Category Archives: Popes

Pontiff: Faith Is Foundation, Not Negotiation

Clarifies Nature of Ecumenism in Visit to Luther’s Convent
ERFURT, Germany, SEPT. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that ecumenism isn’t an exercise in negotiation, in which benefits and drawbacks are weighed in search of a consensus. “A self-made faith is worthless,” he says.
The Pope stated this today at an ecumenical celebration at the church of the former Augustinian Convent in Erfurt. The Holy Father visited the site, where Martin Luther lived for some years, on the second day of his four-day trip to Germany. He is in his homeland through Sunday.
He noted that prior to his visit, there was talk of “an ‘ecumenical gift’ which was expected from this visit.”
The Pontiff clarified that such talk “reflects a political misreading of faith and of ecumenism.”
He explained: “In general, when a Head of State visits a friendly country, contacts between the various parties take place beforehand to arrange one or more agreements between the two states: by weighing respective benefits and drawbacks a compromise is reached which in the end appears beneficial for both parties, so that a treaty can then be signed.
“But the faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us. It is the foundation for our lives. Unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives.”
Unheard?
Benedict XVI offered a reflection on Christ’s prayer for unity found in John 17.
“[Jesus] intercedes for coming generations of believers. He looks beyond the Upper Room, towards the future. He also prayed for us. And he prayed for our unity. This prayer of Jesus is not simply something from the past. He stands before the Father, for ever making intercession for us,” he said.
The Pope then asked the searching question: “Did Jesus’ prayer go unheard?”
“The history of Christianity is in some sense the visible element of this drama in which Christ strives and suffers with us human beings,” he said. “Ever anew he must endure the rejection of unity, yet ever anew unity takes place with him and thus with the triune God.”
The Holy Father invited his listeners to see both these things: human sin and God’s triumphs.
“In an ecumenical gathering, we ought not only to regret our divisions and separations, but we should also give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which he has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew,” the Pontiff proposed. “And this gratitude must be at the same time a resolve not to lose, at a time of temptations and perils, the unity thus bestowed.”
Needing God?
The Bishop of Rome also considered the question of if man needs God.
He suggested that in a first instance, it might appear that things can function without him. “But the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life.
“A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him. Our primary ecumenical service at this hour must be to bear common witness to the presence of the living God and in this way to give the world the answer which it needs.”
The seriousness of faith in God is shown by a commitment to man, the Pope proposed.
“We live at a time of uncertainty about what it means to be human. Ethics are being replaced by a calculation of consequences. In the face of this, we as Christians must defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death — from issues of prenatal diagnosis to the question of euthanasia,” he stated.
“Faith in God must take concrete form in a common defense of man,” the Pope said, adding that this defense also includes love.
“God will judge us on how we respond to our neighbor,” he said, and this is true not only as individuals but also as communities.
“Today,” he said, “Christian love of neighbor also calls for commitment to justice throughout the world.”

Pope Gets at Root of Unemployment

Ancona Speeches on Bread and Wine Seen as True Solutions
ROME, SEPT. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily newspaper says that Benedict XVI went to the root of unemployment during his one-day trip to Ancona on Sunday.
The Pope was at the Italian seaport town to close the 25th National Eucharistic Congress. He gave two full-length addresses and a homily.
“In reporting Benedict XVI’s visit to Ancona, the Italian media reflected on the anxiety of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, concerning the lack of employment and job security. It was an informative choice, understandable above all in this time of crisis, and one which stressed the Pontiff’s closeness,” Gian Maria Vian reflected.
But, the L’Osservatore editor continued, “Benedict XVI’s journey and discourses reached further.” He said the Pope went to the “root of the matter,” urging people “to think about the historical consequences of attempts to organize society on the part of ideologies which ‘have aimed at organizing society with the force of power and of the economy.'”
The Holy Father called for re-establishing the primacy of of God, Vian said, because “man needs bread in order to live. He needs his daily bread of course, but above all he needs the true bread which is Christ himself.”
The consequences of the Eucharist, the editor suggested, are political: “In fact, from the sacrament which is at the heart of the Christian faith — the Pope said — a new assumption of community responsibility comes into being and ‘a new positive social development is born which is centered on the person, especially the person who is poor, sick or in need.'”
Vian noted that Benedict XVI added to his reflection on bread a reflection on wine, the other sign of the Eucharist.
In his address to engaged couples, the Pope spoke about the wine of celebration, which had run out at Cana.
“Today too,” Vian said, “this wine has run short, but even today, as on that day, Christ wants it to be poured out for everyone: in the friendship he offers to every human being.”

