until my days are done, I am at peace with his decision.  I am at peace because I believe he has been discerning this whole scenario for some years, and at the least, for the past year.  I trust his discernment, even though in a decision like this, he is certainly not infallible.  I am also at peace because I trust in Divine Providence.

One thing that gave me comfort soon after I confirmed the news and got over the shock, was this thought:  Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI doesn't want anyone else running the papacy in his name as he declines.  This thought has been floating in the back of my mind since soon after the announcement.  Just yesterday, a friend sent me a very good article by Andrea Gagliarducci where he echoes a similar thought:

Benedict XVI has wanted to avoid going through a long «end of the pontificate» period, as in John Paul II’s last ten years. During that period, many appointments were not Wojtyla’s, speeches were not Wojtyla’s, and the choices were not Wojtyla’s. During those ten years, a hard core of clerks, monsignors, and nuncios rose within the Curia, who later made Pope Benedict’s  path more difficult.

I don't know if what he says is true or not, but I think it is possible.  Common sense should tell us things had to be delegated to keep things moving at the usual pace as the Holy Father slowed down.

I believe that each Pope has his own unique vocation.  God took Pope John Paul II down the path that was right for him at the time, and the Church was blessed with lessons on living as we age, and dying with dignity.  There are too many things pointing to God's will in this regard with Pope John Paul II, right down to the fact that should die on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.  This says nothing of the interesting timing with the senseless murder of Terry Schiavo around the same time.  The Pope's path to death sparked many pro-life discussions concerning end-of-life care.

But Pope Benedict XVI's vocation as Pope is taking a different path - one that is unique to him.  God is not using him to teach the lesson already taught by Pope John Paul II.  He is using this Pope's decision to teach us other things. Some of these lessons will not be apparent until a later time.

Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI feared being shielded by well-intentioned members of the Curia who wouldn't want to upset him about this or that.  Or, perhaps he didn't want a power struggle to ensue between factions in the Curia with different ideas about how things should be done, and over appointments, and what-not. The Holy Office must keep running, even as a pope naturally must slow down.  The grace of office goes to the Pope, not necessarily to people running the papacy in his name.

If this line of thought is plausible, it explains to me Pope Benedict XVI's very confident and calm demeanor despite having made one whopper of decision that has shocked the world.  It comes from believing he is truly doing what is in the best interest of the Church.  I don't think his stepping down has one ounce of selfish desire to it.  I don't believe he is resigning so he can pursue mystical union with God which might be hindered by every day tasks.  I think what he is saying is that he can no longer continue with the work required of an active Pope, but there is still so much more he can do for the Church, which is to fuel the fire with prayer and sacrifice.

I don't know why he is stepping down other than what he has told us, at face value, that it is due to reasons of health and age.  I would feel selfish in wanting to keep him when he doesn't feel he can meet the challenges required of a pope given his health and age.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift you have given us in Pope Benedict XVI.  May his life of prayer and sacrifice bring many graces to the Church.

Rome Reports video brief on the Angelus.

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

{UPDATED} Holy See takes aim at reports, "often unverifiable or not verifiable"

From Vatican Radio (emphasis mine in bold)
(Vatican Radio) Please find below a Vatican Radio translation of a Secretary of State communiqué on conclave, issued Saturday:
“The freedom of the College of Cardinals, which alone, under the law, is responsible for the election of the Roman Pontiff, has always been strongly defended by the Holy See, as a guarantee of a choice based on evaluations solely for the good of the Church. 

Over the centuries, the Cardinals have faced multiple forms of pressure exerted on the individual voters and the same College, with the aim of conditioning decisions, to bend them to a political or worldly logic. 

If in the past the it was the so-called superpowers, namely States, who sought to condition the election of the Pope in their favour, today there is an attempt to apply the weight of public opinion, often on the basis of assessments that fail to capture the spiritual aspect of this moment in the life of the Church. 

It is regrettable that, as we draw near to the beginning of the Conclave when Cardinal electors shall be bound in conscience and before God, to freely express their choice, news reports abound which are often unverified or not verifiable, or even false, even subsequent damage to people and institutions. 

It is in moments such as these, that Catholics are called to focus on what is essential: to pray for Pope Benedict, to pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten the College of Cardinals, to pray for the future Pope, trusting that the fate of the barque of St. Peter is in the hands of God". 

Admittedly, I fell into the trap of reading stories about these reports which originated in Italy.  The article lead readers to believe that someone actually saw what was in a dossier that went to Pope Benedict XVI on December 17.  It was a report submitted to the Pope by three senior Cardinals charged with investigating the infamous "Vatileaks."  Secular sources around the world are telling readers that this is *why* Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down.

