Edward Pentin reporting from Rome (Newsmax 28th Feb 2013) — Unlike Blessed Pope John Paul II, who will forever be remembered for visible triumphs such as helping to bring down Communism in the former Eastern bloc, Pope Benedict XVI’s leaves behind a legacy that lacks his predecessor’s conspicuousness but is no less profound.
Over his eight-year pontificate, the Pope produced three encyclicals, completed his trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth and wrote thousands of addresses, papal documents and catecheses. Indeed, one might argue that everything about his papacy has been about teaching, including his actions, right up to his shocking resignation.
In his many addresses, he strove to remind the world that God in the person of Jesus Christ is an ever present reality, that he loves every person as the Gospel teaches, and that rejection of him can only lead to catastrophe. Benedict gave careful critiques of the secularism that afflicts so much of the Western world today, warning that societies risk becoming trapped in a “dictatorship of relativism” where there is no such thing as truth, everything is allowed and nothing has any meaning. In this sense, Benedict’s teaching was a continuation of his predecessor’s with whom he had worked so closely.
But as a theology professor regarded as one of the Church’s most brilliant theologians, Benedict XVI had a way of teaching that made him better understood than his more philosophical and poetical predecessor. Benedict’s “September Addresses,” given at Regensburg, Germany, the United Nations in New York, Westminster Hall in London, the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, and the Bundestag in Berlin will probably be remembered as the hallmarks of his papacy.
They helped unravel prevailing problems confronting society and invariably centered around the Pope’s key theme: that faith needs reason, and reason needs faith. Without this balance and reference to the natural law inscribed on each person’s heart, he would often stress, justice is violated and human dignity is undermined.
The Pope’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” — God is Love — was considered a masterpiece in explaining the various themes of love and how they relate to God. It also took everyone by surprise, especially those used to believing the inaccurate media image of Benedict as a negative, authoritarian moralist. The joy of human love (eros or erotic love) leads us to a deeper, sacrificial love (agape), the Pope explained, that finds its true fulfilment in the love of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
In other words, the human and the divine are one and not in opposition.
His other two encyclicals were also well received and, rare for a Pope, Benedict weaved in references from secular writers and thinkers including Lenin, Dostoevsky and Adorno — often contrasting their views with his to help explain Christian thought. In his second encyclical “Spe Salvi,” Saved in Hope, he characteristically explained with simplicity how the Christian concept of hope is what makes man fully human.
“The capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity,” he wrote. “Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.” The saints, he pointed out, were able to make “the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope.”
And in his final encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” Charity in Truth, the Pope reminded the world that both are essential for integral human development on an individual and national level. An awareness of God’s love, he wrote, “gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all.”
Within the Church, one of the Pope’s main legacies will probably be his efforts to bring unity, most notably by reaching out to the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist breakaway group that cannot accept certain teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Although unity still hasn’t been achieved, he managed to bring the society closer than it has ever been to possible reconciliation with Rome.
And he helped bolster his firm belief that the council’s reforms, which sought to open the Church up to the modern world, were in continuity with tradition rather than a rupture with it.
With Anglicans, too, Benedict sought to foster unity by creating an ordinariate — a canonical structure through which disaffected Anglicans, many of whom have felt abandoned by their own liberal-leaning hierarchies, could become Catholic while retaining their own patrimony and liturgies. Although it initially caused some concern within the Anglican Communion, it’s now generally accepted.
Benedict XVI will also be remembered for advances in relations with the Orthodox Church, and with Islam and Judaism, though not without some serious clashes.
The most famous example occurred during his 2006 lectio magistralis at the University of Regensburg when Benedict XVI memorably quoted a medieval emperor who said Muhammad had only spread Islam through violence. His quotation, although aimed at showing how militant Western liberalism and Islamic fundamentalism have erroneous approaches to truth that set them on a collision course, set off a firestorm in the Islamic world.
And yet his comments struck a chord with many who were debating the problem of violence in Islam, but who were unwilling to articulate the issue publicly. It would initiate a deeper reflection among Muslim scholars on what it means to love God and love one’s neighbor, and it gave added urgency to Catholic-Muslim dialogue: No longer was it about mere niceties but more about genuine encounter.
Specifically, it led Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to make an historic visit to the Vatican in 2007 and launch his own foundation aimed at improving interreligious understanding last year.
At the same time, Benedict will be remembered for that rare thing: securing the support of both Israelis and Palestinians. His visit to the Holy Land in 2009 and good diplomatic relations with Israel led Israeli President Shimon Peres to recently describe Vatican-Israeli relations as “the best they have ever been,” while the Pope’s support for UN recognition of a Palestinian state and frequent calls for a two-state solution won him friends among the Palestinians.
Again, his success there can be attributed to his teaching prowess, built on the strength of his convictions. Middle East leaders would frequently remark that it was easier to deal with Benedict because “you knew where you stood with him.”
Under Benedict’s watch, the Holy See also established full diplomatic relations with Russia, Botswana, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Montenegro, and most recently, South Sudan — bringing the total of countries with formal ties to the Vatican to 180.
But Benedict XVI won’t be remembered for any major diplomatic triumphs such as winning religious freedom for persecuted and oppressed Christians in China or Saudi Arabia. Nor are Church historians likely to give him high marks for his governance of the Roman Curia after the Vatileaks scandal and the series of communication gaffes that littered his pontificate.
His teaching, however, is different. Not only did he channel it through his writings, but also by means of his very actions and character. Benedict’s widely recognized humility, kindness, courage and even innocence — not often accurately conveyed in the mainstream media — tended to point others not to himself but to the truth of Christ, as did many of his actions.
His 24 trips outside Italy were a testimony to this — no matter what the threatened opposition, he placated many of his enemies by placing Christ at the center rather than himself. Many believe he also achieved this through his surprise resignation — deemed by some as “revolutionary” on account of it demystifying the papacy by eliminating the “personality cult” that had grown up around it.
Ultimately, however, it’ll be for history to decide whether Benedict XVI’s greatest legacy — his skill as a consummate teacher and brilliant theologian — will endure, possibly making him one of the Church’s greatest popes
NEWS ANALYSIS: Church leaders say reform of the Curia is a top item for the next pope, whoever he may be.
by EDWARD PENTIN 02/24/2013
VATICAN CITY — Ask any Vatican official or leading Church figure in Rome what one of the most important characteristics of the new pope should be, and, chances are, they’ll say he must have an ability to govern.
Amid the many tributes being paid to Pope Benedict XVI, among the few criticisms is the observation that governance wasn’t the Holy Father’s strong point.
Although he has been widely praised for certain aspects of governance — namely his episcopal appointments, his efforts to crack down on clerical sex abuse and measures to make the Vatican’s finances more transparent — running the Roman Curia was his Achilles heel, made harder by his infirmity and old age.
He appeared to allude to this in his letter of resignation, when he said he had “come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry” and that, “in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.”
“Benedict XVI was an excellent theologian [and he] will leave us with a tremendous wealth in the field of the magisterium,” said Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, according to a Feb. 18 report by the German Catholic news agency KNA Feb. 18. “But from the perspective of government, this was not a strong papacy.”
Since the Vatileaks scandal last year and the dysfunction it revealed, other cardinal electors are openly talking about the need for reform of the Roman Curia.
“It has to be attended to,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said, according to a Feb. 21 Associated Press article. And in a Feb. 20 interview with the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who retired in 2010 as prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called for “more coordination between the [discasteries], more collegiality and communication.” He added, “Often, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”
Opus Dei Father Robert Gahl, a professor of moral philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, believes the next pope must be able to tackle the Curial factions “warring against one another” over “petty issues.” These factions are “not arguing over big theological issues,” he observed, but, instead, over “struggles to advance their own careers and reinforce their own power.”
