Month: December 2006

Capital Punishment, Cardinal Martino and the Catholic Church

I had said I would be taking a break from blogging during the holiday season, but having returned from vacation I couldn’t help but take an interest in an ongoing debate on Evangelical Catholicism, beginning with ” A Catholic response to the sentencing of Saddam” (Dec. 28, 2006), being in part a rebuttal to Jimmy Akin’s criticism of Cardinal Martino (November 09, 2006).

In his original criticism of Cardinal Martino, Jimmy Akin asserts that “The death penalty is not a crime legally, nor is it one in principle morally,” and that “even if we assume that “killing for vindication” is a crime — an assumption that can be subject to extreme challenge — it does not follow that Saddam’s execution is simply killing for vindication.”

Michael disagrees, and charges Jimmy with “negligence” in presenting the Church’s teaching on the issue:

Akin . . . neglected to note the important fact that clear and crisp sections of John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae were interpolated into the 1997 Latin edition of the Catechism, which is the definitive and authoritative version of the Catechism. Nor did Akin notice the insightful commentary on the Catechism published by the general editor of the Catechism himself, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.

The crux of Michael’s dispute with Jimmy is as follows:

The Church provides theoretical situations in which the death penalty can be used: “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” However, given this theoretical situation, we must next ask whether such a situation actually, historically and practically exists: “such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” The distinction between what is theoretically possible and what is practically the case is essential to the Catholic evaluation of the death penalty, not to mention to a plethora of moral and social questions. This is why John Paul II and Cardinal Schönborn use terms such as “practically” and “in practice” when they vocally oppose the death penalty. The possibility of a situation where the death penalty may be necessary is not denied in their teachings. However, there is strong skepticism expressed as to whether there are actual present conditions for the use of the death penalty. During the pontificate of John Paul II, not once were these conditions determined to exist anywhere in the world. This important distinction between the theoretical/possible and the practical/actual is not made by Akin, who instead conflates the two and privileges the theoretical teaching over the practical throughout his post on Saddam. Yet, is it not telling that he accuses Martino of being “sloppy” and “misleading”, and describes Martino’s analysis as below the “standard of high moral clarity that should be found in the public utterances of an official of the Vatican”? The misleading comments in actuality do not belong to Martino.

I expect Jimmy will respond to Michael’s charges in his own time. However, on behalf of Jimmy I think his post was rightly motivated: not by a personal animus against Cardinal Martino, not “an attempt to make Martino look foolish” but rather a challenge to Martino’s rendering (distortion?) of the Church’s teaching on the death penalty by his characterization of the sentence of Saddam Hussein:

“For me, punishing a crime with another crime, which is what killing for vindication is, would mean that we are still at the point of demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Unfortunately, Iraq is one of the few countries that have not yet made the civilized choice of abolishing the death penalty.”

(Source: Vatican opposes Saddam’s death sentence Catholic News Agency Nov. 6, 2006).

You don’t have to bear a grudge against Martino to recognize that there is gross potential for misunderstanding of the Church’s position on the death penalty in that single comment — the conflation of the death penalty with the desire for revenge and the intimation that the only “civilized choice” a country may have is to seek the wholesale abolition of capital punishment. (Suffice to say I agree with Jimmy’s criticism here).

Is there Legitimate Room for Disagreement?

May one in fact disagree with the teaching of John Paul II on the death penalty (in Evangelium Vitae and later conveyed in the Catechism and the Compendium? — Perusing the comments on Evangelical Catholicism, the hosts and their readers appear to be divided on this very question. Michael responds to a readers’ characterization of the Pope’s argument as a “personal prudential judgement” and insistence that one may disagree with John Paul II’s opposition to the death penalty and yet remain “a Catholic in good standing”:

First, if it was a personal judgment, then why would John Paul II circulate his opinion to the worldwide Church by means of an encyclical (Evangelium Vitae)? Second, I am sure that you are aware that papal encyclical letters carry a firm authority that demands the assent of the Catholic faithful . . .

Michael reiterates Lumen Gentium 25 (“This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, . . .”) and Pope Pius XII’s in Humani Generis 20 (“Nor must it be thought that what is contained in encyclical letters does not of itself demand assent, on the pretext that the popes do not exercise in them the supreme power of their teaching authority. Rather, such teachings belong to the ordinary magisterium . . .”).
During the 2004 presidential elections, the candicacy of Senator John Kerry — a self-identified “pro-choice Catholic” — was the source of much controversy. Liberal supporters often responded to criticisms by suggesting that Catholic legislators who supported the death penalty also dissented from Church teaching. In an oft-quoted letter to Cardinal McCarrick in 2004 (“Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion – General Principles”), then-Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified the difference by affirming:

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

Now, if the present Pope of the Catholic Church has affirmed the possibility of disagreement among Catholics over the application of the death penalty, we should take this as an invitation to examine this issue further.

Church or State — Who decides?

A related question in this debate: whether the ‘locus of authority’ reside in determining the application of the death penalty resides in the Church or the duly constituted civil authority? — Michael concludes from his analysis of the conditions in Iraq:

The death penalty is not the only option available for dealing with Saddam, and so, de facto, the execution of Saddam Hussein is not a moral option under CCC 2267. Saddam’s death sentence does not meet the criteria of Catholic social and moral teaching, and Martino has correctly noted that fact.

In a recent post, Michael takes a jab at “those who purport to understand issues of justice and peace better than the Cardinal” and “desk chair bloggers will likewise claim an expertise in the areas of Catholic social doctrine and global socio-poltical conditions from the limits of their laptops.” While I agree with Evangelical Catholicism that any Catholic expressing their disagreement with Martino should do so with the respect that should be accorded to a Cardinal of the Church, I am concerned about the assumption that if a member of the Vatican curia pronounces this practical application of the death penalty to be “a crime,” his doing so effectively rules out any disputation to the contrary.

In mounting his own case for clemency, Michael himself appeals in part to “global socio-political conditions.” from his own laptop. In claiming, for instance, that “During the pontificate of John Paul II, not once were these conditions [for use of the death penalty] determined to exist anywhere in the world” — I think you would encounter a number of legal prosecutors and officials with years of experience in law enforcement, who would beg to differ, and may even be more qualified to make that judgement than a member of the Vatican, even a President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In Capital Punishment: Drawing the Line Between Doctrine and Opinion ( June 7, 2004), Dr. Jeff Mirus contends that:

In matters governing social stability and public safety, prudential judgement is inevitable. Moreover, the authority for judgement in this sphere is not given to the Church. It is the province of the secular arm — the legitimately constituted civil authority — to decide what is and is not sufficient to protect public safety.

Now, since the Church teaches that non-lethal means of punishment must be used whenever they are sufficient, no Catholic politician or ruler worthy of the name will attempt to impose the death penalty in cases where he does not believe it necessary to protect the public safety. But politicians, rulers, States and, indeed, the man in the street, may reasonably differ over whether capital punishment is necessary to protect the public safety in our time and under our circumstances.

* * *

Development or Reversal of Doctrine?

In The Purposes of Punishment (CHRISTIFIDELIS Sept. 14, 2003), Michael Dunnigan provides a helpful summary of the theological debate (and controversy) over the inclusion of John Paul II’s prudential judgement in Evangelium Vitae in the 1997 revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, including the positions of those who have weighed in (Cardinal Schonborn, Cardinal Dulles, Fr. Rutler) in the pages of Catholic Dossier and National Catholic Register. According to Dunnigan:

Catholic teaching on capital punishment is in a state of dangerous ambiguity. The discussion of the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is so difficult to interpret that conscientious members of the faithful scarcely know what their Church obliges them to believe. Although the constant teaching of the Church has been that the state has a right to impose the death penalty, the Catechism declares that the actual circumstances in which capital punishment is legitimate are practically nonexistent. Moreover, the Catechism weaves doctrine so tightly together with prudential and factual judgments that it is not at all clear how much of its discourse on capital punishment actually is being put forward as binding Catholic teaching. [. . .]

[R]ecent pronouncements of the Magisterium — Evangelium vitae and the Catechism — affirm the Church’s traditional teaching that, in appropriate circumstances, the State may have recourse to capital punishment. However, the same statements circumscribe very narrowly the ambit in which this recourse is legitimate. In the words of the director of the commission that prepared the Catechism, the official version “leaves the door to the death penalty theoretically open . . ., while closing it practically” [C. Schönborn, “Brief Note on the Revision,” Catholic Dossier 4, no. 5 (1998), 10]. This unprecedented restriction on the imposition of the death penalty raises the question of the legitimate ends or purposes of punishment. The key issue in the debate over the death penalty is whether the recent statements of the Magisterium contradict the Church’s previous teaching on the purposes of punishment.

The confusion that characterizes the death penalty debate among Catholics is in part due to the fact that the Catechism gives the impression that the Church has indeed eliminated retribution as a legitimate purpose of punishment:

The preliminary version of the Catechism said, “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means . . .” [CCC prelim. vers., 2267 (emphasis added)]. Thus, this passage described as justifications for capital punishment not only the safety of persons, but also the protection of public order. The ordinary meaning of public order is sufficiently broad to encompass the traditional purposes of punishment, namely retribution and deterrence.

However, in the revision of the Catechism, the reference to public order was deleted, so that a sole justification for the death penalty remained in the official version, namely physical safety. “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means . . .” [CCC off. vers., 2267 (emphasis added)].

Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was led to “dissent” against the Magisterium, protesting in the National Catholic Register that “to eliminate retribution as a legitimate purpose of capital punishment is to depart from “the (infallible) universal teaching of the past 2,000 years.” Scalia further voiced his argument in a First Things article God’s Justice and Ours (First Things 123 (May 2002): 17-21).

