Category Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Ratzinger on Classical Music

I was amused by Ratzinger’s comment on classical music and I thought you would be too:

  • “Modern so-called ‘classical music’ has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter–and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings.”

-Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000) 147.

If you have ever sat through an entire performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or a Bartok String Quartet (as I have) or even the ridiculous “composition” 4’33 by John Cage, you know exactly what he’s talking about.

Pope Benedict’s Encyclical on Hope

I’ve been reading Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Hope, “Spe Salvi,” and I thought I’d share some juicy quotes with you. So here’s the official Catholic Bible Student quote list for Spe Salvi:

  • “The present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal.”
  • “The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known–it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.”
  • “…We possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with God.”
  • “Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed.”
  • “[Christ] tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human.”
  • “Knowing how to wait, while patiently enduring trials, is necessary for the believer to be able to “receive what is promised.'”

-Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

Pope Benedict on Prayerful Scripture Reading

“I invite you – and so I conclude – to welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of faith. He reminds us with deep delight that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in consistent commitment to life, the Church is ever renewed and rejuvenated. The Word of God, which never ages and is never exhausted, is a privileged means to this end. Indeed, it is the Word of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the whole truth (cf. Benedict XVI, Address at the International Congress for the 40th Anniversary of Dei Verbum, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 September 2005, p. 7).

“And let us pray to the Lord that he will give us thinkers, theologians and exegetes who discover this multifaceted dimension, this ongoing timeliness of Sacred Scripture, its newness for today. Let us pray that the Lord will help us to read Sacred Scripture in a prayerful way, to be truly nourished with the true Bread of Life, with his Word. “

-Benedict XVI, General Audience, 25 April 2007.

The Pope’s Podcast

Did you know the Pope Benedict had a podcast? I didn’t, not until last week anyway. Vatican Radio has had a long history of great broadcasting since its founding in 1931 under Pope Pius XI. But who knew they could do RSS with the best?

So here’s the nitty-gritty on the Pope’s podcast: There are actually two. The first podcast is the complete audio of the Pope’s Wednesday audiences and Sunday Angelus messages. Now the Pope has a habit of giving his audiences in 5 or 6 languages, so you have to fast forward through to find the English. But Vatican Radio has already done the work for you in the second podcast, which is their English language programming. On Wednesdays they include only the English portion of the Pope’s audiences which is usually 2-3 min.

I subscribed to both. The first one keeps about 10 episodes live on their server, so does the second one, but you have to pick through them to find the Pope’s voice. NOTE: The first podcast is also carrying the Pope’s addresses at World Youth Day, which he gives in English first.

Here’s the Pope’s rss podcast links:
Number One:http://www.radiovaticana.org/rss/rss.xml
Number Two: http://www.radiovaticana.org/RSS/inglese.xml

Vatican Radio also maintains a site of recent mp3’s of the Pope’s voice. This contains mainly the same things as on the podcast, but some additional material like speeches and other things. Also, Vatican Radio puts up podcasts in some 9 languages, so if you happen to want to know what’s going on at the Vatican, but want to hear it in Swedish just to spice things up, you can.

Pope Benedict mp3’s:
http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/indice.asp?RedaSel=43&CategSel=16
All Vatican Radio Podcasts:
http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/rss_feeds.asp

Oh yeah, and you can also watch TV of Papal liturgies at the Vatican Radio website:
Live Video: http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/video_ctv.asp
On Demand Video: http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/video_menu.asp

Pope Benedict on Exegesis

One thing which I believe is a cause of “concern” — in the positive sense of the word — to all of us, is the fact that future priests and other teachers and preachers of the faith must receive a good theological training; we therefore need good theological faculties, good major seminaries and qualified theology teachers who not only impart knowledge but inculcate in students an intelligent faith so that faith becomes intelligence and intelligence, faith.

In this regard, I have a very specific wish.

Our exegesis has progressed by leaps and bounds. We truly know a great deal about the development of texts, the subdivision of sources, etc., we know what words would have meant at that time…. But we are increasingly seeing that if historical and critical exegesis remains solely historical and critical, it refers the Word to the past, it makes it a Word of those times, a Word which basically says nothing to us at all; and we see that the Word is fragmented, precisely because it is broken up into a multitude of different sources.

With Dei Verbum, the Council told us that the historical-critical method is an essential dimension of exegesis because, since it is a factum historicum, it is part of the nature of faith. We do not merely believe in an idea; Christianity is not a philosophy but an event that God brought about in this world, a story that he pieced together in a real way and forms with us as history.

For this reason, in our reading of the Bible, the serious historical aspect with its requirements must be truly present: we must effectively recognize the event and, precisely in his action, this “making of history” on God’s part.

Dei Verbum adds, however, that Scripture, which must consequently be interpreted according to historical methods, should also be read in its unity and must be read within the living community of the Church. These two dimensions are absent in large areas of exegesis.

The oneness of Scripture is not a purely historical and critical factor but indeed in its entirety, also from the historical viewpoint, it is an inner process of the Word which, read and understood in an ever new way in the course of subsequent relectures, continues to develop.

This oneness itself, however, is ultimately a theological fact: these writings form one Scripture which can only be properly understood if they are read in the analogia fidei as a oneness in which there is progress towards Christ, and inversely, in which Christ draws all history to himself; and if, moreover, all this is brought to life in the Church’s faith.