“Those are all reasons why the kind of governance the next pope will have to deal with is reforming the Curia,” he continued, “and making sure that in the future the Curia acts in a spirit of service rather than one of personal ambition.” Currently, he added, parts of the Vatican are victims to a “feudal turf war.”
“The management style of the Vatican remains that of Italian feudalism, similar to that of 18th or even 17th-century Italian politics — way before the existence of the Italian republic,” he said. “And yet, clearly, there have been tremendous advancements in management theory, practice and technology, so there’s a need for reform of that governance model.”
The kind of governance being proposed is one that moves away from a rigidly hierarchical pyramid that management experts have long held to be a very inefficient and incompetent way of running an organization. Such a system of management leads to information only passing through a superior, while those officials at the same lower levels in different offices do not communicate with one another.
This overdue reform of Curial management is considered all the more important in today’s environment of rapid information flow, where there’s a need for information to be communicated through multiple channels.
For these reasons, it’s likely the cardinal electors will be looking for someone with diocesan and pastoral experience who has a track record of good governance.
“I really don’t see them choosing someone who at least hasn’t had a foot in a diocese,” a veteran Vatican official told the Register. “Someone with Curia experience would also be helpful.”
Some argue that such a pope needs to be a reform-minded Italian; others disagree, believing that a non-Italian would be best, as he would be well outside the institutional infighting.
Whatever their nationality, the cardinal electors will be looking for someone with energy, who is media savvy and, most importantly, a man of deep faith. They will be looking for someone who can unite the Church — the key papal task — and, most importantly, someone of prayer, for whom the transcendent reality is a daily reality.
In short, the cardinal electors, led by the Holy Spirit, will be looking for someone with holiness and Christlike qualities — pastoral and with deep compassion for the poor, the suffering and the most vulnerable, especially the unborn.
“Among the cardinals, there are so many who are worthy and capable,” said Benedict XVI’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in a Feb. 21 interview with Corriere della Sera. “But I would say that the new pope should be a person deeply rooted in the faith and that faith must guide his life. It’s necessary to have a great respect for the weak.”
He added that another “indispensable quality is realism: to understand what is possible and what is impossible to do. He will have to have enormous energy, because it takes a lot to direct such a large community and to get the message across with strength. Perhaps they should choose a younger man.”
The ideal age of the new pope, according to many observers, would be around 65 and certainly below the age of 75. The average age of the cardinal electors is 72, and only 43 of the 116 voting cardinals are under the age of 70.
Relative youth will be needed to confront an array of challenges, such as the growth of secularism and moral relativism in post-Christian Europe and North America and their effects; the emergence of radical Islam and an increasingly troubled Arab world; and the social fallout of debt-ridden, troubled economies. Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue will be added challenges.
It’s unclear whether the majority of the cardinal electors will choose a European or North American to tackle those areas where the Church is in greatest crisis or settle on someone from Asia or Africa, where the Church is growing fastest.
“Let’s be honest: The future of the Church is in Africa and Asia; it’s not in Europe or North America,” said the Vatican official. “It’s just not there. They’re dead [in terms of faith growth], and it would make more sense to go for a place that’s got life, liveliness and hope.”
But he said his view was not typical of the Italian-dominated Curia, which tends to believe that only Europeans should be pope.
An American Pope?
An American pope is also possible, though its superpower status could be an obstacle. Ever since the French Pope Clement V became a tool of the French monarchy (then the world’s most powerful nation) and transferred the entire papacy to Avignon in 1309, the Church has been reluctant to elect a pope from a ruling superpower.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York disagrees, however. In a Feb. 19 interview on Sirius XM satellite radio, he said that when he was growing up it was presumed the pope would be an Italian.
“We don’t even think that anymore, do we?” he said. “The pope is the earthly, universal pastor of the Church. To think that there might be a pope from North America, to think that there might be a pope from Latin America, a pope from Asia, a pope from Africa — I think that’s highly possible, don’t you?”
Father Gahl similarly thinks an American has a fair chance of being elected.
“Americans always bring up the difficulty of electing an American pope — no one else,” he noted. He believes this is a remnant from the Cold War and the Bush era of America being a hyper-superpower. Now that the Church is in “open contrast” with the White House, Father Gahl believes “it removes entirely that objection.”
Furthermore, some see Cardinal Dolan as having just the attributes needed, given his admired ability to unite the Church in support of religious freedom and yet remain separate from partisan politics. His personality, too, is suited to today’s media age. Some, of course, disagree.
Cardinal Dolan himself played down his own chances when asked in the Sirius interview if he could be elected. “I could be the next shortstop of the Yankees too,” he said. “Anything is possible!”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Rome, (Zenit.org). Edward Pentin
The history of conclaves is a fascinating one, although not always very edifying, particularly when popes were closely tied to temporal power.
Tales of skulduggery, corruption and bribery litter papal elections up until the 19th century. And even when the electors try to play by the rules, some ballots have been so farcical they would have made amusing comedy material.
But examining papal elections helps shed light on how the Church evolved to adopt the nature of conclaves we know today. They also show that whatever the sinfulness and weaknesses of her members, and despite their best efforts to bring the Church to her knees, grace sustains her.
Some of the earliest papal elections are filled with political power struggles and interference that would be a hallmark of many later conclaves. In 687, after clashes between local clergy, the army, and a conniving archdeacon of Rome, electors simply plucked a priest called Sergius from the midst of the people, sent him to the imperial palace where he was acknowledged as pope, and then hurried to the Lateran where he was consecrated pontiff. Surprisingly, given the arbitrary nature of the choice, Sergius I went on to become an accomplished Successor of Peter.
A further curious election took place in 731 when, during the burial of Pope Gregory II, a priest was again seized, this time from the funeral procession, and rushed off to the Lateran where he was made Pope by popular acclaim, becoming Gregory III.
As papal elections were often compromised by outside forces, in particular lay interference, a number of subsequent attempts were made to restrict the voters to clergy and bishops. After electors rigged his election, Pope Stephen III held a synod in 769 to try to ensure that only cardinal priests and deacons were allowed to be electors (until then they were leading clergy, army officers, their troops and leading citizens).
By the ninth century, attempts were made to limit interference in papal elections from emperors and magnates of the Holy Roman Empire which, owing to the close relationship between the faith and temporal power (emperors could appoint or impose a pope), had made the process an even greater hot-bed of corruption and skulduggery.
But the first major reform of papal elections didn’t take place until 1059, when Pope Nicholas II issued the decree Nomine Domine – In the name of the Lord. The decree stated that from then on, popes were to be elected by cardinal bishops alone. The rest of the cardinals would then be asked to give their assent and after that, the clergy and laity of Rome. The purpose was to remove papal elections from the control of noble Roman families such as the Crescentii and Tusculani, and the vagaries of the Roman crowd. As Peter Damian, the famous reforming Benedictine of that time, wrote: cardinal bishops do the electing, other clergy give their assent and the people are able to give their applause.
Yet the unseemly power struggles would continue, leading to occasional antipopes – those chosen by a rival power who wouldn’t accept the legitimately elected pontiff. Nicholas II’s successor, Alexander II, faced a rival in the person of Cadalus, the bishop of Parma, who was put forward by German powers because he would be more sympathetic to the imperial cause. Cadalus was never installed as Pope Honorius II, and simply went back to being the bishop of Parma once efforts to have him installed were exhausted, although he never abandoned his claim to the papacy.
