Benedict XVI Resting, Walking, Writing

LORENZO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 11, 2007 ( Benedict XVI spent an hour away from his vacation cottage, taking a small trip to the parish Church of Our Lady of Loreto in Lozzo di Cadore to pray the rosary.

The Pope, on vacation in the Alps in northern Italy, left the cottage just before 6:15 p.m. and returned just after 7:15 p.m. His car did not stop to greet the crowds who lined the road hoping for a glimpse of the Pontiff. The Holy Father did wave at them from the window.

According to the spokesman of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre, Benedict XVI's third day of vacation was spent in "prayer, study and contemplation."

Today, the feast of St. Benedict, a concert was held in honour of the Pope, but he was not able to attend and sent a message with someone from his entourage.

He is scheduled to meet with the priests of the region, Bishop Giuseppe Andrich of Belluno-Feltre told Vatican Radio, but the date has not been confirmed.


Background on Brazil: Inside the papal plane
Posted on May 8, 2007


During Pope Benedict XVI’s May 9-13 trip to São Paulo and Aparecida, Brazil, I’ll once again be travelling on the papal plane. Because I’m often asked about the experience of travelling with the pope, I’ll offer some background here.

First of all, Americans who conceive of the “papal plane” by way of analogy to Air Force One are on the wrong track, even though the papal plane is sometimes designated by air traffic controllers and headline writers as “Shepherd One.”

In reality, there is no “papal plane,” in the sense of a jet owned by the Vatican and used exclusively for papal travel. Instead, a regular commercial jet owned by Alitalia, the national air carrier of Italy, is set aside the day of the pope’s departure. The pilots and crew are all regular Alitalia employees. The next day, the plane returns to running Alitalia’s normal routes, with its passengers presumably unaware that they’re sitting in what was only recently the “papal plane.”

There’s also no special room on the plane for the pope, no Air Force One-esque office with a couch, desk, TV set, and wet-bar. His lone perk is that he gets a seat by himself in the front row. Behind him are the most senior officials from the Secretariat of State, beginning with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. (This seating arrangement usually means that when the flight attendants sit down for take-off, they’re directly across from the Holy Father. Watching them try not to stare is a favorite on-board pastime.)

During John Paul’s final years, when he struggled to walk, he would enter the plane from the rear using a special elevated platform, essentially a modified version of the hydraulic compartment used to deliver meals for the flight. Some wags briefly flirted with calling it the “pope-lift,” by way of analogy to the “pope-mobile,” but the term never caught on. To date, Benedict XVI is taking the stairs.

Usually, the pope returns to Italy on the national carrier of the host country, and if he has to fly inside that country, he normally uses the national carrier for those flights as well. Once again, this is a normal commercial aircraft that’s set aside for the pope’s travel on those specific days. This time, however, Benedict XVI will be returning to Rome on Alitalia.

Rome has two airports, and in order to stay even-handed as the Bishop of Rome, the pope normally departs from Fiumicino and returns to Ciampino. (Among other things, this bit of local diplomacy makes life a bit difficult for those travelling with him, since they can’t drive their cars to the airport and leave them in long-term parking.)

In addition to the pope, the Vatican officials who travel with him, and his small security detail, the other occupants of the papal plane are the members of the Vatican press corps. The number of journalists varies, but usually is somewhere between 50 and 75. For the Brazil trip, 70 journalists will be on the plane. (This number is a tiny fraction of the total number of journalists who will cover the trip; local authorities in Brazil are expecting several hundred foreign journalists, in addition to Brazilians.)

An overview of the 53 news organizations represented on the papal plane for the Brazil trip offers something of an “x-ray” of how the pope is covered around the world. (In some cases, more than one journalist on the plane works for the same agency.)

Eighteen of the agencies are Italian, the largest single national grouping. Their presence reflects the fact that the pope is big news in Italy. While the Prime Minister generates a greater number of headlines in the local papers, the Pope is the bigger global story.

Nine of the agencies are American, the second largest group. They are: Fox TV, the New York Times, Time, the National Catholic Reporter, ABC TV, the Associated Press, Catholic News Service, the Los Angeles Times, and Getty Images News Services. Reuters is also widely read in the United States, though it is British-owned. Nevertheless, there are a few American outlets missing from this trip, including CNN, NBC and CBS. It may also be surprising to learn that only five German news agencies are on the plane, even with a German pope. The absence of other news outlets probably reflects both the cost of the trip, and judgments about public interest. For better or for worse, Benedict XVI is not a “mass market” pope in the style of John Paul II.

Five Brazilian agencies are on the plane this time, obviously driven by national interest in the pope’s presence. There are five French agencies, several from Spain and Portugal, and a handful from the rest of Latin America, especially Mexico – the second-largest Catholic country in the world, after Brazil.

It’s not cheap to travel with the pope. For the Brazil trip, each journalist pays  3,331.18 in airfare, which is equivalent to U.S.$4,514.85. That’s roughly what Alitalia charges for a business class ticket from Rome to São Paulo and back, though the journalists don’t ride in the business class section of the plane. When I began taking the papal plane six years ago, there was still a patina of first-class service. We would be invited to a special reception before take-off with coffee, juice and rolls, and aboard the plane we would receive gift bags with cologne, wine, cigarettes and other perks. Under the weight of Alitalia’s financial woes, however, those days are long gone.

Despite the cost and declines in VIP treatment, more journalists always apply for the plane than can be accommodated. For any given trip, there could be roughly 120 to 150 applications, more if the trip is judged to be of special news interest. Each time the list is posted, speculation circulates about why certain journalists made it and others didn’t. Sometimes, people interpret omission from the plane as a sign of Vatican disapproval, and over the years there probably have been such cases.

For the most part, however, the calculus is simpler. There’s a stable core of news outlets that travel with the pope every time, and hence their applications are quasi-automatically approved. By my count, roughly 50-55 of the 70 journalists on this flight fall into that category. The Vatican Press Office will also ensure that a handful of journalists from the host country make into onto the papal plane, as well as others from the region. In this case, that leaves perhaps 10 “open” slots which depend upon the discretion of the Press Office.

There are only a handful of specifically “Catholic” news outlets on the plane, including the Catholic News Service, the news agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the National Catholic Reporter; L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference; KNA, the German Catholic news agency; and a handful of Catholic TV and radio outlets. In general, the Vatican Press Office has something of a “preferential option” for major secular news agencies, because they offer the largest audience for the pope’s message. In addition, the cost of the trip is prohibitive for most Catholic outlets.

Of course, travelling on the papal plane is not the only way to cover a papal trip. Large news agencies usually deploy several people, either based wherever the pope is going, or who travel from nearby bureaus. They do most of the fact-gathering, monitoring of local press reports, and “person in the street” interviews, while the correspondent on the plane keeps his or her eyes on the pope.

Smaller outlets, however, which can send only one reporter, face a difficult judgment call: to take the plane, or not to take the plane. There are good journalistic arguments on both sides.

If you don’t take the papal plane, you’re free to go early, getting a sense of the place, and/or to stay late, doing follow-up coverage. While the pope is on the ground, you’re not part of the Vatican “bubble” and have more freedom to pick and choose who you want to interview, what you want to see, and so on. In addition, you can usually do it substantially cheaper. (If you’re willing to fly economy, you could get a Rome to São Paulo round-trip ticket on Alitalia for  1,300. More to the point, you could skip Rome altogether and fly directly from wherever you happen to be).

On the other hand, the advantages of being part of the papal party are considerable. First of all, the Vatican takes care of local accreditation, an expedited visa process, and arranges transportation and lodging. The Vatican also handles internal movements within the country. For example, this time they’ve arranged a chartered plane to get the press corps back to São Paulo from the Marian sanctuary of Aparecida. Logistically, therefore, it’s often much easier to move with the pope.

Further, as part of the papal party, one has more ready access to the senior Vatican officials, as well as the pope’s spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi. When a reporter needs a quote or a clarification in a hurry, this proximity can make a real difference. Moreover, reporters on the plane have the chance to be included in pools for the big events on the pope’s schedule, which sometimes puts you in the front row as history is being made.

To be frank, there is also a certain cachet that attaches to being on the papal plane, which can sometimes help create an audience for one’s reporting.

Another consideration, not to be gainsaid, is that travelling on the plane puts one in the company of many of the best Vatican writers in the world, and the informal exchanges that go on while people are waiting for buses, or having a beer in the hotel bar at the end of a long day, are sometimes worth the price of admission all by themselves.

Finally, there is a somewhat ghoulish consideration. Should the pope have a health crisis during the trip and his plane has to be diverted back to Rome or to some other location, as long as you’re on it, you’ll be wherever the story is. If not, you might be stuck in Aparecida while the drama unfolds someplace else. Naturally, this was an especially strong consideration during the final years of John Paul’s foreign travel.

One last point, which is usually the first question people want to ask about the papal plane: Do reporters get to “hang out” with the pope? In a word, no.

In the early days of John Paul’s papacy, he would come to the back of the plane and spend substantial chunks of time with reporters in the various language groups – Italian, French, English, Spanish, and so on. By the time I began travelling with him, however, this had been restricted to taking a couple of generalized questions on our outbound flight, and perhaps sitting with each journalist for a quick picture on the way back.

Under Benedict XVI, the new system is that Lombardi collects questions from reporters in advance, then condenses them into perhaps three prepared questions he poses to the pope, who delivers responses over an audio system installed in the plane. The pope then retreats to his section, while we remain in the back. To date, we have not been summoned to the front on the return flight to have our pictures taken with the pope.

On the other hand, we do often have the chance to chat with officials from the Secretariat of State, security personnel, and other figures such as the pope’s doctor and his spokesperson. It’s not quite as charming as spending time with the pope himself, of course, but it can be informative.


Vatican Statement on Ban Ki-moon's Visit to Pope
Secretary-General Invited Benedict XVI to the U.N.

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2007 ( Here is a translation of the statement released by the Vatican press office today, after a meeting between Benedict XVI and U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

* * *

This afternoon, His Holiness Benedict XVI has received in audience the secretary-general of the United Nations Organization, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. The audience falls in the series of previous encounters that Popes, and particularly John Paul II, have offered to secretaries-general of the U.N., as a sign, among other things, of the appreciation which the Holy See has for the central role carried out by the organization in maintaining peace in the world and promoting the development of peoples.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon has wanted to visit the Holy Father in the course of his first trips taken to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, shortly after taking on his new post last Jan. 1, so as to officially invite him to visit the see of the United Nations.

His Holiness and Mr. Ban Ki-moon have discussed themes of common interest, for example, the restoration of trust in multilateral relations and the strengthening of dialogue between cultures, not failing to mention the international situations that merit particular attention.

It has been recalled, furthermore, the contribution that the Catholic Church and the Holy See can make -- maintaining its identity and with the means proper to it -- to the action of the United Nations in resolving current conflicts and reaching understanding between nations.

The pontifical audience was followed by a fruitful conversation between the secretary-general and the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was accompanied by the secretary of relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.


Pontiff to Vacation in Veneto Region

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2007 .- Benedict XVI will spend this summer's holidays in Lorenzago di Cadore, in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, reported the Vatican press office.

According to Saturday's announcement, the Holy Father will stay July 9-27 in a house owned by the Diocese of Treviso, located in the Dolomites, an Alpine mountain range.

The bells of all the churches of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre, where the town is located, rang in celebration today at midday as Benedict XVI prepared to recite the Angelus in Rome.

The house is the same one where his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had stayed on six occasions between 1987 and 1998.

Surrounded by a forest, the locale is used for seminarians' summer holidays and for youth formation courses. It is being renovated and will be equipped with a piano.

In 2005 and 2006, Benedict XVI spent his holidays in Les Combes, in the Aosta Valley, in northwestern Italy. John Paul II had also vacationed there on numerous occasions.


Pope Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on the same day. His father, a policeman, belonged to an old family of farmers from Lower Bavaria of modest economic resources. His mother was the daughter of artisans from Rimsting on the shore of Lake Chiem, and before marrying she worked as a cook in a number of hotels.

He spent his childhood and adolescence in Traunstein, a small village near the Austrian border, thirty kilometres from Salzburg. In this environment, which he himself has defined as “Mozartian”, he received his Christian, cultural and human formation.

His youthful years were not easy. His faith and the education received at home prepared him for the harsh experience of those years during which the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church. The young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the Parish Priest before the celebration of Mass.

It was precisely during that complex situation that he discovered the beauty and truth of faith in Christ; fundamental for this was his family’s attitude, who always gave a clear witness of goodness and hope, rooted in a convinced attachment to the Church.

During the last months of the war he was enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps.

From 1946 to 1951 he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich.

He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951.

A year later he began teaching at the Higher School of Freising.

In 1953 he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis entitled “People and House of God in St. Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”.

Four years later, under the direction of the renowned professor of fundamental theology Gottlieb Söhngen, he qualified for University teaching with a dissertation on: “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure”.

After lecturing on dogmatic and fundamental theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising, he went on to teach at Bonn, from 1959 to1963; at Münster from 1963 to 1966 and at Tübingen from 1966 to 1969. During this last year he held the Chair of dogmatics and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, where he was also Vice-President of the University.

From 1962 to 1965 he made a notable contribution to Vatican II as an “expert”; being present at the Council as theological advisor of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne.

His intense scientific activity led him to important positions at the service of the German Bishops’ Conference and the International Theological Commission.

In 1972 together with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and other important theologians, he initiated the theological journal “Communio”.

On 25 March 1977 Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. On 28 May of the same year he received episcopal ordination. He was the first Diocesan priest for 80 years to take on the pastoral governance of the great Bavarian Archdiocese. He chose as his episcopal motto: “Cooperators of the truth”. He himself explained why: “On the one hand I saw it as the relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In spite of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted almost entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses if truth is missing”.

Paul VI made him a Cardinal with the priestly title of “Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino”, during the Consistory of 27 June of the same year.

In 1978 he took part in the Conclave of 25 and 26 August which elected John Paul I, who named him his Special Envoy to the III International Mariological Congress, celebrated in Guayaquil (Ecuador) from 16 to 24 September. In the month of October of the same year he took part in the Conclave that elected Pope John Paul II.

He was Relator of the V Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which took place in 1980 on the theme: “Mission of the Christian Family in the world of today”, and was Delegate President of the VI Ordinary General Assembly of 1983 on “Reconciliation and Penance in the mission of the Church”.

John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission on 25 November 1981. On 15 February 1982 he resigned the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. The Holy Father elevated him to the Order of Bishops assigning to him the Suburbicarian See of Velletri-Segni on 5 April 1993.

He was President of the Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which after six years of work (1986-1992) presented the new Catechism to the Holy Father.

On 6 November 1998 the Holy Father approved the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals, submitted by the Cardinals of the Order of Bishops. On 30 November 2002 he approved his election as Dean; together with this office he was entrusted with the Suburbicarian See of Ostia.

