Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI reflects on his Apostolic Visit to the United States

VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2008 (VIS) - In today's general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope dedicated his remarks to his recent apostolic trip to the U.S.A. and the headquarters of the United Nations, from 15 to 21 April.

After recalling how the motive for his U.S. visit was the bi-centenary of the elevation of the country's first diocese, Baltimore, to the status of metropolitan archdiocese, and the foundation of the sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, the Holy Father affirmed that his aim had been "to announce to everyone the message that 'Christ is our Hope', the phrase which was the theme of my visit".

During the meeting with President George Bush in the White House, said the Pope, "I had the opportunity to pay homage to that great country, which from its beginnings was built on the foundation of a harmonious union between religious, ethical and political principles, and which still constitutes a valid example of healthy laicism, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but turned to advantage as the 'soul' of the nation and the fundamental guarantee of the rights and duties of human beings".

The Holy Father then went on to explain that he had supported his "brother bishops in their difficult task of spreading the Gospel in a society marked by no small number of contradictions, which also threaten the coherence of Catholics and even of the clergy. I encouraged them to make their voices heard on the moral and social questions of the day, and to form the lay faithful so they become good 'leavening' in the civil community on the base of that fundamental cell which is the family. In this context, I exhorted them to re-present the Sacrament of Marriage as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment in which to welcome and educate children.

"The Church and the family, as well as schools", the Pope added, "must co-operate in offering young people a solid moral education. ... Reflecting upon the painful question of sexual abuse of minors by ordained ministers, I told the bishops of my closeness, and encouraged them in the task of binding wounds and strengthening their relationships with their priests".

During the Eucharistic celebration held in the Nationals Stadium in Washington, said Pope Benedict, "we evoked the Holy Spirit" upon the Church in America that she "may face current and future challenges with courage and hope". And when meeting with representatives of other religions "in what may be considered as the homeland of religious freedom, I recalled how such freedom must be defended with congruous efforts to avoid all forms of discrimination and prejudice. I also highlighted the great responsibility religious leaders have, both in teaching respect and non-violence and in upholding the deepest questions of the human conscience".

On the subject of his visit to U.N. headquarters in New York, the Pope pointed out that "providence gave me the opportunity to confirm" - on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - "the importance of that Charter, recalling its universal foundation, in other words the dignity of the person who was created by God in His image and likeness in order to co-operate in ... His great plan of life and peace".

In St. Patrick's Cathedral the Pope had celebrated Mass for priests and consecrated people. "I will never forget", he said, "with how much warmth they congratulated me for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter. It was a moving moment, in which I particularly felt the support of all the Church for my ministry. And I could say the same about my meeting with young people and seminarians".

At Ground Zero "I lit a candle and prayed for all the victims of the terrible tragedy" of 11 September 2001, said the Pope. And he concluded his reminiscences of his U.S. visit with the Eucharistic celebration in New York's Yankee Stadium which he described as "a feast of faith and of brotherhood. ... To that Church which now faces the challenges of the present time, I had the joy of announcing "Christ our Hope', yesterday, today and forever".

Prior to the audience, the Pope blessed a statue of St. John Leonardi (1541-1609), founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, which has been placed in a niche on the exterior wall of the Vatican Basilica. On 8 august 2006, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by virtue of the powers granted by Benedict XVI, proclaimed him patron saint of pharmacists.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

9/11 Survivor reflects on Benedict's visit to Ground Zero

Meeting pope at ground zero brings tears to Sept. 11 survivor, by Dennis Sadowski. Catholic News Service April 29, 2008:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Looking into Pope Benedict XVI's eyes as she genuflected in front of him during his visit to the former World Trade Center site, Julie Malik knew the pope understood what she had experienced on a disastrous September morning more than six years ago.

"I remember thinking, 'You're here. You're here to help us. You took your time to understand,'" Malik said of the April 20 meeting.

Malik, 57, was one of four survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in lower Manhattan who met the pontiff during his visit to ground zero. Four rescue workers and 16 people who lost family members in the disaster also met the pope at the site.

"There's one word I can think of to describe (the meeting) and that is 'amazing,'" Malik told Catholic News Service. "His eyes are so penetrating. He just stares in your eyes." ... (Read More).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pastor John Hagee on Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. Visit

Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Baptist Church in San Atonio, Texas, thanks the Holy Father for his visit (Washington Post April 28, 2008):

During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI not only conducted mass and met with the Catholic faithful, but he made a series of public statements about the role that our Judeo-Christian faith can play during these challenging times. As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual. But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit: Amen.

I and many other evangelical leaders believe that our faith must not be confined to our churches on Sunday mornings. We maintain that our Christian values and compassion can be powerful tools for helping build a more just and humane nation. Pope Benedict thus spoke for all of us when he said that "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted" and called for Christian participation "in the exchange of ideas in the public square."

The pope was recalling the history we all cherish when he cited George Washington's Farewell Address to note that, "religion and morality represent 'indispensable supports' of political prosperity." The pope likewise voiced all of our concerns when he recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness. ...

"Teacher and Witness" - John F. Cullinan on Benedict's visit to the U.N.

"Benedict’s remarks to the U.N. General Assembly belong to an entirely different genre [than his other addresses during the visit]" says John F. Cullinan on Benedict's visit to the United Nations. "His purpose was to explore and develop the first principles that underlie state sovereignty and the international system as a whole." (National Review April 28, 2008):

In a nutshell, Benedict sketches a familiar natural-law argument that unexpectedly points to some novel and potentiallycontroversial conclusions.

He begins with the basic and familiar premise that state sovereignty and international order do not exist for their own sake, but rather for that of human dignity. In other words, the state exists for the person, not the other way round; and the same applies to international institutions and laws. This has been established Catholic teaching in one form or another since St. Thomas Aquinas; and it is the philosophical basis of liberal democracy and liberal internationalism.

The second step of his argument is that “natural reason shared by all nations” can discern universal principles needed to shape the political order — both national and international. The natural law is by no means a one-size-fits-all template, but rather basic moral rules of thumb, accessible to reason, that statesmen struggle to discern, approximate, and apply in varying circumstances. And these same principles, “based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in all cultures and civilization,” and therefore “valid at all times and for all peoples,” are best captured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

It is the third step of Benedict’s argument that will provoke controversy. He maintains that that the two greatest threats to the universality of the same human rights for every personare authoritarian secular ideologies, on the one hand, and “majority religious positions of an exclusive nature,” on the other. This is a politely diplomatic but unmistakable reference to Russia and China (and their authoritarian imitators) and to some (but not all) Muslim-majority states.

In their own distinct ways, these “authoritarian” or “exclusive” regimes deny the “universality … indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights” expressed in the Universal Declaration. “Removing human rights from this context,” Benedict maintains, “would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks” (emphasis added).

(See also Pope's New Name for Sovereignty: Interview With UN Permanent Observer Archbishop Migliore Zenit News Service. April 27).

"Do I love Him?"

Robert P. Imbelli (Commonweal) cuts to the heart of Benedict's words, a testimony and a challenge to every Catholic:

One cannot read a homily or a pastoral address of the Holy Father without sensing that the proclamation of Jesus as “Lord and Messiah” is the very heart of his message.

But Benedict does not merely bear witness to this. He, in season and out of season, invites Christians to enter into ever-deeper relation with their Savior.

We can argue ceaselessly about why there is something rather than nothing or about the ultimate foundation for human rights. We can passionately debate structural reform in the Church. But in the quiet hours of early morning or late night do we not ultimately wrestle with the question: do I love him?