Conclaves – which means “with key” – came into being in 1179 and the Third Lateran Council of Alexander III. In order to avoid dissension in future papal elections, Alexander introduced the rule that any new Pope had to have a two thirds majority. All cardinals were to vote, not just cardinal bishops. (The rule stayed in place until Pius XII, who then made it two-thirds plus one. John Paul II reduced it back to two thirds, with a simple majority after 34 votes. Benedict XVI made further changes to the process in 2007, reinstating the two thirds rule, but introduced a run-off vote after 34 unsuccessful voting rounds whereby everyone but the two leading candidates are eliminated. The first of the two to reach the necessary two thirds wins.)
But the reforms only partially worked, and divisions and deadlock would continue. In 1261, the cardinals were deeply divided, and eventually looked outside their own and plumped for a non-cardinal – Jacques Pantaleon, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He would undoubtedly have been surprised: Pantaleon just happened to be visiting the papal curia on diocesan business at the time.
Still, the most bizarre and farcical conclave would take place in 1271. The papacy had been vacant since 1268 and cardinals were struggling to decide on a pope for a year and a half because of the influence and interference of external powers. Reflecting the frustration many felt, Raniero Gatti, ‘captain of the people’, locked the cardinals up in the papal palace, had the roof taken off, restricted their diet, and surrounded the palace with soldiers. Some cardinals were taken ill as they were left exposed to the elements.
Such protracted conclaves led Pope Gregory X to issue the decree Ubi periculum – ‘Where there is danger’ – in 1274. Among the rules, he ordered that all future conclaves take place in the city where the Pope died, wait ten days for all cardinals to arrive, and that all cardinals live in common in one room with no partition or curtain. They also had to be completely locked in – no one was allowed to enter, communicate with them, nor they with anyone else. Moreover, after three days without an election, they were allowed only one dish at lunch and supper, then after five days, given only bread, wine and water until they came up with a pope. A number of provisos existed when cardinals were taken ill or needed to attend to urgent business.
Ubi periculum would soon be temporarily rescinded and protracted conclaves would return. One in 1292 was particularly divided around the factions in the Roman nobility, the Orsini and Colonna families. After nearly two years of deadlock, a frustrated Charles II of Anjou drew up a list of his own. After that was rejected, he called on an elderly and holy hermit he knew, Pietro del Morrone, and got him to write a letter upbraiding the cardinals for their dilatoriness. The dean of the College of Cardinals read out the letter and said he would vote for Morrone to be Pope. The rest of the college followed suit, leading Morrone to be dragged to Rome and made Pope Celestine V.
As Pope, he reinstated Gregory X’s decree. But elderly, ill, and as far as he was concerned, unable to govern as pope, Celestine resigned from the papacy in 1294 (Benedict XVI has a devotion to Celestine and left his pallium on his tomb in 2009). His successor, Boniface VIII would incorporate Ubi periculum into the canon law of the Church.
Many other notable conclaves would take place in the following years. Between 1590 and 1592, there were no less than four conclaves in 18 months; in 1740 the conclave would last six months, during which four of the 68 cardinals died. A further lengthy conclave took place from October 1774 to February 1775, leading to the election of Pius VI.
Conclave procedures have changed considerably since those times: two ways of electing a pope – by inspiration (cardinals nominate a candidate and greeted with unanimous acclaim) and compromise (choice is made by a mediating committee) – have long since been dropped, and only scrutiny (by secret ballot, requiring the now customary two thirds majority) remains.
In the 1970s, Pope Paul VI introduced the age limit of 80 for electors, and 120 as the maximum number of voting cardinals. Blessed John Paul II, meanwhile, ordered that conclaves must always take place in the Sistine Chapel. Previous popes recommended the chapel, but earlier conclaves have been held in a variety of churches in Rome and other cities.
The upcoming conclave will be the 75th in the life of the Church – historians date the first as taking place in 1295 when Boniface VIII inserted Gregory’s decree into canon law.
For more on the history of conclaves, I recommend Michael Walsh’s excellent book “The Conclave” and, if you speak Italian, Ambrogio Piazzoni’s “History of Papal Elections”.
So many conspiracies surround the Pope’s abdication, but the answers can be found in the Pope’s short statement delivered Feb. 11. Article from the National Catholic Register.
VATICAN CITY — Conspiracies abound surrounding the Pope’s abdication Feb. 28, but it is becoming clear that the very reasons the Holy Father gave in his Feb. 11 announcement are the best guide to understanding his motives.
Pope Benedict XVI is not suffering from any specific medical problem — neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s disease — and Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was categorical in his denials of such an illness when asked by the Register last week.
But what also can be verified by those who know the Holy Father best is that his physical condition has weakened considerably in recent months, to such an extent that he felt obliged to take action.
One source close to the Pope’s inner circle told the Register Feb. 16 that the Pope has lost 22 pounds over the past year, and that those closest to him were starting to become concerned about his increasing frailty and exhaustion.
And in an article in this week’s edition of Focus, a German weekly magazine, papal biographer Peter Seewald wrote that he had never seen the Pope so “exhausted and depressed” as when they last met, 10 weeks ago.
Seewald, who has been working on a new book on Pope Benedict and had met the Holy Father several times in Rome over the past year, said the Pope’s “hearing had diminished” and he “could no longer see in his left eye.”
He observed that the Holy Father had become so thin that his old clothes would no longer fit him. Last week, Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi also revealed that the Pope had had a pacemaker for a number of years.
“He has become so soft, more kindly and even more humble, but quite withdrawn,” Seewald wrote. “He didn’t look ill but fatigue had taken hold of his body and soul and couldn’t be ignored.”
Strong Governance Required
Others close to the Holy Father say that the Pope, aware he was beginning to fail physically, did not want to match the powerful witness to suffering that Blessed Pope John Paul II had already given during his final years — and he refused to do so simply out of humility.
“Pope Benedict is not afraid of suffering but he didn’t feel he was the one to compete with John Paul II and in that sense it was a very noble and humble act,” said Paul Badde, Rome correspondent for Die Welt, who is close to the Pope’s inner circle. “He realized John Paul II was a hero of suffering but he also saw what happened at close quarters during his final years and how he let governance go unchecked for quite some time.”
As Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson’s disease, much of the governing of the Church during those final years was carried out by his aides, and most notably by his personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. “Pope Benedict has entrusted the pontifical household to his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, and believes it would be unfair to pass the onus of governing the Church onto him, letting his secretary effectively be Pope,” Badde continued. “That’s very rational of him and, I would say, shows a great humility.”
Seewald, to whom Pope Benedict revealed he would consider abdicating as recounted in Seewald’s 2010 book Light of the World, wrote in his Focus article that it was clear the possibility of renouncing the papacy remained present in his mind from that time onward. During one of their meetings at Castel Gandolfo last August, he asked the Holy Father what more could be expected from his pontificate.
“From me? Not much,” the Pope replied. “I am an old man and the strength stops. I think what I have done is enough.” Asked if he would resign, the Pope answered, “That depends how much my physical strength will be necessary for me.”
That same month, Seewald recalled, Benedict wrote to one of his doctoral students saying that the coming Schulerkreis — his annual September meeting with his former students — would be his last.
And with his remaining strength, Seewald said, the Pope brought to a conclusion his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, with his book on the infancy narratives published in time for Christmas. Benedict said it would be his last book with “sadness in his eyes,” Seewald remembered.
But the German journalist and author stressed that recent events and crises did not play a direct role in his decision. When Seewald asked him about the Vatileaks scandal, the Pope said that although the betrayal of his valet was disappointing to him, the crisis surrounding the leaking of confidential papal documents did not alter his course.
