12 February 2013
Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation yesterday at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
After Pope Benedict XVI’s historic announcement yesterday, the world has been asking a lot of questions about what the days ahead will bring.
John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has posted a very good Q&A primer, which includes some speculation about how a former pontiff might spend his time:
What will Benedict’s role being in the election of his successor?
To hear [Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico] Lombardi and others tell it, he won’t have any role at all.
“Benedict XVI will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of election,” Lombardi told the media. “He will be retired and will not interfere in any way in the process. You can be assured that the cardinals will be completely autonomous in their decision.”
That said, Benedict’s imprint is nevertheless destined to be on the conclave in two ways.
First, he has by now appointed the majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor (67 out of 117 who will be under 80 when the sede vacante begins and thus hold the right to vote). In that sense, one can expect these are men who mostly share his outlook on things.
Second, because he’s still alive, at least some cardinals may feel special pressure not to do anything that would be perceived as a repudiation of Benedict’s papacy, or that they suspect would cause him consternation. How that might translate into choices inside the conclave isn’t entirely clear, but it’s a piece of the puzzle worth considering.
What will Benedict do after the new pope is on the job?
Here we’re really in the realm of the hypothetical, because the only honest answer is that we just don’t know.
It’s reasonable to think that after some period of near-complete withdrawal to make it clear that the new pope is fully in charge, Benedict might want to resume writing on the scholarly and spiritual topics that have always been his passion.
Lombardi hinted at that possibility Tuesday, saying Benedict’s long-awaited encyclical on faith (timed to coincide with the Year of Faith, and completing a triptych with his earlier works on love and hope) would not be ready to go before he steps down. He left open the possibility, however, that Benedict might be able to make use of this material in another form in a private capacity.
Whether Benedict will publish writings while he’s still alive, however, or whether he’ll take appointments, appear at Vatican events, or otherwise play some sort of public role, is all apparently still being pondered.
What are the implications of all this for future popes?
Once again, Vatican officials have been at pains to say that Benedict’s is an “absolutely personal” choice, and that because every situation is different, it’s impossible to say what future popes might do.
Lombardi made a special point today of stressing that Benedict wouldn’t do anything to tie his successor’s hands. He said, for instance, that while Benedict clearly wants a pope to be present at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, it will be up the next pontiff to freely decide if he wants to go or not.
Read it all at the NCR link.
12 February 2013
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope Papacy Holy See
Pope Benedict XVI has made many travels during his pontificate, including a historic trip to Lebanon in September, to deliver his apostolic exhortation. In this image, he is welcomed to Bkerke by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter. Click here to read the full text of the exhortation. You can also read analysis of the document by Father Elias Mallon in the November 2012 issue of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
11 February 2013
Tags: Lebanon Pope Benedict XVI Ecumenism Christian Unity Exhortation
In this photo from the Vatican taken last June, CNEWA’s President Msgr. John E. Kozar shares a moment with Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father met Msgr. Kozar during the 85th annual ROACO (Assembly of aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) in Rome. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)
11 February 2013
Pope Benedict XVI uses a handrail as he walks down stairs of the main altar after giving a talk in St. Peter’s Basilica at the conclusion of a Mass for the Knights of Malta on 9 February.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he will resign the papal office on 28 February. The text of his announcement is below.
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
There is a recording of the Holy Father making the announcement today in Latin at the Vatican news site.
CNS has additional details:
Jesuit Father Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists at a briefing that the pope’s decision was not prompted by any medical illness, but was due to a natural “decline of strength” associated with old age.
Even though the announcement had caught almost everybody by surprise, it was not a snap decision, but rather one that “had matured over the past few months,” Father Lombardi said.
The pope made his announcement in Latin from a pre-written text during a morning ordinary public consistory where a large number of cardinals were present.
When he delivered his announcement, the pope seemed very “composed, concentrated” and read “in a solemn manner” in keeping with the importance of what he was saying, Father Lombardi said.
Fulfilling the canonical requirement, Pope Benedict solemnly declared to the cardinals, “Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new supreme pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”
It is up to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to make preparations for a conclave to elect a new pope.