In 1999 he was Special Papal Envoy for the Celebration of the XII Centenary of the foundation of the Diocese of Paderborn, Germany which took place on 3 January.

Since 13 November 2000 he has been an Honorary Academic of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In the Roman Curia he has been a member of the Council of the Secretariat of State for Relations with States; of the Congregations for the Oriental Churches, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for Catholic Education, for Clergy and for the Causes of the Saints; of the Pontifical Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, and for Culture; of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and of the Pontifical Commissions for Latin America, “Ecclesia Dei”, for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, and for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law of the Oriental Churches.

Among his many publications special mention should be made of his “Introduction to Christianity”, a compilation of University lectures on the Apostolic Creed published in 1968; “Dogma and Preaching” (1973) an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to pastoral arguments.

His address to the Catholic Academy of Bavaria on “Why I am still in the Church” had a wide resonance; in it he stated with his usual clarity: “one can only be a Christian in the Church, not beside the Church”.

His many publications are spread out over a number of years and constitute a point of reference for many people specially for those interested in entering deeper into the study of theology. In 1985 he published his interview-book on the situation of the faith (The Ratzinger Report) and in 1996 “Salt of the Earth”. On the occasion of his 70th birthday the volume “At the School of Truth” was published, containing articles by several authors on different aspects of his personality and production.

He has received numerous “Honoris Causa” Doctorates, in 1984 from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota; in 1986 from the Catholic University of Lima; in 1987 from the Catholic University of Eichstätt; in 1988 from the Catholic University of Lublin; in 1998 from the University of Navarre; in 1999 from the LUMSA (Libera Università Maria Santissima Assunta) of Rome and in 2000 from the Faculty of Theology of the University of Wroc?aw in Poland.


Benedict XVI to Publish Book on Jesus
Says It's Not an Act of His Magisterium

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2006 ( Benedict XVI has finished the first part of a book entitled "Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration," which will be published next spring.

The announcement was made today by the Vatican Publishing House -- also known as Libreria Editrice Vaticana, or LEV -- which received the Pope's manuscript a few days ago, and has been entrusted with its distribution.

"Conscious of the expectation at the world level of this first work of Benedict XVI," the announcement said, "the LEV has made the appropriate agreements with Rizzoli Publishing House, ceding to the latter the rights of translation, diffusion and commercialization of the work worldwide."

In Germany, Rizzoli has ceded the rights to the Herder Verlag publishing family, with whom Joseph Ratzinger maintained a relationship in the past.

In the preface, passages of which have been issued, the Pope writes that this work "in no way is an act of the magisterium, but only an expression of my personal search for the face of the Lord. Therefore, anyone is free to contradict me."

"I only ask readers for that anticipated sympathy without which there can be no understanding," the Holy Father states.

"I wished to attempt to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the authentic Jesus, as the historical Jesus in the authentic meaning of the word," Benedict XVI adds.

The book expresses one of Joseph Ratzinger's most profound convictions, a book which he had already planned to write before being elected Pope: "Through the man Jesus, God made himself visible and, from God, the image is seen of the just man."



 VATICAN CITY, NOV 22, 2006 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., has written a note concerning a forthcoming book by Benedict XVI, scheduled for publication in the spring of 2007. The title of the volume is: "Gesu di Nazareth. Dal Battesimo nel Giordano alla Trasfigurazione" (Jesus of Nazareth, From His Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration).

   The Vatican Publishing House, which holds the copyright on all the Pope's writings, has ceded the world rights for the translation, distribution and marketing of this book to the Rizzoli Publishing House.

  "The fact that Benedict XVI has managed to complete the first part of his great book on Jesus, and that within a few months we will have it in our hands, is wonderful news," writes Fr. Lombardi in his note. "I find it extraordinary that despite the duties and concerns of the pontificate, he has managed to complete a work of such great academic and spiritual depth. He says he dedicated all his free time to the project; and this itself is a very significant indication of the importance and urgency the book has for him.

  "With his habitual simplicity and humility, the Pope explains that this is not a 'work of Magisterium' but the fruit of his own research, and as such it can be freely discussed and criticized. This is a very important observation, because it makes clear that what he writes in the book in no way binds the research of exegetes and theologians. It is not a long encyclical on Jesus, but a personal presentation of the figure of Jesus by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who has been elected as Bishop of Rome."

  In the book's preface, Fr. Lombardi's note says, the Holy Father "explains that in modern culture, and in many presentations of the figure of Jesus, the gap between the 'historical Jesus' and the 'Christ of the faith' has become ever wider. ... Joseph Ratzinger, taking into consideration all the achievements of modern research, aims to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the real 'historical Jesus,' as a sensible and convincing figure to Whom we can and must trustingly refer, and upon Whom we have good reason to base our faith and our Christian life. With his book, then, the Pope aims to offer a fundamental service to support the faith of his brothers and sisters, and he does so from the central element of the faith: Jesus Christ."

  In the introduction to the book, Fr. Lombardi continues, "Jesus is presented to us as the new Moses, the new prophet who speaks with 'God face to face,' ... the Son, deeply united to the Father. If this essential aspect is overlooked, the figure of Jesus become contradictory and incomprehensible. With passion, Joseph Ratzinger speaks to us of Jesus' intimate union with the Father, and wishes to ensure that Jesus' disciples participate in this communion. It is, then, a great work of exegesis and theology, but also a great work of spirituality."

  Fr. Lombardi concludes: "Recalling the profound impression and the spiritual fruits that, as a young man, I drew from reading Joseph Ratzinger's first work - 'Introduction to Christianity' - I am sure that this time too we will not be disappointed, but that both believers and all people truly disposed to understand more fully the figure of Jesus, will be immensely grateful to the Pope for his great witness as a thinker, scholar and man of faith, on the most essential point of the entire Christian faith."


From Joseph Ratzinger's "Jesus of Nazareth"
"A Historically Honest and Convincing Figure"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2006 ( Here is a translation of excerpts from the Preface of the first volume of the book "Jesus of Nazareth," which Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI will publish next spring. The excerpts were made available by Rizzoli, the publishing house that has been given the international rights.

* * *


I have come to the book on Jesus, the first part of which I now present, following a long interior journey. In the period of my youth -- the thirties and forties -- a series of fascinating books were published on Jesus. I remember the name of some of the authors: Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Franz Michel Willam, Giovanni Papini, Jean Daniel-Rops. In all these books, the image of Jesus Christ was delineated from the Gospels: how he lived on earth and how, despite his being fully man, at the same time he led men to God, with whom, as Son, he was but one. Thus, through the man Jesus, God was made visible and from God the image of the just man could be seen.

Beginning in the fifties, the situation changed. The split between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith" became ever greater: One was rapidly removed from the other. However, what meaning could faith in Jesus Christ have, in Jesus the Son of the living God, if the man Jesus was so different from the way he was presented by the evangelists and the way he is proclaimed by the Church from the Gospels? Progress in historical-critical research led to ever more subtle distinctions between the different strata of tradition. In the wake of this research, the figure of Jesus, on which faith leans, became ever more uncertain, it took on increasingly less defined features.

At the same time, reconstructions of this Jesus, who should be sought after the traditions of the evangelists and their sources, became ever more contradictory: from the revolutionary enemy of the Romans who opposed the established power and naturally failed, to the gentle moralist who allowed everything and inexplicably ended up by causing his own ruin.

Whoever reads a few of these reconstructions can see immediately that they are more photographs of the authors and their ideals than a real questioning of an image that has become confused. Meanwhile, mistrust was growing toward these images of Jesus, and the figure itself of Jesus was ever more removed from us.

All these attempts have left in their wake, as common denominator, the impression that we know very little about Jesus, and that only later faith in his divinity has formed his image. Meanwhile, this image has been penetrating profoundly in the common consciousness of Christianity. Such a situation is tragic for the faith, because it makes its authentic point of reference uncertain: intimate friendship with Jesus, from whom everything depends, is debated and runs the risk of becoming useless. [...]

I have felt the need to give readers these indications of a methodological character so that they can determine the path of my interpretation of the figure of Jesus in the New Testament. With reference to my interpretation of Jesus, this means first of all that I trust the Gospels. Of course I take as a given all that the Council and modern exegesis say about the literary genres, the intention of their affirmations, on the communal context of the Gospels and its words in this living context. Accepting all this in the measure that was possible to me, I wished to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the true Jesus, as the "historical Jesus" in the true sense of the expression.

I am convinced, and I hope the reader will also realize, that this figure is far more logical and, from the historical point of view, also more comprehensible than the reconstructions we have had to deal with in the last decades.

I believe, in fact, that this Jesus -- the one of the Gospels -- is a historically honest and convincing figure. The Crucifixion and its efficacy can only be explained if something extraordinary happened, if Jesus' figure and words radically exceeded all the hopes and expectations of the age.

Approximately twenty years after Jesus' death, we find fully displayed in the great hymn to Christ that is the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-8) a Christology which says that Jesus was equal to God but that he stripped himself, became man, humbled himself unto death on the cross and that to him is owed the homage of creation, the adoration that in the prophet Isaiah (45:23) God proclaimed is owed only to Him.

With good judgment, critical research asks the question: What happened in the twenty years after Jesus' Crucifixion? How was this Christology arrived at?

The action of anonymous community formations, of which attempts are made to find exponents, in fact does not explain anything. How would it be possible for groups of unknowns to be so creative, so convincing to the point of imposing themselves in this way? Is it not more logical, also from the historical point of view, that greatness be found in the origin and that the figure of Jesus break all available categories and thus be understood only from the mystery of God?

Of course, to believe that though being man He "was" God and to make this known shrouding it in parables and in an ever clearer way, goes beyond the possibilities of the historical method. On the contrary, if from this conviction of faith the texts are read with the historical method and the opening is greater, the texts open to reveal a path and a figure that are worthy of faith. Also clarified then is the struggle at other levels present in the writings of the New Testament around the figure of Jesus and despite all the differences, one comes to profound agreement with these writings.

Of course with this vision of the figure of Jesus I go beyond what, for example, Schnackenburg says in representation of the greater part of contemporary exegesis. I hope, on the contrary, that the reader will understand that this book has not been written against modern exegesis, but with great recognition of all that it continues to give us.

It has made us aware of a great quantity of sources and concepts through which the figure of Jesus can become present with a vivacity and profundity that only a few decades ago we could not even imagine. I have attempted to go beyond the mere historical-critical interpretation applying new methodological criteria, which allows us to make a properly theological interpretation of the Bible and that naturally requires faith, without by so doing wanting in any way to renounce historical seriousness. I do not think it is necessary to say expressly that this book is not at all a magisterial act, but the expression of my personal seeking of the "Lord's face" (Psalm 27:8). Therefore, every one has the liberty to contradict me. I only ask from women and men readers the anticipation of sympathy without which there is no possible understanding.

As I already mentioned at the beginning of this Preface, the interior journey to this book has been long. I was able to begin work on it during my vacation of 2003. In August 2004, Chapters 1 to 4 took their final form. Following my election to the episcopal See of Rome I have used all the free moments I have had to carry on with it. Given that I do not know how much time and how much strength will still be given to me, I have decided to publish now as the first part of the book the first ten chapters that extend from the Baptism in the Jordan to Peter's confession and the Transfiguration.

From the Introduction of Benedict XVI's New Book
"A First Glance at the Secret of Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2006 ( Here is a translation of excerpts from the Introduction of the book "Jesus of Nazareth," which Benedict XVI will publish next spring.

The excerpts were made available by Rizzoli, the publishing house that has been given the international rights.


A First Glance at the Secret of Jesus

(...) In Jesus the promise of the new prophet is fulfilled. In him is fully realized what in Moses was only imperfect: He lives in the presence of God, not only as friend but as Son, in profound unity with the Father. Only beginning from here can we really understand the figure of Jesus that we find in the New Testament. All that which is recounted, the words, facts, suffering and glory of Jesus has its foundation here. If this authentic center is disregarded, one does not grasp what is specific to the figure of Jesus which then becomes contradictory and, in short, incomprehensible. Only from here can the question be answered before which whoever reads the New Testament must place himself: from where did Jesus get his teaching? How is his coming explained? The reaction of his listeners was clear: His teaching does not come from some school. It is radically different from that which can be learned in schools. It is not explained according to the method of interpretation, it is different, it is explanation "with authority." We will return to this verification of the listeners when we reflect on the words of Jesus and we will have to examine its meaning closely. The teaching of Jesus does not come from human learning, no matter what it is. It comes from the immediate contact with the Father, from "face-to-face" dialogue, from seeing that which is "in the bosom of the Father." It is word of the Son. Without this interior foundation it would be temerity. He was judged precisely in this way by the learned of his time because, in fact, they did not want to accept its interior meaning: seeing and knowing face-to-face.

Fundamental to know Jesus are the recurring references to the fact that he would withdraw "on the mountain" and prayed there all night, "alone" with the Father. These brief references dispel somewhat the veil of the mystery, allowing us to cast a glance at Jesus' filial existence, to perceive the springing source of his actions, of his teaching and of his suffering. This "praying" of Jesus is the Son speaking with the Father in which the human conscience and will, the human soul of Jesus are involved, so that the "prayer" of men might become participation in the communion of the Son with the Father. Harnack's famous affirmation according to which the proclamation of Jesus is a proclamation that comes from the Father and of which the Son is not a part -- and therefore Christology does not belong to the proclamation of Jesus -- is a thesis that denies itself. Jesus can speak of the Father, as he does, only because he is Son and lives in filial communion with the Father. The Christological dimension, namely the mystery of the Son who reveals the Father, "Christology," is present in all the discourses and all the actions of Jesus. Here another important point is evident. We said that in the filial communion of Jesus with the Father the human soul of Jesus is involved in the act of prayer. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (John 14:9). The disciple who follows Jesus thus comes to be involved together with him in the communion with God. And it is this that truly saves: the exceeding of man's limits. This exceeding was innate in man as expectation and possibility since the creation given the likeness with God.


The Passion of the Pope
Time Magazine  Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006

With his blunt talk on Islam, Benedict XVI is altering the debate between the Muslim world and the West. On the eve of his visit to Turkey, TIME looks at the roots of the Pope's views--and how they may define his place in history


For the traveling Pontiff, it was not a laid-back Turkish holiday. The citizens of the proud, predominantly Muslim nation had no love of Popes. To the East, the Iranian government was galvanizing anti-Western feeling. The news reported that an escaped killer was on the loose, threatening to assassinate the Pontiff when he arrived. Yet the Holy Father was undaunted. "Love is stronger than danger," he said. "I am in the hands of God." He fared forward--to Ankara, to Istanbul--and preached the commonality of the world's great faiths. He enjoined both Christians and Muslims to "seek ties of friendship with other believers who invoke the name of a single God." He did not leave covered with garlands, but he set a groundwork for what would be years of rapprochement between the Holy See and Islam. He was a uniter, not a divider.