EDIT: Inserting this report from Vatican Insider (of La Stampa) - "Vatican: Public opinion is being exploited to condition the Conclave".  In it, is a translation of an editorial by Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, given to Vatican Radio (emphasis mine in bold):

Fr. Lombardi’s statement  

The last couple of weeks of Benedict XVI’s papacy - before the sede vacante period begins and a new Pope is elected in the Conclave - have not been easy as this situation is quite new to the Holy See. Fr. Federico Lombardi remarked this in an editorial for Vatican Radio.

“We do not — and we rejoice — have to carry the pain of the death of a much-loved Pope, but we have not been spared another test: that of the multiplication of the pressures and considerations that are foreign to the spirit with which the Church would like to live this period of waiting and preparation,” the director of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Press Office said. “There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another.”

“In the majority of cases, those who present themselves as judges, making heavy moral judgments, do not, in truth, have any authority to do so. Those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives, are unable to see anything else, even in the Church, because they are unable to gaze toward the heights or descend to the depths in order to grasp the spiritual dimensions and reasons of existence. This results in a description of the Church and of many of its members that is profoundly unjust,” Fr. Lombardi went on to say. 

“But all of this will not change the attitude of believers; it will not erode the faith and the hope with which they see the Lord, who promised to accompany his Church,” the editorial continued. “According to the indications of Church law and tradition, we want this to be a time of sincere reflection on the spiritual expectations of the world and on the faithfulness of the Church to the Gospel, of prayer for the assistance of the Spirit, of closeness to the College of Cardinals that is preparing for the demanding service of discernment and choice that is asked of it and for which it principally exists.”
“In this,” the editorial concluded, “we are accompanied first and foremost by the example and spiritual integrity of Pope Benedict, who wanted to dedicate to prayer, from the start of Lent, this final stretch of his pontificate — a penitential journey of conversion toward the joy of Easter. This is how we are living it and how we will live it: in conversion and hope.”

Continuing with original post:

Reports in English about reports in Italian do not allow for an objective reading unless one knows Italian.  Even Dr. Robert Moynihan, caught up in the fact that the story was not in some scandal rag, but in a reputable paper, gave it perhaps more credibility than it deserved.  But he followed up in another e-letter before that statement from the Secretary of State's office was released  From 2013, Letter #19: Stop, he says:

Perhaps the key phrase in the La Repubblica article of February 21 is the following: “La Relazione e esplicita. Alcuni alti prelati subiscono ‘l’influenza esterna’ — noi diremmo il ricatto — di laici a cui sono legati da vincoli di ‘natura mondana.’” (“The Report is explicit. Some high-ranking prelates are being subjected to ‘external influence’ — we would call it blackmail — by laypeople to whom they are linked by ties of a ‘worldly nature.’”) 
This is the phrase which gave me the basis yesterday for my title, “Blackmail.”

He then explains:

"...the article claims that the Report includes testimony about a number of past incidents in which Vatican officials were allegedly involved in some type of sexual activity, and asserts that the three cardinals delved into these incidents in their report in detail. 
But how does the author of this article know this?
Nowhere in the article — nowhere — is there any indication that the author has actually seen the cardinals’ Report. 
And, if one reads the La Repubblica story a 3rd and 4th time, one finds that there are only four quotations, that is, only four sourced sentences, in the entire article."

Moynihan then highlights each of those four quotes. He concludes that the first three quotes have, "nothing to do with the report that went to the Pope." When he gets to the fourth, he writes:

The fourth quotation (column 3) is from “a man very close to the man who drafted the Report.”(!) 
This is at best second-hand information. 
And this is the only source even close to the Report that is cited in the entire article, and un-named, of course. 
And what does this source say? “Tutto ruota attorno alla non osservanza del sesto and del settimo commandamento.” (“Everything [in the Report] centers on the non-observance of the 6th and 7th commandments.”) 
The entire 4th column of the article is a series of “vignettes” or allusions to old cases which the author of the La Repubblica piece, Concita De Gregorio, says were “explored” by the three cardinals in their investigation, and summed up in their Report. 
But no evidence is given that this actually occurred; that is, no evidence is given that the Report actually contains material related to “a villa outside Rome” or other places where meetings or parties allegedly occurred. 
In other words, this article contains no sourced evidence whatsoever, except for the (alleged) statement of “a man close to the man who drafted the Report” that “everything centers on the non-observance of the 6th and 7th commandments.” 
That sentence is the only “semi-sourced” sentence in the entire article. 
Everything else is assertion.

