“ECUMENISM IS NOT OPTIONAL”

“ECUMENISM IS NOT OPTIONAL”

At the end of today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“Next Friday,” he began, “with the celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on the theme: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. This year too we are called to pray that all Christians return to be one family, coherent with the divine will that wishes “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Ecumenism is not optional. The intention will be to develop a common and consistent witness in the affirmation of true justice and in the support of the weakest, through concrete, appropriate and effective responses.

Almost seven years ago to the day, at the January 18, 2012 general audience, Pope Benedict explained the history of this annual week of prayer:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today. For more than a century it has been celebrated every year by Christians of all Churches and ecclesial communities in order to invoke the extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, before his Passion: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).

“The practice of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was introduced in 1908 by Fr. Paul Wattson, the founder of an Anglican religious community who later entered the Catholic Church. The initiative received the blessing of Pope St. Pius X and was later promoted by Pope Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Catholic Church with the Brief Romanorum Pontificum of 25 February 1916.

“The Octave of Prayer was developed and perfected in the 1930s by Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, who supported the prayer “for the unity of the Church as Christ wants her and in conformity with the instruments that he desires”. His last writings show that Abbé Couturier saw this Week as a means which enables Christ’s universal prayer “to enter and penetrate the entire Body of Christians”; it must grow until it becomes “an immense, unanimous cry of the entire People of God”, asking God for this great gift. Moreover the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is in itself one of the most effective expressions of the impetus the Second Vatican Council gave to the search for full communion among all Christ’s disciples.

“May this spiritual event that unites Christians of all traditions increase our awareness that the true unity for which we strive cannot be solely the result of our own efforts but, rather, will be a gift from on high, to be ceaselessly prayed for.

“Every year the booklets for the Week of Prayer are compiled by an ecumenical group from a different region of the world. …”

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A CHALICE GOES HOME…..

I originally posted the story of this chalice on April 16, 2012 when both the chalice and Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI turned 95. I had two wonderful dreams for this chalice over the years – you will see how I realized those dreams by reading this story!

A CHALICE GOES HOME…..

Once upon a time…..
My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and brother throughout June, July and August every summer. The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms and baths and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic events for the Church in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia Lewis- had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from our property. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors at their home on Sunday.

They were known for their philanthropy and the fact that the Church was the focus of their lives, along with their very large family! It was quite common for them to invite some of their closest friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and they a number of almost equally large year-round homes on the property for their large family and for guests.

Every Saturday night, the Belarussian-born caretaker, Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for one hundred plus people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to the home’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia’s and Uncle Frank’s was largely a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.! I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.

Over the years I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought at the time of keeping a diary! But one doesn’t often think of doing that at the age of 8 or 10!

One of the priests I remember meeting a number of time was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I was home from Rome on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked them about it. Dad told me that his parents – my grandparents – had paid for a young man to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, and had given him this chalice – Fr. Leo Toohey.

Fr. Toohey was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that several markings on the bottom of the chalice indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927.”

The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, later was given to my Dad, and my parents eventually gave this chalice to me. Fr. Toohey for years was pastor at St. Simon Church in Ludington, Michigan. I found articles about him on the Internet!

I’ve had two big dreams for this chalice: The first was to get to know a seminarian from Chicago to whom I could give the chalice so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My second dream was to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

Both have now come true!

First, let me tell you about my second dream….

OCTOBER 19, 2013:

I attended Mass this morning in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four consecrated women. Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me. The Pope came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about 5 minutes. It was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself. I have written an account elsewhere.

Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and 2 holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and 2 holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I had written Msgr. Georg a few times before this day, asking if Pope Benedict (I started writing when Benedict was still the Holy Father) could say Mass with the chalice. I told him the story that you just read. I only wanted the chalice to be used at Mass. I never thought of my actually being present at Mass so this was a huge gift for me.

This photo was taken in my home after that Mass with Pope emeritus Benedict:

The person who actually got the ball rolling was a German friend of mine, Michael Hesemann (yes, the well-known prolific author) who knew the story of the chalice and, in the summer of 2013, when he was in Rome, asked if my dream had come true – had Pope Benedict said Mass with the chalice? I said ‘no’, adding that I was a little disappointed.

Michael knows the Pope’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger and he asked me to write down the story which he then translated into German and a few weeks later handed to Msgr. Georg at his home in Regensburg, Germany. Msgr. Georg shortly after that came to Rome to visit his brother, the Pope emeritus, told him the story, handed him the written story and not long after that I got a phone call from the papal secretary to tell me that Mass was indeed possible and did I wish to be present!!!

