Category Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI visits Monte Cassino

Montecassino.jpgPope Benedict XVI with great affection for Saint Benedict of Nursia, the Rule of Saint Benedict and Benedictine spirituality made a visit to Monte Cassino, 75 miles southeast of Rome, today. The Abbey of Monte Cassino was founded by Saint Benedict in 529 and it’s the sight of great holiness and humanity.

Among the various pastoral engagements the Holy Father had, he celebrated Mass for the diocese in the heart of the city, prayed Vespers with the monks, offered prayers for the dead, and visited the House of Charity. (This house works for peace and the promotion of life.) He also visited the monks of the monastic community there and addressed visiting abbesses and abbots. The Pope was hosted by Abbot-Nullius Pietro Vittorelli, 46.

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Historically Monte Cassino is a center of art, culture, learning, and faith. The monks at Cassino are quick to recall that the abbey’s culture is Neapolitan. Nevertheless, the sole purpose of life in the abbey, indeed in any Benedictine abbey, is the search for God, pressing forward announcing the Paschal Mystery, of which is the incredible fact of Christ’s presence known now, that is today. Thus we comprehend the reason for the holy Rule of Benedict: keeping our gaze fixed on Christ.

In Saint Benedict we have a genius who gave cohesion to Europe and the rest of the world through his Rule for monasteries and Lectio Divina. Some will say it is one of the centers of humanity, of Western civilization because the Benedictine life gave voice to the aspirations of men and women. The notable archive at Monte Cassino attests to the search for God and the conscience of the Christian life. A new humanism is underlined by the Rule because it is attentive to one’s real humanity seen particularly in the vulnerable of society.

A fascinating heritage of Cassino abbey is the historic presence of the Greek monks who lived there for a few hundred years prior to founding the Abbey of Grottaferrata. Without digressing the Abbey was destroyed four times (in 577, 883, 1349 & 1944) and rebuilt four times. The last time the abbey was destroyed it was bombed by the American military during the Second World War because the Allied armies feared the advance of the enemies. The destruction, however, was carried out under wrong intelligence which the cost the lives of many. However, Succisa virescit! It is the 65th anniversary of the rebuilding of the abbey and city, the icon of beauty, strength and peace all people.

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This visit of Pope Benedict is in continuity with the visits of past popes. This is not a first visit of Benedict XVI since he made several visits before as cardinal (but it is the first visit as the first as pope) to Monte Cassino; significantly in 1992 made a few days of retreat with his brother and personal secretary at the abbey and then he worked with Peter Seewald on his book, Salt of the Earth (1997) there. So, as an honor, the Mayor of Cassino announced today that Miranda Square was renamed today to “Pope Benedict XVI Square.”

The Pope’s homily was incredibly striking and we wait for a proper translation in English.

Blessed is he comes in the Name of the Lord.

Pope Benedict speaks to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences 2009



The Holy Father gave the following address to the Social Sciences Academy which is led by Mary Ann Glendon. It is a rather important speech with regard to faith and reason and it deserves our serious attention. As supplementary readings you might re-read the Pope’s 2008 address to the United Nations and an essay by Tracey Rowland, “Natural Law: From Neo-Thomism to Nuptial Mysticism” in the journal Communio 35 (Fall 2008). 

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As you gather for the fifteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical
Academy of Social Sciences, I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you
and to express my encouragement for your mission of expounding and furthering
the Church’s social doctrine in the areas of law, economy, politics and the
various other social sciences. Thanking Professor Mary Ann Glendon for her
cordial words of greeting, I assure you of my prayers that the fruit of your
deliberations will continue to attest to the enduring pertinence of Catholic
social teaching in a rapidly changing world.

After studying work, democracy, globalisation, solidarity
and subsidiarity in relation to the social teaching of the Church, your Academy
has chosen to return to the central question of the dignity of the human person
and human rights, a point of encounter between the doctrine of the Church and
contemporary society.

The world’s great religions and philosophies have
illuminated some aspects of these human rights, which are concisely expressed
in “the golden rule” found in the Gospel: “Do to others as you
would have them do to you” (Lk
 6:31;
cf. Mt 
7:12).
The Church has always affirmed that fundamental rights, above and beyond the
different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of
importance they may have in various cultural contexts, are to be upheld and
accorded universal recognition because they are inherent in the very nature of
man, who is created in the image and likeness of God
. If all human beings are
created in the image and likeness of God, then they share a common nature that
binds them together and calls for universal respect. The Church, assimilating
the teaching of Christ, considers the person as “the worthiest of
nature”
(St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia
, 9, 3) and has taught that the ethical
and political order that governs relationships between persons finds its origin
in the very structure of man’s being
. The discovery of America and the ensuing
anthropological debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to a
heightened awareness of human rights as such and of their universality (ius
gentium
). The modern
period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ – because it proclaims
that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love
God freely
demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and
cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom
. At the same time, we must
always remember that “freedom itself needs to be set free. It is Christ
who sets it free
(Veritatis Splendor, 
86).

In the middle of the last century, after the vast suffering
caused by two terrible world wars and the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by
totalitarian ideologies, the international community acquired a new system of
international law based on human rights. In this, it appears to have acted in
conformity with the message that my predecessor Benedict XV proclaimed when he
called on the belligerents of the First World War to “transform the
material force of arms into the moral force of law” (“Note to the
Heads of the Belligerent Peoples”, 1 August 1917).