“It wasn’t as though I fell into some kind of despair or world weariness,” Seewald said the Pope told him. “It was simply incomprehensible to me.” He added that he couldn’t “penetrate the psychology” behind it, nor what Paolo Gabriele expected to gain from leaking the documents. But he said he was keen that the “Vatican’s judicial independence would be preserved.”
That conversation took place back in August, and some are claiming that a confidential dossier on the scandal, drawn up by a commission of cardinals and recently handed to the Pope, is explosive and implicates a number of senior officials. Sources close to the Pope’s aides have told the Register that he has been betrayed by some people whom he thought were old and trusted friends from Germany, but being an intensely loyal person, he has never sought to take action against them.
Wearied by Vatican Infighting?
Others point to rivalries within the Roman Curia, most notably between the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and some of the “old guard” who served in the Curia during John Paul II’s pontificate. These curial officials consider Cardinal Bertone an outsider and out of his depth (unusually for a secretary of state, he is not a Vatican diplomat nor a linguist) but intensely loyal to the Pope.
Some observers also argue that allegations of corruption in the Curia, and attacks against those who tried to stamp it out (Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the nuncio to the United States, is one such former Vatican official who was allegedly forced out on account of his anti-corruption efforts) is more evidence of these rivalries.
To give credence to this theory, these observers have highlighted the Pope’s last homily, given last week on Ash Wednesday, in which he chose not to focus on the problems outside the Church such as secularism and relativism but rather internal squabbles.
Reflecting on the importance of testimony and how it can sometimes be “disfigured,” the Pope said he was thinking “about sins against the unity of the Church, the divisions in the ecclesial body.” He said living Lent “in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent.”
Although these internal squabbles did not directly cause the Pope to resign, it’s conceivable that he felt too old to be able to deal with them and other issues of Church governance, nor to adequately oversee those who were not competent enough to manage them themselves.
As the Vicar of Christ, Benedict has always tried to point others to the Lord, but observers say his inability to govern to his own high standard has led him to believe that his presence is starting to obscure that vision.
“The Church is built on the rock of Peter, and we have the assurance of Non Praevalebunt [“The gates of hell shall not prevail”],” said Badde. “But when the rock realizes he is starting to crumble away, then it is only fair and right that he exercise his sovereign liberty and choose not to be the rock anymore but instead make way for the next Peter, the next firm and solid rock.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
My article from Sept. 2011. Socci was of course right and it seems Vatileaks made the Pope postpone the decision.
Pope Benedict XVI’s intense four-day visit to Germany last week, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi expressed his astonishment at how well the Pope had coped with such a grueling schedule.
“The Pope is doing extraordinarily well,” he told reporters on the final day. “This has been pleasing to see for us, for the people and for him too.”
So it came as a surprise when the Italian press reported speculation the same day saying the Pope may resign when he turns 85 next April.
The rumor was quickly dismissed by the Vatican. “We don’t know anything about it,” Father Lombardi said. It was clear, he told Reuters, that the Pope “is still able to deal with very difficult commitments.”
The story originated from journalist Antonio Socci. Writing in the Italian newspaper Libero, he said “this rumor [of resignation] is circulating high up in the Vatican and therefore deserves close attention.” The Pope, he claimed, “has not rejected the possibility” of resigning on his 85th birthday.
Last year, Pope Benedict candidly told German journalist Peter Seewald in the book “Light of the World” that he could foresee a situation of abdication, such as when a Pope “clearly realizes he is no longer physically or psychologically and spiritually capable.” But he also said that when the danger is great, “one must not run away” and now is “certainly not the time to resign.”
Last week, the Pope’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, said he believed his younger brother should retire if health problems make it impossible for him to fulfill his pastoral duties, but he made it clear that he was speaking hypothetically and not about any current medical issue. “He is very capable of taking action” now, he said.
Some observers have pointed to signs that could give credence to Socci’s speculation, though the evidence is largely unconvincing.
On a visit to L’Aquila in 2009, the Pope unusually left his own “pallium,” a woolen vestment which is a sign of episcopal authority, on the tomb of Pope Saint Celestine V — the only pontiff to have willingly chosen to resign. But the Pope made the visit to honor the 800th anniversary of St. Celestine’s birth — a gesture any other pontiff would have made.
As a further possible sign, some have noted that the day before he left for Germany last week, the Pope bestowed the pallium on Cardinal Angelo Scola, an old friend of the Pope, who took up his new appointment as Archbishop of Milan this week (the Pope usually imposes the pallium on several newly appointed bishops on June 29, the Church’s feast day of Saints Peter and Paul).
Cardinal Scola, 69, is a leading contender for the papacy, and last week’s private ceremony was therefore read by some observers as a possible “anointing of a successor.”
Pope John Paul II broke with tradition and imposed the pallium on the then-Cardinal Ratzinger during Lent of 2003, though probably more in recognition of Cardinal Ratzinger’s position as dean of the College of Cardinals than as a sign of his chosen successor.
In spite of how it might seem, the reasons for last week’s private ceremony can easily be explained: Cardinal Scola wasn’t able to attend the usual June 29 ceremony as his nomination had just been made a few days before.
Last week’s ceremony was originally scheduled for Sept. 15, but was postponed to Sept 21 due to illness (of the cardinal). Serendipitously, Sept 21 also marked Scola’s 20th anniversary as a bishop.
As a leading prelate with the same theological views as the Pope, Cardinal Scola is nevertheless considered by Vatican watchers to be a top contender to succeed Pope Benedict. Before his appointment to Milan, he was Patriarch of Venice.
Both positions are of great importance to the Italian Church, and have traditionally been seen as possible stepping stones to the papacy.
Antonio Socci is an acclaimed writer in Italy, but he has had conflicts with the Vatican in the past. In 2007, he wrote a book in which he said he had hard evidence that a second text of the Third Secret of Fatima had not yet been published.
The Three Secrets of Fatima consist of a series of visions and prophecies from the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young Portuguese shepherds. One apparition is said to have foreseen the shooting of Pope John Paul II. The contents of the third secret were revealed by the Vatican in 2000.
Socci’s claim led to a public dispute between him and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican official who was entrusted by John Paul II with the publication of the third secret.
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Edward Pentin reporting from Rome — Fevered speculation is already underway over who could succeed Pope Benedict XVI when he retires on Feb. 28th — and there is no shortage of names being put forward.
Some observers strongly argue the case for an African Pope as the faith is growing most rapidly there; others believe the papacy will return to the Italians who held it for four centuries until Polish Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978.
A further school of thought sees it going to an Asian where the Catholic Church is also rapidly growing, or to a cardinal in South America, a region where Catholicism has long been strong but is facing strong competition from Pentecostal sects.
Whoever is elected will face a unique set of challenges, not the least of which will be leading the Catholic Church with a Pope who is still living. Although Pope Benedict has pledged to spend his time in prayer and contemplation in a monastery within the Vatican, his successor will have to learn to deal with possible authority issues among some Catholics who will remain loyal to Benedict XVI but may have difficulty acknowledging the legitimacy of his successor.
Like Benedict XVI, the new Pope will then have to confront an array of other challenges: the growth of secularism and moral relativism in post-Christian Europe and the United States and their effects; the emergence of radical Islam and an increasingly troubled Arab world; and the social fallout of debt-ridden, troubled economies.
Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue will be added challenges. Within the Church, he will have to take over the mantle of trying to bring unity to Catholics, a task Benedict XVI tried especially hard to achieve, and all the difficulties and obstacles that entails.
