Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict’s address at the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome

“What marvels the Lord worked for them! What marvels the Lord worked for us: Indeed we were glad” (Ps 126)

“How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in
unity” (Ps 133)

1. At the beginning of this encounter in the Great Synagogue
of the Jews of Rome, the Psalms which we have heard suggest to us the right
spiritual attitude in which to experience this particular and happy moment of
grace: the praise of the Lord, who has worked marvels for us and has gathered
us in his Hèsed, his merciful love, and thanksgiving to him for granting us
this opportunity to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to
continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity
. I
wish to express 

Benedict with Riccardo di Segni.jpg

first of all my sincere gratitude to you, Chief Rabbi, Doctor
Riccardo Di Segni, for your invitation and for the thoughtful words which you
have addressed to me. I wish to thank also the President of the Union of
Italian Jewish Communities, Mr Renzo Gattegna, and the President of the Jewish
Community of Rome, Mr Riccardo Pacifici, for their courteous greetings. My
thoughts go to the Authorities and to all present, and they extend in a special
way, to the entire Jewish Community of Rome and to all who have worked to bring
about this moment of encounter and friendship which we now share.

When he came among you for the first time, as a Christian
and as Pope, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, almost 24 years ago, wanted
to make a decisive contribution to strengthening the good relations between our
two communities, so as to overcome every misconception and prejudice. My visit
forms a part of the journey already begun, to confirm and deepen it. With
sentiments of heartfelt appreciation, I come among you to express to you the
esteem and the affection which the Bishop and the Church of Rome, as well as
the entire Catholic Church, have towards this Community and all Jewish
communities around the world

2. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council has
represented for Catholics a clear landmark to which constant reference is made
in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and
significant stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable
commitment to pursue the path of dialogue
, fraternity and friendship, a journey
which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through
important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once
again the historic visit by my Venerable Predecessor to this Synagogue on 13
April 1986, the numerous meetings he had with Jewish representatives, both here
in Rome and during his Apostolic Visits throughout the world, the Jubilee
Pilgrimage which he made to the Holy Land in the year 2000, the various
documents of the Holy See which, following the Second Vatican Council’s
Declaration Nostra Aetate, have made helpful contributions to the increasingly
close relations between Catholics and Jews. I too, in the course of my
Pontificate, have wanted to demonstrate my closeness to and my affection for
the people of the Covenant
. I cherish in my heart each moment of the pilgrimage
that I had the joy of making to the Holy Land in May of last year, along with
the memories of numerous meetings with Jewish Communities and Organizations, in
particular my visits to the Synagogues of Cologne and New York.

JP II Western Wall.jpg

Furthermore, the Church has not failed to deplore the
failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in
any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on
the Shoah, 16 March 1998). May these wounds be healed forever! The heartfelt
prayer which Pope John Paul II offered at the Western Wall on 26 March 2000
comes back to my mind, and it calls forth a profound echo in our hearts:
God of our Fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your
Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in
the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking
your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the
people of the Covenant

3. The passage of time allows us to recognize in the
Twentieth Century a truly tragic period for humanity: ferocious wars that sowed
destruction, death and suffering like never before; frightening ideologies,
rooted in the idolatry of man, of race, and of the State, which led to brother
killing brother
. The singular and deeply disturbing drama of the Shoah
represents, as it were, the most extreme point on the path of hatred that
begins when man forgets his Creator and places himself at the centre of the
. As I noted during my visit of 28 May 2006 to the Auschwitz
Concentration camp, which is still profoundly impressed upon my memory,
“the rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish
people”, and, essentially, “by wiping out this people, they intended
to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles
to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that remain eternally valid”
(Discourse at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp: The Teachings of Pope
Benedict XVI, II, 1 [2006], p.727).

Here in this place, how could we not remember the Roman Jews
who were snatched from their homes, before these very walls, and who with
tremendous brutality were killed at Auschwitz? How could one ever forget their
faces, their names, their tears, the desperation faced by these men, women and
children? The extermination of the people of the Covenant of Moses, at first
announced, then systematically programmed and put into practice in Europe under
the Nazi regime, on that day tragically reached as far as Rome. Unfortunately,
many remained indifferent, but many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by
their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at risk of
their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being
hunted down, and earning perennial gratitude. The Apostolic See itself provided
assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way

The memory of these events compels us to strengthen the
bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance
may always increase.