That was 1979 and Pope John Paul II. But when Benedict XVI travels to Turkey next week on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming Pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in a downy banner of brotherhood, the way his predecessor did 27 years ago. Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the Pope has become as much a moral lightning rod as a theologian; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens. And so what takes place over four days in three Turkish cities has the potential to define his papacy--and a good deal more.

Few people saw this coming. Nobody truly expected Benedict to be a mere caretaker Pope--his sometimes ferocious 24-year tenure as the Vatican's theological enforcer and John Paul's right hand suggested anything but passivity. But this same familiarity argued against surprises. The new Pontiff was expected to sustain John Paul's conservative line on morality and church discipline and focus most of his energies on trimming the Vatican bureaucracy and battling Western culture's "moral relativism." Although acknowledged as a brilliant conservative theologian, Benedict lacked the open-armed charisma of his predecessor. Moreover, what had initially propelled John Paul to the center of the world stage was his challenge to communism and its subsequent fall, a huge geopolitical event that the Pope helped precipitate with two exhilarating visits to his beloved Polish homeland. By contrast, what could Benedict do? Liberate Bavaria?

Well, not quite. But this year he has emerged as a far more compelling and complex figure than anyone had imagined. And much of that has to do with his willingness to confront what some people feel is today's equivalent of the communist scourge--the threat of Islamic violence. The topic is extraordinarily fraught. There are, after all, a billion or so nonviolent Muslims on the globe, the Roman Catholic Church's own record in the religious-mayhem department is hardly pristine, and even the most naive of observers understands that the Vicar of Christ might harbor an institutional prejudice against one of Christianity's main global competitors. But by speaking out last September in Regensburg, Germany, about the possible intrinsic connection between Islam and violence, the Pontiff suddenly became a lot more interesting. Even when Islamic extremists destroyed several churches and murdered a nun in Somalia, Benedict refused to retract the essence of his remarks. In one imperfect but powerful stroke, he departed from his predecessor's largely benign approach to Islam and discovered an issue that might attract even the most religiously jaded. In doing so, he managed (for better or worse) to reanimate the clash-of-civilizations discussion by focusing scrutiny on the core question of whether Islam, as a religion, sanctions violence. He was hailed by cultural conservatives worldwide. Says Helen Hull Hitchcock, a St. Louis, Mo., lay leader who heads the conservative Catholic organization Women for Faith and Family: "He has said what needed to be said."

But Benedict now finds himself in an unfamiliar position as he embarks on the most important mission of his papacy. Having thrust himself to the center of the global debate and earned the vilification of the Muslim street, he must weigh hard options. Does he seize his new platform, insisting that another great faith has potentially deadly flaws and daring it to discuss them, while exhorting Western audiences to be morally armed? Or does he back away from further confrontation in the hope of tamping down the rage his words have already provoked? Those who know him say he was clearly shocked and appalled by the violent reaction to the Germany speech. Yet it seems unlikely that he will completely drop the topic and the megaphone he has discovered he is holding. "The Pope has the intention to say what he thinks," says a high-ranking Vatican diplomat. "He may adjust his tone, but his direction won't change."


If the test of a new act is to see how well it plays in a tough room, Benedict has certainly booked himself into a doozy. In the racial memory of Western Europe, the Turks were the face of militant Islam, besieging Vienna in 1529 and 1683 and for centuries thereafter representing a kind of stock bogeyman. In 2002, after nearly a century of determinedly secularist rule, the country elected a moderate Islamist party. For many in the West, that makes Turkey simultaneously a symbol of hope (of moderation) and fear (of Islamism).

The Pope's original invitation came in 2005, from the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which represents a nervous 0.01% of the country's population. The Turkish government, miffed that as a Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger had opposed Turkey's urgent bid to join the European Union, finally issued its own belated offer for 2006. But even now, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discovered a previous engagement that will take him out of the country while Benedict is in it. Although modest, sales of a Turkish novel subtitled Who Will Kill the Pope in Istanbul? (the book fingers everyone but Islamists) have increased as his trip approaches. The country is expected to place about 22,000 policemen on the streets of Istanbul while he is there. "This is a very high-risk visit," says Cengiz Aktar, a Turkish political scientist. "There is a vocal nationalist movement here, and there is the Pope, a man who likes to play with fire."

Actually, Benedict will probably try to stay away from matches during his successive stops in Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul. Speculation about what the Pope will say and do on this visit has consumed Rome for weeks. Papal watchers say Benedict cannot out-Regensburg himself, but gauzy talk about the compatibility of Christianity and Islam isn't likely either. Over the course of his career, Benedict has been averse to reciting multifaith platitudes, an aversion that has sharpened as he has focused on Islam. And that's what could make his coming encounter with the Muslim world, says David Gibson, author of The Rule of Benedict, either "a step toward religious harmony or toward holy war."


In 1986, Pope John Paul convened a remarkable multifaith summit in the medieval Italian town of Assisi. Muslims and Sikhs, Zoroastrians and the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others, convened to celebrate their (distinct) spiritualities and pray for peace. It was a signature John Paul moment, but not everybody caught the vibe. "It was a disaster," sniffs an observer. "People were praying together, and nobody had any idea what they were praying to." The witness, whose view undoubtedly reflected that of his boss, was an aide to Cardinal Ratzinger.

Unlike John Paul, who had a big-tent approach, Ratzinger has always favored bright theological lines and correspondingly high walls between creeds he regards as unequally meritorious. His long-standing habit is to correct any aide who calls a religion other than Christianity or Judaism a "faith." Prior to his papacy, the culmination of this philosophy was his office's 1999 Vatican document Dominus Jesus, which described non-Catholics as being in a "gravely deficient situation" regarding salvation. The fact that this offended some of the deficient parties did not particularly bother him. Notes the same assistant: "To understand each other ... you have to talk about what divides."

That approach includes Islam. In Ratzinger's 1996 interview book Salt of the Earth (with Peter Seewald), he noted that "we must recognize that Islam is not a uniform thing. No one can speak for [it] as a whole. There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice." This sophisticated understanding, however, did not keep Ratzinger from slapping down a bishop who wanted to invite peaceable Muslims to a papal ceremony in Fatima, Portugal, or, in 2004, from objecting to Turkish E.U. entry on grounds that it has always been "in permanent contrast to Europe," a contrast his other writings made clear had much to do with religion.

Islam played a particular role--as both a threat and a model--in the drama that probably lies closest to Benedict's heart: the secularization of Christian Europe. In the same 1996 book, he wrote that "the Islamic soul reawakened" in reaction to the erosion of the West's moral stature during the 1960s. Ratzinger paraphrased that soul's new song: "We know who we are; our religion is holding its ground; you don't have one any longer. We have a moral message that has existed without interruption since the prophets, and we will tell the world how to live it, where the Christians certainly can't."

After Sept. 11, Ratzinger's attitude toward Islam seems to have hardened. According to Gibson, the Cardinals in the conclave that elected Ratzinger made it clear that they expected a tougher dialogue with the other faith. After the London subway bombings in July 2005, the new Pope responded to the question of whether Islam was a "religion of peace"--as George W. Bush, among others, has always stressed-- by saying, "Certainly there are also elements that can favor peace." When he met with moderate German Muslims in the city of Cologne that August, Benedict delivered a fairly blunt warning that "those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations." In Rome, he removed Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a relatively dovish Islam expert, as head of the Vatican's office on interreligious dialogue and replaced an ongoing study of Christian violence during the Crusades with one on Islamic violence today. And he has stepped up the Vatican's insistence on reciprocity--demanding the same rights for Christians in Muslim-majority countries that Muslims enjoy in the West.

All of this led observers to expect him to eventually make a major statement about Islam, although most assumed that it wouldn't stray too far from John Paul's fraternal tone. Nobody anticipated what happened in southern Germany.


On Sept. 12, 2006, the day after the world had marked the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Benedict threw himself into the maelstrom. The unlikely venue was his old teaching grounds, the University of Regensburg. His vehicle was a talk about reason as part of Christianity's very essence. His nominal target was his usual suspect, the secular West, which he said had committed the tragic error of discarding Christianity as reason-free. But this time he had an additional villain in his sights: Islam, which he said actually did undervalue rationality and which he strongly suggested was consequently more inclined to violence.

To show that Islam sees God as so transcendent that reason is extraneous, Benedict cited an 11th century Muslim sage named Ibn Hazm. To establish the connection between this position and violence, he quoted a 15th century Christian Byzantine Emperor (and head of the Byzantine, or Eastern, Church) named Manuel II Paleologus. Paleologus criticized Muslims for "spreading [their faith] by the sword," both because "God is not pleased by blood" and because true conversion depended on reason. "Show me just what the Muhammad brought that was new," Paleologus said, in a passage quoted by Benedict, "and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."

It remains unclear whether Benedict was deliberately trying to raise the temperature. Many analysts, especially in Rome, think he knew exactly what he was saying and regard the Islamic section of the 35-min. speech as a brave and eloquent warning of Islam's inherent violence and of a faithless West's inability to offer moral response. Yet Benedict's argument was slapdash and flawed. His sage, Ibn Hazm, turned out to have belonged to a school with no current adherents, and although reason's primacy is debated in Islam, it is very much part of the culture that developed algebra. Paleologus' forced-conversion accusation misrepresents the sweep of Muslim history, since more often than not, Islam has left religious groups in conquered territory intact, if hobbled. And assuming that a punctilious scholar like Benedict really wanted to engage on Islam and violence, why do it through the idiosyncratic lens of an embattled king in the 1400s who made his name partly for his efforts at drumming up enthusiasm for a new Crusade?

The reaction to the speech was intense. Small bands of Muslim thugs burned Benedict in effigy, attacked the churches in the Middle East and, on Sept. 17, murdered the nun in Somalia. Over the course of a month, Benedict issued a series of partial apologies and corrections unprecedented in the papacy. He expressed regret to those offended, summoned a group of Muslim notables to make the point personally and disowned the "evil and inhuman" slur on Muhammad as Manuel's sentiment but not his own. He even issued a second version of the speech to reflect those sentiments.

But he never retracted his more basic association of Islam with unreason and violence. Indeed, if he had, it would have caused considerable confusion--if only because the behavior of the extremists seemed, at least to some, to prove his point. No editorialist could express frustration with him for initiating the row without condemning the subsequent carnage--and a good many decided his only fault was in speaking truth. Says a high-ranking Western diplomat in Rome: "It was time to let the rabbit out of the can, and he did. I admire his courage. Part of the Koran lends itself to being shanghaied by terrorists, and he can do what politicians can't." In late October, Benedict received a different kind of validation in an open "Your Holiness" letter from 38 of the best-known names in Islamic theology. The missive politely eviscerated his Regensburg speech but went on to "applaud" the Pope's "efforts to oppose the dominance of positivism and materialism in human life" and expressed a desire for "frank and sincere dialogue." At a time when the credibility of Western political leaders in the Muslim world has sunk to new depths, the letter treated Benedict as a spokesman for the West.

Says a Vatican insider with a shrug: "Everyone's asking, Did the Pope make a mistake? Was it intentional? It doesn't really matter at this point." Whether Benedict had actually intended Regensburg to be the catalyst, he had become a player.


After Regensburg, the mainstream Italian daily La Stampa ran the headline THE POPE AND BUSH ALLIED AGAINST TERROR. The association with the Iraq war and U.S. interrogation methods must have horrified the Pontiff, if only because it could undermine the church's honest-broker role in regional conflicts. "It's easy to say, 'Go Benedict! Hit the Muslims!'" says Gibson. "But that's not who he is. He is not a Crusader." Shortly before Regensburg, Benedict had endured Western criticism for repeatedly demanding a cease-fire after Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Angelo Cardinal Scola, a protégé of the Pope's who edits Oasis, a Church quarterly on dialogue with Islam, says the fact "that radical Islam can turn to violence does not mean we must respond with a crusade."

The Pope's pursuit of his newfound calling as Islamic interlocutor will be tricky, theologically and politically. Unlike the holy books of Judaism and Christianity, the Koran and Hadiths contain verses precisely regulating the conduct of war and exhorting Muslims to wage battle against various enemies. The bellicosity of some Koranic passages owes much to the fact that they were written at a time when Muslims were engaged in almost constant warfare to defend their religion. But when suicide bombers today go to their fates with the Koran's verses on their lips, it invites questions about Islam's credentials as a religion that is willing to police its own claims of peace and tolerance. As conservative Catholic scholar Michael Novak points out, the Vatican's pacifism gives Benedict unmatched moral standing to press this point. "Being against war, he can say tougher things ... than any President or Prime Minister can. His role is to represent Western civilization."

Perhaps so, but then he might have to represent its past as well, including all the historical violence done in Jesus' name (despite the Gospels' pacifism). Discussion of Christianity's dark hours has not been his penchant. Moreover, the position Benedict took in Regensburg--that Islam and violence are indeed essentially connected--worked as an opening gambit but doesn't leave much room for either side to maneuver. People asked to flatly renounce their Holy Writ generally don't. And Benedict has little give--because first, he seldom says anything he is not prepared to defend to the bitter end and second, if he retreats now, he risks being accused of the same moral relativism that he rails against.

Still, many Catholics are rooting for him to come up with a way to engage without enraging. The widely read Catholic blogger Amy Welborn says, "I think there's a pretty widespread fed-up-ness with Islamic sensitivity. I agree that elements of Islam that either explicitly espouse violence or are less than aggressive in combatting it need to be challenged and nudged, [just as] I would like to see the Pope continue to challenge and nudge people of all different religions--Christian and non-Christian--to look at the suffering of people." She thinks that, given the heat he's taking in parts of the Islamic world, his willingness to go through with his Turkish trip is "so brave."

But what should he do while he's there? John Esposito, a respected Islam scholar at Georgetown University, says the Pope can't confine himself to meetings with Christian leaders. "He must address the Muslim majority." Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor at George Washington University and one of the 38 signatories to the October letter to Benedict, says the Pope should deliver an "earnest expression of commonality"--even if it's only the widely accepted observation that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim descent from the biblical figure of Abraham. Father Richard McBrien, a theologian at Notre Dame, says that "if he doesn't bring up the issue of reciprocal respect for Christian minorities, he's not doing his job," but that he should avoid an absolutist, now-or-never stance.

High-ranking Vatican sources say Benedict will avoid repeating the Islam-and-violence trope in any form as blatant as Regensburg's. Instead, suggests Father Thomas Reese, a senior research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, an independent nonprofit institute at Georgetown, the Pope may take a less broad-brush approach to the issue by repeating his sentiment from Cologne: "He could say, 'You, like me, are concerned about terrorism' and he would like to see Islamic clerics be more up front condemning it." Once over the hump, happier topics should be easy to find. "Quite frankly," says Reese, "the Pope and the Muslims are on the same page on abortion. They [agree on] relativism and consumerism, hedonistic culture, sex and violence, Palestinian rights." Conceivably, like John Paul's first journey back to communist Poland, Benedict's simple presence in this Muslim land may speak louder than words.