"Tsunami" of vocational interest following papal visit

New York Daily News reports that Pope Benedict's U.S. visit has resulted in "a tsunami of New York seminary applications:

A clergy-starved Archdiocese of New York was facing a crisis - until Pope Benedict arrived.

For the first time in 108 years, St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers was preparing for a year with no new students.

But, after the Holy Father's whirlwind city tour, dozens have heard the call.

"It's been like a tsunami, a good tsunami of interest," said the archdiocese's vocations director, the Rev. Luke Sweeney.

"I've been meeting people all week and have a lot of e-mails I haven't had the chance yet to respond to. It has been incredible."

For a city whose ratio of priests-to-congregation members is among the worst in the country, Benedict's presence and inspiration has been a blessing to Reverend Sweeney:
"We were hoping the Pope would convince many who were considering the priesthood to make the next step. It looks like he did."

In only three days since the Pope left New York after a visit that included speaking to 25,000 young people on the seminary's grounds, dozens of prospective priests have contacted Sweeney.

"One said he came, saw the crowd, heard what the Pope said and then called us," said Sweeney. "He said his questions and concerns were answered when he heard him speak."


"Fishers of Men" USCCB vocations video produced by Grassroots Films - Part I embedded | "Fishers of Men - Part II

Iraq Veterans reflect on meeting Pope Benedict XVI interviews several U.S. marines and Iraqi veterans, attending the Papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington:

Cpl. Matthew Bridges, who is an outpatient - injured from an improvised explosive device in Iraq - at the National Naval Medical Center, said he felt his faith in God renew as he attended the mass, even though he is not Catholic. He said when he became injured, he thought of God.

Bridges said he didn't know what to think when the pope reached out and shook his hand. It was a feeling he can't describe, he said, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I don't know how to explain it," Bridges said. "I have friends who are Catholic that say it's a great blessing to be touched by the pope."

Sgt. James Bane, an administrative assistant in the National Naval Medical Center's Marine Corps Liaison office, said he was honored and privileged to be a part of something so big with a figure that has such a world-wide influence. He said it was uplifting to see so many people from all walks of life taking part in the ceremony.

"I was sitting next to a senator from New Mexico and across the aisle was a group of nuns," Bane said. "Here on one side you have straight politics and on the other side, straight religious. It was neat to have that many people from many different cultures there for the same thing."

Cardinal Mahoney: "I return to Los Angeles a different disciple of Jesus than when I left"

Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles found Benedict XVI's visit "quiet healing grace":

For me personally, the two most memorable moments of grace with our Holy Father were ones shrouded in quiet prayer, silence and few public words: his meeting with victims of sexual abuse in Washington, D.C., and his visit to Ground Zero in New York. Both of these events had the dignity of silence, the depth of sadness, and the promise of hope-filled prayer - and both captured deeply the most wounded parts of our Church and of our country.

Yes, the great outdoor Masses were inspiring, the meetings with ecumenical and interfaith leaders were moving, and the gathering with young people and seminarians was memorable. But the power of those times of quiet healing moved me more deeply than all the rest of the Holy Father's many public appearances.

At first, I didn't know why. After all, concelebrating Mass with the Pope and tens of thousands of people was surely uplifting and a source of joy for us all. Slowly the realization became real: those times of quiet healing grace were exactly what I needed at this time in my own journey of faith. My own mistakes and failures over the years had continued to burden me - a weight that I failed to realize was holding me down.

The gentle and quiet manner of Pope Benedict touched me in the most vulnerable depths of my soul. I felt uplifted by our Shepherd and my heavy burdens somehow seemed lighter. How did our Holy Father accomplish this? Through his consistent call to faithful discipleship in Jesus Christ, and his reassurance that we are truly saved by hope in our loving God! His recent Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi [Saved by Hope], continues to point us forward and upward on our journeys. He does not allow us to remain mired in our sins and faults, but instead, kept repeating the call to "true freedom" in Jesus who has come as "the way, the truth, and the life" for each one of us.

I return to Los Angeles a different disciple of Jesus than when I left a week ago. Thank you, Lord, for sending us not only the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter, but also a brother and friend who knows Jesus personally and gave us six extraordinary days of grace and hope!

Thomas Peters gives voice to the impressions of many a Catholic -- within Los Angeles and across the nation:
[Cardinal Mahoney] has a long history of doctrinal selectivism, allows and and promotes liturgical abuse, by many accounts has been deeply involved in abuses related to clergy sexual misconduct (during which he has often thrown the interests of the Church under the treads of civil law to protect himself), and is guilty of such deeply imprudent things as the construction of an ugly, vacant, $200 million cathedral in an archdiocese which could ill-afford such expenditures.

Has Mahony learned that it's never too late to begin acting for the best interest of the Church? Has he internalized the full range of Pope Benedict's teachings and exhortations? I hope so, on both counts.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York April 19, 2008.

Joseph Verner Reed: Benedict had a "magisterial" presence

U.S. diplomat Joseph Verner Reed recalled his personal audience with the pontiff (Neil Vigdor, Greenwich Time April 23, 2008):

Reed, 70, an undersecretary general at the U.N., was part of a group of about 30 senior officials of the international organization who met with the pontiff Friday after his General Assembly address.

"There's an aura, almost magisterial in his robes, in his presence, in how he greets people and the crowds," Reed said. "He's got a wonderful smile and riveting blue eyes."

A chief of protocol in former President George H.W. Bush's cabinet and U.S. ambassador to Morocco under President Reagan, Reed said he lowered his head in deference to the pope and congratulated him on his speech.

"He said, 'Thank you for your words,'" Reed said. "I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It was a highlight. What a privilege and honor it was to be presented to him."

Reed's audience with the pope, who concluded his six-day U.S. visit with a Mass at Yankee Stadium Sunday, is the second time he has met the head of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990, as Bush's chief of protocol, Reed met Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Vatican. The late pope later tapped Reed as a knight commander in the Order of Pius IX, an honor bestowed by the Vatican.

Reed said he wore the rosette pin on his left lapel during Benedict's visit. He also asked the pope to bless 10 papal medals that he brought along to give friends and family, which Benedict did.

Assessing the cost (and benefits) of hosting a Pope

Long after the Pope has left, New York city tallies up the financial costs (and benefits) of his visit - Michael Frazier of Newsday reports:

Hours after Benedict's departure, city officials continued to measure the economic benefits of his stay. They also are tallying how much it cost the city to host his holiness.

The city expected to pay significant overtime for police officers.

"This is one of those things were the expenses are relatively negligible, virtually impossible to measure, but the benefits will go on for a long time," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, pointing to the global exposure the city gained by welcoming Benedict.

While he didn't provide the cost of overtime, the mayor said the city's Police Department has a yearly budget of $5.5 billion, with funding set aside for special events.

Police officials said Monday that overtime cost hadn't been figured. ...

The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce had no figures on how much the city took in during Benedict's trip, though the group's executive director, Helana Natt, said hotels, restaurants and even street vendors profited.

The street closures may have hurt some businesses, but the impact was dampened because the visit occurred over the weekend, Natt said.

According to New York City officials, Pope John Paul II's visit in 1995 totaled "$65 million in spending in the city, including food, hotels and shopping."

"Little acts of love" illuminate Papal Visit

"Little Acts Of Love Illuminate Pope’s Visit", says Lorraine V. Murray, reminiscing in the Atlanta Georgia Bulletin:

These were so many big shining moments in his first papal visit to the United States, but one small incident brought me to tears.