Father Lombardi said after the pope steps down, he will move to the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. He will stay there until the renovation is completed of a cloister, set up by Blessed John Paul II, which is located inside the Vatican Gardens, he said.
The pope will then live in the cloister, called the Mater Ecclesia monastery, and dedicate his time to prayer and reflection, the Vatican spokesman said.
It was likely the pope would keep writing, he added, since the pope has mentioned many times that he has wanted to spend more time dedicated to study and prayer.
When asked if there would be any confusion over leadership or a schism were a possibility, Father Lombardi said he believes the pope “had no fear of this” happening because he clearly demonstrated his desire to step down and no longer be pope or retain any papal authority.
There is additional context from Rome Reports in the video below, explaining what happens next.
8 February 2013
Parishioners, clutching rosaries, attend a liturgy in the Catholic village of Azadan. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
A continuing theme in many of our stories is how faith survives — often under seemingly impossible circumstances.
In 2006, for example, we took a look at the resilient faith of the people of Armenia:
Under the Communists, and particularly under Josef Stalin, all religions in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic were vigorously suppressed. Eventually, some accommodations were made with the Armenian Apostolic Church. But Armenian Catholics — which today number 220,000 of Armenia’s 2.9 million citizens — were not given the same allowances.
Ruzanna Amiraghian, 27, was reared during a more tolerant period of Communist rule, but she grew up with the horrible tales of her forebears.
The family matriarch, Ruzanna’s great-grandmother, Hripsime Avakaian, had two sons. One, Hovannes, entered the seminary and became a priest; the other, Ashot, joined the Communist Party. Mrs. Avakaian arranged for her son, Hovannes, to baptize secretly her grandchildren in one of the churches closed by the Communists. On the way to the church, however, Ashot intervened, saying it would put the family in jeopardy.
A few years later, Father Hovannes was arrested. He disappeared and, for more than 60 years, the family knew nothing of his fate. But 10 years ago, a family member gained access to an archive previously sealed. The records revealed Father Hovannes was executed the same day he was arrested.
Under such conditions — closed churches, disappearing priests, forbidden religious practice — it is no wonder faith was tested. What is surprising is how many Armenian Catholics maintained it even while it was outlawed.
Read more about A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics in the January 2006 issue of ONE.
7 February 2013
Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist
The girls being cared for at St. Joseph's in Kerala look forward to a brighter future. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
When is an orphanage not a home for orphans? The answer, we found in 2005, can be found in one haven for young girls in India:
Most of the girls at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala, are not orphans at all. They have parents and, in most cases, remain in touch with them. A few of the 32 girls at St. Joseph’s come from broken homes, but most come from poor, intact families. And it is the poverty of the parents, combined with knowing that St. Joseph’s offers their children a better future, that explains the girls’ presence in Pulincunnoo, a small town beside a small river in central Kerala.
The orphanage was built in 1973, next to a primary school and high school, all of which are run by the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. The primary school, 100 years old, serves the area’s boys and girls, while the high school, built in 1975, is only for girls. The orphans attend classes with the girls and boys of Pulincunnoo.
“I was scared at first to come here,” said 9-year-old Nivia, who recently moved into the orphanage. “But now I prefer it here. I had friends back home [in Aleppy], but I have more here. And I have more opportunities to play and study.”
Sister Flower Mary, 61, runs the orphanage and enforces a strict schedule. The girls rise at 5 a.m., attend liturgy at 6:15 and study until breakfast at 8:30. From 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. they attend school, with a one-hour lunch break. After school, the girls play until 5:30, then study for two hours before prayer and dinner. Afterward, it is another hour of study. Bedtime is at 10 p.m. The girls are ambitious. Neethu, a 15-year-old basketball player, hopes to become a sister, following in the footsteps of Sister Flower Mary. Sister Ancid Maria, 15, was enrolled at St. Joseph’s when she was 3 and entered the community’s novitiate earlier this year.
“From a very early time, I knew I wanted to do social work and help out,” she said. “And I thought the best way to do that would be to become a sister like my teachers.”
Read more about St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’ in the September 2005 issue of ONE.
