All three do a more-than-capable job of covering the "Benedict Beat." What follows from yours truly are merely some highlights that caught my eye over the past month.
- Benedict XVI, Recorded Live: His Ecumenism? It’s Right Here - L'Espresso. Sept. 1, 2005. Sandro Magister notes the Holy Father's penchant for "speaking off the cuff", even with regards to "very demanding topics. Case in point, his August 19 address to the representatives of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches:
On that day, the journalists had received an advance copy of the written text, in various languages. And this is the text to which they referred in their reports.Magister presents the complete transcript – in the English version prepared by the Vatican’s offices – of the speech that Benedict XVI addressed to the representatives of the non-Catholic Churches on the evening of August 19, in Cologne. Pay attention, as "the underlined words are the ones that the pope added off the cuff, departing from the written text," and revealing at greater length his own understanding of ecumenism and the "unity of all Christians." [NOTE: for further elaboration on the issues presented in Magister's article, I would also recommend "On the Ecumenical Situation", pp. 253-267, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith (Ignatius Press, 2005)].
But in reality, Benedict XVI said much more. On a number of occasions he raised his eyes from the text and improvised.
A quantitative idea of the variations can be gathered from the fact that the speech that pope Joseph Ratzinger delivered, in German, is almost twice as long as the initial written text: 2,010 words versus 1,179.
- So, World Youth Day 2005 is over, What's on the Agenda? - Zenit lays out the Pope's ambitious schedule of visitations including a visit to Israel ("I have a long list of commitments to visit foreign countries, but Israel has priority" was the Pope's response); synods, curial appointmens, canonizations . . . and, of course, books!
- On August 31, 2005, Benedict XVI paid tribute to the Solidarity union, recognizing the Polish labor movement born in the workers strikes of 1980 and which, over the course of that decade, sparked a national movement contributing to the peaceful overthrow of Communism in Poland and the eventual collapse of neighboring dictatorships in the Soviet Union. The Holy Father plans to visit Poland in 2006, according to Bishop Kazimierz Nycz.
See also: "The Revolution Solidarity Launched" Zenit interview with Journalist Gianfranco Svidercoschi, and "Don't Waste What Solidarity Helped to Win, Says Walesa" Labor Union Founder Addresses 25th Anniversary Conference. August 31, 2005.
- Felix Colonia: More on the Epiphany of the Catechist Pope www.Chiesa August. 26, 2005. Pietro De Marco, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Florence, reflects on Pope Benedict's celebration of the mass at Marienfeld and the theme of World Youth Day 2005 ("We Have Come To Worship Him"):
In the the kontakion on the nativity of Christ by the greatest of the Byzantine religious poets, Romanos the Melodist, the Child Jesus instructs the heart of his Mother on the meaning of the Kings and Magi who were asking Mary to permit them to adore her Son: "Welcome those who have welcomed me. I am in them as I am in your arms; I did not leave you, and yet I came with them."
The kontakion proceeds: "And she opens the door and receives the company of the Magi. She opens the door who is the unopened door through which Christ alone has passed. […] She opened the door, she from whom was born the Door, a little child, God before the ages."
The kontakion offers a profound key for the liturgical and theological event of the epiphany of Marienfeld. With the wisdom that had previously guided the inaugural Mass of his pontificate, Benedict XVI drew as much as he could from the symbolic terrain offered by sacred Cologne. Beneath the sign of the three Kings and the Epiphany . . . he proposed to the crowds the nucleus of the faith: the icon with the Mother and Child, the cross, the Eucharistic bread: "his presence in our midst."
For readers (myself included) unfamiliar with the term, kontakion "is a form of hymn performed in the Greek Orthodox Church " (Wikipedia):
. . . The word derives from the Greek word kontos, meaning pole, describing the way in which the words were and are unfurled on a scroll that has been wound around a pole. The word was originally used to describe an early Byzantine poetic form, whose origins date back certainly as far as the 6th century AD, and possibly earlier
- After Cologne: The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger, by Sandro Magister. www.chiesa August 25, 2005. On April 20, his first morning as Pope, Benedict XVI said "the Eucharist will be the centre of the World Youth Day in Cologne in August.” Providing a wonderful recap of the week's events (on and off camera), Magister believes he delivered on his promise:
From August 18-21 in Cologne, Benedict XVI did not bestow upon the crowd a mere theatrical gesture, or nothing more than a striking phrase. He led the young people to look, not at him, but always and only at the true protagonist: that Jesus whom the Magi adored in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” and who is now concealed in the consecrated host.
