Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Benedict XVI on ad orientem

“In the liturgy’s orientation to the East, we see that Christians, together with the Lord, want to progress toward the salvation of creation in its entirety.


Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, is at the same time also the ‘sun’ that illuminates the world. Faith is also always directed toward the totality of creation. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew fulfills an essential aspect of his priestly mission precisely with his commitment to creation.


A shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ is never oriented merely to the circle of his own faithful. The community of the Church is universal also in the sense that it includes all of reality.”

Benedict XVI,  L'Osservatore Romano, 12 October 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Benedict XVI on the Second Vatican Council

Ratzinger was peritus of Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, during the Second Vatican Council.

"It was a splendid day on 11 October 1962 when the Second Vatican Council opened with the solemn procession into St Peter’s Basilica in Rome of more than two thousand Council Fathers. In 1931 Pius XI had dedicated this day to the feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, mindful that 1,500 years earlier, in 431, the Council of Ephesus had solemnly recognized this title for Mary in order to express God’s indissoluble union with man in Christ. Pope John XXIII had chosen this day for the beginning of the Council so as to entrust the great ecclesial assembly, which he had convoked, to the motherly goodness of Mary and to anchor the Council’s work firmly in the mystery of Jesus Christ. It was impressive to see in the entrance procession bishops from all over the world, from all peoples and all races: an image of the Church of Jesus Christ which embraces the whole world, in which the peoples of the earth know they are united in his peace.

It was a moment of extraordinary expectation. Great things were about to happen. The previous Councils had almost always been convoked for a precise question to which they were to provide an answer. This time there was no specific problem to resolve. But precisely because of this, a general sense of expectation hovered in the air: Christianity, which had built and formed the Western world, seemed more and more to be losing its power to shape society. It appeared weary and it looked as if the future would be determined by other spiritual forces. The sense of this loss of the present on the part of Christianity, and of the task following on from that, was well summed up in the word aggiornamento (updating). Christianity must be in the present if it is to be able to form the future. So that it might once again be a force to shape the future, John XXIII had convoked the Council without indicating to it any specific problems or programmes. This was the greatness and at the same time the difficulty of the task that was set before the ecclesial assembly.

The various episcopates undoubtedly approached the great event with different ideas. Some of them arrived rather with an attitude of expectation regarding the programme that was to be developed. It was the episcopates of Central Europe – Belgium, France and Germany – that came with the clearest ideas. In matters of detail, they stressed completely different aspects, yet they had common priorities. A fundamental theme was ecclesiology, that needed to be studied in greater depth from a Trinitarian and sacramental viewpoint and in connection with salvation history; then there was a need to amplify the doctrine of primacy from the First Vatican Council by giving greater weight to the episcopal ministry. An important theme for the episcopates of Central Europe was liturgical renewal, which Pius XII had already started to implement. Another central aspect, especially for the German episcopate, was ecumenism: the shared experience of Nazi persecution had brought Protestant and Catholic Christians closer together; this now had to happen at the level of the whole Church, and to be developed further. Then there was also the group of themes: Revelation – Scripture – Tradition – Magisterium. For the French, the subject of the relationship between the Church and the modern world came increasingly to the fore – in other words the work of the so-called “Schema XIII”, from which the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World later emerged. This point touches on the real expectations of the Council. The Church, which during the Baroque era was still, in a broad sense, shaping the world, had from the nineteenth century onwards visibly entered into a negative relationship with the modern era, which had only then properly begun. Did it have to remain so? Could the Church not take a positive step into the new era? Behind the vague expression “today’s world” lies the question of the relationship with the modern era. To clarify this, it would have been necessary to define more clearly the essential features that constitute the modern era. “Schema XIII” did not succeed in doing this. Although the Pastoral Constitution expressed many important elements for an understanding of the “world” and made significant contributions to the question of Christian ethics, it failed to offer substantial clarification on this point.

