homilies in english
At the spot where the liturgy drops us in the gospel of S. John (the beginning of chapter 6), there is a sudden change also, since the whole of chapter 5 takes place in Jerusalem, whereas at the beginning of chapter 6 we are, without any transition, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. All these changes, in the life of Jesus, as well as in the liturgy today, give us the opportunity to see the difference between the occasional and the true disciples of Jesus. The true disciples do not understand Jesus any better than the occasional ones, but, at least, they try to learn.
The gospel of John is not an easy one, one says. Whereas the gospel of Marc is intended for the catechumens, the gospel of John is for the mature believer. Cardinal Martini says that in the Gospel of John it is impossible to read a few lines or pages and globally understand what is being said, because one does not know why what is being said, is said at that very moment, nor does one understand the precise significance of the passage. Most of the commentaries do not give an answer to the questions that really arise. For example, why does John insist on this idea at that moment ? And so forth.
As far as today's passage is concerned – the miracle of the loaves – it would be preposterous to only comment telling the people not to waste any food and to share it with the poor instead, which is true, of course, but completely irrelevant to this gospel. The question is not : what could one say in order to focus on such current and urgent problems as famine, wars and natural disasters. Then we would be one of those occasional disciples who will never understand the meaning of the sign of the loaves. The question is : what does John, what does the Spirit try to tell us by this sign ? It is a matter of being fair with the Word of God. That does not mean we will understand at once all what is being said. It means that we accept not to understand immediately, but that, without being discouraged, we try to understand through faithfulness. Think of S. Thérèse of Lisieux when she was trying to understand what the Lord was expecting from her while reading 1 Corinthians 13
The miracle of the loaves was not accomplished by Jesus to fill our stomachs, but to signify the life of God he has come to give us : Truly, I say to you, you look for me, not because of the ssigns you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. This is the food that the Son of Man gives to you, for the Father's seal has been put on him. (Jn 6 : 26-27).
Philip, who certainly belonged to the true disciples, those who followed Jesus everywhere, misunderstood what Jesus said to test him :
Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat ?
He himself knew what he was going to do. But he asked Philip in order to make him aware of the fact that it is impossible to solve this problem, only by generosity and know how. No man will ever be able to satiate another man's hunger.
Only Jesus can efficiently meet man's deepest aspirations. All what we can do, is to obey the order Jesus gives :
The right answer to the question of Jesus to Philip will be given by Peter when he says :
Philip's profile is not the same, though, as the profile of the large crowds who followed Jesus only from time to time, because of the miraculous signs they saw when he healed the sick, these crowds who, afterwards would come and take him by force to make him king, and who will finally say :
Those who understand the sign of Jesus only down to earth because they do not sincerely look for the gifts of God, are not open to the faith and are unable to understand the sign.
Philip belonged to those to whom Jesus said :
He belonged to those who accepted the mystery of the Incarnation and let themselves be led to intimacy with the Lord. Jesus had chosen him to be with him (cf. Mk 3 : 14). That is the main accomplishment of the true disciple :
One could stay that this faithfulness is the numerus clausus to be admitted to understand John's teaching. It is impossible to read a passage, such as to-day's, only to make commonplace comments in the style of : a good deed by a boy scout at some jamboree. The reason is that, according to Cardinal Martini, in the Gospel of John - the gospel of symbols, comparisons and figures - the second part (13-21) enlightens us on the meaning of the first part (1-12). In a homily it is of course possible only to show the way. Finally, if the Gospel of John is difficult to understand, it is not John's fault, it is ours, because we lack faithfulness, and consequently maturity, in our relationship with Jesus.
A second aspect, that is equally important, unseparable of the first, and particularly clear in this Sunday's passage, is that this maturity can only be achieved in the community of believers.
Fr Léon-Dufour presents chapter 6 of S. John in this way :
Detached from the sign of the loaves, the teaching on the bread of life coul be understood only in an individualistic way of dealing with Jesus. But if the act of faith is personal indeed, it is certainly not individual. For Jesus to give bread to the hungry, is not merely a humane task. He orders the people to lay down, according to the Jewish custom when a meal is taken in a family. And this family is presided over by Jesus. Unlike what the Synoptics tell us, John shows us Jesus distributing the bread and the fish. The initiative to gather up the pieces left over of the five barley loaves (not the fish !) comes from Jesus also. Barley was cheaper than wheat. It was also harvested sooner. This is why the liturgical offering of the first fruits always were barley loaves. A hint among others for a correct interpretation of the sign of the loaves.
If the bread given by Jesus is not to be eaten privately but in a community, this community is not to be understood in the way of a majority. Granted : at first there is a large crowd, but from the moment Jesus fled to the hills, these crowds gradually decrease in number. In the end Jesus is alone with the Twelve. Notice that John mentions large crowds only twice in his Gospel : here and at the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. There must be a reason. If faith supposes a community, to believe does not mean to be in tow by a majority. The creed of a certain form of humanism is widely accepted to-day Nonetheless this modern crowd frequently reject or are indifferent to the light of the Gospel. Humanism can be an elegant but sneaky way to get rid of Jesus, when, decidedly, he is getting most unreasonnable. And in the end one worships man (or Satan !) instead of God.
Faithful to our "fresh pineapple" principle, let us remember that we are in the "section of the breads". It will not escape to us either that between last Sunday's Gospel and today's, a passage has been skipped.
Between the two, S. Marc reports the death of John the Baptist during a dinner, organized with great pageantry by Herod who "liked listening to him" but who "when he heard him... became very disturbed" (Mc 6 : 20). This is the typical example of a "bad meal". The food of this feast is the maggoty fruit of he who wants to eat the salad of God's Word, but largely dressed with worldly compromises, in this case : adultery. It is "a bloody bad meal" : as no one can serve two Masters, Herod ends up serving his concubine with John's head... "on a dish". Enjoy!
One of the keys for the understanding of the mission of the Twelve, as we saw, is the reference to the Pascal meal of the Exodus with Moses as a shepherd, together with the fact that "man lives not on bread alone", but on "all that proceeds from the mouth of God".
By contrast with Herod's dinner, the return of the Twelve (in today's Gospel) is marked by the fact that "the apostles had no time even to eat". To eat what? Hadn't Jesus said to them not to take any food for the road (Mc 6 : 8)? "The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught.". If we had to choose between an invitation at Herod's dinner or an invitation to join Jesus and the Twelve, knowing what is on the menu in both cases, which would be our choice? This is not a hypothetical question. This is a choice we have to make all the time. Do we make the good choice?
With regard to the meal of Jesus and the Twelve, we only mentioned the appetizers. Jesus says to them : "Go off by yourselves to a remote place that you may have some rest". Jesus has first of all compassion on his envoys. Their mission had been very tiring indeed. Is this compassion of Jesus on the Twelve then erased by his compassion on the crowd, as Herod's sympathy for John had been erased by the seduction of the Herodia's girl ? Will the crowd play the part of "spoilsport", and will the Apostles pay for the expenses ?
Here is the answer: "And he started a long teaching session with them". After cocktail time, here comes the main course. S. Mark does not give us any detail of the menu, but we have a more than approximate idea of it thanks to S. John (ch 6). But there is a precision that S. Mark does not omit to give us: "And he started a long teaching session with them". Even S. Francis of Assisi seems to have forgotten this, he who told his disciples to hold "brief speeches, because the Lord spoke briefly on this earth" (second rule). Jesus holds not a brief but a long teaching session.
The Twelve, who were hungry and tired, did not lose anything by waiting. On the contrary, how lucky they were! Thanks to the crowd of those who came uninvited, they have been regaled beyond expectation. The wisdom of the world says: "it's no use reasoning with a hungry man". Herod shows us that it is the opposite which is true and that its no use reasoning with a satiated man. In order to hear and to taste the word of God, nothing better than a good fast. Do we fast every Friday to have more appetite for the Word of Sunday? If so, "(the Lord your God) made you experience hunger, but he gave you the manna to eat which neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that man lives not on bread alone, but that all that proceeds from the mouth of God is life for man." (Dt 8 : 3). In short, hunger is the best sauce.