4. Our closeness and spiritual fraternity find in the Holy
Bible – in Hebrew Sifre Qodesh or “Book of Holiness” – their most
stable and lasting foundation, which constantly reminds us of our common roots,
our history and the rich spiritual patrimony that we share. It is in pondering
her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant,
discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord
before all others to receive his word (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
839). “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already
a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews ‘belong the
sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
to them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh is the
Christ’ (Rom 9:4-5), ‘for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!’ (Rom
11:29)” (Ibid).

5. Many lessons may be learnt from our common heritage
derived from the Law and the Prophets. I would like to recall some of them:
first of all, the solidarity which binds the Church to the Jewish people
“at the level of their spiritual identity“, which offers Christians
the opportunity to promote “a renewed respect for the Jewish interpretation
of the Old Testament” (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish
people and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, 2001, pp.12 and 55);
the centrality of the Decalogue as a common ethical message of permanent value
for Israel, for the Church, for non-believers and for all of humanity; the task
of preparing or ushering in the Kingdom of the Most High in the “care for
creation” entrusted by God to man for him to cultivate and to care for
responsibly (cf. Gen 2:15).

Rabbis & B16.jpg

6. In particular, the Decalogue – the “Ten Words”
or Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 20:1-17; Dt 5:1-21) – which comes from the Torah of
Moses, is a shining light for ethical principles, hope and dialogue, a guiding
star of faith and morals for the people of God
, and it also enlightens and
guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in
justice and love, a “great ethical code” for all humanity. The
“Ten Commandments” shed light on good and evil, on truth and
falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human
person’s right conscience
. Jesus himself recalled this frequently, underlining
the need for active commitment in living the way of the Commandments: “If
you wish to enter into life, observe the Commandments” (Mt 19:17). From
this perspective, there are several possible areas of cooperation and witness.
I would like to recall three that are especially important for our time.

The “Ten Commandments” require that we recognize
the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden
. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider him
superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have been
fabricated to whom man bows down. Reawakening in our society openness to the
transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service which
Jews and Christians can offer together.

The “Ten Commandments” call us to respect life and
to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each
human person, created in the image and likeness of God
. How often, in every
part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom and the rights of
human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value
of life against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world
where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that “shalom” which
the lawgivers, the prophets and the sages of Israel longed to see.

The “Ten Commandments” call us to preserve and to
promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal,
faithful and definitive “Yes” of man and woman makes room for the
future, for the authentic humanity of each, and makes them open, at the same
time, to the gift of new life
. To witness that the family continues to be the
essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are
learned and practised is a precious service offered in the construction of a
world with a more human face.

7. As Moses taught in the Shema (cf. Dt 6:5; Lev 19:34) –
and as Jesus reaffirms in the Gospel (cf. Mk 12:19-31), all of the Commandments
are summed up in the love of God and loving-kindness towards one’s neighbour.
This Rule urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special
generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick,
the weak and the needy
. In the Jewish tradition there is a wonderful saying of
the Fathers of Israel: “Simon the Just often said: The world is founded on
three things: the Torah, worship, and acts of mercy” (Avoth 1:2). In
exercising justice and mercy, Jews and Christians are called to announce and to
bear witness to the coming Kingdom of the Most High, for which we pray and work
in hope each day

8. On this path we can walk together, aware of the
differences that exist between us, but also aware of the fact that when we
succeed in uniting our hearts and our hands in response to the Lord’s call, his
light comes closer and shines on all the peoples of the world. The progress
made in the last forty years by the International Committee for Catholic-Jewish
Relations and, in more recent years, by the Mixed Commission of the Chief
Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See, are a sign of our common will to
continue an open and sincere dialogue. Tomorrow here in Rome, in fact, the
Mixed Commission will hold its ninth meeting, on “Catholic and Jewish
Teaching on Creation and the Environment”; we wish them a profitable
dialogue on such a timely and important theme.

