Pope Benedict XVI: January 2009 Archives

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Cologne and those participating in the International Scientific Congress on the occasion of the 7th centenary of Blessed John Duns Scotus' death. What relevance does a letter was written in October 2008 by the pope have for us today? Why remember Blessed John at all? Faith and reason working together in the heart of the Church!!! They are not in opposition to each other. Catholics are known to work intimately with faith and reason and Scotus is a prime example of the tradition. But you don't need me to tell you that. Read the pope.


Johannes Duns Scotus.jpgRejoice, City of Cologne, which once welcomed within your walls John Duns Scotus, a most learned and devout man, who passed from this life to the heavenly Homeland on 8 November 1308; and, whose remains you preserve with great admiration and veneration.

Our Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, exalted him with lofty praise; we too would like to surround him with the praise he deserves and invoke his protection.

Thus the seventh centenary of his pious passing is now being celebrated, as is only right. And while articles and entire works in honour of Bl. John Duns Scotus are being published in various parts of the world and congresses are being held, including the solemn Congress currently being prepared that will take place in Cologne from 5 to 9 November 2008, we consider it a duty of our service in this circumstance to say a few words about this most illustrious man who so distinguished himself by contributing to the progress of the doctrine of the Church and of human science.

Indeed, combining piety with scientific research, in accordance with his invocation: "May the First Principle of things grant me to believe, to understand and to reveal what may please his majesty and may raise our minds to contemplate him", with his refined brilliance he penetrated so deeply the secrets of natural and revealed truth, and found in them a doctrine which led him to be called Doctor Ordinis, Doctor Subtilis, and Doctor Marianus, becoming a teacher and guide of the Franciscan School, a light and example to the entire Christian People.

Thus we desire to remind scholars and everyone, believers and non-believers alike, of the path and method that Scotus followed in order to establish harmony between faith and reason, defining in this manner the nature of theology in order constantly to exalt action, influence, practice and love rather than pure speculation; in fulfilling this task he let himself be guided by the Magisterium of the Church and by a sound critical sense regarding growth in knowledge of the truth and was convinced that knowledge is valuable to the extent that it is applied in praxis.

Firmly anchored to the Catholic faith, Duns Scotus strove to understand, explain and defend the truth of the faith in the light of human reason. Thus he strove to do nothing other than show the consonance of all truths, natural and supernatural, that come from one and the same Source.

Alongside Sacred Scripture, divinely inspired, is the authority of the Church. Duns Scotus seems to follow St Augustine's words: "I would not believe the Gospel, except that I [first] believe the Catholic Church". In fact, our Doctor often gives a special emphasis to the supreme authority of the Successor of Peter. As the Blessed said: "Although the Pope cannot dispense with natural and divine law (given that his power is inferior to both), being the Successor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, he still has the same authority as had Peter".

Therefore, the Catholic Church whose invisible Head is Christ himself, who left as his Vicars the person of Blessed Peter and his Successors guided by the Spirit of truth, is the authentic custodian of the revealed deposit and the rule of faith. The Church is the firm and permanent criterion of the canonical dimension of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, she "established which books of the biblical canon were to be held authentic".

Elsewhere he states that "the Scriptures were revealed in the same Spirit in which they were written, and in this way one must consider that the Catholic Church has presented them in that same Spirit with which the faith has been passed down, guided that is, by the Spirit of truth".

After having proven with various arguments taken from theological reason, the very fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin, he was absolutely ready also to reject this conviction should it not be in harmony with the authority of the Church, saying: "We can with probability attribute to Mary all that has the greatest perfection, provided it is not opposed to the authority of the Church or the Scriptures".

The primacy of the will sheds light on the fact that God is charity before all else. This charity, this love, Duns Scotus kept present when he sought to lead theology back to a single expression, that is to practical theology. According to his thought, since God "is formally love and formally charity", with the greatest generosity he radiates his goodness and love beyond himself. And in reality, it is for love that God "chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us in love to be his adoptive sons through Jesus Christ" (cf. Eph 1: 4-5).

