Monday, September 27, 2010

Summary of Pope Benedict's visit to the United Kingdom

Last week I read through all of the talks Pope Benedict delivered during his recent visit to the United Kingdom, and (as always) was struck by the profundity of much of what he had to say. The list that follows moves backwards chronologically.

Address to the Bishops:
The other matter I touched upon in February with the Bishops of England and Wales, when I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.

Beatification homily:
And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

Vigil of the Beatification:
In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied.

Homily in Westminster Cathedral:
In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world (Pensées, 553, éd. Brunschvicg).

And may this increase of apostolic zeal be accompanied by an outpouring of prayer for vocations to the ordained priesthood. For the more the lay apostolate grows, the more urgently the need for priests is felt; and the more the laity’s own sense of vocation is deepened, the more what is proper to the priest stands out.

I pray that ... you may join the ranks of faithful believers throughout the long Christian history of this land in building a society truly worthy of man, worthy of your nation’s highest traditions.

Address to school children:
I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness. ... When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.

Homily at the Mass for St. Ninian, addressing young people:
There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. ... This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!

From the in-flight press conference en route to the UK:
Q. – Your Holiness, the figure of Cardinal Newman is obviously very significant ... What are the aspects of his personality which you would like to give stronger emphasis to?

A. - ... I would say these three elements: the modernity of his existence, with all the doubts and problems of our existence today, his great culture, knowledge of the great cultural treasures of mankind, his constant quest for the truth, continuous renewal and spirituality: spiritual life, life with God, give this man an exceptional greatness for our time. Therefore, it is a figure of Doctor of the Church for us, for all and also a bridge between Anglicans and Catholics.

Q. - ... Can anything be done to make the Church as an institution, more credible and attractive to everyone?

A. - I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this regard, the Church does not seek to be attractive in and of herself, but must be transparent for Jesus Christ ....

This last bit is my favorite line of the whole collection. Trying to be "attractive" or "relevant" is not our business. Would that the Church in America would heed this message.

Finally (listed here out-of-sequence), worth reading to in its entirety is Benedict's Address to Parliament in Westminster Hall. It does not lend itself well to sound bytes, but is tremendous. Some snippets:

... [W]hat are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.


[T]he world of secular rationality and the world of religious beliefneed one another ....

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. ... Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed "too big to fail". Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly "too big to fail".

All the Pope's speeches and homilies can be found in both text and video formats on the wonderful official site of the visit.

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