9. Christians and Jews share to a great extent a common
spiritual patrimony, they pray to the same Lord, they have the same roots, and
yet they often remain unknown to each other
. It is our duty, in response to
God’s call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal
respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the
challenges of our time, which invite us to cooperate for the good of humanity
in this world created by God, the Omnipotent and Merciful.

10. Finally, I offer a particular reflection on this, our
city of Rome, where, for nearly two millennia, as Pope John Paul II said, the
Catholic Community with its Bishop and the Jewish Community with its Chief
Rabbi have lived side by side. May this proximity be animated by a growing
fraternal love, expressed also in closer cooperation, so that we may offer a
valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face.

B16 Western Wall.jpg

I beg from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the world,
above all in the Holy Land. During my pilgrimage there last May, at the Western
Wall in Jerusalem, I prayed to Him who can do all things, asking: “Send
your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human
family; stir the hearts of those who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the
path of justice and compassion
” (Prayer at the Western Wall of Jerusalem,
12 May 2009).

I give thanks and praise to God once again for this
encounter, asking him to strengthen our fraternal bonds and to deepen our
mutual understanding.

“O praise the Lord, all you nations, acclaim him, all you peoples. Strong is his love for us, He is faithful forever. Alleluia” (Ps 117)

Benedict meets an admirer, Susanna Maiolo

At the end of the general audience today, Pope Benedict met privately, for a brief time, with Susanna Maiolo and 2 members of her family. You’ll recall the unpleasant incident of Ms Maiolo taking down the pope and a cardinal. Ms. Maiolo expressed her regret for what happened at the celebration of the night Mass for Christmas at St Peter’s Basilica, and for his part, the Holy Father gave her his forgiveness and expressed good wishes.

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In the confusion of the event, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, who lives with frail health, fell to the basilica floor breaking a femur. He’s recovering at the Gemelli Hospital where he and the pope enjoyed a visit on January 9th.

Benedict’s 2009 Christmas message to the world

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos, quia natus est nobis Dominus.
(A light will shine on us this day, the Lord is born for us.)

(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Savior, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

B16 Urbi.jpgAt first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!

Benedictus PP XVI, Christmas 2009

The search for God of all people, believers and non-believers concerns us, Pope said

The Holy Father’s annual address to the Roman Curia -the
Cardinals and bishops resident in Rome and other officials of the Roman Curia who assist him in
his governance of the Universal Church– took place yesterday. In it the Pope points to some notable concerns that he thinks that ought to be the concern of all
of us who believe faith is central our lives. Namely, belief and unbelief,
doubt and certainty and freedom with regard to God and humanity’s search for God. In my humble opinion, this papal address should be an essential point in any diocesan, parish or ecclesial movement’s pastoral plan in 2010 and beyond. In part the Holy Father said,

Even the
people who describe themselves as agnostics or atheists must be very important
to us as believers. When we talk about a new evangelization, these people may
become afraid
. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission, nor
do they want to renounce their freedom of thought or of will
. But the question
about God nonetheless remains present for them as well, even if they cannot
believe in the concrete nature of his attention to us. 

Benedict addresses Roman Curia 2009.jpg

In Paris, I talked
about the search for God as the fundamental motive from which Western
monasticism was born, and with it, Western culture. As the first step in
, we must try to keep this search alive; we must take pains that
man not set aside the question of God as an essential question of his
. Take pains that he accept this question and the longing concealed
within it.

Here I am reminded of the words that Jesus quoted from the prophet
Isaiah, that the temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Isaiah
56:7; Mark 11:17). He was thinking about what was called the court of the
gentiles, which he cleansed of extraneous business so that it could be the
space available for the gentiles who wanted to pray to the one God there, even
if they could not take part in the mystery, for service of which the interior
of the temple was reserved.

A place of prayer for all peoples: by this was
meant the people who know God, so to speak, only from afar; who are
dissatisfied with their gods, rites, myths; who desire the Pure and the Great,
even if God remains for them the “unknown God” (cf. Acts 17:23). They
needed to be able to pray to the unknown God, and so be in relation with the
true God, although in the midst of obscurities of various kinds.