Whether this is the way Benedict will choose to proceed remains to be seen. But whatever he does, bold or subtle, the explosiveness of the current relationship between Islam and the West will require him to become a diplomat as much as a scholar. As he strives to assume that role, holding out an olive branch to other religions while fiercely defending his own, the Pope may want to consider the story of a much earlier walker of the Catholic-Islamic tightrope. In the 13th century, during the middle of the Fifth Crusade, St. Francis of Assisi briefly departed Italy and journeyed to the Holy Land to evangelize to the Muslims. According to Christian traditions, he preached the gospel to the Sultan, only to be told that Muslims were as convinced of the truth of Islam as Francis was of Christianity. At that, Francis proposed that he and a Muslim walk through a fire to test whose faith was stronger. The Sultan said he didn't know whether he could locate a volunteer. Francis said he would walk through the fire by himself. Impressed with Francis' devotion, the Sultan, while maintaining his own faith, agreed to a truce between the two warring sides.

Francis' precise methods may be a bit outdated. But 800 years later, his mixture of flexibility and tenacity could be a useful paradigm for a frank and sincere dialogue in an ever turbulent religious world.

With reporting by Jeff Chu/ New York, Andrew Purvis/ Berlin, Pelin Turgut/ Ankara with other bureaus



VATICAN CITY, SEP 1, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI travelled by helicopter from his summer residence of Castelgandolfo to the Shrine of the Holy Face at Manoppello in the Italian region of Abruzzi.

  In the year 1506, exactly 500 years ago, an unknown pilgrim brought the Face to Manoppello and gave it to one of the town notables who kept it in his family home. Years later it passed to another family who, in 1638, donated it to the shrine of the Friars Minor Capuchins where it is displayed in an ostensory over the main altar. The Holy Face is a cloth veil protected between two sheets of glass. It measures 17 x 24 cm and bears the effigy of a long-haired man. His cheeks are dissimilar: one, rounder than the other, appears considerably swollen. His eyes look very intensely upward so the whites are visible under the iris. The pupils are completely open, but in an irregular way, and the gaze is at once questioning and loving.

  The Holy Father entered the shrine in the company of Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto. Following a moment of adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament and a prayer before the relic of the Holy Face, the Pope addressed some words to those present.

  "Those who meet Jesus," he said, "those who let themselves be attracted by Him and are ready to follow Him even unto the sacrifice of their lives, personally experience, as He did on the cross, how only the 'grain of wheat' that falls to earth and dies brings 'much fruit'."

  "This is the way of Christ, the way of total love that triumphs over death," said Pope Benedict, adding: "This is the experience enjoyed by those true friends of God, the saints, who have recognized and loved in their brethren, especially in the poorest and most needy, the face of God long contemplated with love and prayer. They are encouraging examples for us to follow."

  "In order to enter into communion with Christ and contemplate His face," the Pope went on, our lives must be "illuminated by the truth of love which overcomes indifference, doubt, lies and egoism."

  Turning to address priests, the Pope said that if the saintliness of Christ's face remains impressed within them "the faithful entrusted to your care will be affected and transformed." He asked seminarians not to allow themselves to be attracted "by anything other than Jesus and the desire to serve His Church." Finally, the Pope exhorted male and female religious to ensure that all their activities become "a reflection of divine goodness and mercy. ... Searching for the face of Christ must be the desire of all Christians."

  May the Virgin Mary, said Benedict XVI, "in whose face more than in any other creature the features of the incarnate Word are visible, watch over families and parishes, over cities and nations of the whole world. May the Mother of the Creator also help us to respect nature, that great gift of God. ... A gift which, nonetheless, is ever more exposed to risk of degradation, and must therefore be protected and secured."

  Following a brief visit to the religious community of the convent of Friars Minor Capuchins, the Holy Father returned to Castelgandolfo.


Benedict XVI to Meet His Former Students
Will Discuss Creation and Evolution

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 24, 2006 ( Benedict XVI will meet with his former students to discuss evolution and creation, reported Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.

Speaking from Rimini on Wednesday, the archbishop of Vienna confirmed that the meeting will take place Sept. 1-3 in Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope is spending the summer.

The cardinal was in Rimini attending the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, organized by the movement Communion and Liberation.

Cardinal Schönborn said that the meeting is an annual one that the Holy Father has had with his doctoral candidates for some 25 years.

"Professor Joseph Ratzinger had a great number of students who did their doctorates with him," the cardinal said, "and when he became archbishop of Munich in 1977, some, who had not finished their work, asked if they could continue meeting with him. Since then, the idea arose of an annual meeting with Ratzinger and his doctoral candidates."

"They invited me from the start to these meetings," said the cardinal, who worked with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, in writing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"The meetings, of two to three days duration, were held in Bavaria, or other places, and Cardinal Ratzinger shared with us the great thematic lines of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," he said.

New location

"A meeting was planned for last August, in Bavaria; everything was ready, but the election as Pontiff took place and the Holy Father said, during the first audience to one of us, that we would see one another in Castel Gandolfo," added Cardinal Schönborn.

Last year's meeting was on Islam. "In 25 years, a different topic has always been chosen. Professors are invited to speak on the argument and there is an academic discussion," the Austrian cardinal said.

Regarding this year's theme, evolution and creation, Cardinal Schönborn said that "the debate of these months has undoubtedly motivated the Holy Father's election, but if a list of his books on this topic is made, one sees that he has been talking about it for a long time."

"He was one of the German theologians who, as early as the 60s, underlined intensely the need to return to the topic of creation, when theologians were not speaking about it," the cardinal said.

As Pope, Benedict XVI has spoken on several occasions on this topic.

In the homily of the Mass to inaugurate his Pontificate, on April 24, 2005, he said: "We are not the accidental product, without meaning, of evolution. Each one of us is the fruit of a thought of God. Each one of us is loved, each one is loved, each one is necessary."

Also participating in the closed-door meeting will be Peter Schuster, molecular biologist and president of Austria's Academy of Sciences, Jesuit Paul Elbrich, professor of philosophy of Munich; and professor Robert Spaemann, former professor of philosophy at Munster, Stuttgart and Heidelberg, and author of numerous writings on ethics and political philosophy.


Pope Tours Nemi Shrine With Brother
Ratzingers Pay Surprise Visit

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 24, 2006 ( Benedict XVI made an unexpected trip with his brother to the town of Nemi to visit a shrine dedicated to the crucifix.

The Pope and his brother also visited with the Mercedarian friars who reside at the shrine.

The Pope's brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, 82, is spending a few days with the Pope at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

"It was a private visit to the shrine and the convent," explained Father Giacinto Masala, director of the shrine.

Benedict XVI and his brother left Castel Gandolfo around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Upon his arrival in Nemi, he spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and a crucifix created by Friar Vincenzo da Bassiano in the 17th century.

The Bishop of Rome then presided over vespers of the Virgin Mary.

Upon leaving, he paused to greet people who gathered upon hearing the news of the Pope's visit. He returned to Castel Gandolfo at 7 p.m.

In statements to Vatican Radio on Thursday, Father Masala said the visit was a surprise, as he was only told a few hours earlier.

Papal impressions

In his comments to the religious, the Holy Father said that what most impressed him about the shrine was the crucifix.

"On entering the church, the Pope paid much attention to his brother," "as he had some difficulty walking. I must say that the Pope paid more attention to his brother than to all the rest. This attitude of the Pope is very beautiful."

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger was music director of Regensburg Cathedral before retiring in 1994.

Benedict XVI plans to visit his brother at his home in Regensburg during his trip to Bavaria this September.


Professor Ratzinger goes back to school.
 After Islam last year, Darwin topic this year

Evolution will be the focus of the upcoming seminar between the pope and his former students in Castel Gandolfo. Meanwhile, Jesuit scholar Christian W. Troll has updated his analysis of progressive Muslim thinkers

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, August 2, 2006 – This year’s Ratzinger-Schülerkreis seminar will focus on "Schöpfung und Evolution", creation and evolution. The private meeting is set for Saturday, September 2, and Sunday, September 3, at the Pontifical Villa in the pope's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo (see photo).

The Ratzinger-Schülerkreis, that is the ‘Ratzinger Students’ Circle’, brings together once a year the old theology professor, now pope Benedict XVI, and his former students to discuss a new topic every year.

The first such meeting was held when Joseph Ratzinger was still a professor in Regensburg. Once he became archbishop of Munich, his students asked him to continue and he accepted. When he moved to Rome to take up the post of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the annual event continued. Typically, meetings were held at a monastery over a weekend. When the 2004 meeting ended, participants left already knowing the following year’s subject: the concept of God in Islam.

When in the spring of 2005, cardinal Ratzinger became pope, his former students thought that their annual tradition would stop, but were proved wrong. Thanks to Benedict XVI, the annual meeting was held last year and so it will this year.

Next September 2, professor Peter Schuster, president of the Österreichichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Austrian academy of sciences, and cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and theologian, will open the discussion on creation and evolution. Among the participants, there will also be Jesuit Paul Erbrich, professor of the philosophy of nature in Munich, and Robert Spaemann, professor of political philosophy and one of Germany’s foremost experts on modernity.

On July 7, 2005, “The New York Times” ran an article by cardinal Schönborn on the same topic which was read around the world.

But the subject is not foreign to Benedict XVI either. As pontiff he touched upon it last April 6 when he addressed young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for World Youth Day. “Science,” he said in answering a question, “presupposes the trustworthy, intelligent structure of matter, the ‘design’ of creation.”

In preparation of the coming seminar, the members of the Ratzinger-Schülerkreis can also find insight in an article that appears in the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” a Jesuit journal published in Rome under the control and with the authorization of the Vatican secretariat of state.

In his article “L’evoluzione dei viventi: il fatto e i meccanismi [The Evolution of Living Things: Facts and Mechanisms],” Jesuit Giuseppe De Rosa looks at the debate among scientists over Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. In his conclusion, he writes that “while most scientists accept natural selection and random genetic mutation as valid processes, others who also accept evolution deny that the mechanisms identified so far are sufficient to explain it.”

* * *

But “La Civiltà Cattolica” has crossed paths with the Ratzinger-Schülerkreis in another way as well, in an article on Islam it published in its penultimate issue that deals with a topic the pope and his former students had discussed in their September 2005 meeting.

German Jesuit Christian W. Troll, professor of islamic studies at the Sankt Georgen faculty of theology in Frankfurt, wrote the article. He also opened the discussions in last year’s Ratzinger-Schülerkreis seminar.

The 2005 seminar caused a considerable stir, especially in the United States after an account by one of the participants, US Jesuit Joseph Fessio, gave the impression that for Benedict XVI Islam and democracy were incompatible.

Things were not as reported however. Both Father Fessio and professor Troll, as well as Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian-born Jesuit expert on Islam who attended the seminar, and Ratzinger-Schülerkreis coordinator, professor Stephan Horn, made it clear that while the pope thought that a positive encounter between Islam and modernity was difficult, he also believed that it was not altogether impossible.

In his “La Civiltà Cattolica” article, professor Troll takes up exactly this point. In it he looks at what is happening in Islam and illustrates how some Muslims are trying to reconcile modernity and the Qur'an.

The article in Italian, entitled “Il pensiero progressista nell’islam contemporaneo. Un profilo critico [Progressive Thinking in Contemporary Islam: A Critical Profile],” appeared in the July 15, 2006, issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” pp. 123-135.
                                                       (this continues in the link on Moderate Islam)


Benedict XVI Goes on Holiday Outing
Surprises Tourists at Saint Bernard Monastery

INTROD, Italy, JULY 19, 2006 ( In the context of the holiday he is spending in the Alps, Benedict XVI visited the famous Swiss Monastery of Mount Great Saint Bernard.

This was the Holy Father's second excursion since he began his annual vacation which he is spending until July 28 in Les Combes, in Introd, in the Aosta Valley.

In the afternoon, the Pope left the Salesians' chalet where he is residing, after working in the morning. He crossed the Swiss border by car.

As the Pope revealed to journalists on his return, he prayed vespers with the canons and a group of faithful.

After a few pictures were taken, special envoy reporter Salvatore Mazza reported that the Pontiff went out to the monastery's square to the surprise of the 200 tourists who were there and unaware of his visit.

The Holy Father greeted them, shaking hands, and exchanged a few words with them.

Then Benedict XVI went on foot to see the Saint Bernard dogs, which give the name to that breed, famous worldwide for rescuing mountaineers trapped in the snow.

Before arriving at the monastery, the Pope had also visited the convent of Benedictine Sisters of Chateau Verdan.

The Holy Father spoke with the 30 nuns and, among other things, reminded them about his choice of name as Pope, inspired in the figures of Saint Benedict of Nursia and Pope Benedict XV.


Benedict writes book on Jesus

Pope Benedict is spending his summer vacation in the Italian Alps drafting a book on Jesus that is likely to become the second major theological work of his pontificate.

Reuters reports that the book, expected to be completed by the end of winter, focuses on Jesus, the human race and Christianity's relationship with other faiths.

The work, which Benedict XVI started before becoming Pope in April 2005, comes at a time when he seeks to restore a strong sense of faith among Catholics in the face of growing secularism and competition from other religions, including Islam.

Benedict, a leading Catholic theologian and prolific author, aimed to include reflections from his experience as Pope in the book written in the form of a "theological narrative," the Rome-based la Repubblica newspaper said.

La Repubblica noted that his focus on Jesus might revive the controversy surrounding "Dominus Iesus," a document he issued in 2000 when he was the Vatican's top doctrinal authority.

It said the Catholic Church was the only real church, an assertion many Protestant leaders took as insulting, and that Jesus was the only path to salvation.

The book will follow Benedict's first encyclical Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love") that was issued in February.


Vacationing Pope Enjoying Piano
Local Clergy Say He Is "Relaxed and Happy"

INTROD, Italy, JULY 17, 2006 ( During his vacation in the Italian Alps, Benedict XVI is enjoying his favorite pastime at least twice a day: his neighbors in the Aosta Valley can hear his music at the piano.

According to the Italian newspaper Avvenire's reporter, Salvatore Mazza, the Pope sits at the piano at least twice a day -- in the morning and the afternoon -- and plays his favorite classical pieces.

The local parish priest said "the Pope seems to really appreciate these days of rest; he is very relaxed and happy"; "when greeting him, on his arrival, I said to him: 'I continue to be the parish priest of Introd.' And he answered me: 'Good, the Church needs continuity,'" Father Paolo Curtaz recounted on Saturday to Avvenire.

