- An olive tree more than 200 years old grown near Nazareth was sent as a gift from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Pope Benedict XVI. (The Forward 10/24/11).
- Pope Benedict has named Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, 70, to be the new nuncio to the United States. Catholic News Service has the profile (10/19/11).
- Pope Benedict XVI announced a special "Year of Faith" to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others (Catholic News Service 10/18/11):
The pope said the observance would begin Oct. 11, 2012 -- the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- and conclude Nov. 24, 2013 -- the feast of Christ the King.
The Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon recycled an old smear, referring to Pope Benedict as a "nazi" during a film festival in New York (10/15/11), prompting Abraham H. Foxman, director of the The Anti-Defamation League and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to join in condemnation of the slander.
- During his September 28th general audience, Benedict XVI reflected on his recent apostolic trip to Germany, defining it as "a great feast of the faith" during which he had seen "how it is God Who gives our lives their deepest meaning, their true fullness". From The Benedict Blog, a roundup of the Holy Father's apostolic journey to Germany).
- Zenit news marks two Papal firsts in 2011:
A papal first happened on May 21: the Bishop of Rome conversed via satellite with the crew of the International Space Station, on the occasion of the space shuttle Endeavour's last mission.
That was followed by another novelty: the first papal tweet. Benedict XVI launched the Vatican's new news portal on June 28, eve of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
- During his visit to Ancona, Benedict XVI had lunch with 16 workers who had been laid off from their positions at the local Fincantieri shipbuilding company (9/12/11). The pope was presented with two cakes, one with the symbol of the Christian fish and the other with the papal seal. [Video from RomeReports].
- On September 20th, 2011, Pope Benedict personally conveyed birthday greetings to Spanish Cistercian Sister Teresita, who turned 104. (9/20/11):
Sister Teresita has spent 85 years in the cloister, more than anyone else known to history. She expressed her desire to meet the Holy Father shortly before his Madrid journey, and the apostolic nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, shortly thereafter confirmed that it would be possible. ... [Read the rest]
- New files uncovered in September revealed that Cardinal Ratzinger was under surveillance by East-German Stasi, who considered him a fierce foe:
The GDR secret service viewed Professor Ratzinger as "conservative, reactionary and authoritarian," Erice writes, and contended that John Paul II had appointed the then-Cardinal Ratzinger as organizer for "counter-revolutionary development in Poland." More Stasi notes reveal they considered him as "one of the fiercest opponents of communism"; they believed he supported nuclear deterrence between the East and West military blocs, and that he considered pacifism "unrealistic."(Zenit News has the full and detailed report).
- In mid-September (16th-18th), the Catholic faithful of the United Kingdom reflected on the Pope's historical visit. Zenit News interviewed Clare Ward, the Home Mission Advisor for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, on the festivities that took place as well as inspiring stories of the papal visit.
- 75 being the normal age of retirement within the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict will begin the search for the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, replacing the American Cardinal William Levada. "Benedict XVI has a special connection to this position, where he served for 24 years before being elected pope." RomeReports has the story.
- "The Pope's Day" - Andrea Tornielli ("The Vatican Insider") walks us through a typical day in the life of the Holy Father:
A day at the Vatican for Pope Benedict XVI begins shortly after six o'clock, when the Pope gets up. Around 6:50 a.m. Ratzinger leaves his room and crosses the twenty meters that separate his room from the chapel. When he enters the chapel, the Pope stops to pray briefly, placing his glasses on the altar, then goes into the small sacristy to don the robes. At that moment the two secretaries, the German Gänswein Georg and the Maltese Alfred Xuereb, are ready to celebrate mass. ... more]
- By way of Sandro Magister, news that almost a million euro obtained in 2010 from the sale of pontifical blessings by Pope Benedict XVI has been given to seven thousand needy families.
- Ignatius Press' Carl Olson brings to our attention that Father Maximilian Heim, a 50-year-old professor of fundamental and dogmatic theology as well as Abbot of Heiligenkreuz [Holy Cross] Monastery in Bavaria, was among the three winners for the Ratzinger Prize for their excellence in theological studies awarded in June 2011:
He is the author of Joseph Ratzinger—Kirchliche Existenz und existentielle Theologie (2005), translated into English by Michael J. Miller and published by Ignatius Press as Joseph Ratzinger: Life in the Church and Living Theology—Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to "Lumen Gentium" (2007). The book was awarded the Cardinal Innitzer Prize in Vienna, and the Johann-Kaspar Zeuss Prize in Kronach, Germany.
- "Ratzinger's Circle", by Gianni Valente, on the Holy Father's annual seminar with his former students. La Stampa "Vatican Insider" August 24, 2011:
It is by now a regular appointment in Ratzinger’s annual agenda. Between the end of August and the first days of September, Benedict XVI interrupts, for a few hours, the fast and methodic pace of his commitments, whether ordinary or extraordinary, to meet with the more or less aged members of his Schülerkreis, the circle of his former pupils, who over the Sixties and Seventies prepared their theses for their Ph.D. in theology or studied to achieve their qualification as University teachers under the guide of Professor Joseph Ratzinger. ... [more]See also: "Ratzinger, Teilhard and the New Evangelization" (8/28/11) - According to Valente, the subject of this year's seminar ("the new evangelization") will be the focus of the next Synod of Bishops in 2012.
- The Church may be less powerful but Ratzinger is not letting go of his authority - Daniele Menozzi, a church historian at Pisa's Scuola Normale Superiore, reflects on Benedict XVI's appeal for a more spiritual ecclesiastic community. (La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 10/5/11).
- "No Small Matter": Fr. Schall on what the Pope said in Germany, by Fr. James V. Schall. Ignatius Insight October 26, 2011:
[W]hat is especially remarkable about Benedict XVI is the ease and care with which he can illuminate overall things in brief discourses.
As an example, I want to comment on the address the Holy Father gave to representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany. He was in the Augustinian Convent in Erfurt, where Martin Luther was ordained and where he lived from 1505-1511. Probably better than any of his predecessors, this Pope knows Luther. In general, the Pope stressed what Catholics and Lutherans have in common, not what divided them, the cause of so much strife. We are at a stage in history where we can look at the past much more calmly, but only if we will. ...
- Covering the Pope: a guide for journalists Milo Yiannopoulos sheds some light on the arcane world of Catholicism, for the benefit of befuddled mainstream reporters. (Catholic Herald 9/26/11). "We hope that by sharing these best practice guidelines, we can help reporters to uphold the tradition of fair and balanced reporting on Catholic issues for which the British press is rightly famed. Here, then, are our top tips for success."
- Benedict and Mozart on True Happiness | Monsignor Daniel B. Gallagher | September 23, 2011 | Ignatius Insight:
Delivered on the eve of a highly touted visit to the United Kingdom last year, most of the world failed to notice a short speech Pope Benedict XVI gave following a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem at Castel Gandolfo. The Pontiff hailed the piece as an "elevated expression of genuine Christian faith" in which "everything is in perfect harmony; every note, every musical phrase is just so and cannot be otherwise."
- Ratzinger's Favorite Bach Cantata - it is the one for the last Sunday of the Lutheran liturgical year, centered on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. All the details of a personal memory of Pope Benedict, on the eve of his next voyage to Germany, by Sandro Magister (Chiesa 9/5/11).
- Sixty Years a Priest | On the 60th Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's Ordination, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Ignatius Insight August 16, 2011.
- Pope Benedict's Guide to Youth Ministry, by Amy Welborn. (HeadlineBistro August 24th, 2011). "Anyone interested in the question of how to minister to young Catholics might want to set aside – just for a few minutes – all the expert advice you've bought and paid for over the years and watch and listen to what the Holy Father said during his time with these millions of young people [At World Youth Day 2011]. No charge."
- Benedict XVI on Europe's Future , by George Weigel. First Things' "On The Square". August 10, 2011. "In remarks to Croatia’s religious, political, business, and cultural leaders in Zagreb’s National Theater, the Pope refined into six digestible propositions the case he has been making about religion-and-society ever since his election to the papacy in 2005 ..."
In the publishing world ...
- Painting the Pope | An Interview with Ann Kissane Engelhart | Ignatius Insight | August 30, 2011:
Ann Kissane Engelhart (personal website: www.annkissaneengelhart.com) is a watercolorist based in Long Island whose paintings have been featured in the Empire State Building, St. Francis Hospital, the DeMatties Center, Brooklyn College and Wagner College and in private collections. She has won numerous awards, she has exhibited in galleries on Long Island and New York, and her illustrations have been published in a variety of magazines and periodicals.
She illustrated the children's book, Friendship with Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Talks to Children on Their First Holy Communion, which features Benedict XVI's answers to questions put to him by children in Rome; the book is edited by popular author and blogger Amy Welborn. Ann recently spoke with Ignatius Insight about her artwork, illustrating Friendship With Jesus, and meeting Pope Benedict XVI. ...
- The Libreria Editrice Vaticana has released a small anthology of texts by Benedict XVI on interreligious dialogue titled "Pensieri sul Dialogo Interreligioso" (Thoughts on Interreligious Dialogue). The 64-page publication, edited by Lucio Coco, brings together some 60 texts of the Pope’s teaching on the topic of dialogue. (Zenit 9/21/11).
- "Mein Bruder Der Papst". On September 13, 2011, Georg Ratzinger presented his book, My Brother, The Pope. He says in the book that his younger sibling never changed as he climbed the ecclesiastical ladder to the Vatican. [HT: Carlos Echevarria, Caput Mundi].
On a humorous note ...
- Hans Kung will be disappointed to learn that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has dismissed reports published by an Italian newspaper that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign from the papacy in 2012 (Catholic News Agency 9/27/11).
- Pope Benedict is reportedly "astounded" by how much he has written, responding to an exhibition of his work by the publisher Herder and the Vatican Publishing House in September.