Unexpectedly, the encounter with the great themes of the modern epoch did not happen in the great Pastoral Constitution, but instead in two minor documents, whose importance has only gradually come to light in the context of the reception of the Council. First, there is the Declaration on Religious Liberty, which was urgently requested, and also drafted, by the American Bishops in particular. With developments in philosophical thought and in ways of understanding the modern State, the doctrine of tolerance, as worked out in detail by Pius XII, no longer seemed sufficient. At stake was the freedom to choose and practise religion and the freedom to change it, as fundamental human rights and freedoms. Given its inner foundation, such a concept could not be foreign to the Christian faith, which had come into being claiming that the State could neither decide on the truth nor prescribe any kind of worship. The Christian faith demanded freedom of religious belief and freedom of religious practice in worship, without thereby violating the law of the State in its internal ordering; Christians prayed for the emperor, but did not worship him. To this extent, it can be said that Christianity, at its birth, brought the principle of religious freedom into the world. Yet the interpretation of this right to freedom in the context of modern thought was not easy, since it could seem as if the modern version of religious freedom presupposed the inaccessibility of the truth to man and so, perforce, shifted religion into the sphere of the subjective. It was certainly providential that thirteen years after the conclusion of the Council, Pope John Paul II arrived from a country in which freedom of religion had been denied by Marxism, in other words by a particular form of modern philosophy of the State. The Pope had come, as it were, from a situation resembling that of the early Church, so that the inner orientation of the faith towards the theme of freedom, and especially freedom of religion and worship, became visible once more.

The second document that was to prove important for the Church’s encounter with the modern age came into being almost by chance and it developed in various phases. I am referring to the Declaration “Nostra Aetate” on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. At the outset the intention was to draft a declaration on relations between the Church and Judaism, a text that had become intrinsically necessary after the horrors of the Shoah. The Council Fathers from Arab countries were not opposed to such a text, but they explained that if there were an intention to speak of Judaism, then there should also be some words on Islam. How right they were, we in the West have only gradually come to understand. Lastly the realization grew that it was also right to speak of two other great religions – Hinduism and Buddhism – as well as the theme of religion in general. Then, following naturally, came a brief indication regarding dialogue and collaboration with the religions, whose spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural values were to be respected, protected and encouraged (ibid., 2). Thus, in a precise and extraordinarily dense document, a theme is opened up whose importance could not be foreseen at the time. The task that it involves and the efforts that are still necessary in order to distinguish, clarify and understand, are appearing ever more clearly. In the process of active reception, a weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion which, from the historical and theological viewpoints, are of far-reaching importance; for this reason the Christian faith, from the outset, adopted a critical stance towards religion, both internally and externally.

If at the beginning of the Council the dominant groups were the Central European Episcopates with their theologians, during the Council sessions the scope of the common endeavour and responsibility constantly broadened. The bishops considered themselves apprentices at the school of the Holy Spirit and at the school of reciprocal collaboration, but at the same time servants of the word of God who were living and working in faith. The Council Fathers neither could nor wished to create a new or different Church. They had neither the authority nor the mandate to do so. It was only in their capacity as bishops that they were now Council Fathers with a vote and decision-making powers, that is to say, on the basis of the Sacrament and in the Church of the Sacrament. For this reason they neither could nor wished to create a different faith or a new Church, but rather to understand these more deeply and hence truly to “renew them”. This is why a hermeneutic of rupture is absurd and is contrary to the spirit and the will of the Council Fathers.

In Cardinal Frings I had a “father” who lived this spirit of the Council in an exemplary way. He was a man of great openness and breadth, but he also knew that faith alone leads us out into the open, into that space which remains barred to the positivist spirit. This is the faith that he wished to serve with the authority he had received through the sacrament of Episcopal Ordination. I cannot but be ever grateful to him for having brought me – the youngest professor of the Catholic theology faculty of the University of Bonn – as his consultant to the great Church assembly, thereby enabling me, alongside the others, to attend that school and to walk the path of the Council from within. The present volume contains a collection of the various writings that I presented at that school. They are thoroughly fragmentary offerings, which also reveal the learning process that the Council and its reception meant and still means for me. I hope that despite all their limitations, these various offerings, combined, will help to make the Council better understood and to implement it in a healthy ecclesial life. I warmly thank Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller and his collaborators at the Pope Benedict XVI Institute for the extraordinary commitment they have taken on in order to produce this volume.

