Benedict XVI Makes Brief Trip to Castel Gandolfo


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI briefly returned to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, where he spent time in prayer and attended a small concert in his honor.

He was accompanied by four ‘memores domini’, consecrated women belonging to the Communion and Liberation movement. When he was Pope, they looked after him in the apostolic palace, and continue to do so now as Pope Emeritus, in his new residence in the Vatican Gardens.

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Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at Castel Gandolfo, Aug. 15, 2013.

During his three hour visit, Benedict XVI recited the Rosary while taking a stroll in the villa gardens, just as he used to do when he was Roman Pontiff. He also attended a short piano recital of classical music performed in his honor before returning to the Vatican in the evening.

Benedict XVI spent his first three months in retirement at the papal villas in the town, 20 miles outside Rome. The residence, on a hilltop overlooking a volcanic lake and with its own farm, has always been dear to him. But despite there being a Pope and a Pope Emeritus, neither is living there this summer, the traditional residence for popes from July until October.

Pope Francis is spending all season at the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence at the Vatican, partly to give an example of austerity, but also so that he can take a “working vacation” and prepare his reforms of the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank. It is the longest time the papal villas have remained vacant over the summer since the papal transitions during the summer months of 1978.

Italian media have been reporting that the absence of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI is taking its toll on businesses in the town. Most traders there make most of their living in the summer months, and are reported to be disappointed and saddened by the lack of the town’s greatest draw. During Benedict XVI’s pontificate, his Sunday and Wednesday addresses would bring thousands to the hilltop town, but this season numbers have dwindled to a trickle. One businessman, quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA, said business was “collapsing” while another said she thought it was “a joke” when she found out Pope Francis would not be staying there.

But when I visited the town on the Feast of the Assumption, traders seemed more upbeat, helped by the influx of a crowd of pilgrims numbering over 10,000. “We have a high regard for Pope Francis,” said Diana, owner of an art shop on the central piazza. “He has chosen not to take a vacation, to keep working and maybe that is a good thing.” But she said “we want him here and hopefully he’ll come next year.”

Carla, owner of a souvenir shop, also seemed hardly perturbed, saying that although the absence of a pope has caused some hardship, she liked Pope Francis’ “austere approach to things”. She was confident he would be staying next year.

Castel Gandolfo’s mayor, Milvia Monachesi, has suggested the town perhaps needs to find a new economic model, one not based solely on religious tourism. She argued the town in itself has a lot to offer on account of its history and beautiful location. Some have proposed asking the Vatican to open up the gardens of the papal villas to the public as a way of attracting more tourists.

Monachesi, however, is confident this is just a short-term problem, and took comfort in the fact that Pope John XXIII also didn’t visit the town during the early years of his pontificate. “I’m sure the Pope will come to Castel Gandolfo in the coming years,” she said.

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Bringing the Liturgy Back to the Real Vatican II


The abuses of the sacred liturgy that followed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are “strictly correlated” with a great deal of moral corruption that exists in the world today, says Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT on the sidelines of Sacra Liturgia 2013, a major international conference on the liturgy held in Rome at the end of June, the Vatican’s most senior American says poor liturgies have also led to “a levity in catechesis” that has been “shocking” and left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with today’s challenges.

BurkeIn a wide-ranging discussion, Cardinal Burke, who serves as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, also explains the importance of liturgical law, Pope Francis’ approach to the liturgy, and why the sacred liturgy is vital to the New Evangelization.

ZENIT: Your Eminence, what were your hopes for this conference?

Cardinal Burke: My hope for the conference was a return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the sacred liturgy. Indeed, [I was hoping for] a deepening and appreciation of the continuity of the teaching practised with regard to the sacred liturgy throughout the Church’s history, and which is also reflected in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council – something that was obscured after the Council. I believe in large part that has been achieved.

ZENIT: Are we coming out of that period now?

Cardinal Burke: Yes, already Pope Paul VI after the Council in a very intense way, and then John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, laboured diligently to restore the true nature of the sacred liturgy as the gift of worship given to us by God and which we owe to God in the very way He teaches us how to worship. So it’s not man’s invention, it’s God’s gift to us.

ZENIT: How important is a sound understanding of the liturgy in today’s Church. How can it help evangelization?

Cardinal Burke: To me, it’s fundamental. It’s the most important area of catechesis: to understand the worship accorded to God. The first three commandments of the Ten Commandments are to do with this right relationship to God, especially with regards to worship. It’s only when we understand our relationship with God in offering worship that we also understand the right order of all the other relationships we have. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his wonderful magisterium on the sacred liturgy, and which he expressed so often, [it consists of] this connection between worship and right conduct, worship and law, worship and discipline.

ZENIT: Some argue the liturgy is mostly about aesthetics, and not as important as, say, good works done in faith. What is your view of this argument that one often hears?