"And he started a long teaching session with them". It seems to me that this verse of the Gospel gives us food for thought. We live in a consumer society and we have if little ear for the Word. As somebody said to me: "During a homily, after a few minutes, everybody starts to cough". We take holidays, and we seize the opportunity to listen to Gods word ... even less than usually. The poor, who never take any holidays and who do not even know if they will have to eat a piece of bread or a rice bowl before the end of the day, are capable of listening to "a long teaching session". And when, in an exceptional dash of generosity, we, the rich, organize humane supply convoys to the victims of wars and disasters, with food known as "of first need", the poor at the time of the war in Balkans, answer to us: "Thank you, but we need bibles more than anything else!". Nobody had thought of sending any bibles.
And today, as in the time of Jesus, the worst form of misery, the very one that caused Jesus sympathy, is "because they were like sheep without a shepherd". It was not the lack of bread, nor even the lack of bibles that caused his sympathy. It was the lack of shepherds. This was the very form of misery of an Ethiopian with his bible in his luxury carriage on the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Lord had pity on him and sent Philip, one of the Seven (first deacons), instituted however by the Twelve "to serve at tables" (Ac 6 : 2). "- Do you really understand what you are reading ? - How could I unless someone explains it to me?" (litt. : "unless someone gives me guidance?" (Ac 8 : 30-31). Il wouldn't have been right for the Twelve to neglect "the word of God to serve at tables". But one of the Seven to whom the Twelve had entrusted this task is sent by "an Angel of the Lord" to announce the Word to a pagan, thus neglecting table service.
How much do we care about this form of misery? "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? I answered : Here I am. Send me!" (Is 6 : 8). Each year, on Sunday "of the Good Shepherd" (4th Easter Sunday), we pray for the vocations. Did we leave it at that, or ...?
The Lord, however, is neither hard of hearing nor of heart: "I will place shepherds over them who will care for them. No longer will they fear or be terrified. No one will be lost." (1st reading). What do we wait for? The Lord waits, until we ask him, in order to give to us. If we don't ask, it means that we don't want what he promises, as the Samaritans did not want Amos: "Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah", they said to him (Am 7 : 12).
The Lord also invites us to pray for the wretched "shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep" (1st reading), instead of wasting our time in judging and criticizing.
"It is true, writes Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Foccolare communities (at the origin bible study groups during World War 2), that certain men in Church History did not fulfill their mission with dignity and even betrayed the Gospel, more conscious of the honor with which they felt covered than of the weight of their responsibility, considering their function more like a power then like a service. But aren't we all sinners? Shouldn't we above all judge us ourselves? If we keep that in memory we will see the apostles and afterwards the bishops with more serenity by understanding that their only vocation is to be Christ. The majority of the ministers whom God chose himself in twenty centuries certainly tended towards this model. If some of them deviated of this way, let us remember that Christ, on this earth, could not avoid the treason of Judas. Each man is created free."
As for those who think to be able to listen to the voice of the Lord in their heart without needing the ministry of the Church and the adepts of Scriptura sola, they are worthy of pity also, because they are victims of the "anti-shepherd complex". They think they are in heaven, and to have achieved perfect holiness. Nothing more perilous! Admittedly what distinguishes the Christian economy from the Jewish economy, is that God does not speak from the outside only any more:
"God also speaks from the inside; (but) this interior word must have its guarantee and its standard in the external word, in the Magisterium of the Church" (D. Barsotti).
"All that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." (CCC 119). The Catechism then quotes S. Augustine who said: "But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me."
Wouldn't this be a condition for true peace, not as the world gives peace, but as Jesus does (cf. Jn14 : 27)?
What is the main subject of these three chapters of Marc ? The word "breads" occurs eighteen times, as well as the verb "to eat" and "to be satisfied". This is why this section is called "the section of the breads".
What is also characteristic of this section, is the geography. After being rejected by "his home city", Jesus "circulated in the villages around, while teaching". The sending on mission of the Twelve goes in the same direction of an extension of the Kingdom of God : by sending them, Jesus widens his activity in words and in acts, not only among the Jews, but also among the pagan ones (7 : 24...)
Through the instructions given to the envoys, Jesus reveals what is true and essential food for the road, by referring to the history of Israel. And it starts by pointing out to them what is the essence of the equipment of the people when it was on the point of eating first Passover of the history, according to the book of the Exodus :
And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand… (Ex 12 : 11)
In S. Marc Jesus
ordered them to take nothing for the journey except a stick … They were to wear sandals.
Want is essential to a journey in the name of the Lord who can give from day to day what is appropriate, as He formerly did for the people in the desert :
(the Lord your God) made you experience hunger, but he gave you the manna to eat which neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that man lives not on bread alone, but that all that proceeds from the mouth of God is life for man. (Dt 8 : 3)
The sending of the Twelve is like an Exodus of the ground of Egypt towards the Promised Land, while passing through the Red Sea and the desert. The instructions are the same ones as for the twelve tribes of Israel which, the night, were to eat Passover with haste, ready to leave : a stick with the hand and sandals with the feet (contrary to Matthew and Luke !). The Pascal meal is seen like a food to support the forces of the pilgrims. Their true fatherland, the true Promised Earth, is the Kingdom announced by Jesus :
Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead and had rejoiced in it from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travelers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove that are looking for their own country. For if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one ; so God, who prepared the city for them is not ashamed of being called their God. " (He 11 : 13-16).
Peter, one of the Twelve, will write after Pentecost :
From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Jews who live outside their homeland… to those whom God the Father has called, according to his plan, and made holy by the Spirit, to aboy Jesus Christ and be purified by his blood : may grace and peace increase among you. (1 P. 1 : 1-2)
And also :
My dear brothers, while you are strangers and exiles, I urge you not to indulge in selfish passions which wage war on the soul. (1 P 2 : 11)
This is what gives a meaning to poverty. It is not poverty for the sake of poverty, but the disencumberment of oneself to be able to travel without too much burden :
I say this, brothers and sisters : time is getting shorter, and those who are married must live as if not married ; those who weep as if not weeping ; those who are happy as if they were not happy ; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing. (1 Co 7 : 29-31)
This is what gives a meaning, not only to poverty, but also to hunger, tears and persecution :
Lifting up his eyes to his disciples, Jesus said : "Fortunate are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Forunate are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Fortunate are you when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Remember that is how the fathers of this people treated the prophets. But unhappy are you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Unhappy are you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Unhappy are you when the people speak well of you, for that is how the fathers of these people treated the false prophets." (Lc 6 : 20-26)
So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent.
As for the sick in body and heart, they are not forgotten. Oh no ! During their voyage in the search of the fatherland, the Lord grants to the Twelve to do the same as him. But whereas because of the incredulity of his compatriots, Jesus could only heal a few sick people, the Twelve "drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them".
Truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will do the same works as I do ; he wil do even greater than these, for I am going where the Father is. (Jn 14 : 12)
The Church is not some insipid dilution of Jesus. The Church is the "full" Jesus "for the multitude".
Notice that S. Marc is the only among the evangelists to speak about the anointing of the sick in this context. Oil was used to heal wounds. Think of the good Samaritan, also travelling, and seeing another traveller who had fallen on gangsters. Stripped and beaten, he had had been left half dead.
He went over to him and treated his wounds with oil and wine Lc 10 : 30-35).
The Twelve will do "the same" (v. 37). The Council of Trente teaches that in this gesture of the Twelve there is an "allusion" to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, which will be instituted by the Lord and later "recommended to faithful and promulgated by the apostle James" (cf James 5 : 14...).
Speaking of the sick, Jean-Jacques Rousseau groaned : "So many people between God and me...". Here is the diagnosis of a certain Josef Ratzinger for those who who have the same desease :
It is for us a scandal that God must be communicated by a whole external apparatus : the Church, the sacraments, dogma, or even simply the preaching (kerygma), in which one takes refuge readily to attenuate the scandal, and which however is also something external. Vis-a-vis with all that the question arises : Does God live in the institutions, events or words ? Doesn't the Eternal reach each one of us from the inside ?