Responding to Scalia (Antonin Scalia and His Critics: The Church, the Courts, and the Death Penalty First Things 126 (October 2002)), Cardinal Dulles makes the distinction between the prudential judgement of the Pope and the teaching of the Church. And, while he himself agrees with the prudential judgement of the Pope, he likewise reaffirms the right of Catholics to disagree:

As to the Pope’s assertion that the death penalty should today be rare, I would reaffirm, against Justice Scalia, that this is to be understood as an exercise of the Pope’s prudential judgment. “Prudential” has a technical theological meaning with which Justice Scalia seems not to be familiar. It refers to the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances. Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching.

Dunnigan goes on to examine the doctrinal treatment of the death penalty in the Catechism. He believes that a “development of doctrine” has indeed occurred in John Paul II’s choice to ground his teaching on the death penalty in the context of legitimate defense, rather than the traditional teaching on punishment (with narrow restrictions on when the sentence may be employed). However, he concurs with Professor Gerald Bradley (The Teaching of the Gospel of Life Catholic Dossier Vol. 4, No. 5), that analyzing the death penalty in this manner “renders the recent teaching of the Magisterium obscure” and is in need of “authoritative clarification.”

I believe that these recent pronouncements contain a legitimate development of doctrine, namely that, to a certain extent, it is proper to analyze capital punishment in light of Church teaching on legitimate defense and that, in this light, it becomes clear that capital punishment is legitimate only when non-lethal means are insufficient to vindicate legitimate societal interests. However, my opinion also is that these pronouncements are “not free from all deficiencies.” That is, they define too narrowly the interests that society legitimately may vindicate through imposition of the death penalty. These legitimate interests are not limited to the protection of physical safety, but, consistent with the Church’s traditional teaching on the purposes of punishment, they also include retribution or the reparation of the disorder created by the crime.

The Analysis of Avery Cardinal Dulles

Another instructive article I’ve read on this topic — probably the best survey of what Catholic tradition actually teaches on capital punishment — is Avery Cardinal Dulles’ Catholicism and Capital Punishment First Things 112 (April 2001): 30-35.

Despite what Dulles refers to as its “tempting simplicity,” there is no basis for a strictly abolitionist position on the death penalty either in the scriptures or Christian tradition:

The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. . . .

Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed in Evangelium Vitae (1995) that “the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.” But he wisely included in that statement the word “innocent.” He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty.

It is thus the obligation of Catholics to discern when the death penalty ought to be applied. Here Dulles then examines the fourfold purpose of punishment — “rehabilitation, defense against the criminal, deterrence, and retribution” and the effectiveness of the death penalty in achieving these ends. He concludes:

The death penalty . . . has different values in relation to each of the four ends of punishment. It does not rehabilitate the criminal but may be an occasion for bringing about salutary repentance. It is an effective but rarely, if ever, a necessary means of defending society against the criminal. Whether it serves to deter others from similar crimes is a disputed question, difficult to settle. Its retributive value is impaired by lack of clarity about the role of the State. In general, then, capital punishment has some limited value but its necessity is open to doubt.

Cardinal Dulles ends his study with a 10-point summary encapsulating the Church’s teaching:

  1. The purpose of punishment in secular courts is fourfold: the rehabilitation of the criminal, the protection of society from the criminal, the deterrence of other potential criminals, and retributive justice.
  2. Just retribution, which seeks to establish the right order of things, should not be confused with vindictiveness, which is reprehensible.
  3. Punishment may and should be administered with respect and love for the person punished.
  4. The person who does evil may deserve death. According to the biblical accounts, God sometimes administers the penalty himself and sometimes directs others to do so.
  5. Individuals and private groups may not take it upon themselves to inflict death as a penalty.
  6. The State has the right, in principle, to inflict capital punishment in cases where there is no doubt about the gravity of the offense and the guilt of the accused.
  7. The death penalty should not be imposed if the purposes of punishment can be equally well or better achieved by bloodless means, such as imprisonment.
  8. The sentence of death may be improper if it has serious negative effects on society, such as miscarriages of justice, the increase of vindictiveness, or disrespect for the value of innocent human life.
  9. Persons who specially represent the Church, such as clergy and religious, in view of their specific vocation, should abstain from pronouncing or executing the sentence of death.
  10. Catholics, in seeking to form their judgment as to whether the death penalty is to be supported as a general policy, or in a given situation, should be attentive to the guidance of the pope and the bishops. Current Catholic teaching should be understood, as I have sought to understand it, in continuity with Scripture and tradition.

Retribution – a Valid Basis for Execution?

The dispute with Martino has largely focused on deterrence — whether Saddam’s presence constitutes a threat and whether “non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor.” This has been the chief basis of Michael’s criticism of the Iraqi verdict and bloggers who support the verdict (or at any rate, disagree with Martino’s characterization of the verdict as “a crime”).

I do not feel particularly qualified to discuss the legitimacy of the execution based on deterrence — to do so would require specific knowledge of the Baathist resistance in Iraq, the threat posed by those who would hope to restore Saddam to power, and other societal factors which are beyond my competence. (I don’t think Martino is especially privy to this kind of information either, hence I question his judgement).

Moving on, I think the strongest argument in favor of Saddam’s execution could be made on the basis of retribution, and it is not at all suprising to see a number of other Catholics arguing this as well.

Dulles believes that “the retribution administered by the state is largely symbolic, and instructional [alluding to] an order of divine justice” — and that preserving “the moral order of society” can be accomplished by other means of punishment than execution. However, he has also recognized that “if the Pope were to deny that the death penalty could be an exercise of retributive justice, he would be overthrowing the tradition of two millenia of Catholic thought, denying the teaching of several previous popes, and contradicting the teaching of Scripture.”

I have to wonder if the case of Saddam Hussein isn’t just one of those situations, where the gravity and extent of his crimes constitute one of those horrific situations where the death penalty is deserved for the preservation of the moral order?

* * *

The Catholic Church’s position on the death penalty is fairly complex, and requires careful study and reflection — much confusion abounds as to its present position. It is not as permissive as some conservatives hope it would be. But, as Cardinal Dulles demonstrates, neither can it be construed as abolitionist (contrary to the assertions of the American Catholic).

In light of which, I find it entirely understandable that when the head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace calls for clemency for a mass-murdering tyrant guilty of horrific crimes against humanity, characterizes the sentence of the court as itself “a crime,” and reasserts the Church’s “opposition to capital punishment” without the qualification that is understandably needed, some Catholic bloggers are moved to provide a better explication of what the Church teaches.

Coincidentally, at the time of this blogging, Martino again expressed his opposition to the execution of Saddam Hussein (Vatican cleric hopes for clemency for Saddam Reuters Dec. 28, 2006):

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department, was quoted in Italy’s Repubblica newspaper on Thursday saying there was a chance for last-minute clemency for Saddam after an appeals court upheld his death sentence.

“There’s still a period of 30 days (before the death sentence must be carried out), the president’s signature is required, things can happen,” Martino was reported as saying.

The former papal envoy to the United Nations said there was “no doubt” that Saddam was responsible for mass murders, but that did not change the Church’s opposition to capital punishment.

“You can’t think of compensating for one crime with another one,” he said. Saddam was sentenced in November for crimes against humanity and the death penalty was upheld on Tuesday.

* * *

250,000-290,000 Iraqis “disappeared” under the reign of Saddam Hussein. A detailed description of this tyrant’s crimes against humanity can found in “Justice For Iraq”, a policy paper by Human Rights Watch.

Or, you can take a tour with blogger Michael Totten of a “genocide museum” in Suleimaniya, Kurdistan, where 10,725 people were killed in a single building, at the hands of Saddam’s torturers, many of them women and children.

According to CNN, Saddam Hussein is expected to be executed “this weekend”. I urge all readers to pray for his repentence and conversion.

Related Posts / Articles:

Recommended Reading

There are a number of informative articles / essays on this topic for further reading and consideration. I welcome any further suggestions for inclusion in this roundup:

  • In fairness to Cardinal Martino, his thought on the death penalty and understanding of the Church’s teaching is developed at length in an article Death Penalty Is Cruel and Unnecessary L’Osservatore Romano February 24, 1999. If one wishes to truly assess Martino’s position on the death penalty and understanding of the contemporary Church’s position, it would be better to begin with this particular address than his “off the cuff” remarks to the press which are the cause of much controversy. (Michael may be kind enough to provide other articles by Martino as well on this matter).
  • Cardinal Avery Dulles has written extensively on this subject, and when it comes to an explication of John Paul II’s thought, I find Dulle’s characteristically nuanced approach preferable to Martino. See for instance:
  • God’s Justice and Ours, by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia First Things 123 (May 2002): 17-21:

    The death penalty is undoubtedly wrong unless one accords to the state a scope of moral action that goes beyond what is permitted to the individual. In my view, the major impetus behind modern aversion to the death penalty is the equation of private morality with governmental morality.

  • Antonin Scalia and His Critics: The Church, the Courts, and the Death Penalty First Things 126 (October 2002): 8-18.
  • Death Penalty Symposium: [Correspondence between] Scalia and Dulles National Catholic Register March 24-31, 2002.

Remember Our Troops This Christmas

  • Remember Our Troops at Gitmo This Christmas:

    Instead of bullets and IEDs, troopers here duck noxious “cocktails” of the fab five: feces, urine, spit, semen, and vomit tossed into their faces. They don’t receive Purple Hearts when an enemy detainee requests a comfort item then grabs the hand of the kind guard passing it to him and breaks the trooper’s arm or wrist. . . .

    Last year alone Guantanamo detainees received more than 14,000 cards, the vast majority from muddle-headed well-wishers and sympathizers. This year local authorities estimate the number may exceed 16,000! . . .

    Like the other 40,000 or so pieces of detainee mail that transit the post office on the base the cards are distributed into the cells. The cards are passed out to the detainees by troopers who may themselves not have received any sort of greeting from home in a long time.

  • – Want to send your support to a Soldier in harm’s way, but have no idea of what to send, who to send it to, or how to send it? — Any Soldier Inc. started in August 2003 as a simple family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit. Due to overwhelming requests, on 1 January 2004 the Any Soldier® effort was expanded to include any member, of any of the Armed Forces in harms way.
  • In a giving mood? — Consider donating to Spirit of America, whose mission is to “to extend the goodwill of the American people to assist those advancing freedom.”