Cardinal Burke: It’s a common misconception. First of all, the liturgy is about Christ. It’s Christ alive in his Church, the glorious Christ coming into our midst and acting on our behalf through sacramental signs to give us the gift of eternal life to save us. It is the source of any truly charitable works we do, any good works we do. So the person whose heart is filled with charity wants to do good works will, like Mother Teresa, give his first intention to the worship of God so that when he goes to offer charity to a poor person or someone in need, it would be at the level of God Himself, and not some human level.

ZENIT: Some also say that to be concerned with liturgical law is being unduly legalistic, that it’s a stifling of the spirit. How should one respond to that? Why should we be concerned about liturgical law?

Cardinal Burke: Liturgical law disciplines us so that we have the freedom to worship God, otherwise we’re captured – we’re the victims or slaves either of our own individual ideas, relative ideas of this or that, or of the community or whatever else. But the liturgical law safeguards the objectivity of sacred worship and opens up that space within us, that freedom to offer worship to God as He desires, so we can be sure we’re not worshipping ourselves or, at the same time, as Aquinas says, some kind of falsification of divine worship.

ZENIT: It offers a kind of template?

Cardinal Burke: Exactly, it’s what discipline does in every aspect of our lives. Unless we’re disciplined, then we’re not free.

ZENIT: As a diocesan bishop in the United States, how did you find the state of the liturgy in the parishes you’ve been in charge of? What, in your view, are the priorities for liturgical renewal in diocesan life today?

Cardinal Burke: I found, of course, many wonderful aspects – in both dioceses in which I’ve served – a strong sense of participation on the part of the faithful. What I also found were some of the shadows as Pope John Paul II called them, a loss of Eucharistic faith, a loss of Eucharistic devotion and certain liturgical abuses. And as a diocesan bishop I needed to address them and I tried as best I could. But in addressing them you always try to help both the priest and the faithful to understand the deep reasons for the Church’s discipline, the reasons why a certain abuse is not only unhelpful for sacred worship but is in fact blocking it or corrupting it.

ZENIT: It’s said love for the sacred liturgy and being pro-life go together, that those who worship correctly are more likely to want to bring children into the world. Could you explain why this is so?

Cardinal Burke: It’s in the sacred liturgy above all, and particularly in the Holy Eucharist, that we look upon the love which God has for every human life without exception, without boundary, beginning from the very first moment of conception, because Christ poured out his life as he said for all men. And remember he teaches us that whatever we do for the least of our brethren, we do directly for Him. In other words, he identifies himself in the Eucharistic sacrifice with every human life. So on the one hand, the Eucharist inspires a great reverence for human life, respect and care for human life, and at the same time it inspires a joy among those who are married to procreate, to cooperate with God in bringing new human life into this world.

ZENIT: Sacra Liturgia has been about liturgical celebration but also formation. What basis of liturgical formation do we need in our parishes, dioceses and particularly in our seminaries?

Cardinal Burke: The first important lesson that has to be taught is that the sacred liturgy is an expression of God’s right to receive from us the worship that is due to Him, and that flows from who we are. We are God’s creatures and so divine worship, in a very particular way, expresses at the same time the infinite majesty of God and also our dignity as the only earthly creature that can offer him worship, in other words that we can lift up our hearts and minds to him in praise and worship. So that would be the first lesson. Then to study carefully how the liturgical rites have developed down the centuries and not to see the history of the Church as somehow a corruption of those liturgical rites. In the true sense, the Church over time has come to an ever deeper understanding of the sacred liturgy and has expressed that in several ways, whether it be through sacred vestments, sacred vessels, through sacred architecture – even the care for sacred linens which are used in the Holy Mass. All of these are expressions of the liturgical reality and so those things have to be carefully studied, and of course then to study the relationship of liturgy with the other aspects of our lives.

ZENIT: You’re known for celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Why did Pope Benedict make this freely available and what role does it have to play in the Church of the 21st century?

Cardinal Burke: What Pope Benedict XVI saw and experienced, also through those who came to him, who were very attached what we now call the Extraordinary Form – the Traditional Mass – was that in the reforms as they were introduced after the Council, a fundamental misunderstanding took place. Namely, this was that the reforms were undertaken with the idea there had been a rupture, that the way in which the Mass had been celebrated up until the time of the Council was somehow radically defective and there had to be what was really violent change, a reduction of the liturgical rites and even the language used, in every respect. So in order to restore the continuity, the Holy Father gave wide possibility for the celebration of the sacred rites as they were celebrated up until 1962, and then expressed the hope that through these two forms of the same rite – it’s all the same Roman rite, it can’t be different, it’s the same Mass, same Sacrament of Penance and so forth –there would be a mutual enrichment. And that continuity would be more perfectly expressed in what some have called the “reform of the reform”.

ZENIT: Pope Francis is a different person to Benedict XVI in many ways, but it’s hard to believe there are substantial differences between them on the importance of the sacred liturgy. Are there any differences?

Cardinal Burke: I don’t see it at all. The Holy Father clearly hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in a kind of authoritative way about the sacred liturgy, but in the things he has said about the sacred liturgy I see a perfect continuity with Pope Benedict XVI. I see in the Holy Father, too, a great concern for respecting the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and his discipline, and that is what Pope Francis is doing.