In other words, I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with Dei Verbum: may they experience the inner unity of Scripture — something that today is helped by “canonical exegesis” (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages) — and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion in the presence of the Word.

It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis. I do not know how this should be done in practice, but I think that in the academic context and at seminaries, as well as in an introductory course, it will be possible to find capable teachers to ensure that this timely encounter with Scripture in the faith of the Church — an encounter on whose basis proclamation subsequently becomes possible — can take place.

-Pope Benedict XVI, “Audience with the Bishops of Switzerland,” 7 November 2006.
Complete text available from EWTN.

Pope Day in Washington





Excitement filled the air at Nationals Park on Thursday as 46,000 people turned out to see Pope Benedict XVI celebrate Mass. The cardinals, dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests and VIPs filled the field while the grandstands were packed with exuberant Catholics from all across the United States. The weather was perfectly warm and sunny as Benedict emerged from the tunnel in the Pope-mobile. And as the procession for Mass made its way through the crowd, you could pick out the pontiff by the sun’s glint off his pastoral staff.

Like most of the participants, I woke up at 4:15 in the morning to get on the metro train and get to my seat. But what amazed me the most was not the massive turnout or the swarm of reporters, the music or the decorations—it was the atmosphere of faith that filled the stadium. Though the smell of hot dogs wafted through this homegrown American ballpark, the crowd’s excitement rose to fever pitch not because of a fly ball or stolen base, but because their Holy Father was with them reminding them of what they knew all along, but so often forget, that it is all true: the fact that God exists and sent his Son and that he loves me and you individually. Somehow that reality, that truth came to life for us people in the crowd. For once, we Americans were not reduced to a number to be checked off on a spreadsheet or a company budget. We did not even pay for our tickets. They were a gift.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC connected the Pope’s visit to the arrival of the first Catholics in the colonies in 1634. And in his homily, the Pope reminded us that he came at this particular time because it is the 200th anniversary of the creation of the first American dioceses. He told us that the “remarkable growth” of the Church in the United States was but “one chapter in the greater story” of the Church’s growth. Our story is intimately connected with the story of the whole Church and our life with the life of the whole Church. Benedict told us that he has come to America to confirm our faith, to repeat the message that Jesus Christ is Lord, to call us to conversion and to pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the American Church.

He repeated over and over that we are called to constant conversion. To take on this task, we are to rediscover Confession, pray ardently and live out the new evangelization. These themes seemed especially appropriate as the Pope lowered his voice to slowly and painfully discuss the clergy sexual abuse scandal. His sincere sadness was deeply moving. Yet he reminded us Americans that we are people of hope. Hope is part of our civic identity and that uniquely American sense of hope parallels the hope we have in Christ. He emphasized that the sacrament of Penance is a key to the renewal of the American Church. The Pope concluded his homily with a few words in Spanish.

In the silence after the homily, a lone female voice could be heard shouting “Viva la Papa!” With this shout, a great wave of cheers and spontaneous shouts followed, many in Spanish. This moment somehow captured the deeply felt love that the gathered congregation had for the Pope. It was like we were children, telling our father how much we loved him. His smiles, waves and expressions gave us the assurance that the love was mutual. After Placido Domingo finished his exquisite rendition of Panis Angelicus, the Pope embraced him. But it was as if he wanted to embrace each of us and we could each visualize ourselves receiving that embrace.
The Mass concluded with fanfare and music, but the real treasure was deep within our hearts. We each had an encounter and would somehow never be the same.

I had the privilege of seeing the Pope later in the day at the Catholic University of America. He spoke to Catholic educators—university presidents and school-district superintendents. He spoke about the contemporary crisis of truth which is rooted in a crisis of faith. He emphasized that a Catholic educational institution ought to be a place thriving with the life of faith. When he spoke of this he raised his voice to say that “faith and reason never contradict.” He warned that without the Church, the individual can become lost as if on an “ideological chess-board” of endless amoral calculations. He exhorted educators to have “intellectual charity” for their students, to hope, to pray and to live the truth. After his speech, the Pope greeted the students gathered on the lawn outside the building to thunderous applause and exuberant cheers. The students even organized themselves to sing “Regina Caeli,” one of Benedict’s purported favorites.

The Pope’s day in Washington was a wonderful experience of faith, a celebration of Christ our Hope. His encouraging and well-meditated words will serve as food for thought for the American Church in the days and weeks to come. His witness encourages us to become more fully the “leaven of evangelical hope” and to bring the Good News to all the ends of America. ?

Freedom, Responsibility and the Pope


This morning, the pope gave a great address at the White House. His comments on the moral responsibility underlying American freedom and democracy struck me. He is perhaps the only person who could masterfully quote John Paul II and George Washington in the same breath. Here’s the excerpt:

  • Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honouring those who sacrificed their lives in defence of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that “in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,” and a democracy without values can lose its very soul. Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent “indispensable supports” of political prosperity.

The full text of the Pope’s speech is here at the Globe and Mail and will be here at the Vatican.

And kudos to President Bush for quoting the Pope’s pre-papacy line about the “dictatorship of relativism.” (from this homily) Bush said, “In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth.” (full text here)

The George Washington quote comes from this line in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” (full text here)

The John Paul II quote comes from Centessimus Annus sec. 46. “But freedom attains its full development only by accepting the truth. In a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation and man is exposed to the violence of passion and to manipulation, both open and hidden. “