Daily Archives: April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's Responses to Questions from the American Bishops

So let me make two brief observations on the problem of “attrition”, which I hope will stimulate further reflection.

First, as you know, it is becoming more and more difficult, in our Western societies, to speak in a meaningful way of “salvation”. Yet salvation ”“ deliverance from the reality of evil, and the gift of new life and freedom in Christ ”“ is at the heart of the Gospel. We need to discover, as I have suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring. It is in the Church’s liturgy, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist, that these realities are most powerfully expressed and lived in the life of believers; perhaps we still have much to do in realizing the Council’s vision of the liturgy as the exercise of the common priesthood and the impetus for a fruitful apostolate in the world.

Second, we need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete eclipse of an eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian societies. As you know, I have pointed to this problem in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Suffice it to say that faith and hope are not limited to this world: as theological virtues, they unite us with the Lord and draw us toward the fulfillment not only of our personal destiny but also that of all creation. Faith and hope are the inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for him from our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.

Let me conclude by stating the obvious. The fields are still ripe for harvesting (cf. Jn 4:35); God continues to give the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). We can and must believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86). What is needed above all, at this time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing (cf. Ez 34:16). And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking based on a sound diagnosis of today’s challenges and a commitment to unity in the service of the Church’s mission to the present generation.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

The Full Text of the Pope at Ground Zero

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here-
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

Notable and Quotable (II) on the Challenge of Grief

“Tell your readers that widowhood has little to recommend it. I still miss my husband dreadfully.”

–LaVonne Neff, “Three Women Out of Four: How the church can meet the needs of its widows,” Christianity Today (Nov 8, 1985), p. 30

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly

Notable and Quotable

No family action more fully reveals the glory of Christian grace than to see children lovingly supplying the needs of their older parents — visiting them, making them feel comfortable, loved and wanted if they have to be supported outside the home, or opening their homes and allowing them to be a central part of their life. I am grateful that my wife’s mother lived with us for twenty-seven years in our home, and was loved and enjoyed as part of our family during all that time. Now, because of her failing health, it is necessary for her to be in a nursing home, but we visit her very often, we never let her feel lonely and unwanted.

I have been in rest homes that were horror pits, where older people were abandoned by their families — some of them Christian families. Month after month went by and no one went to visit these older people; they drifted off into senility. These homes, where people simply exist, are like animal cages.

There is a great ministry open to many in the congregation who have time to visit these homes and be surrogate children to older parents who have no one to look out for them. This is a wonderful, loving ministry for some to undertake. The apostle closes by saying that God takes note of these things; he is concerned about the weak and the helpless.

It is interesting to observe today that economic conditions are now forcing families to face up to these obligations. On the Today Show the other day, a family from the Midwest was interviewed. The children had grown up and established their own homes, while the parents were living alone in the big old house. The house was too big for the parents to keep up and they were contemplating selling it, but then economic pressure began to force the children, who had moved away, to find some way of solving their problems. They all ended up mutually agreeing to move back into the old home — the parents, children, and grandchildren. They worked out loving arrangements — a certain part of the house was kept free for the grandparents to escape to when the clutter and noise became too much. This family recaptured elements that were lost by the independent desire of each family to have a home of its own.

We have lost so much of the interrelationships between generations. God is forcing us, by economic means, to face up again to the need to live together and to enjoy one another.

Ray Stedman (in 1981)

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

–Hebrews 12:1,2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

CNS in contrast to ENS on the Pope's Speech to the Ecumenical Gathering

But another, growing problem lies in the fact that “fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called ‘prophetic actions’ that are based” on a reading of Christianity “not always consonant” with that found in the Bible and in Christian tradition.

While the pope did not offer specific examples, he has in the past questioned Christian communities that have decided to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopacy or to bless homosexual unions and ordain openly gay men and women.

The pope’s concerns obviously extend to the Anglican Communion and its troubled relations with the U.S. Episcopal Church and some dioceses in Canada.

The Anglican Communion is attempting to find ways to strengthen its structures for ensuring that one national member does not take actions that make other members of the communion uncomfortable. At times, bishops have been named to oversee pastoral care of members who do not go along with the changes.

Pope Benedict said it was unfortunate that some church communities have given up “the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of ‘local options.'”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

From the Email Bag

Hi. Thanks for posting so much about the Holy Father. I’m home sick with the flu so got to watch a lot of the activities.

