- The Catholic Herald's Michael White takes us behind the scenes of a papal concert and hails the Pope's efforts to raise musical standards at the Vatican:
This Pope is deeply musical and always has been - with conservative tastes (Mozart, Haydn, Bach) that are nonetheless expressed in surprisingly heartfelt terms. Stefan von Kempis, a senior figure in Vatican Radio, recalls a time when John Paul II was Pope and Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) organised a Vatican performance of Beethoven's Ninth to mark some special occasion.
"This was when he was at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," says von Kempis, "and his reputation was very much a hard-liner: the clenched fist behind a charismatic Pontiff. Not so many people knew about his love for music. So when he got up and made an insightful as well as emotionally committed speech introducing the symphony, people were taken aback that he could be so sensitive. So engaging.
"Most certainly he loves to talk music and to play it, which he does a lot. One of the cardinals here, Cardinal Kaspar, used to be his Vatican room-neighbour and says proudly that every day he heard the piano coming through the wall and never complained. This is Christian spirit because one has to admit of the Holy Father that he doesn't play so well. His brother always says he's 'not too bad but still an amateur'. Perhaps you've seen the YouTube clip?"
There is indeed a YouTube clip of Benedict playing the piano - shakily, and with mistakes so bad he has to stop and start again. It's quite endearing. And especially endearing given all the papal history that lies behind it. ...
- Catholic News Service' John Thavis renders his appraisal of Pope Benedict's pontificate as it nears its five year mark, citing "two key objectives" of the Holy Father: creating space for religion in the public sphere and space for God in private lives.
- "The Political Side of Benedict XVI" - Father John Flynn, LC reviews The Social and Political Thought of Benedict XVI by Thomas R. Rourke, which analyzes the Pope's record on such matters before and after his election to the Chair of Peter.
- Pope Benedict XVI will waive his own rules by beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman himself during his four-day visit to England and Scotland this September (Catholic Herald March 19, 2010). The announcement of Pope Benedict's decision to beatify Cardinal Newman himself was welcomed by Father Richard Duffield, provost of the Birmingham Oratory:
"The Holy Father's lifelong devotion to Newman has made a profound contribution to understanding the depth and significance of our founder's legacy," he said in a March 16 statement. "His decision to beatify Newman in person confers a unique blessing upon the English oratories and all who have drawn inspiration from Newman's life and work."
- Apropos of the United State's recent debate and legislation on health care reform, here is Pope Benedict XVI on (HT: Fr. Jeffrey Steele):
Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human. [Deus Caritas Est]
- On March 16, the bishops of England and Wales released a joint statement on Pope Benedict's visit to England and Scotland. (Further info can be found at thepapalvisit.org.uk).
- "Come All Ye Faithful" - William S. Lind accesses Pope Benedict's "counter-Reformation" (The American Conservative February 1, 2010):
From the abandonment of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer to the introduction of priestesses in the 1970s and the ongoing election of homosexual bishops, the Episcopal Church forsook traditional Christian doctrine in favor of its own invented religion. Not surprisingly, this apostasy fractured both the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion. The upshot has been a variety of continuing churches that maintain historic ties to Anglicanism, multiple movements within the Episcopal Church to restore orthodoxy, and the breaking away of many Anglican churches in the Third World, where most Anglicans now live.
On Oct. 20, Rome parachuted into this dogfight like a division of Fallschirmjager. In a move that stunned the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglicanism’s titular leader, Pope Benedict XVI, opened the Roman Catholic Church’s door to Anglicans as Anglicans. He invited them to move in—individuals, parishes, whole dioceses—while retaining their Anglican identity. They could keep their Book of Common Prayer, their liturgies, their priests—even married ones.
On March 6, 2010, William Joseph Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, delivered an address at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Titled, "Five Hundred Years After St. John Fisher: Pope Benedict's Initiatives Regarding the Anglican Communion," the address recounted the background to the Holy Father's recent Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus and discussed hopes and prospects for uniting Anglican groups with the Catholic Church. In his talk, Levada reaffirmed that "union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism," properly understood. (HT: Rorate Caeli).
- Benedict XVI's unexpected acceptance of invitations to visit Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela in Spain this year reveals something about his goals, says Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi (Zenit).
- Celebrating mass at the San Giovanni della Croce in Colle Salario on March 7, 2010, Pope Benedict reminded parishioners that the laity are not merely "‘collaborators’ of the clergy, but rather truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and action of the Church. (Full text here).
- The Pope has expressed his wish to spend his summer vacation resting and studying at Castel Gandolfo in July, declining an invitation to return to the Northern Italian Alps.
From the periodicals
- "A new page in the relationship between Jews and Christians" "It is not the first time that Benedict XVI has been a guest in a synagogue, but one cannot escape the fact that what happened on 17 January, in that small corner on the bank of the Tiber which houses a Jewish community bearer of a profound and considerable history is not simply a Roman happening." (30 Giorni "30 Days" January 2010).
- “I, a Jew, Explain the Pope’s Outstretched Hand”, by Joseph Weiler. (Traces No. 2, 2010 [Communion & Liberation] ). "One of the protagonists of the Jewish world discusses the bond with “our elder brothers,”explaining the wounds and the steps, such as the bishop who denied the reality of the Holocaust, the cause for beatification ofPius XII, John Paul’s apology, and the recent encounter with Benedict XVI. He speaks of a relationship that requires “time and patience” but offers many signs of hope, beginning with the Holy Father’s gestures."
On a lighter note
- Following the Palm Sunday celebration in St. Peter's Square, the Pope briefly donned a special 2011 World Youth Day Hat [video].
- College students from the University of Navarra in Spain have created a stop-motion film to answer one question: Who is Pope Benedict XVI?
Coming in May 2010
Church Fathers and Teachers: From Leo the Great to Peter Lombard
Ignatius Press (May 10, 2010)
After meditating on the Apostles and then on the Fathers of the early Church, as seen in his earlier works Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church and Church Fathers, Pope Benedict XVI devoted his attention to the most influential Christian men from the fifth through the twelfth centuries.
In his first book, The Church Fathers, Benedict began with Clement of Rome and ended with Saint Augustine. In this volume, the Holy Father reflects on some of the greatest theologians of the Middle Ages: Benedict, Anselm, Bernard, and Gregory the Great, to name just a few. By exploring both the lives and the ideas of the great popes, abbots, scholars and missionaries who lived during the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christendom, Pope Benedict XVI highlights the key elements of Catholic dogma and practice that remain the foundation stones not only of the Roman Catholic Church but of Christian society itself.
This book is a wonderful way to get to know these later Church Fathers and Teachers and the tremendous spiritually rich patrimony they have bequeathed to us.