It was during the offertory at the huge Mass in Nationals Park, when streams of people came forth to bring the gifts to the pope. There were religious brothers and sisters, a mother and father of nine children, a couple married 69 years and a group of disabled adults.

And quietly sitting at the bottom of the steps leading to the altar was a girl in a wheelchair, wearing a pink dress and with her hair neatly braided. She could not get up the steps, so the pope walked down, leaned over gently, blessed her and gave her a papal rosary.

The cameras didn’t show the expression on her face, but we could see her carefully studying the beads that were intertwined in her hands.

Pope Benedict’s gentle gesture seems exactly in keeping with the man who came to the United States to spread a message of hope.

But one of many "small acts of kindness" as accounted in the article.

Archbishop Soroka on Pope's recognition of Ukranian Eastern Catholics

Catholic News Service interviews Ukrainian Archbishop Stefan Soroka regarding Pope Benedict XVI's special acknowledgment of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States, which was received with great appreciation:

During his meeting with Catholic bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 16, Pope Benedict recognized the presence of bishops from "all the venerable Eastern churches in communion with the successor of Peter."

"Your presence here is a reminder of the courageous witness to Christ of so many members of your communities, often amid suffering in their respective homelands," the pope said during his address to the U.S. bishops, which followed a vespers service.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of 22 Eastern Catholic churches. It is fully in union with Rome but has maintained the liturgical and spiritual heritage shared with the Orthodox churches.

Some of the other Eastern Catholic churches in the U.S. are Armenian, Chaldean, Maronite, Romanian and Syrian. They all have their own distinctive liturgical and legal systems, but are considered equal in dignity, rights and obligations to the Latin tradition within the Catholic Church.

"The Holy Father's comments reflect his knowledge and sensitivity to the sufferings and persecutions endured by many of the hierarchy, clergy, religious and faithful of the Eastern Catholic churches in their homeland," Archbishop Soroka said in a statement issued April 23. "Escaping persecutions and hardships and the search for religious freedoms were often the motivator for the immigration of many to the United States of America."

Read the full statement by Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church.

3,000 volunteers assisted in New York's papal events

Catholic News Service Angelo Stagnaro reports on the 3,000 volunteers who assisted in New York's papal events, "coordinated under the watchful and loving scrutiny of Sisters Joan Curtin, 63, and Deanna Sabetta, 67, of the Congregation of Notre Dame" (April 24, 2008):

"Cardinal Egan appointed us because of our experience working with volunteers," explained Sister Joan.

She is in charge of the New York Archdiocese's Catechetical Office and oversees 10,000 volunteer catechists in the 10 counties that make up the archdiocese. Sister Deanna is the director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and the teacher volunteer program, which places teachers in inner-city Catholic schools.

"The papal volunteers were the most gracious, generous people I've ever come across," Sister Joan said in an interview with Catholic News Service. "The hours didn't matter to them."

Duties for the volunteers included standing outside St. Patrick's Cathedral April 19 to guide cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and women religious attending the papal Mass there and helping move people from chartered buses, city buses and the subway into Yankee Stadium April 20.

"Each volunteer worked six- to seven-hour shifts. In the case of the youth rally in Yonkers, (many) didn't leave the site until 11 p.m.," said Sister Deanna, referring to the rally for seminarians and young people at St. Joseph's Seminary. [...]

Sister Deanna noted that "many of the volunteers who served outside of the papal venues (were) simply physically very far away from the pope, answering questions or guiding the lost, and thus didn't actually see him."

But still they helped out because "they just wanted to be in proximity to him," explained Sister Joan.

American Catholic impressions of Pope Benedict XVI (roundup)

Muslim professor reflects on meeting with Benedict

The Cleveland Plain Dealer features a column by Zeki Saritoprak, a Muslim professor who was present at the interreligious meeting with Pope Benedict at the John Paul II Cultural Center:

The materials for the "Peace Our Hope" meeting all carried the image of Edward Hicks' painting "Peaceable Kingdom," which depicts the beautiful hope of Isaiah 11:6-9: "The wolf shall live with the lamb," and all of the accompanying imagery of peace and harmony in Creation. This image appears in Islamic tradition as well. ...

Of the approximately 150 other participants at the gathering, 25 of us were Muslim. In the wake of the pope's negative remarks about Islam and its prophet at Regensburg University in Germany in 2006, some Muslims felt trepidation about what to expect at the meeting. Any anxiety was quickly alleviated, however, by the pope's humility and openness, which impressed us all.

It is clear to me that, while the pope is deeply knowledgeable about Western thought and Catholic tradition, he is not overly familiar with other religions. He was warm and welcoming to us all, particularly the Jewish participants, to whom he extended a special greeting in honor of their Passover celebration this week. It appears that he is willing to be a part of interreligious dialogue insofar as it does not contradict the main tenets of his faith.

This is particularly good news for Muslims, who share many common traditions with Catholicism, including a special reverence for Jesus and his mother, Mary. Muslims were honored to hear an expression of our own tradition in the pope's final words to us: "Peace upon you all."

Abraham Foxman: Benedict's meeting with Jews "more show that substance, but for the Vatican even show is substance"

As Jewish leaders reflect on the Pope's Passover greetings with Jews at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and subsesquent visit to a synaogue in New York, some are less than impressed. Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League called it "more show that substance, but for the Vatican even show is substance":

The fact that the pope invited the approximately 50 Jewish representatives to meet with him in a private room was an important gesture, said Foxman, because he "greeted us on the occasion of a Jewish festival, which basically was a recognition of religious Jewish life, Jewish faith, and Jewish rituals, and had that significance."

But there was no real dialogue, in Foxman’s view.

"He reached out, he greeted people and he reiterated his support for Nostra Aetate," the declaration issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 that deals with the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic religions, especially with Judaism. "The importance was in the event."


According to Foxman, the pope’s visit to the synagogue was more significant than the private meeting with the Jewish representatives, which he saw as a continuation of a policy began by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986.

"When Pope John Paul went to that synagogue he changed the dogma of Catholicism, which believes that Christianity superseded Judaism and that it was the new Judaism," Foxman said. "It was a public statement that Judaism exists, that Judaism lives, and that it has vitality."

At the Park East Synagogue, the pope stood before ark "bearing witness to the Jewish faith today, not when [the Catholic] messiah will come," Foxman said.

Foxman is representative of certain factions within the Jewish-Christian dialogue which believe that Nostra Aetate presented a rupture with, or reversal of, prior Catholic tradition. On the contrary, Benedict and his predecessor would read Nostrae Aetate in continuity with prior tradition, and likewise in conjunction with the other conciliar texts.

This was aptly clarified by Cardinal Kasper in a substantial essay defending Pope Benedict XVI's revisions to the "Good Friday prayer for the Jews" in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Das Wann und Wie entscheidet Gott", March 21, 2008; later republished in L'Osservatore Romano April 10, 2008:

... The exclusion of a targeted and institutionalized mission to the Jews does not mean that Christians must stand around with their hands in their pockets. Targeted and organized mission on one side, and Christian witness on the other, must be distinguished. Naturally, Christians must, where it is opportune, give to their older brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham (John Paul II) a witness of their own faith and of the richness and beauty of their faith in Christ. Paul did this as well. During his missionary journeys, Paul always went first to the synagogue, and only when he did not find faith there did he go to the pagans (Acts of the Apostles, 13:5,14ff., 42-52; 14:1-6 and others; Romans 1:16 is fundamental).

Such a witness is also asked of us today. It must of course be done with tact and respect; but it would be dishonest if Christians, in meeting with their Jewish friends, should remain silent about their own faith, or even deny it.