It was absolutely transcendent and transforming. It occurred to me that he was talking to US too, those of us who are in ordained ministry. I think he’s done more for spreading the Gospel in these few days than most denominational heads do in a lifetime.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

The Papal Address at the Rally with Seminarians and Young People

And what of today? Who bears witness to the Good News of Jesus on the streets of New York, in the troubled neighborhoods of large cities, in the places where the young gather, seeking someone in whom they can trust? God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way. The path of that journey twists and turns ─ just as it did for our saints ─ through the joys and the trials of ordinary, everyday life: within your families, at school or college, during your recreation activities, and in your parish communities. All these places are marked by the culture in which you are growing up. As young Americans you are offered many opportunities for personal development, and you are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness. Yet you do not need me to tell you that there are also difficulties: activities and mindsets which stifle hope, pathways which seem to lead to happiness and fulfillment but in fact end only in confusion and fear.

My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew ”“ infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion ”“ before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Teens / Youth

The Papal Address at the Blessing of Youth with Disabilities Yesterday

God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people’s contributions seem great and others’ more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.

Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God’s unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life. Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love (cf. Jn 12:32) and in so doing shows us the way ahead – the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Teens / Youth

NPR: Pope Urges Youth to Have Hope in Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI continues his tour of the United States on Saturday ”” the third anniversary of his election as pontiff. He began the day with a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and then spent the afternoon at a mass rally for young people in Yonkers, N.Y. His opening act? Kelly Clarkson.

Nearly 20,000 young people came to see the pontiff, who urged them to take the liturgy seriously and to have hope in Jesus.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Teens / Youth

An ENS Article on the Pope's Speech in New York

Benedict decried the “splintering” of Christian churches over “so-called ‘prophetic actions’ that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition.” Such actions, he said, cause Christian communities to “give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of ‘local options,'” thus losing their connections to Christians in other times and places. Some, but not all, interpreted that as a veiled reference to controversy in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

“I think he did us the honor of giving us a serious address that I think needs to be read and reflected upon,” said New York’s Bishop Mark Sisk. Asked whether he thought Benedict had singled out the Episcopal Church in his remarks, Sisk responded, “It’s possible–but I would be rather surprised. I don’t think he was trying to send shots across the bow at particular churches. I think he spoke in a respectful way and I didn’t see that as a shot at the Episcopal Church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

The Texts of all the Papal Speeches Thus Far

Look for Papal Vist Texts at the bottom of the page.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

From NPR: Celebrating Passover with Uganda's Jews

Uganda has a small but thriving Jewish community. A reporter joined them for Passover last year.

Listen to it all and note carefully the reason for the leader’s conversion from Anglicanism to Judaism.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Judaism, Other Faiths, Uganda

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Pope Benedict's U.S. Visit

KIM LAWTON: The pope arrived at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday (April 15) and was greeted by George W. Bush — the first time this president has personally welcomed a world leader there. Experts say the gesture shows how significant this visit is on many fronts.

DAVID GIBSON (Author, “The Rule of Benedict”): Even though American Catholics are only six, seven percent of the entire Catholic global population, like America itself, the Catholic Church worldwide often follows its cues from America. So it’s a really important moment in the life of the church, not only in the United States but also globally.

LAWTON: Benedict came here in a dual role — as spiritual leader to the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics and as head of state for the independent territory of Vatican City and the Catholic Church’s government called the Holy See.

During an elaborate White House ceremony Wednesday (April 17), the pope’s 81st birthday, Bush praised Benedict for urging America and the world to distinguish between right and wrong.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Uwe Siemon-Netto on Faith and Politics

What is Christianity’s proper role in American presidential politics? This question has gripped the 2008 campaign. From the dispute over the acceptability of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, to Mike Huckabee’s musings about conforming the US Constitution more to the Bible and the controversy over Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor, the spiritual and secular realms have collided fiercely. Just this week, Senator Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton fielded questions from US religious leaders at a special forum broadcast on CNN.

More broadly, arguments over public policies ”“ from war to illegal immigration ”“ are increasingly being infused with scriptural justifications.

The media, of course, relish such controversy. So do many religious leaders, who use the occasion to offer the “real” interpretation of what Scripture says about a particular issue. As a result, religion and politics aren’t just mingling ”“ they’re being wedded to the same goal: redeeming America’s body politic.

A largely Protestant nation that can trace its theological taproot to Martin Luther ought to know better. As the original Reformer, Luther understood how critical it was to separate church and state and, in a more important sense, the spiritual kingdom of Christ and the secular realm where God reigns in a hidden way through humans using reason as a guide.

That is not to say that Christians today shouldn’t let their Christianity inform their political values and action. They should. But the Bible is not a political playbook….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture