Business as usual – Pope Benedict’s last weeks

benedictIn a third press briefing in as many days, Fr. Federico Lombardi shared the schedule of Pope Benedict’s final days as Pope. As indicated earlier it is nothing out of the ordinary (if you can call such a busy schedule normal for a man of almost 86…) and befitting the personality of the Holy Father. His decision to abdicate, momentous as it is, is also an exercise in humility.  And, if anything, Pope Benedict is a humble man, never working for himself, never seeking the spotlight. Reflecting this, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a lovely anecdote:

“I met Joseph Ratzinger once on a visit to Rome. I was walking across St Peter’s Square when I noticed the famous figure of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith heading across the square wearing a cassock, overcoat and simple black beret. I smiled and bid him good morning. He smiled back politely and nodded and went on his way to the office. He always did seem better behind the scenes.

His farewell this week was rather like my meeting with him. A simple man walking across the public square of history–happy to be headed to the privacy of his study–where he has some work to do.”

Anyway, on to the schedule:

ash wednesday st. peter's squareWednesday 13 February, Ash Wednesday: In his last public liturgical celebration, Pope Benedict XVI will offer Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. Thousands of people are already queueing on St. Peter’s Square to attend this Mass, as pictured at right.

Thursday 14 February: The Holy Father will meet with priests of the Diocese of Rome.

Friday 15 February: A meeting with President Traian Basescu of Romania, followed by a group of Italian bishops on their ad limina visit.

Saturday 16 February: Meetings with President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, a group of Italian bishops on their ad limina visit, and Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy.

Sunday 17 February: Pope Benedict will pray the Angelus with faithful in St. Peter’s Square, and in the evening he and members of the Curia will start their Lenten retreat. Cardinal Ravasi will lead this retreat, and no activities are planned until the 24th.

Sunday 24 February: Pope Benedict will pray the Angelus with faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

Monday 25 February: A meeting with several cardinals.

Wednesday 27 February: Pope Benedict will hold his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Thursday 28 February: Following a farewell address to the College of Cardinals, a helicopter will take the Pope to Castel Gandolfo at 5pm. At 8 o’clock in the evening, the See of Peter falls vacant.

Photo credit: [1] l’Osservatore Romano, [2] Catholic News Service

The vacant Curia – duties during the sede vacante

Now that we have gotten somewhat used to yesterday’s news, and all speculation has, well, not died down, but channeled into a few set directions, here’s a look at the major players in the coming sede vacante period.

  • The Apostolic Penitentiary, concerned with questions of conscience from the faithful and the pressing matters related to it, will continue to function during the sede vacante. Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who leads the office, will remain in office likewise.
  • Cardinal_Tarcisio_Bertone_CNA_Vatican_Catholic_News_3_15_12Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (pictured) will remain on as Camerlengo. He will head the management of the goods and finances of the Holy See. He will also chair the daily meetings of the College of Cardinals for the daily affairs of the Church. Upon the election of the new pope, he will accompany him to the papal apartments and hand him the keys. Cardinal Bertone will also declare the result of every ballot during the conclave. Upon his invitation, the cardinals will meet for discussion and reflection when needed. The vice-chamberlain, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, will work with him outside the conclave.
  • The cleric prelates of the Apostolic Chamber will assist the Camerlengo. They are Msgr. Assunto Scotti, Msgr. Luigi Cerchiaro, Msgr. Paolo Luca Braida (Italians all), Msgr. Philip James Whitmore (British), Msgr. Winfried König (German), Msgr. Osvaldo Neves de Almeida (Argentinian) and Msgr. Krzysztof Józef Nykiel (Polish).
  • valliniDuring the sede vacante, the archpriests of the papal basilicas will take over the Pope’s liturgical duties. They are Cardinal Agostino Vallini (pictured) for St. John Lateran, Cardinal Angelo Comastri for St. Peter’s, Cardinal James Harvey for St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls and Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló for St. Mary Major.
  • Also involved in the papal liturgies during the sede vacante are the Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, and the Almoner of His Holiness, Archbishop Guido Pozzo.
  • The pastoral care of the Diocese of Rome will be the responsibility of the Vicars-General: Cardinal Agostino Vallini. for Rome and Cardinal Angelo Comastri for the Vatican City State.
  • After the cardinals have entered the Sistine Chapel for the conclave, and after they have all taken the oath, Msgr. Guido Marini will call “Extra omnes!”. He will distribute the ballot papers to the cardinals and then leave the chapel..
  • Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, in place of the Cardinal-Dean (Cardinal Sodano is 85 and therefore too old to take part in the conclave), will announce the start of the first ballot after any remaining questions have been answered. Cardinal Re will also ask the newly elected Pope if he accepts his election. If Cardinal Re himself is elected, that task falls to Cardinal Bertone.
  • James+Harvey+Pope+benedict+XVI+Celebrates+tV38ct1drMglCardinal James Harvey (pictured), as the junior Cardinal-Deacon, will lock the doors of the Sistine Chapel before the first ballot. He will be responsible for who enters and leaves during the voting: assistants to those cardinals who may be too ill to be in the Sistine Chapel can leave and return to collect those cardinals’ ballots.
  • Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, as the College of Cardinals’ Protodeacon (the most senior Cardinal-Deacon) will have the honour to announce the “habemus papam” to the masses on St. Peter’s Square.