A faithful disciple of St Francis of Assisi, Bl. John contemplated and preached assiduously the Incarnation and the saving Passion of the Son of God. However, the charity or love of Christ is expressed in a special way not only on Calvary, but also in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, without which "if not for being able to render supreme adoration unto God through the veneration of the same Sacrament every mercy would disappear in the Church". This Sacrament moreover is a sacrament of unity and love; through it we are led to love one another mutually and to love God as a common good and to be loved at the same time by others.

And as this love, this charity, was the origin of all things, so too our eternal happiness will be in love and charity alone: "Eternal life is simply the desire as well as the will to love, blessed and perfect".

Since at the beginning of our ministry we first of all preached love, which is God himself, we see with joy that the unique doctrine of this Blessed keeps a special place for this truth, which we consider principally worthy to be researched and taught in our time. Therefore, willingly complying with the request of our Venerable Brother Cardinal Joachim Meisner, of Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Cologne, we are sending this Apostolic Letter with which we desire to honour Bl. John Duns Scotus and invoke his heavenly intercession upon us. Lastly, to those who are taking part in any capacity in this International Congress and in other initiatives concerning this outstanding son of St Francis, we cordially impart our Apostolic Blessing.

Given in Rome, at St Peter's on 28 October 2008, the fourth year of our Pontificate.



The epitaph at Blessed John's grave is rather fun:

Scotland bore me,                      Scotia me genuit,

England received me,                 Anglia me suscepit,

France taught me,                      Gallia me docuit,

Cologne holds me.                     Colonia me tenet.


Can we think of advancing his cause for sainthood? Its taken too many years to get to "Blessed"!!!!


footnotes in the original, see vatican.va

The Pope and the Circus

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Circus & the pope.jpgIt's not every day that the Pope meets with the circus, unless you mean meeting with a long line of clergy and laity on any given subject wanting the pope's permission, insight or blessing. Nonetheless, it is fun to see the Holy Father having a light moment in his schedule. The Medrano Circus came to the General Audience today.

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Benedict at Vespers for Con St Paul 09.jpgIt is a great joy every time we find ourselves gathered at the tomb of the Apostle Paul on the liturgical feast of his conversion to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you with affection. I greet in a special way Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the abbot [Edmund Powers] and the community of monks who are hosting us. I also greet Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I greet along with him the lord cardinals who are present, the bishops and the pastors of the various Churches and ecclesial communities gathered here this evening.

A special word of recognition goes to those who worked together in preparing the prayer guides, experiencing firsthand the exercise of reflecting and meeting in listening to each other and, all together, to the Word of God.

St. Paul's conversion offers us a model that shows us the way to full unity. Unity in fact requires a conversion: from division to communion, from broken unity to healed and full unity. This conversion is the gift of the Risen Christ, as it was for St. Paul. We heard this from the Apostle himself in the reading proclaimed just a moment ago: "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The same Lord, who called Saul on the road to Damascus, addresses himself to the members of the Church -- which is one and holy -- and calling each by name asks: Why have you divided me? Why have you wounded the unity of my body?

Conversion implies two dimensions. In the first step we recognize our faults in the light of Christ, and this recognition becomes sorrow and repentance, desire for a new beginning. In the second step we recognize that this new road cannot come from us. It consists in letting ourselves be conquered by Christ. As St. Paul says: "I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).

Conversion demands our yes, my "pursuit"; it is not ultimately my activity, but a gift, a letting Paul the apostle.jpg ourselves be formed by Christ; it is death and resurrection. This is why St. Paul does not say: "I converted" but rather "I died" (Galatians 2:19), I am a new creature. In reality, St. Paul's conversion was not a passage from immorality to morality, from a mistaken faith to a right faith, but it was a being conquered by Christ: the renunciation of his own perfection; it was the humility of one who puts himself without reserve in the service of Christ for the brethren. And only in this renunciation of ourselves, in this conforming to Christ are we also united among ourselves; we become "one" in Christ. It is communion with the risen Christ that gives us unity.

