Sunday, April 24, 2005

Getting to know Pope Benedict XVI . . .

  • "Groundswell Swept Ratzinger Into Office", by Sebastian Rotella, et al. Los Angeles Times April 21, 2005.

    "When the majority of 77 or 78 was reached, there was a gasp," Murphy-O'Connor said. "Everyone clapped. He had his head down. He must have said a prayer. I didn't see his face. He must have been aware this could happen, but when it does, it is a very special moment."

    After the traditional burning of ballots and the pope's triumphant balcony appearance Tuesday, Benedict XVI invited the cardinals back to a hasty celebratory dinner. Caught off-guard, 20 nuns at the cardinals' Vatican residence improvised a repast of soup, beans, cold cuts, ice cream and Champagne.

  • Surprise! New Pope takes a walk through Rome CWNews. April 20, 2005:

    The newly elected Pope, clothed completely in the distinctive white vestments of the papacy, caught onlookers by surprise when he chose to travel on foot, walking the few hundred yards to the apartment in the Citta Leonina where he had lived for years. When the news spread that the Pontiff was walking through the city, hundreds of people quickly gathered, and he spent some time in front of the apartment building, greeting the people and blessing young children. Italian police and Vatican security officials did their best to control the crowd, preserving some breathing room for the Pontiff.

  • Pope Benedict & Judaism, a survey of two articles in the Jewish Press by Domenico Bettinelli confirms that the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne does, in fact, bode well for the people of Israel.

    Light in a New Dark Age: Pope Benedict XVI -- The Man and the Mission, by George Weigel. Wall Street Journal April 21, 2005:

    As with the program, so with the man: He is a Benedict in the depths of his interior life and in his intellectual accomplishment. Benedict XVI has an encyclopedic knowledge of two millennia of theology, and indeed of the cultural history of the West. He is more the shy, monastic scholar than the ebullient public personality of his predecessor; yet he has shown an impressive capacity for a different type of public "presence" in his brilliantly simple homily at John Paul II's funeral and in his first appearance as pope. He has known hardship: He knows the modern temptations of totalitarianism (paganism wedded to technology) from inside the Third Reich; he has been betrayed by former students (like the splenetic Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff) and former colleagues (like Hans Kung, a man of far less scholarly accomplishment and infinitely less charity). His critics say he is dour and pessimistic. Yet I take it as an iron law of human personality that a man is known by his musical preferences; and Benedict XVI is a Mozart man, who knows that Mozart is what the angels play when they perform for the sheer joy of it. Indeed, and notwithstanding the cartoon Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope is a man of Christian happiness who has long asked why, in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, summoned to be a "new Pentecost" for the Catholic Church, so much of the joy has gone out of Catholicism. Over some 17 years of conversation with him, I have come to know him as a man who likes to laugh, and who can laugh because he is convinced that the human drama is, in the final analysis, a divine comedy.

  • Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum - the author of the blog Mystery Achievement registers his impressions of the Holy Father:

    He is a man of sincere and profound Christian holiness who both demands it from himself, and will demand it from us, the Catholic faithful. The interview footage in which he acknowledged the sins of Catholics, and the "mea culpas" of the past Good Friday's Stations of the Cross drove this home to me. And in the section of his pre-election homily to the College of Cardinals where he both contrasted doctrinal steadfastness with relativism, and enumerated some of the bitter fruits of the latter, he subtly but clearly said, in effect, that doctrinal faithfulness and holiness are of a piece.

  • Rome's Radical Conservative, by Michael Novak. New York Times April 20, 2005:

    One of Cardinal Ratzinger's central, and most misunderstood, notions is his conception of liberty, and he is very jealous in thinking deeply about it, pointing often to Tocqueville. He is a strong foe of socialism, statism and authoritarianism, but he also worries that democracy, despite its great promise, is exceedingly vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority, to "the new soft despotism" of the all-mothering state, and to the common belief that liberty means doing whatever you please. Following Lord Acton and James Madison, Cardinal Ratzinger has written of the need of humans to practice self-government over their passions in private life.

    He also fears that Europe, especially, is abandoning the search for objective truth and sliding into pure subjectivism. That is how the Nazis arose, he believes, and the Leninists. When all opinions are considered subjective, no moral ground remains for protesting against lies and injustices.