ZENIT: This conference is reflecting on the 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and 50 years ago this December its constitution on the sacred liturgy was promulgated. You’ve already mentioned how liturgical renewal was not as the Council desired, but how do you see things progressing in the future? What do you envision, especially among young people?

Cardinal Burke: Young people are going back now and studying both the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council with its serious texts on liturgical theology which remain valid also today. They’re studying the rites as they were celebrated, striving to understand the meaning and various elements of the rite and there’s a great enthusiasm for that and a great interest in it. All of it, I believe, is directed to a more intense experience of God’s presence with us through the sacred liturgy. That transcendent element was most sadly lost when the reform after the Council was, so to speak, side-tracked and manipulated for other purposes – that sense of transcendence of Christ’s action through the sacraments.

ZENIT: Does this mirror the loss of the sacred in society as a whole?

Cardinal Burke: It does indeed. There’s no question in my mind that the abuses in the sacred liturgy, reduction of the sacred liturgy to some kind of human activity, is strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption and with a levity in catechesis that has been shocking and has left generations of Catholics ill prepared to deal with the challenges of our time by addressing the Catholic faith to those challenges. You can see it in the whole gamut of Church life.

ZENIT: Pope Benedict said once that the crises we see in society today can be linked to problems of the liturgy.

Cardinal Burke: Yes he was convinced of that and I would say, so am I. It was, of course, more important that he was convinced of it, but I believe that he was absolutely correct.

(July 25, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

Pope Francis Will Complete Benedict XVI’s Encyclical on Faith


Pope6VATICAN CITY —  Pope Francis is completing an encyclical on faith begun by Pope Benedict XVI, but the pope emeritus is not contributing further to the document, the Vatican has said.

Speaking to reporters May 24, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied earlier reports claiming that Benedict XVI was continuing to write the encyclical that would then be signed by Pope Francis.

“As is known, at the time of his resignation, Benedict XVI left the encyclical project that had already been started,” Father Lombardi said, adding that it “now appears his successor is completing it, even if I couldn’t predict the time necessary for its publication.”

Earlier reports given by an Italian bishop claimed that Benedict XVI was concluding his work on the encyclical and that Pope Francis would be writing an encyclical on poverty.

Bishop Luigi Martella of the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi wrote May 23 on his diocesan website that, after the encyclical on faith, Pope Francis was planning to prepare his first encyclical on the poor: Beati Paupers (Blessed Are the Poor).

The Italian bishop added that it is to be about poverty “understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in the sense of the Gospel.” He said Pope Francis revealed this when he and his fellow bishops met the Holy Father on their ad limina visit May 13-16.

Father Lombardi said the news about Benedict XVI “finishing off the text is completely unfounded,” but he didn’t rule out a future encyclical dedicated to the poor.

“Let’s take one encyclical at a time,” the Vatican spokesman said.

It would not be unprecedented for a pope to complete an encyclical begun by his predecessor. Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), contained a large section that had been written during the final months of Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate.


Benedict’s Objective

Benedict XVI wanted to use the encyclical on faith to share his reflections on what it means to be a Christian today and the role of faith in the life of man and society, especially in this Year of Faith.

In October, Vatican Insider claimed the incomplete passages had been getting “rave reviews” from those who had already seen drafts.

“The text of the Pope is beautiful,” a senior bishop in the Curia is reported to have said. “With his simple language, Benedict XVI manages to express even the most complex and very deep truths using simple language, which has a widespread reach that goes beyond all imagination.”

Many in the Church would welcome papal teaching on the faith at a time when, especially in many Western societies, the faith is in crisis.

Dominican Father Paul Murray, professor of literature of the mystical tradition at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, said that in an “age of great bewilderment, of a dictatorship of relativism,” doubts are being sown among ordinary believers “in a way they weren’t 20 years ago.”

But quoting Benedict XVI, he stressed the “simplicity of the faith,” saying, “It’s not that complicated; it’s not just for intellectuals.”

He believes such an encyclical is also needed at a time when there is a tendency to succumb to fundamentalism. “In an age of bewilderment, people panic and look for clear and distinct ideas; there’s a refusal to live with the complexity and mystery,” Father Murray said.

Living with that mystery is “part of the faith process,” he said, but stressed it is “not an ambiguity that renders everything relative.” Rather, communion with God makes you “automatically humbled,” he said.

“You can be very confident about the truths of the faith, but that confidence is not a fundamentalist confidence; there’s a humble joy that automatically comes from contact with God.”

“I suspect that will be very important for us to be reminded of,” he said.


‘Wonderful’ Collaboration

Father Murray said that to have two popes contributing to an encyclical on faith is “wonderful and beautiful.”