We expect just as much from believing Jews toward us. In the dialogues that I have known, this attitude is entirely normal. A sincere dialogue between Jews and Christians, in fact, is possible only, on the one hand, on the basis of a shared faith in one God, creator of heaven and earth, and in the promises made to Abraham and to the Fathers; and on the other, in the awareness and respect of the fundamental difference that consists in faith in Jesus as Christ and Redeemer of all men.

The widespread incomprehension of the reformulated prayer for Good Friday is a sign of how great the task is that still lies before us in Jewish-Christian dialogue. The reactions of irritation that have arisen should, therefore, be an opportunity for clarifying and further deepening the foundations and objectives of Jewish-Christian dialogue. If a deepening of dialogue could be begun in this way, the agitation that has arisen would lead to a truly positive result in the end. One must certainly always be aware that dialogue between Jews and Christians will remain, by its nature, always difficult and fragile, and that it demands a great degree of sensitivity on both sides.

No dialogue is worth its salt unless it is grounded in truth, even if this amounts to respecting each other's core religious convictions. Rabbi Jacob Neusner exemplified this in comparing the Catholic prayers to those found within Judaic tradition for the enlightening of the Gentiles:
Israel prays for the Gentiles. So the other monotheistic religions, including the Catholic Church, have the right to do the same thing, and no one should feel offended. Any other attitude toward the Gentiles would block them from encountering the one God revealed to Israel in the Torah.

The Catholic prayer [for the conversion of the Jews] manifests the same altruistic spirit that characterizes the faith of Judaism. The kingdom of God opens its gates to all of humanity: when they pray and ask for the swift coming of the kingdom of God, the Israelites express the same degree of freedom of spirit that impregnates the papal text of the prayer for the Jews (better: "Holy Israel ") to be recited on Good Friday. ...

The prayers of Jewish and Christian proselytism share the same eschatological spirit, and keep the gate of salvation open to all men.

On the question of the Messiah, Rabbi Neusner and Pope Benedict part ways -- but the latter was appreciative enough to devote a chapter to exploring Neusner's convictions and disagreements in Jesus of Nazareth ("A Rabbi Debates with the Pope. And What Divides Them Is Still Jesus", by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa November 6, 2007).

Unlike Neusner, Abraham Foxman of the ADL seems unable to accept Benedict's religious convictions or the Catholic call for conversion. For him, the very notion that Catholics would wish the conversion of another, particularly the Jews, is an affront. It seems that Foxman demands something that Benedict nor the Church can provide.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"He is conservative, yet radical"

Sun-Sentinel religion editor James Davis interviews Irish singer Dana, on singing for Pope Benedict XVI - this story ran on April 19, 2008:

[A]sk the Irish singer Dana her main inspiration, and she gives a charming smile and points upward.

"It's the Holy Spirit," she said in a recent interview in Boca Raton. "I didn't write much until my spiritual life deepened. Writing is difficult because you reveal some of yourself. And often, there are no words for where we are." ...

Dana Rosemary Scallon is among a handful of stars in Catholic contemporary music, lending a contemporary tinge to traditional themes. ...

She and her husband, Damien, wrote Lady of Knock, dedicated to a Marian shrine in Ireland. She wrote Totus Tuus, drawn from John Paul's papal motto. And conservative activist James Dobson interviewed her in 1984 for her song Little Baby (Yet Unborn).

How rare to come across a popular musician who "wears her faith on her sleeve" and wish such appreciation for the Holy Father:
Dana echoed other Catholics who praise Benedict's sharp mind, his gentle manner and his willingness to listen. She met him as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2004, when he congratulated her for becoming the first woman to win the pro-family San Benedetto Award in Italy.

"He has a huge intellect, yet he's a humble man," she said. "It's a beautiful combination. It compels people to listen.

"He is conservative, yet radical. He's pushing us onward to realign ourselves with new responsibilities."

She cited an example: In March, an official in Benedict's Vatican decried new kinds of mortal sins — not just the usual abortion, but also pollution, pedophilia, drug dealing, environmental damage and extreme wealth.

"John Paul brought Christ to the world, shoring up values," Dana said. "Benedict is building on those, stretching and interpreting for our day and time."

Bishop William Lori on Benedict's "challenge" to Cahtolics in America

Yet another "blogging bishop" -- William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, on Pope Benedict's challenge to Catholics in America:

Pope Benedict challenges us to bring the vision of faith to bear on society’s problems and to join together in constructing a world of love and hope – a world where the rights and dignity of each person are respected, including the unborn, the handicapped, and the frail elderly; where children are welcomed and nurtured in loving families founded upon the love of husband and wife; where the stranger is welcomed and the poor are treated with care and respect; where we are free to worship without fear and to bring the light of faith into the public square; where shared truth and convictions protect our freedom from the tyrannical rule of godless and valueless opinion leaders and trend setters who lead us away from what is true, good, coherent, and beautiful.

Now it is up to us to accept this challenge, to build upon the gift of this papal visit. It is for us to ponder the Holy Father’s words, to be renewed in our life of prayer both private and liturgical; to grow in our knowledge and love of what our faith teaches; and to be men and women of intense charity, not only for those we already know and love, but also for those whom we may never meet but who need our love and help.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

David Gibson vs. Cranky Conservative on "deprived" Catholic women

  • What you didn't see last week: Women, by David Gibson. Benedictions April 23, 2008:
    They are the majority of worshipers every Sunday (and through the week), and they make up some 80 percent of the more than 30,000 lay ministers (and growing fast) serving in the nation's 19,000 parishes. There are more of them working in U.S. churches than there are priests. They distribute communion, raise the next generation in the faith, and younger versions of themselves serve as altar girls. Yes, they are Catholic women. And yes, they were nearly invisible during last week's Pope-a-palooza.

    Benedict got an eyeful of the American church while he was here, but not from up close. No women were allowed to distribute communion (nor lay people for that matter--only ordained dudes) nor were any girls allowed as altar servers. In fact, the liturgies that American Catholics are used to, with women and girls playing important roles, had to be re-gendered for the papal masses. ...

  • Rebuttal from The Cranky Conservative (April 25, 2008):
    Really? Speaking as someone who was, you know, actually there, I saw a lot of women - a lot of happy women joyous to be in the Pope’s presence.

    From what I understand any female would-be EMC was physically restrained and placed deep in the caverns of both Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium. Allowed only bread, water, and an Ipod filled with liturgical music penned by Marty Haugen, these women were finally released only after they promised never to look a priest directly in the eyes again.

    Of course the actual explanation [as to their absence] ... (Read More).

Do they look disgruntled to you? -- Nuns from the Servents of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, sing on the subway after attending Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at Yankee Stadium April 20, 2008 (Getty Images)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Francis X. Clooney, SJ: "Interreligious dialogue is here to stay"

"The Pope Speaks - As If Dialogue is Here to Stay", by Francis X. Clooney, SJ. America April 25, 2008:

There are many good things and interesting things to reflect on after the Pope's visit to the Washington and New York, but here I pick up on only one: Benedict's April 17th visit with representatives of various religions, at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. Benedict's remarks to the gathered religious leaders made a multi-layered and firm case for interreligious dialogue, putting to rest, permanently I hope, the notion that this Pope wishes somehow to halt the inexorable move toward dialogue that has characterized the post-Vatican II Church.
Of course to the discerning, even as prefect Joseph Ratzinger was never opposed to interreligious dialogue -- his concern was those exceptional cases were a zeal for "dialogue" suppressed and even subverted the mission of the Church, by appeals to religious syncretism and a "watering down" of the claim to truth concerning the salvific unity of Christ and his Church. (Dominus Iesus was chiefly offered as a corrective to erroneous or ambiguous positions; see also 2004's collection of essays: Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions Ignatius Press).