This story has been printed and is in a folder, along with 2 photos of Fr. Toohey, the rosary and holy cards that Pope Benedict gave to me after Mass on Saturday, October 19, 2013. The folder is under the chalice in my crystal cabinet.

I have to add one more small detail about October 19, 2013:

Three hours after attending Mass in Pope Benedict’s monastery chapel, I met Pope Francis for the first time! The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums was celebrating its 30th anniversary in Rome and, as a patron, I joined the group for the papal audience. Francis met each one of us individually – his wish! – after a brief speech.

How many of us on this earth can say we were with two Popes – a reigning pontiff and an emeritus Holy Father – on the same day!

And now, the final dream has come true!

On December 22 in Chicago, I finally met Ryan Brady, a second year seminarian from Mundelein with whom I had been corresponding for some time and about whom I had heard wonderful things from priests in the diocese.

From all I learned, I knew that Ryan would be the seminarian to receive the chalice.

And so we met for dinner, along with Msgr. Michael Boland, director of Catholic charities in Chicago, and Deacon Stan Strom.

Ryan knew nothing about the chalice.

During the dinner conversation, Msgr. Boland (who knew what I was about to do) made a statement about something that was the perfect introduction to the story about the chalice. I told the story as written above and when I got to the part about my dream for the chalice to go to a seminarian, I pointed to Ryan, and said with a big smile, “You are that future priest.”

I took photos but none of that very moment!

I had gift wrapped the chalice, along with the papal rosary and holy cards, the pictures of Fr. Toohey and Msgr. Gaenswein’s certificate about the Mass, and Ryan slowly unwrapped everything. It was a beautiful, memorable moment for all of us!

The letter he wrote to me after the dinner merely affirmed my belief that this almost century-old chalice should go to Ryan Brady.

And so a dream does not end but rather continues!

Bless you, Ryan! May God sit on your shoulder!

VATICAN INSIDER PAYS TRIBUTE TO CARDINAL TAURAN – PRIESTS AND MARRIAGE PREPARATION

There have been quite a few repercussions around the world following remarks by Cardinal Kevin Farrell who has said in several interviews that priests have “no credibility for marriage preparation.” I have received emails about this and have seen posts on Facebook by priests who have expressed their incredulity at this statement by the head of the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life.

A particularly eloquent response to the cardinal’s remarks was written by Fr. Roger Landry for the National Catholic Register, and I offer you his thoughts on the subject. I know many priests will thank him.

VATICAN INSIDER PAYS TRIBUTE TO CARDINAL TAURAN

This week in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider,” I want to pay tribute to the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, a man I got to know both during and after the years I worked at the Vatican Information Service. As you probably know, he died on July 5 in the United States after years of struggling with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

What you’ll hear today is my interview with him shortly after Pope Benedict’s 2009 trip to the Holy Land. What most amazed me as I listened to our conversation was how timely the Cardinal’s message still is today. I know you’ll agree as you listen to this most able and astute diplomat as we discuss his work, especially relations with Muslims.

Here are some photos from the day in 2009 that Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders at the al-Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, Jordan. I covered that event and, as you will see, the women journalists had to be dressed in a certain manner to enter. You’ll see Cardinal Tauran in several of these photos.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

PRIESTS AND MARRIAGE PREPARATION

(National Catholic Register) COMMENTARY: Rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.
By Father Roger Landry

One of the duties of parish priests is to prepare couples for the sacrament of matrimony. Many priests love this work. Others admit they find parts of it taxing. But almost all parish priests do it, dedicate quite a lot of time to doing it, and, like other aspects of priestly work, try to do it well.

That’s why it came as quite a shock earlier this month when Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, which is in charge of the Church’s universal care for the family, declared that priests are basically incompetent to do this work.

In an interview printed in the July/August edition of Intercom magazine, published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Farrell made headlines when he said, “Priests are not the best people to train others for marriage. They have no credibility. They have never lived the experience. They may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day … they don’t have the experience.”

This was not the first time he has alleged universal priestly ineptitude with regard to marriage preparation. Last September, at a conference in Belfast, he emphasized that priests have “no credibility in this area” because they have “no credibility when it comes to living the reality of marriage.” What is needed, he said, is accompaniment by other married couples “who have walked in [married couples’] shoes.”

He implied that his comprehensive assertions might be partly autobiographical extrapolations because, he said, he didn’t “have a clue” when his own nieces and nephews asked him some questions about marital difficulties. “I have no experience of that, and the majority of priests don’t have that experience,” he said.