Near the end of that e-letter, Moynihan explains what cast further doubt on the Italian news report:

And, interestingly, at the end of the article, there is a very odd little paragraph, which I noticed the first time I read the article, yesterday at noon-time. It says that “on the last day of his pontificate [February 28], Benedict XVI will receive the three cardinals who composed the Report in private audience. Immediately afterward, next to Tomko [who is from Slovakia], he will see the bishops and faithful of Slovakia in St. Mary Major. His last public audience.” 
The point of this was to show how much respect Pope Benedict has for Cardinal Tomko, enough that he will meet with Slovakians on his last day as Pope. 
And Benedict undoubtedly has great respect for Tomko, who is now 89.
But it is simply not true that the Pope will meet with Slovakian Catholics in St. Mary Major, or anywhere. 
This sentence is simply, totally, untrue. 
The Pope will not go to St. Mary Major on the last day of his pontificate. 
Indeed, the effort to get a Pope across the city of Rome from the Vatican to another basilica is a major one, requiring weeks of pre-planning. Such a trip never happens without weeks of advance notice. And there has been no notice of such a planned trip across town.
Frankly, anyone who knows anything about the Vatican, any Vatican journalist, from the newest to the oldest, would have, and should have, known that this statement, that the Pope would go across town to St. Mary Major on the last day of his papacy, is impossible and silly. 
Yet this statement ends the article. 
Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., the director of the Vatican press office, noted this at a press conference yesterday, just a couple of hours after the La Repubblica article appeared.
He said that this evident error at the end of the article should be reason for anyone who reads the article to take the rest of it with a grain of salt.

What you see Moynihan going through is an objective thought process as he re-reads the news report he initially reacted to without an objective reading.

Dr. Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican Magazine has since come out with Letter #20, which continues the discussion by sharing the Secretary of State's message I offered at the beginning.  It is not yet online, but will be at the homepage for The Moynihan Letters soon.

I do hope that something I saw yesterday is true: That the cardinals heading into conclave will be briefed on the contents of the dossier in question by the three cardinals charged with investigating.  A house-cleaning is needed and by giving the conclave a briefing on that dossier they would know what skill sets to look for in a new Pope.

My initial thoughts when I saw the headlines based on the Italian news report was to keep my head down in prayer and not get distracted by it.  I regret that I didn't - having passed along the reports in Tweets, Facebook and email.  Human fallen nature will have us pursue scandal, especially at a time when prayer is needed.  In the end, all of our reading, discussing, and sharing of these things will  not get us a better pope.  We should be compelled to do as the Israelites did before entering a great battle, knowing they were outnumbered: Fast, pray, do penance and trust God to hear us.

My suggestion is to let go of this kind of stuff and place your trust and hope in God.  It's true that Original Sin affects even the highest members of the Church.  However, so does God's grace, especially at a time when the Church needs it most.  Let's just pray and be hopeful for the future.

Additional Commentaries and Updates:

  • Phil Lawler, a man who has worked hard reporting on the priest sex-abuse scandal, shares some common sense on the matter. 

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FULL TEXT: Pope Benedict XVI's Discourse to Roman Clergy

You probably saw headlines everywhere that he talked about Vatican II.  However, if you looked at the Italian and compared the length to what we were seeing in English, it was obvious we were missing quite a bit.  I didn't realize this, but it was an off-the-cuff discourse. It had to be transcribed, then translated.  It is now beginning to work it's way onto the web in English.  Many thanks to Edward Pentin for remembering my desire for full text.

For convenience, I uploaded a PDF at Scribd that may be easier to read and retains some formatting. It might make for easier printing too.

Also, Vatican Radio now has the full text at it's site and they provide the added background, along with other viewing/printing options.


Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

For me it is a particular gift of Providence that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I can once more see my clergy, the clergy of Rome.  It is always a great joy to see the living Church, to see how the Church in Rome is alive; there are shepherds here who guide the Lord’s flock in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd.  It is a body of clergy that is truly Catholic, universal, in accordance with the essence of the Church of Rome: to bear within itself the universality, the catholicity of all nations, all races, all cultures.  At the same time, I am very grateful to the Cardinal Vicar who helps to reawaken, to rediscover vocations in Rome itself, because if Rome, on the one hand, has to be the city of universality, it must also be a city with a strong and robust faith of its own, from which vocations are also born.  And I am convinced that, with the Lord’s help, we can find the vocations that he himself gives us, we can guide them, help them to mature, so as to be of service for work in the Lord’s vineyard.