And then there are those who spend their time complaining about the bad example given by the popes of the Renaissance. As those of the twentieth century are more presentable, one falls back on the the Vatican. Von Balthasar wrote a book entitled : "The anti-Roman complex". Of this work, he will write later :
a work of which the sale was difficult, because none of those who suffered from this disease bought it !
I fully agree with all those who complain about the bad example given by some of the clergy, and who call for a "reform" of the Church,
writes André Manaranche, a french Jesuit,
provided that they start with themselves, that they do not destroy the Church from the inside and that they do not leave the Church with insolence !
And he quotes in a footnote a passage of a fictitious letter which Bernanos addressed to Martin Luther, and saying in substance :
My dear Martin, you had a lot of trouble with the priests : how I understand you, because so do I ! But you reacted the wrong way. See Fancis of Assisi : he surely leaped with indignation in front of the crested and frivolous clerks of his time, but instead of denouncing them, he was lived in poverty as in a purifying bath. He did not reform anything, except himself. And he succeeded in restoring a Church that was falling in ruins. Whereas you, the smart and virulent reformer, you ended up becoming a man with swollen cheeks and dull eyes. What a mess !
Let us return to our pineapple for one moment. If you want it natural, what does the Gospel of saint Marc say ? The first words of the Gospel of Marc affirm clearly the divinity of Jesus Christ :
This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God " (Mc 1 : 1)
This assertion of the divinity of Jesus, such as expressed by Marc in the first words of his Gospel, is undoubtedly a summary of the message contained in his book. A summary that, in addition, the evangelist presents as a key necessary to the comprehension of all the things which the reader will discover thereafter : if it is not believed that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, one cannot understand the Gospel. All the heresies, including the errors which relate to the mystery of the Church, finally amount to falling into one from the two extremes : either to deny the divinity of Jesus, or to deny his humanity.
The Holy Spirit allowed the words of a Roman officer present at Jesus’ death to be reported as to summarize the Gospel of S. Marc :
The captain who was standing in front of him saw how Jesus died and heard the cry he gave, and he said, "Truly, this man was the Son of God". (Mc 15 : 39)
This centurion was ripe to enter the Church.
The Vatican II Council (LG 8) teaches that this mystery is not without analogy with the mystery of the Church:
The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element. For this reason the Church is compared, not without significance, to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature, inseparably united to him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a somewhat similar way, does the social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ who vivfies it, in the building up of the body (cf. Eph. 4 :15).
It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to see Jesus today.
It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to hear Jesus today.
It is in the Church that we are allowed and enabled to touch Jesus today.
Without the Church, Jesus is a vague memory of twenty centuries ago.
Long live Jesus !
Long live the Church !
And do not forget : eat pineapples but fresh, not out of preserves !
1. Traduit du français :
Jesus is born
Christmas is the feast day of a Child, of a Newborn Baby. So it is your feast day too! (...)
I can almost see you: you are setting up the Crib at home, in the parish, in every corner of the world, recreating the surroundings and the atmosphere in which the Saviour was born. Yes, it is true! At Christmastime, the stable and the manger take centre place in the Church. And everyone hurries to go there, to make a spiritual pilgrimage, like the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth. Later, it will be the Magi arriving from the distant East, following the star, to the place where the Redeemer of the universe lay.
You too, during the days of Christmas, visit the Cribs, stopping to look at the Child lying in the hay. You look at his Mother and you look at Saint Joseph, the Redeemer's guardian. As you look at the Holy Family, you think of your own family, the family in which you came into the world. You think of your mother, who gave you birth, and of your father. Both of them provide for the family and for your upbringing. For it is the parents' duty not only to have children but to bring them up from the moment of their birth.
Dear children, as I write to you I am thinking of when many years ago I was a child like you. I too used to experience the peaceful feelings of Christmas, and when the star of Bethlehem shone, I would hurry to the Crib together with the other boys and girls to relive what happened 2000 years ago in Palestine. We children expressed our joy mostly in song. How beautiful and moving are the Christmas carols which in the tradition of every people are sung around the Crib! What deep thoughts they contain, and above all what joy and tenderness they express about the Divine Child who came into the world that Holy Night!
The days which follow the birth of Jesus are also feast days: so eight days afterwards, according to the Old Testament tradition, the Child was given a name: he was called Jesus. After forty days, we commemorate his presentation in the Temple, like every other first-born son of Israel. On that occasion, an extraordinary meeting took place: Mary, when she arrived in the Temple with the Child, was met by the old man Simeon, who took the Baby Jesus in his arms and spoke these prophetic words: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Lk 2:29-32). Then, speaking to his Mother Mary, he added: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35). So already in the very first days of Jesus' life we heard the foretelling of the Passion, which will one day include his Mother Mary too: on Good Friday she will stand silently by the Cross of her Son. Also, not much time will pass after his birth before the Baby Jesus finds himself facing a grave danger: the cruel king Herod will order all the children under the age of two years to be killed, and for this reason Jesus will be forced to flee with his parents into Egypt.
You certainly know all about these events connected with the birth of Jesus. They are told to you by your parents, and by priests, teachers and catechists, and each year you relive them spiritually at Christmastime together with the whole Church. So you know about these dramatic aspects of Jesus' infancy.
Dear friends! In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society. But it is also true that in our days, unfortunately, many children in different parts of the world are suffering and being threatened: they are hungry and poor, they are dying from diseases and malnutrition, they are the victims of war, they are abandoned by their parents and condemned to remain without a home, without the warmth of a family of their own, they suffer many forms of violence and arrogance from grown-ups. How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown-ups?
Jesus brings the Truth
The Child whom we see in the manger at Christmas grew up as the years passed. When he was twelve years old, as you know, he went for the first time with Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. There, in the crowds of pilgrims, he was separated from his parents and, with other boys and girls of his own age, he stopped to listen to the teachers in the Temple, for a sort of "catechism lesson". The holidays were good opportunities for handing on the faith to children who were about the same age as Jesus. But on this occasion it happened that this extraordinary boy who had come from Nazareth not only asked very intelligent questions but also started to give profound answers to those who were teaching him. The questions and even more the answers astonished the Temple teachers. It was the same amazement which later on would mark Jesus' public preaching. The episode in the Temple of Jerusalem was simply the beginning and a kind of foreshadowing of what would happen some years later.
Dear boys and girls who are the same age as the twelve-year-old Jesus, are you not reminded now of the religion lessons in the parish and at school, lessons which you are invited to take part in? So I would like to ask you some questions: What do you think of your religion lessons? Do you become involved like the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple? Do you regularly go to these lessons at school and in the parish? Do your parents help you to do so?
The twelve-year-old Jesus became so interested in the religion lesson in the Temple of Jerusalem that, in a sense, he even forgot about his own parents. Mary and Joseph, having started off on the journey back to Nazareth with other pilgrims, soon realized that Jesus was not with them. They searched hard for him. They went back and only on the third day did they find him in Jerusalem, in the Temple. "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" (Lk 2:48). How strange is Jesus' answer and how it makes us stop and think! "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). It was an answer difficult to accept. The evangelist Luke simply adds that Mary "kept all these things in her heart" (2:51). In fact, it was an answer which would be understood only later, when Jesus, as a grown-up, began to preach and say that for his Heavenly Father he was ready to face any sufferings and even death on the cross.
From Jerusalem Jesus went back with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth where he was obedient to them (Lk 2:51). Regarding this period, before his public preaching began, the Gospel notes only that he "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Lk 2:52).
Dear children, in the Child whom you look at in the Crib you must try to see also the twelve-year-old boy in the Temple in Jerusalem, talking with the teachers. He is the same grown man who later, at thirty years old, will begin to preach the word of God, will choose the Twelve Apostles, will be followed by crowds thirsting for the truth. At every step he will confirm his extraordinary teaching with signs of divine power: he will give sight to the blind, heal the sick, even raise the dead. And among the dead whom he will bring back to life there will be the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Naim, given back alive to his weeping mother.