I think that
the Church should also open today a sort of “court of the gentiles”
where men can in some manner cling to God, without knowing him and before they
have found the entryway to his mystery, which the interior life of the Church
. To the dialogue with the religions it must above all add today a
dialogue with those for whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is
unknown, and who nonetheless would not like simply to remain without God, but
at least to approach him as the Unknown.

God Today: With Him or Without Him Everything Changes

Almost two weeks ago Pope Benedict sent a message to the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, who is chairing a meeting where the agenda is talking about God, of all things. Well, it beats talking about bishops, nuns and the environment all the time. This topic interests me not in the sense of mere curiosity but because it is taking seriously my seeking the face of God (this topic ought to concern all people who consider themselves Catholic, spiritual and/or religious). To say God interests me sounds like an academic exercise; it is and it is not entirely that. God is interesting to me because seeking God is like no other search I know of, for it concerns my entire self and it intersects all that I do in the world. Is God totally unknowable, the Mystery and desirous of a personal relationship with me (and you)? The Pope makes some great points in these few paragraphs. The curious points are emphasized below.

On the occasion of the Congress “God Today: With or
Without Him Everything Changes,” which is taking place in Rome from
December 10-12, I wish to express to you, venerated Brother, to the Italian
Episcopal Conference and, in particular, to the Committee for the Cultural
Project, my profound appreciation for this important initiative, which
addresses one of the great topics that has always fascinated and questioned the
human spirit.

Vision of John the Evangelist JAlbergno.jpg

The question of God is also central in our time, in which man is
often reduced to one dimension, the “horizontal,” considering
openness to the Transcendent as irrelevant for his life. The relationship with
God, instead, is essential for humanity’s journey
and, as I have had the
occasion to affirm many times, the Church and every Christian, in fact, have
the task to make God present in this world, to attempt to open to men access to

Planned from this perspective is the international event of these days.
The breadth of the approach to the important topic that characterizes the
meeting, will make possible the sketching of a rich and articulated picture of
the question of God, but above all it will be a stimulation for a profound
reflection on God’s place in the culture and life of our time.

On one hand, in
fact, an attempt is being made to show the different ways that lead to
affirming the truth about the existence of God, that God which humanity has
always known in some way, even in the chiaroscuro of his history, and who
revealed himself with the splendor of his face in the covenant with the people
of Israel and, beyond that, in every measure and hope, in a full and definitive
way, in Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God, the Living who enters into the life
and history of man to illumine him with his grace, with his presence. On the
other hand, the desire is precisely to bring to light the essential importance
that God has for us, for our personal and social life, for understanding
ourselves and the world, for the hope that illumines our way, for the salvation
that awaits us beyond death

Directed to these objectives are the numerous
interventions, according to the many points of view which will be the object of
study and exchange: from philosophical and theological reflection on the
witness of the great religions; from the impulse to God, which finds its
expression in music, literature, the figurative arts, the cinema and
television; to the development of the sciences, which attempt to read in depth
the mechanisms of nature, fruit of the intelligent work of God the Creator; from
the analysis of the personal experience of God to the consideration of the
social and political dynamics of an already globalized world.

In a cultural and
spiritual situation such as the one we are living in, where the tendency grows
to relegate God to the private sphere, to consider him irrelevant and
superfluous, or to reject him explicitly, it is my heartfelt hope that this
event might at least contribute to disperse that semi-darkness that makes
openness to God precarious and fearful for the men of our time, though he never
ceases to knock on our door

The experiences of the past, although not remote
to us, teach us that when God disappears from man’s horizon, humanity loses its
direction and runs the risk of taking steps to its own destruction
. Faith in
God opens man to the horizon of certain hope, which does not disappoint
; it
indicates a solid foundation on which to base life without fear; it calls for
abandoning oneself with confidence in the hands of the Love which sustains the

To you, cardinal, to all those who have contributed to prepare this
congress, to the speakers and to all the participants I express my cordial
greeting with the desire for the full success of the initiative. I support the
works with prayer and with my apostolic blessing, propitiator of that light
from on High, which makes us capable of finding God, our treasure and our hope.

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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