“The genius of Benedict was just marvelous, but the genius of Francis is that he just talks over all our professional Christians and Catholics and speaks to the world,” he said. “He speaks in a very direct, humble, Gospel way, and I hope the encyclical will have some of that, as well as all the great theological profundity of Benedict.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Round Up of Pope’s Early Morning Homilies (May 20th-25th)


Among the themes covered in his early morning homilies this week, Pope Francis preached about the importance of praying courageously, of doing good to all, and how to guard against losing the spiritual salt of one’s faith.

On Monday, he underlined the importance of praying with courage, faith and from the heart. Miracles occur even today, he said, but in order to obtain them, they require “strong prayer” that “wrestles with God” and does not end with a one-time “courtesy” supplication.

He was reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit, and tells the disciples that strong prayer is necessary (interestingly, Pope Francis had appeared to do the same the day before, when he prayed over a seemingly possessed boy in St. Peter’s Square).

He recalled an episode in his native Argentina Pope1when a father prayed to the Madonna all night to save his daughter from a life-threatening illness; the next day, the daughter’s fever had gone. Such prayer must “gush from the heart – a courageous prayer that fights for a miracle – not the courtesy prayers, “Oh I’ll pray for you an Our Father, a Hail Mary and then I forget,”” he said. Everyone has a “bit of disbelief” he observed, so we need to pray: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

For a Christian, true progress lies in humbling himself as Jesus did, Pope Francis said in his Tuesday homily. He also reiterated a common theme: that true power is in service and there is no room for power struggles within the Church.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel in which the disciples argue who is the greatest among them, the Pope pointed out that power struggles have always existed in the Church, but Jesus taught “by his example [the] power of service.” He came not to be served but to serve, humbling Himself unto death “on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us.”

The world sees someone who has been given a superior job as “promotion”. But Jesus, he said, was promoted to the Cross, to humiliation. “That is true promotion [advancement],” he said, “that which makes us more like Jesus!”

On Wednesday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful present that “doing good to all” is a principle that unites humanity no matter what the differences are, and helps create a friendly encounter which is the basis of peace. The Gospel that day was about the disciples who impeded an outsider and believed he could not do any good outside of their group. Jesus, however, tells them not to stop him but allow him to do good as well.

The disciples are a little intolerant, the Pope said, thinking they alone possessed the truth, and all those who did not could not do any good. But he said this was wrong, and Jesus widens the horizons. The roots of doing good are in all of us, he explained, adding that a closed mind is a wall that leads to war and killing in the name of God. He said the Lord redeemed everyone, including atheists, and that by doing good, atheists and Christians can promote peace and meet together in harmony (he meant on earth and not in heaven as some reports claimed).

On Thursday, the Holy Father called on the faithful to spread the spiritual salt of faith, hope and charity given by the Lord. He warned not to let that salt lose its flavour, and must be given away in order to “spice things up.”

He noted that when salt is used well, one doesn’t notice its taste, but rather an improved flavour of the food. In the Christian life, he said, spiritual salt requires two elements to preserve it: preaching and worship. When preaching the faith with this salt, he said, each person receives it differently, bringing “Christian originality”, in accordance with their own personality and culture, which is not uniformity. But the salt of Christians also needs prayer and adoration if it is to keep its flavour.

“If we do not do this, however – these two things, these two transcendences to give the salt – the salt will remain in the bottle, and we will become ‘museum-piece Christians’,” Francis said.

On Friday, the Pope called on the faithful to pray for two graces: “to endure with patience, and to overcome with love.” Regarding the former, he said the Christian has the strength to suffer and not give up. It’s not easy, he said, but it is “a grace to suffer”, and in times of hardship, “we must ask for [this grace].”

Concerning the latter, he said it is also not easy to overcome with love, when enemies cause us suffering, which is why it is important to believe in Jesus who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who cause us suffering.

“Defeated Christians,” he said, are those who “don’t forgive their enemies or pray for them”, and so don’t have the grace of “enduring with patience and overcoming with love.” But the many who do “have a patient heart, a heart filled with love” which shows in their “beautiful countenance” and “serene happiness.”

In his homily on Saturday, the Pope said those who draw near to the Church should find the doors open, and not find those who want to control the faith. The day’s Gospel was about Jesus rebuking the disciples who try to remove children being brought to him by others to bless. Francis praised the simple faith of the People of God, saying if you want to know who Mary is, go to a theologian, but to know how to love Mary, go to the People of God “who teach it better.”

He warned against being “controllers of faith”, but instead of becoming “facilitators of the faith of the people.” And to give a hypothetical example, he spoke about a single mother who asks to have her child baptized but is refused because she is not married.

“A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors!,” the Pope said.  “Jesus is indignant when he sees these things”, the Pope continued, because those who suffer are “his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.”

So many Christians of goodwill are wrong in this regard, he said, and instead of opening a door, close it of goodwill. “So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open,” the Pope concluded, “open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. “

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Vatican Silent on John Paul II’s Cause for Canonization


by EDWARD PENTIN 05/03/2013

Catholic News Agency

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is remaining tight-lipped over recent reports that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II has been given approval by a committee of Vatican doctors.