Today you have professed the Creed before the tomb of Saint Peter: in the Year of Faith, this seems to me to be a most appropriate act, a necessary one, perhaps, that the clergy of Rome should gather around the tomb of the Apostle to whom the Lord said: “To you I entrust my Church. Upon you I will build my Church” (cf. Mt 16:18-19).  Before the Lord, together with Peter, you have professed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).  Thus the Church grows: together with Peter, professing Christ, following Christ.  And we do this always.  I am very grateful for your prayers, which I have sensed, as I said on Wednesday – almost palpably.  And although I am about to withdraw, I remain close to all of you in prayer, and I am sure that you too will be close to me, even if I am hidden from the world.

For today, given the conditions brought on by my age, I have not been able to prepare an extended discourse, as might have been expected; but rather what I have in mind are a few thoughts on the Second Vatican Council, as I saw it.  I shall begin with an anecdote: in 1959 I was appointed a professor at the University of Bonn, where the students included the seminarians of the diocese of Cologne and the other dioceses in the area.  Thus I came into contact with the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Frings.  Cardinal Siri of Genoa, in 1961 if I remember rightly, had organized a series of talks on the Council given by various European Cardinals, and he had invited the Archbishop of Cologne to give one of them, entitled: the Council and the world of modern thought.

The Cardinal asked me – the youngest of the professors – to write a draft for him.  He liked the draft, and to the people in Genoa he delivered the text just as I had written it.  Soon afterwards, Pope John invited him to come and see him, and the Cardinal was anxious that he might have said something incorrect, something false, and that he was being summoned for a rebuke, perhaps even to be deprived of the cardinalate.  Indeed, when his secretary vested him for the audience, the Cardinal said: “Perhaps I am now wearing these robes for the last time”.  Then he went in, Pope John came to meet him, embraced him, and said: “Thank you, Your Eminence, you said the very things I wanted to say myself, but I could not find the words”.  So the Cardinal knew that he was on the right track and he invited me to go with him to the Council, firstly as his personal advisor; and then, during the first session – I think it was in November 1962 – I was also named an official peritus of the Council.

So off we went to the Council not just with joy but with enthusiasm.  There was an incredible sense of expectation.  We were hoping that all would be renewed, that there would truly be a new Pentecost, a new era of the Church, because the Church was still fairly robust at that time – Sunday Mass attendance was still good, vocations to the priesthood and to religious life were already slightly reduced, but still sufficient.  However, there was a feeling that the Church was not moving forward, that it was declining, that it seemed more a thing of the past and not the herald of the future.  And at that moment, we were hoping that this relation would be renewed, that it would change; that the Church might once again be a force for tomorrow and a force for today.  And we knew that the relationship between the Church and the modern period, right from the outset, had been slightly fraught, beginning with the Church’s error in the case of Galileo Galilei; we were looking to correct this mistaken start and to rediscover the union between the Church and the best forces of the world, so as to open up humanity’s future, to open up true progress.  Thus we were full of hope, full of enthusiasm, and also eager to play our own part in this process.  I remember that the Roman Synod was thought of as a negative model.  It was said – I don’t know whether this was true – that they had read out prepared texts in the Basilica of Saint John, and that the members of the Synod had acclaimed, approved with applause, and that the Synod had been conducted thus.  The bishops said: no, let’s not do that.  We are bishops, we ourselves are the subject of the Synod; we do not simply want to approve what has already been done, but we ourselves want to be the subject, the protagonists of the Council.  So too Cardinal Frings, who was famous for his absolute fidelity – almost to the point of scrupulosity – to the Holy Father, said in this case: we are here in a different role.  The Pope has called us together to be like Fathers, to be an Ecumenical Council, a subject that renews the Church.  So we want to assume this new role of ours.

The first occasion when this attitude was demonstrated was on the very first day.  On the programme for this first day were the elections of the Commissions, and lists of names had been prepared, in what was intended to be an impartial manner, and these lists were put to the vote.  But straight away the Fathers said: No, we do not simply want to vote for pre-prepared lists.  We are the subject.  Then, it was necessary to postpone the elections, because the Fathers themselves wanted to begin to get to know each other, they wanted to prepare the lists themselves.  And so it was.  Cardinal Liénart of Lille and Cardinal Frings of Cologne had said publicly: no, not this way.  We want to make our own lists and elect our own candidates.  It was not a revolutionary act, but an act of conscience, an act of responsibility on the part of the Council Fathers.

