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Pope Benedict sees the yearning for mercy as a ‘sign of the times’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although he lives a relatively hidden life in a villa in the Vatican Gardens, retired Pope Benedict XVI continues to study theological questions and, occasionally, to comment on them publicly.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI attends the Year of Mercy opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this Dec. 8, 2015. In a written interview, the retired pope commented on the theme of mercy. "Mercy is what moves us toward God, while justice makes us tremble in his sight, Pope Benedict said. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI attends the Year of Mercy opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Dec. 8, 2015. In a written interview, the retired pope commented on the theme of mercy. “Mercy is what moves us toward God, while justice makes us tremble in his sight, Pope Benedict said. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

The attention Pope Francis and many Christians are giving to the theme of divine mercy is a “sign of the times” that shows how, deep down, people still experience a need for God, the retired pope told Belgian Jesuit Father Jacques Servais in a written interview.

“Mercy is what moves us toward God, while justice makes us tremble in his sight,” Pope Benedict said in the interview published in mid-March.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s personal secretary, read Pope Benedict’s German text in October at a conference on the doctrine of justification and the experience of God. The retired pope approved the Italian translation of the text, which was published along with other papers presented at the conference.

The doctrine of justification, how people are made righteous in God’s eyes and saved by Jesus, was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, which will mark its 500th anniversary in 2017.

In the interview, Pope Benedict said, “For people today, unlike at the time of (Martin) Luther and from the classical perspective of the Christian faith, things have been turned upside down in a certain sense: Man no longer thinks he needs to be justified in God’s sight, but rather he is of the opinion that it is God who must justify himself because of all the horrendous things present in the world and in the face of human misery.”

Another sign of a strong change in general thinking that challenges at least medieval Christian thought, he said, is “the sensation that God cannot simply allow the perdition of the majority of humanity.”

Yet, Pope Benedict said, there still exists a general perception that “we need grace and pardon. For me it is one of the ‘signs of the times’ that the idea of God’s mercy is becoming increasingly central and dominant” in Christian thought.

St. Faustina Kowalska’s promotion of the divine mercy devotions in the early 1900s and the ministry and writings of St. John Paul II, “even if it did not always emerge in an explicit way,” both gave a strong push to a popular Christian focus on mercy and to theological explorations of the theme.

St. John Paul “affirmed that mercy is the only true and ultimately effective reaction against the power of evil. Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, only there do evil and violence stop,” said the retired pope, who worked closely with the Polish pope for decades.

“Pope Francis,” he said, “is in complete agreement with this line. His pastoral practice is expressed precisely in the fact that he speaks continuously of God’s mercy.””

The fact that so many people are open to that message, Pope Benedict said, shows that “under the patina of self-assurance” and a conviction of self-righteousness, “man today hides a deep awareness of his wounds and his lack of worthiness before God. He is waiting for mercy.”

Like Pope Francis, Pope Benedict urged a return to the sacrament of reconciliation. That is where, he said, “we let ourselves be molded and transformed by Christ and continually pass from the side of one who destroys to that of the one who saves.”

 

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Pope Francis greets Pope Benedict

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(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 8. Pope Francis opened the Holy Door to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

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See you in September, Holy Father: Benedict heads for hilltop villa, Francis trims schedule

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis visited retired Pope Benedict XVI at his Vatican residence June 30 to wish him a happy summer.

After a 30-minute visit from Pope Francis, the retired pope then headed off to the traditional papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. It was the first time the retired pope returned to the villa since spending about two months there after he resigned in early 2013.

Pope Francis chats with retired Pope Benedict XVI at the retired pope's home at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican June 30. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis chats with retired Pope Benedict XVI at the retired pope’s home at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican June 30. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

The 88-year-old retired pope is expected to remain at the summer villa just two weeks, until July 14. Before he resigned, Pope Benedict, like many of his predecessors since the early 1600s, spent a large portion of the summer months at the 135-acre papal villa to escape Rome’s oppressive heat.

Pope Francis, however, who, even as archbishop of Buenos Aires, is not known to take a full vacation, lightened his schedule just a bit for July.

