Columns
from issue no.03/04 - 2012


POPE

Confession is ‘a path’ for the New Evangelization


Faithful line up in front of the confessional of St Pio of Pietrelcina

Faithful line up in front of the confessional of St Pio of Pietrelcina

On 9 March Benedict XVI spoke at the annual course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. Here is part of his speech, published in L’Osservatore Romano, March 10: ‘In what sense then is sacramental confession a ‘path’ for the New Evangelization? First of all because the New Evangelization draws its lifeblood from the holiness of the children of the Church, from the daily journey of personal and community conversion in order to be ever more closely conformed to Christ. Then there is a close connection between holiness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, witnessed by all the saints of history. The real conversion of our hearts, which means opening ourselves to God’s transforming and renewing action, is the “driving force” of every reform and is expressed in a real evangelizing effort. In confession, through the freely bestowed action of divine Mercy, repentant sinners are justified, pardoned and sanctified and abandon their former selves to be reclothed in the new. Only those who have let themselves be profoundly renewed by divine grace are able to bear within them – and hence to proclaim – the newness of the Gospel. [...].The New Evangelization, therefore, also begins in the confessional! That is, it begins in the mysterious encounter between the endless question of human beings, a sign within them of the Creator Mystery and God’s Mercy, the only adequate response to the human need for infinity. If the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is this, if the faithful have a real experience of that Mercy which Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ has given to us, they themselves will become credible witnesses of that holiness which is the aim of the New Evangelization’.





THE YEAR OF FAITH

Messori: faith is only ‘wagering’ on the Resurrection of Jesus


Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the sepulcher

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the sepulcher

Sette of 5 April (weekly supplement of Corriere della Sera) published an interesting article by Vittorio Messori. We republish some passages: “Easter Sunday. For faith, it is the evocation of the resurrection of that Jesus, crucified three days earlier, who – precisely by coming out from the grave – shows Himself to be the Christ, the Messiah foretold by the prophets and awaited by Israel. Many, even among believers, have forgotten that for centuries, in comparison to Easter, Christmas was a secondary feast and that, even today, the Eastern Churches gives greater liturgical emphasis to the Epiphany, sign of the manifestation of that Messiah to all peoples. And how many, even among those who attend mass, remember that Sunday is so called (Dies Domini, the Lord’s day) because it is a renewal, fifty-two times a year, of that ‘day after the Sabbath’ in which the Great Event occurred? [...]. St Paul, the author of concise and unquiet style, speaks clearly, warning the Christians of Corinth: “If Christ be not raised, then my preaching is empty and your faith is also in vain... If we have hope in Him only in this life, we are to be pitied more than all men”. Why restate these things now? But to remind you that that faith, which Benedict XVI has decided to dedicate a special year for reflection and discovery to, that faith is much simpler than it seems to many. And much less complex than they have risked making us forget, the men of the Church also, submerging us with words spoken and written, with theological statements and moral prescriptions. To believe, for a Christian, is this and only this: ‘wagering’ (to use Pascal’s term, great devotee and great mathematician) on the truth of the Gospels, which tell us of the empty tomb on the third day, and the appearances of the Crucified for no less than forty days [...]. This is the foundation. Everything else is none other than consequence and comment, necessary and important as they are. And it is on this foundation, this simplicity that Joseph Ratzinger urged us to return, in all of the quarter century when he was ‘prefect of the faith’. Now, as Pope, he wants to help us return, with the help of the special year that we mentioned [...]. Christianity is not a wisdom, is not an ethic, a culture, a set of standards of living, much as it is wise. It is also this, but derivatively, because in its essential core it is a story, it is a true story, which culminates in the Resurrection”.