On Sunday, pictures from the Vatican Television Center allowed one to see the Pope's activities over these days: time spent in his study in the Salesian residence, walks in the garden, moments of prayer before an image of Our Lady, and time spent at the piano playing favorite pieces.

Writing a book

Insofar as Benedict XVI's work is concerned, Mazza wrote in the Sunday edition of Avvenire that "it seems, among other things, that he has gone back to the book he was writing before being elected John Paul II's successor," "a theology text."

In statements on Vatican Radio today, Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi said "The Pope is relaxed. He certainly enjoys the freedom of not being subjected to work. He also shows that he finds time to walk, to pray …"

"Conversation with him is extremely simple, as is proper to his character. Moreover, when he speaks, he is attentive to all. We have seen that the people who come to Les Combes [where the Pope is residing] are persons who love him very much, young people who call him … There are many families (…), also many sick have come."

Bishop Anfossi told Vatican Radio that "as soon as he got into the car for the trip from the airport to the house, the first thing the Pope asked me was news on my mother's health. Frankly, I was not expecting so much delicacy."


Regensburg Makes Benedict XVI One of Its Own

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2006 ( A delegation from Regensburg, Germany, visited Benedict XVI and delivered to him the title of honorary citizen.

The Pope assured the group today as he bid them farewell, "We will see one another again in Regensburg." The Holy Father plans to visit the Bavarian city in September.

The delegation from Regensburg was headed by Mayor Hans Schaidinger and diocesan Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller. The meeting was held after the general audience, in a room in Paul VI Hall.

At the meeting the Pope expressed thanks to the city, in whose university he was a professor of dogmatic theology and the history of dogma, beginning in 1969. Eventually, he became vice president of the university.

"Regensburg is one of the oldest cities of Germany, but it is also a young city, full of vitality," Vatican Radio quoted the Holy Father as saying. He presented the city as "an example of resistance in the dark periods of history."

In his address, the Pontiff mentioned the Choir of the Little Singers of Regensburg, which was directed for years by his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger.


Altoetting Makes Benedict XVI One of Its Own
Bavarian Town Awards an Honorary Citizenship

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2006 ( Benedict XVI received the title of honorary citizen of Altoetting, Germany, a town known as the Marian heart of his native Bavaria.

The shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, visited every years by a million pilgrims, is located in a town close to Marktl am Inn, the village where Joseph Ratzinger was born.

Meeting today with a German delegation in a brief ceremony in Paul VI Hall, the Pope recalled an episode of his youth, which occurred when he and his brother returned "safe and sound" from World War II.

Benedict XVI said that his father "went on foot on the long way that separates Traunstein from Altoetting, to thank the Mother of God" for the safe return of his two sons.

The Holy Father added that Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to the shrine, when Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich, was also unforgettable, as the Polish Pontiff perceived in the shrine "the Catholic heart of Bavaria."

"A few years ago, I was able to accompany a pilgrimage on foot from Regensburg and on that occasion I understood profoundly what a pilgrimage of this type means," said Benedict XVI.

Interior journey

"It's not only 'walking with the feet,' but 'walking with the heart'; it is not an exterior but an interior journey," he pointed out. "In the midst of the efforts and exhaustion of this journey, at the end one really has the great joy of reaching the Mother of Graces, of meeting with her in the silence of the shrine."

"Altoetting guards this patrimony of centuries, which in this way remains always alive," Benedict XVI said, adding that it is "an old and new place of meeting with the Mother of the Lord and, therefore, of renewal of our lives."

"With this title of honorary citizen, I now form part of Altoetting in an altogether particular way," the Pope said. "The grand Bavarian dukes willed that, after their deaths, their hearts be kept in that shrine. I know that, in this way, my heart is now taken even more definitively by the Mother of God and that she will look after me from on high and will guide me in my pilgrimage."


Benedict XVI's Greatest Strength
Interview With Bishop of San Marino

ROME, MAY 7, 2006 ( Benedict XVI's greatest strength is his kindness, says the bishop of San Marino-Montefeltro.

In this interview with ZENIT, the Bishop Luigi Negri, 64, assessed the first year of the Holy Father's pontificate.

Q: What are the essential lines of this pontificate?

Bishop Negri: Above all his kindness. We are learning to love the Christian mystery; to love it as a substantial experience of life. I would say his strength lies in his kindness, and this strength he has used to propose the Christian event again as decisive.

Moreover, and this has surprised me very much, his teachings are totally inscribed in those of Pope John Paul II's magisterium.

It is, on one hand, as if Benedict XVI is helping the Church to love the mystery of Christ and, on the other, to understand more profoundly the contents of this mystery that Pope John Paul II had already given.

Q: Do you think that this is also the secret of the attraction he exercises on young people?

Bishop Negri: The secret of young people's attraction to him has something to do also with what is in young people -- incredible, if one thinks of all that is generally written about young people in the sociological area. There is something in young people that has made this encounter possible and has given it a special vibration.

Deep down, Benedict XVI is a great educator, and a youth, at a certain point in his life, needs a teacher who will teach him how to live and how to apply that knowledge in concrete circumstances.

Q: One of the first statements Benedict XVI made was the invitation to overcome relativism, as the fundamental enemy of life and faith.

Bishop Negri: The Pope speaks to us of a double level which he has pointed out with extreme clarity: relativism as _expression of weakness and, therefore, of the crisis of reason.

And now we are before one of the great themes of "Fides et Ratio": the crisis of reason that followed the modern hypertrophy of reason, which prefers the equating of uncertainties to certainties. To rescue tolerance, a strange, individualist coexistence is imposed by people who do not want interferences in their own private lives.

However, the Pope has also clarified that relativism conceals a desire for totalitarianism. For this pseudo-relativism, in which all positions are equal, there are some positions that are more worthy than others, and they are the positions that hold power, above all the power of the media.

So that in the end, one must ask: Who decides what is really relative and what, instead, less relative? Who guards this relativist system? The media, which essentially always serves the strongest voice, in some manner wishes to impose itself.

Q: From this point of view, the Holy Father has also indicated a program against relativism, when he has spoken about "non-negotiable values."

Bishop Negri: Undoubtedly. When a person affirms religious freedom as capacity of presence in social life he is opening the doors to the mission, as Pope John Paul II would say. This is the lived social doctrine, which is the safeguard of all the capacities of action in society.

Q: Benedict XVI has often said that at present an alliance is necessary between faith and reason. In your opinion, what is at present the response of the "men of reason"?

Bishop Negri: The response of some "men of reason" to this proposal of Benedict XVI, can be summarized, in the end, in this _expression: It is better to believe than not to believe; it is better to live believing than not believing, as Pope Paul VI said.

The theory that God does exist is more positive than the fact that God does not exist. It is about the future of civilization, as the president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, says.


Germany Sees Benedict XVI Differently Now
Says Berlin-based Journalist Vicente Poveda

ROME, MAY 4, 2006 ( "Oh, mein Gott!" was the front-page headline of the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung the day after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pope.

A year after that negatively charged exclamation, the headlines in the Holy Father's native country are highlighting the "beneficial" effect of the election of a German Pontiff.

There seems to be a rebirth of the faith in Germany, some observers say. The number of students of theology and of adult baptisms is increasing, as is that of Catholics returning to the Church.

Meanwhile, the number of those leaving the Church is decreasing, reveals a study carried out by Vicente Poveda Soler, correspondent of the main German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

Poveda explained during the fifth Professional Seminar of the Church's Communication Offices, held at the University of the Holy Cross in Rome from April 27-29, that "the main criticisms of Ratzinger were always in Germany."

But since his election to the papacy, "a new approach has been generated toward the figure of the Pontiff," said Poveda.


Benedict XVI's papacy "has been amply analyzed by the press as an important step in the total rehabilitation of the country 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Hitler's suicide and the end of World War II," said the journalist.

He gave numerous examples to illustrate this change. The German Language Society voted the phrase "Somos Papa" as the second most important expression of the year 2005, only surpassed by "Bundeskanzlerin," the feminine for "federal chancellor," after Angela Merkel's election.

The DPA's Spanish correspondent in Berlin pointed out that "the most important politicians of the country, from Merkel to President Horst K?hler and the former Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, spoke of their 'pride' over Ratzinger's election, despite the fact all of them are Protestants."

Moreover, Poveda observed that "the country's most popular television presenters, such as Harald Schmidt and Stefan Raab, acknowledge they read the Pope's works, whose sales took off after his election."

Poveda, who has a degree in institutional communication from the German Academy of Public Relations in Frankfurt, said that before there was a "negative environment against the official Church -- 'Amtskirche' -- that is, 'Rome,'" and it is due to a "strong media presence of Catholic critics: the Wir Sind Kirche group, Hans Kung and Eugen Drewermann."

The most significant change is that the Pope has passed from being regarded as "guardian of the faith" to "pastor."

The core

For example, the Suddeutsche Zeitung said on April 22 that "Benedict advocates concentration and contemplation, whereas his predecessor" sought "amplitude." Benedict XVI seeks "profundity" and the "core," the newspaper added.

Added Poveda: "And for Joseph Ratzinger that core is not the Church or the ecclesiastical hierarchy but the faith."

Poveda highlighted "the beauty of the faith" and the "real humility and goodness" of the Pope, underscored by the German newspapers a year after the papal election.

In Germany this climate of restoration of confidence in the Church and its Holy Father has been translated in an increase of interest in religious topics and a marked decline in the number of those leaving the Church.

In 2004 there were 101,252 defections recorded; last year that number dropped by a third, Poveda said.

Other indicators, he said, are the boom in sales of the Pope's books and the fact that the name Benedict is now more fashionable for newborns. The name moved from 50th to 37th place in terms of popularity.


Benedict XVI's Analytical-Rational Style
Interview With La Stampa's Marco Tosatti

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2006 ( How does a leading Vatican-watcher see Benedict XVI's first year in the papacy?

For a perspective on the pontificate, which marked its first anniversary last Wednesday, ZENIT interviewed journalist Marco Tosatti of the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Tosatti is the author of the book "Il dizionario di Papa Ratzinger, una guida al pontificato" (The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger: A Guide to the Pontificate), published by Baldini & Castoldi.

Q: How do you evaluate the first year of Benedict XVI's pontificate?

Tosatti: I think that Benedict XVI has dedicated these first 12 months above all to study. A widely shared opinion now is that, though he has spent many years in Rome, some mechanisms and functioning of the Curia were not familiar to him. This explains why, as opposed to many predictions, his Curia is to a very great extent that of John Paul II.

Q: The struggle against secularization, renewal of the faith, the defense of life and the family, the spread of knowledge of Christ -- the subjects seem the same, but Benedict XVI's style is very different from John Paul II's, don't you think?

Tosatti: The subjects are absolutely the same as those of his predecessor. And it would be very odd if it wasn't so.

Joseph Ratzinger was John Paul II's theological pillar for almost 25 years, and in the last years, according to what I have learned, there was no important topic, including many appointments, on which he was not consulted.

The style is profoundly different, and it couldn't be otherwise. John Paul II's poetic-intuitive tendency is not the analytical-rational one of Benedict XVI. Two different paths to arrive at the same objective.

Q: In an original and unexpected way, Benedict XVI published his first encyclical on the subject of the love of God. What do you think of it?

Tosatti: I think it is, in part, one of John Paul II's numerous "legacies,” specifically, the second part.

But I think that the first part, in which the authentic Ratzinger is seen more easily, is very beautiful and opens -- along with the words he pronounced a few days before making it public -- a wide picture on little-known aspects of Benedict XVI's personality and sensitivity, something very remote from the stereotype that the media have built of him in all these years.

Q: There has been talk for some time of the reform of the Vatican Curia. It seems that Benedict XVI is about to carry out a substantial restructuring. In what way and with what criteria will he implement it?

Tosatti: I would also like to know! The only thing we can try to guess at present is that Pope Ratzinger seems more partisan to making changes little by little, perhaps spreading out decisions and substitutions over time, rather than in "packages” of great dimension.

At least, up to now, he has done so; and also from what we know about the way he administered the Diocese of Munich, which seems to respond to this criterion.

But he is certainly a person who assesses, reflects and ponders much, specifically, in the choice of men, which perhaps is his greatest concern. Likewise in regard to episcopal appointments, he studies personally each "capacity," and the requests are a little numerous. I think he wants to be sure to entrust dioceses to strong and holy persons.


Msgr. Ratzinger says papacy has not changed brothers' relationship
By Carol Glatz      Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Msgr. Georg Ratzinger said having Pope Benedict XVI as a brother has not unraveled their strong fraternal ties or dimmed the deep affection the two feel for each other.

Soon after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope April 19, 2005, Msgr. Ratzinger immediately told his younger brother that he was afraid his new mission as leader of the universal church would keep them apart and cool their friendship.

Instead, the changes to the brothers' relationship have not been so drastic, the 82-year-old musician and retired director of the famed Regensburg boys choir told the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, April 16.

"We still call each other up regularly and frequently, and we see each other every time it's possible," said the monsignor, who lives in the southern German city of Regensburg.

Though getting together is not as easy as it was before his brother became pope, Msgr. Ratzinger said the things they chat about and the affection they share have not changed.

The two Bavarian brothers were born three years apart and shared many similar experiences. Early in life, each felt a calling to serve the church as a priest, and they spent the first part of their seminary studies together in the city of Freising.

As young boys, they both were forced into military service under the Nazi regime, and both ended up in prisoner-of-war camps.

"When we were made prisoners by the Allies, our capture and imprisonment were like a liberation for us" because it brought the "un-Christian" military service to an end, Msgr. Ratzinger said.

Though Joseph Ratzinger spent six weeks in an Allied POW camp in Germany and Georg Ratzinger four months in a POW camp in Italy, both in 1945, each befriended other imprisoned Catholics, and get-togethers with theology students turned into "passionate discussions about faith," Msgr. Ratzinger told La Repubblica.

The two brothers also share an intense love of culture and music.

"From the time we were young, music and playing music together was a dimension of the divine message for us," Msgr. Ratzinger said.

But, like most siblings, the two brothers have disagreed, even over religious matters, he said.

"It's happened that, in the beginning, I would not understand some of his bold" decisions right away, he said. But, after some thought, he said he always realized his younger brother had been right.

His brother is able to "look at faith and the world from a different perspective" while the monsignor said his own views were perhaps more affected by everyday opinions.

Msgr. Ratzinger said the qualities he most admires in his brother are his unpretentious nature, his humble spirit, and the seriousness with which he tackles every task.


Assessing Benedict XVI's First Year
Interview With Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2006 ( This Wednesday will mark the first anniversary of the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

In this interview with ZENIT, Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican-watcher for the newspaper Il Giornale, and author of "Benedict XVI, Custodian of the Faith," assesses the first year of this pontificate.

Q: What are the main differences between the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI?