6 February 2013
Tags: India Children Education Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
Cooks attend Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 6 February. Read more about the pope’s audience and his remarks here. Hungry? See what’s cooking in Lebanon and check out these recipes for pomegranates. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
5 February 2013
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Cultural Identity
Father Edison visits with one of the parishioners in a nearby village. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Being a priest in India brings with it special challenges, as we reported in 2005:
Sitting in the foyer of their simple rectory, a small concrete house, the priests sipped coconut water and prepared for Sunday liturgy at their compound in the town of Vattakarickam. Services would be held at St. Mary Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the largest of the compound’s three buildings.
This Sunday’s duties were a welcome respite from the heavy travel of most Sundays, when they celebrate six liturgies — three each — driving 20 miles of winding dirt roads between churches. All told, about 1,000 people attend the priests’ Sunday liturgies.
But about once a month, Father Edison and Father John concelebrate at St. Mary’s, host a feast and arrange classes for children. About 200 parishioners attend and the festivities end in the late afternoon. And this Sunday, they would be joined by Father Abraham Parappallil, a catechist.
Fathers Edison and John live in relative isolation, far from the bustle of Trivandrum, the state capital and the seat of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, where both spent 10 years at St. Mary’s Seminary.
Life is ascetic. There are no sizable towns nearby, just farmland and small, poor low-caste communities.
Both priests rarely see their families, who live between 30 and 60 miles away, an imposing distance by dirt roads especially during the rainy season.
“When I first came here four years ago, I was bored,” said Father Edison, who like Father John had an urban, middle-class upbringing. “I am an energetic person. But now, I feel that the nature that surrounds us has something to tell me. When the sun rises through the forest each morning, it puts me in a meditative mood.”
In the morning, before the faithful arrived, Father Edison visited some of the villages in the area. The villages are poor, typically a collection of huts clustered around a well.
“There are mainly low-caste Hindus in the area,” Father Edison said.
Read more on Village Priests in the November 2005 issue of ONE.
4 February 2013
Tags: India Poor/Poverty Indian Christians Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Indian Catholics
Mother Elizabeth leads Russian Orthodox novices in prayer at the Martha and Mary Convent
in Russia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2002, we paid a visit to a convent in Russia, where young women were doing what they have done for centuries:
While Russia strives to catch up with the modern world, the work of the Martha and Mary Convent is not so different from what it was before the Soviet Union’s great atheistic experiment.
“People think we are outdated because we keep some traditions from the early 20th century,” said the Mother Superior, named Elizabeth in honor of the convent’s founder, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov.
“We believe her ideas were so much ahead of her time that even now we are awed at her far-reaching concepts for helping the poor.”
The Communists forced the closing of the Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow in 1926, but it reopened in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, its sisters are carrying on the mission of the founder and now saint, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, born into the Lutheran noble house of Hesse-Darmstadt, was the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, sister of the doomed Tsarina Alexandra and wife of the murdered Grand Duke Sergei who was an uncle of the last Russian tsar — Nicholas II. She founded the convent in 1910, some eight years before the bloody revolution also claimed her as a victim.
After her husband was killed in 1905, she visited his assassin in prison and spoke of forgiveness. Shortly after, she gave away much of her wealth, founded hospitals, opened soup kitchens and in 1909 took vows as a Sister of Love and Mercy.
Even prior to the death of her husband, Elizabeth had brought health reforms to peasant mothers in the countryside near Moscow and began visiting the city’s sick, imprisoned and orphaned.
The Bolsheviks executed Elizabeth on 18 July 1918 along with her loyal assistant, Barbara, and several other Romanov prisoners. A peasant who witnessed the murders said Elizabeth sang hymns and soothed the dying after the group had been thrown down a mineshaft. Elizabeth succumbed only after grenades were hurled in the direction of the singing. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized her in August 2000, along with Barbara.
Mother Elizabeth said the community today, as with the original community, bases many of its guiding principles on the deaconess movement popular in Lutheran religious communities at the end of the 19th century. Although Elizabeth converted to Orthodoxy in 1891, she retained many of the deaconess ideals, including caring for the sick and poor.
Elizabeth dedicated the convent to the values of Martha and Mary in the hope that the community would, in Elizabeth’s words: “combine the lofty destiny of Mary with Martha’s service to Our Lord...”