Read on for details on the Pope's meetings with Jews at the Cologne synagogue (in which he urged "progress towards a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity") and the Muslim community ("no pope had ever been so explicit and hard-hitting in facing the question of terrorism on a personal level").
- "Young People Relaunched . . . the Message of Hope" reflections of Pope Benedict on his first foreign apostolic trip to Germany, for World Youth Day. August 24, 2005:
Dear brothers and sisters, from the heart of "old" Europe, which in the past century, unfortunately, knew horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, young people relaunched to the humanity of our time the message of hope that does not disappoint, because it is founded on the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, dead and risen for our salvation. In Cologne, young people met and worshipped the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, in the mystery of the Eucharist and understood better that the Church is the great family through which God creates a space of communion and unity among all continents, cultures and races, a -- so to speak -- "great group of pilgrims" led by Christ, radiant star that illuminates history.
Jesus makes himself our travel companion in the Eucharist, and, in the Eucharist -- as I said in the homily of the concluding celebration, borrowing a well-known image from physics -- effects a "nuclear fission" in the depth of the being. Only this profound explosion of goodness that overcomes evil can give life to the other transformations necessary to change the world. Let us pray therefore so that the young people of Cologne will bear with them the light of Christ, who is truth and love and will spread it everywhere. In this way we will be able to witness a springtime of hope in Germany, Europe and the whole world.
- From Cologne to the Conquest of Europe: How the Muslim Brotherhood is Challenging the Pope wwww.chiesa August 18, 2005. Sandro Magister on the Pope's August 20 meeting with "representatives of some of the Muslim communities" at the residence of the Archbishop, Benedict apparently having declined the invitation to visit inside a mosque. According to Magister "His prudence is understandable. Cologne and Munich – where Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop from 1977 to 1981 – are the cities in which the Muslim Brotherhood, which has for decades been the main ideological and organizational source of radical Islam in the world." Magister provides a history of the Brotherhood's expansion and propogation of radical Islam throughout Europe, with attention to some not exactly laudable moments in Muslic-Christian dialogue:
One memorable occasion was the audience on October 13, 1993, held at the Vatican by John Paul II and Hassan Al Turabi of Sudan, who at the time was the leading ideologue in the world for radical Islamism, an inspirer and protector of Osama Bin Laden.For further information see The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe, by Lorenzo Vidino (Middle East Quarterly Winter 2005).
But in more recent times, and after the shift that took place on September 11, one can recall the meeting in Doha, in Qatar, from May 27-29, 2004. On the one side were Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the previous foreign minister for the Holy See, and Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and on the other were the leading imam of the Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, and one of the most widely followed leaders of Sunni Islam, Youssef Al Qaradawi.
Both prior to and since this meeting, Tantawi has repeatedly justified the Palestinian suicide terrorists. As for Qaradawi, he justified such acts even outside of the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. . . .
"First 100 Days" - Further evaluations . . .
- After 100 Days, It's Clear That New Pope Is A Friend of the Jews July 15, 2005. - Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, Director of Interfaith Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League, marks the traditional "first 100 days" in B16's pontificate with a detailed look at his interactions with the Jewish people, pronouncing YES to the question: "Is he good for the Jews?"
- The first 100 days of Benedict XVI: Interview with Sandro Magister David Rutledge interviews the "Arch-Vaticanologist and Roman Insider" and Professor of Contemporary Church History at the University of Urbino, for the Australian radio program "The Religion Report." Magister discusses, among other things, liturgical reform ("to turn back to the big tradition is not, according to Josef Ratzinger, to turn back the clock. On the contrary, a new step forward for the church in fidelity with two millenniums"), Benedict's closeness to lay movements, and the place of women in the Church. [See also: The First Three Months of Benedict XVI: New Pope, New Style July 15, 2005]
- Panelists examine Pope Benedict XVI's first 100 days Tidings August 12, 2005. Beth Griffin reports on a "progressive" panel discussion by John Allen, Jr. (who said that B16 is "not looking to headhunt, but will draw the line if objective truth is at stake," yet demonstrates "a new, sincere commitment to more openness and collegiality"), William R. Burrows, managing editor of Orbis Books (noting that Papa "has a nose for smelling out genuine faith in people"), Dale T. Irvin, dean of New York Theological Seminary (noting that the early response from Evangelical Protestants was "we've finally got someone who's on our side in the culture wars" -- and John Paul II wasn't?) and Sociologist Susan A. Farrell of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, who complains that "women didn't get what they want in the conclave" but are sticking it out because progressives have "a long-term commitment to the faith."