It is really true: this Child, now just born, once he is grown up, as Teacher of divine Truth, will show an extraordinary love for children. He will say to the Apostles: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them", and he will add: "for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Mk 10:14). Another time, as the Apostles are arguing about who is the greatest, he will put a child in front of them and say: "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3). On that occasion, he also spoke harsh words of warning: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt 18:6).
How important children are in the eyes of Jesus! We could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children. The whole of the Gospel could actually be read as the "Gospel of children".
What does it mean that "unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven"? Is not Jesus pointing to children as models even for grown-ups? In children there is something that must never be missing in people who want to enter the kingdom of heaven. People who are destined to go to heaven are simple like children, and like children are full of trust, rich in goodness and pure. Only people of this sort can find in God a Father and, thanks to Jesus, can become in their own turn children of God.
Is not this the main message of Christmas? We read in Saint John: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14); and again: "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). Children of God! You, dear children, are sons and daughters of your parents. God wants us all to become his adopted children by grace. Here we have the real reason for Christmas joy, the joy I am writing to you about at the end of this Year of the Family. Be happy in this "Gospel of divine sonship". In this joy I hope that the coming Christmas holidays will bear abundant fruit in this Year of the Family. (...)
Praise the name of the Lord!
At the end of this Letter, dear boys and girls, let me recall the words of a Psalm which have always moved me: Laudate pueri Dominum! Praise, O children of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting may the name of the Lord be praised! (Ps 112/113:1-3). As I meditate on the words of this Psalm, the faces of all the world's children pass before my eyes: from the East to the West, from the North to the South. It is to you, young friends, without distinction of language, race or nationality, that I say: Praise the name of the Lord!
And since people must praise God first of all with their own lives, do not forget what the twelve-year-old Jesus said to his Mother and to Joseph in the Temple in Jerusalem: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). People praise God by following the voice of their own calling. God calls every person, and his voice makes itself heard even in the hearts of children: he calls people to live in marriage or to be priests; he calls them to the consecrated life or perhaps to work on the missions... Who can say? Pray, dear boys and girls, that you will find out what your calling is, and that you will then follow it generously.
Praise the name of the Lord! The children of every continent, on the night of Bethlehem, look with faith upon the newborn Child and experience the great joy of Christmas. They sing in their own languages, praising the name of the Lord. The touching melodies of Christmas spread throughout the earth. They are tender and moving words which are heard in every human language; it is like a festive song rising from all the earth, which blends with the song of the Angels, the messengers of the glory of God, above the stable in Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lk 2:14). The highly favoured Son of God becomes present among us as a newborn baby; gathered around him, the children of every nation on earth feel his eyes upon them, eyes full of the Heavenly Father's love, and they rejoice because God loves them. People cannot live without love. They are called to love God and their neighbour, but in order to love properly they must be certain that God loves them.
God loves you, dear children! This is what I want to tell you at the end of the Year of the Family and on the occasion of these Christmas feast days, which in a special way are your feast days.
I hope that they will be joyful and peaceful for you; I hope that during them you will have a more intense experience of the love of your parents, of your brothers and sisters, and of the other members of your family. This love must then spread to your whole community, even to the whole world, precisely through you, dear children. Love will then be able to reach those who are most in need of it, especially the suffering and the abandoned. What joy is greater than the joy brought by love? What joy is greater than the joy which you, O Jesus, bring at Christmas to people's hearts, and especially to the hearts of children?
and bless these young friends of yours,
bless the children of all the earth.
From the Vatican, 13 December 1994.
Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
In order to obtain "special faculties" in dispensation from canonical norms, the heads of the curia can no longer go directly to Benedict XVI. They must go through the secretary of state. Who will explain the procedure himself
The novelty is found in a rescript "ex audientia SS.mi" signed by cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone.
Rescripts are measures taken by the pope in the course of an audience granted to the secretary of state, and ordinarily published only in the "Acta Apostolicæ Sedis," the official gazette of the Holy See.
In the rescript in question, of last February 7, Cardinal Bertone announced that "the Holy Father, on the date of February 1, 2011, approved the following text as article 126b of the General Regulation of the Roman Curia." And he specified that its implementation is set for the following March 1.
This new article of the Regulation consists of four paragraphs.
"The dicastery," it explains in the first paragraph, "that maintains it necessary to ask the Supreme Pontiff for special faculties must make a written request through the secretariat of state, attaching a definitive written proposal, with precise indication of the faculties requested, the reason for the request, and specifying any dispensations from universal or particular canonical norms that would be modified or disregarded in some way."
"The secretariat of state," it establishes in the second paragraph, "will ask for the judgment of the dicasteries competent in the matter, and of those it believes may be involved, as well as of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts as far as the correct juridical formulation is concerned, and, if doctrinal questions are implicated, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
The third paragraph explains the concrete procedures to be followed in the formulation of requests relative to "special faculties," and the fourth finally emphasizes how "the secretariart of state [will communicate] to the dicasteries the text of any faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, and, together with the dicastery making the request, will evaluate whether and how to proceed with its publication."
By virtue of this rescript, therefore, there can no longer be a direct discussion between the pontiff and the curial dicasteries concerning the concession of "special faculties," which are, in simplistic terms, executive orders that dispense with canonical norms in force and have the value of law, before expiring with the death of the pontiff who issued them.
In the recent past, these "special faculties" have been an instrument used to combat in the most rapid and effective way possible the sexual abuse of minors committed by clergy.
After 2001, in fact, "special faculties" were granted by John Paul II to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He had asked, among other things, for the ability to define new instances of penal canonical crimes, or to hand down very severe penalties, like reduction to the lay state, even without a regular canonical trial.
In 2005, Benedict XVI, with one of his first acts of governance, brought back into effect these "special faculties" that had expired with the death of his predecessor. And in July of 2010, some of these faculties were definitively codified in the new norms of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, on what are called "delicta graviora."
In recent years, "special faculties" of a similar nature have been granted to other congregations as well, like Propaganda Fide and the congregation for the clergy.
On the morning of January 22, 2010, a meeting was held in the Vatican with the heads of the dicasteries of the curia, presided over by Benedict XVI. The agenda of the day was not revealed. But it has become known that the desire was expressed for greater coordination of the Roman curia by the secretariat of state.
The rescript of last February seems to move in this direction.
Over the past five months, twelve appointments have corresponded to this model. Here they are one by one: in Milan, Philadelphia, Manila, Fribourg... The cardinal who selects the candidates explains the reasons for the choice
In the interview, he revealed among other things that it often happens, "more than I could have expected," that the candidate chosen to be made a bishop does not accept the appointment.
He indicated the reasons for such refusals in the growing difficulty of fulfilling the role, in a society in which the bishops are under public attack, "in part as a result of the scandals and charges concerning sexual abuse."
As for career ambitions – the cardinal cautioned – if a priest or a bishop aspires and maneuvers to be promoted to a prominent diocese, "it is better for him to stay where he is."
And he concluded the interview by sketching the profile of the bishop the Church needs most today. A bishop who is at the same time a theologian and an apologist, a public defender of the faith:
"Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses. Who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel. Who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope, but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly."
This profile of the bishop as theologian and "defensor fidei" fits Cardinal Ouellet himself perfectly.
A Canadian from Québec, 67, a member of the Society of Saint-Sulpice, Ouellet was part of the circle of the international theology journal "Communio," founded by, among others, Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, who were his intellectual mentors.
For many years, he shuttled back and forth between Canada and Colombia, as a seminary professor and educator. Then he moved to Rome, as a professor of systematic theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, when its rector was the future cardinal Angelo Scola, also part of the "Communio" circle.
In 2001, he was appointed secretary of the pontifical council for Christian unity. And the following year, archbishop of Québec and primate of Canada. He has been a cardinal since 2003.
In his Québec, Cardinal Ouellet was a direct witness of one of the most dizzying collapses of Catholicism in the past century. This region, which had a strong Catholic character until the middle of the twentieth century, is today one of the most secularized in the world.