We can observe an interesting analogy with the dynamic of St. Paul's conversion also in meditating on the biblical text of the prophet Ezekiel (37:15-28), which was chosen as a basis for our prayer this year. In it, in fact, the symbolic gesture is presented of two sticks being joined into one in the prophet's hand, who represents God's future action with this gesture. It is the second part of Chapter 37, which in the first part contains the celebrated vision of the dry bones and the resurrection of Israel, worked by the Spirit of God.

How can we not see that the prophetic sign of the reunification of the people of Israel is placed after the great symbol of the dry bones brought to life by the Spirit? There follows from this a theological pattern analogous to that of St. Paul's conversion: God's power is first and he works the resurrection as a new creation by his Spirit. This God, who is the Creator and is able to resurrect the dead, is also able to bring a people divided in two back to unity.

Ezekiel.jpgPaul -- like Ezekiel but more than Ezekiel -- becomes the chosen instrument of the preaching of the unity won by Christ through his cross and resurrection: the unity between the Jews and the pagans, to form one new people. Christ's resurrection extends the boundary of unity: not only the unity of the tribes of Israel, but the unity of the Jews and the pagans (cf. Ephesians 2; John 10:16); the unification of humanity dispersed by sin and still more the unity of all who believe in Christ.

We owe this choice of the passage from the prophet Ezekiel to our Korean brothers, who felt the call of this biblical passage strongly, both as Koreans and Christians. In the division of the Jewish people into two kingdoms they saw themselves reflected, the children of one land who, on account of political events, have been divided, north from south. Their human experience helped them to better understand the drama of the division among Christians.

Now, from this Word of God, chosen by our Korean brothers and proposed to all, a truth full of hope emerges: God allows his people a new unity, which must be a sign and an instrument of reconciliation and peace, even at the historical level, for all nations. The unity that God gives his Church, and for which we pray, is naturally communion in the spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; but we know that this unity in Christ is also the ferment of fraternity in the social sphere, in relations between nations and for the whole human family. It is the leaven of the Kingdom of God that makes all the dough rise (cf. Matthew 13:33).

In this sense, the prayer that we offer up in these days, taking our cue from the prophecy of Ezekiel, has also become intercession for the different situations of conflict that afflict humanity at present. There where human words become powerless, because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not weaken and it repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. For this reason our prayer for unity and peace always requires confirmation by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians.

Once again I think of the Holy Land: how important it is that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who travel there, offer a witness to everyone that diversity of rites and traditions need not be an obstacle to mutual respect and to fraternal charity. In the legitimate diversity of different positions we must seek unity in faith, in our fundamental "yes" to Christ and to his one Church. And thus the differences will no longer be an obstacle that separates but richness in the multiplicity of the expressions of a common faith.

Pope John XIII.jpgI would like to conclude this reflection of mine with a reference to an event that we older people here have certainly not forgotten. In this place on Jan. 25, 1959, exactly 50 years ago, Blessed Pope John XXIII announced for this first time his desire to convoke "an ecumenical Council for the universal Church" (AAS LI [1959], p. 68). He made this announcement to the cardinals in the chapter room of the Monastery of St. Paul, after having celebrated solemn Mass in the Basilica.

From the providential decision, suggested to my venerable predecessor, according to his firm conviction, by the Holy Spirit, there also derived a fundamental contribution to ecumenism, condensed in the decree Unitatis Redintegratio. In that document we read: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way" (7).

The attitude of interior conversion in Christ, of spiritual renewal, of increased charity toward other Christians, created a new situation in ecumenical relations. The fruits of theological dialogues, with their convergences and with the more precise identification of the differences that still remain, led to a courageous pursuit in two directions: in the reception of what was positively achieved and a renewed dedication to the future.