And so began an intense period of actively getting to know our counterparts, something which did not happen by chance.  At the Collegio dell’Anima, where I was staying, we had many visits: the Cardinal was very well known, and we saw cardinals from all over the world.  I well remember the tall slim figure of Monsignor Etchegaray, the Secretary of the French Episcopal Conference, I remember meetings with Cardinals, and so on.  And this continued throughout the Council: small-scale meetings with peers from other countries.  Thus I came to know great figures like Father de Lubac, Daniélou, Congar, and so on.  We came to know various bishops; I remember particularly Bishop Elchinger of Strasbourg, and so on.  And this was already an experience of the universality of the Church and of the concrete reality of the Church, which does not simply receive instructions from on high, but grows together and moves forward, always under the guidance – naturally – of the Successor of Peter.

Everyone, as I said, came with great expectations; there had never been a Council on such a scale, but not everyone knew what to do.  The most prepared, let us say, those with the clearest ideas, were the French, German, Belgian and Dutch episcopates, the so-called “Rhine alliance”.  And in the first part of the Council it was they who pointed out the path; then the activity rapidly broadened, and everyone took part more and more in the creativity of the Council.  The French and the Germans had various interests in common, albeit with quite different nuances.  The first, initial, simple – or apparently simple – intention was the reform of the liturgy, which had begun with Pius XII, who had already reformed the Holy Week liturgy; the second was ecclesiology; the third was the word of God, revelation; and finally ecumenism.  The French, much more than the Germans, were also keen to explore the question of the relationship between the Church and the world.

Let us begin with the first theme.  After the First World War, Central and Western Europe had seen the growth of the liturgical movement, a rediscovery of the richness and depth of the liturgy, which until then had remained, as it were, locked within the priest’s Roman Missal, while the people prayed with their own prayer books, prepared in accordance with the heart of the people, seeking to translate the lofty content, the elevated language of classical liturgy into more emotional words, closer to the hearts of the people.  But it was as if there were two parallel liturgies: the priest with the altar-servers, who celebrated Mass according to the Missal, and the laity, who prayed during Mass using their own prayer books, at the same time, while knowing substantially what was happening on the altar.  But now there was a rediscovery of the beauty, the profundity, the historical, human, and spiritual riches of the Missal and it became clear that it should not be merely a representative of the people, a young altar-server, saying “Et cum spiritu tuo”, and so on, but that there should truly be a dialogue between priest and people: truly the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people should form one single liturgy, an active participation, such that the riches reach the people.  And in this way, the liturgy was rediscovered and renewed.

I find now, looking back, that it was a very good idea to begin with the liturgy, because in this way the primacy of God could appear, the primacy of adoration.  “Operi Dei nihil praeponatur”: this phrase from the Rule of Saint Benedict (cf. 43:3) thus emerges as the supreme rule of the Council.  Some have made the criticism that the Council spoke of many things, but not of God.  It did speak of God!  And this was the first thing that it did, that substantial speaking of God and opening up all the people, the whole of God’s holy people, to the adoration of God, in the common celebration of the liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ.  In this sense, over and above the practical factors that advised against beginning straight away with controversial topics, it was, let us say, truly an act of Providence that at the beginning of the Council was the liturgy, God, adoration.  Here and now I do not intend to go into the details of the discussion, but it is worth while to keep going back, over and above the practical outcomes, to the Council itself, to its profundity and to its essential ideas.

I would say that there were several of these: above all, the Paschal Mystery as the centre of what it is to be Christian – and therefore of the Christian life, the Christian year, the Christian seasons, expressed in Eastertide and on Sunday which is always the day of the Resurrection.  Again and again we begin our time with the Resurrection, our encounter with the Risen one, and from that encounter with the Risen one we go out into the world.  In this sense, it is a pity that these days Sunday has been transformed into the weekend, although it is actually the first day, it is the beginning; we must remind ourselves of this: it is the beginning, the beginning of Creation and the beginning of re-Creation in the Church, it is an encounter with the Creator and with the Risen Christ.  This dual content of Sunday is important: it is the first day, that is, the feast of Creation, we are standing on the foundation of Creation, we believe in God the Creator; and it is an encounter with the Risen One who renews Creation; his true purpose is to create a world that is a response to the love of God.

Then there were the principles: intelligibility, instead of being locked up in an unknown language that is no longer spoken, and also active participation.  Unfortunately, these principles have also been misunderstood.  Intelligibility does not mean banality, because the great texts of the liturgy – even when, thanks be to God, they are spoken in our mother tongue – are not easily intelligible, they demand ongoing formation on the part of the Christian if he is to grow and enter ever more deeply into the mystery and so arrive at understanding.  And also the word of God – when I think of the daily sequence of Old Testament readings, and of the Pauline Epistles, the Gospels: who could say that he understands immediately, simply because the language is his own?  Only ongoing formation of hearts and minds can truly create intelligibility and participation that is something more than external activity, but rather the entry of the person, of my being, into the communion of the Church and thus into communion with Christ.