As an archbishop, Ouellet fought energetically to give a voice and a body back to Christianity in his land. And Benedict XVI appreciated this so much that he called him to Rome first as a speaker at the synod of bishops in 2008, and then permanently, since 2010, as prefect of the congregation for bishops.
Among the cardinals of the Roman curia, Ouellet is certainly the closest to pope Joseph Ratzinger, with whom he meets regularly, once a week. And he may be the only one in whom the pope confides without reservation.
The fact remains that since Ouellet has presided over the Vatican congregation that selects and proposes new bishops to the pope, the preference shown for theologians and defenders of the faith has been more and more evident.
Over the past five months alone, at least twelve appointments could be characterized this way.
The first, on June 28, was that of Cardinal Angelo Scola as archbishop of Milan.
As a theologian, his mentor was above all von Balthasar; but Ratzinger also had no small impact on his formation. With Scola as rector, between 1995 and 2002, the Pontifical Lateran University rose to new life. In Venice, of which he was patriarch for nine years, he founded a "Studium generale" named after Saint Mark, extending to all levels of learning, from childhood to university, with courses in multiple disciplines and with theology embracing them all.
His talent was and is that of making himself heard, more than in the halls of academia, in the public square. After Carla Maria Martini, Scola is the cardinal to whom the secular media pay the most attention. With the difference, with respect to his predecessor, that he speaks and writes in full harmony with the magisterium of Benedict XVI.
The second appointment in this series, on July 19, was that of Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia.
Chaput has never been a theologian in the specific sense of the word. But he is certainly a great apologist, capable of preaching the Gospel from the rooftops, without timidity and without compromise, in a society like that of the United States, in which the competition is particularly fierce, both within and against the religious sphere.
And this profile of his as an "affirmative" defender of the faith and of the Church was what tipped the scales his way in the procedure that led to his appointment to Philadelphia. The leading candidate of the three presented to the Vatican authorities by the Vatican nuncio in the United States was the current bishop of Louisville, Joseph E. Kurtz. Chaput was in second place. But when, after the examination of the candidate made in the congregation, Ouellet went into audience with Benedict XVI, Chaput had moved to the front of the three, and was promptly appointed by the pope.
The third appointment, on July 27, was that of Ivo Muser as bishop of Bolzano and Bressanone, the diocese of South Tyrol in which the maternal grandmother and great-grandmother of pope Ratzinger lived.
The new bishop studied theology in Innsbruck, and in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He taught at the Academic Theological Institute of Bressanone. He was also for several years the secretary of his predecessor as bishop, Wilhelm Egger, a theologian and renowned biblicist in his own right.
The fourth appointment, on September 26, was that of Stanislaw Budzik as archbishop of Lublin.
Budzik, who has been secretary general of the Polish episcopal conference, also studied theology in Innsbruck and acquired the title of professor at the Pontifical Theological Academy of Krakow.
The fifth appointment, on October 10: that of Nuno Brás da Silva Martins as auxiliary bishop of Lisbon.
The new bishop received his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and taught fundamental theology at the Catholic University of Portugal, as well as at the Gregorian in Rome, where he was also rector of the Pontifical Portuguese College.
The sixth appointment, on October 13: that of Luis Antonio Tagle as archbishop of Manila.
Tagle received his doctorate in theology in the United States, at the Catholic University of America, with a thesis on episcopal collegiality, under the guidance of Professor Joseph Komonchak. With him, he collaborated on the drafting of the history of Vatican Council II most widely read in the world, promoted by the "school of Bologna" founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti: a history with a particular slant, which sees Vatican II as a rupture and new beginning with respect to the previous experience of the Church.
In this history, Tagle wrote among other things the chapter dedicated to the "black week" of November 1964: "black" for the progressives, hostile above all to the "Nota explicativa prævia" that Paul VI added at that point to the beginning of the dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium," in order to clear up its ambiguities.
When the volume with this chapter of his saw the light of day, in 1999, Tagle had been for two years a member of the international theological commission that flanked the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith, at the time headed by Ratzinger.
In 2001, Tagle became bishop of Imus, where he distinguished himself by his nearness to the poor and his simple and charitable way of life.
At the episcopal conference of the Philippines, he is president of the commission for the doctrine of the faith.
As www.chiesa revealed in an article last November 14, in the biography of Tagle delivered to the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican congregation responsible for evaluating the candidates for archbishop of Manila, his collaboration with the "school of Bologna" was completely omitted. To the disappointment of some who learned of it only after the appointment was made.
Manila is a cardinal see. And there are some who have even added Tagle to the list of the "papabili."
Seventh of the series: the appointment, on November 3, of Charles Morerod as bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.
Morerod, a Dominican, 50, is a theologian of world renown. He began his studies at the University of Fribourg, the same one at which the journal "Communio" was launched. He then taught, before becoming a bishop, at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, referred to more briefly as the Angelicum. He directed the theological journal "Nova et Vetera," and in 2009 became the secretary general of the international theological commission, an adviser to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and finally rector of the Angelicum.
Especially noteworthy among his many publications is "Tradition et unité des chrétiens. Le dogme comme condition de possibilité de l’œcuménisme," Parole et Silence, Paris, 2005. In it, Morerod criticizes the liberal ecumenism of theologians like Rahner, Fries, Tillard, insisting on the indispensability of theologically and philosophically sound Catholic doctrine.
On relations among the religions, he has harshly criticized the relativistic ideas of the Catholic Paul Knitter and the Anglican John Hick.
Morerod is one of three theologians on the Roman side in the discussions underway between the Church of Rome and the schismatic Lefebvrist traditionalists of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.
Eighth appointment, on November 14: that of Francesco Cavina as bishop of Carpi.
A doctor in canon law, Cavina had been an official of the Vatican secretariat of state since 1996, in the section for relations with states. At the same time, he taught sacramental theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Ninth appointment, on November 21: that of Filippo Santoro as archbishop of Taranto.
As a young priest, Santoro began as director of the Higher Institute of Theology in Bari. After which he went on mission to Brazil, as the Commuion and Liberation director for that country and for the entire Latin American continent. In 1992, he participated as a theologian in the fourth conference of the Latin American episcopate in Santo Domingo.
Ordained a bishop in 1996, he was first an auxiliary of Rio de Janeiro with Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales, and then, since 2004, bishop of the diocese of Petrópolis and grand chancellor of Catholic university of that city.
At the Brazilian episcopal conference, he was a member of the commission for the doctrine of the faith.
Tenth appointment, on November 24: that of Franco Giulio Brambilla as bishop of Novara.
Brambilla, since 2007 an auxiliary bishop of Milan and the vicar for culture, is one of the most accomplished Italian theologians.
He taught Christology and theological anthropology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, of which he became dean in 2007. He was the theologian of reference for the Italian episcopal conference at the major ecclesial conference in Verona in 2006, at which Benedict XVI participated. And he was under consideration to succeed the current archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, as secretary of the episcopal conference.
A scholar and biographer of the Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, he was in 1983 among the Italian signers of a document calling for freedom of research endorsed by the most prominent progressive theologians of Europe.
On that occasion, another theologian and his colleague at the same Milanese faculty, Dionigi Tettamanzi, wrote a harsh criticism of the rebel theologians for "Avvenire." And this opened up a thriving career for him – which culminated with him as cardinal of Milan – while Brambilla's career stalled for a long time because of that signature.
Eleventh appointment: that of November 26, of Johannes Wilhelmus Maria Liesen as bishop of Breda, in Holland.
Liesen has been a member of the international theological commission since 2004. He was professor of biblical theology at the seminaries of Roermond, Haarlem-Amsterdam, and 's-Hertogenbosch.
That same day, November 26, the appointment was also made public – the twelfth in this series – of Charles John Brown as titular archbishop of Aquileia.
But Aquileia, which as a diocese lives only in historical memory, is not where the newly elect is going. His true destination is the apostolic nunciature in Ireland. Brown has never been part of the Vatican diplomatic corps, and is an American from New York, but Benedict XVI wanted him specifically as his ambassador in a nation rocked by scandals like Ireland, currently with seven vacant dioceses, awaiting a redesign and a new beginning with new men.
