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 . . .
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. AsiaNews.it. 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 Interfax-Religion.com 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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.
- 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 CatholicOnline.org 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.
- 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.
- Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) provides her translation of the Common Declaration entered into between Pope Benedict XVI and Christodoulos, the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and all Greece. The original French text was taken from Eucharistie Miséricordieuse.
- Also from Teresa, English translations of the The Address of Pope Benedict XVI to His Beatitude Christodoulos and the Address of His Beatitude Christodoulos to Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of their meeting at the Vatican on December 14, 2006 (from the Vatican’s original French).
- East and West – Coverage and discussion at Amy Welborn’s Open Book.
- Challenges of Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Zenit News interviewed Monsignor Dimitrios Salachas, of the Greek-Catholic Apostolic Exarchy of Athens. The monsignor is a professor of canon law in Rome, and consultor for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
- 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).
- BustedHalo.com 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,
On a Lighter Note
- Benedict the unlikely pin-up pope, by Patrick Jackson. BBC News. Dec. 17, 2006:
“Benedict XVI, the shy former disciple of that most media-friendly of popes, John Paul II, has entered an area of the mass communications market that his predecessor apparently never tapped.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, in the first full year of his papacy, was far and away the editors’ choice as newsmaker of the year. The poll was the 45th annual survey of Catholic News Service client newspapers. [Catholic News Service Dec. 15, 2006].
- One of the pleasures of visiting The American Papist is his ongoing “Papist Picture of the Day”, complete with amusing captions. Among the recent treasures: “Having proven his diplomatic skills in Turkey, it was time for Pope Benedict to meet the emissary from planet Vorticon 6” [and] “The washing of the hands is always a dangerous affair when you’ve got a Pontiff this hot”. =)
* * *
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
- Teresa Polk’s coverage of Benedict’s December 17 Angelus reflection on The True Meaning of Joy at Christmas and
- roundup of Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa’s Advent Sermons.