Posts tagged: Pope Benedict XVI

Yet Another Surprise From Pope Francis

By , November 18, 2013 7:48 am


Most of us are rather used to getting surprises from the new and beloved Pope Francis. The first reaction from many people was that the biggest difference between Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors was a difference in style. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were never seen in any context other than a very formal setting. Their speeches were always prepared with extraordinary care and delivered in a formal, unsmiling manner. However, we are beginning to see that there is much more that is different in this new papacy other than the issue of style.

One of the first moves that he made that reflected his clear understanding of a need for restructuring and modifying the day-to-day function of the church occurred when he appointed eight cardinals, scattered around the world, only one of which was from the Vatican, to be an advisory body directly to him on what changes, adaptations and modernizations were needed to increase the effectiveness of the Church on a day-to-day basis.
The second wonderful change was in the question of agenda. The basic goal of the Church has been received from Jesus of Nazareth when he told the apostles, and their successors, (the bishops) to go “into the whole world and preach the Gospel to everyone…baptizing them.” No pope can change that as a goal but the pope would be free to choose one or another aspect of that generic mission that he wished to emphasize with greater force than had been the case. Pope Francis has chosen the issue of world poverty and is publically committed to the fact that he will be guiding the Church with an extraordinary emphasis on the poor, on the need of the Church to be a poor Church and on the need of the clergy to share in a very real way in that poverty.

Now comes another substantial innovation that will most likely have tremendous ramifications to the Church itself and to the world to which the Church has been sent. On November 5th Pope Francis launched an unprecedented worldwide consultation on modern families, including the issue of same-sex couples and the reception of the Sacraments for couples in non-sacramental marriages. As a working document, the questionnaire of 39 questions has been distributed to ALL the bishops of the world and asked them to take seriously their obligation to research all the issues, positive and negative, confronting family life across the world. I will get back to some of those issues in my next blog because this one is already too long.

I can tell you this much, however. Those questions give a very good indication of just what Pope Francis wants the Church to deal with. Tune in tomorrow.

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Remembering Benedict XVI

By , April 15, 2013 4:57 am

Do you remember him? It has been only a matter of weeks since Joseph Ratzinger, aka. Benedict XVI, took the historic and generous step of resigning from the Chair of St. Peter. During these few weeks, the sudden arrival of a startlingly friendly, relaxed, smiling Pope, in the person of Francis (not Francis I…yet) has overcome the media of the world. Yet, many people already seem to be forgetting his very important predecessor.
Benedict XVI was an extraordinary person- wonderfully erudite, compulsive and generous worker for his Lord. He assumed the burden of the papacy in his mid-70′s. He also is following a pope who for twentyfive years had dominated the world stage. There is nothing wrong with that, but Benedict was essentially a scholar, committed to teaching- not administration. Benedict’s teachings are important now and will be important twenty years from now, long after people stop snickering about the factor that it was “the butler who stole the correspondence.”
His encyclicals, Charity in Truth, Saved by Hope, and On Christian Love-God is Love, provide us with beautiful spiritual reading, and present a theme of deep spirituality and profound committment to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This theme was clearly and forcefully embodied in the life that Benedict XVI lived as priest, bishop and pope.
While in office, Benedict XVI was criticized by some for being almost as conservative as John Paul II, and it was especially noted that he encouraged a wider use of the Tridentine liturgy (the Latin mass). Interestingly, I mentioned the other day, that some people are already criticizing Pope Francis, and one of their great concerns is that he discouraged the use of the Latin mass in Buenos Aires.
May God Bless Pope Benedict XVI and reward him for his goodness.

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God Bless Benedict XVI

By , March 8, 2013 4:42 am

Benedict XVI is going to go down in history as a very real hero. Hero? Yes, indeed. Tradition is such a powerful force in the life of the Catholic Church that it takes extraordinary courage to go against it and Benedict did that last month when he announced that he would be resigning as the 265th Bishop of Rome. There were only three other resignations in the 2,000 year history of the Church and in each of those situations it was brought about by very special circumstances. Benedict, with a clear mind and in relatively good health, announced that it was time for a younger person to take over. Today, the Petrine Office is vacant. The cardinals have gathered and I am sure that within the next week or ten days we will see an elderly cardinal walk in out into that magnificent balcony of St. Peter’s and tell the excited crowd of several hundred thousand, “Habemus Papam!” – we have a pope.
Who will it be and, more importantly, what kind of Supreme Pontiff will he be? Most commentators say that there are only two possible directions for the new pope to take. He could reach back and recommit himself to tradition and continue doing, and in the same manner, that which has been going on for the last 30 or 40 years, the slow de-emphasizing of the Second Vatican Council. Or that new pope, blessed with the grace of the office, could recommit himself to the work of the 2,500 bishops of the Second Vatican Council and triumphantly announce that the Church is recommitting itself in an explosive manner to its missionary nature, that it will present the message of Jesus Christ with all of its joy and triumph in a way that will be unencumbered by the barnacles of time but will be pristine, pure, clean and precise. And with that, there will be that which recent popes have called for and pleaded for but were not able to see themselves free to do – move the Church forward to a world that is awaiting it and desperately needs it.
May God bless the new pope, whoever he is.