And now the second topic: the Church.  We know that the First Vatican Council was interrupted because of the Franco-Prussian War, and so it remained somewhat one-sided, incomplete, because the doctrine on the primacy – defined, thanks be to God, in that historical moment for the Church, and very necessary for the period that followed – was just a single element in a broader ecclesiology, already envisaged and prepared.  So we were left with a fragment.  And one might say: as long as it remains a fragment, we tend towards a one-sided vision where the Church would be just the primacy.  So all along, the intention was to complete the ecclesiology of Vatican I, at a date to be determined, for the sake of a complete ecclesiology.  Here too the time seemed ripe because, after the First World War, the sense of the Church was reborn in a new way.  As Romano Guardini said: “The Church is starting to reawaken in people’s souls”, and a Protestant bishop spoke of the “era of the Church”.  Above all, there was a rediscovery of the concept that Vatican I had also envisaged, namely that of the Mystical Body of Christ.  People were beginning to realize that the Church is not simply an organization, something structured, juridical, institutional – it is that too – but rather an organism, a living reality that penetrates my soul, in such a way that I myself, with my own believing soul, am a building block of the Church as such.  In this sense, Pius XII wrote the Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as a step towards completing the ecclesiology of Vatican I.

I would say that theological discussion in the 1930’s and 1940’s, even in the 1920’s, was entirely conducted under the heading Mystici Corporis.  It was a discovery that brought so much joy at that time, and within this context emerged the formula: We are the Church, the Church is not a structure; we Christians, all together, we are all the living body of the Church.  And naturally, this obtains in the sense that we, the true “we” of believers, together with the “I” of Christ, are the Church; every single one of us, not a particular “we”, a single group that calls itself Church.  No: this “we are Church” requires me to take my place within the great “we” of believers of all times and places.  Therefore, the primary idea was to complete ecclesiology in a theological way, but also in a structural way, that is to say: besides the succession of Peter, and his unique function, to define more clearly also the function of the bishops, the corpus of bishops.  And in order to do this, the word “collegiality” was adopted, a word that has been much discussed, sometimes acrimoniously, I would say, and also in somewhat exaggerated terms.  But this word – maybe another could have been found, but this one worked – expressed the fact that the bishops collectively are the continuation of the Twelve, of the corpus of Apostles.  We said: only one bishop, the Bishop of Rome, is the successor of a particular Apostle, namely Peter.  All the others become successors of the Apostles by entering into the corpus that continues the corpus of the Apostles.  Hence it is the corpus of bishops, the college, that is the continuation of the corpus of the Twelve, and thus it has its intrinsic necessity, its function, its rights and duties.  To many this seemed like a power struggle, and maybe some were thinking of their power, but substantially it was not about power, but about the complementarity of the different elements and about the completeness of the corpus of the Church with the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, as structural elements; and each of them is a structural element of the Church within this great corpus.

These, let us say, were the two basic elements – and in the meantime, in the quest for a complete theological vision of ecclesiology, a certain amount of criticism arose after the 1940’s, in the 1950’s, concerning the concept of the Body of Christ: the word “mystical” was thought to be too spiritual, too exclusive; the concept “People of God” then began to come into play.  The Council rightly accepted this element, which in the Fathers is regarded as an expression of the continuity between the Old and the New Testaments.  In the text of the New Testament, the phrase Laos tou Theou, corresponding to the Old Testament texts, means – with only two exceptions, I believe – the ancient People of God, the Jews, who among the world’s peoples, goim, are “the” People of God.  The others, we pagans, are not per se God’s People: we become sons of Abraham and thus the People of God by entering into communion with Christ, the one seed of Abraham.  By entering into communion with him, by being one with him, we too become God’s People.  In a word: the concept of “the People of God” implies the continuity of the Testaments, continuity in God’s history with the world, with mankind, but it also implies the Christological element.  Only through Christology do we become the People of God, and thus the two concepts are combined. The Council chose to elaborate a Trinitarian ecclesiology: People of God the Father, Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Yet only after the Council did an element come to light – which can also be found, albeit in a hidden way, in the Council itself – namely this: the link between People of God and Body of Christ is precisely communion with Christ in Eucharistic fellowship.  This is where we become the Body of Christ: the relationship between People of God and Body of Christ creates a new reality – communion.  After the Council it became clear, I would say, that the Council really discovered and pointed to this concept: communion as the central concept.  I would say that, philologically, it is not yet fully developed in the Council, yet it is as a result of the Council that the concept of communion came more and more to be the expression of the Church’s essence, communion in its different dimensions: communion with the Trinitarian God – who is himself communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – sacramental communion, and concrete communion in the episcopate and in the life of the Church.