    [Spirit of America] provides support to those on the front lines: American military and civilian personnel and people who call to Americans for help in their struggle for freedom.”

    Recent projects include providing Special Operations Forces stationed in the Horn of Africa with education supplies, sports equipment, safety and survival gear for local residents; providing locals in Afghanistan and Iraq with winter clothing and refurbishing a school in Afghanistan. (View a list of SoA’s Project Accomplishments for 2006).

Just a note to say I’ll be away 21st-25th and blogging (if any) will be light for the remainder of December. Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

Pope Benedict Roundup!

Reactions to the Papal Visit to Turkey
Benedict, Regensberg, The West and Islam (Continued)
Pope Benedict XVI in Print
Ecumenical Ventures with Archbishop Rowan Williams / Archbishop Christodoulos
In Other News . . .

Reactions to the Papal Visit to Turkey

Note: For pre-trip and day-by-day coverage, see Anticipating Pope Benedict’s Papal Visit to Turkey Nov. 24, 2006 and Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Journey to Turkey Nov. 28 – Dec. 1, 2006 Nov. 30, 2006.

  • Pope: Thanks to Church of Turkey that lives Advent like Mary Dec. 3, 2006. In his Angelus for the first Sunday of Advent, the Pope recalled “with grateful affection, the dear Catholic community that lives in Turkish territory”:

    “I was able to meet and celebrate Holy Mass together with these brothers and sisters of ours, who are in conditions that are often not easy. It is truly a small flock, varied, rich in enthusiasm and faith, which we may say lives constantly and in an intense fashion the experience of Advent sustained by hope.”

    At the heart of Advent, continued the pontiff, lies precisely the certainty of hope. “In Advent, the liturgy repeatedly tells us and assures us, almost as if to win over our natural diffidence, that God ‘comes’: he comes to stay with us, in every situation we face; he comes to live among us, to live with us and in us; he comes to fill the distances that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with Him and among ourselves. He comes into the history of mankind, to knock on the door of every man and woman of goodwill, to bring to individuals, families and people the gift of brotherhood, harmony and peace. For this reason, Advent is, par excellence, a time of hope, during which those who believe in Christ are invited to remain in vigilant and diligent anticipation, fed by prayer and by proactive commitment to love. May the drawing near of the Christmas of Christ fill the hearts of all Christians with joy, serenity and peace!”

    Not everybody received Benedict’s comments on Turkey kindly. According to Le Journal Chretien:

    Ankara’s top government religious official accused Pope Benedict XVI yesterday of “doing injustice to Turkey” by declaring after his historic visit to Turkey last week that the country’s Catholics live under difficult conditions. . . .

    In an interview with the semi-official Anatolian News Agency published in today’s liberal Radikal newspaper, Director of Religious Affairs Ali Bardakoglu complained that the problems of Turkey’s religious minorities had been exaggerated during the pope’s visit.

    The pope’s comments [in his Sunday Dec. 3 address] caused the foreign press to conclude, Bardakoglu objected, that “Turkey does not have religious freedom. This is an injustice to Turkey.”

    According to John Allen, Jr., “six times over the course of his four-day visit, Benedict either made the case for religious freedom, or referred in oblique fashion to the “trials” of the local Christian community.” In Benedict and religious freedom in Turkey, Allen collects in one place all of Benedict’s references to religious freedom during the course of the Turkey trip.

  • Istanbul returns to normality, but deep down something has changed with the Pope\’s visit, by Mavi Zambak. Dec. 1, 2006. Benedict XVI has returned to Rome, but they’re still celebrating his visit at Istanbul’s cathedral. “After having felt the Pope’s closeness, we feel stronger.” The Muslim community also sees the visit positively; the Pope’s prayers in the mosque overshadow the Regensburg controversy.
  • Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Papal Visit – Dec. 1, 2006. Zenit News interviewed Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, who confided that he had made “an ecumenical proposal” to the Holy Father:

    We can truly say that this Thursday we lived a historic day, under many aspects. Historic for ecumenical dialogue and, as we saw in the afternoon, historic for the relationship between cultures and religions. And, obviously, because of all this, historic also for our country. . . .

    I can say that I spoke with His Holiness of something — something that we could do. I presented him with a proposal which I cannot now elaborate on, as we await an official response, but I can say that His Holiness was very interested and that he received it favorably.

    We hope it can be undertaken as it is directed to that ecumenical progress that, as we have affirmed and written in the common declaration, both of us are determined to pursue.

  • Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus: “The Pope in Turkey” First Things‘ “On The Square” Dec. 1, 2006:

    The meetings and prayers with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, will not likely be called historic. Historic was the visit of Pope Paul VI four decades ago when mutual excommunications between East and West were formally withdrawn. Benedict shares fully John Paul the Great’s yearning for the day when East and West will once again “breathe with both lungs.” As for Orthodoxy, however, while Constantinople may have preeminence in tradition, Russia has the numbers and the clout, and relations with Russia continue to be prickly, at best. Yet it is noteworthy that the formal dialogue between Rome and Orthodoxy has been resumed after a hiatus of six months, and there are continuing rumblings that Benedict may yet be invited to visit Russia.

    The visit to Constantinople/Istanbul was, of course, on St. Andrew’s Day. The brothers, Peter and Andrew, were, in the persons of Benedict and Bartholomew, together, both praying for the day of communion fully restored. As Benedict has said on many occasions, the hope for Christian unity is not a matter of our goals and schedules but of waiting faithfully on an unanticipated movement of the Holy Spirit that is, thank God, not under our control.

    For more on the Russian Orthodox Church’s reaction, see Russian Church hopes for Christian dialogue resulting form Pope’s visit to Turkey Dec. 4, 2006.

  • Wobby Pope? Open Book Dec. 6, 2006. Amy Welborn takes a look at the raft of “Has the Pope gone soft?” op-eds in the press:

    The trouble lies in the word “dialogue.” Secular journalists (and others) don’t understand this term in the same way that the Pope is using it. They seem to think that “dialogue” must mean: “Conversations between people of differing views, with the ultimate purpose of finding what we believe in common, discarding everything else, and making that common belief the basis of a new religious understanding.” . . .

    However – when Benedict speaks of “dialogue” – that’s not what he means. And his definition of “dialogue” and its purpose fits quite well into his strong commitment to the truth of Catholicism.

    Joseph Ratzinger, as a theologian, was a firm believer in and devotee of “dialogue,” as is any real intellectual. It is possible – and this is what is so hard for many to understand – to hold firmly to what one believes is Truth, and be very interested in dialogue, the views and experiences of others, not simply out of curiosity, but to the view of expanding one’s own vision and understanding.

  • “The Pope on Turkey, Secularism and Islam”, by Mustafa Aykol. The White Path Dec. 7, 2006. Turkish journalist Mustafa on Benedict’s dual challenge: to “secular fundamentalism, which aims to destroy the whole “public relevance” of God, and religious fundamentalism, which is prone to use coercion and violence to impose its beliefs on others” and its reception by the Turkish government.
  • Analyzing Benedict’s prayer with Ratzinger’s criteria, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter Dec. 8, 2006:

    When Benedict XVI stood alongside Istanbul’s chief Islamic cleric, Imam Mustafa Cagrici, in the famed Blue Mosque on Nov. 30, praying silently in the direction of Mecca, those who know Ratzinger’s track record no doubt asked: What happened to the man who once worried that inter-religious prayer can mean “a concession to that relativism which negates the very meaning of truth?”

    This was, after all, the same champion of Catholic identity who said of Pope John Paul II’s 1986 summit of religious leaders in Assisi to pray together for peace — or, at least, of the way that event was understood in some circles — “This cannot be the model!”

    […] We’ve reached an interesting moment indeed in Catholic affairs when such complaints could be hurled against the man once known as “God’s Rottweiler” for his ferocious defense of the faith.

    So, what gives? Was this a case of naked papal opportunism, a post-Regensburg lust for positive headlines in the Muslim world that swept aside doctrinal concerns? Has Benedict the pope “changed his spots” from Ratzinger the doctrinal czar? Or is there a sense in which what happened in Istanbul can be understood as consistent with Ratzinger’s earlier positions?

    The answer, says Allen, lies in an examination of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s thought on prayer with followers of other religions, as expounded in 2003’s Truth & Tolerance.

    After noting Cardinal Kasper’s attempt at public relations:

    “It was a recollection, a meditation, but this can be done. If it was a prayer, at least it was not an official prayer, it was not a public prayer, because this can’t be done,” Kasper said.

    With all due respect to Kasper, widely recognized as one of the best theological minds in the church, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that something carried live on TV across much of the world was not “public.”

    Allen turns his attention to the Pope’s remarks during the general audience on December 6th, 2006:

    In the area of interreligious dialogue, divine Providence granted me, almost at the end of my Journey, an unscheduled Visit which proved rather important: my Visit to Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. Pausing for a few minutes of recollection in that place of prayer, I addressed the one Lord of Heaven and earth, the Merciful Father of all humanity. May all believers recognize that they are his creatures and witness to true brotherhood!

    To which Allen observes:

    There was no caveat about relativism, no theological commentary on the limits of such “witnesses to true fraternity.”

    Why the explanatory vacuum? The answer, at least implicitly, seems to be the following: This pope is his own gloss.

    In other words, precisely because this was Joseph Ratzinger, it is difficult to imagine that the prayer at the Blue Mosque, at least on his side, had anything to do with a relativistic approach to religious belief. It was unnecessary to slap a warning label on the event saying, “Syncretism is hazardous to your faith,” because the mere presence of Ratzinger communicated in a flash all the doctrinal caveats that form part of his understanding of such events, including his criticism of the 1986 Assisi summit.

    Probably the best analysis of the papal “prayer” in the Blue Mosque.