The Curia of the Church will in many ways cease to function once the Pope has abdicated. Only some pressing matters may be handled by the College of Cardinals, but she is not allowed to do anything that is normally under a Pope’s  authority.

“A desperate push” – Holy Father corrects disobedient priests

Popes rarely correct specific groups of people during high-profile events, instead opting for private audiences or similar occasions. Pope Benedict XVI chose to do otherwise today,in his homily at the Chrism Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. His intended audience? The priests from Austria, Belgium and other countries who have launched a ‘call to disobedience’ to the Church and her teachings:

“Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.”

Thank you, Holy Father.

Photo credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Upon departure, the Holy Father takes it easy

New in the public eye: the pope's walking cane

Over recent months, Pope Benedict XVI has been taking increasingly been taking his advancing age in consideration. He will turn 85 in April, and since the introduction of the moveable platform he uses in St. Peter’s Basilica, more measures have been appearing to make it easier for the pope to go about his business. The visit to Mexico, which starts today, avoids the high altitude of Mexico City, opting instead for lower Léon. On Wednesday, the regular public audience was cancelled because of the preparations for the trip and, by word of Fr. Federico Lombardi, we have the assurances that, although the Holy Father is has healthy as ever, he is keeping a regular daily schedule without too much potentially harmful elements. He goes to bed early and rarely drinks a glass of wine.

This morning, we saw the first public appearance of the papal cane, which Pope Benedict used to walk to the plane that would fly him to Mexico. He has been using it in private for the last two months, sources say, simply because it makes him feel a bit more secure when walking.

Let’s keep our Holy Father in our prayers, that he may long remain healthy and able to perform his ministry as successor of St. Peter.

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Photo credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

“Until your old age I shall be the same, until your hair is grey I shall carry you” (Is. 46:4)

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI used a mobile platform last used by his predecessor for the entrance and exit processions of Mass at St. Peter’s. A sign that even our beloved Holy Father is not immune to the effects of old age.

Let’s see this as an invitation to support him ever more with prayer.

Photo credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

Pictures say more

… than a thousands words, they say. So with that in mind I won’t add many words to the reports of yesterday’s beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Instead, here are 20 photos which I liked:

[But if there is need of words, here is my translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily.]

Thousands of pilgrims gather on St. Peter's Square and the streets leading to it.
The glass reliquary shaped like intertwining olive branches and containing a vial of blood of the new blessed.
Another view of the crowds on the square
Some of the many priests attending the Mass in choir, with the statue of St. Peter in the foreground
The crowds don't all fit within the borders of the world's smallest state
Pope Benedict XVI greets President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland at the end of the ceremonies.
Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the coffin of Blessed John Paul II
Pope Benedict XVI kisses the reliquary containing a relic of the new blessed
Four photos of the revealing of the photo of Blessed John Paul II, overlooking St. Peter's Square
Young pilgrims from Germany
Sister Tobiana, who took care of Blessed John Paul II in the final days of his life, touches his coffin
Watching from the Circus Maximus, a Polish pilgrim cries during the beatification
With Polish flags and banners behind him, Pope Benedict XVI arrives just before Mass
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, for many years the personal secretary of Blessed John Paul II
Sister Marie Simone-Pierre, whose miraculous cure from Parkinson's paved the way to the beatification
Deo gratias!
In the early hours of the morning, many pilgrims are still dozing
Throughout the night before the beatification, as thousands and pilgrims prayed and kept watch, a candle burned in the window of Pope Benedict XVI's apartments
A religious sister peers from underneath one of the many pictures of Blessed John Paul II present on the square
Pope Benedict XVI faces his predecessor in pictorial form

Photo credits:
[1] Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
[2] [4] Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
[3] [10] [11] [16] Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
[5] AP Photo/Massimo Sestini, Polizia di Stato
[6] Pool L’Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Images
[7] REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool
[8] AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano
[9] [12] Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images
[13] REUTERS/Max Rossi
[14] Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images
[15] [20] AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito
[17] [18] AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
[19] AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

Priest removes 6,000 people from church

Fr. Jelinic with saintly remains

Granted, he did so over the course of a few years, but it’s still a high number. What crimes did these people commit?

Father Marijan Jelinic is priest of the church of St. Blaise in Vodnjan, Croatia. It is located in Istria, the destination of many tourists in summer. The church contains many relics and the priest thinks these remains of saints deserve all due respect. He is right, of course, and that is at the root of the reason that he expelled so many from the church. People, often tourists in their summer clothing, need to be properly dressed when they enter a sacred place. In a Catholic church not only the remains of saints are present, but most importantly, Jesus Christ Himself is. That fact alone should influence the way we behave when in a church. That is part of the reason why people usually limit themselves to whispering, for example (even if they’re not really aware of it). What is less known, I think, is that a dress code is also assumed.