Tornielli: There are objective differences, due to age and formation. Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope at 78, and Karol Wojtyla at 58. Ratzinger is a theologian who had lived in the Curia for 23 years, and Wojtyla a philosopher who came from a diocese.

The difference that most impresses me is Benedict XVI's attempt to make the light of Christ shine; not the Pope's light, as he said the day after his election, in his message delivered before imparting the blessing "urbi et orbi" [to the city of Rome and the world], read in the Sistine Chapel.

This means reducing the Pope's public appearances, for example, no longer presiding at beatifications and, above all, introducing a practice such as Eucharistic adoration at the end of important celebrations, as occurred, for example, on World Youth Day.

Benedict XVI has also changed the manner of governing the Curia: He personally studies all the dossiers of the episcopal appointments. He has reintroduced the meetings with heads of dicasteries to discuss topics that especially concern him.

Sometimes he deals directly with congregations, which have recovered their roles, without going through the Secretariat of State.

Wojtyla spoke more with gestures, Ratzinger with words. Wojtyla was more communicative, Ratzinger more restrained. Wojtyla was more projected in a global dimension. Ratzinger seems to look more toward Europe and the risk that it might lose its identity.

However, from the doctrinal point of view, there is absolute continuity.

Q: What will be the essential lines of Benedict XVI's pontificate?

Tornielli: I believe they are the proclamation of the Christian faith as an event of salvation and not as a series of dogmas, moral norms, prohibitions and rites. We saw it in Cologne last year. The outstanding item is joy, of which the new Pope speaks continually.

Christianity is an encounter with beauty, it is the possibility of a more authentic, more beautiful, more exciting life. A Christian doesn't reject anything of what is really human; he does not have to give something up, but finds a fuller life.

Q: In this connection, how do you assess the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est"?

Tornielli: It has been an exceptional beginning. Many of those who wished to "recruit" Benedict XVI, to make him a symbol of political projects oriented to reaffirming Europe's identity, erecting walls against Islam, were expecting a programmatic encyclical against relativism or in favor of Christian identity.

On the contrary, the Pope surprised everyone by speaking of the love of God. Love and mercy are the other side of the word joy.

Q: How will the governance of the Curia change?

Tornielli: He has said it and written about it on several occasions: The Roman Curia has become too large and is too bureaucratized. There are bodies that have to publish documents to justify their existence and, in this way, the mountain of paper grows. "The Word was made paper," says a joke that may be applied to the Church of our day.

Benedict XVI, who in a television interview announced that he doesn't want to write many documents, believing that his task is to assimilate his predecessor's magisterium, did not publish this year the "Letter to Priests on the Occasion of Holy Thursday" and yet, he has begun to restructure the Curia, uniting two pontifical councils.

I imagine that he will continue to streamline to free energies that are not used well, and above all to make a "lighter" and more functional Roman Curia.


Benedict XVI Gets Birthday Greetings

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2006 ( Among the thousands of messages Benedict XVI received on his 79th birthday, one stood out.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's older brother, who for 40 years was director of the choir of Regensburg Cathedral, sent a message from Bavaria to express what he has always said on this occasion: "Oremus por invicem" (Let us pray for one another).

The Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire published a written message Monsignor Ratzinger sent to his brother.
"Dear Joseph, may your onerous theological work of so many years be of guidance and help to carry out the grandiose task that God has entrusted to you," said Monsignor Ratzinger.

"May the Lord give you spiritual and intellectual inspiration, as well as physical strength, to be able to make just decisions and find appropriate words, and maintain the courage and firmness in the face of the waves, which according to the secret divine will, surround the Church and, with her, you also," he added.

"May God give us, in these last years of life toward which we are heading, a minimum of fraternal communion with the joy and warmth of before," he said.

The message is signed: "Your brother Georg."


Papal Influence in Europe Intensifies    (Wednesday, April 12, 2006)

At a time when the European Union appears to be falling apart at its seams, European citizens and politicians are gradually turning to the leadership of one man for solutions.

Looking northward from his balcony at the Vatican must spur some disheartening, even frustrating, thoughts in the mind of Pope Benedict xvi. A bevy of problems are erupting across virtually the entire continent of Europe. Millions of rioters fill the streets in France. Germany is trying to prevent the same. Islam‘s imprint is intensifying in more than a few European nations. National economies are ailing. Added to all this, the pope is acutely aware that for years Europe has been deteriorating spiritually. Large factions of European society are no longer governed by a lucid moral compass.

It’s abundantly clear: economically, politically, socially, morally, religiously — Europe lacks leadership.

As he surveys Europe’s ailing landscape today, the pope surely ponders the greatness of the Continent’s history, when it was heavily influenced and even dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. As the pontiff contrasts today’s Europe with the Europe of yesteryear, a solution to the Continent’’s ailing condition must ring clear in his mind: Europe needs a dominant Vatican.

The restoration of Europe to its Catholic roots lies at the top of the pope’s to-do list. No issue is more important. Read his books; read the lines and between the lines of his speeches; watch where he travels, look who he talks to — Pope Benedict xvi is on a quest to restore Europe to its Christian roots.

This isn’t something he is trying to play down or hide: Pope Benedict xvi has clearly and publicly delineated that he wants the restoration of Europe to its Christian roots to be the defining theme of his papacy.

With this in mind, let’s assess two of the pope’s recent movements.

On March 30, the pope addressed some of Europe’s most prominent right-wing leaders at a conference in Rome that was sponsored by the EU’s largest and most influential conservative group, the European People’s Party. Comprised of 38 political parties from all over Europe, including several Christian Democrat parties, Benedict’s speech before the epp was more than a message to a group of Christian supporters; it was message to the entire leadership of the European Union.

And the media were there to make sure it was reported. The Financial Times reported that the pope had joined forces with leading European Union conservatives “to call for a restoration of Christian values at the heart of the EU” (March 30). The conference clearly furthered the courtship presently occurring between Europe’s conservative parties and the Vatican.

“It was a day on which European conservatism over future EU enlargement mixed with the Christian Democratic movement’’s religious roots, symbolized by Pope Benedict xvi granting an audience to its members” (ibid.; emphasis added throughout). With such European heavyweights as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in attendance, the summit in Rome was not only a “reminder that the center-right dominates EU agenda,” but that it also has the support of the Vatican.

The pope reminded eep attendees that Europe’s Catholic leaders have the right to become involved in public policy debates “in order to educate people’s consciences and uphold justice” (Catholic News Service, March 30). According to Pope Benedict, Europe’s Catholic leaders should have a voice in European politics, and those voices must be amplified.

Added to this, the pope told the conservative politicians, “Your support for Christian heritage …… can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates [religion] to the private and subjective sphere ……” (Reuters, March 30). Put simply, Pope Benedict wants Europe’’s leaders to play a greater role in purging European society of moral relativism. Christian values should once again become the moral standard underpinning European society.

Benedict left no ambiguity as to which Christian values he was specifically referring to. “Pope Benedict said certain principles ‘are not negotiable’; they include the protection of human life from conception until natural death, the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and the right of parents to determine how their children will be educated” (Catholic News Service, op. cit.).

Both abortion and homosexuality are widely accepted in Europe. The fact that what the pope advocates grinds against the grain of what many Europeans believe didn’t phase him. In the eyes of the Vatican, such issues are “not negotiable.”

Pope Benedict is reviving the Euro-Vatican relationship in two ways. Firstly, as we observed through his efforts with the European People’s Party, he is positioning the Vatican to regain influence over the machinations of European politics. Secondly, he is revamping the Vatican’s image in the eyes of Europeans at the grass-roots level. This trend is especially evident in Benedict’s home country - Germany.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle recently wrote an article about this trend. “The election of a German pope has revived the once flagging fortunes of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, bringing people back to the fold and inspiring the affection of younger worshipers ……” (April 2). Catholicism is once again being embraced in Germany.

Even beyond Catholic circles, the pope has been good for religion in Germany. “While 59 percent of Catholics believe his election has boosted the Catholic Church in Germany, 54 percent of agnostics and 52 percent of Protestants share the same view ……” (ibid.). Catholic or not, many German people are proud of the German presence in the Vatican. Young or old, millions of Germans are embracing Pope Benedict xvi and the Vatican.

With Europe spinning further out of control and Islamic influence reaching new heights, millions of Europeans are increasingly searching for stability and a sense of constancy. European nations have risen and fallen, but the Vatican has always been the one constant of Europe.

Over the next few months and years, watch for Europe’s populations and leaders alike to embrace the leadership, influence and constancy of the Vatican. Pope Benedict xvi will stabilize Europe.
When he visited Cologne last year for the World Youth Day festival, 1 million young people from across Europe took part in the closing mass. On the same trip, when the pontiff traveled down the Rhine, thousands of young people waded into the chilly waters to catch a glimpse of their new hero. The pope is scheduled to visit Bavaria again in August of this year; organizers of the trip are confident of a similar reception.

Europeans, especially Germans, are increasingly looking to Pope Benedict xvi and the Vatican for leadership and guidance. This trend will intensify in Europe.

It’s not a challenge to see that Europe is buckling under severe internal and external pressures. Oil-rich Iran and the Islamic Middle East are behaving arrogantly to the south. To its east, energy-rich Russia is cozying up with China and Japan. Internally, the Continent is politically divided, socially and economically unstable and suffering a severe identity crisis.

There is a massive and highly dangerous void in European leadership. No one is taking a definitive stand against Islam and the anti-religious sentiment pervading European society. No one is providing long-term solutions to the volatile problems besetting the Continent. No one is standing up to protect European identity. No one is leading Europe!

Not yet, anyway.

For years, the Trumpet has discussed how the Vatican, in cahoots with Germany, will stand up and take charge of a united federal European superpower. Europe will, thanks to the leadership of the Vatican and Germany, overcome its many problems and ailments. It will unite!

Pope Benedict xvi is acutely aware of the state of Europe today, and he is already working to restore the Continent from its ailing condition. The pontiff has wasted little time in reaffirming the Vatican’s influence in European politics and society. The Trumpet will continue to track Germany and the Vatican’s mounting influence over Europe.


Communiqué on Title "Patriarch of West"
Issued by Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2006 ( Here is a translation of a communiquéé issued today by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to explain Benedict XVI's decision to omit the papal title "Patriarch of the West" in the 2006 Pontifical Yearbook.

* * *

Absent from the list of the Pope's titles in the 2006 Pontifical Yearbook is the title "Patriarch of the West." This absence has been commented on in different ways and calls for clarification.

Without attempting to consider the complex historical question of the title of patriarch in all its aspects, from the historical perspective it can be affirmed that the ancient patriarchs of the East, defined by the Councils of Constantinople (381) and of Chalcedon (451), covered a fairly demarcated territory. At the same time, the territory of the see of the Bishop of Rome remained somewhat vague.

In the East, under the ecclesiastical imperial system of Justinian (527-565), alongside the four Eastern patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), the Pope was included as the Patriarch of the West. Rome, on the other hand, favored the idea of the three Petrine episcopal sees: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Without using the title "Patriarch of the West," the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870), the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Florence (1439) listed the Pope as the first of the then five Patriarchs.

The title "Patriarch of the West" was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore. Thereafter it appeared only occasionally and did not have a clear meaning. It flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, in the context of a general increase in the Pope's titles, and appeared for the first time in the "Annuario Pontificio" in 1863.

The term "West" currently refers to a cultural context not limited only to Western Europe but including North America, Australia and New Zealand, thus differentiating itself from other cultural contexts. Obviously, this meaning of the term "West" does not try to describe an ecclesiastical territory, and cannot be used as the definition of a patriarchal territory.

If we wish to give the term "West" a meaning applicable to ecclesiastical juridical language, it could be understood only in reference to the Latin Church. In this way, the title "Patriarch of the West" would describe the Bishop of Rome's special relationship with the Latin Church, and his special jurisdiction over her.

Therefore, the title "Patriarch of the West," never very clear, over history has become obsolete and practically unusable. It seems pointless, then, to insist on maintaining it. Even more so now that the Catholic Church, with the Second Vatican Council, has found, in the form of episcopal conferences and their international meetings, the canonical structure best suited to the needs of the Latin Church today.

Abandoning the title of "Patriarch of the West" clearly does not alter in any way the recognition of the ancient patriarchal Churches, so solemnly declared by the Second Vatican Council ("Lumen Gentium," No. 23). The renouncement of this title aims to express a historical and theological reality, and at the same time could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue.


U.S. Ambassador's View of Benedict XVI

Interview With Francis Rooney

ROME, MARCH 22, 2006 ( Benedict XVI has so far shown a "great and open pastoral ability" in addition to theological rigor, says the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

In this interview with ZENIT, Ambassador Francis Rooney talked about the first year of this pontificate, the forthcoming consistory this Friday, and interreligious dialogue with Islam, among other issues.

Q: The consistory will produce two new U.S. cardinals. What does that tell you?

Rooney: This is an important moment in the papacy of Benedict XVI, and also for America.

We are pleased to see Archbishops William Levada and Sean O'Malley elevated to the College of Cardinals; though we were not completely surprised given their positions within the Church's hierarchy.

They are men of fine reputation, who have worked long and hard on behalf of the Church, often in difficult circumstances and on very complicated issues. We read their appointment as a vote of confidence by the Holy Father in the Catholic Church in America.

Q: The consistory comes near the end of the first year of this pontificate. What has struck you the most about Benedict XVI?

Rooney: Pope Benedict XVI has surprised much of the world, turning out to be quite a different person than media headlines portrayed him to be nearly a year ago.

Media had focused on his reputation as an enforcer of doctrine; but in addition to his theological rigor, he has displayed a great and open pastoral ability and has shown himself to be a gifted teacher, consistently clear and bold in his communications.

On the occasions that I have met with the Holy Father, he was generous and appreciative of the U.S.-Holy See relationship. The world has warmed to him, and has been struck by the power of his mind and the gentle clarity of his faith.

Q: What do you see as the main priorities of this pontificate so far?

Rooney: The Holy Father has been consistent and vocal in his calls to put an end to terrorism and killing in the name of God. The United States supports him in this effort.

The terrorists who are setting off bombs in mosques and markets in Iraq share the same hateful ideology as the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, and those who murdered tourists in Bali, guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan, and workers in Riyadh.

In the war on terror we face a global enemy of humanity. The Holy Father understands that. In the long run, the best way to defeat terrorism is to protect and promote human dignity and spread the hope of freedom.

Pope Benedict has also done much to advance and encourage interreligious dialogue. Just last week, he called for Christians, Muslims and Jews to work together for peace and justice. It is our great hope to support his efforts in our own work at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

And in another theme close to the work of my embassy, the Holy Father has spoken out eloquently about the need to protect the most vulnerable of our world, directly mentioning the scourge of modern-day slavery: trafficking in persons.

Nearly one year into the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, it remains crystal clear that the United States is fortunate to work with the Holy See in addressing these critical issues of our day.