An official refused to be moved to offer comment by the reports, as was the case with the postulator of John Paul’s cause. But if the news is true, the late Pope’s cause will have advanced considerably, possibly paving the way his canonization later this year.

In late April, the veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa reported that a Vatican panel of doctors had confirmed there was no medical explanation for a healing attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.

Although the process is being carried out in strict secrecy, Tornielli reported that in January the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a medical file containing details of the alleged miracle to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a preliminary opinion.

Two doctors of the Vatican who had already examined this new case both gave a favorable opinion, according to Tornielli’s article. The file with medical records and testimonies was then officially discussed by a committee of seven doctors in April. The panel, presided over by Dr. Patrizio Polisca, the papal physician, also gave a favorable opinion.

The alleged miracle — which had to have taken place after John Paul II’s beatification in May 2011 — must now be presented to a panel of theologians and cardinals to examine. If they agree with the doctors, the cause of Karol Wojtyla will be presented to Pope Francis to give his stamp of approval.

But if Tornielli’s account is accurate, already the most important hurdle appears to have been overcome, as neither the theologians nor cardinals can make clinical evaluations of the case. This means the canonization may not be far away and could conceivably take place as soon as this autumn, possibly on the closest Sunday to his feast day on Oct. 22. The 35th anniversary of John Paul II’s election also falls on Oct. 16.


WYD Announcement?

Some are even speculating Pope Francis might announce the date of canonization during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, as the youth festivals were inaugurated during John Paul’s pontificate.

However, it is worth noting that it took some four years from the partial recognition of the first miracle — that of French Sister Marie Simon Pierre who was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s — to John Paul II’s beatification ceremony in 2011.

Msgr. Oder’s office declined to comment when contacted by the Register May 2, simply asking to contact them “at a later date.” A Vatican official, who has in the past voiced concern at the speed at which the cause is progressing, also said he had nothing to add at this stage, saying: “There are lots of things in life that can’t be done and get done.”

Another question mark over an early canonization is whether the significant amount of planning needed could be carried out in such a short space of time.

But the same concerns were flagged ahead of John Paul II’s beatification, and yet all the arrangements were in place within just four months.

With no clear information forthcoming from the Vatican the skeptics will continue to have their say, but this fact remains: Blessed John Paul II’s cause for canonization continues apace.

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Peres Tells Pope Middle East is ‘Disintegrating’


Israeli President Shimon Peres warned Pope Francis Tuesday that the Middle East is “disintegrating” and that the pontiff “has an important role” to play in bringing peace to the region and the world.

KBG_511-1During their half-hour conversation, Peres said the Middle East is in “real existential danger” and cited the severe lack of employment, of food and water. He warned that if these problems are not resolved, “violence and terror will gain a central place, as dangerous weapons fall into the hands of extremists.”

An Israeli government statement said Peres spoke of the danger of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and Syria’s “huge quantities of chemical weapons.” He told the Pope that Iran “must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons and that Syrian chemical weapons must not fall into irresponsible hands.”

Peres welcomed the recent meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Arab League foreign ministers in Washington. He expressed hope for talks between Israel and the Palestinians under the leadership of Abu Mazen who, he said, is a “genuine partner for peace.”

In its statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis and Peres expressed hopes for a speedy resumption of peace talks and an agreement that draws on “courageous decisions” and the support of the international community. A resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would contribute to peace and stability throughout the region, the Vatican said.

The Israeli statement said Pope Francis suggested creating “a global meeting of hope with the heads of all the world’s faiths and to come out against violence and terror.” The Pope also condemned anti-Semitism, saying it goes against the beliefs of Christianity and that it “must be opposed in every country in the world and every corner of the globe,” the Israeli statement continued.

Peres praised Pope Francis for his example, noting his humility and pursuit of peace.

“You have an important role in progressing peace and the belief in it,” Peres said. “I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”

He said the Pope’s leadership “creates a new spirit of hope for peace, of dialogue between nations and of the promotion of a solution to global poverty and illiteracy.”

“Sadly, there are many religious leaders in the Middle East and across the world who advocate terror and bloodshed and do so in the name of the Lord,” he said. “We all have an obligation to stand up and say, in a loud and clear voice, that the Lord did not give anyone the authority to murder and carry out bloodshed. Your voice has a great impact in this matter.”

Peres took the opportunity to officially invite Pope Francis to visit Israel.

“I am expecting you in Jerusalem and not just me, but all the people of Israel,” he told the Pope. “The sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”

Speaking to reporters after the audience, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope “would be happy to go to the Holy Land” but that no concrete plans have been made. Last week, Lombardi said Francis’ only trip abroad this year would be in July to Rio de Janeiro and to his homeland of Argentina.

Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI made visits to the Holy Land, each viewing the destination as crucial. Not only does the Holy Land hold obvious historical significance to the Church, but all sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict recognize the Church’s pivotal role in peace building.