  • The Acton Institute's Robert Sirico on the True Liberalism of Benedict XVI:

    We have already heard a thousand times or more that the new Pope is a conservative. As counterintuitive as this may sound, I believe that insofar as the new papacy has implications for economics and politics, it is in the direction of a humane and unifying liberalism. I speak not of liberalism as we know it now, which is bound up with state management and democratic relativism, but liberalism of an older variety that placed it hopes in society, faith, and freedom.

    Also from the Acton Institute: Alejandro Chaufen on Benedict XVI and Freedom": "Given Ratzinger’s sharp focus on doctrine, many have seen only one side of this man: the protector of the faith, the leader of a new “inquisition.” Few have focused on his rich analyses of freedom. . . ."

  • The Real Ratzinger: The Lover of Lovers, by Anthony & Marta Valle. Inside the Vatican: " To the world he is many things; to us he is th priest who celebrated our wedding Mass in St. Peter’ Basilica on June 24, 2004, a short 10 months before h became Pope Benedict XVI . . ."

  • Not a transitional pope: Benedict may surprise, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter April 29, 2005.

  • In German town, Benedict XVI known for love of cats, conversation by Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder Newspapers. April 21, 2005. A great profile of the Pope with comments from his brother, George. As a fellow cat-lover, I am heartily pleased to learn of our new Pope's preferences for feline companions:

    "I went with him once," said Konrad Baumgartner, the head of the theology department at Regensburg University. "Afterwards, he went into the old cemetery behind the church.

    "It was full of cats, and when he went out, they all ran to him. They knew him and loved him. He stood there, petting some and talking to them, for quite a long time. He visited the cats whenever he visited the church. His love for cats is quite famous."

  • Oswald Sobrino on The Importance of the name Benedict in light of his conversations with Peter Seewald in God and the World.

  • 'A Beautiful Personality': The Pontificate of Benedict XVI Begins Interview with Father Augustine Di Noia. National Catholic Register May 1-8, 2005:

    He has a beautiful personality and when that begins to shine through and becomes evident, people will love him. One hundred percent of the staff in the office — including the ushers — are absolutely ecstatic.

    He is a kind, extremely humble and extraordinary human being. He’s also a fun man with a good sense of humor — we’ll miss him. He’s the whole package — he’s holy and knows how the Church works and how to run the Church.

    And on a similar note: ‘People Will Love Him', Newsweek interviews Fr. Di Noia. April 19, 2005.

  • The Real Benedict XVI: Reports Reveal Warmth and Openness. Zenit.org. April 23, 2005:

    When he first came to Rome in 1981 to take up his post as prefect of the congregation he did not even take possession of the apartment that would normally be his by right, as it was occupied by an elderly cardinal, whom he did not wish to disturb. The apartment in which Cardinal Ratzinger has remained in all these years in Rome, is not one as large or well-appointed as would normally correspond to his post, and is adorned with secondhand furniture. It is also located on the other side of St. Peter's Square from his office, instead of being in the same building. . . .

    In the afternoons the future Pope would often go out for a walk along the streets near his apartment and would stop to greet the shopkeepers along the Borgo Pio. Mario, a fruit-seller, recalled how once the cardinal asked him which apples to buy to best prepare a strudel. And electrician Angelo Mosca spoke of the time he had gone to the cardinal’s apartment to fix a problem, and how he had remained in a relaxed conversation with him for an hour, "just as if we were old friends."

For decades, the world has only known Cardinal Ratzinger through his capacity as the 'doctrinal enforcer' -- an difficult, thankless but unfortunately necessary assignment, which he accepted from Pope John Paul II and fulfilled to the best of his abilities.

Suffice to say not many in the world have actually encountered Joseph Ratzinger the pastor, the teacher, the theologian, save for those who have encountered him through his writings or had the opportunity to meet the man himself and work with him.

Now that he is has been installed, we will be blessed to know Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church.

With reference to the grumblings of dissent, a parting thought from Disputations ("First Fruits can be Sour"): "Why the hate and venom for a pope who, as pope, hasn't actually done anything yet?" and concludes:

If people hate Pope Benedict XVI because they hate where he draws his lines, and if he draws his lines around the Catholic faith, then they hate the Pope because he is Catholic. In other words, they hate the Catholic faith.

I regard this as a good fruit of Pope Benedict's papacy -- or, if you like, of the cardinal electors making the safe and easy choice. The masks are coming off, the indirection and equivocation are slipping away. People will continue out of habit to speak of "the Vatican" as the focus of their hatred and derision, but I expect it to become increasingly apparent to everyone that it is the Church herself -- note, herself, the Bride of Christ, not itself, the old foreign men in dresses -- that people hate and deride.


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