He will still hold his Angelus prayer and address every Sunday; however, there will be no Wednesday general audience for all July, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. The general audience will resume in August in the Vatican’s solar-powered and air-conditioned Paul VI hall.

For the month of July, all audiences with the pope are expected to be suspended, except a meeting with members of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement in St. Peter’s Square July 3.

Pope Francis will not invite groups of Catholics to his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, for his early morning Mass throughout July and August.

Despite the somewhat reduced schedule for July, the 78-year-old pope will visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay July 5-12, returning to the Vatican July 13.

He will visit at least seven cities and villages, whose altitudes range from 35 meters (116 feet) to 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level, and deliver 22 speeches, homilies and greetings. Millions of people are expected to attend the more than 37 scheduled events.

 

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Retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 88th birthday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An inability to dialogue and to accept that God may be doing new things are signs of disobedience to God, Pope Francis said.

Obedience often leads people to a path for their life that is not the one they planned on taking, he said. To obey is “to have the courage to change paths when the Lord asks this of us.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Celebrating Mass April 16 in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis told the small congregation that because it was the 88th birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI, he wanted to offer the Mass for him. “I invite you to pray for him, that the Lord might sustain him and grant him much joy and happiness.”

In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the story in the day’s first Scripture reading, Acts 5:27-33, about Jewish leaders ordering the disciples to stop preaching about Jesus, but the disciples reply: “We must obey God rather than men.”

The Jewish leaders, the pope said, “were doctors, they had studied the history of the people; they studied the prophecies; they studied the law; they knew the whole theology of the people of Israel, the revelation of God, they knew everything, they were doctors and yet they were incapable of recognizing God’s salvation.”

Their “anger and desire to silence those who were preaching the newness of God, that is, that Jesus was risen,” was the clearest sign that they were “not open to the Lord’s voice and to the signs of the Lord in the midst of his people.”

“They were the same ones who paid the guards at the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body had been stolen,” the pope said. “They did all that to avoid opening themselves to God’s voice.”

The leaders, he said, were not simply “hard headed, it wasn’t a simple stubbornness.” The problem, he said, was “hardness of heart.”

People are not born hard hearted, he said; they’ve practiced “closing in on themselves” and refusing to dialogue or listen to others.

“They didn’t know how to dialogue,” not even with God, he said. “They did not know how to pray and hear the Lord’s voice, and they didn’t know how to dialogue with others.”

Their only key for interpreting the law, Pope Francis said, was “to make it more precise. But they were closed to the signs of God in history and were closed to his people, their people. They were closed, closed.”

The tragedy of the doctors of the law, “these theologians of the people of God,” he said, was that “they did not know who to listen and they didn’t know how to dialogue. Dialogue is what you do with God and with your brothers and sisters.”

 

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Benedict calls it absurd to question validity of his resignation

February 26th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a letter to an Italian journalist, retired Pope Benedict XVI said questions about the validity of his resignation are “absurd.”

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my renunciation of the Petrine ministry,” the retired pope wrote in a letter to Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican correspondent for the newspaper La Stampa and the website Vatican Insider.

Tornielli said he wrote to the retired pope Feb. 14 after reading articles questioning the canonical validity of his announcement Feb. 11, 2013, that he was stepping down.

In the letter, Pope Benedict described as “simply absurd” doubts about how he had formulated his announcement to cardinals gathered for a meeting about canonization causes.

According to the church’s Code of Canon Law, “the only condition for validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision,” he wrote to Tornielli.

Solemnly, in Latin, Pope Benedict had told the cardinals present: “Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new supreme pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

Tornielli also had asked Pope Benedict why he continues wearing a white cassock, a simplified version of what he wore as pope, and why he did not go back to using his given name, Joseph Ratzinger.

“I continue to wear the white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons,” he said. “At the moment of my resignation, there were no other clothes available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the pope wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculations being made.”

The retired pope said his only task in the church today is to support Pope Francis with his prayers.