On a parellel note, it can likewise be said that the Holy Father is firmly committed to ecumenism -- in 2006, he plainly stated ""The Second Vatican Council considered as one of its main objectives the re-establishment of full Christian unity -- this is also my objective". But one can tell simply by reading his address during the ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph's in New York, ecumenism is not a goal to be pursued at the cost of truth, referring with regret to Christian communities who adopted positions motivated by "a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition", adopting "a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine":

For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.

Neuhaus on the Nationals Park Mass: "For Benedict, aesthetics is never mere aesthetics"

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus caused quite a ruckus with his "somewhat critical" remarks about the way Mass was celebrated at Washington National's Park on EWTN. In "Benedict and Beauty" (First Things' "On the Square" April 25, 2008) he responds to his critics:

Where to begin? The matter of taste—or, if you will, aesthetics—enters into it, no doubt. But the problem with the way the liturgy and music was handled is that it focused attention on the gathered people and the performers rather than on what Christ is doing in the Eucharist. It was a display of preening multiculturalism that proclaimed, “Look at us wonderfully diverse people exhibiting our wonderfully diverse talents!” I should add that this was the impression more powerfully conveyed on television, which was what I saw from the broadcast studio. Some people who were in the stadium and participating in the Mass tell me they hardly noticed the sundry musical performances, except as a vague background noise. They were the fortunate ones.

No doubt there are many parishes where people regularly suffer worse than what was perpetrated at Nationals Park. For the most part it was bad music competently performed. But one expects better, one expects much better, at a papal Mass. Especially when the pope is one who has been so very explicit in his views on liturgical and musical practices. ...

To those who dismiss his remarks as a merely aesthetic dispute, Neuhaus cites a strikingly applicable excerpt from Ratzinger's Feast of Faith. He concludes:
I do not wish to be too hard on those who planned the celebration at Nationals Park. It was, sad to say, not unrepresentative of much Catholic worship in our time. The planners and the performers no doubt meant well, but it is worthy of remark that at a papal Mass there was so much that reflected an ignorance of, or defiance of, the very considered views of the pope.

Cardinal Sean reflects on Pope's Benedict's visit, meeting with clergy abuse victims

On his blog, Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences of the Pope's visit (April 25, 2008):

Then planning a papal visit, so many things can go wrong — and when you are Irish, you expect all of them to go wrong! It was so beautiful that everything — even the weather — cooperated. The Holy Father’s visit was very uplifting and a grace-filled moment for the Catholics of our country.

The Holy Father had announced that his message was going to be “Christ our Hope,” and it certainly has given all of us a lot of hope in the Lord and in the future of our Church.

As I already mentioned in last week’s blog, a very special moment for me and for the Archdiocese of Boston took place on Thursday when the Holy Father met with five survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

The following day, on the day of the Holy Father’s anniversary, the other American cardinals and I had a wonderful opportunity to have dinner with him in the residence of the nuncio to the Vatican mission to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. I want to share with you that at that event, the Holy Father told me how moved he was by that meeting with the victims the day before.

Cardinal O'Malley was also interviewed by the Diocesian newspaper The Pilot, where he spoke more of the circumstances of the Pope's meeting:
Q: Can you explain your involvement in that unannounced meeting in Washington that brought together the Holy Father with five local victims of sexual abuse by clergy?

A: After it was announced that the Holy Father was going to Washington and New York and that Boston was not included, the bishops of the region joined me in writing a letter to the Holy Father asking him to reconsider and talking about the pastoral needs that we have in New England. Then the response came back that, given the very taxing nature of the trip, that they (Vatican officials) really hesitated to add anything else. So I wrote back again asking if the Holy Father would meet with victims and after that the Holy Father responded and asked me to make the necessary arrangements.

Q: Why was this meeting not part of the official schedule?

A: We did our best to keep it a very discreet meeting because we did not want to turn it a media circus and we were afraid that if people found ahead of time that that was just what would happen. Also, some of the survivors who accompanied us wished to remain anonymous and it would have made it impossible for them to participate under the public scrutiny. So, I am just thankful that we were able to carry it off without becoming public before hand.

I was very grateful to the Holy Father. The many times he addressed the sexual abuse crisis indicate how deeply he understands the situation of our Church and what happens here. He obviously feels a great sorrow over what has happened and that he is ashamed but, at the same time, wants to encourage us on the path to healing and reconciliation.

At the Thursday morning Mass at the Nationals’ stadium he talked about the need of giving pastoral care to the victims, and then in the afternoon he gave us a very concrete example of that in his own encounter with them.

Q: Why do you think this was a crucial meeting?

A: I think it was important for the victims to feel as though they had access to the Holy Father. Obviously, not all victims but someone representing them and in a small enough group, in a context that it would allow for a very personal interchange between the Holy Father and the victims. It was not a formal address; the Holy Father made his initial comments and then he spoke with each of the victims individually, he clasped their hands, he blessed them, he prayed with them.

I think for the Holy Father, pastorally, it was very important to experience this. Certainly he has heard through the bishops and through others the devastation of sexual abuse but it is another thing to encounter personally the survivors and to learn first hand of their suffering and pain.

John Allen Jr. devotes his weekly column to substantial "behind the scenes" coverage of the Pope's meeting with the victims, concluding with another interview with Cardinal O'Malley.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Senator Barbara Boxer: “most dogged foe of unborn human life in the U.S. Senate”

Denial Is a Senator from California (National Review April 23, 2008) - Paul Kengor comments on Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) -- “most dogged foe of unborn human life in the U.S. Senate” -- to the point of objecting a United States Senate resolution welcoming Pope Benedict himself:

It turns out, though, that Brownback was guilty of an egregious affront in his draft resolution: He had dared to thank the pope for valuing “each and every human life.” This was an apt acknowledgment for the man in Rome, given his remarkable consistency on life issues across the board, from abortion to AIDS to embryos to war. Nonetheless, Brownback’s statement of the obvious raised the ire of pro-choice Democrats in the Senate, particularly Barbara Boxer, who feared “human life” might extend to the unborn — a group that, by her definition, not only has no human rights but is not even human life.

This, of course, could not stand. Boxer immediately demanded that the “objectionable language” (the words of one senior Democratic Senate aide) be dropped from the resolution.

"On Serving Solemn Pontifical Vespers for the Holy Father"

Catholic blog Fish in a Barrell offers a remarkable account of meeting the Pope, serving as his vimp, and then receiving a lecture on the importance of serving the liturgy from Msgr. Marini:

I can’t say whether or not people were expectingthe Holy Father to greet us one by one, but I can say with certainty that we had a plan A and a plan B, consisting of left-knee genuflection and damn-near profound bowing, respectively. And so, the elevator opened, out steps Monsignor Rossi and the Monsignori from the Holy See, and all of a sudden we see this kindly-looking old man arrayed in various vesture of brilliant white, his countenance one telling of such deep-seated joy in Christ and love of His Church, such that not even the most gifted artist could capture it. He started making his way greeting each of us, with Monsignor Rossi introducing us. By the time it was perfectly clear that the only way the Holy Father could get to the guy after me was to stop at me, Monsignor Rossi introduces me (more or less): JP Mikolajczyk, he designed the altar for the Mass tomorrow. HOLY SMOKES!!! WOW!!! WOW!!! His Holiness in reply, Ah, zhank you.

There’s really no tactful way to say “you’re welcome” to that, so my existing smile was appropriate, I hope.