But in the Intercom interview he also contended that priests’ lack of competence and credibility is matched by a lack of commitment. Basing himself on his previous experience as the bishop of Dallas, he said, priests, with all of their duties, “are not going to be interested in organizing marriage meetings.”

Priests who are in fact interested in organizing meetings with couples to help them get ready for the sacrament of marriage found his comments disheartening and disturbing. Many married couples likewise found them bewildering.

Earlier this month I was in Lubbock, Texas, giving four talks at the “Diocesan Family Camp” on how marital love is free, full, faithful and fruitful. Several of the married couples present, in the wake of Cardinal Farrell’s comments, sent me emails thanking me once again for my work and saying that they found my talks, and Bishop Robert Coerver’s opening keynote, credible, helpful and attuned to the realities of marriage and family life. I similarly got emails from various couples I’ve prepared for marriage over the last 19 years, saying how grateful they were for what they received from the hours we spent together.

It’s one thing to make the obvious point that effective marriage preparation involves not just parish priests but well-trained married couples, something that happens in most parish, diocesan and online marriage-preparation courses in the United States. Cardinal Farrell’s regrettable emphasis, however, was not to encourage lay involvement, but to undermine priests’ involvement and credibility – as if, because they’ve never been married, priests have nothing to contribute. This led Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin humorously to tweet, “It seems fair to ask, then, if a celibate cleric has sufficient ‘credibility’ to lead a dicastery devoted to laity, family and life.”
Cardinal Farrell’s comments made me wonder how familiar he is with St. John Paul II’s works on marriage, which take up his objections and persuasively refute them.

In the opening words of the introduction to his book Love and Responsibility, for example, the future pope took up the objection:
“There exists a view that only married people may speak about marriage, and that only persons who experience love between a man and a woman may speak about such love. This view demands personal and direct experience as the basis for speaking in a given field. Thus, priests, religious and celibate persons cannot have anything to say on matters of love and marriage.”

Then he responded: “A lack of their own personal experience does not hinder them since they possess a very rich indirect experience proceeding from pastoral work … [where] they encounter precisely these problems so often and in such a variety of ways and situations that another experience is created, experience that is undoubtedly more indirect and ‘foreign,’ but at the same time much more extensive.”

Even though priests don’t have firsthand experience of marital life, St. John Paul underlined, they have a far more extensive secondhand experience than almost anyone because of their pastoral work hearing confessions, counseling couples, and sharing the joys and struggles of their married spiritual sons and daughters. They also have their firsthand exposure to the reality of family life from growing up in a family.

His Eminence, however, not only seems to have forgotten John Paul II’s insights, but also seems unaware of what Pope Francis has said about priests and marriage preparation.

Speaking to parish priests in the Vatican Feb. 25, 2017, Pope Francis commented, “In most cases, you are the first people to be approached by young people desiring to form a new family and marry in the sacrament of matrimony. And it is again you to whom married couples turn in crisis as a result of serious relationship problems, with a need to rekindle their faith and rediscover the grace of the sacrament. …No one better than you knows and is in touch with the reality of the social fabric of the territory and experiences the various complexities: unions celebrated in Christ, de facto unions, civil unions, failed unions, happy and unhappy families and young people.”

“With each person and in each situation,” the Pope continued, “you are called to be traveling companions who can offer witness and support. May your primary concern be to bear witness to the grace of the sacrament of matrimony and the primordial good of the family, vital cell of the Church and of society, by announcing that marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of the spousal union between Christ and the Church. Such witness is put into practice concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound meaning of the step which they are about to take, and when you journey with young couples with attentiveness, helping them experience the divine strength and the beauty of their marriage through light and shadow, through joyful and difficult times.”

He went on to say that he wanted marriage preparation to be a “true catechumenate” that could accompany engaged couples similar to the way the Church for months accompanies adults preparing for the sacrament of baptism.

“This catechumenate,” he said, “is principally entrusted to you, parish priests. …I encourage you to implement it despite any difficulties you may encounter.”

Those are not the words of someone with a low estimation of the credibility, competence and commitment of priests with regard to the sacrament of matrimony.

I have had the joy to do clergy workshops on marriage preparation in various dioceses in the U.S. and Canada and to speak throughout the U.S. and beyond on John Paul II’s theology of the body. I have also had the chance to prepare several hundred couples for marriage.

I normally meet with couples cumulatively for about 10 hours because I’m convinced that in a culture that doesn’t support marriage as the lifelong, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman, this time is indispensable to help them build their marriage on the rock of faith.

