The archbishop and the walrus

Tiersegnung bei Hagenbecks Tierpark

Without doubt, I believe, Archbishop Stefan Heße did what no bishop before him ever did: blessing a walrus and, by extension, all the animals at Hamburg´s Hagenbeck Zoo.

The archbishop of Hamburg did so on Wednesday as part of a day program for Catholic school children in the Hamburg area around the topic of animals in the Bible. He reminded them that animals are creatures of God, and they could teach us a thing or two. In the zoo, which has never used fences and barbed wire, children can learn how to treat animals with respect, the archbishop added.

Photo credit: Daniel Bockwoldt (dpa)

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Stats for March 2013

What a month it has been. Beginning with the farewell of Pope Benedict XVI, we rode the waves of the sede vacante, the conclave and the election of Pope Francis, and various other events that added some lines to this blog. All in all, it took quite some work to keep these pages filled as things developed, so I hope that a few days of less communication is forgiven. But all the effort brought its own reward, as there was interest from across the globe in my writings. In total, I could chalk up 15,933 visits to these pages. That’s triple the number of a regular quiet month. Thank you!

On to the top 10 of most popular blog posts of March:

1: Countdown to papal Twitter launch 745
2: Meeting of the Popes 431
3: Enter the electors 329
4: The fall of Cardinal Piacenza 318
5: Continuity – Pope Francis’ coat of arms 214
6: Church teachings – the clash between authority and respect 147
7: ‘Bel Giorgio’ takes over the household 82
8: First Sunday – the Dutch cardinals in Rome 80
9: Holy Week 2013, an overview of cathedral celebrations 79
10: The seagull vigil 77

March has been crazy as far as the blog was concerned. I write these words in my free time, which is not always available in abundance. If you like what you read here, and appreciate the information I try to provide and keep as up to date as possible, think of making a donation to this blog’s upkeep. You will find a PayPal donation button in the left sidebar, and also below. Any donor can count on prayers and much appreciation from my part, and will contribute to a continued Catholic voice in new media.

Papal attack on the Nativity ox and ass

Animals at the birth of Christ, a comforting image of Christ amid all of Creation.

I have to admit finding it quite funny that the Holy Father has a new book out and all that the media generally talk about are his unconscionable attack on two helpless animals’ presence in the Nativity scene.

Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives is the third and final volume in Pope Benedict XVI’s series of books on Jesus Christ. It is, like its predecessors, a personal study into Christ’s life and person. The historical Jesus is a subject that the pope treats extensively, and so is it as well with the Nativity stories we find in the Gospels. And from that historical perspective, there is no reason to say that an ox or ass were present in the stable where Jesus was born. And, in addition, the angels probably did not sing either when the announced the Good News to the shepherds.

Is the pope then saying that we should remove all oxen and asses, as well as any angels which show an unhistorical tendency to start singing, from our Nativity scenes? Of course not. While we may not have a historical basis for these details, they do have their function. Christ came to all Creation, and was a part of it as a man. Song is an ancient way of communicating joy, and the arrival of God-become-man is certainly a reason for joy.

And the ox and ass or the singing angels are not the focus of the Nativity scenes in our homes and churches. Christ is, and everything around Him focusses our attention on Him. So another function of the ass and ox becomes clear.

So, no, the Holy Father is not telling us to get rid of the poor animals. They’ll be in the great Nativity scene in St. Peter’s square, even without us having any documents to prove their presence at the birth of our Saviour.

Time to stop supporting PETA

The reason? This:

While I actually agree with PETA when they say we should treat our animals well (even when we proceed to kill and eat them), and that we shouldn’t keep any creature for cosmetics and fur, they have crossed the line of fairness, honesty and good taste here. In the first place, they perpetuate the myth that Pope Benedict XVI has allowed the use of condoms, and, secondly, they ridicule the sensitivities of Catholics everywhere. I wonder what the outcry would be if an image of an imam or rabbi were used in the ad?

BUT (yes, it’s an important one), the response from Catholic bloggers has hardly been any more laudable. Thomas Peters and Father Z both suggest that the response of choice should be to go out and eat more meat… As if it’s the animals’ fault that PETA is a bunch of loonies without a proper sense of respect for others.

Out with the PETA-loonies, in with good sense and common decency.