Even more hotly debated was the problem of Revelation.  At stake here was the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, and it was the exegetes above all who were anxious for greater freedom; they felt themselves somewhat – shall we say – in a position of inferiority with regard to the Protestants, who were making the great discoveries, whereas Catholics felt somewhat “handicapped” by the need to submit to the Magisterium.  So a very concrete struggle was in play here: what sort of freedom do exegetes have?  How does one properly read Scripture?  What is the meaning of Tradition?  It was a multifaceted struggle which I cannot go into now, but the important thing, for sure, is that Scripture is the word of God and that the Church is under Scripture, the Church obeys God’s word and does not stand above Scripture.  Yet at the same time Scripture is Scripture only because there is the living Church, its living subject; without the living subject of the Church, Scripture is only a book, open to different interpretations and lacking ultimate clarity.

Here the battle – as I said – was difficult, and an intervention of Pope Paul VI proved decisive.  This intervention shows all the delicacy of a father, his responsibility for the progress of the Council, but also his great respect for the Council.  The idea had arisen that Scripture is complete; everything is found there; consequently there is no need for Tradition, and so the Magisterium has nothing to say.  At that point the Pope transmitted to the Council, I believe, fourteen formulae for a phrase to be inserted into the text on Revelation and he gave us, the Council Fathers, the freedom to choose one of the fourteen formulae, but he said that one of them needed to be chosen in order to complete the text.  I remember more or less the formula “non omnis certitudo de veritatibus fidei potest sumi ex Sacra Scriptura”, in other words, the Church’s certainty about her faith is not born only of an isolated book, but has need of the Church herself as a subject enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Only then does the Scripture speak with all its authority.  This phrase, which we selected in the Doctrinal Commission from the fourteen formulae, is decisive, I would say, for showing the Church’s absolute necessity, and thus understanding the meaning of Tradition, the living body in which this word draws life from the outset and from which it receives its light, in which it is born.  The fact of the canon of Scripture is already an ecclesial fact: that these writings are Scripture is the result of an illumination of the Church, who discovered in herself this canon of Scripture; she discovered it, she did not create it; and always and only in this communion of the living Church can one really understand and read the Scripture as the word of God, as a word which guides us in life and in death.

As I have said, this was a rather difficult debate, but thanks to the Pope and thanks, we may say, to the light of the Holy Spirit who was present in the Council, there emerged a document which is one of the finest and most innovative of the entire Council, and still needs to be studied more deeply.  Because today too, exegesis tends to read Scripture apart from the Church, apart from faith, only in the so-called spirit of the historical-critical method, a method which is important, but never to the extent of being able to offer solutions with ultimate certitude.  Only if we believe that these are not human words, but God’s words, and only if there is that living subject to which God spoke and speaks, can we interpret sacred Scripture properly.  And here – as I said in the foreword of my book on Jesus (cf. Part One) – much remains to be done in order to arrive at an interpretation that is truly in the spirit of the Council.  Here the application of the Council is not yet complete, more needs to be done.

Finally, ecumenism.  I do not want to enter now into these problems, but it was obvious – especially after the “passions” suffered by Christians in the Nazi era – that Christians could find unity, or at least seek unity, yet it was also clear that God alone can bestow unity.  And we are still following this path.  Now, with these themes, the “Rhine alliance” – so to speak – had completed its work.

