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Pope Benedict celebrates his 90th birthday Bavarian-style

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A bit of Bavaria, including German beer and pretzels, came to the Vatican to help celebrate retired Pope Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday.

“Thank you for bringing Bavaria here,” he told his guests, commenting on the beauty of gathering together under a blue Roman sky with white clouds, colors that “recall the white and blue flag of Bavaria” and how ‘it’s always the same sky” no matter where one finds oneself in the world.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday in 2015 at the Vatican. Before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once wrote he was grateful for being born April 16, 1927, a day that fell during the church's most intense liturgical season. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday in 2015 at the Vatican. Before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once wrote he was grateful for being born April 16, 1927, a day that fell during the church’s most intense liturgical season. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

The Bavarian-born pope’s birthday fell on Easter Sunday, April 16, so a small informal party was held April 17 outside his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican gardens. Pope Francis visited his predecessor April 12, before the start of the Easter Triduum, to offer him birthday greetings.

Special guests at the Bavarian party included: Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the retired pope’s 93-year-old brother; Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s personal secretary; Birgit Wansing, a longtime administrative assistant; and the consecrated laywomen from Memores Domini, who assist him.

A German delegation was present, led by the minister president of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, and including a group of men dressed in the traditional uniforms of the “Schutzen” with their dark green wool hats decorated with feathers, pins and springs of greenery.

Pope Benedict said his heart was filled with gratitude “for the 90 years the good Lord has given me. There have been trying and difficult times, but he always guided me and pulled me through.”

He thanked God for his beautiful homeland “that you now bring to me,” and which is “open to the world, lively and happy” because it is rooted so deeply in the Christian faith.

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Pope calls new cardinals to be agents of unity in divisive world

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church’s 17 new cardinals must dedicate their lives to being ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world, and sometimes a church, often marked by hostility and division, Pope Francis said.

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who has been named by the pope to lead the Newark, NJ, archdiocese,  gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Even Catholics are not immune from “the virus of polarization and animosity,” the pope told the new cardinals, and “we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.”

Creating 17 new cardinals from 14 nations Nov. 19, the pope said the College of Cardinals and the Catholic Church itself must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.

Three of the new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica were from the United States: Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life; and Joseph W. Tobin, whom the pope asked to move from being archbishop of Indianapolis to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

Only 16 of the new cardinals were present for the ceremony. The Vatican said 87-year-old Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, the retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, was created a cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a three-cornered red hat and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their “titular church” in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope’s diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The retired pope greeted each cardinal, thanked them for stopping by and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always.”

Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, spoke on behalf of the new cardinals, promising Pope Francis that they and the entire church would continue to be envoys of God’s mercy, bending down to help those “left half dead on the side of the road, wounded in body and spirit.”

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Luke’s version of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

“They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own,” Pope Francis said. But Jesus, not mincing his words, calls his followers to more.

“With people we consider our opponents or enemies,” the pope said, “our first instinctive reaction … is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”

In God, he said, there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love.

All people are embraced by God’s love, he said. “We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.”

Just as God loves and forgives the pope and the cardinals for their sinfulness, he said, so they must love and forgive others, undergoing “the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”

Looking around the modern world, Pope Francis said, “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning.”

“We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee” are seen as threats, he said. They are presumed to be an enemy because they come from a different country, “because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.”

The “growing animosity between peoples” is found even “among us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings,” the pope said.

“We need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals,” he said. The cardinals come from different countries, “we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”

Speaking to Catholic News Service after the consistory, Cardinal Tobin said the pope’s homily was “very timely” and the cardinals, as well as all Catholics, should “examine ourselves and the church to see whether we have unconsciously appropriated this ‘virus’” of polarization and animosity. It may hide under “the name of truth or the name of orthodoxy or something, when it actually serves to divide. I think probably that is resistance to the acts of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope's residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope’s residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“In this year of mercy,” Cardinal Farrell told CNS, “we all need to be a little more concerned about and merciful and compassionate to each of our brothers and sisters. And I think that’s the great message that the Holy Father wished to convey.

“We all need to learn how to respect each other. We can disagree on many points, but we need to enter into dialogue and conversation with each other. I believe that is what the Holy Father wanted and what the year of mercy is all about,” the cardinal said. People can discuss and debate theological problems, “but if they don’t do it with charity, as St. Paul would say, what good is it?”

Cardinal Cupich said Pope Francis “hit the nail on the head because a virus can be contagious and it can spread like wildfire, and he wanted to make sure that every individual took responsibility for making sure that whoever the person is who we disagree with, we do not make an enemy out of them, that we remember that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and that we are brothers and sisters to each other.”

“We have to break that cycle of violence and hatred and bigotry, otherwise it will be contagious like a virus,” Cardinal Cupich said.

As the Year of Mercy was ending, Pope Francis called on the new cardinals and everyone present in the basilica to continue to proclaim “the Gospel of mercy,” going out to where people live, giving them hope and helping them become signs of reconciliation.