Holy Father on Monastic Silence

The Environmental Condition That Most Favors Contemplation
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the Aug. 13 general audience at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer — such as monks and nuns — have established their communities in places of particular beauty: in the countryside, upon the hills, in mountain valleys, by the lakeside or on the seashore, or even on little islands. These places unite two very important elements for the contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which points to that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by their remoteness from cities and the great means of communication.
Silence is the environmental condition that most favors contemplation, listening to God and meditation. The very fact of experiencing silence, of allowing ourselves to be “filled,” so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet Elijah, on Mount Horeb — that is, Sinai — witnessed a great and strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally flashes of fire, but in none of these did he recognize the voice of God; instead, he recognized it in a still small breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). God speaks in the silence, but we need to know how to listen for Him. That is why monasteries are oases where God speaks to man; and in them there is the cloister, which is a symbolic place, for it is a space that is enclosed yet opened to heaven.
Tomorrow, dear friends, we celebrate the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi. I would therefore like to recall one of these spiritual “oases” that is particularly dear to the Fransciscan family and to all Christians: the small convent of San Damiano, situated just below the town of Assisi, amidst the olive groves that slope towards [the Basilica of] St. Mary of the Angels. Near that little church, which Francis restored after his conversion, Clare and her first companions established their community and lived a life of prayer and simple works. They were called the “Poor Sisters,” and their “way of life” was the same as the Friars Minor: “To observe the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Clare, I,2), maintaining the union of mutual charity (cf. ibid., X 7) and observing in a special way the poverty and humility lived by Jesus and His most holy Mother (cf. ibid., XII, 13).
The silence and beauty of the place where the monastic community lives — a simple and an austere beauty — serve as a reflection of the spiritual harmony that the community itself seeks to realize. The world is studded with these spiritual oases, some very ancient, particularly in Europe, others more recent, while still others have been restored by new communities. Looking at things from a spiritual perspective, these places of the spirit are a supporting structure for the world! And is it not the case that many people, especially in times of quiet and rest, visit these places and stay for a few days: even the soul, thanks be to God, has its needs!
Let us therefore remember St. Clare. But let us also remember other saintly figures who remind us of the importance of turning our gaze to the “things of heaven”; for example, St. Edith Stein — Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — Carmelite and Patroness of Europe, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. And today, Aug. 10, we cannot forget St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with a special wish offered to the people of Rome, who have always venerated him as one of their patrons. And lastly, let us turn our gaze to the Virgin Mary, that she might teach us to love silence and prayer.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]

This is the first step on which we take to Heaven. We project ourselves out of the temporal world into the light, albeit it may be very dim, of Heaven’s heavenly bliss.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the groups from Guam, Canada and the United States of America. My special greeting goes to the young people en route to World Youth Day in Madrid! In these days the Church celebrates the feasts of great saints like Lawrence, Clare of Assisi and Edith Stein. May their example and intercession help us to draw closer to God through the practice of quiet prayer and contemplation. May the Lord bless you and your families with his joy and peace!

Pope Benedict’s message to Secular Franciscans

Imitate St. Francis, Pope Benedict tells young people
Assisi, Jun. 18, 2007 (CWNews.com) –
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged young people to imitate St. Francis, during a Sunday-afternoon meeting in Assisi on June 17.
Recognizing the “special attraction” that the figure of St. Francis has for the young, the Holy Father recalled that the great saint experienced a conversion at the age of 25, after an early life of ease and pleasure.
“How can we deny that may people are tempted to follow the life of the young Francis before his conversion?” the Pope asked. Yet the young Francis did not find any lasting joy in secular life, the Pope continued. He found “that finite things can give glimmers of joy but only the infinite can fill the heart.”
“Do not be afraid to imitate St. Francis,” the Pope urged his young audience. He recommended in particular the saint’s “ambition, his thirst for glory and adventure.” Turned to the service of God, that ambition had an enormous impact on the world, Pope Benedict said.
During his Sunday visit to Assisi the Holy Father visited the churches and religious communities there, and prayed before the tomb of St. Francis. His visit was made on the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis.