In addition to Marriage Encounter or other pre-Cana programs I have them take, I give them 12 short essays to write, so that I can better meet them where they’re at and help bring them to where the Church hopes they’ll be on their wedding day. I give them videos to watch and websites to visit. I administer FOCCUS tests (a pre-marriage inventory) to them and review with them their responses.

Over the course of our conversations, we discuss their family backgrounds, how they met, how they determined the other was the “right one,” how the proposal happened, what marriage means, why Christian marriage is a sacrament, what role God plays in their relationship, what is distinctive about marital love, what they love about the other and how the other has shown love to them, what their desires are for children, how to grow in prayer and faith as a couple, how to forgive, and what marriage experts say are best practices on communication, finances and relations with in-laws.

We go over in depth the necessary intentions for a valid marriage. We cover the what and why of the Church’s teachings about natural family planning, adoption, infertility, cohabitation, contraception, in vitro fertilization and pornography. We even tackle what to do if they happen to fall in love with someone else.

In all of this, rather than being an insurmountable handicap, my priesthood is actually an asset.

My chaste celibacy allows me to be more objective in talking about human sexuality in God’s plan than someone whose experiences are marked too much by personal experience.

My seminary training is likewise a plus. So many generous Catholic couples who volunteer to lead marriage-preparation courses, like my parents, certainly can talk effectively and eloquently about various practical realities of living a Catholic marriage, but, in general, they cannot speak to the theology and sacramentality of marriage the way priests can and couples deserve. Not even most permanent deacons can address the “tough issues” with regard to the Church’s moral teaching with the same clarity and confidence as priests. These priestly contributions are an indispensable service to couples who are often beguiled by our secular age to look at marriage in a desacralized way.

Most helpful of all, however, I think, is simply a priest’s presence and prioritized concern for the couple. Many young people, including Catholics, don’t know priests personally, because they see them only in chasubles. Many come to marriage preparation not practicing the faith, in one way or many, and have lots of unanswered questions and misconceptions that will impact their marriage and spiritual life overall if left unaddressed.

Over the course of the hours we have together, those questions can come up. Trust can build. The practice of the faith can return. Doubts about “credibility” can be overcome. Real evangelization or re-evangelization can take place.

When a priest shows how much he cares in making the time to get to know and form them, and then brings the fruit of that burgeoning friendship to their rehearsal, wedding homily, reception, future baptisms and more, it can have a favorable long-term influence on their relationship with all priests and with the Church.

I hope that the intense reaction that Cardinal Farrell’s unintentionally offensive remarks have provoked among priests and the faithful might lead him to reassess his conclusions.
I also hope that it will help him, and the dicastery he directs, to better support priests in the trenches in their important labor – together with married laypeople – in preparing couples not just for marriage, but for the sacrament of matrimony in its fullness.

The future of the Church depends on that crucial and ongoing work.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.

VATICAN INSIDER MEETS THE BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE

I wish Pope emeritus Benedict XVI God’s choicest blessings as today he marks 67 years of priesthood! God sit on your shoulder!

VATICAN INSIDER MEETS THE BENEDICTINE ABBOT PRIMATE

Join me this weekend for my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Abbot Polan was ordained a priest on May 26, 1977. After some years of teaching and pastoral experience in a parish, he completed his doctorate in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Faculty of Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He served in the administration at Conception Seminary College from 1985 until 1996. In 1996, he was elected Abbot of Conception Abbey, and subsequently in September 2016 was elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.

Listen as Abbot Polan tells us about St. Benedict, the history of the order, its famous motto, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk, the difference between monastery, abbey and priory, the Benedictine Oblates and so much more.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

BISHOP FOLEY, KEEN INTELLECT, PASTORAL SENSITIVITY, POWERFUL PREACHING – VATICAN REPORTEDLY REJECTS GERMAN BISHOPS’ PROPOSAL FOR INTERCOMMUNION OF SPOUSES – “BENEDICT XVI: IN HONOR OF TRUTH” :WHY HE REALLY RESIGNED

The unrelenting pace I have kept since March 29 when I flew to New York finally caught up with me, as it always does. I had a dinner party Monday night for Michael Warsaw of EWTN, the latest on a merry-go-round of events, invitations, hosting friends, attending meetings, researching, writing, editing and trying to memorize and then filming new episodes of Joan’s Rome videos, etc. etc.

Michael is in town for the annual three-day communications conference hosted by the Pontifical University of Holy Cross as EWTN this year is the principal sponsor of the event. I was there this morning for Michael’s talk entitled “Religious Information in a ‘fake news’ Society.”