And the reason for choosing Brown is once again in his credentials as "defensor fidei" and "defensor ecclesiæ." Pope Ratzinger got to know him well beginning in 1994, when Brown became an official of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, as well as, for two years, adjunct secretary of the international theological commission.
The interview with Cardinal Ouellet in "Avvenire" on November 18, 2011, with an assessment of his first year as prefect of the congregation for bishops:
> Missione del vescovo: donarsi alla Chiesa
And one of his previous reflections as archbishop of one of the most dechristianized regions of the world:
> While Rome Talks, Québec Has Already Been Lost (8.10.2008)
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
The pope's offering to the poorest continent of the world: not silver or gold, but "the word of Christ which heals, sets free and reconciles." The reasons for the wager, in the key discourse of his voyage to Benin
The discourse, clearly conceived and written almost in its entirety by the pope himself, has a keyword: "hope."
And he applied this word to two realities: the sociopolitical and economic life of the African continent, and interreligious dialogue.
The word "hope" is very dear to pope Joseph Ratzinger. He dedicated an entire encyclical to it, "Spe Salvi," the most "personal" of the three he has published so far, written by him from the first word to the last.
And it is with Africa in particular that he associates this word: with the continent that has seen the most astonishing expansion of Christianity in the past century, and could determine its future.
But of what sort of hope is Benedict XVI speaking? His response, in the speech in Cotonou, is audacious in its simplicity:
"To talk of hope is to talk of the future and hence of God!"
It is a simplicity from which pope Ratzinger does not depart even when referring to the sociopolitical and economic life of Africa:
"The Church does not propose any technical solution and does not impose any political solution." It simply, "accompanies the State and its mission; she wishes to be like the soul of our body untiringly pointing to what is essential: God and man. She wishes to accomplish, openly and without fear, the immense task of one who educates and cares, but above all who prays without ceasing, who points to God and to where the authentic man is to be found."
In urging the Church to fulfill these tasks, the pope referred to four Gospel passages, the last of which (John 19:5) is the one in which Pilate presents Jesus crowned with thorns and in a purple cloak, saying to the crowd, "Behold the man!"
The following day, November 20, was the Sunday of Christ the King, the last of the liturgical year. And in his homily, Benedict XVI again affirmed that this, and nothing else, is how God "reigns": from the wood of the cross. A reign that truly brings "words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest," in order to usher us, he risen, into "a new world, a world of freedom and joy."
Coming to interreligious dialogue, here as well Benedict XVI based the hope found in this dialogue on the absolute centrality of God.
If one dialogues, he said, this must not be "through weakness; we enter into dialogue because we believe in God, the Creator and Father of all people. Dialogue is another way of loving God and our neighbor out of love for the truth. Having hope does not mean being ingenuous but making an act of faith in God, the Lord of history, and the Lord of our future."
The pope referred back to what took place in Assisi last October 27:
"Knowledge, deeper understanding and practice of one's religion, are essential to true interreligious dialogue. This can only begin by sincere personal prayer on the part of the one who desires to dialogue. Let him go in secret to his private room (cf. Mt 6:6) to ask God for the purification of reason and to seek his blessing upon the desired encounter. This prayer also asks God for the gift to see in the other a brother to be loved and, within his tradition, a reflection of the truth which illumines all people. Everyone ought therefore to place himself in truth before God and before the other. This truth does not exclude and it is not confusion. Interreligious dialogue when badly understood leads to muddled thinking or to syncretism. This is not the dialogue which is sought."
In concluding the speech, the pope first applied the image of the hand to hope:
"There are five fingers on it and each one is quite different. Each one is also essential and their unity makes a hand. A good understanding between cultures, consideration for each other which is not condescending, and the respect of the rights of each one are a vital duty. This must be taught to all the faithful of the various religions. Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness! Is this not good ground in which seeds of hope may be sown? To offer someone your hand means to hope, later, to love, and what could be more beautiful than a proffered hand? It was willed by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill or to inflict suffering, but to care and to help live. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles."
And finally, he called upon three symbols of hope in the Scriptures:
"According to Sacred Scripture, three symbols describe the hope of Christians: the helmet, because it protects us from discouragement (cf. 1 Th 5:8), the anchor, sure and solid, which ties us to God (cf. Heb 6:19), and the lamp which permits us to await the dawn of a new day (cf. Lk 12:35-36). To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God. Faith lives in the present, but it awaits future goods. God is in our present, but he is also in the future, a place of hope. The expansion of our hearts is not only hope in God but also an opening to and care for physical and temporal realities in order to glorify God. Following Peter, of whom I am a successor, I hope that your faith and hope will be in God. This is my wish for the whole of Africa, which is so dear to me! Africa, be confident and rise up! The Lord is calling you."
It is the same logic that is found in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Africae Munus," which Benedict XVI delivered to the African bishops on November 20.
In paragraphs 148-149, after recalling the Gospel episode of the paralytic at the pool of Bethzatha (John 5:3-9), the pope writes:
"By accepting Jesus, Africa can receive incomparably effective and deep healing. Echoing the Apostle Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, I repeat: what Africa needs most is neither gold nor silver; she wants to stand up, like the man at the pool of Bethzatha; she wants to have confidence in herself and in her dignity as a people loved by her God. It is this encounter with Jesus which the Church must offer to bruised and wounded hearts yearning for reconciliation and peace, and thirsting for justice. We must provide and proclaim the word of Christ which heals, sets free and reconciles."
The program and the complete texts of Benedict XVI's voyage:
> Apostolic Journey to Benin, November 18-20, 2011
The post-synodal apostolic exhortation delivered to the Catholics of Africa on November 20:
> "Africæ Munus"
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
The document of "Iustitia et Pax" on the global financial crisis is blasted with criticism. The secretary of state disowns it. "L'Osservatore Romano" tears it to shreds. From now on, any new Vatican text will have to be authorized in advance by the cardinal
In the hot seat was the document on the global financial crisis released ten days earlier by the pontifical council for justice and peace. A document that had disturbed many, inside and outside of the Vatican.
The secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, complained that he had not known about it until the last moment. And precisely for this reason he had called that meeting in the secretariat of state.
The conclusion of the summit was that this binding order would be transmitted to all of the offices of the curia: from that point on, nothing in writing would be released unless it had been inspected and authorized by the secretariat of state.
Of course, the fact that Bertone and his colleagues had seen that document only after its publication is astonishing in itself.
Already on October 19, in fact, five days ahead of time, the Vatican press office – which reports directly to the secretary of state – had made the announcement of the press conference to present the document, at which the speakers would be Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the pontifical council for justice and peace, and Bishop Mario Toso, the council's secretary.
Toso, a Salesian like Bertone and his longtime friend, was chosen for this office by the cardinal secretary of state himself.
As for the text of the document, the Vatican press office had given notice that it was already available in four languages, and would be distributed to accredited journalists three hours before it was made public.
On October 22, a further notification added the name of Professor Leonardo Becchetti to the ticket of the presenters.
Becchetti, a professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and an expert on microcredit and fair trade, is believed to have been the main architect of the document.
And in fact, at the press conference presenting the document on October 24, his remarks were the most specific, centered in particular on calling for the introduction of a tax on financial transactions, called a "Tobin tax" after the name of its creator, or a "Robin Hood tax."
At the G20 summit in Cannes, the idea of this tax popped up in some of the comments of Barack Obama and Nicholas Sarkozy, but nothing concrete was done about it.
Another assertion of the Vatican document, according to which the economy of Europe is in danger of inflation rather than deflation, was contradicted on November 1 by the decision of the new governor of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, who lowered the interest rate of the euro instead of raising it, as is always done when inflation is a real threat.
As for the main objective of the document, nothing less than a one world government of politics and the economy, this came out of the G20 in Cannes shredded to pieces. Not only did no one even speak vaguely of such a utopia, but the little that was decided in the concrete went in the opposite direction. The disorder in the world is now more severe than before, and has its most serious deficit in the increased the inability of European governments to guarantee "governance" of the continent.