Predicting the next Pope is always a highly presumptive and precarious endeavour. But it also sheds some light on how the Church differs from any other earthly institution.
For Catholics, the Church is not a political institution, nor a corporation headed by a white-robed CEO, but a divine body, guided by the Holy Spirit, albeit made up of men and women with human imperfections. And those imperfections are not invisible, as some past papal elections have shown.
Furthermore, Cardinal electors do not generally enter the Sistine Chapel with a checklist of abilities to tick off like a presidential primary because the Pope is not a functionary so much as a figure with a much loftier, deeper and sacramental role. He is therefore chosen more on who he is than what he can do.
Because of that, the overriding aspect cardinal-electors will be looking for is holiness, and after that his personal abilities. He will, above all, be someone of prayer, and a man for whom the transcendent reality is a daily reality.
His essential reference point will not be politics, administration or governance but Jesus Christ, and his relationship with him. The ideal candidate for many cardinals, therefore, will be someone who has Christ-like qualities, someone pastoral, with deep compassion for the poor, suffering and most vulnerable, especially the unborn.
Only after that comes competence: the candidate’s intelligence and his grasp of current issues, to have at least some media abilities, as well as a flair for languages — particularly Italian and English — are all worthy attributes.
Many Roman adages surround a conclave, and most of them are unreliable, but one which may well apply in the next papal election is that “a fat Pope follows a thin Pope.” It means that in choosing a pontiff, the cardinal-electors often — though not always — look for personal qualities that were missing in the previous pontiff. As age has become such an issue in this pontificate, it seems highly likely that a younger candidate will be chosen.
Also, as one of Benedict XVI’s weaknesses has been his inability to reform and streamline the Vatican bureaucracy as many had hoped, cardinals may choose someone — most probably a reform-minded Italian with a good knowledge of the Roman Curia — to make those necessary changes which have eluded so many previous pontiffs.
As for the election itself, theories abound that certain nationalities won’t vote for others: Italians allegedly won’t vote for Africans, Africans won’t vote for Asians, and Asians won’t vote for South Americans.
How much this is true is open to question, but as Michael Walsh wrote in his book “The Conclave”: “The further a Pope’s ethnic origins are from the city of Rome, the more remote he appears from the bishopric of Rome.” That doesn’t rule out electing an African or Asian, but to do so takes a far greater leap of faith than choosing a European, and many still cannot see it happening.
An American Pope is also considered unlikely (though not impossible). Ever since the French Pope Clement V became a tool of the French monarchy (then the world’s most powerful nation), and transferred the entire papacy to Avignon in 1309, the Church has been reluctant to elect a Pope from a ruling superpower. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s part of the Church’s tradition.
In any case, all this speculation is somewhat academic as Catholics believe the choice of the Pope is ultimately not made by human minds, but rather the Holy Spirit.
Some leading papabile:
Cardinal Marc Ouellet
- Prefect of Congregation for Bishops.
- Noted for his cheerful, open and humble persona as well as his uncompromising orthodoxy, Canadian Cardinal Ouellet has for some years been regarded as the cardinal to watch for the future.
- As Archbishop of Quebec, he was a lone voice surrounded by liberal bishops and radical secularism, and has resolutely remained one of the most staunch defenders of the Catholic faith in the Canadian hierarchy.
- A native French speaker and the author of many books, he is also a proficient linguist. He is 68.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith
- Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- Hugely popular among the more orthodox wing of the Church, Cardinal Ranjith ticks many of the boxes required to be Pope.
- Known for his personal holiness and administrative abilities, he is also a trained Vatican diplomat who has served in many cities around the world.
- Strongly loyal to Pope Benedict, he has also spent time in the Roman Curia as number two in the Vatican’s department on liturgy.
- He is also well respected in his native land. He is 65.
Cardinal Angelo Scola
- Archbishop of Milan, Italy.
- Son of a truck driver and once an outsider to take over from John Paul II, Cardinal Scola, 71, has for some years been the bookie’s favorite to succeed Benedict XVI.
- An eminent scholar, he has striven to find ways to avoid a ‘clash of civilizations’ through building of forum for dialogue and encounter between the West and Islam.
- An ebullient but warm character he is also a polyglot and a respected intellectual — though sometimes the depth of his intellect can confound even the most erudite of theologians.
Cardinal Robert Sarah
- President of the Pontifical Charity Cor Unum.
- A native of Guinea, gently spoken Cardinal Sarah, 67, is both frank and uncompromising when it comes to the Church’s teaching and respected in the Roman Curia.
- He has been instrumental in overseeing a radical restructuring of the Catholic Church’s international development aid programs which, under Benedict XVI, have become more explicitly Catholic in their identity.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke
- Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
- In the unlikely event of an American being chosen, chances are he would be Cardinal Burke.
- Humble, orthodox and fiercely uncompromising especially about Catholic politicians practicing their faith coherently, he recently said that Irish Catholic politicians who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion.
- Cardinal Burke, 64, a native of Richland Center, Wisc. is an expert in Canon Law and a keen proponent of the traditional liturgy.
- He has also been a close confident of Pope Benedict.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
- Archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
- A member of a prominent aristocratic Austrian family that produced two cardinals in the 18th and 19th centuries, Cardinal Schoenborn, 68, has long been considered a serious candidate for Pope, but his star has waned a little in recent years as he has become encumbered with a number of controversies, and his handling of those controversies has been questioned.
- Nevertheless, he has had extensive experience of defending the Church in the face of radical secularism in Austria.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
- Archbishop of Genoa, Italy.
- A firm and loyal friend of Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bagnasco, 70, has emerged as a doughty yet softly spoken and deeply pastoral leader of the Church in Italy, and an ideal candidate to tackle increasing secularism.
- His meteoric rise is testament to his abilities.
- He has spoken out strongly in defense of Church teaching, notably against same-sex unions in 2007, a battle the Italian Church eventually won but which led to death threats against him and the presence of armed guards.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
- Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
- A trained aircraft pilot and saxophonist, Cardinal Maradiaga, 70, is from the more liberal wing of the Church.
- He has long been one of Latin America’s leading voices in the College of Cardinals, especially on social justice issues.
- He once called poverty and social injustice the real “weapons of mass destruction” and said globalization is creating a world in which “the greediness of a few is leaving the majority on the margin of history.”
- He is most popular in Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.
- He is also good with the media, and speaks eight languages.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson
- President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
- Now 64, Ghanaian Cardinal Turkson was the youngest cardinal when John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2003.
- Since then, he has made his mark as a champion of Christian unity, interreligious dialogue and the Church in Africa.
- A proficient linguist (he speaks six languages), many see him as a logical choice to become an African Pope.
- But his judgement has been questioned by some since he became president of the Pontifical Council.
Cardinal Péter Erdõ
- Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary.
- At only 60, Cardinal Erdõ, the primate of Hungary, is one of the youngest members of the College of Cardinals.
- A canon lawyer, he has a string of awards and positions to his name.
- He is also the president of Europe’s Catholic bishops, an advisor to a number of Vatican departments and has written hundreds of research papers and articles.
- His star is rising and is one to watch.
Waning strength of mind and body led to his decision, which the papal spokesman said reflected ‘great courage.’
By Edward Pentin
VATICAN CITY (12 Feb. 2013) — During the course of his nearly eight-year pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has sometimes been labeled “the Pope of Surprises” on account of his academic brilliance and unpredictability, but few seriously imagined this.