BE COURAGEOUS WITNESSES
TO CHRISTIAN AND FRANCISCAN LIFE, Pope John Paul II
VATICAN CITY, NOV 22, 2002 (VIS) –
The Pope today welcomed members of the presidency of the International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order, meeting in their Tenth General Chapter on the theme “Vital, Reciprocal Communion in the Franciscan Family.”
The Pope noted that the Chapter “brought to an end the updating of your basic legislation,” including the Rule, the Ritual, the General Constitutions and the International Statute, which was approved in the current Chapter. He said the Church awaits the Order’s “great service to the cause of the Kingdom in today’s world” and she desires your Order to be a model of an organic whole and of structural and charismatic union at all levels.”
”Your renewed legislation,” he added, “gives you optimum instruments to realize and fully express the unity of your Order and the communion with the Franciscan family” as well as your mission to be “courageous and coherent witnesses of Christian and Franciscan life.”
”You are called,” John Paul II affirmed, “to offer your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St. Francis of Assisi, to hasten the advent of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co-responsibility and love are living realities. You must study deeply the true foundations of universal brotherhood and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fellowship. Commit yourselves strongly to fighting every form of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization and every attitude of indifference towards others.”
The Holy Father said he wished to conclude his message “by recommending to you to consider your family as the priority place in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation,” doing so through prayer, Christian catechesis, promoting respect for every life from conception to natural death and “offering a convincing example of the possibility of marriage lived in a way that fully conforms to God’s plan.”

In Reference to the Holy Father’s Message to Secular Franciscans

The following communication was received at NAFRA from Fr. Nils Francis Thompson, OFM, former General Spiritual Assistant.
“We are blessed to hear the hope the Holy Father expresses for us as Secular Franciscans, in his message at the General Chapter of the SFO. …
I’m attaching an item, which you likely already have seen: The statement of Pope John Paul II to the SFO General Chapter last week.
The statement of the Holy Father was a great blessing to me, as well as to the whole SFO internationally. He makes it very clear that your organic unity and your autonomy within the Franciscan Family are a witness to the whole world of what Christian living is meant to be.
I am sure you will be publishing this to NAFRA-USA in some way or other, and I hope that our people will really understand how important this step in your Secular Franciscan history really is. It is a sign to the Church that the Secular Franciscan Order is measuring up to make Jesus present to this new millennium.
The Pope’s mandate for the SFO … is to be taken seriously by the SFO because he is telling you to take seriously the Franciscan desire to be instruments of evangelization and peace-making.
The Gospel from which you take life leads you to care for all the universe, which is so sorely needed today. Thank you for answering your call from God.
This is so exciting! It was a blessing to me because I worked hard to promote your unity and autonomy. It was worth the effort and the difficulties. I believe the Spirit has led the SFO in this new direction back to its roots. This direction has been confirmed by the Pope’s discernment if you continue to obey the Spirit. The S.F.O. in the U.S. and in the world will see an even more impressive blossoming. It’s happening, my brothers, and I pray that all of you will keep going forward courageously. God be praised for my small part in this amazing work of His! Forgive me for preaching to the converted, but I feel so enlivened by this development.
Nils Thompson, O.F.M.

Pope John Paul II speaks to Franciscans

Pope says, “It is up to you to make God’s merciful love more visible and tangible.
Pope John Paul II told Franciscans to offer their “simple and intense” prayer life to modern men and women, who he said were in search of authentic spirituality.
”Our time shows ever more evident signs of a profound thirst for values, paths and goals of the spirit,” he said, this year on Feb. 17, to participants in the general chapter of Conventual Franciscans.
The pope said this renewed spiritual desire should find “a valid and fruitful response” from the Franciscans, who have traditionally emphasized a simple and direct approach to the Gospel.
”You will thus respond to the requests that come to you in different ways from the men and women of our time and you will be able to effectively draw souls to the paths of spiritual growth and rediscovered interior vitality,” he said.
During their February general chapter in Ariccia, just south of Rome, the Conventual Franciscans elected as the order’s new head, 57-year-old Father Joachim Anthony Giermek, from the U.S. Province of St. Anthony of Padua.
The pope told the Franciscans to persevere in their traditional mission to ordinary people.
”It is up to you to make God’s merciful love visible and, I would say, almost tangible: A love which welcomes and reconciles, which forgives and renews the heart of believers, drawing into a consoling embrace every man and every woman,” he said. – CNS

ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
22 November 2002
Secular Franciscans, you have by vocation [belong] to the Church and to society as inseparable realities. For this reason, you are asked first of all to bear a personal witness in the place where you live: “before all: in [your] family life; in [your] work; in [your] joys and sufferings; in [your] associations with all men and women, brothers and sisters of the same father; to [your] presence and participation in the life of society; in [your] fraternal relationship with all creatures” (SFO, General Constitutions, art. 12.1). Perhaps, you will not be required to pour out your Hood as a martyr, but you will certainly be asked to give a coherent and steadfast witness in fulfilling the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation, which you renewed and confirmed with your profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. By virtue of this profession, the Rule and the General Constitutions must represent for each of you the point of reference for daily living, based on your explicit vocation and special identity (cf. Promulgation of the General Constitutions of the SFO). If you are truly driven by the Spirit to reach the perfection of charity in your secular state, “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity” (Now Millennia meunte, n. 31). You must be sincerely dedicated to a “high standard of ordinary Christian living” (ibid.), to which I invited all the faithful at the end of the Great jubilee of the Year 2000.
I do not want to end this Message without recommending that you consider your family as the primary setting in which to live your Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation, finding time for prayer, for the Word of God and for Christian catechesis, and doing your utmost to make every life respect^ from its conception and in every situation until death. You must live in such a way mat your families “show convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person-of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Now Millennia ineunte, n. 47).
At this time, I urge you to take again into your hands the Rosary, which, by ancient tradition, “has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed [in] the Spirit of God” (Rwanum Vtrgmis Marwe,n. 41). Do so keeping your gaze on me Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, ready for his Word and for all his calls, whom Francis enveloped in inexpressible love and who was made Protectress and Advocate of the Franciscan family. Witness to her your burning love, by imitating her unconditional readiness and pouring out a stream of confident and conscious prayer (cf. SFO, Rule, art. 9). With these wishes, I cordially impart to you, Secular Franciscans and to the members of “Franciscan Youth”, a special Apostolic Blessing.