Q: What possible areas of cooperation exist between the United States and the Vatican? For example, in the recent past there has been cooperation on issues such as human trafficking and food aid.

Rooney: Mutual respect and common goals have always underpinned the relationship between the United States and the Holy See.

Today, working with Pope Benedict XVI, I am very confident that we will succeed in our determined efforts to advance peace, justice, freedom, economic opportunity and democracy in the world.

To that end, it is my goal to further enhance collaboration with the Holy See in addressing terrorism, global hunger, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, migration issues and the trafficking of human beings across international borders.

In my meetings with the Holy Father, and in conversations with high-ranking members of the Curia, there is always conversation about our continued partnership to promote tolerance and human dignity. I repeat, the United States is fortunate to work with the Holy See in these endeavors.

Q: What could the United States learn from the Vatican regarding interreligious dialogue and relations with Islam?

Rooney: It's worth mentioning again that the Holy Father recently spoke to the need for outreach among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

He called for the followers of each of those religions to work together to promote peace and justice in the world, and has consistently urged religious leaders to lead the way by reconciling conflicts and divisions through dialogue and active solidarity.

He also said that greater attention needs to be given to teaching respect for God, for religions and their symbols, and for holy sites and places of worship. These are timely and important messages in today's world, as we confront a form of terrorism that kills in the name of God.

The Holy See and the United States both see dialogue with Islam as a key issue.

Religious tensions do exist between Christians and Muslims in some Islamic countries and the denial of religious liberty in these situations is a painful reality, but the United States is determined to address them, and committed to working with the Holy See to enhance our efforts wherever possible.

Q: The Bush administration has tended to be very charitable toward religious groups. It's also made much headway in social welfare to assist families. Could you comment on this -- why it is; what it means -- especially in reflecting Catholic social teaching?

Rooney: From his first term, President Bush has worked closely with faith-based organizations.

He saw early on the critical contribution they could make in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing America. He has continued to reach out to those faith-based groups that offer so many critically needed social services. He refers to them as America's "armies of compassion."

Earlier this month the President addressed a National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in Washington. He acknowledged the progress that has been made, but underlined that much more has yet to be done to give faith-based social service programs equal footing with secular nonprofits in federal, state and corporate grant-making.

And he's putting his money where his mouth is. Last fiscal year 10.9% of the federal funding for social services from seven government departments went to faith-based organizations. The grants to such organizations amounted to more than $2.1 billion out of nearly $20 billion in total grants. That represents an increase of 21% since 2003.

Supporting faith-based organizations that offer an array of much needed social services has been a priority for President Bush, and will continue to be.


The Benedict Factor: Russia-Rome ties are warming.

The seeds sown by Pope John Paul II for ecumenism with the Russian Orthodox seem to be sprouting.

Russia-Rome ties are warming. And the reason now might be Benedict XVI.

That is according to Jean-Franççois Thierry, the French-Russian director of Moscow's ecumenical cultural center called the Library of the Spirit.

I contacted Thierry after recent dealings with the Russian Ecumenical Center, near the Vatican in Borgo Pio.

"Some years ago, dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and Catholics was a lot more complicated," Thierry told me. "Now, after the election of Pope Benedict, we have seen a notably diverse approach and a new desire for the two to work together."

"From the Orthodox side, we've observed a different openness and interest and they are continually trying to come up with ideas for common projects. ... I feel the wind has changed and has brought new possibilities with it."

Among the activities the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Russia are establishing is a series of publications of the Holy Father's more famous works in the Russian language.

"We are now preparing the edition of Cardinal Ratzinger's book called 'Introduction to Christianity,'" explained Thierry. "The introduction is being written by an Orthodox bishop, something that wouldn't have been possible as recently as some months ago."

He added: "The Holy Father's book …… brings us back to our common roots, our common faith in Christ Jesus, and thus recognition of the goal that he gave us: to evangelize."

But might there be something more about this Pope that inspires the rapport between the Churches?

Thierry confided: "They like him precisely because he is not necessarily saying what they want to hear. ……

"Russian Orthodox highly value the one who stands by his convictions, and have therefore followed this Pope with respect since early on ... since the release of his work 'Dominus Iesus.'"

Indeed, as this ecumenical expert explains, support for this Pope has been witnessed even among the most fundamentalist of Orthodox groups in Russia.

"After his election, people expressed a deep satisfaction that he, who is so 'upright,' was chosen to head the Church. It seems that which was disconcerting to the Western world, was what won over the Eastern and is now opening portals to important dialogue."


VATICAN CITY, JUL 28, 2005 (VIS) - Peter's attachment to his flock, priestly vocations, and the participation of divorced Catholics in the Eucharist were the central themes of Benedict XVI's meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Aosta, held at the church of Introd on Monday, July 25. The "Osservatore Romano" newspaper yesterday published the complete text of this meeting, of which some paragraphs are given below:

  "The history of the Church has always been marked, in various different forms, by questions that have truly tormented us. What must be done? ... I would like to respond briefly, but I would also like to point out that the Pope is not an oracle, he is infallible only in very rare situations, as we know. Therefore I share these questions with you. I too suffer. But all of us together wish ... to transform problems through suffering, because suffering is the way to transformation, and without it nothing is transformed. This is also the meaning of to the parable of the grain of wheat that falls to the earth."

  Going on to refer to the crisis of vocations in the West, the Pope pointed out how the western world has reached a point "in which there is no longer any evidence of the need for God, still less for Christ. ... Consequently, it becomes difficult to believe, and if it is difficult to believe it is even more difficult to offer one's life to the Lord, to be His servant. This is clearly a torment, one particular to our own historical times in which the so-called great Churches generally appear to be moribund. ... On the other hand sects, which present themselves with the certainty of a minimal faith, are growing. ... We must traverse this tunnel patiently, in the certainty that Christ is the answer and that in the end His light will reappear."

  On the subject of divorced Catholics who have remarried, Benedict XVI described as "particularly painful" the "situation of those who married in Church out of tradition, without being true believers; then, finding themselves in a new and non-valid marriage, they convert, find faith, and feel excluded from the Sacrament (of the Eucharist)."

   The Pope recalled that when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith he invited several episcopal conferences to study the question of a "Sacrament celebrated without faith," and "whether it is truly possible to find therein a reason for invalidity, because the Sacrament was lacking an essential dimension. ... The problem is very difficult and must be studied profoundly."

  In closing, the Holy Father announced that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is preparing a document on the Church's closeness to prisoners.


Pope Enjoys Last Day of Alpine Vacation
Returns to Castel Gandolfo on Thursday

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 27, 2005 ( Italian television offered a rare glimpse of Benedict XVI's vacation, airing footage of the Pope as he enjoyed his last day in the Italian Alps

The Vatican Television Center broadcasted today images of the Holy Father on a hike in the mountains with his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, and Alpine guide Albert Cerise, who for ten years guided Pope John Paul II, who vacationed in the same location.

The Pope has been on holiday since July 11 in Les Combes, in the Val d'Aosta.

Looking at one of the peaks of Mont Blanc, Monsignor Gaenswein commented: "Usually the Giant's Tooth is clearly seen, but today it's cloudy."

The Holy Father answers: "In our country, the 3,000-meter mountains always have snow. Here we are further south."

The Alpine guide points out another peak and explains that "there, an enormous avalanche buried a whole village."

"Mamma mia!"

The Pope turned around and asked: "A whole village? 'Mamma mia!'" using a typical Italian _expression.

The guide listed the names of the mountains: "Over there, in the background, is the Grand Jourasse, behind it there is a most beautiful lake."

The Vatican cameras filmed the Pope, his secretary and the guide continuing their walk. Two forest rangers are also seen, with whom the Pope pauses to talk.

Benedict XVI will fly from Aosta to Rome on Thursday afternoon. He will go directly to the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo from the airport, where he will stay until his trip to Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 18 to attend World Youth Day.

The Holy Father will follow his usual schedule at Castel Gandolfo, including his weekly general audience on Wednesdays, and the Angelus address on Sundays.


Pope Benedict's first 100 days:

Pope Benedict XVI: Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God choose us in his son, and makes us his adopted children so that we could be holy and blameless before him. This action of grace is a call to holiness, a call to participate in God’s own life of love. St Ambrose has written about this wonderful outpouring of grace that makes us adopted children of God through Jesus Christ. He shows us that God is indeed rich in mercy, because he has transformed us from our sinful condition into sons and daughters of peace and love, to the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

David Rutledge: Pope Benedict XVI, speaking earlier this month to an audience of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square in Rome. And seeing as today is the 100th day of Benedict XVIs papacy, we thought we’d take a look at the record so far.

When the Pope was elected back in April, progressive Catholics were dismayed by the conclave’s choice of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who had a reputation for stern conservatism, and for a punitive attitude to any Catholic theologian or academic who strayed from the path of church doctrine. Conservatives, on the other hand, were delighted at the election of a Pope who would hold the line on issues such as sexuality and contraception.

Well over the past three months, Benedict XVI has more or less lived up, or down, to expectations. The cornerstone of his papacy is shaping up to be a spirited campaign against what he regards as the pervasive presence in Western culture of moral relativism. Symptoms of this malaise include the ‘anarchic pseudo-freedom’ of those who advocate same-sex marriage, and the acceptance of what he calls ‘the intrinsic moral disorder’ of homosexual acts (although it’s interesting to note that a new study by the Australia Institute into homophobia reveals that only one-third of Australian Catholics agree with him there). The Pope has also published a book in which he says that the church will never accept abortion, and he criticises the European Union for its failure to acknowledge Europe’s Christian roots in its prospective constitution.

But Benedict XVI’s firm hold on tradition doesn’t mean that he wants to stop or turn back the tide of history. In many respects, the new Pope is a reformist.

Or at least that’s the view of Sandro Magister, long-time correspondent for the leading weekly newspaper in Italy, L’Espresso. Sandro Magister is also Professor of Contemporary Church History at the University of Urbino, and he’s the author of an article that’s just been published, entitled ‘The First Three Months of Benedict XVI: New Pope, New Style’. Sandro Magister is speaking with Noel Debien.

Noel Debien: You say in your article Benedict XVI has won over the crowd when it comes to ordinary Catholics, that the people like him, but not the press, not the media. Why has this happened?

Sandro Magister: Benedict XVI is not so loved by the intelligentsia, by the liberal trends in the culture of the West; progressives. But on the contrary is more loved by the common people, perhaps a big surprise after his election. Personally, I was in the crowd, not with the press but with the crowd during two masses of the new pope, and I saw that the common people listened very carefully, without interruption.

Noel Debien: In English speaking countries we normally listen to the homily, do they not normally listen in St Peter’s Square?

Sandro Magister: Yes, it’s true. It’s true. I think that for example during the next trip to Cologne in Germany in August, I think that when Benedict XVI will speak during televised broadcastings, probably all over the world we can see this capacity of the new pope to speak and to be listened to.

Noel Debien: In that same youth day in Cologne, to the surprise of many Catholics and reporters, the Tridentine Mass will be celebrated, the pre-Vatican II mass. Are we perhaps seeing a rollback in the new pope’s understanding of the Vatican Council?

Sandro Magister: No, we know the positions of Josef Ratzinger about the liturgy and the reform, that the reform of the last Council is good, but was realised very badly. But the new pope is to make a reform of the reform; to turn back, not to the old mass, but to the big old tradition of the liturgy of the church. And so probably we’ll have during his pontificate more freedom to celebrate for many priests, with the rite of the mass more accurate in respect of the tradition. And also there will be more possibility to celebrate with the old Tridentine rite.

Noel Debien: So you don’t think he’s trying to turn back the clock?

Sandro Magister: This is a good question because to turn back to the big tradition is not, according to Josef Ratzinger, to turn back the clock. On the contrary, a new step forward for the church in fidelity with two millenniums.

Noel Debien: During the Vatican Council shortly after the Vatican Council, it was commonly said by some religious leaders that the “baby was thrown out with the bathwater” when it came to liturgical reform. Is it the case that this pope perhaps is trying to find the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater?

Sandro Magister: The liturgical reform during the last decades will be corrected by Benedict XVI. On this point, I think that he will be very strong, because he thinks that the liturgy is not a marginal thing, but is co-essential to the church. Eucharist is the centre of his programme.

Noel Debien: There are those who were afraid when he was elected that he would prove to be very right-wing. There are two things you mention in your article: you mention his secretaries, Ingrid Stampa (Vatican Secretariat of State) and Birgit Wansing (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) , who are both members of the Schoenstatt movement. And you also mention Carmela and Loredana, his housekeepers, who are members of the Italian movement, Communion and Liberation, Comunione e Liberazione. These are very conservative movements, Schoenstatt and Communion and Liberation?

Sandro Magister: Yes and no, because in Italy for example where Comunione e Liberazione was born, it is not seen as only a conservative movement, but is seen like a Catholic reform movement inside the church. Ratzinger is really near to the Communion and Liberation movement, but also is very near with other new movements of the second half of the 20th century. Opus Dei , Legionaries of Christ , Focularini; Focolare . In the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, there are some officials who are working for Focolare, who are of Opus Dei for example. These movements are a new mood for the church, mostly positive.

Noel Debien: At the 100th day of this pontificate, are there any concrete signs that Catholics can interpret as positive developments for the role and place of women in the Catholic church?

Sandro Magister: Yes there are in the Roman Curia a few females with offices. The secretaries around the Pope prove a new trend in the central of government of the church. In the Roman Curia, it’s a novelty. I think that the presence near the new Pope of females like Ingrid Stampa, is proof of normal relations between the “biggest” man in the church (for institutional reasons), and the simple faithful - male and female.

Noel Debien: The Pope’s Bavarian Private Secretary, Georg Gänswein, how does he compare with the last Pope’s very present and very proactive secretary (Stanislaw Dziwisz)?

Sandro Magister: John Paul II, his secretary was stronger in taking the decisions. For example for the nomination of the bishops. For the relations of the secular powers, and so on. On the contrary, the new secretary of the new Pope is a simple secretary. He is the man who is near the Pope, but the Pope decides the big decisions.

Noel Debien: You’re saying that at the 100th day, this Pope is much more directly in charge of the government of the church?

Sandro Magister: Yes, the new Pope will be a pope with stronger power of decision on the ordinary government of the central church, and also with respect to the bishops all over the World.

Noel Debien: Can I ask there then what signs are we seeing at the 100th day about collegiality with the bishops?

Sandro Magister: The 100 days is not enough. One decision in the government of the church was the nomination of Levada as a new prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is American. And this decision is a witness of the will of the new Pope to change. Because the new prefect is a typical expression of the new trend of American bishops, and an American prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not a normal nomination.

Noel Debien: In a certain sense, there are those from particularly English-speaking democracies who would gain a level of confidence in William Levada being made prefect of the Congregation because there is an assumption that he is used to transparency and accountability in the English, Western, democratic sense.