News of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation — which was declared formally in a written statement dated Feb. 10 — filtered through the Italian news agency ANSA at around 10.30 a.m. Rome time Feb. 11 and was initially met with widespread disbelief, even by those closest to him.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed a couple of hours later during a packed and somber press conference that the Pope would indeed be leaving his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter at precisely 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Benedict announced his decision to a Feb. 11 consistory of cardinals to rule on three canonizations.
Father Lombardi said his closest aides were left “incredulous,” but added that Holy Father showed “great courage” and “determination.” Speaking the day after the announcement, he said the Pope was “serene” after taking “a lucid and well formed decision.”
It’s thought that only his very close inner circle — notably his brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and the prefect of the Pontifical Household Archbishop Georg Gänswein — knew of the Pope’s decision to resign before the public announcement. Father Lombardi said it was an “absolutely personal” decision.
Such a resignation is unprecedented in modern times, with the last papal resignation being Pope Gregory XII in 1415. But it is in line with Canon 332 No. 2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that if a Pope is to resign, “it is required for validity that he make the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.”
In his statement, the Pope said that “after having repeatedly examined” his conscience before God, he had come to the “certainty” that his strengths, “due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
He added: “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”
But he said in today’s world, “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.” He noted that these had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
“For this reason,” he continued, “and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005.”
No Medical Diagnosis
No specific medical reasons were given: Father Lombardi said he knew of no particular medical complaint, only that he had noticed increasing frailty, although on Feb. 12 he disclosed that the Pope had had a new pacemaker fitted three months ago. He also denied there was any conscious attempt to make the announcement on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is also the Church’s World Day of the Sick.
The news prompted speculation about the reasons for his unexpected decision. However, those close to the Pope argue that his decision is very much in keeping with his character. Reluctant to be Pope — he once remarked that on learning of his election, he felt like a guillotine had come down on his neck — he went on to courageously embrace it. But it was no secret that as cardinal, he harbored dreams of retiring and spending time back in his native Bavaria writing books.
Moreover, as a man known for his humility and well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, he made it clear that he would consider resigning if the time were right. In his 2010 interview for the book Light of the World, Pope Benedict was asked if he would resign in view of the sexual abuse scandal.
“When the danger is great one must not run away,” he said. “For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view.”
But he added, “One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”
Asked if he could imagine a situation in which he would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate, he said he could, and that “if a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”
That time appears to have come.
Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s older brother, told reporters Feb. 11 that the Holy Father had been advised by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. He added that he had been having difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process.”
“His age is weighing on him,” he said. “At this age, my brother wants more rest.”
But a further sign that the Pope might resign was also apparent back in 2009. Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican was one of the few to draw attention to the significance of Benedict XVI visiting the resting place of Pope Celestine V. A holy Pope chosen reform the Church, Celestine pleaded with cardinals not to choose him, and struggled to rule the powerful cardinals around him. He resigned from the papacy in December 1294, five months after his election.
Elected at a time of great corruption and contention in the Church, after a long conclave, he assumed the See of Peter at the age of 80; Benedict XVI was 78 when elected in 2005.
Some observers therefore see it as unsurprising that Benedict XVI had an affinity with Celestine, and during his 2009 visit, made a significant gesture by leaving his own pallium — a sign of his episcopal authority and his connection to Christ — on the medieval Pope’s tomb.
During his pontificate, Benedict has venerated the relics of Celestine twice — but although such gestures did not go unnoticed at the time, few believed Benedict XVI would himself resign.
But the Holy Father’s retirement is likely to be less fraught than that of Celestine, who was held under house arrest by Pope Boniface VIII as his successor feared his opponents might use Celestine as a rallying point. Boniface also annulled all of Celestine’s official acts.
Father Lombardi said Pope Benedict plans to retire to a former cloistered monastery within the Vatican, but immediately after Feb. 28, he will be based at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. This is to allow renovations to the monastery to be completed, after which the former Pope will continue his theological studies.
The Vatican spokesman, speaking on Feb. 12, said the Pope’s expected encyclical on faith will not be published before the Pope steps down. He added that he did not know how close the document was to completion but when published, it will take a form other than an encyclical.
Tributes Pour In
Tributes to the Pope have been pouring in from around the world, beginning in the Curia.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals who will play a key role in overseeing the coming conclave, expressed his closeness, and that of all the cardinals, to Benedict XVI.
“We have heard you with a sense of loss and almost disbelief,” he said in a statement. “In your words we see the great affection that you have always had for God’s Holy Church, for this Church that you have loved so much.”
He recalled how the Holy Father “did not hesitate” to assume the responsibilities of being Pope when elected in 2005. “Although moved with emotion, to answer that you accepted, trusting in the Lord’s grace and the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Like Mary on that day she gave her ‘Yes’, and your luminous pontificate began, following in the wake of continuity, in that continuity with your 265 predecessors in the Chair of Peter, over 2,000 years of history from the Apostle Peter, the humble Galilean fisherman, to the great popes of the last century from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II.”
“We will still have many occasions to hear your paternal voice,” Cardinal Sodano continued. “Your mission, however, will continue. You have said that you will always be near us with your witness and your prayer. Of course, the stars always continue to shine and so will the star of your pontificate always shine among us. We are near to you, Holy Father, and we ask you to bless us.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, issued a statement saying the Pope “brought a tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with God in all he did.” Acknowledging sadness at the news, Cardinal Dolan said his resignation is “another sign of his great care for the Church.”
“Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Tributes were forthcoming from outside the Catholic Church as well. Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the recently elected leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said it was with “a heavy heart but complete understanding” that Anglicans had learned of the Pope’s decision.
“As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ,” Archbishop Welby said in a message posted on his website. “He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.”
President Barack Obama also released an official statement in response to the Pope’s announcement, remembering his 2009 visit with the pope and acknowledging the role of the Church in the U.S. and world.
Reaction among Romans was largely one of shock — drivers calling over passersby near the Vatican to check it was true, while others wondering if there were more reasons behind the resignation and that maybe he had been pushed out. Almost fittingly, a thunderstorm broke soon after the announcement and torrential rain poured down on Rome for the rest of the day.
The Coming Conclave
Attention has already started turning towards the coming conclave, although proceedings won’t begin until March 1.
Father Lombardi said no one knows the exact date of the papal election, but noted that obviously there will be no need to wait the normal eight days of novendali (mourning) after the death of the Pope.
“Thus, in two weeks, during the month of March, in time for Easter, we will have a new pope,” the papal spokesman said. “Benedict XVI will have no role in next March’s conclave, or in the running of the Church during the time between popes, the time of Sede Vacante (empty chair),” he added. “The Apostolic Constitution gives no role in this transition to a pope who resigns.” As of Feb. 12 it’s also not clear what title Benedict XVI with have once he steps down.
Many speculate that among the leading candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI are Cardinals Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian and president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Robert Sarah, a Guinean and president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
From the United States, Cardinals Timothy Dolan, Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Houston-Galveston have been mentioned; however, in Church history it is considered less likely (though not impossible) for a candidate from a world superpower to be elected Pope.
Whoever is elected will find himself confronting a unique set of circumstances, and have to deal with the challenge of a previous, legitimately elected Pope still living.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
A report on comments made by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying media criticisms are provoking ‘artificially generated anger’ that sometimes is suggestive of ‘a pogrom atmosphere.’
VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said members of the Western media appear “ridden” with attacks against the Catholic Church, where an “artificially generated anger” is growing that “occasionally reminds one of a pogrom atmosphere.”
In a Feb 2 interview with the German daily newspaper Die Welt that has caused quite a stir in that country, Archbishop Müller spoke of a “concerted campaign” to discredit the Church on the Internet and television that is resulting in open attacks against priests.