I felt a cold coming on Monday, found the strength to continue activities and appointments but it hit me with a bang yesterday, the morning I was to do the commentary for the Pope’s weekly general audience. I asked the Holy Sprit to be with me for at least an hour and to make sure I could stop sneezing and coughing so that I could actually speak and do the commentary. I spoke to the right person and for an hour was fine (although there were microphone issues in Alabama for a short period of time). In any event, I came home, everything hit me and I spent the rest of the day in bed, except for my usual Wednesday appearance on Catholic Connection, Teresa Tomeo’s radio show.

I wanted to be in fine fettle for Michael’s talk today and a parish council meeting this evening, then dinner with priest friends from Chicago.

I was sorry to hear of Bishop Foley’s death but knew he had been suffering. Even more than that, he was totally ready to meet the Lord. Below is Michael Warsaw’s message.

On the other hand, I was delighted to hear what seems to be good news from the CDF – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And I was truly delighted to hear of the documentary about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that explains “the truth about his resignation.” It is the same truth, the same story I have been telling people since the day Benedict resigned on February 11, 2013. I have written about it and have talked about the “real reason” on TV and radio. In fact, my first TV appearance on February 11, 2013 was with Shep Smith on FoxNews: “So, Joan, tell us why Pope Benedict really resigned.” My answer – and a bit more – could have been summed up in the piece you’ll read below.

BISHOP FOLEY, KEEN INTELLECT, PASTORAL SENSITIVITY, POWERFUL PREACHING

Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN network, issued the following statement on the death Tuesday night of Bishop emeritus Foley of Birmingham, AL:

“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the death of The Most Reverend David Foley who served the Diocese of Birmingham as Bishop for over a decade. I had the privilege of first knowing Bishop Foley thirty years ago when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington. Throughout his life and wherever his service to the Church took him, he was always known for his keen intellect, pastoral sensitivity and powerful preaching.

During his time as Bishop of Birmingham, he served as a member of the EWTN Board of Governors. He also took great joy in hosting “Pillars of Faith”, a weekly live call-in television program that examined the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover.

Despite their occasional disagreements, when Mother Angelica suffered her stroke and brain hemorrhage in 2001, Bishop Foley was one of the first to be at her bedside and he remained a frequent visitor to pray for her. He never waivered in his respect for all that Mother had accomplished and was always supportive of the Network she founded.

May God reward him for his life of service to the church, and may he rest in peace.”

VATICAN REPORTEDLY REJECTS GERMAN BISHOPS’ PROPOSAL FOR INTERCOMMUNION OF SPOUSES

(CNA/EWTN News).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reportedly rejected a planned proposal by the German bishops’ conference to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.

Austrian news site kath.net has reported that Vatican sources say the CDF, with papal approval, has suspended the German bishops’ proposal, and sources close to the congregation have confirmed this to CNA.

It is not clear whether the Vatican has asked the bishops’ conference to modify the contents of the draft guidelines, whether they have suspended the development of a draft while the matter is considered further, or whether it has been entirely rejected.

In February, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” to receive Holy Communion, provided they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

The announcement was made “after intensive debate” at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops’ conference, which was held Feb. 19 – 22 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, and attended by 62 members of the bishops’ conference under the leadership of conference chairman Cardinal Marx.

Last month, seven German bishops sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asking for clarification on the matter. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Cardinal Marx.

The seven bishops asked whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops’ conference, or if rather, “a decision of the Universal Church” is required in the matter.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.

“From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the Archdiocese of Cologne told CNA Deutsch April 4.

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

“BENEDICT XVI: IN HONOR OF TRUTH” – WHY HE REALLY RESIGNED

His closest collaborators deny that the cause was the leaking of documents to the press or the issue of sexual abuse (From a story on Aleteia by Sylvia Costantini)

It was February 11, 2013, when Benedict XVI communicated to the world his decision to resign from the exercise of the papal ministry. This historic event has left many open questions.

Five years later, on the occasion of the Pope Emeritus’ 91st birthday, a documentary has been presented in the Vatican, called “Benedict XVI: in Honor of Truth,” precisely in order to clarify the reasons for that decision.

Some of the people closest to Joseph Ratzinger relive that moment—including his brother, Georg; Fr. Federico Lombardi, former spokesman of the Holy See; and the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was his personal secretary for years.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna and one of the theological disciples of Professor Joseph Ratzinger, is visibly moved when he shares some of his memories.