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 228 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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Vatican and Sunni university look to restart joint talks

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning have begun looking for ways to restart formal dialogue.

Pope Francis talks with Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private meeting at the Vatican May 23. The Vatican and Sunni Islam's leading institution of higher learning have begun looking for ways to restart formal dialogue. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis talks with Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, during a private meeting at the Vatican May 23. The Vatican and Sunni Islam’s leading institution of higher learning have begun looking for ways to restart formal dialogue. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Acting on Pope Francis’ expressed desire, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was sending a top-level official to Cairo to visit al-Azhar University, the council said in a written press release July 12.

Spanish Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the pontifical council, will attend a “preliminary meeting” July 13 with Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, a member of the university’s Council of Senior Scholars and director of the al-Azhar Center for Dialogue. Archbishop Bruno Musaro, the apostolic nuncio to Egypt, was to also attend the meeting.

The meeting, which was requested by the pontifical council following the pope’s “expressed desire, will evaluate how to begin the resumption of dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and al-Azhar University,” the press release said.

The encounter follows the landmark meeting at the Vatican May 23 between Pope Francis and the university’s grand imam, Ahmad el-Tayeb.

It was the first meeting between a pontiff and a grand imam after five years of tension and top-level silence since the Muslim university in Cairo suspended talks in 2011.

Established in 1998, the formal dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in 2006, after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany. Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech linked Islam to violence.

Al-Azhar halted the talks altogether in 2011 after the former pope had said Christians in the Middle East were facing persecution. Al-Azhar claimed that Pope Benedict had offended Islam and Muslims once more by focusing only on the suffering of Christians when many Muslims were suffering as well.

After the papal meeting in May, el-Tayeb told Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper that his impression of Pope Francis was that “this man is a man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a religion of love and peace,” and “a man who respects other religions and shows consideration for their followers.”

Al-Azhar is considered the most authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam.

Some hope a renewed relationship between al-Azhar and the Vatican will lead to new cooperation in addressing urgent questions of citizenship that embraces religious and cultural diversity and how to counter extremism.

Maronite Father Fadi Daou, chairman of Adyan, a foundation for interfaith studies and spiritual solidarity based in Lebanon, told Catholic News Service in May that “al-Azhar has been working for … years in the direction of new Islamic positions concerning state, religion and politics and diversity.”

“Collaboration with the Vatican on this level can only add to the weight of the positions promulgated by this most important Islamic Sunni authority worldwide,” he said.

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

 

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Pope calls Benedict an example of how knowledge can increase love for God

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a perfect example of how intellectual knowledge and scientific curiosity do not lead a person further from God, but can strengthen their love for God and for his human creatures, Pope Francis said.

“Benedict XVI was a great pope,” he said: “Great for the power and penetration of his intellect, great for his considerable contribution to theology, great for his love for the church and for human beings, great for his virtues and his religiosity.”

Pope Francis praised his predecessor Oct. 27 at a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The academicians invited Pope Francis to unveil a bronze bust of Pope Benedict at the academy’s headquarters in the Vatican Gardens.

The pope said he was pleased that the statue’s face and particularly its eyes captured the spirit, intelligence and love of Pope Benedict.

“This spirit, far from crumbling with the passing of time, will appear greater and more powerful from generation to generation,” the pope predicted.

With his intellectual curiosity and his love for science, Pope Benedict especially enjoyed conversing with scientists at the Pontifical Academy, Pope Francis said.

“No one could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbor wither. On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart and his spirit,” the pope said. “Let us thank God for the gift that he gave the church and the world with the existence and the pontificate of Pope Benedict.”

 

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Pope Francis, with retired pope, canonizes Sts. John and John Paul

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Canonizing two recent popes in the presence of his immediate predecessor, Pope Francis praised the new Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II as men of courage and mercy, who responded to challenges of their time by modernizing the Catholic Church in fidelity to its ancient traditions.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 27. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

“They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century,” the pope said April 27, in his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful.”

“John XXIII and John Paul cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the church in keeping with her original features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries,” he said.

Speaking before a crowd of half a million that included retired Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis praised St. John for his best-known accomplishment, calling the Second Vatican Council, which he said “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit.”

“He let himself be led, and he was for the church a pastor, a servant-leader,” the pope said of St. John. “This was his great service to the church. I like to think of him as the pope of openness to the Spirit.”

Pope Francis characterized St. John Paul as the “pope of the family,” a title he said the late pope himself had hoped to be remembered by. Pope Francis said he was sure St. John Paul was guiding the church on its path to two upcoming synods of bishops on the family, to be held at the Vatican this October and in October 2015.

The pope invoked the help of the two new papal saints for the synods’ success, and he prayed, “May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves.”

Pope Francis has said the agenda for the family synods will include church teaching and practice on marriage, areas he has said exemplify a particular need for mercy in the church today.