Pius XII Saved Roman Jews

Puis XII's audience 1956

Documents Reveal Pius XII Saved 11,000 Roman Jews

Pave the Way Foundation Announces Findings
By Jesús Colina
ROME, JULY 22, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The direct action of Pope Pius XII saved the lives of more than 11,000 Jews in Rome during the Second World War, according to documentation recently discovered by historians.
Pave the Way Foundation representative for Germany, historian and investigative researcher Michael Hesemann, discovered a number of very important original documents in his research of the open archives of Santa Maria dell Anima Church, which is the National Church of Germany in Rome.
The U.S.-based foundation, founded by Jew Gary Krupp, announced the findings in a statement sent to ZENIT.
“Many have criticized Pius XII for remaining silent during the arrest and when trains left Rome containing 1,007 Jews who were sent to the death camp Auschwitz,” Krupp stated. “The critics also do not acknowledge Pius XII’s direct intervention to end the arrests of Oct. 16, 1943.”
“New discoveries prove that Pius XII acted directly behind the scenes to end the arrests at 2:00 p.m., on the very day they began, but who was powerless to stop the ill-fated train,” he added.
According to a recent study by researcher Deacon Dominiek Oversteyns, there were 12,428 Jews in Rome on Oct. 16, 1943.
“Pope Pius XII’s direct action saved the lives of over 11,400 Jews,” Krupp explained. “On the morning of Oct. 16, 1943, when the Pope learned of the arrests of the Jews, he immediately ordered an official Vatican protest with the German ambassador, which he knew would no doubt be fruitless.
“The Pope then sent his nephew, Prince Carlo Pacelli, to meet with Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal. Bishop Hudal, head of the National Church of Germany in Rome, was by some accounts, sympathetic to the Nazi’s and had good relations with them. Prince Carlo Pacelli told Hudal that he was sent by the Pope, and that Hudal must write a letter to the German Governor of Rome, General Rainier Stahel, to demand that the arrests stop.”
Bishop Hudal’s letter to General Stahel stated: “Just now, a high Vatican source […] reported to me that this morning, the arrest of the Jews of Italian nationality has started. In the interest of a peaceful dialogue between the Vatican and the German military command, I ask you with urgency to give order to immediately stop these arrests in Rome and the surrounding area. The German reputation in foreign countries requires such a measure and also the danger that the Pope would openly protest against it.”
The letter was then hand-delivered to General Stahel by a close confidant to Pope Pius XII, German Father Pancratius Pfeiffer, superior general of the Society of the Divine Savior, who personally knew General Stahel.
The following morning, General Stahel responded by telephone: “I forwarded the affair immediately to the local Gestapo and to Himmler personally, Himmler ordered that, concerning the special status of Rome, these arrests are to be stopped immediately.”
These events are further confirmed by the testimony obtained during the investigation of relator (high Judge) to the cause of Pius XII, Jesuit Priest Father Peter Gumpel.
Father Gumpel stated that he personally spoke to General Dietrich Beelitz, who was then liaison officer between Kesselring’s office and Hitler’s command. General Beelitz listened in to the Stahel-Himmler telephone conversation and confirmed that General Stahel used a threat of military failure to Himmler if the arrests were to continue.
Exemptions
An additional document titled “The direct actions to save innumerable persons of the Hebrew nation” states that Bishop Hudal managed — through his contacts with Stahel and Colonel Baron von Veltheim — to get “550 religious colleges and institutions to be exempt from inspections and visitations of the German military Police.”
Just in one of these places, the Institute of St. Joseph, 80 Jews were being hidden.
The note also mentions the involvement “for a great part” of Prince Carlo Pacelli, the nephew of Pius XII. “The German soldiers were very disciplined and respected the signature of a high German official … Thousands of local Jews in Rome, Assisi, Loreto, Padua etc. were saved due to this declaration.”
Michael Hesemann stated that it is obvious that any public protest by the Pope when the train departed could have triggered the resumption of the arrests.
In addition, Hesemann explains that Pave the Way has on its Web site the original SS order to arrest 8,000 Roman Jews, who were to be sent to the work camp at Mauthausen — to be held as hostages — not the death camp in Auschwitz. One may speculate that the Vatican may have felt they could negotiate their release.
We have learned that it was also Bishop Hudal who was acknowledged by the Vatican as actively participating in helping some Nazis war criminals escape arrest after the war’s end.
Because of his political position, Bishop Hudal was persona-non-grata at the Vatican and in fact, was chastised in writing by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI), for even suggesting that Vatican help any Nazi escape arrest.
Gary Krupp, President of Pave the Way, further commented that “Pave the Way has devoted vast resources in order to obtain and post publicly all of this information for historians and scholars. Curiously, none of the most outspoken critics of Pope Pius XII, has bothered to either come to the open Vatican Archives (completely opened since 2006 up to 1939) for original study, or even accessed our restricted free Web site, according to sign in sheets in Rome and our registration records.”
Krupp further commented that he has the sincere hope that the scholarly representatives of the Roman Jewish community, research original materials only steps from their homes.
“I believe they will find that the very existence today of what Pope Pius XII called ‘this vibrant community’ is because of the secret efforts of Pope Pius XII to save every life,” said Krupp. “Pius XII did what he could, while under the threat of invasion, death, surrounded by hostile forces and infiltrated by spies.”
Elliot Hershberg, chairman of Pave the Way Foundation, added: “In the service of our mission, we are committed to try to bring some resolution to this controversy, which affects over 1 billion people.
“We have used our international connections and trust to obtain and post on our free restricted Web site over 46,000 pages of original documents, original news articles, video eyewitness, and scholarly interviews in order to spoon-feed this documentation to the historians and scholars.
“The international publicity from this project has yielded new documentation almost weekly, which show how we have moved to eliminate the academic logjam that has existed since 1963.”