The pope’s words

tjndc5-5jbdf9bd92pinecvg04_layout.jpgHave some time on your hands and want to know more about what’s on the pope’s mind?

This website has the texts of all six of Benedict XVI’s Holy Week homilies.

As Sandro Magister, who operates www.chiesa, notes:

Of the six homilies delivered by Benedict XVI during the Holy Week ceremonies this year, only two had wide reverberations and reached the ears of millions of people.

The first was the one read at the end of the Via Crucis on Holy Friday, and the other is the “Urbi et Orbi” message of Easter Sunday. Both of these were broadcast live on radio and television, in many countries around the world.

But not the other four. They reached few – only the few thousands of the faithful who were present at the ceremonies celebrated by the pope, and who understood the Italian language (many of them were foreigners). To these should be added the few people who read the pope’s words in the Catholic media during the following days.

If one considers that Catholics in the world number well over one billion, the number of those who heard or read the pope’s homilies last Holy Week appears even more microscopic.

And yet these homilies are among the most revealing characteristics of Joseph Ratzinger’s pontificate. They are a culmination of the magisterium of this pope, theologian and pastor.

They are unmistakably written by the pope himself. And they are inseparably connected to the liturgical celebration in which they were pronounced. In their genre, they are masterpieces.

No, Gorby still doesn’t believe

You may have heard that former Soviet boss Mikhail Gorbachev was seen visiting the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy not long ago.

tjndc5-5b545ik8qbkj3fbh7p4_layout.jpgHe was seen kneeling for a half-hour in silence. In prayer?

This sighting fueled speculation that Gorby had become, or was finally ready to admit that he is, a Christian.

But no. He has gone on-record with the Russian news agency Interfax to say he remains a Soviet-style non-believer:

Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies – I can’t use any other word – about my secret Catholicism, citing my visit to the Sacro Convento friary, where the remains of St. Francis of Assisi lie. To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist.

Reflecting on the Virginia Tech shootings

April 16 will be the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre.

rogersm.jpgMatt Rogers, a campus pastor at Virginia Tech, has written a new book in which he asks many of the questions that people of faith must have asked a year ago.

The book is called When Answers Aren’t Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn’t.

According to a press release:

After the massacre, Rogers found himself questioning whether it was possible to experience a loving God in a pain-filled world. “I wasn’t looking for answers,” Rogers writes, “I knew the answers. I was searching for a way to experience God as good when the world around me appeared dark and hopeless.”

When Answers Aren’t Enough follows Rogers over a period of several months as he searches for a way to experience peace in tragedy. He does this by speaking with those who are not strangers to tragedy. In one interview with a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre, the student recounts the tragic events from the morning of the shooting in haunting detail, and yet still praises God for his presence there that day.

Rogers also reaches out to a local couple—Mark and Joyce Bryant—who lost six of nine children in a home explosion a few years earlier. To the Bryants, as of all his interviewees, Rogers poses the question, “How can you experience God as good, when life isn’t?” The answers are similar—choose hope, instead of despair.

Put off by the popular Christian mantra of “celebrating” in death, Rogers
references Scriptures to illustrate the necessity of grieving differently—
without despairing—but grieving still. Just as Jesus wept, Rogers
states, “sadness is a sign of love. We hurt because the ones who are gone
were dear to us. What other response could be more loving than to weep?”

Papal archives on ‘Catholic Channel’

I mentioned yesterday that the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, produced by the Archdiocese of New York, should get more exposure after SIRIUS merges with XM Satellite radio.

tjndc5-5basqbzhjfq1apa1e6bw_layout.jpgToday, I wanted to add that the Catholic Channel is really upping the ante for the papal visit.

The standard Catholic Channel (159 on SIRIUS) will provide 24-hour coverage of the pope. But in addition, SIRIUS channel 143 will rebroadcast key events.

And channel 119 — listen up history buffs — will play historic speeches by past popes, including the two who visited America: JPII and Paul VI. It will also have the earliest known recording of a pope, Leo XIII in 1902.

People often ask me this, so: In order to hear the Catholic Channel, you have to buy SIRIUS equipment and order a monthly service.

And he didn’t even get here yet

Americans like Benedict XVI — by a margin of 4 to 1.

According to a new poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, 58% view the pope favorably and 18% unfavorably.

66% of Catholics said they would like to attend a papal event in the U.S. — and 42% of everyone, Catholic and non.

tjndc5-5jaa71la5a1dokguab2_layout.jpgLarge numbers want to hear the pope talk about: “allowing God to be a part of their daily lives (73%), finding spiritual fulfillment by sharing their time and talent (71%) and how they can make a positive difference in the world, their state, and communities (70%).”

As far as the Catholic Church goes, 65% have a favorable view and 28% a negative view.

The numbers were released today by KOC Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who was speaking at the National Press Club about his new book Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World.

Anderson said:

The bottom line is that, despite years of very negative stories about the Catholic Church scandals, and dissenting view of the Pope as some sort of ‘panzercardinal’ determined to pursue the unorthodox to the ends of the earth, the American people have a very sensible and balanced view of Benedict and the Church. And they are very open to hearing his views on matters of how they might live their faith and put it into action in their daily lives.

Good times, and bad, for preachers

The eminent Protestant scholar Martin Marty has a timely column about public preaching.