It is little consolation for the Vatican document that it has been compared to the views of the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters. Or that it was echoed in a pugnacious article by Anglican primate Rowan Williams in the "Financial Times" on November 2, in favor of the "Robin Hood tax."
But more than these terrible grades, what has been even more irritating for many authoritative readers of the document of the pontifical council for justice and peace is the fact that it is in glaring contradiction with Benedict XVI's encyclical "Caritas in Veritate."
In the encyclical, pope Joseph Ratzinger does not in any way call for a "public authority with universal competency" over politics and the economy, that sort of great Leviathan (no telling who gets the throne, or how) so dear to the document of October 24.
In "Caritas in Veritate" the pope speaks more properly of the "governance" (meaning regulation, "moderamen" in Latin) of globalization, through subsidiary and polyarchic institutions. Nothing at all like a monocratic world government.
When one then delves into the analyses and specific proposals, it is also stunning how strong the divergence is between what is written in the document of the pontifical council for justice and peace and what has been maintained for some time in the financial commentaries published in "L'Osservatore Romano" by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, the Vatican bank, also chosen for his post by Cardinal Bertone.
For example, not even one line in the document attributes the global economic and financial crisis to the collapse in the birth rate and to the resulting higher and higher costs of population aging.
It was easy to predict that Gotti Tedeschi would not remain silent. And in fact, on November 4 – the same day as the summit convened by Bertone in the secretariat of state – "L'Osservatore Romano" published an editorial by Tedeschi that reads like a complete repudiation of the document of the pontifical council for justice and peace.
The editorial follows here. And reading it raises the suspicion that the first draft was even more devastating . . .
FACED WITH DEFLATIONARY PROSPECTS, A NEW MODEL OF LEADERSHIP
by Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
There have been serious errors, which continue to persist, in interpreting and underestimating the current economic crisis.
The true origins of the collapse of birthrates and the consequences of the increase of taxes on the GDP to absorb the costs of the ageing of the population were wrongly interpreted. The effects of the decisions made to compensate for these phenomena were underestimated, especially with the de-localization of production and consumer debt.
Then, the urgency to intervene and the criteria to follow in order to “deflate” the debt produced were not taken into enough consideration. Thus, the collapse of trust which led to the reduction of the value of the stock market and the debt crisis was not anticipated.
At this point, there are no longer many solutions.
To deflate the total debt – public, banking, business and family – and bring it back to pre-crisis levels, that is, to around 40% less, it is possible, though not advisable, to cancel a part of the debt with a type of “preventive agreement,” where creditors are paid at 60%.
It is possible, but it would be a hypothesis without a future, to invent some new bubble to compensate for debt with an increase in the value of real estate or goods.
It could be considered – but we hope it is only a temptation – to tax the wealth of families, sacrificing however, a necessary resource for development and at the same time creating an injustice.
One could also look for a way for rapid development, thanks to a growth in competition, which however in the global crisis is not easy to generate. There is no capital to invest, the banks are weak, the demographic problem penalizes demand and investments. In this context, besides, consumer debt is not even imaginable.
Western countries are expensive and to make them economical in a short period, one must intervene on the cost of labor. Protectionist interventions to sustain businesses that are not competitive however, would produce disadvantages for consumers and would reduce buying, already in decline
The single currency could be devaluated, but this would lead to an increase in the price of imported goods.
Someone, to lower the debt, has also thought of inflation. But inflation does not happen if economic growth is at zero, salaries are at a standstill, the shadow of unemployment looms and even the price of raw goods is diminished.
One could say that the spiral of inflation will not occur as long as there is lack of faith in one’s currency. The problem is that today, one cannot have faith in any currency: all of them, including the euro and the dollar, are weak.
Inflation will not take off also because liquidity does not circulate, but mostly because that created by the central banks has substituted that produced by the banking system to sustain debt growth.
The first problem today, then, is not inflation but deflation. Markets, in fact, are privileging liquidity. This is because in a deflationary regime, the value of currency increases while during inflation, it decreases.
To advance the economy today without increasing public debt means correlating interest rates with the GDP. For public debt superior to 100% of GDP, it is evident that to obtain a growth of 1%, without increasing debt, means not having taxes superior to 1% and penalizing savings.
The solution is in the hands of governments and central banks who must come up with a coordinated strategic action of re-industrialization, strengthening of credit institutions and support for employment.
This will take time, a time of austerity in which the foundations of economic growth must be rebuilt.
Above all, governments must restore citizen and market trust through a governance that is adapted to the times and which, more than just being technically competent, is also a leadership model. A governance which aims for the common good.
Among Ettore Gotti Tedeschi's many discussions of the collapse in birth rates as the ultimate cause of the current economic crisis, here is a summary of the article he published last summer in "Atlantide," the magazine of the Foundation for Subsidiarity, part of Communion and Liberation:
> Riprendiamo a fare figli e l'economia ripartirà
In "L'Osservatore Romano" on August 27, 2011, Gotti Tedeschi also argued forcefully against the taxation of assets supported by politicians, union leaders, economists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen of various countries, as well as by numerous Catholic figures:
> Noah's Horizon. For a Real Solution to the Crisis
Gotti Tedeschi is also staunchly opposed to the taxation of financial transactions in a country like Italy, in which the household savings rate is very high. In his view, these private savings, instead of being punished with new taxes, should be used, with guarantees on the part of the state, to finance the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of Italy's productive economy.
A clear rejection of the document of the pontifical council for justice and peace has also come from an authoritative secular Italian economist, Professor Francesco Forte, the successor at the University of Turin to the post of the great liberal economist Luigi Einaudi, governor of the Bank of Italy and then president of the republic from 1948-1955:
> Il professor Forte boccia il temino targato Bertone
The October 24, 2011 document of the pontifical council for justice and peace:
> "Towards reforming the international financial and monetary system in the context of global public authority"
And the presentation made by Cardinal Turkson, Bishop Toso, and the economist Becchetti:
> Conferenza stampa del 24 ottobre 2011
The "social" encyclical of Benedict XVI:
> "Caritas in veritate"
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
He led the delegation from the ;patriarchate of Moscow in Assisi. Together with Metropolitan Hilarion, he is an emerging leader of the new generation. In great harmony with the Church of Pope Benedict
The fact that the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow and all Russia sent him as the head of its delegation to Assisi made some think of a downgrading and of a sticking point in the dialogue with the Church of Rome.
Nothing could be more mistaken.
Aleksandr is not at all a second-rank figure. He is the new star of Russian Orthodoxy.
Born 51 years ago in Kirov, northeast of Moscow, Aleksandr attended the seminary of Saint Petersburg, known as Leningrad at the time, when its rector was the current patriarch of Moscow, Kirill. As an archbishop, he spent ten years directing the synodal department for young people. In March of 2010, he was appointed archbishop of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Four months later he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan. And at the beginning of this autumn, he was appointed a permanent member of the Holy Synod.
The Holy Synod is the supreme authority of the Russian Orthodox Church. Until a few weeks ago, it was made up of twelve members: seven permanent and five temporary, the latter of which remain in office for no more than a year.
With Aleksandr, the number of permanent members of the Holy Synod has been brought to eight: a sign that his appointment was so strongly desired as to require a modification in the canons, which will be ratified soon.
In Assisi on October 27, of the ten delegates from the patriarchate of Moscow, three were bishops. One of them was another permanent member of the Holy Synod, the metropolitan and patriarchal exarch Filaret of Minsk and Belarus, a great supporter of dialogue with the Catholic Church who will soon host, in his city, a conference on relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, from November 13 to 15.
But in spite of Filaret's authority and prestige, in Assisi the role of head of the Russian Orthodox delegation was in effect played by Aleksandr, who is much younger than him.
In the afternoon ceremony in front of the basilica where Saint Francis is buried, it was Aleksandr who spoke. And before this, during the "frugal" lunch, he was the one seated at the same table as Benedict XVI.