The Catholic Church also is keen to offer encouragement to Christians who have been fleeing the region in large numbers. Over the past 13 years, the Christian population in the Holy Land has halved, with most leaving because of insecurity, hardship and poor prospects.

Since his election, Pope Francis has made a point of appealing for peace in the region, most notably in his Easter address. He also chose the papal name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his peacemaking efforts and his famous dialogue with the sultan of Egypt, Malik-al-Kamil. The Franciscans have been the official custodians of the Catholic Church’s Holy Sites in the region ever since.

Peres’ invitation comes just weeks after Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople personally invited Pope Francis to visit Israel.

The patriarch suggested that he and the Pope meet in Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic breakthrough in Catholic-Orthodox relations, when Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met there in 1964.


This article appeared in Newsmax, 30 April 2013

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‘Sacra Liturgia 2013’ Inspired by Benedict XVI’s Writings on the Mass


Key cardinals, bishops and other noted experts in the liturgy from around the world will gather in Rome June 25-28 to discuss the sacred liturgy and its correct celebration in the life and mission of the Church.

Called Sacra Liturgia 2013 and inspired by the liturgical teaching of Benedict XVI, the conference is the idea of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France.

On a visit to Rome April 23, the bisIMG_6140hop discussed with the Register the conference’s main aims and how it could help heal post-conciliar liturgical disputes, as well as the liturgical significance of Pope Francis’ early morning Masses.

What are the main aims of this conference? What would you most like it to achieve?

The goal of this conference is to show the link between the New Evangelization and the liturgy — how the liturgy can help the Church to enter more into the New Evangelization — because the central thing in the New Evangelization is to meet Jesus Christ, and the central place where we meet Jesus Christ is in the liturgy. The [Church’s] Tradition says that the liturgy is the source and purpose of the mission of the Church.

Is this conference aimed at helping to heal the so-called liturgy wars, divisions between those who want more modern liturgies and those who favor traditional forms of worship?

Yes, communion inside the Church could be given by the acceptance of a true form of rites — the extraordinary and ordinary form. The principal teaching of Pope Benedict was to say that true expression is possible through the celebration of the extraordinary rite and the ordinary form of the rite. This congress will help be an expression of this source of mission and communion.

How did the idea for this conference come about?

We live in a secularized society, and we need the expression of the centrality of God. The expression of the centrality of God is given by the liturgy. We live in a superficial world, so, through the liturgy, we discover the presence of God in the Eucharist; it enters in our body and soul. A sense of intimacy, interiority, is given by the liturgy. And in the liturgy we celebrate the fact that the bread becomes the body of Christ; there is a transformation, and so, when I receive the Eucharist, it can transform me, too.

The transformation of the Word begins in the liturgy, in the celebration of the Eucharist, because it’s an expression of the beginning of the transformation of the Word. For all these reasons, we have to restore a real and perfect sense of the liturgy given by the traditional magisterium of the Church given by Vatican II.

Some argue that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, brought problematic changes to worship. Others, however, believe it began before that time. What is your view, and does this have some impact on conference?

We received Sacrosanctum Concilium as a fruit of the Council, and it belongs to the Tradition of the Church, her teaching about the sense of liturgy, the sacramentality of the Church. But the way this document was received was problematic in some places. We have seen some transformations and adaptations, instrumentalization and subjectivization of this document. This was a source of many difficulties, and so we have to restore the exact interpretation of this document and to advance the mission.

This is one of the aims of the conference?

Yes, to clarify the teaching and go again to the source of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and the liturgy.

What do you see as the Pope’s approach to the ordinary form and extraordinary form of the Mass?

I think the Pope, in his ministry as Successor of Peter, wants to follow the teaching of his predecessors. I don’t think any change is meant. Each day, he celebrates an early morning Mass for Vatican workers and, by doing so, is emphatically showing that the liturgy is the source of his day; that the liturgy is the first service we can give to people, to the world, and it’s the charity of the Church that is expressed by the liturgy. The celebrating of Mass is a teaching; it is a message. There’s an insistence there; it is the same message, but his insistence to celebrate Mass for many people in this way is a teaching.

You have an impressive lineup of speakers for the conference. Do you expect to see some new initiatives to help attract people to the liturgy?

For the different speakers, what is important for me is that they help us discover new lights, to shed new light, so we can discover things we have forgotten. There won’t be anything new, as such. The liturgy is a world, a continent, but parts of this continent have been forgotten or placed in some shadows, so we have to rediscover these.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

This article appeared in the National Catholic Register, April 30, 2013

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SSPX: We Didn’t Criticize Pope Francis; We Agree With Him

A  spokesman for the Society of St. Pius X has denied its leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, was criticizing Pope Francis for his concern for the poor in a recent letter to supporters.

“It is an analysis of the current situation facing the Church, not a criticism of Pope Francis’ concern for the poor,” said Father Alain Lorans, spokesman for the traditionalist group, which holds no canonical status in the Church.

Reuters reported in an April 19 article that Bishop Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, had “begun criticizing … Pope Francis for the popular approach he has taken since his election last month.”