Mark Stricherz on Penance and Benedict's call for American social renewal

Penance and American Social Renewal - Mark Stricherz (In Front of Your Nose) on the starting point of Catholic renewal in America:

“Going to confession is hard,” Dorothy Day writes in The Long Loneliness. Truer words were never ... How many Saturday afternoons have I spent, usually all alone in church, waiting to confess my sins to a priest. Time seems to stop; when I arrive early, I always hear the soft patter of the priest’s shoes against the marble or hardwood floor, the sounds meant only for me; and when I arrive late, I worry that the priest will emerge from the confessional and recognize me. The feelings of alienation, separation, and anxiety are rough.

But that suffering can lead not only to personal reconciliation but also social renewal. Thus said Benedict XVI at Nationals Stadium last Thursday. ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What did Benedict eat? - Lidia Bastianich reveals the menu

Chef Lidia Bastianich reveals what was on the menu for Pope Benedict to food blog Serious Eats:

Forty years ago, when Lidia was 12 and living in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy, with her parents and brother, a Catholic relief organization provided them with safe passage and the proper visas to emigrate to America. But Lidia and her parents had to go to the Vatican to get the blessing of the pope at the time, Pope Paul VI.

So one can only imagine how thrilled she was to cook not one, not two, but three meals for the current pope during his visit to New York City. And Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be a serious eater, which is not surprising, given the fact that his mom was a hotel chef. [...]

Here's a mouth-watering sampling -- from Saturday's Lunch for the Holy Father and his Cardinals in New York:
  • String bean salad with sheep's milk ricotta and pickled shallots and toasted almonds
  • Ravioli with fresh pecorino and pears
  • Risotto with nettles, fava beans, and ramps
  • Whole roasted striped bass with boiled fingerling potatoes and a frisée salad
  • Apple strudel with honey vanilla ice cream (with honeycomb intact)
Lidia sums up her experience:
"It was celestial. It meant my life had come full circle. I came to America because a Catholic relief organization provided safe passage, and here I am cooking for, feeding, and nourishing the pope. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?"
(Via Domenico Bettinelli).

* * *

On a related note, the New York Times reveals that Pope Benedict's diet "reflected the digestive needs of a man who had just turned 81 and was at the end of an intense road trip" (A Recipe With an Imprimatur, by Kim Severson. April 23, 2008):

He wanted food that was light and seasonal. And the two formal dinners he ate in the wood-lined dining room at the five-story town house of the papal nuncio to the United Nations on East 72nd Street were to last only 80 minutes.

Besides security checks as each dish was prepared, the most important edict was this: The pope couldn’t handle spices.

Adjustments were made. The pepe was withheld from his ravioli cacio pepe e pere, the classic dish of pasta and pecorino accented with pears and pepper. Strudel, a nod to his German roots, was made without cinnamon. ...

One dish the pope ate in New York stands out as a particularly nice way to mark both spring and the papal visit. This creamy risotto is warm enough to take the chill off a New York spring evening but tastes so green that it satisfies the pent-up desire to eat early spring vegetables as soon as possible.


Gary Stern: "Pope appeared to cover all his bases during U.S. visit"

Pope appeared to cover all his bases during U.S. visit, says Gary Stern, wrapping up the papal visit in an article for the Westchester Journal News April 22, 2008:

Reviewing Pope Benedict XVI's American journey with hindsight, the papal agenda could have looked like this:

A. Introduce Benedict to America as warm, friendly and gracious - without going overboard or trying to make him into something he's not.

B. Celebrate the success of Catholicism in America and of America itself, but warn of the dangers to faith that are presented by relativism, secularism and materialism.

C. Face the fallout from the clerical sex-abuse crisis directly and on his own terms.

Through three days in Washington and three in New York, Benedict repeatedly hammered home points B and C and, through it all, appeared to accomplish point A with little trouble. ...

Spoken Words of Pope Benedict XVI during his Apostolic Visit to the United States April 15-20, 2008

* * *

Collected speeches and homilies in PDF Document - should you wish to print and read offline. (Courtesy of the blog Disputations).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pope Benedict's telegrams to various Heads of State

From Zenit News, the text of several telegrams Benedict XVI wrote to officials from the countries he flew over during his flight from New York to Rome, including the President of the United States:

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America - Washington

At the conclusion of my visit to the United States and the United Nations Organization I offer heartfelt thanks to you and your fellow citizens for your kind reception and ready assistance during my stay and I renew my prayers that Almighty God will ever guide your Nation in the way of prosperity and peace. Upon all the beloved American people I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.

Benedictus pp. xvi

The rest of the telegrams are addressed to the heads of state of the United States, Canada, Ireland, France and Italy.

Pope's visit prompts new claims of clergy abuse

Pope visit prompts new claims of abuse by priests, by Steve Ritea. Newsday April 21, 2008:

The pope's visit and his acknowledging sexual abuse by priests within the church has prompted dozens of people to come forward and claim they were molested as children, the president of a victim support group said yesterday.

"We've been inundated with calls," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a national organization. "Several are saying that they never told anyone."

Any media coverage of the issue often prompts new people to come forward, Blaine said, noting several hundred calls her organization received in 2002, when America's Catholic bishops approved a toughened sex abuse policy after scores of molestation charges against priests became public.

In his address to the nation's Catholic bishops Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI said that the sexual abuse scandal had been "very badly handled." The pope met later with victims of clergy sexual abuse, in a historic visit.

Reflecting on the Pope's Visit to the United States (Roundup)

  • Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley recalls his emotional meeting with the Holy Father, discussing the clergy sexual abuse scandal:
    Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley became emotional yesterday as he recounted to reporters the dramatic and unprecedented meeting earlier this week between Pope Benedict XVI and five people from Boston who had been sexually abused by priests.

    Asked how difficult the meeting was for him personally, O'Malley paused for a long moment and appeared to tear up.

    "Just seeing the book makes a great impact," he said, referring to a handmade document he gave the pontiff listing the names of nearly 1,500 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. As the pope slowly turned the pages, the cardinal mentioned that some of the victims died from suicide or drug abuse.

    "I know the Holy Father was touched by it as well," he said at a news conference at Boston College's Silvio O. Conte Forum where the Boston Catholic Men's Conference was held yesterday. ...

    "I was very, very moved by the whole experience," O'Malley said. "The Holy Father spoke about the pain he felt and the shame. He said that for so long he's been praying by those who have been damaged, touched, and hurt by the whole experience. . . . It was a very moving and a very reassuring experience. The Holy Father feels very deeply what these survivors have gone through."

  • Reflecting on what has gone on liturgically, Shawn Tribe (The New Liturgical Movement): considers a few different aspects in comparison between Washington and New York -- Washington comes out on top in a few departments (sanctuary setups, papal vestments, altar arrangements); New York appears to best the capital in terms of their musical selection. The verdict:
    The breakdown that we see here is that Washington comparatively excelled on the scale of those elements which are more visual in relation to the liturgy (altar arrangement, stadium sanctuary design, vestments) while New York excelled in the area of sacred music.

    If the two liturgical aspects had come together (and technically they did at the Washington Vespers service) at all the liturgies, it would have been very characteristic of Benedict and Marini as they are able to operate within Rome. (And let us recall that both elements are very important.)

    And among the significant gains made in terms of the "reform of the reform":
    Three of the four liturgies were characterized by traditional forms of sacred music. Beyond that, we also saw the sung Gospel, the use of the Graduale and more polyphony and chant than has likely been heard at most any papal Mass outside of Rome in recent memory. This is significant.
  • John Thavis (Catholic News Service) - Pope Benedict XVI achieved three objectives that could be considered critical to the pastoral future of the American church:
    First, the pope brought a certain closure to the priestly sex abuse scandal that has shaken the church for more than six years, expressing his personal shame at what happened and praying with the victims.