Opportunely, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which I thank for the service it renders to all the disciples of the Lord, has recently reflected on the reception and future of ecumenical dialogue. Such a reflection, if on one hand rightly desires to emphasize what has already been achieved, on the other hand intends to find new ways to continue the relations between the Churches and the ecclesial Communities in the present context.

The horizon of full unity remains open before us. It is an arduous task, but it is exciting for those Christians who want to live in harmony with the prayer of the Lord: "that all be one so that the world believes" (John 17:21). The Second Vatican Council explained to us "that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective -- the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ" (Unitatis redintegratio, 24).

at St Paul outside the walls.jpgTrusting in the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ, and encouraged by the significant steps made by the ecumenical movement, with faith we invoke the Holy Spirit that he continue to illumine our path. May the Apostle Paul, who worked so hard and suffered for the unity of the mystical body of Christ, spur us on from heaven; and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the unity of the Church, accompany and sustain us.


Pope Benedict XVI

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Vespers, Conversion of Saint Paul, 2009

On January 7, 2009, His Holiness delivered this address. It bears reading the whole thing. It is excellent, per usual!

In this first general audience of 2009, I want to offer all of you fervent best wishes for the New Year that just began. Let us renew our determination to open the mind and heart to Christ, to be and live as his true friends. His company will make this year, even with its inevitable difficulties, be a path full of joy and peace. In fact, only if we remain united to Jesus will the New Year be good and happy.

St Paul at St Peter's.jpgThe commitment of union with Christ is the example that St. Paul offers us. Continuing the catecheses dedicated to him, we pause today to reflect on one of the important aspects of his thought, the worship that Christians are called to offer. In the past, there was a leaning toward speaking of an anti-worship tendency in the Apostle, of a "spiritualization" of the idea of worship. Today we better understand that St. Paul sees in the cross of Christ a historical change, which transforms and radically renews the reality of worship. There are above all three passages from the Letter to the Romans in which this new vision of worship is presented.

1. In Romans 3:25, after having spoken of the "redemption brought about by Christ Jesus," Paul goes on with a formula that is mysterious to us, saying: God "set [him] forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood." With this expression that is quite strange for us -- "instrument of expiation" -- St. Paul refers to the so-called propitiatory of the ancient temple, that is, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was considered a point of contact between God and man, the point of the mysterious presence of God in the world of man. This "propitiatory," on the great day of reconciliation -- Yom Kippur -- was sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed animals, blood that symbolically put the sins of the past year in contact with God, and thus, the sins hurled to the abyss of the divine will were almost absorbed by the strength of God, overcome, pardoned. Life began anew.

St. Paul makes reference to this rite and says: This rite was the expression of the desire Cimabue S Domenico Crucifix Arezzo c1275.jpgthat all our faults could really be put in the abyss of divine mercy and thus made to disappear. But with the blood of animals, this process was not fulfilled. A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary. This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.

Revealing this change, St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ -- the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love -- the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended. This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross. Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship. The cross of Christ, his love with flesh and blood, is the real worship, corresponding to the reality of God and man. Already before the external destruction of the temple, for Paul, the era of the temple and its worship had ended: Paul is found here in perfect consonance with the words of Jesus, who had announced the end of the temple and announced another temple "not made by human hands" -- the temple of his risen body (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:19 ff). This is the first passage.

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

Christ & cup.jpgThis Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " ...for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks ... So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

altar.jpgLet us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice ... your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" ... "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

LITURGY.JPGAnd then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life. And with this dynamism we begin the New Year. Thanks for your patience.

Benedict XVI arms3.jpg

The General Intention
That in the face of a spreading of a culture of violence and death the Church through her apostolic and missionary activity may promote with courage the culture of life.

The Missionary Intention
That especially in mission countries Christians may show with acts of fraternal love that the Child born in the stable at Bethlehem is the luminous Hope of the world.

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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