  • Turkish mufti would not match Pope’s gesture” Catholic World News. Dec. 6, 2006:

    Turkey’s top Islamic official has conceded that he would not be prepared to make the sort of gesture that Pope Benedict XVI made last week, when the Holy Father prayed silently at the Blue Mosque.

    In response to a journalist’s question about a reciprocal gesture, Ali Bardakoglu, the government’s religion minister, said: “It is not right to expect that others will pray as the Pope did.”

Benedict, Regensberg, The West and Islam, Continued

  • The Pope and Islam (Symposium) – The Pope’s visit to Turkey highlights the Muslim world’s violent reaction to the Pontiff’s comments about Islam several weeks ago. What did those comments, and the Muslim world’s response to them, really mean? To discuss these issues with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel, with Turkish / Muslim journalist Mustafa Aykol, Thomas Haidon (Legal Advisor of the Free Muslim Coalition), BBC commentator Serge Trifkovic and Bat Ye’or (author of Islam and Dhimmitude 2001 and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis 2005).
  • The Man in White’s Burden: Who else but the pope can speak for Christianity?, by Father Raymond J. de Souza. National Review November 30, 2006.
  • The Pope and the Prophet, by Robert R. Reilly. Crisis November 8, 2006:

    The pope has raised a very volatile question: Is, in fact, the God of Islam without reason, or above it? Is the Muslim God unreasonable? Is Islam, therefore, based upon a theological deformation? The pope’s allusion to the teachings of eleventh-century Islamic philosopher Ibn Hazn—“God is not bound even by his own word”—suggests that possibility. However, it is more than a possibility. It is a core teaching of one of the predominant strains of Islam, if not the predominant strain. Has this always been so? How did such a conception of God develop? Is it still possible to talk about this without threats of murder? Benedict is trying to start a conversation with Islam, and it is the only one really worth having.

  • What Benedict means by ‘Christian tradition’, by John Allen, Jr.:

    “He can’t have it both ways,” one colleague in the press corps said to me.

    Grasping how these two points — fraternal relations with Muslims and the preservation of Europe’s Christian identity — are not opposed, at least as far as Benedict XVI is concerned, requires understanding what he means by “Christian tradition.”

    Benedict’s desire isn’t a return to Christendom, a conflation of church and state. Neither does he “seek a Christian version of shariah, which would enshrine the Code of Canon Law as the civil law of the land” and “[consign] Muslims or other religious minorities to second-class citizenship.” Rather, what Benedict means by “Christian Tradition” is twofold:

    First, he wants Europe to be shaped by its religious heritage and by the values of its religious communities, in contrast to forms of secularism that would deny any public role to religious believers. […]

    Second, the pope wants to defend the bundle of traditional moral values associated with Christian teaching, such as the family, human life, sexual morality, social justice and peace.

    Read the rest.

  • The Soul of the West | An interview with Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. on Benedict XVI’s Regensberg Address Ignatius Insight Nov. 9, 2006. Recently, in the course of doing some research for the Harvard Political Review, Justin Murray, an undergraduate student at Harvard, sent Fr. James V. Schall a series of questions about the impact of Pope Benedict XVI’s September 12, 2006, Regensburg Lecture. Ignatius Insight publishes the interview w. kind permission of the authors.

Pope Benedict XVI in Print

  • The recent anthology Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World, edited by Hent de Vries, Editor Lawrence E. Sullivan is available from Fordham U. Included is an English translation of the historic discussion between Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, concerning the prepolitical moral foundations of a republic. The opening statements of the Habermas/Ratzinger dialogue are available in original German here, in Spanish here.

    Habermas vs. The Pope – An appraisal of the dialogue from Prospect magazine, the author, Edward Skidelsky, suprised at how much a leftist, secular philosopher and an ‘enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy’ could agree upon.

    See also: The Church and the Secular Establishment: A Philosophical Dialog between Joseph Ratzinger and Jürgen Habermas (Logos Vol. 9, No. 2 Spring 2006), an English-language summary and translation from the journal of the Catholic Studies program at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. (Via John McGreevy / Commonweal).

    Update! 12/26/06 – Ignatius Press is publishing a special edition of the Ratzinger-Habermas debate — The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion — due out February 2008. Comments Michael of Evangelical Catholicism:

    For those who do not know, Habermas is one of the most famous, notorious and brilliant social thinkers of our age. Influenced by the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, which was made known to the world through the works of Horkheimer and Adorno, Habermas has been a constant critic of the excesses of capitalist Western culture and its consumerist industry. He is reknowned for the development of his theory of communicative reason, which seeks to discover the seat of reason in discourse among subjects rather than in the cosmos (Greek) or the knowing self (modernism). An avowed atheist and neo-Marxist, Habermas has recently commented on the manner in which Christianity alone can serve as the matrix for the preservation of Western values. He and Pope Benedict have come to agreement on a number of socio-political issues as the Pope mentions in his Values in a Time of Upheaval.

  • Catholic News Agency reports that [then] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity has been published in Russian for the first time:

    The book, written in 1968 by the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI, includes a foreword by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign department. The publication was co-financed by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

    Peter Humeniuk, an expert in Catholic-Orthodox relations, who heads ACN’s section for relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, said this week that the translation’s publication will provide an excellent step forward in ecumenical relations. “It is of utmost importance that this reference work by one of the world’s most important theologians is now accessible to Russian readers, especially in academies and seminaries,” he said.

  • “Primacy in Love”: The Chair Altar of Saint Peter’s in Rome Ignatius Insight posts an excerpt from the recently published Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts, a meditative walk through the liturgical calendar by Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Benedict XVI has finished the first part of a book entitled Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, which will be published next spring” reports Zenit News Service:

    The announcement was made today by the Vatican Publishing House — also known as Libreria Editrice Vaticana, or LEV — which received the Pope’s manuscript a few days ago, and has been entrusted with its distribution.

    “Conscious of the expectation at the world level of this first work of Benedict XVI,” the announcement said, “the LEV has made the appropriate agreements with Rizzoli Publishing House, ceding to the latter the rights of translation, diffusion and commercialization of the work worldwide.”

    According to the Catholic News Service:

    Pope Benedict explained that he began the book during his 2003 summer vacation, giving the final form to the first four chapters in the summer of 2004.

    “After my election to the episcopal see of Rome, I used all of my free moments to work on it,” he wrote. “Because I do not know how much time and how much strength I will still be given, I have decided to publish the first 10 chapters” as Volume One of “Jesus of Nazareth.”

    The announcement raised the interesting question of how one should receive a work of personal theology by a Pope. Zenit News further reports:

    In the preface, passages of which have been issued, the Pope writes that this work “in no way is an act of the magisterium, but only an expression of my personal search for the face of the Lord. Therefore, anyone is free to contradict me.”

    “I only ask readers for that anticipated sympathy without which there can be no understanding,” the Holy Father states.

    “I wished to attempt to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the authentic Jesus, as the historical Jesus in the authentic meaning of the word,” Benedict XVI adds.

    The book expresses one of Joseph Ratzinger’s most profound convictions, a book which he had already planned to write before being elected Pope: “Through the man Jesus, God made himself visible and, from God, the image is seen of the just man.”

    In an unfortunate, though not altogether unsurprising, response, Malcolm Moore of the UK Telegraph revealed his complete ignorance of matters Catholic with the proclamation that the Pope questioned his infallibility:

    The Pope has shocked theologians and opened a chink in the theory of papal infallibility by saying that people should feel free to disagree with what he has written in his latest book, a meditation on Jesus Christ. . . . No Pope has ever opened up his work and opinions to criticism before. Nor has any Pope tried to separate his personal and public personas, according to Professor Giuseppe Alberigo, a professor of the history of the Catholic Church at Bologna University.

    “I really believe this is the first time this has ever happened,” he said. “It is an extraordinarily important gesture. What it means is that the Pope is not totally infallible. As well as being the Pope, he is a common man, hugely studious in this case, but like all men he is subject to debates, arguments and discussions.” He added that Pope John Paul II “could never have made a distinction between ‘official’ Pope and ‘ordinary’ Pope”.

    In a word, nonsense.

    Related Discussion anticipating the publication of Jesus of Nazareth:

    • Pope Benedict & the Historical Jesus, by Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. (Singing in the Reign [blog] Nov. 22, 2006).
    • From Zenit News, a translation of excerpts from the Preface of the first volume of the book Jesus of Nazareth which Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI will publish next spring. The excerpts were made available by Rizzoli, the publishing house that has been given the international rights.
    • “Rome in Crisis?” – Zadok the Roman takes Professor Giuseppe Alberigo to the woodshed:

      High-level meetings between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (The Holy Office), the Rectors of the Pontifical Universities and the standing committee of the International Theological Commission have struggled to come up with a plan of action following the Papal decree abolishing infallibility. . . . Or not.

    • Jesus of Nazareth will be published by Random House imprint Doubleday – The first book from Benedict since he became pope, the title is scheduled for publication in spring 2007. Bill Barry, v-p and publisher of Doubleday’s religious division, acquired world English, first serial, audio and exclusive Spanish-language rights in North America from Italian publisher Rizzoli. [Publisher’s Weekly]. This is somewhat of a change given that Ignatius Press is the traditional publisher of the Pope’s works in the English-language.

Ecumenical Ventures

  • Pope Benedict’s meeting with Rowan Williams, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, on November 23, 2006 was perhaps overshadowed by his subsequent visit to Turkey and dialogue with the Orthodox. According to the Pope and the Anglican primate acknowledged serious obstacles to “ecumenical progress”:

    Serious obstacles remain to form closer ties between Catholic and Anglican churches, Pope Benedict XVI and Anglican leader Rowan Williams agreed, bluntly acknowledging disagreements on the ordination of gay bishops and women priests and the blessing of same-sex unions. . . .

    After a Nov. 23 private morning meeting between the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury, the two religious leaders signed a common declaration that noted the historic meeting 40 years ago by their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, which undertook “to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love.”