Castel Gandolfo, on the Feast of Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli
2 August 2012

Benedictus PP. XVI"

Ratzinger on the resurrection of the body


“It now becomes clear that the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible.”

“The foregoing reflections may have clarified to some extent what is involved in the biblical pronouncements about the resurrection: their essential content is not the conception of a restoration of bodies to souls after a long interval…”
“To recapitulate, Paul teaches, not the resurrection of physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons…”

Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, 2004, pp. 349, 353, 357-358

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Benedict XVI on Pope John Paul I

"Because of this virtue of his, it only took 33 days for Pope Luciani to win people's hearts. In his addresses he always referred to events in practical life, from his family memories and from popular wisdom. His simplicity was a vehicle for a solid, rich teaching which, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and a vast knowledge, he embellished with numerous citations from ecclesiastical and secular writers. Thus, he was an incomparable catechist, following in the footsteps of St. Piux X, who came from the same region and was his predecessor first on the throne of St. Mark and then on that of St. Peter.

... 'We must feel small before God' ... 'I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me.' These words reveal the full depth of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the church and to the world, let us treasure his example, striving to cultivate his same humility which enabled him to talk to everyone, especially the small and the 'distant.' For this, let us invoke Mary Most Holy, the humble handmaid of the Lord." 

Benedict XVI, Angelus, 28 September 2008.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cardinal Ratzinger on ad orientem

“To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council. The use of the vernacular is certainly permitted, especially for the Liturgy of the Word, but the preceding general rule of the Council text says, ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36.1). There is nothing in the Council text about turning altars towards the people; that point is raised only in postconciliar instructions.”

Uwe Michael Lang, “Turning towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer,” Foreword by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cardinal Ratzinger on the Logos

"Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the Logos. It is faith in the Creator Spiritus, (Creator Spirit), from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a 'sub-product,' on occasion even harmful of its development, or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal. The Christian faith inclines toward this second thesis, thus having, from the purely philosophical point of view, really good cards to play, despite the fact that many today consider only the first thesis as the only modern and rational one par excellence. However, a reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the Logos, from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational." 

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1 April 2005.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cardinal Ratzinger on Liturgy - 3

Missale Romanum
"I was dumbfounded upon hearing about the interdiction of the old Missal, since such a move had never been seen in the entire history of Catholic liturgy. The impression was given that this was all quite normal. The previous Missal had been realized by Pope St. Pius V, in 1570, immediately following the Council of Trent (1545-1563); it was therefore considered normal that, after 400 years and a new Council, a new Pope should therefore also publish a new Missal. However, the historical truth is another matter altogether. Pius V had limited himself to republishing the Roman Missal then in use just as it had always been down through the centuries of history. Also, many of his successors, following his example, had also had the Missal republished, without ever opposing one Missal to another. It has always been a continuing process of historical growth and purification in which, however, essential continuity had never been destroyed. There does not exist, nor has there ever existed, a Missal completely made up by Pius V. There was only a new elaboration ordered by him, constituting merely a phase in a long process of historical growth.
Following the Council of Trent, the new reality was of a quite different nature: the eruption of the Protestant "reform" had occurred especially under the form of liturgical "reforms"...; so much so, in fact, that the limits between that which was still Catholic and that which was no longer so, were often difficult to define. In such a confused state of affairs, resulting from a lack of uniform liturgical norms, together with a liturgical plurality inherited from the Middle Ages, the Pope decided that the Missale Romanum, that is, the liturgical text then in use in Rome, was to be introduced everywhere that there existed a liturgy dating back to less than 200 years previously. The reason for this was that the timeless Roman liturgy was most assuredly Catholic in every sense of the term. Wherever it could be done, the preceding liturgy (i.e., that dating back 200 years or more) was allowed to be maintained since its truly Catholic character could be considered to be absolutely certain."  - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, La mia vita, pp. 111, 112.