People don’t need to dress up to the nines before stepping across the threshold of a church, of course, but short or revealing clothing are usually a big no. This article, from which I got the information above, mentions a dress code that was not respected. If Fr. Jelinic had placed signs at the door, explaining appropriate attire, he is totally right when he asks people who don’t abide to leave. That’s what they do in Rome as well. No shorts or revealing tops at St. Peter’s, please. If it’s frowned upon there, why not in any other Catholic church in the world?

I think that these rules actually add to the experience of attending Mass, or even just visiting a church. The realisation that this is some special place you are visiting is all the easier to reach when you have to go through some effort to do so. And that realisation could, God willing, grow into a fuller one: you are not just in a special place, but in the most special place, where Christ is physically among us, where our salvation is within arm’s reach, so to speak.

Of course, Fr. Jelinic has his share of opposition. People say he scares away young people with his draconian measures. Well, I highly doubt that. I think that a priest who has the guts to be clear and enforce certain simple rules gets more respect, especially from young people, than one who goes with every flow.

The nature of the Church

This past week, Bishops Frans Wiertz and Everard de Jong, respectively ordinary and auxiliary of the Diocese of Roermond, have been in Rome with a few hundred Catholics from their diocese. On Tuesday they celebrated Mass at the basilica of St. Peter, and Bishop Wiertz spoke about the nature of the Church in his homily. Since it’s a topic that has semi-regularly appeared in my blog as well, it is perhaps interesting to see what the bishop had to say about it.

Tuesday 4 May 2010 – St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Votive Mass of St. Peter

First reading: 1 Peter 5, 1-4
Gospel: Matt. 16, 13-19

When you look behind you – over that marvellous canopy by Bernini – you’ll see a Latin text in the dome. And if you can’t see it, you should take a look  later. It says, “Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam” – “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”

This is a text from the Gospel of Matthew, from which we just a heard a passage. Jesus appoints Peter as leader of the Church, as the rock upon which He will build His Church. Peter als means rock or stone.

That makes it very clear where we celebrate the Eucharist today. Not in just a church in Rome, but in the Church of Rome. This basilica is built on top of the tomb of Peter, first among the Apostles.

The man who Christ Himself appointed as leader of His Church, as the central stone upon which the entire machine of the Church rests, the foundation upon which our faith community is built.

I’ll point something else out to you. Above and behind me you see an enormous and empty chair. That is the cathedra of Peter, the seat from which he leads the Church. Symbolically, because the chair and all the baroque around it date from much later, of course. But that is not what matters. What is important is that we can point out a place where the Church is. Literally and figuratively. That is here.

After Peter many took his place, up until the current Pope Benedict. He represents the daily management of the Church, but is also the connection to the Church of all ages. People didn’t just start building a Church here one day. No we build here on Peter, the rock. Sent by Christ Himself did he lay the foundation of the Church here. Or put even better: he is the foundation of the Church here.

Through the laying on of hands and the consecration that mission has been transmitted from bishop to bishop. Throughout the ages. That is what we call the apostolic succession. The Church did not invent or assume her mission, but received it through Peter from Christ.

That apostolic line in relation to out diocese is very nicely represented in this basilica, by the way. In one of the chapel there is a fresco on which we see an angel giving the key of heaven to St. Servatius, the very first bishop of Maastricht. You’ll find an image of that fresco in your program.

It is the key to the kingdom of heaven, the same one that Christ also gave to Peter. That is also what we heard in today’s Gospel. It is a confirmation of the role of the Church as the link between God and the faithful.

Now, I do know that many people have problems with the institutional nature of the Church. Who are touched by Jesus, but who think they should be able to experience their faith in their own way. To that I gladly quote the old Church father St. Cyprian. He said, “You can not say that you have God as father and at the same time not want the Church as mother.” They are two communicating vessels who are irrevocably connected.

That is why there is another beautiful symbol above the chair of Peter. The famous window with the image of a dove: the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Not the pope or the bishops run the Church, but the Holy Spirit does. Bishops and priests are merely instruments in His hands.

That is how I myself experience it as well. I am not the manager of the Diocese of Roermond company . But as parents live with their family, so I travel as a father with the faithful of Limburg through the times. No more and no less. In that I feel expressly carried by the world Church and the Church of all ages.

As Peter told the elders of the assembly in the first reading of today, I try to gladly watch over the flock. But it is the Holy Spirit who shows the way.

That is why it is good to be here as a diocese on pilgrimage, to find strength and support with Peter and his successor Benedict XVI, who we will meet tomorrow.

Connected to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church we were able to celebrate or 450th anniversary this past year. We continue to experience that connection when we will have returned to Limburg and return to our daily affairs. We may look to the future with confidence, for we are built on Peter, the rock. Amen.
 
+ Frans Wiertz
bishop of Roermond