    That 1966 meeting aimed at uniting the churches split apart in 1534 by English King Henry VIII’s anger over the Vatican’s refusal to annul his marriage.

    Benedict XVII and Archbishop Ramsey in the joint statement, signed while sitting side-by-side at a table, expressed gratitude for the efforts at unity and pledged to pursue the path of continuing dialogue.

    Related Links:

    • Joint Declaration of Benedict XVI and Rowan Williams Nov. 23, 2006.
    • Papal Address to Archbishop of Canterbury:

      “. . . Over the last three years you have spoken openly about the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the future of the Communion itself. Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations. It is to be hoped that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue [to] be taken seriously in your discernment. In these deliberations we accompany you with heartfelt prayer. It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.

    • Anglican’s Address to Benedict XVI:

      I say this, conscious that the path to unity is not an easy one, and that disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modem society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue, common witness and service. In the modem world, no part of the Christian family acts without profound impact on our ecumenical partners; only a firm foundation of friendship in Christ will enable us to be honest in speaking to one another about those difficulties, and discerning a way forward which seeks to be wholly faithful to the charge laid upon us as disciples of Christ. I come here today, therefore, to celebrate the ongoing partnership between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but also ready to hear and to understand the concerns which you will wish to share with me.

    • Archbishop William’s visit to Rome marks the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking trip to Rome by Archbishop Michael Ramsey, in March 1966. In Alive at the Dawn The Tablet Nov. 11, 2006), Chris Larkman, a seminarian alive at the time reminisces. (via Whispers in the Loggia).

    • On November 21, 2006, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke at St. Anselmo, a Benedictine institution in Rome. The subject of his talk was Benedict and the future of Europe.

  • A somewhat happier and more optimistic ecumenical moment occurred on December 14th, 2006, when Archbishop Christodoulos visited Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Zenit News reports:

    A first visit of an Orthodox archbishop of Athens and All Greece to a Pope at the Vatican marked an important step in overcoming the division between Orthodox and Catholics.

    Today’s historic meeting between Archbishop Christodoulos and Benedict XVI ended with the signing of a joint declaration by the two religious leaders to reaffirm the collaboration of Orthodox and Catholics, particularly in the defense of life and the recovery of Europe’s Christian roots.

    This was not the Greek archbishop’s first visit to the Vatican, though it was his first to the Pope. Archbishop Christodoulos had met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then dean of the College of Cardinals, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s funeral on April 8, 2005.

    After their private meeting today, the members of the Orthodox archbishop’s entourage entered the Pope’s private library to hear both addresses.

    Related Links:

In Other News

  • On November 3, 2006, Pope Benedict visited the Gregorian University in Rome. You can read the Holy Father’s address to students and faculty at the Gregorian here. Fr. James V. Schall used the Pope’s visit as inspiration for reflection on What is the Proper Object of Theology? The Pope at the Gregorian Ignatius Insight Nov. 27, 2006.
  • On December 11, 2006 – Zenit News published the Vatican translation of Benedict’s Nov. 7, 2006 address to the Swiss bishops — the real one, that is.

    Back in November the Vatican’s press office published a draft intended for John Paul II. It was posted for few hours on the Vatican web page, released in Switzerland by the press office of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, and recalled later in the day without comment. (Source: Catholic News Agency; see also Sandro Magister’s behind-the-scenes expose: “This Is the Vatican. Communications Have Been Interrupted” Nov. 23, 2006).

    Amy Welborn takes a look at the real thing in “Popespeak” (Open Book Dec. 12, 2006).

  • interviews David Gibson on the papacy. Gibson, author of The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and his Clash with the Modern World, spoke of his experiences covering the conclave for Vatican Radio and squaring the public persona and private character of Pope Benedict XVI (“Joseph Ratzinger does not change. I mean basically the short answer is: same guy, different job”).

    Fair warning to readers, Gibson is admittedly disappointed in some (most?) of Benedict’s decisions (the firing of America editor Tom Reese and Ratzinger’s career as Prefect for the CDF, which Gibson describes in his book as leaving behind a “legacy of sharp denunciations, thwarted careers, and embittered souls that seems to belie any claims he might make to promoting the love of Christ”). And there are comments in the interview itself that would make many readers of this blog wince:

    “Benedict is wonderful in his Christology and in talking about his love of Christ and why we should follow Jesus. But the question that remains unanswered is why we should remain Catholics, why the Catholic Church should be the container for our faith. His ecclesiology and his Christology overlap so much that they almost can’t be separated. In his mind, if you talk about reforming the church or making any changes, you’re talking about changing Jesus Christ himself, and that’s a little too strict for me.”

    Ouch. For a more substantial understanding of Benedict, I would probably recommend God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, by JPII papal biographer George Weigel.

    The Rule of Benedict was plugged by Whispers in the Loggia‘s Rocco Palmo, who confesses that he “was involved on the project as a consigliere to the author, a longtime friend and co-conspirator” who picked out the cover.

    Gibson’s book was praised by the National Catholic Reporter and received largely positive reviews by Commonweal (The Puzzling Pope Andrew M. Greeley. Volume CXXXIII, Number 19) and America magazine (“Facing a Fragmented Church”, by Paul Wilkes. America Vol. 195 No. 10), while Indiana Catholic author Andrew Fink found that Gibson’s “liberal agenda marred his papal biography.

  • Ratzinger on Ecumenism: A Reading List – “I was asked by an Orthodox priest if I could provide him some references for Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings about ecumenism,” says Carl Olson (Insight Scoop). “In light of the Holy Father’s current trip to Turkey, here is the list I came up with. It is undoubtedly incomplete, but may be helpful for those interested in reading more in this area.”
  • “Habemus Papam.” Twenty Months Later, a Portrait, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa. December 12, 2006:

    The numbers speak. Benedict XVI is the most popular pope in history, if by people one understands those whom he draws like a magnet to St. Peter’s Square each Sunday for the Angelus and each Wednesday for the general audience, from Rome and from all over the world.

    Attendance is routinely more than twice that seen by his predecessor, John Paul II, who in his turn had shattered all the records. But the most amazing thing is the relationship between the demand and what is on offer. The winning product that Benedict XVI offers to the crowds is made of nothing but his plain words.

    At the Angelus, two times out of three pope Joseph Ratzinger explains the Gospel of that Sunday’s Mass to an audience that includes people who don’t go to church every week – and some who don’t go at all. He explains this with simple words, but these demand and receive attention. . . .

    As pope, Benedict XVI doesn’t give an inch to the preconceptions that were formed about him as a cardinal. He doesn’t thunder condemnations, he doesn’t hurl anathemas. He reasons staunchly, but serenely. His criticisms against modernity or against the “pathologies” that he sees even within the Church are fully elaborated. That is part of the reason why he has practically silenced Catholic progressivism: not because this has turned friendly toward him, but because it is not able to reply to him with arguments of similar persuasive power.

  • On November 20, 2006 the United Nations’ Headquarters hosted a conference on “Relativism and the Crisis of Cultures in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI,” to promote the book Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, published by Ignatius Press. The event was sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, the Path to Peace Foundation, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Ignatius Press, Edizioni Cantagalli and the Sublacense Life and Family Foundation. According to the conference website, the event was attended by “over 180 Ambassadors, Attachés and Delegates, Representatives of NGOs and others.”

    The conference featured a panel discussion with Marcello Pera (co-author of ), George Weigel,

    Welcome by Archbishop Celestino Migliore
    Remarks by Prof. George Weigel, Senior fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington
    Remarks by Marcello Pera Senator of the Italian Republic

On a Lighter Note

* * *

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful at the end of the First Vespers Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul at the Vatican City December 2, 2006.

This concludes December’s Pope Benedict Roundup — and perhaps blogging as well. Until the new year, I’ll leave you with

Merry Christmas!

Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Journey to Turkey Nov. 28 – Dec. 1, 2006

Ecumenical Patriarchate | EWTN Coverage | Weekly Schedule (Vatican) | Vatican Radio

[This post will be updated regularly throughout the coming week (Tuesday 28th – Friday 1st) as we chronicle Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic journey. Please bookmark and pass along if interested. God bless! – Christopher]

Prayer of Protection for Pope Benedict XVI – Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey — a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence

We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Prayer composed by Bishop William E. Lori)

Catholic / Orthodox Commentary

Istanbul Local Time
Turkish Daily News
Zenit News Network
Catholic News Agency
Yahoo News / Photos

Background Articles (November 27th, 2006)

For an extensive roundup prior to 11/27/06, see Anticipating Pope Benedict’s Papal Visit to Turkey – Supplementary articles, news and commentary. The Benedict Blog Nov. 24th-26th, 2006.

  • “Talking Turkey” – Dr. Michael Liccione offers “an imaginary office-hours dialogue at a Catholic university between a student I shall call ‘Alethia’ and my professorial alter ego” on the many facets of Benedict’s visit.
  • Turkey’s Catholics, Orthodox pray for pope’s arrival, by Mavi Zambak.

    Ankara (AsiaNews) – Responding to the appeal of Benedict XVI, tonight all Catholic communities in Turkey will hold prayer vigils to accompany and welcome the pope throughout his trip to Turkey. Yesterday, after recital of the Angelus, the pontiff asked the faithful to accompany him in prayer so that “this pilgrimage may bear all the fruits that God desires” . . .

  • Interview with Fr. Tom Michel on Benedict’s Turkey visit w. John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter Nov 27, 2006 07:25am.
  • Benedict XVI’s Journey to Turkey “Gesture of Love” Zenit News. Nov. 28, 2006 – Interview with Father Giovanni Cereti, Catholic theologian and lecturer of ecumenical theology:

    The Church of Christ is a communion, and fraternal relations between Christians and churches are an essential expression of this communion, which already unites us to God in virtue of the common faith and one baptism.

    After a long period during which, due to external difficulties, these visits could not be undertaken, the Second Vatican Council established a new starting point and the exchange of visits between local churches of the West and the East has become very frequent.

    Among all these visits, most significant in fact are those carried out between the two most important sees of Christianity . . .