Cardinal Schönborn, remembering the Pope’s deceased sister, Maria, who was particularly beloved by the Pope Emeritus, reveals: “The day after the conclave [in which he was elected Pope], when he entered the Casa Santa Marta for breakfast, in the morning, dressed in white… —our beloved professor, our friend, yes, dressed in white…—he greeted each one of us personally, and I said to him, ‘Holy Father, yesterday, during your election, I thought about your sister, Maria, and I asked myself if she had said to the Lord, “take my life, but leave my brother here.”‘ And he answered me, ‘I think so.’”

One decisive moment of the documentary helps us to understand Ratzinger’s decision to retire. It is explained by Stephan Horn, who had been his assistant at the University of Regensburg, and is his disciple and friend: “The doctor had told him he wouldn’t be able to travel to Brazil to participate in the World Youth Day. So, he decided to resign before the event.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, describes the impressive responsibility proper to a Pope, and the daily marathon of commitments, both public and private, that characterize it (liturgical ceremonies, journeys, long meetings, audiences…). Pope Ratzinger would not have been able to face such exertion, with his inexorable natural loss of strength due to age. According to the Jesuit priest, it is clear that this was the true motive for Benedict’s resignation.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein categorically denies that the motive for Pope Benedict’s resignation was the leak to the press by his butler (the famous “Vatileaks”), a betrayal which caused his heart profound suffering, or the burden of having to face the crisis caused by sexual abuse by Church representatives.

The documentary, which is 48 minutes long, was produced by the Rome Reports television agency, in collaboration with the Italian episcopate’s television channel, TV2000, and the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation of the Vatican, thanks to the patronage of the Doctor Ramón Tallaj Foundation.
During the presentation of the documentary at the Vatican Film Library in the presence of Archbishop Gänswein, Dr. Ramón Tallaj—president of SOMOS, a network of doctors in the New York area particularly committed to humanitarian causes—emphasized the continuity between the pontificate of Pope Benedict and that of Pope Francis, at the service of the Church and of humanity.

Gänswein confirmed that Pope Benedict retains all his intellectual lucidity, and acknowledged the gradual loss of his physical strength. He underlined the peacefulness of the Pope Emeritus’ life in retirement, spent with the small community of the monastery where he lives in the Vatican.

The documentary “Benedict XVI: In Honor of Truth” was produced in English, Spanish, and Italian, and will now be distributed around the world.

FRANCIS VISITS POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI – PASCHAL TRIDUUM IS CENTER OF OUR FAITH AND VOCATION – FROM THE PASSION TO PENTECOST AND BEYOND, CHRIST’S MISSIONARIES OF HIS WORD

I learned something new and interesting a few years ago when a priest friend, having read my column about Holy Week in Rome, asked me if I knew what the other name was for Wednesday of Holy Week. I did not know and looked it up and learned the answer was Spy Wednesday.

As I looked it up in the EWTN Q&A area, I found this from Father John Echert: “Spy Wednesday is the name given to Wednesday of Holy Week, marking the fact that on this day, Judas agreed with Jewish officials to betray our Lord, for the price of 30 pieces of silver. And while we do not give much attention to this in our own Country, in Poland there is a tradition by which an effigy of Judas is cast down from a height, dragged through the streets while being stoned, and then “drown” in a river or pond.”

This column will be silent for a few days as I celebrate Holy Week liturgies in New York, arriving in the Big Apple early afternoon tomorrow. However, I’ll be back on these pages after Easter. EWTN allows its staff time off during these days so that we can participate in Holy Week liturgies.

I hope you all have a beautiful and Blessed Easter and that you feel renewed in your spiritual life and in your knowledge of God’s love for you!

Just a quick note: No guest this weekend in the interview segment of VATICAN INSIDER. Rather, I bring you a special that is about facts and figures, monuments and moments, things to see and do, places to visit in and around the Vatican. Some fun trivia as well!

FRANCIS VISITS POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI

Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his Mater Ecclesiae Monastery residence in the Vatican and offered him best wishes for Easter.


Earlier Tuesday, he visited the Vatican Secretariat of State where some 300 persons are employed. In particular, he visited and blessed the offices of the new Third Section, which was set up in November for the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See. He then personally greeted all the officials and employees, wishing them Happy Easter and thanking them for their work. The last time Pope Francis met the officials and staff of the Secretariat was in April 2013.

PASCHAL TRIDUUM IS CENTER OF OUR FAITH AND VOCATION

The Holy Father presided at the weekly general audience today in St. Peter’s Square and dedicated his catechesis to the upcoming Easter celebrations. “Tomorrow,” he said, “begins the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Triduum, in which we re-live the great mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection. It is thus the center of our faith and vocation.”