Sandro Magister: Yes, Josef Ratzinger thinks that the confrontation between the church and the new secular culture is centred in the West, and in particular in the United States. Nominating an American prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is a proof of this will of the Pope to take seriously this situation of the new century.

Noel Debien: Following on from that, the historian Pietro Scoppola said in an interview with Avennire that "the rationalist theology of the Pope, he said, clings to natural law, throws out everything in politics, and excludes the role of transcendence in human activity". Is this a fair judgment?

Sandro Magister: The critique that some Catholic intellectuals in Italy and in Europe [level] against Benedict XVI is that he’s too linked to the natural law than to pure theology, to the Gospel. Josef Ratzinger is a good philosopher and his dialogue with contemporary culture is not a confrontation against the culture of this century, but a dialogue with the currents inside this culture acceptable to the church.

Noel Debien: When you talk about this dialogue, the Pope has also made from the very beginning of his papacy, his wish for better relations with the orthodox churches. But in terms of practical initiatives and results, at this very month, the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic church wants to transfer its headquarters to Kiev, to the capital. The Russian Orthodox Patriarch is not happy. Is this a good sign for Benedict XVI that his wish for closer relationships with the Orthodox will go smoothly?

Sandro Magister: The question is what Benedict XVI will do after this 100 days, because during the next months the Pope will decide if he’ll block this move to the capital.

Noel Debien: What of the Pope’s relationship with the Jewish people?

Sandro Magister: It’s easy to forecast an improvement in the relations between the Church of Rome and Judaism. The position of Josef Ratzinger about the church and Judaism is known - we can’t comprehend the New Testament without the Old one. This is the position of Josef Ratzinger when he was Cardinal, and now when he is Pope. And he’s judged positively by Jews in Israel and in Rome and all over the world.

Noel Debien: So at the 100th day, in your opinion, have we seen enough evidence of the character of this new Pope to know him well enough yet?

Sandro Magister: Yes, according to me in 100 days we have already an image of a different Pope, respective to the predecessors. Not only John Paul II but also Paul VI etc. The new character of the new Pope is now already visible.

David Rutledge: Sandro Magister, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Church History at the University of Urbino, one the line there from Rome with Noel Debien.


Pope's Writing Projects Under Wraps

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 24, 2005 ( The topic of the book Benedict XVI is writing during his vacation in the Italian Alps is a secret, says a Vatican spokesman.

"It will only be known when it goes on sale in bookstores," said Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, from the Val d'Aosta region.

"For the time being he is working on this publishing project and not on the encyclical," he added, explaining that the book has been in progress for the past three years.

The Holy Father is dedicating the mornings of his Alpine vacation to writing the book.

Asked about the topic of Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Navarro Valls replied: "I am not inside his mind, so I cannot yet say what its basic structure will be."



VATICAN CITY, JUL 17, 2005 (VIS) - During an informal meeting with journalists at Les Combes, the locality in the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta where the Pope is spending his holiday, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarrro-Valls described Benedict XVI's vacation, which began on July 11 and will last until July 28, as "a real holiday, but a working holiday."

  After celebrating Mass and eating breakfast the Holy Father reads the breviary before retiring to his room to write, said Navarro-Valls. "I would not say he is writing an Encyclical," said the Holy See spokesman, suggesting that perhaps the Holy Father is working on a book. In the afternoon the Pope usually takes a walk around the local area. On Saturday, returning home, he paused to greet some of the locals.

  The Holy Father's chalet, the property of the Salesians, is the same one in which John Paul II used to stay. "Everything has remained as it was," said Navarro-Valls, save the piano which has been placed in the study. The Pope loves music and "over these days I have heard him play Mozart", the press office director added.

  This evening, Benedict XVI visited a museum dedicated to John Paul II located some 500 meters from the chalet in which he is staying. The museum was inaugurated in 1996 and brings together personal objects used by John Paul II during his holidays in the alpine mountains. It also contains many photographs of the late Pontiff including pictures of him walking in the mountains wearing sports shoes and an alpine hat.

  Before returning home, the Holy Father paused briefly in a small nearby hermitage, where he spent a few minutes in prayer.


The First Three Months of Benedict XVI: New Pope, New Style

The intelligentsia have turned their backs on him, but the common faithful haven't – they have a greater appreciation for him than was foreseen. Initial signs of a different pontificate

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, July 15, 2005 – During his first three months as pope, Benedict XVI has not succeeded in winning over the major Italian and international press, which to a great extent remains hostile to him.

Among Catholic intellectuals, too, the cease-fire that the prince of the dissenters, Hans Küng, conceded to him after the election seems to have expired.

From the beaches of California, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese – who is said to have been dismissed as director of "America" at the behest of Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a cardinal – has blasted the new pope as an irreconcilable enemy of modernity, inspired by the gloomiest form of Augustinianism imaginable. By way of demonstration, Reese recommended an essay in "Commonweal" by Joseph A. Komonchak, who is a priest of the archdiocese of New York, a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and one of the leading collaborators with the five-volume "History of Vatican Council II" directed by Giuseppe Alberigo. The most widely read history of the council in the world, this series was recently the object of criticism from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope's vicar.

And in Italy, professor Achille Ardigò, a guru of the Bologna "school" founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and headed by Alberigo, said during an interview with the newspaper "la Repubblica": " I pray every day to the Holy Spirit, that he may guide the pope and Cardinal Ruini to turn aside from their rationalist theology," a theology which – as the historian Pietro Scoppola has also said in an interview with "Avvenire" – clings to natural law, throws out everything in politics, and "excludes the role of transcendence in human activity."

In another interview with "la Repubblica," Alberigo recalled that in 1953, at his home in Bologna, a "pious and rather famous" Benedictine monk who was staying with him as his guest invited him and his wife to pray for the death of Pius XII – which took place in 1958 – with the explanation: "Now the Holy Father is a burden for the Church; let's pray that the Lord will take him soon."

But for his part, Benedict XVI is captivating the crowds.

The same masses of the faithful that applauded the gestures or striking phrases of pope Karol Wojtyla, while almost completely missing what it was that he was talking about, are doing the opposite with the new pope. They follow Ratzinger's homilies word for word, from beginning to end, with an attentiveness that astonishes the experts. Verifying this takes nothing more than mingling among the crowds in attendance at a Mass celebrated by the pope.

The new pope's style is sober in terms of his contact with the masses. His symbolic expressiveness comes entirely from the liturgy, which he celebrates with a great sense of authority. But apart from the Masses, catecheses, and blessings, Benedict XVI is a minimalist. "The pope must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word," he said when taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7. And he keeps to this standard even in regard to public gestures. He does very little of his own. He wants the faithful to pay attention to what is essential, which is not his own person but Jesus Christ alive and present in the sacraments of the Church.

He even spends his vacations in his own way. He doesn't go for the mountain peaks and the ski lodges like his athletic predecessor. On July 12, when he went to the mountains in Les Combes, in Valle d'Aosta, he brought a piano and three suitcases full of books. He writes out by hand the things that are close to his heart: his homilies, the upcoming encyclical, and a few crucial speeches, like the one he gave on June 6 to a convention on the family which unleashed reactions around the world: in Italy, it was applied to the imminent referendum on assisted procreation; in Spain, to law on gay marriage; and in the United States, to the disputes over homosexuality.

Benedict XVI loves to write by hand, in German, in a miniscule script that is perfectly legible to his trusted secretaries, Ingrid Stampa and Birgit Wansing, both of whom are German and belong to the spiritual movement of Schönstatt, which was started in 1914 in a small Marian sanctuary in the Rhine valley and today is found in eighty countries throughout the world.

Ingrid Stampa has been his personal assistant since 1991, when Ratzinger was living in his apartment of three hundred square meters in Piazza della Città Leonina, in the neighborhood just a few steps away from the Vatican. Now she shuttles back and forth between that apartment and the Apostolic Palace, where – while the pope is away for the entire summer, first in Valle d'Aosta and then at Castel Gandolfo – the real work of arranging the pontifical quarters has begun. Benedict XVI possesses an extensive and carefully ordered library, which covers all of the walls of his old apartment. And that is where he intends to leave much of it.

Birgit Wansing has also remained behind after the pope's transfer to his new residence; as before, she continues to work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Ratzinger was prefect for 23 years. Ingrid Stampa, for her part, has been integrated into the German section of the secretariat of state.

But Benedict XVI has brought with him, to his residence at the Apostolic Palace, Carmela and Loredana, members of Memores Domini, the branch of religious women of the group Communion and Liberation. They have taken religious vows, but do not wear a religious habit. They take care of the kitchen, the cleaning, the wardrobe. The latter of the two has worked in the past with Cardinal Angelo Scola, when he was rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Another two sisters of the same order, Emanuela and Cristina, will soon complete the team.

Then there is the pope's personal secretary, who like him is Bavarian, Georg Gaenswein, 48, a priest of the diocese of Freiburg in Bresigau. Until this year, he taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Rome university of Opus Dei. He has been Ratzinger's secretary for two years.

There is a significant difference between him and John Paul II's famous right-hand man, Stanislaw Dziwisz, now archbishop of Krakow. Dziwisz exercised an important influence over the thousand decisions of ordinary Church governance that pope Karol Wojtyla overlooked. And the looming presence of his secretary was never lacking from any of the pope's working lunches or dinners.

It's no longer that way with Benedict XVI . Gaenswein appears less frequently and exercises less influence. The new pope doesn't invite anyone to lunch or dinner, just as in the past he was not accustomed to so doing. He speaks informally with his guests and forms his decisions personally. The first surprise was the nomination of his successor as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: William J. Levada, an American, was totally unexpected. The future nominations to the curia, beginning with the successor to secretary of state Angelo Sodano, will probably bring more surprises.

There has also been a change in the wind at the Vatican press office. Joaquín Navarro-Valls has been confirmed as director, but he does not have with Benedict XVI the direct and osmotic relationship that he had with John Paul II. He can no longer permit himself to model and amplify the pope's gestures, statements, and performance. He knows that the newly elected pope wants to control and make very modest use of his own image and public exposure.

Navarro still has his relationship with the secretariat of state, which he depends upon by statute. But in the course of three months he has already had two mishaps. The first was connected with the apparent denial of a preliminary Vatican investigation into accusations of sexual abuse made against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel. The second involved the adjective "anti-Christian," which was initially applied to the terrorist attack in London on July 7 and later removed. Neither case was a shining example of clarity in communication from the Vatican press office or the secretariat of state.

Navarro was the Jack-of-all-trades when it came to the books published by Karol Wojtyla while he was pope. Not with Benedict XVI. Ratzinger himself took care of all the preparations for the publication of his first book as pope, “L'Europa di Benedetto nella crisi delle culture [Benedict's Europe in the Crisis of Cultures].” He personally selected the publisher, David Cantagalli, of Siena. In the case of another book that he released through the same publisher, “Fede, verità, tolleranza [Faith, Truth, and Tolerance],” he had one hundred numbered copies printed on high-quality paper and personally handed them out as gifts one by one.

Ratzinger was less fortunate with the San Paolo publishing house, which he gave the rights to publish, in Italy, the new "Compendium" of the catechism of the Catholic Church. The result was a volume of mediocre appearance, in terms of both the text and the images. And yet the images themselves, fourteen masterpieces of Eastern and Western sacred art, were chosen personally by Ratzinger, who wanted them to make up an integral part of the catechism.

The extent of his appreciation for great Christian art, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphonic music is another element that distinguishes the new pope from his predecessor. Archbishop Piero Marini, the director of the modernized ceremonies for television so dear to John Paul II, is waiting to be assigned other duties.

Benedict XVI has already reined in the extraordinary number of saints and blesseds proclaimed by pope Wojtyla. Ratzinger does not proclaim the new blesseds himself, leaving this instead to the appropriate local churches, and he has put the brakes on the proclamation of new saints.

Another cutback regards trips abroad. His will be few and tightly focused. He gave the example with his first trip, to Bari on May 29: he made a round trip in one morning, staying only to celebrate Mass. He will stay a bit longer in Cologne in mid-August. He has planned a visit to the Jewish synagogue, the second such visit by a pope after the historic 1986 visit of John Paul II to the synagogue of Rome. Concern for the relationship between the Church and Judaism is another characteristic feature of the new pope, this in full continuity with his predecessor.

Benedict XVI seems no less decisive in his desire to make peace with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. He shares with them a focus on the centrality of the Eucharistic liturgy and respect for tradition. But there are serious obstacles.

Benedict XVI would gladly go to Istanbul on November 30, the feast of Saint Andrew, to meet with the patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who has invited him. But he also needs an invitation from Turkey, which is aware of the new pope's opposition to its entry into the European Union.

As for Moscow, which was at daggers drawn with the previous pope, Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Walter Kasper there to check out the situation ahead of time. However, he was not able even to meet with Patriarch Alexei II. The most critical point here is Ukraine. With more than five million faithful, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church wants to transfer its headquarters from Lviv to the capital, Kiev, before the end of the year. The plan is to consecrate a new metropolitan cathedral there in October, which would have jurisdiction over almost the entire country. The Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow – most of whose faithful, vocations, and money are in Ukraine – sees this as an intolerable affront and is demanding that Benedict XVI block the move.


Benedict XVI Writing a Book, Says Cardinal
Archbishop of Genoa Lunched With Pontiff

VATICAN CITY, JULY 15, 2005 ( Benedict XVI is writing a book during his vacation in the Italian Alps, says Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The archbishop of Genoa lunched Tuesday with the Holy Father in his chalet in the village of Les Combes, in the Val d'Aosta region.

The Pope is "in the best form, rested and serene. The mountain air and splendid scenery is agreeing with him," the cardinal told the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Cardinal Bertone, who for seven years was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) was its prefect, commented on the Pope's vacation schedule.

Vacation studies

"He celebrates Mass at 7:30 a.m., and remains in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, prays the liturgy of the Divine Office, and then has breakfast," said the cardinal.

"Later, he begins to read, to write and to study," continued the cardinal. "Lunch is around 1 p.m.

"Then, in the afternoon, he has a rest and afterward walks on a nearby mountain, 1,800 meters [5,900 feet] high, during which he prays the rosary. At the end of the day, he has dinner, prays, and then goes to rest."

During the hours of work, the Pope "examines documents, studies, and continues to write a book," he said.

Asked if the book is an encyclical, the first of his pontificate, Cardinal Bertone was discreet: "For the time being, let's say it's a book."

Great walker

The cardinal said the Pope relaxes when playing the piano, but admitted that he did not hear him play on the day of his visit.

The archbishop added that Benedict XVI "is not a sportsman, as his predecessor, but he is a great walker. Perhaps he goes on fewer outings, but more walks."

The Holy Father, who is staying in the same chalet as John Paul II did for years, will be on holiday in the Italian Alps until July 28.