    Second, he set forth a moral challenge to the wider U.S. culture on issues ranging from economic justice to abortion, but without coming across as doctrinaire or bullying.

    Third, to a church that often seems divided into conservative and liberal camps, he issued a firm appeal to "set aside all anger" and unite in order to effectively evangelize society.

    In the process of his April 15-20 visit, the 81-year-old pope established his own identity in a country that did not know him well and in a sense came out of the shadow of the late Pope John Paul II.

  • Veritas, by J. Peter Nixon (Commonweal April 20, 2008):
    To suggest that there is a single common theme that unites all of [Benedict's addresses] would be hubris. They are too rich to be reduced in that way. Nevertheless, I am struck by the frequency with which Benedict consistently returns to a particular theme: truth.

    For Benedict, the quest for truth lies at the heart of what it means to be human. We are able to pose questions about the meaning of our existence, some of which Benedict offered when he spoke to the interfaith gathering at the John Paul II Cultural Center: “What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence?”

    Benedict’s conviction—and it is also the Catholic conviction—is that these questions can be answered. Human beings have a nature and a destiny and that nature and destiny give fundamental shape to authentic human happiness and flourishing. What is good and evil for human beings is grounded in reality, in truth. It is not merely the reflection of the will of a legislator. Freedom, properly understood, is the freedom to fully live this nature and arrive at this destiny.

  • Rich Leonardi (Ten Reasons) posts some Notes from New York including his experience of the Yankee Stadium Mass:
    The contrast between New York and Washington speaks for itself. Somehow Cardinal Egan's staff was able to integrate the various languages and sub-cultures of New York into a cohesive, dignified, and sacred liturgy. Generous doses of Latin and superb choral singing were key ingredients. In Washington, diversity was a contrived distraction; here it seemed far more natural -- perhaps even a source of unity. The cardinal has my heartfelt admiration.
    and Benedict's visit in general:
    Pope Benedict made a connection with the Church in America. It's difficult to describe, but the Holy Father's visit strikes me a defining moment for us. American Catholics, if we're smart about it, will spend the next several years internalizing and acting upon the message of hopeful renewal behind the many addresses, homilies, and exchanges that took place over the past five days.
  • Gary Stern realizes "it's about the office -- not the man":
    ... the main thing I take away from the papal extravaganza is this: it’s about the office, not the man.

    When I covered JPII a few times, I saw tens of thousands reaching for him, crying for him, and assumed that they were drawn to the man in white, the Polish fellow with the round face and undeniable charisma. And they were, to a degree.

    But here comes Benedict. Very different personality. Very different style. German. Shy. Bookish. And the people reach out in the same way, cry for him in the same way.

    The only conclusion that I can draw is that it’s about the papacy, not the pope. For Catholics, it’s about the man they believe to be the vicar of Christ, the successor to Peter—no matter who he is. (And for everyone else, it’s about the man who represents, spiritually, 1 out of every 6 people in the world.)

    If someone else had been elected in 2005, the same crowds would have been out there. People still would have lined up for hours for a glimpse of the popemobile. People still would have called out “Papa! Papa!” but for a different Papa. There still would have been 25,000 kids at Dunwoodie, talking about how it was a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity-to-see-the-pope.”

    I’m not knocking Benedict, mind you. He got the job done and deserves a nice rest. But I’m sure that he would be the first one to say that it’s all about the papacy and not Joseph Ratzinger.

  • "The Papal Week That Was", by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (First Things' "On The Square"):
    ... A moment of historic importance was the magnificent reception at the White House the morning after the pope’s arrival. The administration pulled out all the stops in a symbolic act of closure in the country’s tangled history of anti-Catholicism—or at least of suspicion about the place of Catholicism in our common life. Beyond that, it was a striking response to the larger question of what someone has called the naked public square—public life devoid of religion and religiously grounded moral discernment. In the concluding Mass in Yankee Stadium, Benedict spoke of the “false dichotomy” between Christian faith and the public square, as he did also in his address at the United Nations in New York. His several statements underscored the powerful symbolism of the White House reception. The image of the president and the pope on the South Lawn, along with what each said, deserves a prominent place in any honest history of the Republic.


    The Holy See’s traditionally friendly disposition toward international organizations, and toward the U.N. in particular, was joined with a lucid and forceful argument that the foundation of such organizations, and, more particularly, of the U.N.’s claim to be the protector of human rights, was without credibility unless there is a firm acknowledgment of the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. Faith, reason, and natural law were highlighted in the contention that the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” signed sixty years ago, is not believable unless grounded in transcendent truths about the human person and historical destiny.

    The extended standing ovation from the delegates, and the even more extended ovation following the shorter address to the U.N. staff, was remarkable. It was as though they sensed that the moral charter of the organization—an organization that has been so dismally disappointing on so many scores—had been renewed. The response is the more remarkable in view of the recent history of the U.N. in promoting abortion, population control, and other measures in violation of the dignity of the human person.

  • The Face of Pope Benedict XVI, by Deal Hudson. April 21, 2008:
    ... Benedict XVI bestowed his peace while confronting every problem awaiting him in the youngest and wealthiest of the countries under his universal pastoral oversight. He addressed the priest sexual abuse scandal on the plane to Washington, D.C. and will be remembered for his willingness to meet with victims. Both his humility and transparency caught the nation off guard.

    His transparency was apparent in everything he did and said. He praised the American Revolution for its foundations in divinely-endowed human rights while reminding us of the necessity of exercising freedom "for the cause of good." He congratulated our bishops on the vitality of the Church but asked them to offer "a clear and united witness" on proposed legislation that contradicts sound morality. He recognized the sacrifice made by American Catholics to educate their children, but he admonished presidents of Catholic colleges and universities never to use academic freedom as justification for contradicting "the faith and the teaching of the Church." His admiration for the work of the United Nations was made clear in his speech, but he cautioned, "It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights."

    Benedict XVI gave us peace in spite of his admonishments, in spite of his constant reminders that our freedom should never be used as license, and our affluence should not tempt us toward the isolation of self-consumed individualism.

    How did he do it? ...

    He did it by relying on something that is rarely discussed in our culture: Benedict XVI spoke the truth. Truth, the Pope knows, is the most disputed idea in our post-modern culture. By proclaiming truth, he defied the accepted opinion of the academy that there is no such thing, only politicized opinions based upon self-interest.

Nice way to send off the Pope, Catholic News Service

  • Theology students extol pope's pastoral gifts but say change unlikely, by Chris Herlinger:
    NEW YORK (CNS) -- Catholic students at one of New York City's most prominent schools of theology said Pope Benedict XVI's visit did not soften some of their concerns about his papacy and the future of the U.S. Catholic Church.

    The students at Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational graduate school of theology with Protestant roots and a home for Catholic academics who have run afoul of the Vatican, praised Pope Benedict's pastoral gifts and his ability to energize the Catholic faithful.

    But they also said the visit will not lead to what they feel are much-needed reforms within the church and expressed concern that the U.S. church's current and future needs are not likely to be addressed any time soon.


    Of the current five full-time Catholic faculty members at Union, three are women. Union's current Catholic faculty includes Jesuit Father Roger Haight, whose book, "Jesus Symbol of God," was sharply criticized by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when it was headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. The Vatican has banned Father Haight from teaching at a Catholic institution.