The Triduum – meaning “three days” – begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and ends on Easter Sunday. The Holy Father said Christians are called to live the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection as “the matrix of their personal and communitarian lives.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” began Francis. “The Gospel message that Jesus died for our sins and rose to new life is a source of joy and hope for all the world. At the same time, it is a summons to our responsibility and mission as the Lord’s followers to proclaim the victory of the Risen Jesus by our lives.

Francis explained that, “in Baptism, we were given a share in Christ’s passover from death to life. Each of us has been called to live fully this new life in union with him and in imitation of his loving concern for the least of our brothers and sisters. In the poor, the suffering, the lonely and all those in need, we are asked to see the face of Jesus, and to become, in him, a means of redemption and hope, life and resurrection for our world.”

The Holy Father prayed, “May Mary, who knew both the sufferings of the cross and the joy of the resurrection, obtain for us the grace to be united ever more fully to the Risen Lord and to reflect in our lives the reconciling and transforming power of his divine love.

In language greetings after the catechesis in Italian and summaries in seven languages, the Pope said, “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the delegates taking part in the Seminar organized by the Vatican Observatory in preparation for the forthcoming UNISPACE+50 Conference. May this Holy Week lead all of us to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. God bless you!”

Click here and scroll down to see Vatican media images from today’s general audience:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-03/pope-general-audience-easter-triduum-catechesis.html

FROM THE PASSION TO PENTECOST AND BEYOND, CHRIST’S MISSIONARIES OF HIS WORD

Following is the homily given yesterday afternoon by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien in St. Peter’s basilica at the Mass marking the second anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica.

He offered some reflections on Holy Week, starting with the sadness of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, and, noting that, “In every age and culture Christ’s disciples have preached the word, often at critical times for his Church,” Cardinal O’Brien moved on to reflections about the life and work of Mother Angelica.

Here is that homily:

The Liturgy of this solemn Tuesday of Holy Week focuses upon the tragic betrayal of Judas as the Church moves closer to the Passion and Death of Jesus. The sad event begins the spiral of the disciples into confusion and despondency as the capture and trial of Jesus immediately follow.

There is a light of hope, however, to balance the Gospel’s foreboding and we find it in the first reading.

The Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people has come to an end, and Isaiah is speaking in the name of the newly liberated Jews. Israel and her every member has from of old been called to be a prophetic people, commissioned by Yahweh to spread the Word of God.

While for all these years of captivity, and before, God’s eternal word – God’s sharp edged sword and polished arrow have been concealed, mute and ineffective. Now, Israel is inspired by new strength as she hears the Lord’s promise: Not only, will I grace you with my word to revive my despondent nation. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

And Pentecost was the answer: From the Cenacle, God’s eternal word speaks in the language of every nation: the throng were all amazed and bewildered because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

In every age and culture Christ’s disciples have preached the word, often at critical times for his Church. Think of Augustine of Canterbury, Cyril and Methodius, Francis and Dominic, Loyola and Xavier, John Paul II, surprising and often unexpected missionaries of the word.

And when we speak of the millions who hear his eternal word, might not Canton Ohio’s Rita Antoinette Rizzo come to mind! A worldly-wise contemplative, a handicapped hobbler, an unsophisticated, but highly intelligent charismatic voice still touching the hearts of millions around the world, Mother Mary Angelica would surely be an unexpected choice to enable God’s word to reach to the ends of the earth.

Some years ago, Time magazine profile called her “an improbable superstar of religious broadcasting and arguably the most influential Roman Catholic woman of America.”

Started with $200 in 1981, the Eternal World Television Network now transmits to more than 261 million homes in 150 countries, energizing 400 dedicated lay workers. Not to mention Mother’s founding along the way of communities of men and women religious, two shrines of the Blessed Sacrament visited annually by tens of thousands of pilgrims at the very heart of Baptist country.

Her accomplishments could go on-and-on. But did I say “her accomplishments”? In saying that, I fear I’d be victim of one of her patented scowls – and rightly so! All this, she insists has not been her work. “This network doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God.”

Her every living moment was spent in a scrupulous discernment of God’s will in her life – an active life of contemplation guided by the Eucharist and that well-worn Bible always clutched in her arms.

Throughout her life Mother suffered greatly – physically, for sure, but also what she called interior suffering, a sometimes greater cross. Her steel-willed, tenacious determination resulted in amazing achievements but could bring about a confrontation or two which could go too far. She once admitted: Lord, there were people in my path who touched off painful weaknesses in my soul – weaknesses I did not want to see…. Give to those I have offended many graces; make them holy. Bless those who have offended me and forgive them.”