~ Intinerary of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Journey ~


Tuesday, 28 November

Fiumicino (Rome)

  • 09.00 Departure from Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport of Rome/Fiumicino to Ankara


(Capital of Turkey) [Wikipedia Guide]

  • 13.00 – Arrival at Esembog(a International Airport
  • Visit to the Atatürk Mausoleum:

    . . .the Pope travelled by car to the Mausoleum of Ataturk some 45 kilometers from the city. Built between 1944 and 1953, it holds the earthly remains of Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” (Father of the Turks), founder and first president of the Turkish Republic (1923-1938). Within the building, which resembles a Greek temple and is reached by a flight of steps, the walls are covered in green marble and the ceiling decorated with gold mosaics. The cenotaph to Ataturk is made from a single block of marble weighing 40 tonnes. . . .” [Source:]

    And from Zenit News:

    Benedict XVI placed a floral wreath next to the monument and then signed the visitor’s book and wrote in English: “In this land, a meeting point of different religions and cultures and a bridge between Asia and Europe, I gladly make my own the words of the founder of the Turkish Republic: ‘Peace at Home, Peace in the World.'”

  • Welcome ceremony and courtesy visit to the President of the Republic
  • Meeting with the Prime Minister (Recep Tayyip Erdogan). From BBC News’ profile of the VP (Turkey’s charismatic pro-Islamic leader Nov. 4 2002):

    His background and commitment to Islamic values also appeal to most of the devout Muslim Turks who have been alienated by the state.

    But his pro-Islamist sympathies earned him a conviction in 1998 for inciting religious hatred.

    He had publicly read an Islamic poem including the lines: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”

    He was sentenced to 10 months in jail, but was freed after four. […]

    Mr Erdogan has disavowed the hardline Islamic views of his past and is trying to recast himself as a pro-Western conservative. He does not insist on leaving Turkey’s Nato and says the country’s membership of the European Union is a necessary and useful step.

  • Turkish online newspaper Zaman later milked the meeting for all its worth:

    “I told the pope that Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and he shared the same ideas,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press briefing after meeting Pope Benedict XVI at Ankara airport. . . .

    Saying that the government did its best to welcome the pontiff in a hospitable manner, Erdogan expressed his wishes that the visit would be fruitful for world peace.
    Asked about the pope’s attitude on Turkey’s EU membership, Erdogan replied: “I said that I expected his support on membership and the pope responded, ’We are not politicians but would like Turkey to join the EU.’”

    [NOTE: Zaman‘s lead story features a photo of the Holy Father’s meeting with Ali Bardakoglu].

  • Benedict XVI’s address to Ali Bardakoglu, Chief of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directories – The meeting was attended by representatives of the Muslim community, among whom were the grand muftis of Ankara and Istanbul, as well as cardinals and bishops who are part of the papal entourage. [Zenit News 11/28/06]:

    I have set out upon my visit to Turkey with the same sentiments as those expressed by my predecessor Blessed John XXIII, when he came here as Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli, to fulfill the office of Papal Representative in Istanbul: “I am fond of the Turks, to whom the Lord has sent me … I love the Turks, I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization” (Journal of a Soul, pp. 228, 233-4).

    For my own part, I also wish to highlight the qualities of the Turkish population. Here I make my own the words of my immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, who said on the occasion of his visit in 1979: “I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together, for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values'” (Address to the Catholic Community in Ankara, 28 November 1979). . . .

    Pope urges leaders to renounce violence, by Victor L. Simpson (Associated Press 11/28/06)

    Seeking to ease anger over his perceived criticism of Islam, Benedict met with Ali Bardakoglu, who heads religious affairs in Turkey, warmly grasping hands. Benedict sat nearby as the Muslim cleric defended his religion.

    “The so-called conviction that the sword is used to expand Islam in the world and growing Islamophobia hurts all Muslims,” Bardakoglu said.

    The comment appeared to be a reference to Benedict’s remarks in a speech in September when he quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by thy sword the faith he preached.”

    The Vatican described the cleric’s speech as “positive, respectful and non-polemical,” applauding what the church sees as efforts for a true dialogue between faiths.

  • Meeting with the Diplomatic Corps – Pope Benedict XVI’s Address of the Holy Father with the Diplomatic Corps of Ankara – Apostolic Nunciature of Ankara. Tuesday, 28 November 2006.

Coverage / Commentary

  • Speaking to the journalists accompanying him on his flight, the Pope affirmed that his visit to Turkey “is not political but pastoral”, and that its aim is “dialogue and the shared commitment to peace.” Vatican Information Service 11/28/06.
  • Turkey: Pope Arrives With Reform Challenge For Islam, by Jeffrey Donovan. Radio Free Europe 11/28/06.
  • Turkey: Young People Comment On Pope’s Historic Visit, by Elif Yildiz Arli and Jeffrey Donovan. Radio Free Europe. 11/28/06.
  • Vatican OK with Turkey joining the EU, officials say Nov 26, 2006 08:42am CST; Pope wants Turkey to enter Europe, PM says Nov 28, 2006 06:48am CST. — Two related reports from John Allen Jr. A change of opinion from then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who in August 2004 disagreed with Turkey’s bid for the EU.

    Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, has clarified that the Vatican has no official position on Turkey’s entry to the European Union (Zenit News 11/26/06):

    In response to a question by a journalist in the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Archbishop Mamberti clarified that “the Holy See has not expressed an ‘official’ position on this question.”

    “Obviously, it follows the question with great interest and sees that the debate which has been taking place for some time and the positions for and against Turkey’s admission to the European Union manifest that what is at stake is very important,” said the 54-year-old Vatican official.

    “Of course the Holy See believes that, in case of adherence, the country must respond to all the political criteria established by the Copenhagen Summit of December 2002,” he added.

    With specific reference to religious liberty, the prelate specified that Ankara must respect the conditions established by the decision of the Council of Europe, on Jan. 23, 2006, on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with Turkey.

  • On papal plane, Benedict stresses brotherhood, dialogue, and ‘healthy secularism’, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/28/06.
  • Pope calls for Christian-Muslim dialogue 11/28/06.
  • Pope preaches brotherhood on Turkey trip, by Brian Murphy. Associated Press. 11/28/06 04:59am.
  • On day one, Benedict adopts ‘soft tone’ in Turkey, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter Nov 28, 2006 11:58am:

    In what seemed almost a deliberate counter-point to his infamous quotation from a 14th century Byzantine emperor at the University of Regensburg, Benedict this time cited an 11th century pope, Gregory VII, who said to a Muslim prince in 1076 that Christians and Muslims owe charity to one another “because we believe in one God, albeit in a different manner, and because we praise him and worship him every day as the Creator and Ruler of the world.”

    Benedict was careful when referring to God to use constructions such as “the Almighty” and “Merciful,” respecting Muslim sensitivities.

    To date, his Turkish hosts have reciprocated the upbeat tone. To date, no one has explicitly referred to Benedict’s Regensburg address, though Lombardi told reporters that he thought he heard echoes of some Muslim reaction to the speech, especially in terms of the relationship between Islam and reason, in Bardakoglu’s remarks to the pope.

    Yet in his later address to the diplomatic corps in Turkey, Benedict returned to the two themes which have formed the core of his message to Muslims: the need to reject terrorism, and the need for “reciprocity,” meaning religious freedom.

  • In Turkey, Benedict XVI Becomes a Defender of Freedom, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa 11/28/06.

Wednesday, 29 November


[Ephesus: An on-line Panoramic Virtual Tour]

Coverage & Commentary

  • Pope Says Mass in One of Turkey’s Most-Revered Christian Sites, by Sabina Castelfranco. Voice of Americas 11/29/06:

    Many had gathered at the restored stone “House of Mary” sanctuary in the morning, waiting for the pope to arrive. They waved palm leaves and Turkish flags and sang hymns.

    The pope appeared in good spirits. He smiled at the crowd that clapped and shouted out his name. In his homily, the pontiff prayed for peace in the world and, in particular, in the Holy Land. . . .

    Benedict is the third pope to make the pilgrimage to the “House of Mary.” Paul VI visited in 1967 and John Paul II came here in 1979.

    Every year, tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims visit the “House of Mary” where, according to legend, the mother of Jesus lived the last years of her life. It is here that Saint John the Apostle is believed to have brought the Virgin Mary to care for her, after the death of her son, Jesus.

    The site was discovered in 1891 by archeologists, who based their search on writings by the German nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich.

  • Where Mary Is Believed to Have Lived Zenit News. 11/29/06. “From the first centuries, numerous Christian authors from the East and West mentioned John’s and the Blessed Virgin’s stay in this city, in which were located the headquarters of the first of the seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
    But, how was it determined that this was the house of Jesus’ Mother?”

  • A Mass at the House of Mary, by Owen Matthews. Newsweek 11/29/06.
  • In Ephesus, Supreme Pontiff becomes a simple country pastor, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/29/06.:

    On a beautiful fall afternoon on a Turkish hillside, Pope Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff of the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, metamorphosed into a simple country pastor, celebrating an outdoor Mass for no more than 300 pilgrims – perhaps half Germans who belong to the nearby German-language parish of St. Nicholas.

    It was the smallest crowd in recent memory for a papal Mass, though the turnout was mostly due to the remote location and the tiny size of Turkey’s Christian community. The event had an intimate feel, with the assembly physically closer to the pope than is often the case. . . .

  • Pope praises priest slain in cartoon furore The Guardian Nov. 29, 2006:

    Pope Benedict today honoured the memory of a Roman Catholic priest who was killed after the publication of the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

    At a small open-air mass in Ephesus, Turkey, next to the ruins of a house where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years, the Pope praised the priest to 250 invited guests.

    “Let us sing joyfully, even when we’re tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest John Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration.”

    A Turkish teenager shot the priest as he knelt in prayer in his church in the Black Sea port of Trabzon. The February attack occurred amid widespread Muslim anger over the cartoons. Two other Catholic priests were attacked in Turkey this year.

