The first ten months of Benedict XVI, a “doctor of the Church.” The naming of new cardinals. The inefficiency of the curia. Large crowds and audiences, but few collaborators
ROMA, February 23, 2006 – On the day of the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, at the end of his weekly audience with the pilgrims, Benedict XVI announced that next March 24 he will create 15 new cardinals.
With this reduced number of appointments, pope Joseph Ratzinger intentionally remained below the maximum threshold of 120 cardinal electors as established by the rules.
John Paul II, on the other hand, habitually exceeded this limit, nominating a significant number of extra cardinals each time.
In the order in which Benedict XVI listed them, the new cardinals will be:
1. William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
2. Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Religious;
3. Agostino Vallini, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura ;
4. Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela;
5. Gaudencio B. Rosales, archbishop of Manila, Philippines;
6. Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, France;
7. Antonio Cañizares Llovera, archbishop of Toledo, Spain;
8. Nicolas Cheong-Jin-Suk, archbishop of Seoul, South Korea;
9. Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, United States;
10. Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, Poland;
11. Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy;
12. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong.
Then there are those over the age of eighty, who are ineligible to participate in a conclave:
1. Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica of Saint Paul‘s Outside the Walls;
2. Peter Poreku Dery, archbishop emeritus of Tamale, Ghana;
3. Albert Vanhoye, former rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
Three of the new cardinals belong to religious orders: O’Malley is a Capuchin Franciscan, Zen is a Salesian, and Vanhoye is a Jesuit.
Many of those predicted to be made cardinals were passed by.
In all of Latin America, the only new red hat will go to a cardinal of Venezuela, a country where the Church is being sorely tested by the authoritarian government of Hugo Chávez.
In Asia, it is another bishop on the front lines who will be made a cardinal, the very energetic bishop of Hong Kong, who is most definitely feared by the Chinese authorities.
Only four have been selected within the Roman curia, and one of them is over 80 years old. So those remaining without the purple are Stanislaw Rylko of Poland, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Paul Josef Cordes of Germany, president of “Cor Unum”; and Angelo Comastri of Italy, archpriest of the basilica of Saint Peter and vicar general of Vatican City.
It can be gathered from this that being the head of a Vatican office does not automatically clear the way to becoming a cardinal. It seems likely that with Benedict XVI, the purple will be associated, in the curia, with a few important dicasteries. And that some offices will be scaled down, or even suppressed.
Another of the candidates for the purple predicted by the media, Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, not only was not designated a cardinal, but was removed from his office and sent to Egypt as a nuncio.
The decision was made public on February 15, and came as a surprise even to Fitzgerald himself. In reality, Fitzgerald’s promotion as a cardinal was entirely unlikely, given the strong disagreement between him and Benedict XVI on crucial topics in the dialogue among religions, and in particular between Christianity and Islam. Fitzegerald is a convinced representative of the “spirit of Assisi” of which Ratzinger has always been critical.
Furthermore, the list of the new cardinals does not permit any speculation on who might take Angelo Sodano’s place as the new secretary of state, nor whether this substitution will happen soon or not.
One of the possible successors, Giovanni Lajolo, the current foreign minister for the Holy See, remains at his post without having received the purple.
Another person who was often conjectured for the job, cardinal Attilio Nicora, president of the administration of the patrimony of the apostolic see, was given another responsibility on February 21: he was made the papal legate for the basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi. With this, he was taken off the roster of the candidates for secretary of state.
In short, not even the announcement of the consistory of March 23-25 – which will include “a meeting of reflection and prayer” of the entire college of cardinals with the pope – has satisfied the hopes that Benedict XVI would generate a “tsunami” of changes within the central government of the Church.
But this does not mean that, in this first phase of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has not left a strong impression of his own.
What follows here is an analysis of the first ten months of pope Ratzinger, delivered and discussed at the Cosmos Club of Washington on February 13, at the invitation of the Athanasius Society and Catholic News Agency.
Among those present for the discussion were Jim Nicholson, minister of Veteran’s Affairs in the Bush administration and the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; Deal Hudson, professor of philosophy at Fordham University and director of the Morley Institute for Church and Culture; Brian Saint-Paul, director of the monthly Catholic magazine on politics and culture “Crisis”; Fr. Rodger Hunter-Hall, professor at Christendom College in Alexandria; Pat Cipollone, Eugene Zurlo, Russel Shaw, and Robert Novak.