The second part of the Council was much more extensive.  There appeared with great urgency the issue of today’s world, the modern age, and the Church; and with it, the issues of responsibility for the building up of this world, of society, responsibility for the future of this world and eschatological hope, the ethical responsibility of Christians and where we look for guidance; and then religious freedom, progress, and relations with other religions.  At this moment, all the parties of the Council really entered into the discussion, not just America, the United States, with its powerful interest in religious freedom.  In the third session the Americans told the Pope: we cannot go home without bringing a declaration on religious freedom voted by the Council.  The Pope, however, had the firmness and the decision, the patience, to take the text to the fourth session, for the sake of greater discernment and the fuller consent  of the Council Fathers.  I mean: it was not only the Americans who intervened forcefully in the unfolding of the Council, but also Latin America, well aware of the extreme poverty of its people, on a Catholic continent, and the responsibility of the faith for the situation of these people.  Likewise, Africa and Asia saw the need for interreligious dialogue; problems arose which we Germans – I have to admit – had not foreseen.  I cannot describe all of this now.  The great document Gaudium et Spes analyzed very well the issue of Christian eschatology and worldly progress, and that of responsibility for the society of the future and the responsibility of Christians before eternity, and in this way it also renewed a Christian ethics, the foundations of ethics.  But – let us say unexpectedly – alongside this great document there arose another document which responded in a more synthetic and more concrete way to the challenges of the times, and this was the Declaration Nostra Aetate.  From the beginning our Jewish friends were present, and they said, primarily to us Germans, but not to us alone, that after the tragic events of the Nazi period, the Nazi decade, the Catholic Church had to say something about the Old Testament, about the Jewish people.  They said: even if it is clear that the Catholic Church is not responsible for the Shoah, it was Christians for the most part who committed those crimes; we need to deepen and renew Christian awareness of this, even though we know full well that true believers have always resisted these things.  Thus it was clear that our relationship with the world of the ancient People of God needed to be an object of reflection.  Understandably, too, the Arab countries – the bishops of the Arab countries – were unhappy about this: they feared somewhat a glorification of the State of Israel, which naturally they did not want.  They said: fine, a truly theological statement about the Jewish people is good, it is necessary, but if you speak about that, speak of Islam too; only then will there be a balance; Islam too is a great challenge and the Church also needs to clarify her relationship with Islam.  This was something that, at the time, we did not much understand: a little, but not much.  Today we know how necessary it was.

When we began to work also on Islam, we were told that there were also other world religions: the whole of Asia! Think of Buddhism, Hinduism…. And so, instead of a declaration as initially conceived, concerning only the People of God in the Old Testament, a text was created on interreligious dialogue, anticipating what only 30 years later would be demonstrated in all its intensity and importance. I cannot enter now into this theme, but if one reads the text, one sees that it is very dense and prepared truly by people who were familiar with the realities, and it indicates briefly, in a few words, what is essential. Likewise it indicates the foundation of dialogue, in difference, in diversity, in faith, on the unicity of Christ, who is one, and it is not possible for a believer to think that religions are all variations on a single theme. No, there is one reality of the living God, who has spoken, and there is one God, one incarnate God, thus one word of God, that is truly God’s word. But there is religious experience, with a certain human light from creation, and therefore it is necessary and possible to enter into dialogue, and thus to become open to one another and to open everyone to the peace of God, the peace of all his sons and daughters, the peace of his entire family.

Therefore, these two documents, on religious freedom and Nostra Aetate, linked to Gaudium et Spes, make a very important trilogy whose importance has been demonstrated only after decades, and we are still working to understand better the interlinked realities of the unicity of God’s revelation, the unicity of the one God incarnate in Christ, and the multiplicity of religions, by which we seek peace and also hearts that are open to the light of the Holy Spirit, who illumines and leads to Christ.

I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media. Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers was conducted within the faith – it was a Council of faith seeking intellectus, seeking to understand itself and seeking to understand the signs of God at that time, seeking to respond to the challenge of God at that time and to find in the word of God a word for today and tomorrow – while all the Council, as I said, moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of the journalists, naturally, was not conducted within the faith, but within the categories of today's media, namely apart from faith, with a different hermeneutic. It was a political hermeneutic: for the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between different trends in the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of those who seemed to them more closely allied with their world. There were those who sought the decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the expression “People of God”, power for the people, the laity. There was this threefold question: the power of the Pope, which was then transferred to the power of the bishops and the power of all – popular sovereignty. Naturally, for them, this was the part to be approved, to be promulgated, to be favoured. So too with the liturgy: there was no interest in liturgy as an act of faith, but as something where comprehensible things are done, a matter of community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a tendency, not without a certain historical basis, to say: sacrality is a pagan thing, perhaps also a thing of the Old Testament.  In the New Testament it matters only that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, in the profane world. Sacrality must therefore be abolished, and profanity now spreads to worship: worship is no longer worship, but a community act, with communal participation: participation understood as activity. These translations, trivializations of the idea of the Council, were virulent in the process of putting the liturgical reform into practice; they were born from a vision of the Council detached from its proper key, that of faith. And the same applies to the question of Scripture: Scripture is a book, it is historical, to be treated historically and only historically, and so on.

We know that this Council of the media was accessible to everyone. Therefore, this was the dominant one, the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape; the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real force of the Council was present and, slowly but surely, established itself more and more and became the true force which is also the true reform, the true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force. And it is our task, especially in this Year of Faith, on the basis of this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council, with its power of the Holy Spirit, be accomplished and the Church be truly renewed.  Let us hope that that the Lord will assist us.  I myself, secluded in prayer, will always be with you and together let us go forward with the Lord in the certainty that the Lord will conquer. Thank you!


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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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