  • Papal Photos of the Mass from The Cafeteria is Closed; American Papist; American Papist with Pope Benedict in the Cathedral of St. George .

(Constantinople) [Wikipedia Guide]

  • Moment of prayer at the Patriarchal Church of St. George and private meeting with H.H. Bartholomew I – Greeting of the Holy Father
  • Schedule: Pope and Ecumenical Patriarchate meeting Spero News 11/28/06.
  • Welcome by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI After the Prayer Service at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George:

    So it is with open embrace that we welcome you on the blessed occasion of your first visit to the City, just as our predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Demetrios, had welcomed your predecessors, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. These venerable men of the Church sensed the inestimable value and urgent need alike of such encounters in the process of reconciliation through a dialogue of love and truth.

    Therefore, we are, both of us, as their successors and as successors to the Thrones of Rome and New Rome equally accountable for the steps – just, of course, as we are for any missteps – along the journey and in our struggle to obey the command of our Lord, that His disciples “may be one.”

  • Address by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Prayer service in the Church of St. George :

    It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this Cathedral Church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054. The joint declaration of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, written in a spirit of rediscovered love, was solemnly read in a celebration held simultaneously in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in this Patriarchal Cathedral. The Tomos of the Patriarch was based on the Johannine profession of faith: “Ho Theós agapé estin” (1 Jn 4:9), Deus caritas est! In perfect agreement, Pope Paul VI chose to begin his own Brief with the Pauline exhortation: “Ambulate in dilectione” (Eph 5:2),“Walk in love”. It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed.

  • “That They May All Be One” – translation of an article, signed by Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, which appeared on the front page of the Nov. 27-28 Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. [Zenit News Service. 11/29/06]

  • Origins of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Spero News. 11/28/06.

Coverage & Commentary

  • Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I pray in Istanbul for unity between Churches Catholic News Agency. 11/29/06.
  • Pope and Patriarch offer symbolism, but don’t expect breakthroughs, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/29/06.
  • Benedict XVI meets Bartholomew I, together for full unity AsiaNews.It 11/29/06:

    Bartholomew and Benedict already know each other and have met before, but the Pope’s visit to Istanbul, where the Pontiff will meet the Patriarch three times, is an expression of their shared desire to pursue the ecumenical journey.

    Bartholomew made this point reminding popes and patriarchs of their responsibility along the path of reconciliation. Benedict XVI echoed it when explaining that his visit to the patriarchate is part of the journey to strengthen “the impetus towards mutual understanding and the quest of full unity.”

    Earlier, the Pope mentioned “the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054,” taken in a joint declaration by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, and “written in a spirit of rediscovered love”.


  • Al Qaeda in Iraq, Vatican trade words on pope visit CNN 6:07pm 11/29/06 – Al Qaeda in Iraq on Wednesday denounced Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey, calling it part of a “crusader campaign” against Islam. The Vatican said the comments showed the need to fight “violence in the name of God.”

Thursday, 30 November

Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in the Phanar on the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Patron Saint of the Church of Constantinople. [Video | Photos]

Coverage / Commentary

  • Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch before Benedict [Analysis] – Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (What does Prayer Really Say?) provides some sharp analysis of Patriarch Bartholomew’s homily and some thoughts of his own:

    Frankly, I think liturgy is a serious issue for ecumenical dialogue with the East. Think about this. They look at the stupid things the Latins have done and are doing to the sacred liturgy, about how those desiring traditional liturgy from lay people to priests, are marginalized and berated. They see the leaders of a group of “traditionalists” are ecommunicated. And they are going to get closer to Rome? Would they hope that their traditions would be respected were they to give greater submission to the authority of Peter which the Pope of Rome exercises?

  • Pope Relaunches Dialogue on Petrine Ministry: Renews Commitment to Seek Full Catholic-Orthodox Unity Zenit News. 11/30/06:

    The Pope’s proposal resounded today in the Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar — the ancient Greek neighborhood of Istanbul where the Orthodox patriarchate’s headquarters is located — at the end of the Divine Liturgy on the feast of St. Andrew. The Orthodox patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

    The Holy Father, who prayed the Our Father in Greek, occupied a place of honor without being able to concelebrate, given the millennium-old division between the two Churches.

    Bartholomew I of Constantinople said in his homily: “We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day will come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.”

    For his part, the Roman Pontiff explained that his “presence here today is meant to renew our commitment to advancing along the road toward the re-establishment — by God’s grace — of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.”

    “I can assure you,” the Pope continued, “that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end.”

  • Under the Turkish Guns, the Christians Roar, by Joshua Trevino. Brussels Journal 12/1/06.
  • Turkish spokesman rejects title of “Ecumenical” Patriarch Catholic World News. Dec. 1, 2006:

    As a November 30 press conference in Ankara, the spokesman for Turkey’s foreign-affairs ministry asked Pope Benedict XVI to refrain from using the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” in reference to the Orthodox prelate Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

    The ministry spokesman, Namik Tan, explained to reporters that the term “ecumenical,” implying a universal role in Church leadership. That implication would violate the principles of secularism that inform the Turkish republic, he argued.

    The Turkish government spokesman made his remarks only after Pope Benedict had joined with Patriarch Bartholomew in a public celebration of the feast of St. Andrew– the most highly publicized event of his 4-day visit in Turkey. On November 29, when he met with the Patriarch at the church of St. George in Phanar, Pope Benedict had spoken of his gratitude for the invitation extended by “the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” Again on November 30, during a talk for the feast of St. Andrew, he spoke of “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.”

Visit to the Museum of Saint Sofia and the Grand Umayyad Mosque [“Blue Mosque”]

Coverage / Commentary

  • Footage of Pope Benedict’s visit to the Grand Umayyad Mosque ( – The prayer occurs starting at 6:58. (“Interestingly, Pope Benedict keeps praying long after the Mufti has finished his devotions. — via Dale Price)
  • “Built in the sixth century and in its time the largest church in the world, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque in the 15th century by the conquering Ottoman Turks. The Blue Mosque was deliberately sited to face Hagia Sophia to demonstrate that Ottoman and Islamic architects and builders could rival anything their Christian predecessors had created. It got its popular name because of the coloring of may of the tiles.” [Source:]
  • Pope joins Grand Mufti at prayer inside Blue Mosque The Times UK – Dec. 1, 2006:

    When the two men reached the mihrab, the focal point of the mosque facing Mecca, the Mufti explained that Muslims stand for 30 seconds there “to achieve serenity”. He then announced: “I am going to pray.” The pontiff turned towards Mecca and joined him, his lips clearly moving in prayer for over a minute.

    Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said that the pontiff had “paused in meditation and certainly he addressed his thoughts to God”.

    However, Pope Benedict’s act of prayer differed significantly from that of Pope John Paul II, who when he visited a mosque in Damascus in 2001 was left to meditate alone. The Pope continued praying yesterday after the Mufti had stopped.

    The historic gesture underlined the Pope’s wish to use his visit to reach out to Muslims outraged by his remarks on Islam at Regensburg University in September.

  • In sign of respect to Muslims, pope prays in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. 11/30/06:

    The pope accepted the gift of a ceramic tile inscribed with the word “Allah” in the form of a dove.

    Placing his hand on the tile, the pope said: “Thank you for this gift. Let us pray for brotherhood and for all humanity.”

    “Your Holiness, please remember us,” the mufti replied. . . .

    The pope asked a few questions but mostly listened during his tour. He was surrounded by a phalanx of Vatican aides and security personnel.

    Before leaving, he stopped to write in the museum’s guest book.

    “In our diversity, we find ourselves before faith in the one God. May God enlighten us and help us find the path of love and peace,” he wrote.

  • Pope Wins Praise By Praying With Mufti, by Allen Pizzey. CBS Evening News’ “Reporters Notebook” 11/30/06:

    The press then had to go through its usual round of asking each other “did-he-didn’t-he,” agree that he did — and then wait for confirmation from the Vatican spokesman, who more or less confirmed that the pope had indeed prayed, in a manner of speaking.

    Turkish TV, which carried the event live, had no doubts — and was almost universally breathless in its coverage. “We are shocked … it is fabulous … fantastic … they pray together … pope and mufti pray together … historical …” were among the comments.

    They even noted that the Pope had, like everyone else, taken off his shoes, as is required in a mosque. But not for him the feel of soft, rich carpet under his socks. Benedict appeared to be wearing white slippers.

  • Peter Visits Andrew – And Prays at the Blue Mosque, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa December 1, 2006:

    On the feast of saint Andrew, Benedict XVI entered the Blue Mosque in Istanbul with the cross of Jesus clearly visible upon his chest. He paused before the mihrab facing Mecca, and prayed in silence beside the grand mufti, who murmured the opening words of the Qur’an: all this took place with the freedom and clarity marked out by his lecture in Regensburg.

    But a no less symbolic gesture took place shortly before this, with the pope’s entrance into the Hagia Sophia, now a museum, previously a mosque, and before that the cathedral church of the patriarch of Constantinople, in the land where early Christianity flourished.

    In the Hagia Sophia, Benedict XVI did not immerse himself in prayer; he did not repeat the gesture of Paul VI when he visited there in 1967. Surrounded and hemmed in at every moment, he was able only to admire – in the impressive architecture of the Hagia Sophia, in its Byzantine mosaics, and in its Qur’anic inscriptions – the magnificent and sorrowful image encapsulating the Christian East of yesterday and today. First there was Greek civilization and then early Christianity, then Roman culture and then the Islam that conquered but did not erase what came before it, and finally the little flock surrounded by wolves that keeps the Christian faith alive in today’s Turkey.

  • Papal Pause Not Exactly a Prayer, Zenit News Service. 11/30/06:

    Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, confirmed, after the Holy Father’s historic visit today, that “the Pope paused in a moment of meditation and recollection.”

    “It was a moment of personal meditation, of relationship with God, which can also be called of personal, profound prayer,” Father Lombardi told journalists, “but it was not a prayer with external manifestations characteristic of the Christian faith.”