- We might recall that on April 19, 2005, Catholics for Free Choice Laid out a Schedule for the New Pope on their terms, calling for meetings between survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy, a lift on the ban condoms, establish "the Pontifical Academy on Women's Rights in the Church," a complete and unequivocal renunciation of capital punishment and "the possibility of just war by a superpower." They're still waiting.
On a lighter note . . .
- "The Pope and the Puzzling African King" (Boston Globe August 4, 2005) - Globe columnist Alex Beam speculates on the origins and meaning behind the "Moor of Freising" found on Pope Benedict XVI's coat of arms. According to the Vatican website "this is the ancient emblem of the Diocese of Freising, founded in the eighth century." There are many theories as to its origin, but I thought it funny how the Globe couldn't help but indulge in the most incendiary of suggestions:
. . . There are two other possible identities for the unknown Moor. He could be St. Maurice, a Roman commander from Africa whose Christian soldiers refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods after an important victory, and were themselves massacred. . . . And there is a more grisly possibility. At the time of the Crusades, some Christian kings displayed a severed Moor's head on their flags or crests to symbolize victories over their Islamic enemies. It is conceivable that the king, known as the ''Moor of Freising," evolved from such an image, although the figure shown on Benedict's coat of arms is wearing a collar and has suffered no violence.
The Boston Globe's provocative speculations are rivaled by the hyperventilating rant of Michael Cain @ Daily Catholic (comical, if it weren't so disturbing), for whom Benedict's choice of insignia "breaks with tradition" and reveals his capitulation to the Islamic horde:
As for his personal symbols, evidently the rooster-like Aztecan head bust is, in actuality a "Moor of Freising" - in other words a royalty from Ethiopia - caput ethiopicum. Yeah, it's caput alright! Moor as in Muslims? The very Moors St. Anthony of Padua wanted to convert? Racially politically correct? Who knows.
According to the Vatican website, "Italian heraldry . . . usually depicts the Moor wearing a white band around his head instead of a crown, indicating a slave who has been freed; whereas in German heraldry the Moor is shown wearing a crown."
Among the more benign possibilities are the proposals that the depiction may be that of Saint Maurice, a Roman-Egyptian martyr, Saint Zeno, frequently shown as a Moor, Saint Sigismund, often confused historically with Saint Maurice, or Saint Corbinian, founder of the Diocese of Freising, mistakely thought to have been a Moor.
So, liberated slave, Ethiopian royalty, severed head . . . or Catholic saint?
- If Pope Benedict has the trads fuming about a "break with tradition", wait until they see what he has in store for the Mass. (As Prof. Bainbridge says, "This is just wrong in so many ways . . .")
Meeting the Holy Father
- Some people have confuse me with this guy because we share the same name. Regretfully, I've yet to have the pleasure of meeting the Holy Father in person. Hence, it is always a delight to hear from members of the RatzingerFanClub (or, rather, the Pope Benedict Fan Club who have the opportunity. Agnes Santos (from California) writes:
I thought I’d update you on my trip to Europe. My mother and I were in Rome, 8 Aug through 12. The most amazing thing happened, we attended the Papal audience on the 10th and we were lucky enough to be able to shake the Holy Father’s hand. My mom was even able to kiss his ring. It was at the Pope Paul VI hall in the Vatican and since we had aisle seats, the Pope shook hands with the people on the center aisle. . . .
By the way, at the Papal audience, the Pope spoke in 6 languages. I would say English is one of his weaker languages although he’s very fluent but his German accent is very heavy. I am enclosing the pictures taken by the official photographer. I’m the one in the pink shirt and my mother is beside me.
A very happy photo indeed! -- Thanks again, Agnes. If you have a photo from Rome you'd like to share, contact me at webmaster "at" ratzingerfanclub "dot" com.