He also observed that those attacking the Church borrow arguments used by totalitarian ideologies — such as communism and Nazism — against Christianity.
Elsewhere in the interview, the CDF prefect said the Church is not suffering from too much “centralism,” but, rather, not enough unity.
“The centrifugal forces are too strong,” he said. “Rome is not a bureaucratic center for the Church, but, rather, guarantees orientation towards the successors of Peter.”
He regretted statistics that show that 80% of baptized German Catholics no longer participate in the Eucharist on Sunday and argued that the question of faith in God must be placed in the center of life.
Asked if he thought, after seven years of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, the view of the Church in Germany had changed from being, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988, “lukewarm and boring,” he said it depended on how the Church is considered. Sentiment appears hostile if one only views the Church from the perspective of public opinion, he pointed out, but he also stressed dialogue is a good thing, so long as the essentials are discussed and not the “same problems dished out again and again.”
He cited the impossibility of women priests and the acceptance of same-sex partnerships (“They can in no way be equated to marriage”) and said that the discipline of priestly celibacy, which precludes a married priesthood, corresponds to the example and words of Jesus and has a particular expression in the Latin Church.
“Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God is rooted in the Gospel,” he said.
Turning to authentic reform of the Church, he advised looking at the example of true reformers, such as Sts. Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, as well as the Council of Trent, with its renewal of popular piety.
Evidence of the hostility toward the Church that Archbishop Müller discussed was on display in full force recently in Trieste, Italy.
On Jan. 12, the archdiocesan residence was besieged after Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi defended the Church’s teaching on marriage in a published interview.
Around 200 homosexual-rights activists from the Italian group Arcigay surrounded the residence, hurling insults and causing so much commotion that the archbishop was forced to seek refuge indoors.
“The first thing I did was go to the chapel, to pray at vespers, and then I started to read a thick book by Rodney Stark, the great American sociologist, entitled The Victory of Reason,” he said. “The book analyzes, among other things, the many persecutions suffered by Christians in 2,000 years of history [and] demonstrates, with a wealth of data, that, in the end, the persecutors pass away while Christians continue, because the persecutions purify them and make them stronger.”
The protesters called Archbishop Crepaldi “homophobic,” “intolerant” and “racist” — despite the fact the archbishop strongly fought against racism when he served eight years as secretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He also rejected the accusation of homophobia, saying the protest passes through that pretext of hate directed against homosexuals to an assertion of the “rights of the family and marriage.”
“The ultimate goal of these campaigns is to undermine what is a cornerstone of civilization, the concept of the family, founded on marriage between a man and a woman, equating it to other forms of cohabitation,” he said in the interview, which was originally published by the weekly Trieste newspaper Vita Nuova.
Archbishop Crepaldi said that anyone like himself willing to state publicly the Catholic position that the true family is only one founded on marriage between a man and a woman could eventually become subject to criminal proceedings and prosecution. “If one who belongs to the Catholic Church travels this road and professes this doctrine, though not only this one, he will become party to criminal punishment, even jail.”
“This insidious program, disguised as progressive and libertarian, will put the muzzle on everyone, depriving us of freedom,” he said, adding that it is “ironic that the Church, which has given the world a higher conception of incomparable values of the human person and taught it the duty of respect, equality and fraternity, has come to be described as racist and discriminating. These are the quirks of history.”
Tough Times Ahead
Quoting friends at the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, he warned, “Gender-style persecution against Christianity has begun, and it will be tough.”
Said Archbishop Crepaldi, “There will be militant [Christians], those who seek compromise, those who cheat; there will be faithful, and there will also be martyrs.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
The Edict of Milan turned 1,700 this month. A reflection on what it meant to the Church and the world.
Unless you were in Milan or the Serbian city of Niš, chances are you probably missed celebrations to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.
Yet this commemoration, which fell Feb. 3, is one of the most important events in Church history, marking the date when Christians were set free from three centuries of persecution. For the first time, the faithful had the same religious liberties that other religious groups enjoyed: They gained legal protections that allowed them to build places of worship, and had their confiscated possessions restored.
In essence, the Edict of Milan that was signed by Emperor Constantine in 313 heralded the official birth of Western Christian civilization and the free societies so many enjoy today.
The extent of the persecution Christians had hitherto suffered is almost incomprehensible to the modern mind. Countless Christians were tortured and killed under the emperors Nero (who notoriously had St. Peter crucified in 64 AD), Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, and Septimius Severus. They then abated under Severus Alexander (208-235) who was sympathetic to Christians, only to flare up again under Emperors Maximus Thracian, Decius, and Valerian (253-260).
The persecutions culminated with Emperor Diocletian (299-311) and his contemporaries, Galerius and Maximian. Under Diocletian alone, an estimated half a million Christians were killed. The last persecution was organized during the reign of Emperor Licinius (308–324) but by that time, a push for greater tolerance had begun. An Edict of Tolerance was issued in 311, and although property continued to be confiscated, this was soon corrected by Licinius and Constantine, then respective Roman Emperors of East and West, when they issued the Edict of Milan in 313.
Seventeen hundred years on, the extent of the persecution facing Christians is not anything like the tribulations of the early Church. Yet if one compares then and now, disturbing parallels do emerge.
Edmund Mazza, a respected professor of history and political science at Azusa Pacific University, notes that the persecutions “started out innocently enough”: Diocletian wanted to “fundamentally transform” his society “following years of ineffective leaders, wars, foreign attacks, and deep-seated economic problems.” But he was criticized by the Christian author Lactantius for “acquiring monarchical powers not granted him by the Roman Constitution.”
Speaking to ZENIT, Mazza argues that a similar trend can be witnessed today, as Republicans and conservatives make the same criticism of the Obama administration. Critics cite the administration’s “legalization of indefinite detention and suspension of trial by jury against American citizens on US soil simply by categorizing them as ‘terrorists’; its threatening to fine and imprison citizens whose only crime is to fail to purchase government-mandated health insurance; deciding for itself what constitutes a ‘religious organization’; and forcing Christian (and other) employers to give money to insurance companies who will then turn around and cover employee birth control.”
He further argues that since birth control has a .5% to 5% failure rate, and since tens of millions of women are taking them, “we’re talking roughly 10 million abortions a year, or 10 times the number of surgical abortions, millions of early deaths these employers will now be morally complicit in.”
Diocletian’s persecution of Christians is said to have begun after his pagan priests blamed Christian court officials for making the Sign of the Cross, thus spoiling a court ceremony that predicted the future (during an animal sacrifice).The emperor then ordered all Christians in government and the military to sacrifice to pagan gods or be dismissed, but he left civilians alone.
“As the years went by, however, the death penalty was inflicted against Christian bishops and priests, and churches and Bibles were confiscated and burned,” Mazza explains. “Later decrees forced even ordinary citizens to violate their Christian beliefs or suffer martyrdom.”
Mazza says that likewise, the US administration’s actions against religious liberty “have only begun to be felt by military chaplains and Church institutions (and lay business-owners), not the man in the street.”
He adds: “Is it only a matter of time before it proceeds apace to a full escalation? We must pray for God’s mercy and support our bishops.”
Like many others in the Church, Mazza believes that until Russia is consecrated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart by bishops united with the Pope, then “persecutions against the Church” and the “martyrdom of the good” will increase. Such a prediction, he stresses, was made in 1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima.
“Every Catholic in America should contact his or her bishop and respectfully request their participation in this act of entrustment, for freedom’s sake,” Mazza says.
