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The Southern Cross, March 2 to March 8, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

Pope on Lent: Don’t be selfish BY CINDY WOODEN

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ENT is a time for self-examination and to let go of all traces of selfishness, which is the root of violence, Pope Benedict has said in his annual message for Lent. “The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death,” which is why during Lent the Church encourages almsgiving, “which is the capacity to share”, the pope said. Lent begins on March 9 this year. The theme of the pope’s message was taken from the Letter to the Colossians: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him.” Pope Benedict said Lent is a special time for people either to prepare for baptism or to strengthen the commitment to following Christ originally made at baptism. “The fact that in most cases baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: No one earns eternal life through their

own efforts,” the pope said. In his message, the pope took the year’s Lenten Sunday Gospels and used them to draw lessons he said would be helpful in making the Lenten journey towards Christian conversion. The Gospel account of Jesus’ victory over temptation in the desert “is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength”, he said. The story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well is a reminder that all people, like the woman, desire the “water” of eternal life, he said. Only the water offered by Jesus “can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul until it ‘finds rest in God’”, as St Augustine said. The Gospel account of Jesus healing the man born blind “is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also to open our interior vision so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognise him as our only saviour,”

the pope said. The story of the raising of Lazarus, read on the fifth Sunday of Lent, reminds Christians that their destiny is eternal life with God, who “created men and women for resurrection and life”. The Lenten process of conversion, the pope said, is designed “to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the ‘world’ that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbour”. Through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, “Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way”. Fasting helps people overcome selfishness and self-centredness; almsgiving is a reminder of the sharing that should mark each day of a Christian’s life; and time dedicated to prayer is a reminder that time belongs to God and his desire is for people to spend eternity with him.—CNS

March 10 at the Vatican. The first volume was published in 2007. Cardinal Cottier told a packed house that the confusion between the work of the theologian Ratzinger and Pope Benedict was not helped by publishers of the first volume, who wrote “Pope Benedict XVI” on the cover in much larger letters than they wrote “Joseph Ratzinger”. Writing the pope’s name like that, he said, makes it appear “as if this were a text of the magisterium”, the teaching authority of the Church. In the foreword, “the pope himself makes a distinction that commercial interests don’t make. A theologian, “like any human being, can make a mistake or propose his own opinions”, Cardinal Cottier said, even if the theolo-

gian is Joseph Ratzinger, “one of the greatest theologians of our age”. On the other hand, “when one is dealing with the writing of the pope, one is dealing with a very special charism, that of the successor of Peter, a gift which aims to maintain the unity of the Church” in holding the true faith. The role of the pope is to tell Catholics “what is conforming to the faith and what is not. Obviously, to make this kind of discernment, human qualities are needed, but on the more crucial, more central points, there is the assistance of the Holy Spirit”, working not only personally with the pope, but also with the College of Bishops called to advise and assist him.—CNS

Pope Benedict blesses a statue of St Maron on the exterior of St Peter’s basilica. A fourth-century hermit, St Maron founded the Maronite Catholic Church. Among the many people attending ceremony were Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah P Sfeir. Although Maronites live all over the world, the church is most closely identified with Lebanon, which is home to nearly 1 million of the world’s approximately 5 million Maronites. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano)

End of road for talks between ‘Theology can be debated even with a pope’ Vatican and traditionalists? BY CINDY WOODEN

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S the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth is about to be published, a Swiss cardinal said it’s important that people realise the book was written by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger and not by Pope Benedict XVI. “This distinction is not a matter of splitting hairs,” said Cardinal Georges Cottier (pictured), the former theologian of the papal household. It is important for people to understand that theology is a human exercise, which is open to debate and criticism; but because of the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Church and to the individual elected, the teaching of a pope requires a greater degree of assent, the cardinal told an evening conference organised by the Vatican publishing house. The pope’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth will be released

Numbers of Catholics, priests and deacons go up

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HE number of Catholics in the world, the number of deacons, priests and bishops and the number of dioceses all increased in 2009, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics. At the end of 2009, the worldwide Catholic population increased by 15 million to 1,18 billion, or by 1,3%, slightly outpac-

ing the global population growth rate, which was estimated at 1,1%. The statement reported a handful of the statistics contained in the 2011 Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican’s yearbook. In 2010, Pope Benedict established ten new dioceses, bringing to 2 956 the number of dioceses and Church jurisdictions in the world. The number of priests went

from 405 178 to 410 593, increasing everywhere except Europe. The number of permanent deacons reported, 38 155, was an increase of more than 1 000 over the previous year. The number of women in religious orders fell by almost 10 000 in 2009, despite increases in their numbers in Asia and Africa. At the end of the year, Catholic women’s orders had 729 371 members.

BY JOHN THAVIS

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HE head of a group of traditionalist Catholics said reconciliation talks with the Vatican would soon be coming to an end, with little change in the views of either side. In addition to disputes over the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council, new problems have been created by plans for the beatification of Pope John Paul II and for an interreligious prayer meeting in Assisi, Italy, Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), said in an interview published on the society’s website. The talks were launched in late 2009 in an effort by Pope Benedict to repair a 21-year break with the society, which was founded by excommunicated French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The pope said that full communion for the group’s members would depend on “true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council”. But Bishop Fellay said his society went into the talks with a different purpose: to show the contradictions between the Church’s traditional teachings and its practices since Vatican II. That is “the only goal that we are pursuing”, he said, and the dialogue with the Vatican is not a search for compromise but “a question of faith”. “Is Vatican II really a stumbling block? For us, no doubt whatsoever, yes!” he said. “Until now Vatican II was always considered as a taboo, which makes the cure of this sick-

ness, which is the crisis in the Church, almost impossible.” Bishop Fellay said the society has presented its doctrinal arguments in writing to the Vatican, followed up by theological discussion. “It is really a matter of making the Catholic faith understood in Rome,” he said.

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sked whether the Vatican participants in the talks have changed their thinking in light of the talks, Bishop Fellay answered: “I don’t think that you can say that.” He added that recent events at the Vatican have, in fact, dispelled any “illusions” of progress. “I am thinking about the announcement of the beatification of John Paul II or the announcement of a new Assisi event along the lines of the interreligious gatherings in 1986 and 2002,” he said. Bishop Fellay said the scheduled beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1 poses “a serious problem, the problem of a pontificate that caused things to proceed by leaps and bounds in the wrong direction, along ‘progressive’ lines, towards everything that they call ‘the spirit of Vatican II’”. He said it was a “mystery” to him how Pope Benedict could convene another interreligious gathering next October in Assisi. The society was highly critical of the first such encounter 25 years ago. Catholics, he said, should “pray that the good Lord intervenes in one way or another so that [the Assisi gathering] doesn’t take place, and in any case start making reparation now!”—CNS

The Southern Cross - 110302  
The Southern Cross - 110302  

2 March - 8 March, 2011