At the Vatican on the following day, October 28, at the formal luncheon hosted by cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone for the three hundred guests of the encounter in Assisi, it was again Aleksandr who was seated at the head table, to the right of Bertone and the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
In the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Aleksandr marks a generational transition. Other permanent members like the patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, and the metropolitans Vladimir of Kiev, Vladimir of Saint Petersburg, Filaret of Minsk, Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, have all passed the age of 75.
Aleksandr's generation has produced the other young star of Russian Orthodoxy, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the department of external relations at the patriarchate.
On October 27, Hilarion was not in Assisi, but in Switzerland, at the Catholic university of Freiburg, in the theological faculty where he studied, where he is an honorary professor and where he sent his closest collaborator, Archdeacon Ioann Kopeikin, to get his doctorate.
The university of Freiburg was the cenacle of formation for theologians and leaders of the first rank in the Catholic hierarchy, very close to Pope Joseph Ratzinger: from the current archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, to the new bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Freiburg, Charles Morerod, appointed last November 3.
At the beginning of October, in the first assembly of the winter session of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion was also put at the head of the synod commission on the Bible and theology, in the place of Filaret of Minsk: a role similar to that of Ratzinger during the pontificate of John Paul II.
And shortly before this appointment, at the end of September, Hilarion had a meeting in Rome with Benedict XVI: not the first or the last in an increasingly intense relationship between the two, which also includes their friendship.
Finally, as further proof of the growing reconciliation between the two Churches, Patriarch Kirill met last November 1 with the Catholic archbishop of Moscow, Paolo Pezzi.
In commenting on the meeting, the first ever between the two, Pezzi credited Kirill with getting the Orthodox bishops of the different regions of Russia to accept "positively" the presence of Catholics, "no longer considered foreigners."
And the patriarch of Moscow said that he believed the tensions of the 1990's, when the Catholic presence in Russia was viewed as aggressive, had been "overcome": "Today Orthodox and Catholics work together and have formed a common front for the defense of Christian values in modern society."
The official website of the patriarchate of Moscow, in multiple languages:
> Russian Orthodox Church
All the articles from www.chiesa on this topic:
> Focus on EASTERN CHURCHES
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
On Thursday Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the three days that change the world – and our relationship with death – forever, as he presided over a solemn liturgy at the Altar of the Cathedra in St Peter’s basilica in suffrage of the Cardinals and Bishops who have died in the past twelve months.
Joined by the Cardinals and Archbishops of the Curia and the priests and religious of the pontifical household Pope Benedict XVI began by recalling those members of the College of Cardinals who have died this past year: Urbano Navarrete, SJ, Michele Giordano, Varkey Vithayathil C.SS.R., Giovanni Saldarini, Agustín García-Gasco Vicente, Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky, Kazimierz Świątek, Virgilio Noè Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, Andrzej Maria Deskur.
In his homily Pope Benedict pondered the mystery of death, read in the light of the ‘three days’ that passed between Christ’s death on the Cross, his descent into the ‘abyss of death’ and his resurrection.
He said : “faced with death, we can not but feel the feelings and thoughts dictated by our human condition. And we are always surprised and superseded by a God who is so close to us that He does not even stop before the abyss of death”. He continues “To the every end, Christ takes on our mortal flesh so that it may be invested by the glorious power of God, the breath of the life-giving Spirit who transforms and regenerates. It is the baptism of passion”. “Christ’s death is the source of life, because God has poured all his love into it”.
Listen to Vatican Radio : >>
Below a draft Vatican Radio translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily:
Dear brothers and sisters!
One day after the liturgical commemoration of all the faithful departed, we all gathered around the Lord's altar to offer his Sacrifice for the repose of the Cardinals and Bishops who, over the past year, have ended their earthly pilgrimage. With great affection I remember the venerable members of the College of Cardinals who have left us: Urbano Navarrete, SJ, Michele Giordano, Varkey Vithayathil C.SS.R., Giovanni Saldarini, Agustín García-Gasco Vicente, Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky, Kazimierz Świątek, Virgilio Noè Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, Andrzej Maria Deskur. Together with them we present to the throne of the Most High the souls of our beloved Brothers in the Episcopate. For one and all we raise our prayer, filled with faith in eternal life and the mystery of the communion of saints. A faith full of hope, enlightened by the Word of God that we have heard.
The passage from the Book of Hosea immediately reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus, the mystery of his death and awakening to immortal life. This passage from Hosea - the first half of Chapter VI - was deeply impressed on the heart and mind of Jesus. In fact, more than once - in the Gospels - He returns to verse 6: " For it is loyalty that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings". Instead, Jesus does not quote verse 2, but makes it his own and realizes it in His paschal mystery: " He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence". In light of this word, the Lord Jesus went to meet his Passion, he embarked on the path towards the Cross, he spoke openly to his disciples of what was to happen in Jerusalem, and the oracle of the prophet Hosea rang true in his own words " The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise" (Mark 9:31).
The evangelist notes that the disciples "did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him" (v. 32). We, too, faced with death, we can not but feel the feelings and thoughts dictated by our human condition. And we are always surprised and superseded by a God who is so close to us that He does not even stop before the abyss of death, which indeed he goes through, remaining in the tomb for two days. But right here the mystery of the "third day" takes place. To the very end, Christ takes on our mortal flesh so that it may be invested by the glorious power of God, the breath of the life-giving Spirit who transforms and regenerates. It is the baptism of passion (cf. Lk 12.50), which Jesus received for us and of which St. Paul writes in Romans. The expression that the apostle uses - "baptized into his death" (Rom 6:3) - never ceases to amaze us, the concision with which he sums up this towering mystery. Christ’s death is the source of life, because God has poured all his love into it, like an immense waterfall, which suggests the image contained in Psalm 41: " Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your torrents, and all your waves and breakers, sweep over me"(v. 8). The abyss of death is filled by the another, even greater abyss, which is God’s love, so that death no longer has any power over Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 8.9), nor over those who through faith and Baptism, are associated with Him: "If we die with Christ - Saint Paul says - we also believe that we shall live with him" (Rom. 8.8). This "living with Jesus" is the fulfillment of the hope prophesied by Hosea: "... and we shall live in His presence" (6.2).
In fact, it is in Christ alone that this hope finds its basis in reality. Before it was in danger of being reduced to an illusion, a symbol derived from the rhythm of the seasons: "like autumn rain, like spring rain" (Hosea 6.3). At the time of the prophet Hosea, the faith of Israel was in risk of contaminating itself with the naturalistic religions of the land of Canaan, but this faith is not able to save anyone from death. Instead, God's intervention in the drama of human history does not obey any natural cycle, it only obeys His grace and faithfulness. The new and eternal life is the fruit of the tree of the Cross, a tree that blooms and bears fruit because of the light and strength that comes from the sun of God. Without the Cross of Christ, all the energy of nature is powerless before the negative force of sin. We needed a force for good greater than the one that governs the cycles of nature, a greater good than that of creation itself: a Love that proceeds from the "heart" of God and that, while it reveals the ultimate meaning of creation, renews and directs it to its original and ultimate destination.
All this happened during those "three days" when the "grain of wheat" fell to earth, remained there for the time needed to fill the measure of justice and mercy of God, and finally produced "much fruit", not remaining alone, but as the firstborn among many brothers (cf. Jn 12.24; Rom 8:29). Now yes, thanks to Christ, thanks to the work accomplished in Him by the Holy Trinity, the images taken from nature are not just symbols, illusory myths, but they speak to us of a reality. At the foundation of hope is the will of the Father and the Son, which we heard in the Gospel of this Liturgy: " Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me" (Jn 17:24) . And among them, whom the Father gave to Jesus, there are also our venerable Brothers, for whom we offer this Eucharist: they "have known" God through Jesus, they knew his name, and the love of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit dwelt in them (cf. Jn 12.25-26), opening their lives to heaven, to eternity. Let us thank God for this priceless gift. And, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray that this mystery of communion, which filled all their lives, be fully accomplished in each of them.