...As in the old days, the community’s routine combines prayer, study and service. They wake up at 6:30, take breakfast and then pray in a small chapel. At 9 they start school. Lunch is at noon, after which they continue their studies until 4. In the evenings they study theology, music and enjoy some free time. The young women, in their late teens and early 20’s, come from all over Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Their studies and accommodation are paid for, but they must often pay for their trips home.
Inna, a 20-year-old from Latvia, has sparkling eyes, an impish grin and studies at the college.
“My parents are not religious but I used to go to church and Sunday school with my friends; there wasn’t much else to do,” she said.
Read more about the convent in the November 2002 issue of our magazine.
4 February 2013
Tags: Sisters Russia Russian Orthodox Nuns
The bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church have elected Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk to be the new patriarch of the Iraq-based church. The election took place on 31 January and was welcomed by Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Sako, pictured in a 2010 file photo, succeeds Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad as patriarch. (photo: CNS /Paul Haring)
Pope writes to new patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (VIS) Benedict XVI has written a letter to His Beatitude Louis Raphael Sako, the new Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, granting the “Ecclesiastica Communio” requested of him by the Patriarch. In the text the Pope asks the Lord to fill His Beatitude with “every grace and blessing” and that he be enlightened &lquo;in order to tirelessly proclaim the Gospel, following the living tradition that dates back to St. Thomas the Apostle”...
Putin: Russian Orthodox Church has a “significant voice” (Interfax) President Vladimir Putin has credited regular episcopal assemblies of the Russian Orthodox Church with an “invaluable role” in Russian history. “Bishops’ assemblies have always played a great, truly invaluable role in the development of Orthodoxy, and in the many centuries of Russian history. Their decisions and their wise advice and assessments are still significant both for church and for public life,” a statement from the president’s office quoted Putin as saying in a message to a bishops’ assembly that opened in Moscow on Saturday. “The Russian Orthodox Church has a significant voice in asserting ideals of humanism, virtue and mercy, and in bringing up younger generations on the basis of intransient moral values, patriotism and civil spirit,” Putin said...
More in France are converting to Islam (New York Times) The spacious and elegant modern building, in the heart of this middle-class suburb of Paris, is known as “the mosque of the converts.” Every year about 150 Muslim conversion ceremonies are performed in the snow-white structure of the Sahaba mosque in Créteil, with its intricate mosaics and a stunning 81-foot minaret, built in 2008 and a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France. Among those who come here for Friday Prayer are numerous young former Roman Catholics, wearing the traditional Muslim prayer cap and long robe. While the number of converts remains relatively small in France, yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in the past 25 years, experts say, presenting a growing challenge for France, where government and public attitudes toward Islam are awkward and sometimes hostile...
Detroit Orthodox pastor reflects on turmoil in Syria (Detroit Free Press) Growing up as the youngest of seven children in the historic city of Hama in Syria, George Shalhoub led an idyllic life in which he says Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully. “We lived in a neighborhood that is called the Christian quarter, surrounded by Muslim neighborhoods,” recalled Shalhoub, 63, founder and pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia. “We played in their mosques, and they played in the courtyard of our church. We were safe. We visited each other, and were part of each other’s lives. I never once felt discriminated against by the Muslims. “It was the happiest time of my life.” But over the last two years, the civil war has unraveled the threads that bind society in Hama and other places in Syria, leading to sectarian strife and bloodshed. Last month, Shalhoub learned that the daughter, son-in-law and grandson of his 95-year-old hometown priest, Rev. Rafael Basha, were killed. The discovery added another layer of sorrow for Shalhoub, who often prays for reconciliation in his native land. “No one is happy” about the war in Syria, Shalhoub said. “We’re all losing in this battle”...
Indian religious gather for conference (Fides) To be prophets and witnesses in society, but at the same time be “mystical” men and women of prayer: that is the challenge of the congregations and Indian communities that gathered in the “Conference of the Religious of India” on 3 February in Mangalore to celebrate the “World Day for Consecrated Life”...
Tags: Syria India Iraq Islam Russian Orthodox