CHURCH

God’s preference for ‘what is small’


“‘Great things always begin in a grain of mustard and mass movements always have a short duration’. This sentence written to describe the needs of a new evangelization by Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, puts in sharp focus what is dear to the heart of Joseph Ratzinger as a theologian, bishop and pope”. This is the opening statement of an article by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano last 15 April. So, for the cardinal, the Holy Father posits as a “basic principle” of God’s action in history, the very “preference for what is small” itself. He explains: “The mustard seed is not only an example of Christian hope, but also highlights that the great comes from the small not by means of revolutionary upheavals, nor even because we men assume the direction but because it comes about slowly and gradually, following its own dynamic. In the face of it the Christian attitude can only be of love and patience, which is the long breath of love. [...] But we men are always tempted to take the particular for the whole, to exchange the finite for the infinite and, therefore, to place the emphasis, in the example of Jesus, on growth; we would like, with nervous impatience, to have very quickly a large sturdy tree and, if necessary, contribute to it with our hands in our striving to see a respectable result immediately, and in pastoral care we risk confusing the care of souls with the preoccupation about numbers [...]. Through the example of the mustard seed, the Pope emphasizes that the action in the Church should have as its starting point its mystery and not insist on dragging a large tree from it immediately. The Church is at once both the mustard seed and the tree and the Pope underlines this by pointing out that: ‘Perhaps we should, the Church should find itself faced with great trials (1 Thes 1, 6) so as to relearn what it lives on also today, it lives for the hope of the mustard seed and not for the strength of its projects and its structures’”.





Cut-Outs


CHURCH/1

Bertello, the faith of the simple and the miracles of Jesus

 

“There are two ways to approach Jesus: with the approach of ‘the wise’ who doubt his words, or with that of simple people, who give witness to the miracles of Christ and have eyes to see the Awaited”. So Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, in a homily during a Mass celebrated in the church of Santa Maria della Pietà at the Coliseum. The cardinal’s words were taken from L’Osservatore Romano on 4 April.

 

 

CHURCH/2

Moraglia and The Year of Faith

 

On 25 March the new Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, took up office in the new episcopal see. In his first mass he focused on the Gospel passage about the Supper at Emmaus. We quote a passage: “The two pilgrims – Cleopas and his companion on the road – they’re walking with the risen Jesus and are sad because, for them, He is still dead; at a given moment, presuming, even, to explain to Him, precisely what had happened in the days before, in Jerusalem [...]. One seems to glimpse, in this clumsy attempt, the image of a certain theology, more diligent than enlightened, totally dedicated to the arduous and unlikely undertaking of saving, through its own categories, Jesus Christ and His Word. But in this image we are also represented, when every time, with our pastoral planning, with our projects and debates, divorced from a true faith, we presume to explain to Jesus Christ who He is. Cleopas, his traveling companion – and after them the disciples of all time – eventually express their despair and distrust with regard to Jesus and his work; the words of the two and the use of the imperfect tense are unequivocal : ‘... we were hoping that He would have redeemed Israel; and beside all this three days have passed...’ (Lk 24, 21). When faith is lost, or is no longer able to support and enrich the lives of the disciples, then every theological discourse, every pastoral plan or mediatic coverage are insufficient. And we find ourselves in the same condition of the two disciples of Emmaus, incapable of going beyond their logic, their their states of mind, exposing ourselves as prisoners of their fears. Let’s keep all of this in mind on the eve of the incipient Year of the Faith”.

 

 

24 March 2012, Tel Aviv, demonstration against the hypothesis of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

24 March 2012, Tel Aviv, demonstration against the hypothesis of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran [© Associated Press/LaPresse]

MIDDLE EAST

Grossman: “Why I say no to war on Iran”

 

The well-known Israeli novelist David Grosmann wrotein la Repubblica on 12 March: “Iran, as we know, is not only a fundamentalist and extremist country. Large swathes of the population are secular, educated and advanced. Several representatives of its vast middle class have manifested with courage and at risk of their lives against a religious and tyrannical regime that detest. I’m not saying that part of the Iranian people feel any sympathy for Israel but one day, in the future, these people could govern Iran and perhaps be more favorably inclined toward Israel. Such a possibility would disappear however if Israel were to attack Iran portraying itself as an arrogant megalomaniacal nation, a historical enemy against whom to fight relentlessly, even in the eyes of Iranian moderates. Is this eventuality more or less dangerous than a nuclear Iran? And what will Israel do if at some point Saudi Arabia also decides it wants nuclear weapons and gets them? Will it launch another attack? And if Egypt also, under the new government, will choose this path? Will Israel bomb it? And will it forever remain the only country in the region authorised to have nuclear weapons? [...]. Such an attack would be rash, thoughtless, hasty and could completely change our future, I dare not even imagine how. Rather, no: I can imagine it, but my hand refuses to write it”.



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