It suggested Bishop Fellay had “publicly taken issue with Pope Francis’ approach to the poor, which he believes comes at the expense of leading souls to salvation and denouncing sins against faith and morals.”

Reuters based its report on an extrapolation of an April 14 letter to friends and benefactors of the fraternity. In the letter, Bishop Fellay stressed that the Church has always had a “true concern” for the “poor, the needy, the infirm and the sick.” But he added that if it becomes “merely man-centered philanthropy, then the Church is no longer carrying out her mission; she is no longer leading souls to God, which can really be done only by supernatural means: faith, hope, charity and grace.”

He implored Pope Francis “not to allow souls to perish because they no longer learn sound doctrine.”

“What good is it to devote oneself to serving people if one hides from them what is essential, the purpose and the meaning of their life, and the seriousness of sin that turns them away from it?” he asked.

Bishop Fellay pleaded that sin and errors against faith and morality be denounced to prevent damnation. “The Church’s reason for being is to save them [sinners] and to help them avoid the misfortune of their eternal perdition,” he said. Such an approach “could not possibly please the world,” he argued, and said that history has shown that it “will turn against the Church, often violently.”

But in comments to the Register April 22, Father Lorans disagreed with Reuters’ report and instead contended the SSPX leader’s remarks were in concert with the Church. However, the comments further illustrate that the organization still has ground to make up in order to achieve communion with the Church.

“[They] could even be compared to a passage from the Pope’s first homily (to cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, March 14),” he said, and refers to Pope Francis’ words: “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO [non-governmental organization], but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”

Father Lorans then quoted Bishop Fellay’s words from the letter to show their similarity: “Works of charity done for the poor, the needy, the infirm and the sick have always been a true concern for the Church, and we must not excuse ourselves from it, but if it becomes merely man-centered philanthropy, then the Church is no longer carrying out her mission; she is no longer leading souls to God, which can really be done only by supernatural means: faith, hope, charity and grace.”

In his letter, Bishop Fellay noted other concerns that began before the pontificate of Pope Francis. He highlighted how those who adhere to Church Tradition are penalized, while “those who profess doctrines which are heterodox or who commit veritable sacrileges are in no way troubled.” He said it is “the logic of an abuse of authority.”

However, as illustrated by the Holy Father’s affirmation of the “Doctrinal Assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Bishop Fellay’s comment would appear to be incorrect.

He said he believes only the Successor of Peter can save the Church, and he advised the Holy Father to “surround himself with vigorous defenders of the faith.”

“Let him appoint them in the important dioceses,” he said. “Let him deign, by important documents, to proclaim truth, pursue error without fear of contradictions, without fear of schisms, without fear of questioning the pastoral guidelines of the [Second Vatican] Council.”

The latter comment regarding Vatican II would seem to indicate that the SSPX has set its course.

In a June 27, 2012 interview, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, discussed the SSPX’s evaluation of the Second Vatican Council:

“To say [the documents of Vatican II] are not binding is sophistry. The Council contains swathes of the ordinary magisterium, which is de fide divina [of divine faith].

“[T]here’s nothing in the Council that is contrary to Tradition and … every text, or every part of it that is controversial, should be read in context of the Council — and read it in light of the Tradition. It seems to me, despite their difficulties, they should be able to do that.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

This article appeared in the National Catholic Register, April 29, 2013

New Book Reveals Pope Francis’ Thoughts on Abortion, Poverty, Satan



A new book on a variety of hot topics containing the thoughts of Pope Francis when he was a cardinal appears in English language bookstores on Friday.

The book, called “On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century,” was originally published in Spanish in 2010. It is the text of a conversation between the Pope – then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and archbishop of Buenos Aires – and Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka.

It is divided into 29 chapters according to topic, and includes frank discussions on same-sex marriage, globalization, euthanasia, fundamentalism, and many other subjects in the news.

An early theme concerns the devil — a subject Pope Francis has frequently raised since his election March 13.

“I believe the Devil exists,” Bergoglio says. “Maybe his greatest achievement in this times has been to make us believe that he does not exist, and that all can be fixed on a purely human level.”

On the subject of pedophilia, Bergoglio is forthright, strongly opposing moving guilty priests from one parish to another (he describes it as “stupid”) and admiring Benedict XVI’s “courage and straightforwardness” in enforcing zero tolerance for such a crime.

He frequently stresses the importance of free will in the book, and opposes clericalism, proselytism, and fundamentalism.

A priest should never impose the faith but simply present and defend Church teaching with clarity, he says.

Fundamentalism, he adds, is an “opiate” because it takes people away from the living God and reduces the Divine “to a being you can manage with prescriptions.” It is a form of “buying comfort, well-being, fortune and happiness,” he says, “but it leaves behind the living God, He that accompanies you along the way.”

On euthanasia, the future Pope says he believes a kind of “covert euthanasia” is taking place: “Our social security pays up until a certain amount of treatment and then says ‘may God help you.’ The elderly are not taken care of as they should be, but rather they are treated as discarded material.”