  • “His Lips Moved”, by Robert Moynihan. Inside the Vatican 11/30/06:

    Benedict’s moving lips were captured by television cameras and transmitted by satellite instantaneously around the world, to the ends of the earth.

    Perhaps the Pope was not really “praying” at all? Perhaps he was just “meditating”? Was this possible?

    No, because when the two men continued on their way (as Serena, who was there and could hear everything, related to me), the pope said to the mufti, “Thank you for this moment of prayer.” There seems no doubt, then, that Benedict was indeed praying.

    The Pope’s spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, was asked about this later by journalists. Was it really a prayer?

    At first Lombardi seemed to hesitate, saying “the pope paused in meditation, and certainly he turned his thoughts to God.”

    Then he said that this could be called a moment of personal prayer, but one which did not include any of the exterior signs of Christian prayer, like a sign of the cross. In this way, Lombardi said, the pope underlined what unites Christians and Muslims, rather than any differences.

    “In this sense it was a personal, intimate prayer to God,” Father Lombardi said, which “can easily be expressed with his mind and with his thoughts also in a mosque, where many people cultivate the same spiritual attitude.”

    The essence of this argument would seem to be that the pope – or any Christian – may pray to God anywhere, not just in a Christian church, but even outdoors, even in a prison cell, even in a non- Christian place of worship, like a mosque.

    * * *Personal observation on the Papal “Prayer” at the Blue Mosque:

    I believe this will be a moment strongly reminiscent of Pope John Paul II’s Infamous Koran Kissing Incident — which is to say, interpreted and exaggerated far beyond the Holy Father’s personal intentions (taking a moment to reflect, in much the same manner as John Paul II was expressing a customary sign of respect towards the giver in that country). It will be, if not already, lambasted by ‘radtrads’ and exploited as a publicity stunt by the Muslim press.

    Is this a “diplomatic error” on Benedict’s part? — the gesture is certainly too open to exploitation. (The same could be said for the Turkish newspaper Zaman‘s headline: “Pope Agrees Islam is Religion of Peace” — of course the Pope would beg to differ, but the media will go where they will and say what they want to say regardless).

    But however one chooses to receive the above, it would have to be weighed against other factors — for instance, explicitly praising a priest slain in the Islamic rage over the Danish cartoons, or alluding to the Armenian genocide by Turkey in his address with patriarch Mesrob II.

    Perhaps he could have been more explicit in attributing Turkey’s responsibility for the genocide in the latter — but then again, as a guest of Turkey, he would also have jeopardized the possibility of a return visit, in light of advancing ecumenical relations with the Orthodox, so perhaps this was a reason for a more nuanced allusion to “truly tragic conditions, like those experienced in the past century.”).

    Regardless, — just as I can’t interpret JPII’s “kissing of the Koran” in isolation from everything else, I’m inclined to weigh this saying / action by Pope Benedict in context with everything else that was said or done during the trip. At best I think it could be construed as a blunder (we’ll see to what extent the Muslim press plays this up).

    In the discussion of this event at Domenico Bettinelli’s — Fr. Martin Fox stressed the importance of looking at the event “through the right lenses” (“Triumph or Capitulation”?):

    Seems to me this is an event that acquires most of its meaning from the lens through which one views it.

    If you view it through a fearful/defensive/paranoid lens (surf the blogosphere, you’ll find plenty of examples), it is capitulation, “political correctness,” fake nicey-nice, syncretism, etc.

    If you view it through the lens of confident trust in the Holy Spirit and in the ability of our very able pope, it is considered, deliberate, courteous, astute.

    If you view it through the lens of ultimate triumph, it is victorious, prophetic.

    If the latter is less clear, consider—wasn’t there a question some time back about an Imam visiting a Christian cathedral, and how awful that was? Well, which is it: is a leader of a religion coming to the turf of another a sign of strength or of weakness?

    Seems to me the very fact a priest entered a mosque represents an invasion of Christian sanctity-— Christ himself has entered, in persona Christi capitis; in fact, not merely a priest, but a bishop, a successor to the Apostles; and not any successor, but Peter’s successor!

    Now, some won’t be happy unless he came tossing holy water around and making the sign of the cross. But I would say the pope’s very person– as bishop and as successor to Peter– is vastly more significant in bringing Christ into that mosque.

    Of course the Muslim triumphalists think they’ve won something, but they believe in Islamic eschatology, whereas we know the truth. Why should we see things through their lens.

    * * *

  • The Shell of a Great Church, by Joshua Trevino. Brussels Journal 11/29/06. – “The Hagia Sophia is a tragedy in being.”

    When the Turk’s hired Christian engineer sapped the Theodosian walls to claim the Queen City for Islam, the tale is that Mehmet the Conquerer spent days exploring the recesses of the Hagia Sophia. It was the great prize of the great city — and when the Sultan emerged, he pronounced himself well pleased. He had the Great Church stripped of its nine hundred years of decoration — glorious gilt and mosaics — and caused minarets to be built at its corners. Hagia Sophia was now a mosque. Its Muslim occupants did not bother to rename it: instead, its Greek name became its Turkish one as well — Ayasofya, a word meaning nothing in Turkish beyond the unintended invocation of the Holy Wisdom. Throughout the Ottoman period, the Christians of the east yearned for a Liturgy to be sounded again in the Hagia Sophia. At the end of that period, it seemed as if it might come to pass: one of the demands of the European powers, prior to the recognition of Ataturk’s republic, was that the Hagia Sophia again be a church. Ataturk would not hear of it — but he did make it a museum, and that was sufficient for the powers of Europe.

  • Pope visits Blue Mosque as gesture of outreach to Muslims, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/30/06.

Moment of prayer in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral and meeting with H.B. Patriarch Mesrob II

Coverage / Commentary

  • Pope and Armenian Seek to Surmount Schism, Zenit News Service 11/30/06:

    During the celebration of the Word, following [Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafina]’s address, Benedict XVI clarified that “Our meeting is more than a simple gesture of ecumenical courtesy and friendship.”

    “It is a sign of our shared hope in God’s promises and our desire to see fulfilled the prayer that Jesus offered for his disciples on the eve of his suffering and death: ‘That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me,'” the Pope said, quoting from John 17:21.

    “We must continue therefore to do everything possible to heal the wounds of separation and to hasten the work of rebuilding Christian unity,” the Holy Father continued. “May we be guided in this urgent task by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Pope Recalls Armenian Genocide Catholic World News. 11/30/06:

    In his greeting to the patriarch, the Holy Father praised the Armenian people for their faithful witness to the Gospel, even under “truly tragic conditions, like those experienced in the past century.” He was clearly alluding to the slaughter of Armenians under the Ottoman empire.

    To this day the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the genocidal campaign of 1915- 1917, in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed during massacres and forced marches, as the government of the “Young Turks” forced the relocation of an entire people. The Armenian Apostolic Church remains the largest Christian community in Turkey, but today numbers only about 50,000 faithful; in the late 19th century the number was several million. There are about 2 million members of the Church living in the country now known as Armenia.

  • Holy Father says meeting with Armenian patriarch a sign of hope for Christian unity Catholic News Agency. Dec. 1, 2006.
  • With Turkey’s Armenians, Benedict shows off his ‘great ear’, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 12/03/06:

    Though Benedict indeed spared no effort to send positive signals to the Turks, his more immediate sensitivity in his meeting with the Armenians was actually for someone else – the Armenians themselves, and especially their leader, Patriarch Mesrob II.

    “It would have been a huge headache for us,” Mesrob II told NCR in Istanbul shortly after his meeting with the pope, referring to the prospect of Benedict XVI inflaming Turkish sentiment by using the term “genocide.”

    Mesrob said doing so would have thrown his community of perhaps 60,000, the largest Christian community in Turkey but still a tiny minority in a nation of some 72 million, into tumult, potentially making them targets for a nationalist backlash.

    Benedict XVI could have gone home after setting off such a rhetorical bomb, Mesrob II suggested, but the Armenians would have been left behind to deal with the aftermath.

  • Interview with Patriarch Mesrob II of Istanbul and Turkey Pt. I; Pt. II, by Florence Avakian. Circa 1999.

Additional Visits

  • Meeting with H.E. the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan
  • Meeting with the Grand Rabbi of Turkey:

    The Hebrew term for “wise man” Haham has been adopted in Turkish to mean “Rabbi.” This is to avoid the use of the word “Rabbi” since in Arabic the word “Rab” is one of he names of God and may not be applied to a human.

    Still today the Grand Rabbi is called the “Hahambasi.” (Head of Rabbis).” [Source]

    See Also: History of the Jews in Turkey [Wikipedia Entry]

  • Meeting and dinner with the members of the Catholic Episcopal Conference

Friday, 1 December

  • Holy Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit – Homily of the Holy Father
  • Farewell ceremony at the Airport of Istanbul
  • 13.15 Departure from the Airport of Istanbul to Rome

Coverage / Commentary

  • Pope encourages Turkish Christians to live in harmony with Muslims, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. 11/01/06.
  • Pope says Church in Turkey asks to live with the freedom to reveal Christ Catholic News Agency. 12/01/06:

    On the last day of his Apostolic voyage to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the country’s Catholic community, affirming that the Church does not wish to impose its faith on anyone but, “merely asks to live in freedom,” in order to reveal Christ Jesus.

    The Holy Father reminded the numerous Catholics gathered in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit that the Church, “has been charged to proclaim (Christ’s) Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), transmitting to the men and women of our time the Good News which not only illuminates but overturns their lives, even to the point of conquering death itself. This Good News is not just a word, but a person, Christ himself, risen and alive!”

    “The Church’s mission,” he added, “is not to preserve power, or to gain wealth; her mission is to offer Christ, to give a share in Christ’s own life, man’s most precious good, which God himself gives us in his Son.”


Ciampino (Rome)

  • 14.45 Arrival at the Airport of Ciampino (Rome)