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Every 600 Years?

By , February 20, 2013 5:09 am

Photo: Megan Poloskey

They say it has been more than 600 years since a Pope retired, and only three have done it in 2000 years, so it certainly is a noteworthy event!

Serious Catholics are almost all vitally interested in the upcoming election. They hope and pray that a Cardinal will be elected who has the faith, vision, courage and strength to lead our Church during this very difficult time.
You know the list: sexual scandals, inadequate clergy, doctrinal conflict, persecution in the Islamic countries, etc. etc. The new Pope will have his work cut out for him.

But Catholics are not the only ones who are interested in this election. Millions of others, of widely varying faiths, will be watching the evening news with fascination. Why? It’s because this news will,in many ways, take them back six or seven hundred years. Most leaders in today’s world do not sit on thrones. Our White House and Capitol are not nearly as inspiring as St. Peter’s and its Piazza. The method of communicating the election of a new Pope is certainly strange, but delightful! If they fail to elect a new Pope, they burn wet straw on a tiny stove in the corner of the Sistine Chapel, thereby emitting black smoke from above the Papal palace. If a new Pope is elected, the smoke is white. Both messages, of course, depend heavily on the wind of the day. My guess is that there is about a billion dollars worth of communications equipment down in the Piazza and in the surrounding balconies, all looking for that precious white smoke.
Back to the serious side, a Roman Catholic Pope can be a tremendous source for good in the world, so everyone- whether they be of the Catholic faith or not- should be hoping for an outstanding new leader. Have the straw ready!

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Vacancy in the Vatican!

By , February 12, 2013 3:45 am

Monday, February 11, 2013, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, began quietly enough at least as far as the Church was concerned. There were lots of problems in the world but nothing particularly newsworthy as far as ecclesiastical affairs were concerned.
Then came the bomb!
Benedict XVI, the 265th successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome, announced that he was resigning from his office effective February 28th. Suddenly if you turned on the television set, all you saw was that story hour after hour. Commentators and reporters were hard-pressed to develop the story in any meaningful manner since it came as a complete surprise to everyone. They did not seem to have effective backup material in their archives.
Why should it have been such a surprise that a man in his late 80’s should retire from a leadership position in an organization of one billion, two hundred million scattered across nearly 200 countries? It was a surprise because frankly it comes very close to never happening. The last resignation, that of Gregory XII, was in 1415 and there have only been two or three such resignations in the entire 2,000 years of the Church’s existence.
I heartily congratulate our Holy Father. He assumed the responsibilities of the papacy at a very difficult time in the life of the Church. The numbers of priestly personnel were pathetically inadequate across the world. Both clergy and laity were frequently divided along the lines of being conservative or liberal, and the definition of those two words depended on who was using them. The pope mentioned his failing health and seeing him over the last five years on television made it obvious that the strain and the burdens were taking their toll. What to do now?
Speaking just for myself, I am hopeful that the Holy Father will enjoy a few more years of tranquility, prayer and study. I also pray that the transition process will work quickly and efficiently in bringing to the Church a new supreme pontiff who will have the vision, courage and stamina to lead the Church forward effectively during these extraordinarily difficult times.
May God bless Benedict XVI. May God guide the electors. May God bless the papacy.

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Good Advice From Our Holy Father

By , September 19, 2012 4:45 am

Photo: Megan Poloskey

Pope Benedict XVI recently stated, “Our present crises, whether economic, food related, environmental or social, are ultimately also moral crises. All of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path that we are traveling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed.” [Emphasis added]

True – true – true! Now let’s look at the Church. In terms of inner joy, self confidence, optimism and numerical growth, the Church is floundering almost everywhere except Africa south of the Sahara. I think that the above statement needs to be taken very seriously. I pray that it will be.

With all these problems, maybe we should ask ourselves as to whether or not our beloved Church needs to examine its governing strategy. More on that tomorrow.