But of all the trials this active contemplative experienced, the most difficult challenge was yet to come. A series of serious strokes left her physically powerless the last 15 years of her life and, more frustrating for this great communicator, speechless. As never before she now realized the life of a true contemplative. Now, words written earlier for others’ inspiration resonated in her very own mind and heart:

“Love speaks loudly in silence and that silence touches our souls. The Voice of Jesus sounds in our hearts like the voice of mighty waters, cleansing the debris collected during the storms of life. Our parched souls, tired of the journey, find refreshment in the living water flowing from the tabernacle… His silent presence hidden in the tabernacle, says to each of us, Come to me all you who labor and I will refresh you.”

Can we doubt that Jesus would have abandoned this faithful servant of his without strong graces of perseverance and insights into the Cross of his suffering and death for the sake of the world! And we can but imagine what graces which those years of silent suffering have won for the spread of the eternal word, even as we speak.

For that we give thanks to the Lord as we continue to commend her soul to God’s mercy.

THE “LETTERGATE” PLOT THICKENS: A NEW PARAGRAPH SURFACES IN BENEDICT XVI’S LETTER

THE “LETTERGATE” PLOT THICKENS: A NEW PARAGRAPH SURFACES IN BENEDICT XVI’S LETTER

The SPC – Secretariat for Communications – this afternoon issued an unsigned communiqué concerning the letter that Pope Benedict wrote on February 7 to Msgr. Dario Vigano in response to Vigano’s January 12 invitation to the Pope emeritus asking if he would critique, “with a brief and dense theological page,” a collection of 11 small volumes about Pope Francis’ theology.

At the March 12 presentation of the collection, Msgr. Vigano, prefect of the SPC, read a few, but not all, of the paragraphs of Benedict XVI’s response. Vaticannews.va released a story about the book presentation, including a photo of Benedict XVI’s letter to Vigano with several lines intentionally blurred.

That photo, and what was deemed to be a missing part of the letter, caused quite a firestorm and the ensuing case has even been called ”Lettergate.”

A day later, vaticanista Sandro Magister published what he said was the entire letter, including a translation of the blurred lines, adding a heretofore unknown paragraph.

Here is today’s communiqué from the SPC:

“On the occasion of the March 12 presentation of the book collection, “The theology of Pope Francis,” edited by the Vatican Publishing House, a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was made public.

“Many polemics followed about an alleged manipulation for censorship purposes of the photograph distributed together with the collection.

“Because of the reserved nature of the letter, only those parts were read that were considered opportune and relative to the presentation and, in particular, what the Pope emeritus stated concerning the philosophical and theological formation of the current Pontiff and the interior union between the two pontificates, omitting notes about the contributors to the volumes.

“The choice was motivated by the reserved nature of the letter and not by any intent to censor. To dispel any doubt it has been decided to publish the letter in its entirety.”

And today, because they released the entire letter, we have yet another “heretofore unknown paragraph” AND a very different closing sentence by Pope emeritus Benedict!

Here is the missing paragraph:

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Yours,
Benedict XVI

Thus, here is the now complete, unvarnished letter (my translation) sent by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to Msgr. Vigano:

Benedict XVI
Pope Emeritus

Rev. Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano
Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication
Vatican City

7 February 2018

Most Rev. Monsignor,

I thank you for your courteous letter of January 12 and for the attached gift of the 11 small volumes edited by Robert Repole.

I applaud this initiative that wishes to contradict the foolish prejudice of those for whom Pope Francis would be a man lacking a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theoretician of theology who understood little of the concrete lives of today’s Christian. These small volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of deep philosophical and theological formation and they help us therefore to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”

In any case, I do not feel like writing about (these volumes) a brief or even dense theological page because, throughout my whole life, it has always been clear that I would have written or would have expressed myself only about books that I have truly read. Unfortunately, also for physical reasons, I am not able to read these eleven little volumes in the near future, and even more so because other commitments that I have already made await me.

“In the margin, I would like to note my surprise for the fact that among the authors there is professor Hunermann who, during my pontificate came to light for having led anti-papal initiatives. He participated in a relevant measure in the release of the “Kolner Erklarung” that, in relation to the encyclical “Veritatis splendor,” attacked in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of moral theology. And the “Europaische Theologengesellschaft” that he founded, was initially intended by him to be an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Afterwards, the ecclesial feeling of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am certain you will understand my refusal, and I greet you cordially.
Yours,
Benedict XVI