Program: Restore to the Truth Its Splendor
by Sandro Magister
Ten months have passed since the election of Joseph Ratzinger. Is it possible to identify a clear and coherent direction here? My answer is, yes.
* * *
Look at the first great public act of Benedict XVI. It was his first Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, on Sunday, April 24.
At the Gospel reading, these words of Jesus resounded: "I am the way, the truth, and the life, No one comes to the Father but by me."
They are the words that Christian art has almost always placed at the center of its depictions of Christ, the Risen Christ, the "Pantokrator" who rules the universe: the Gospel book he holds is opened on these words, so that all of us may read them.
"Dominus Jesus" – the controversial declaration of August 6, 2000, "on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and of the Church" – was not therefore an invention of Ratzinger the theologian. It simply sets forth the essence of the Revelation of the New and Eternal Testament.
* * *
Look now at the second great public act of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. It was his first Mass at Saint John Lateran, the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, on Saturday, May 7.
In it, Benedict XVI asserted that the pope "must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism."
So this is the program Pope Benedict has enunciated since the beginning: that of restoring to the truth – which is Christ in the definitive – its primacy and splendor.
In ten months, he has shown his intention to carry this out in all areas: in his first encyclical, in the liturgy, in catechesis, in law, in pastoral practice, in the magisterium of the bishops, in the application of Vatican Council II, in working for peace…
IN THE ENCYCLICAL
The first encyclical of Benedict XVI, published last January 25, is completely consistent with his program: to speak the truth about love, a word today "so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused." To demonstrate that "Deus est caritas."
The encyclical is a letter to the Christian people, but is also addressed to those far from the faith, to the "secularists," to those without faith. To all of these, Benedict XVI says: This is the true heart of the Christian faith. Understand this. With a God such as this, you may have the strength to live "as if God exists," even if you do not have the strength to believe.
Live as if within creation, and in the "quiet but clear voice" of every person’s conscience, there is his imprint: a "natural" law that defends the life of every human being "from conception to natural death."
The pope has asked for unity of action on the observance of this common law from non-Catholics – the Jews, the Muslims, the non-religious.
IN THE LITURGY
Benedict XVI has wished to restore to the celebration of the Mass the truth expressed by the great liturgical tradition.
The pope has said in many ways that the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is real, supremely real, not symbolic. He said it by adoring the consecrated host silently on his knees, with a million young people in Cologne – in Protestant country! – and with the one hundred thousand children who received first communion in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
In particular, the pope called back to faithful observance of the true liturgical tradition the Neocatechumenal Way: one of the most vibrant Catholic movements of the past half century, but which often modifies the Mass and uses it as an "instrument" for missionary expansion, instead of accepting and celebrating it as the work of God, the "source and summit" of Christian life.
In publishing the question-and-answer compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI wanted to offer to the "simple" – more so than to the learned – a guide to the truths of the faith.
The pope personally attended to the production and release of this compendium. He also wanted to add to it – not as an accompaniment, but as an integral part – fourteen images of sacred art which he selected personally. And to the first of these images, an icon of Christ preserved at Mount Athos, he dedicated a part of his homily on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
The pope has made a committment to restore the truth of Christian art, just as he has in the case of the great tradition of liturgical music.
IN THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE BISHOPS
Benedict XVI has addressed severe reminders to bishops he believes to be timid, doubtful, reticent in teaching true doctrine.
For example, he said to the Austrian bishops: "There are some topics relating to the truth of the faith, and above all to moral doctrine, which are not present in the catechesis and preaching of your dioceses to a sufficient extent, and which sometimes are either not confronted at all or are not addressed in the clear sense understood by the Church. Perhaps those who are responsible for the proclamation [of the truth] are afraid that people may draw back if they speak too clearly. However, experience in general demonstrates that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Don’t deceive yourselves! Catholic teaching offered in an incomplete manner is a contradiction of itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term".
IN LAW AND IN PASTORAL PRACTICE
Inaugurating the judicial year in the Vatican, last January 28, Benedict XVI warned against reducing "pastoral charity" to "complacent attitudes" that are contrary to the truth of things.
He restated that "the fundamental point of encounter between law and pastoral practice is love for the truth."
And he cautioned not to "obscure" the truth that is "the indissolubility of matrimony" in that this "belongs to the Christian mystery in its totality." Because every time one makes spouses who are in difficulty forget the indissolubility of their union, one does not help them, but rather "one deceives them."
IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COUNCIL
The pope also wanted to restore its proper truth to Vatican Council II, forty years after its conclusion. He has criticized the false interpretation of the Council as "discontinuity and rupture," as "the spirit" contrasted with "the letter." And he explained, instead, its "proper hermeneutic," its "rightful key of interpretation and application": that is, the Council as "reform," as "renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us."
IN WORKING FOR PEACE
Significantly, Benedict XVI entitled his first message for the World Day for Peace "In truth, peace." The pope wanted to express, right from the title, "the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace."
In this message, and then in his speech to the diplomatic corps, he brought all of international politics beneath the scrutiny of the truth:
"Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy. The lie often parades itself as truth, but in reality it is always selective and tendentious, selfishly designed to manipulate people, and finally subject them. Political systems of the past, but not only the past, offer a bitter illustration of this. Set against this, there is truth and truthfulness, which lead to encounter with the other, to recognition and understanding."
Terrorism was also placed beneath the same scrutiny:
"Nihilism and the fundamentalism of which we are speaking share an erroneous relationship to truth: the nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force."
* * *
In short, the primacy of the truth appears to be truly the common thread since the beginning of this pontificate. Benedict XVI, the first pope-theologian, really is showing himself as a "doctor of the Church."
But the implementation of his program has also faced limitations from the very start.
* * *
It is true: Benedict XVI enjoys the trust and attention of great crowds of the faithful. The number of those who attend his liturgies and preaching is more than double than in the case of John Paul II, and participants listen to him with great attentiveness.
But within the Vatican curia, he is very isolated.
The system of communication around the pope is inefficient and confused. His texts are issued listlessly, translated late and poorly into the various languages. For example, his speech to the Roman curia on December was obscured through blatant disregard: and this was a discourse of capital importance, dedicated in great part to the interpretations of Vatican Council II.
The delay in the publication of the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" is emblematic of this general dysfunction. And Benedict XVI is aware of this. The proof is that it is he himself who announces and explains his major texts, doing himself what his co-workers do not do. The official presentation of the encyclical, made at the Holy See press office by three curia high directors – cardinal Martino and archbishops Levada and Cordes – was astounding for its banality.
It is known that there are those who actively oppose this pope, both within and outside of the Vatican. One indication of this opposition comes from the rumors that have been spread about the unfolding of the conclave. These rumors are intended to show that the election of Ratzinger was not at all equitable, that it was in doubt until the very end, that it was unduly favored by the fact that he was the dean of the college of cardinals, that he is in the pocket of Opus Dei, that the time is ripe for a new pope, preferably a Latin American, and that, in short, Benedict XVI should submit himself to these inherent limitations.
But there is another reason for pope Benedict’s solitude. It is the slight stature of many of the Church’s leaders, inside the curia and outside of it: this is a group which, because of its intrinsic limitations, is incapable of being equal to this pope’s demanding program and his great vision.
And, finally, there are limits – perhaps – connected to the person of pope Ratzinger himself. There seems to be a gap between his vision and the few practical decisions he has executed so far.
But these decisions will come. After all, only ten months has passed since the white smoke of April 19.
Washington, February 13, 2006
On this website,
on Benedict XVI and the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”:
> “Deus Caritas Est”: The Encyclical As Explained by its Author (25.1.2006)
On Benedict XVI and the liturgy:
> Liturgy: Benedict XVI Brings the Neocatechumenals Back to the Right Way (27.12.2005)
> Gregorian Chant Is Returning from Exile. Maybe (7.12.2005)
> The “Reform of the Reform” Has Already Begun (28.4.2005)
On Benedict XVI and catechesis:
> A Catechism for the Culture of the Image (5.7.2005)
On Benedict XVI and the magisterium of the bishops:
> The Italians Pass, the Austrians Flunk, the Brazilians... The Bishops under Examination (18.11.2005)
On Benedict XVI and the interpretation of the Vatican Council II:
> Pope Ratzinger Certifies the Council – The Real One (23.12.2005)
On Benedict XVI and peace:
> Finally, the Truth. What the Pope Said to the Diplomatic Corps (10.1.2006)
> “In Truth, Peace” – The First Lesson of Benedict XVI on Peace, War, and Terrorism (14.12.2005)
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