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Infallibility and Public Relations

By , June 16, 2012 4:05 am

The First Vatican Council declared that the Bishop of Rome, speaking in his official capacity as shepherd of the Universal Church in the area of faith and morals, would be guided by the Holy Spirit and would teach no error regarding the essential message of salvation. This was an awesome decision but actually was rather tightly confined to an important but small area – the official teachings of the Universal Church as proclaimed by the pope and when exercising his official capacity. Infallibility does not guide the pope in matters of politics, economics or other important areas in the life of the Church.

Regretfully, most of the people outside of the community of faith know about the word “infallibility” but they know nothing about its limitations. This creates some embarrassing situations when Church leaders frequently make serious blunders in administration and leadership roles. When Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication on those four Lefebrve’s bishops, one of whom denied the Holocaust, he was not acting infallibly. When Pope Benedict XVI was perceived to be speaking in a derogatory manner about the Muslim faith when he was on his way to Turkey, he was not acting infallibly. Tragically, thirty or forty people died violently when Benedict XVI was seen to be speaking negatively about the Muslim faith. That people died as a result may say something about Muslim tempers… but the Holy Spirit is not involved.

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The Vatican Stirs It Up

By , April 30, 2012 4:32 am

Sr. Ane Monica Nguyen CSC, Sister Joan Marie Steadman CSC and Sister Julie McGuire CSC

Last week, the Vatican issued its long awaited report on the status of religious women in the United States. The study was brought into existence by Vatican concerns about the inner life of religious communities, and what the Holy See considered to be “questionable positions” in a number of areas such as the role of women in the church, including the ordination of women. The study went on for three years, and while the report has been given to the major Superiors of women’s communities, it has not as yet been made public.
Along with the report came some administrative decisions: for example, three bishops have been appointed to oversee the activities of women’s communities, and these bishops have been given jurisdiction over many administrative details as to how they are to function.
The first known and not surprising reaction of the leadership was shock. However, they have displayed real calmness and want to internalize this new situation before taking a more public stance.
To me, this is amazing. Every human organization has problems in structures and in organization (e.g., the Roman Catholic Church). However, the Church leadership is running the risk of further alienating, discouraging and antagonizing one of its greatest assets in building the Church. It won’t take long for us to see how this will work out, but my own respect, awe, and love for the Vowed Religious women in our Church is such that I would like start a series of blog entries to highlight my wonderful experiences with them, and to share their extraordinary accomplishments- often without adequate support. Stay tuned!

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Papal Criticism

By , April 12, 2012 5:13 am

Last week, the Universal Church celebrated Holy Thursday. That day is especially important in the Church because on this day we mark both the institution of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood. Pope Benedict XVI chose this day to chastise those priests who have called for the ordination of women and the end of priestly celibacy. There is little doubt that his remarks were occasioned by an organized call for disobedience in these areas in a number of countries, especially Austria.

No one should be surprised that the pope would take such a stand in view of the long established Church law regarding these issues and while the pope has ever right and even a duty to maintain long-established traditions in the Church, we still have the problem that somebody has to come up with a solution. The number of priests being ordained has been declining for half a century. In those five decades, we were shored up by short-term pastoral solutions – the diaconate, increased utilization of laity in leadership and pastoral roles, merging the parishes so that one priest could cover two or three parishes, etc., etc.

It seems, however, the tragic priest shortage in Europe and North America is of recent origin and the decline continues. Of more grave consequences was the failure to ever develop an adequate clergy in Latin America. With priests as the kingpin of the Church’s pastoral structure, their absence in adequate numbers leads to a failure of proper development and the lessening of membership. This has certainly been going on for years. A number of countries, such as Guatemala and Brazil, have lost a huge percentage of their Catholic members to Pentecostal and other groups. This is truly tragic.

This may be the largest issue facing the Church in the 21st century. In one way or another, a solution must be found.

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His Own Stamp!

By , October 14, 2011 5:29 am

Photo from

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has now been in office about six years. A search by the Tablet magazine in London shows that he has been very successful in filling key appointments throughout the Vatican structure. Of the top 126 posts within the Roman Curia and related offices, 99, more than three-quarters, are held by people appointed since Benedict XVI took office.

The breakdown is 47 from Italy, 12 from Spain, 17 from the rest of Europe, North America enjoying 10 appointments, Latin America 8, Africa 5 and Asia only 3. In my opinion, this raises certain questions about long-term development. In European countries, the Church has grown steadily weaker but most of the leadership still comes from that area while strong growth is being enjoyed by the Church in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Very few leaders from those areas are being promoted into important positions. The Holy Father needs to look more carefully at the great talent that is present in the Church but outside of Europe.

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