Turning to abortion, Bergoglio sets religion aside in order to stress that, simply from a scientific view, the genetic code of a person is present at the moment of conception, already making him a human being. “Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend himself,” he says.

He goes on to discuss with Rabbi Skorka the issue of same-sex marriage, which he describes as an “anti-value” and “anthropologic regression.”

It is a weakening of the institution of marriage that has existed for thousands of years and “forged according to nature and anthropology.” There have always been homosexuals, he says, “but never put on the same level” as heterosexuals and given the same status of marriage.

But again, the cardinal stresses the importance of free will – including the freedom to sin. A priest “does not have the right to force anything on anyone’s private life,” Bergoglio says.

“If God, in creation, ran the risk of making us free, who am I to get involved?” He says “one has to speak very clearly about values, limits, commandments, but spiritual and pastoral harassment is not allowed.”

He goes on to say that priests should propose values “without interfering” in “partisan politics” and avoiding preaching “against so and so.”

“We do not preach against anyone,” he says. “We refer to the value that is in danger and that must be safeguarded.” And he criticizes the press for reducing what he says to “whatever is opportune.”

“Today, from two or three facts, the media spins something different: they misinform,” the new Pope says. The media is “sometimes infected with hepatitis,” he continues, because of “their yellow colour” and tendency to “jump out and say: “Harsh rebuke to so and so.”

Bergoglio is characteristically strident when it comes to discussing capitalism and communism.

Capitalism, he says, “has its own spiritual perversion” by taming religion, so that it doesn’t bother capitalism too much, thereby giving it a “certain transcendence, but only a little bit.”

Communism’s spiritual perversion is to reject the transcendent because it believes it “paralyzes man” and does not allow him to progress. Both perversions, he says, are manifestations of worldliness.

Regarding care for the poor, the Pope differentiates between genuine works of charity and “social-conscience calming activities” carried out so that a person feels “good about oneself.” But love, he says, “requires a person to go out from himself, to truly give oneself to others.”

What a poor person needs most is a job to give him dignity, and he must not be looked upon with disgust. “He must be looked at in the eyes,” he says, adding that the great danger when aiding the poor is falling into an attitude of “protective paternalism” that doesn’t allow them to grow.

He argues that globalization should preserve the diversity and harmonious unity of humanity rather than become like “a uniform billiard ball” in which the “richness of each culture is lost.”

Turning to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he says the way to resolve animosities is to emulate the Egyptian monks of early Christianity, who accused themselves so they could find a solution. “They put themselves in the defendant’s seat to see what things were not working well inside of themselves,” he said. “This gives me the freedom to, later, be able to forgive the fault of the other person.”

There is plenty more in this book, including discussions about science, women, divorce, education, and the Holocaust. The conversations on each subject are mostly short, merely giving a taste of the Pope’s thoughts, but with so little known about the new pontiff, even the shortest passages are enlightening.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
18th April 2013

Vatican Denies Benedict XVI Has Serious Illness


The Vatican reiterated Wednesday that Benedict XVI does not have any specific illness apart from the problems associated with old age after a Spanish author claimed the Pope Emeritus must have a grave illness after suffering a “dramatic” deterioration in his health.

pope-francis-and-pope-benedict-ace219166d70e7daPaloma Gomez Borrero, a correspondent at the Vatican, said Benedict XVI’s health had “dramatically diminished over the past 15 days,“ adding that one can only conclude “he must have something very serious.”

“We won’t have him with us for very much longer,” she said in a report in the Spanish newspaper ABC. “It is unlikely that the Pope Emeritus will appear again in public,” she said. Gomez made the comments on Tuesday, at the launch of her new book on the conclave called “From Benedict to Francis”.

The journalist added the Pope’s decision to resign was a “very bitter chalice” for him and that he showed “great humility” in doing so.

But speaking to the Register Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Benedict “has no illness” and that “the problems are those connected with age.” His comments are consistent Vatican statements on this issue since Benedict announced his resignation on February 11.

Many had noticed how much more frail the former Pope looked when he met Pope Francis last month, and that he had appeared to have aged considerably in the three weeks he had been out of office.

Vatican doctors had noted with concern how he had become much thinner back in January, before he resigned. He had also begun to tire quickly and his personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, said his blood pressure was having strong fluctuations. He advised the Pope to avoid air travel.

The Vatican revealed in February that Pope Benedict had a pacemaker fitted a number of years ago and his biographer, Peter Seewald, confirmed he was unable to see out of his left eye, creating problems when walking, especially up and down steps.

Benedict XVI has used a walking stick for the past couple of years because of pain in his right hip and ankle.

In response to the speculation, the Vatican has regularly insisted that Benedict, who turns 86 next week, is not suffering from anything other than the physical trials of old age. So far, his plans to move into a converted convent in the Vatican at the beginning of May remain unchanged.


This article appeared in the National Catholic Register, 10 April 2013:

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