    Another Roman Catholic theologian who has had trouble with the Vatican is Paul F. Knitter, currently Union's Paul Tillich professor of theology, world religions and culture.

    Kirk told Catholic News Service April 20 that Union was lucky to have scholars like Father Haight and Knitter on the faculty, adding that the student view of Pope Benedict at Union is colored in large part by the pope's relationship with them, with figures like Father Sobrino and by Pope Benedict's past criticism of liberation theology.

    For her part, [Union doctoral student Kim] Harris -- a Catholic who used to be Presbyterian -- said her concern about church reform, specifically the need to expand the eligibility for clergy to include noncelibate men and women, is coming out of real and "lived experience."

    It seems to me that "lived experience" is a pretty thin basis for promoting a categorical change in Church teaching.

    For example, it is the "lived experience" of the unwed mother that bringing a child into the world can be a burden (should one then be "pro-choice"?)

    It is also the "lived experience" that I may feel inclined to sleep in on Sundays or shirk the obligation to confess my sins -- even so, buck as I might, the Church teaches othewise: not only duty-bound to the instructions of its founder, but no doubt with my spiritual health and well being in mind.

    Of course celibacy may sometimes perceived more of an imposition by some priests and less a reflection of Christ's sacrifice, or it may be that some women may feel slighted because the Church, bound to the sacred scriptures and the example of its founder believes itself unable to ordain them to the priesthood.

    Does this subjective feeling of resentment invalidate the argued position of the Church?

    Catholic News Service identifies itself as "the primary source of national and world news that appears in the U.S. Catholic press," however with the disclaimer that "while created in 1920 by the bishops of the United States, is editorially independent and a financially self-sustaining division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."

    I wonder if "editorially and financially independent" is to the USCCB what "plausible deniability" is for the President, when the CIA does a black operation? Honestly, I would have normally expected this backstabbing tripe from the likes of the National Catholic Reporter.

    (Bill Cork @ Oak Leaves noticed this as well:

    "There remains a serious disconnect between Pope Benedict XVI and the US Bishops, especially their bureaucracies, despite the smiles and ring-kissing of the past week. . . .

    Where did the reporter go to discover what theology students are thinking? Catholic University of America? Fordham? Boston College? Notre Dame? University of St. Thomas?

    No, they didn’t go to any of those, or to any other Catholic university.

    They went to Union Theological Seminary, one of the most liberal Protestant schools of theology in the country.

  • Rosemary Radford Reuther - "prophetic voice" or relic of the 70's?

    It truly boggles the mind why the New York Times felt compelled -- after featuring a largely exemplary cast of commentators -- to trot out feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther to regurgitate her clichéd criticisms of the Pope. In one of her rants, she charges that:

    If Catholicism in the U.S. and worldwide presents the appearance of a hierarchical leadership which has lost credibility with much of the laity, the most important cause of this is the failure to rethink its teaching on sexuality and birth control.
    Ruether’s comments are straight out of the 70’s -- the last gurgles of a greying "Vatican II generation" hostile to the Church. This particular post is fascinating for the sheer number of rebuttals from vibrant orthodox Catholics. As one observes:
    There is a kind of sad irony in the fact people who view themselves as “progressive” are so easily stuck on the same issues that were important to them forty years ago. Of course, disparity between Church teaching and common practice with regard to contraception remains a very real problem in the United States (and most of the world)- but it seems somewhat silly to assert that it must be the Pope who is behind the times- and then to provide (as the sum total of “background” for the issue) events that took place prior to 1970!!! With all due respect to Dr. Radford Ruether, there is an inherent contradiction within this kind of approach that ought to be recognized and corrected.

    As a practicing Catholic who is not yet thirty, born ten years after Humanae Vitae was promulgated to a woman who took the pope’s teachings seriously, it is sometimes difficult to suppress feelings of bitterness against those forces in the Church who have systematically taught the practice of disobedience to my generation. Rather than shepherd us toward holiness, they have spent their careers advocating new dogmas based on their own questionable authority- opinions which directly contradict the teachings of the legitimate shepherds- and they continue to insist that they speak for the future of the Church. As someone who will be a member of the Church for the next forty years, I think it is about time they surrendered the floor.

    For the rest of my life, I will be dealing with a crisis in the Church that is rarely recognized and yet very real. I am going to have to spend the rest of my days cleaning up a tremendous mess: an entire generation that lives in confusion because the previous generation refused to be faithful… and tried to convince my generation that we were stupid for wanting to be faithful, at least on issues like contraception and abortion. The irony is that these same theologians do want young Catholics to obey the Church on social justice issues- and seem shocked when so many refuse to do so.

    The number of commentators who convey similar sentiments -- frustration with the prior generation of Catholics who taught nothing but dissent, and expressing a counter-cultural enthusiasm for embracing the teachings of the Church, speaks for itself. (Via Fructus Ventris).

    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport

    What's Happening Today: Sunday, April 20
    8-8:30 p.m. - Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
    NOTE: This post will be updated as more information becomes available on this topic.

    Approximately 3,250 guests will bid farewell to the Pope in Hangar 19 of JFK airport.

    • 8:00 p.m. - The Pope arrives via motorcade. Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, gives a welcome.


      • Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop of New York
      • Bishop William F. Murphy, bishop of Rockville Centre
      • Bishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
      • Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations
      • Representative of the president of the United States [VP Richard Cheney]
      • Representatives of state and local governments


      • Address by President Bush’s representative [VP Richard Cheney]
      • Farewell by Pope Benedict XVI
      • Presentation by Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio and schoolchildren
    • 8:30 p.m. - Departure via Shepherd One
    The USCCB's blog reports on the Pope's departure:
    Pope Benedict XVI concluded his apostolic journey to the United States this evening, departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport aboard Shepherd One at approximately 8:45 p.m. (EDT).

    Pope Benedict arrived at the airport by helicopter. More than three thousand people were in attendance to bid farewell to the Holy Father. While waiting for the Holy Father to arrive, the people participated in a program of prayer and music produced by the Diocese of Brooklyn. ...

    Vice President Cheney thanked the Holy Father for his visit. He said that, though the nation faces many challenges, it has innumerable blessings. He assured the Holy Father that he will always be welcome in the United States. He thanked him for his message of hope and salvation. He bid him a safe journey and asked him to pray for the United States.

    Pope Benedict gave a brief address thanking U.S. Catholics for their hospitality and for their witness of faith and devotion. He thanked all those responsible for planning the visit. The Holy Father concluded his visit with these words: “I ask you to remember me in your prayers, and I assure you of my affection and friendship in the Lord. May God bless America!” The people responded with a standing ovation. .

    Several children, accompanied by Bishop DiMarzio, gave the Holy Father bouquets of flowers.

    Pope Benedict is scheduled to arrive in Rome late Monday morning. May God grant him a safe journey.

    Text of Pope Benedict XVI's address - John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport (Departure Ceremony):
    The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country. These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome. It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here. It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you. I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.

    Once again I offer prayerful good wishes to the representatives of the see of Baltimore, the first Archdiocese, and those of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, in this jubilee year. May the Lord continue to bless you in the years ahead. To all my Brother Bishops, to Bishop DiMarzio of this Diocese of Brooklyn, and to the officers and staff of the Episcopal Conference who have contributed in so many ways to the preparation of this visit, I extend my renewed gratitude for their hard work and dedication. With great affection I greet once more the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States, and I encourage you to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance. ... (Read More)

    Coverage & Commentary

    Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd after celebrating Mass at the Yankee Stadium in New York, April 20, 2008. (Reuters)