 

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One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI resigned

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In retirement, Pope Benedict XVI follows a daily schedule similar to that of any retired bishop or religious: He prays, reads, strolls, talks with people and offers them spiritual advice, the Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Benedict XVI turns away after making his final public appearance as pope in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb. 28. The pope blessed the people gathered in the town square after he arrived via helicopter from the Vatican. “I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he told the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although he “lives in a low-key way, without public attention, that does not mean he’s isolated or enclosed in a strict cloister,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

Marking the one-year anniversary of Pope Benedict’s resignation Feb. 11, Father Lombardi and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s longtime personal secretary, spoke about the very normal daily life of a man who is in the unusual position of being a retired pope.

Archbishop Ganswein, who continues as Pope Benedict’s personal secretary while also serving Pope Francis as prefect of the papal household, summarized the retired pope’s day as filled “with prayer most of all, with study, with personal correspondence and visits.”

“The day begins with Mass, then with the breviary, followed by breakfast,” he told Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic magazine. “The morning usually is dedicated to prayer and study, to the mail and to receiving guests.”

Archbishop Ganswein and the consecrated laywomen who assist the retired pope join him for lunch at 1:30, and a nap always follows, he said. Pope Benedict spends the afternoon dealing with his correspondence and listening to music until 4 p.m., when he and the archbishop recite the rosary while walking in the garden behind the former Vatican convent where he lives. They eat dinner at 7:30 and watch the evening news at 8.

Archbishop Ganswein said Pope Benedict had told him he was retiring long before the Feb. 11 announcement, but under the strictest secrecy. “Instinctively, I said, ‘’No, Holy Father, it’s not possible,’ but I realized immediately that he wasn’t communicating something he wanted to discuss, but a decision already made.”

The archbishop said the “VatiLeaks” scandal, which saw the publication of confidential papal correspondence and internal Vatican documents, “did not cause or even influence the resignation.”

“The pope did not flee a responsibility, but was courageous” enough to realize he no longer had the strength to carry out the papal ministry, he said.

Archbishop Ganswein also confirmed that Pope Francis and Pope Benedict speak frequently on the telephone and have done so since the evening Pope Francis was elected.

“I was in the Sistine Chapel to greet the new pope and promise him obedience,” the archbishop said. “Immediately, Pope Francis asked me about Pope Benedict and said he wanted to call him. I dialed the number and handed him the telephone.”

Father Lombardi said the pope and the retired pontiff have shown the world that there was nothing to fear with having Pope Benedict live in the Vatican while a new pope reigned. “The fact is that the papacy is a service and not a power,” he said. Pope Benedict “fulfilled his service before God and in good conscience passed the witness of this service to another.”

As for Pope Benedict’s daily routine, Father Lombardi said it is that of “an elderly religious.” He said the retired pope’s guests come for conversation, for dialogue and “ask his advice and spiritual support.”

 

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Pope tells U.S. colleges to strengthen Catholic identity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called on America’s Catholic colleges and universities to reaffirm their Catholic identity by ensuring orthodoxy in theological studies and accepting the oversight of bishops.

The pope made his remarks May 5 to U.S. bishops from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming, who were making their periodic “ad limina” visits to the Vatican.

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Vatican strengthens its oversight of aid agencies

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican decree established new statutes and norms for Caritas Internationalis, giving Vatican offices, including the Secretariat of State, greater authority over the work of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.

The decree strengthens the roles Vatican offices and the pope play in working with the charity confederation, including naming and approving new board members and approving its texts, contracts with foreign governments and financial transactions.

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Encounter the risen Lord in Scriptures, Eucharist, pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With Easter flowers and blossoming trees still decorating St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI held his weekly general audience and encouraged Catholics to let the risen Lord into their hearts and to share his peace with the world.

As he did with the disciples after Easter, “even today the risen Lord can enter into our homes and hearts even if, sometimes, the doors are closed,” the pope said April 11.

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Christ’s resurrection changed the world, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Light and darkness, truth and lies, hope and despair are in a constant battle in the world, but with his death and resurrection Jesus conquered sin and death for all time, Pope Benedict XVI said on Easter.

“If Jesus is risen, then and only then has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world,” the pope told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square before giving his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

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