The pope repeatedly mentioned mercy in his homily, which he delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday, an observance St. John Paul put on the church’s universal calendar in 2000. The Polish pope died on the vigil of the feast in 2005 and was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011.

In addition to Pope Benedict, making only his third public appearance since he resigned in February 2013, Pope Francis’ concelebrants included some 150 cardinals and 700 bishops.

Pope Benedict did not join the procession of bishops at the start of Mass, but arrived half an hour earlier, wearing white vestments and a bishop’s miter and walking with a cane; he sat in a section of the square designated for cardinals. Pope Francis greeted his predecessor with an embrace at the start of the Mass, drawing applause from the crowd, and approached him again at the end.

During the canonization ceremony, which took place at the beginning of the Mass, devotees carried up relics of the new saints in matching silver reliquaries, which Pope Francis kissed before they were placed on a small table for veneration by the congregation.

St. John’s relic was a piece of the late pope’s skin, removed when his body was transferred to its present tomb in the main sanctuary of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Floribeth Mora Diaz, a Costa Rican woman whose recovery from a brain aneurysm was recognized by the church as a miracle attributable to the intercession of St. John Paul, brought up a silver reliquary containing some of the saint’s blood, taken from him for medical testing shortly before his death in 2005.

The Mass took place under cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 60s, and only a sprinkle of rain fell just before the 10 a.m. start of the liturgy. Huge tapestries bearing portraits of the two saints hung from the facade of the basilica, and the square was decorated with 30,000 roses and other flowers donated by the nation of Ecuador.

The square and the broad Via della Conciliazione leading up to it were tightly packed with approximately half a million pilgrims, many of whom had been standing for hours before the start of Mass. Among the many national flags on display, the majority were from Poland, the native land of St. John Paul.

The Vatican estimated that 800,000 attended the ceremony in Rome, with overflow crowds watching on giant-screen TVs set up at various locations around the city. The 2011 beatification of Pope John Paul drew more than 1 million people, according to Italian police estimates at the time.

The Vatican said 93 countries sent official delegations to the Mass, and more than 30 of the delegations were led by a president or prime minister. The king and queen of Spain and the king and queen of Belgium were in attendance.

Pope Francis spent half an hour personally greeting the delegations following the Mass. He then rode in his popemobile through the square and adjacent avenue, drawing cheers and applause from the crowds, for about 20 minutes until disappearing at the end of the street.

The canonizations of both popes came after extraordinary measures by their successors to expedite the process. Pope Benedict waived the usual five-year waiting period before the start of a sainthood cause for Pope John Paul shortly after his death, when he was mourned by crowds shouting “Santo subito!” (“A saint at once!”). In the case of St. John, Pope Francis waived the usual requirement of a second miracle before a blessed can added to the church’s canon of saints.

 

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Rome official hopeful that Benedict will attend canonizations

April 23rd, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI is expected to attend the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II April 27, said Msgr. Liberio Andreatta, head of the Vatican-related pilgrim agency, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

“Never before have there been two popes canonized and two popes living,” he said at a news conference in Rome April 23 to discuss final plans and preparations for pilgrims. “You can imagine their emotions!” Read more »

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Retired Pope Benedict visits Pope Francis for lunch

December 30th, 2013 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Three days after Pope Francis paid his predecessor a visit on Christmas Eve, retired Pope Benedict joined the pope for lunch at the Vatican guesthouse.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican Dec. 23. The monastery, located in the Vatican Gardens to the north of St. Peter’s Basilica, is where Pope Benedict is living. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The two shared the meal Dec. 27 at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives. According to a report by Vatican Radio, the pope and the retired pope were joined by their personal secretaries and by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, and U.S. Msgr. Peter B. Wells, assessor in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis had invited Pope Benedict to lunch Dec. 24, when the pope visited the retired pope in his residence to offer Christmas greetings. Pope Benedict lives in the former Mater Ecclesiae convent, also in Vatican City State. During the pope’s visit, the two prayed briefly together and then spoke privately for about half an hour.

Following their private talk on Christmas Eve, Pope Francis greeted members of Pope Benedict’s household, including the consecrated women who assist him and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who also serves as prefect of the papal household under Pope Francis.

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Pope names new U.S. cardinals to Vatican panels

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington to be a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and gave cardinals created in February their assignments as members of other Vatican congregations and councils.

The appointments were announced at the Vatican April 21.

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Prayer, not strategizing, needed in crisis, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When a community is faced with crisis, persecution and trouble, it should come together in prayer for strength from God, not formulate strategic plans to defend itself from difficulties, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Unity is fundamental, he said, and the community needs to come together and ask “only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution,” not to avoid tests, trials and tribulation.

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Pope leads Good Friday observance

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Uncovering the cross and genuflecting before it in his stocking feet, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope presided at the service April 6 and chanted the solemn prayers of intercession for the church, for himself and for the world, but during the homily he sat and listened.

Following tradition, the homily was delivered by the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

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