Human rights became the reference point of a shared
universal ethos
 –
at least at the level of aspiration – for most of humankind. These rights have
been ratified by almost every State in the world. The Second Vatican Council,
in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae
, as well as my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II,
forcefully referred to the right to life and the right to freedom of conscience
and religion as being at the centre of those rights that spring from human
nature itself
.

Strictly speaking, these human rights are not truths of
faith, even though they are discoverable – and indeed come to full light – in
the message of Christ who “reveals man to man himself”
(Gaudium et
Spes
, 22). They receive
further confirmation from faith. Yet it stands to reason that, living and
acting in the physical world as spiritual beings, men and women ascertain the
pervading presence of a logos
 which
enables them 
to
distinguish not only between true and false, but also good and evil, better and
worse, and justice and injustice. This ability to discern – this radical agency
 – renders every person capable of
grasping the “natural law”, which is nothing other than a
participation in the eternal law: “
unde
lex naturalis nihil aliud est quam
participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura
(St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, 91, 2). The natural law is a
universal guide recognizable to everyone, on the basis of which all people can
reciprocally understand and love each other
. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately
rooted in a participation of God
, who has created each human person with
intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical and political basis is ignored,
human rights remain fragile since they are deprived of their sound foundation.

The Church’s action in promoting human rights is therefore
supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be
presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious
affiliation they may have. Nevertheless, as I have observed in my Encyclicals,
on the one hand, human reason must undergo constant purification by faith,
insofar as it is always in danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by
disordered passions and sin; and, on the other hand, insofar as human rights
need to be re-appropriated by every generation and by each individual, and
insofar as human freedom – which proceeds by a succession of free choices – is
always fragile, the human person needs the unconditional hope and love that can
only be found in God and that lead to participation in the justice and
generosity of God towards others
(cf. Deus Caritas Est, 
18, and Spe Salvi, 24).

This perspective draws attention to some of the most
critical social problems of recent decades, such as the growing awareness –
which has in part arisen with globalisation and the present economic crisis –
of a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution
 of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those
rights. For Christians who regularly ask God to “give us this day our
daily bread”, it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still
goes hungry
. Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital
resources such as water and energy
, requires all international leaders to
collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the
natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions
and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social
inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global
security.

Dear friends, dear Academicians, in exhorting you in your research and deliberations to be credible and consistent witnesses tot he defence and promotion of these non-negotiable human rights which are founded in divine law, I most willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intention, May 2009

The general intention

That the laity
and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and
religious vocations.

The missionary
intention

That the
recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith,
may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their
availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

God’s greatness is experienced in humble ways

When the Lord of the world comes and undertakes the slave’s task of foot-washing – which is an illustration of the way he washes our feet all through our lives – we have a totally different picture. God doesn’t want to trample on us but kneels down before us so as to exalt us. The mystery of the greatness of God is seen precisely in the fact that he can be small… Only when power is changed from the inside, and we accept Jesus and his way of life, whose whole self is there in the action of foot-washing, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another.   Pope Benedict XVI

The real agenda of Pope Benedict

Often we hear assertions by the media (and others) that they know what a person is thinking, or better, what he’ll do next and why. This is certainly true when talking about the pope: Vatican watchers (speculators?) think they have the pope pinpointed. Much of what is said in the media is a string of partial understandings: one would hope that we could just say we are making a prediction so when it doesn’t materialize we don’t run away with our heads hung low. Of course human nature seems to want to be right all the time to garner power, fame and even money. Intrigue is rather boring 99% of the time. That said, there are a few people who modestly have an understanding of Benedict XVI which we ought to note.

camisasca.jpgThe longtime friend and collaborator of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, Msgr. Massimo Camisasca, also the founder of the Priestly Fraternity Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, wrote an OP-Ed piece, “The Method Of Benedict XVI

” for the online daily Il Sussidiario.net where he outlines a few important things in understanding Pope Benedict. Msgr. Camisasca is providing neither a comprehensive nor exhaustive look into Benedict’s life and work but is noting the evident things that many seem to miss. Consider the following themes:

Pope Benedict Apr 22 09.jpg1. there’s preference for a person’s interior change; the Pope relies on theological premise of conversatio morum (conversion of life/attitude) wrought by the Holy Spirit: nothing is impossible with God;

2. Catholic life necessarily entails a focus on the Church’s Liturgy which is rich in tradition because it is our first theology, that is, all else is derivative from the Liturgy: “…manifestation of God’s absolute prior initiative in human life, his grace, his mercy, and at the same time his ability to intervene in history, to give shape to existence, to accompany, visibly and invisibly, the paths of the cosmos toward their recapitulation” (above cited article); among other things read the Pope’s homilies because there’s an theological/spiritual itinerary that we need to be aware of but it’s found in this medium;

3. consider the initiatives found in the Years of Saint Paul and Saint John Vianney; what is more is more important than evangelization and priesthood? I would also add the work of the Synods of Bishops on the Word of God and the forthcoming one on Africa;

4. go east: think of Christian life in China which by all accounts has not been a raging success.

Aside from the normal cliches of recognizing that some call Pope Benedict the “new Leo the Great” or the “new Augustine” Msgr. Camisasca rightly focuses our attention on some rather important areas of concern for Benedict which also should concern us if we want to follow his lead to Christ. Instead of focusing on Benedict perhaps we focus on Christ through the lens of Benedict.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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