* * *
Life for the post-Constantine Church wasn’t of course plain sailing, but it was not subject to the corruption myths that emerged during the Renaissance and the Reformation, and spread by Enlightenment historians such as Edward Gibbon and Jacob Burckhardt.
Questions over whether the Roman Empire surrendered to Christianity, or Christianity prostituted itself to the empire have long been disregarded in modern times, except in the fictitious works of authors such as Dan Brown and his potboiler, the Da Vinci Code.
“Constantine was far from perfect, but he was neither a corruptor of the Church, nor an intolerant zealot who destroyed all worship that was not Catholic,” Mazza says.
His view is echoed by other scholars such as the sociologist and historian Rodney Stark who has shown that, contrary to the thesis of Gibbon and others, paganism was not rapidly stamped out by state repression following Constantine’s vision and conversion, but gradually disappeared as people abandoned the temples in response to the superior appeal of Christianity.
Mazza concedes that Constantine conferred secular powers and privileges on bishops, but this was in the interests of justice and charity. “Since the bishops had reputations for honesty and resistance to bribery, the emperor, for a time, allowed secular cases to be appealed to Church courts,” he says. In another law, Constantine allowed slaves to be made free, “if the ceremony was witnessed by Christian bishops in churches,” he adds.
Historians have pointed out that in later decades and centuries, close involvement between the State and senior Church officials led to abuses, “but Constantine can hardly be blamed,” Mazza says.
Instead, he is to be remembered for being the protagonist in fostering the advent of Christian civilization in the West. The path for Christians thereafter was never smooth (persecutions would continue, most notably in Persia), but the liberty that Constantine had won allowed the Church to flourish for centuries to come. Furthermore, Mazza stresses, it is a little-known fact that it was actually Christians who were the ones to first develop the notion of religious liberty.
The Serbian city of Niš where Constantine was born is dedicating the whole of 2013 to celebrating the Edict of Milan, hosting concerts and other events. And on Sept. 21, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, will take part in other events in Niš, including celebrating a commemorative Mass.
As it will be a celebration that unites both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, it is hoped Pope Benedict XVI may also take part. Niš may even prove to be a suitable venue for the Holy Father to finally meet Patriarch Kirill of Russia, but so far the Vatican has yet to confirm such a visit. The city’s celebrations end on Oct. 28.
Milan itself is currently staging an exhibition on the Edict of Milan at the Palazzo Reale until March 17, but strangely, the Feb. 3 anniversary passed without a mention in the Vatican and in Rome.
It will be interesting to see if, as society becomes increasingly secular, future anniversaries of the Edict may not be so blithely overlooked.
(February 07, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.
In this article for Newsmax, Feb 1, 2013, I report on how new evidence has come to light revealing heavy Vatican investment in the United States during World War Two that went directly towards significantly helping the Allied war effort. The findings add yet more weight – if any more were needed – that Pius XII was not sympathetic to Nazi Germany or indifferent to the Holocaust, but took an active and unmistakeable stand against the Nazis.
By Edward Pentin
Newly discovered wartime British intelligence documents appear to show that the Vatican under Pope Pius XII was instrumental in helping fund the Allied war effort that ended the Holocaust and won victory over the Nazis.
The findings, based on systematic British secret service interceptions of financial transactions of the main financial agencies of Vatican City from 1941 to 1943, reveal that at the onset of the Second World War, the Vatican rapidly moved its securities and gold reserves from areas under threat of Nazi occupation to the United States and thereafter used them to help the Allies combat Nazism and provide aid to the worldwide Church suffering from war.
It was a strategy that was fundamentally important to victory over the Nazis, claims Patricia M. McGoldrick of London’s Middlesex University, who published her findings in a December 2012 article entitled “New Perspectives on Pius XII and Vatican Financial Transactions during the Second World War.”
The article appeared in the December edition of “The Historical Journal”, a quarterly of the University of Cambridge.
The protagonist of the story is Bernardino Nogara, an astute financial advisor and networker extraordinaire, who established close ties with large U.S. and British banks. A member of the board of directors of the Banca Commerciale Italiana and a friend of the Ratti family to which Pope Pius XI (Achille Ratti) belonged, Pius XI appointed Nogara as financial advisor to the Holy See in 1929.
The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Jan. 30th that Nogara’s financial planning was “fundamentally important to the Allies’ victory over the Nazis and Fascists in World War II.” His strategy, it added, “concerns millions of dollars invested in the largest banks of the U.S. and Great Britain, by which persecuted churches and exhausted peoples were given aid.” Those banks included JP Morgan, National City Bank of New York, Morgan Grenfell and Barclays.
The documents, preserved in the British National Archives, concern intercepts of the activities of the Vatican’s main financial institutions: the Special Administration of the Holy See (A.S.S.S.) and the Institute for Works of Religion (I.O.R.), or Vatican Bank.
McGoldrick explains that what is learned from these accounts is that at the onset of the Second World War the Vatican “rapidly moved its securities and gold reserves from areas under threat of Nazi occupation to the United States, made the United States the financial hub from which it funded and administered its global church, and had, at any one time, over $10,000,000 invested in the US economy.”
She poses the question that if, as Pius XII’s detractors argue, the Pope and the Vatican were sympathetic to Nazi Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevism, then why did they allow the Vatican’s assets to be transferred to the banks of the democracies, and why did they do so in the early years of the war when it seemed certain, as they themselves believed, that Germany would win? “Would it not have made more sense, and been more commensurate with their alleged political leanings, to have invested these resources instead in the then growing and profitable German economy?,” McGoldrick asks.
She further reveals documented evidence that shows British unwillingness to provide humanitarian aid to suffering Jews. When Pius XII tried to organize large shipments of flour to Rome, where the Pope was already providing over 100,000 hot meals a day, many to Rome’s Jewish community, and even attempting to import food from Argentina and Spain through Italy and Greece, the British blocked the initiatives on cost grounds.
It led the Vatican Secretary of State to send a comment to the British ambassador to the Holy See saying: “The Holy See always replies in the affirmative; it is the British Government who reply in the negative.” In the end, a way was found to funnel assistance to Rome’s Jewish community through the Vatican, McGoldrick adds.
Much of the Vatican’s money was intended to support the Churches in difficulty — missions, nunciatures, seminaries and dioceses on all continents. There was also a privileged channel for Europe — to bring relief to the persecuted churches during the Nazi occupation, where Catholic schools, monasteries and churches were closed or confiscated, youth organizations and Catholic publications suppressed, and many priests and religious arrested and interned in concentration camps. For them, the IOR maintained a separate account at the Chase National Bank of New York, the findings show.
The documents also reveal that after 1939, through Nogara and his contacts in Washington and elsewhere, the Vatican invested heavily in U.S. Treasury Bills, in large manufacturing companies and technology, companies such as Rolls Royce, United Steel Corporation, Dow Chemical, Westinghouse Electric, Union Carbide and General Electric.
McGoldrick says Pius XII was well aware of these investments and goes so far as to speak of “a torrent of Vatican money” flowing directly into “Sherman tanks, B52 bombers, and well equipped GIs who defeated the Nazi regime and ended the bestial murders of the Holocaust forever.”
If the “weight of investment counts,” the author says, “Vatican money was clearly behind the Allies.”
L’Osservatore Romano cautioned that it is “too early” to make precise budgetary analyses of the documents. “The financial history of the Second World War is a ‘terra incognita’,” it said, that “few have begun to explore [and] much of the material has yet to be discovered and studied.”
But it added that it’s already possible to see enough “to make us abandon hasty judgments and ideologized visions in the reconstruction of the facts.”
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