13 December, 2006

www.chiesa: A pope armed with "purity"

As a seminarian, I interned one summer at a parish with an extremely progressive Catholic priest. He wasn't so progressive that he prayed for Pope John Paul's death (there were those who did so) but I recall a conversation we had, where he said something along these lines:

It's looking bad for the Church. Pope John Paul has packed the College of Cardinals with people who think like him, so the next pope is bound to hold to his ideas, but won't be as smart as he is.
I've wondered from time to time what he thinks of Pope Benedict XVI. I've also wondered as to the thoughts of another priest, who hoped the next pope would be another one of those Italians who would keep a mistress and be so busy with affairs at home leave the Church outside Italy alone.

The Italian journalist Sandro Magister of www.chiesa has an interesting article on Benedict XVI here (English translation here). You have to skip past the introduction to find the article (I don't understand why he does that, but that's what he does). Obviously you have to read the article for yourself, but here are a few excerpts I found interesting (my translation, for the most part):

  • Benedict XVI is the most popular pope in history, if your measure is the number of people every Sunday at the Angelus and every Wednesday at the general audience, drawn like a magnet from Rome and all over the earth to Saint Peter's Square. ...The successful product that [he] offers the crowds is his naked speech. Two out of three times, Pope Joseph Ratzinger explains at the Angelus the Gospel of that Sunday's mass to an audience that does not always go to Mass. He explains it to them with words that are simple, but that capture their attention and hold it. While he speaks, the silence in Saint Peter's Square is impressive. And at the end of the short homily, he immediately launches into the Angelus prayer, without even a moment's interval. This is his successful technique to prevent applause.
  • Memorable was the the night vigil with a million youth who had come from across Germany in August 2005, before the new pope's first great media encounter. For many long minutes, Benedict XVI stood silently on his knees before the consecrated host placed on the altar. This didn't bother the youths. Instead, it bothered the television commentators and directors, who no longer know what do say or do to fill that "emptiness" with which the pope had upset the "preventivata kermesse" (their translation is "built-up hoopla", which beats anything I can come up with).
  • Thirty-eight Muslim thinkers of many nations and of different schools answered him with an open letter that, in part, admitted he was right. By itself, that was worth more than a thousand ceremonial dialogues. [Ed: Curiously, this passage is missing from the English translation, but the Italian is definitely there: Trentotto pensatori musulmani di molti paesi e di diverse correnti gli hanno risposto con una lettera aperta che da sola vale più di mille dialoghi cerimoniali. In parte dando ragione alle sue ragioni.]
  • (quoting the pope:) I am reminded of a very beautiful passage from the first letter of Saint Peter, in the first chapter, verse 22. In Latin it sounds like this: 'Castificantes animas nostras in oboedentia veritatis'. Obedience to truth ought to "make our souls pure", thus guiding us to the right thoughts and to the right actions.
  • He scandalized some when he received the bellicose Oriana Fallaci in a private audience at Castel Gandolfo. But one year later he also wanted to meet Henry Kissinger, the epitome of the culture of Realpolitik. Hans Küng, the prince of the anti-Roman theologians, was another of his surprise guests. Benedict XVI is definitely not the type to shy away from a contest, a satire, a fatwa.

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