He never mentions the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his relationship with Barack Obama. But Marty clearly has the news of the day in mind when he writes that the top preachers of modern times all alienated some followers. (By the way, his Mt. Rushmore of 20th century preachers would include busts of Walter Rauschenbush, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Sloane Coffin.)

mem.jpgMarty sums things up like this:

Preachers seldom have had it so good, or so bad, as they have it during the current campaign, as treated not so much by campaigners as by media commentators. So good? The commentators propagate the idea that preachers have enormous and spellbinding power. This implies that if a preacher says something, everyone will hear and, unless restrained, act upon what they heard, for good or evil. During a campaign, that means “for evil.” They also never had it so bad because they have not gotten the point across, culture-wide, that congregants are smart enough to filter, discreet enough not to tear the sermons apart, and hungry enough that they want to hear “the gospel,” messages of faith and hope and love as they try to put their week or part of their lives together.

Muslim inmates get their meals

A settlement that will allow Muslim inmates at Westchester County Jail to have halal meat — specially prepared according to Islamic dietary laws — is apparently of international interest.

My colleague Shawn Cohen wrote about the settlement after a judge signed off on it. It seems that it took three years for the case to be decided after Muslim inmates said they were being discriminated against. They have had to eat vegetarian meals instead of meat dishes that were not prepared in accordance with their faith.

Now Muslim inmates will be able to have four halal meat dishes a week. Actually, the jail began offering halal meals in September.

The Associated Press picked up the story, and the International Herald-Tribune ran it. The IHT, the international, English-language daily, is very popular in Europe. And these days, Europe is keenly interested in all aspects of assimilating Muslims into the wider culture…

Satellite radio merger boon for archdiocese

The news that the Justice Department has approved SIRIUS Satellite Radio’s buyout of XM Satellite Radio must have been received with cheers by the Archdiocese of New York.

Why? The archdiocese produces the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS, which will likely get a bigger audience when the merger goes though.

blobserver.jpegThe non-satellite radio world argued against the merger, but Justice decided that having one big satellite radio ship will not hurt consumers by affecting competition. There is no real competition now, Justice said, because consumers buy equipment for one service or the other and rarely switch.

There’s also plenty of competition in the overall radio world, the government said.

So the Catholic Channel will have the opportunity to flourish. It’s promising 24-hour coverage of the papal visit to the U.S.

The archdiocese agreed to plan and provide programming for the channel after it was approached by SIRIUS officials. Cardinal Egan has a show and listeners get to hear him celebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Joe Zwilling, the oft-quoted spokesman for the archdiocese and for Egan, is also general manager of the Catholic Channel.

XM has 9 million subscribers and SIRIUS 8.3 million.

When I profiled the Catholic Channel last year, it was explained to me that there was no way to measure the audience for an individual channel on satellite radio.

And when the pope leaves…

With the spotlight firmly on the pope, there has been much less speculation in recent months about Cardinal Egan’s future.

But Rocco Palmo, he of Whispers in the Loggia fame, revives what will soon become (after Benedict returns home) a subject of much interest.

abg-color.jpgBuilding on the common belief that Egan will be retired at some point in ’08, Palmo takes a look at the latest contenders to replace Egan:

While Archbishops Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, John Myers of Newark and the Bronx-born Henry Mansell of Hartford remain the most-mentioned of the crowded field of contenders for the keys to 452 Madison and, with them, American Catholicism’s most storied pulpit, an increasing focus in recent months has fallen upon two unprecedented (read: non-Irish) possibilities: Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta.

Palmo goes over the reasons for Serratelli and Gregory’s popularity (among them, both are confident and media-ready). That’s Gregory in the photo, by the way.

Palmo also notes:

What’s more, though the process’ groundwork is well underway, the appointment to the “Capital of the World” is one of the few top-shelf calls into which every Pope faced with the decision has invested a significant amount of his own time and consideration… from which, suffice it to say, surprises have sometimes sprung.

Bottom line: Papa Ratzi might be exerting a lot more energy into the dossiers than did his predecessor, but a quote oft attributed to John Paul II is no less true today.

After the death of Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1983, the Polish pontiff was widely reported to have spread the word that “I want a man like me in New York.” And, well, so it goes.

Why we called the pope an ‘enigma’

The headline on my article yesterday was:

For many, still an enigma

3 years into papacy, Benedict XVI remains mystery to Americans

tjndc5-5j9j8pyfp0814cxt9atd_layout.jpgI’ve received a few comments from readers who felt that the article was “negative” or “derogatory” to the pope. I don’t see it. But let me take a moment to explain what I wrote and why.

The main point: When talking to Catholics over the last few months, it became clear to me that many people don’t know what to make of Pope Benedict. It’s not that they’re critical of him. Or overly supportive.

Most people don’t have the time or interest to following papal happenings closely in the Catholic press — what the pope is writing or saying. And this pope is not nearly as prone to the grand gesture as was John Paul II. You have to pay attention to get a sense of what he is about.

So I set out to write an introduction to Benedict’s first three years as pope for Catholics — and others — who haven’t really paid attention since his election in April 2005. I talked to a lot of really smart people who observe the pope closely and asked them to explain Benedict’s pontificate, so far, in as basic terms as possible.

I asked them: What would you tell someone who now wants to figure out what this pope is about?

I don’t think that the clear consensus — that Benedict remains a mystery to most — is in any way derogatory or critical of the pope. It may take years (or longer) for his teachings to seep down. Or his visit to the U.S. may inspire many people to sit up and pay attention sooner. We’ll see.

One final point: Several people have suggested that it was not appropriate to run the article on Easter. I can certainly understand why someone who was focused yesterday on celebrating the Resurrection would feel that way. I really can. But we put out the Journal News/ every day, even on Easter, and something has to go in the paper and on the Web.

Regardless, please check out our “pope page.”