Archive for the ‘Pope Benedict XVI’ Category

“The papal visit is the first bright spot for the Church in this part of the world for a very long time.”
(David Quinn of the Iona Institute on Twitter earlier today).

If you haven’t been following since he (the Pope – not David!)  arrived in Scotland on Thursday or have only heard what Irish media in general were reporting here, you might be wondering if David is getting a little carried away.

But since Pope Benedict set foot in Edinburgh, there have been huge crowds of ordinary Catholics – and non-Catholics – packing out the venues and lining the streets, 125,000 in Edinburgh, 75,000 later at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow for Mass. There are 80,000 in Hyde Park and more out on the streets. But it’s not just the encouragement of seeing so many turn out despite the predictions. I’ve been tuned in to Sky News who are broadcasting the visit non-stop – and three things really make this ‘a bright spot for the Church’ and a real tonic for Catholics feeling a bit beaten down by recent events:

First there have been interviews all day long with ordinary Catholics who’ve travelled out with their families or friends – and over and over again they’ve been showing their enthusiasm for their faith and for the message that Pope Benedict is bringing.

Second the extended coverage has given viewers a real insight into the personality of our Pope – and far from being a distant academic, we see a warm, gentle man, really engaging with the people, listening, smiling, responding. Even the Sky interviewers have commented several times on the different view we are getting of the man who is Benedict XVI.

And third, there is the message itself and the positive response it is getting. Now instead of a message delivered second hand by a media who too often present their very own version of what he’s said, we’re hearing him speak directly – hearing the context, the combination of forceful truth and caring compassion: his invitation to youth to spend time in silent prayer every day:

Even amidst the business and stress of our daily lives we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God. And in silence that we discover our true self.

– his reminder to the older people that he came to them as one of them – “not only as father but also as brother”, his strong reminder yesterday to the civil leaders of the UK that religion cannot to relegated to the private sphere as some would like. And I have to say, on Sky anyway, the presenters have really let his message go out: they’ve had positive and well-spoken Catholic commentators summarising and explaining his words, explaining elements of the Catholic faith. I even heard a Sky presenter say “The Mass is the celebration that binds all Catholics together, isn’t it?” !!

So – if you haven’t been following so far, there’s still time. The Prayer Vigil in Hyde park will be starting soon and tomorrow Cardinal John Newman will be beatified during Mass in Birmingham. If you don’t have Sky News, I’ve heard BBC News 24 are covering it, the official website is streaming it live and has transcripts of his speeches etc http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk : and then there’s Facebook: friend or ‘like’  “The Papal Visit” or “Diocese Westminster” or Andrew O’Connell.

Our Irish correspondents are doing a great job on Twitter too (if you haven’t done it before, now’s the time to give it a try – it’s easy). I’d recommend Michael Kelly from The Irish Catholic twitter.com/MKellyIrishCath or David Quinn twitter.com/DavQuinn . Not Irish but very interesting too are The Catholic Herald twitter.com/catholicherald and Damian Thompson of The Telegraph twitter.com/holysmoke (just noticed Damian’s last tweet : Woman next to me in cafe says to husband: “All this hoo-hah before he arrived, but he’s had a very warm welcome.” Yes! )

Ok – no excuses now: tune in – you’ll be glad you did!


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So as I was saying – maybe if we listen to and act on the small, seemingly ordinary, suggestions the Pope makes in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland we might get some unexpected results. One of those suggestions was to look to the example and intercession of the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests. And here’s a great opportunity to get started: his relics will be in Ireland from 25th to 29th of April, click HERE for all the details.

Now, most of us won’t get to the venues listed – so as a little flavour of what kind of man he was, have a look at this very short video clip by Fr Tom Norris, Professor of Systematic Theology at Maynooth College.

(BTW – just read a very good, very readable book by Fr Norris: A Fractured Relationship. Faith and the Crisis of Culture, Dublin: Veritas 2007)  It’s worth buying – only €14 in Veritas and if you order is now, you’ll have it in a day or two!  )

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Ok – I’ve finally finished putting the Pope’s letter into a mindmap format.  I’ve included it as an image below, or you can access it directly HERE in a much more flexible format – you can close down and open up visible levels by clicking the + or – symbol at the edge of a text box you can decide to just show chapter headings  or open more boxes to show key headings in each chapter etc. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

Why did I bother? The letter has dropped off the media headlines at the moment. It could easily be pushed into a shelf and forgotten about. But this isn’t just a quickly scribbled letter from a German cleric.  This is a pastoral message to Catholics here in Ireland from the man who represents Christ for us.  We should study it very closely both individually and as a community and make real concrete steps to put it into practice, not because he is Joseph Ratzinger but because we believe that through his words, the Holy Spirit is really offering us an opportunity and a path to renewal.

That means each one of us reading it over and over and making personal resolutions about what we will do for example:  offer Friday penance for the Church,  get involved in Eucharistic Adoration,  decide to start getting to Confession more often.

It means meeting together  in parishes to tease out the issues and see what we can do together to act on it. That will means having committees or little groups who’ll take on the implementation of whatever initiatives are decided. Maybe group opportunities to do Friday Penances together? Perhaps more Penance Services and opportunities to avail of Confession including opportunities for school children?  Maybe organising Eucharistic Adoration at times that allow everyone a chance to take part?  Or whatever each Parish community decides.

This is a very serious issue.  It’s important that we continue work to ensure proper guidelines for Child Protection are in place in the Church in Ireland. And it’s equally important that we take seriously the spiritual pathway outlined for us here by the leader of our Church.

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Rather than duplicate what Robert Fuller has already done, I recommend a look at his well researched post on the controversy, which gives a rather different insight into Pope Benedict’s involvement in the case of Fr Lawrence Murphy who had abused deaf children over many years. The only thing I’d like to add it that I hope in all the necessary focus on the bad handling of these cases that we make sure we never become immune to or skip over the evil done by the actual abusers.

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I’m doing a ‘mindmap’ type chart of the main points of the Pope’s Letter. It’s still a work in progress but I thought I’d put up what I’ve done so far.  When it’s finished, I’ll add a link to go the a more user-friendly way of looking at it. (28th Mar: Just updated it again – nearly there now! More soon…)

Click on the map to open it in its own window so you can read it, and click it again to zoom in or out.   Hope it’s useful:

♦ NOTE:  (The mindmap on this post is not complete – click here for the finished version  Completed Mindmap of Pope’s Letter )

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Nothing in the media coverage I heard and read today gave any real sense of the significance or even of the content of the Pope’s pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

Naturally, secular commentators were looking for the kind of things you’d expect of say, a large corporation, or a government: you know – reshuffles, sackings, audits from HQ. That’s why the proposed Apostolic Visit got a lot of mention, and the words of apology: they make sense from a purely human point of view. And that’s why people were looking for news on the resignations and said they couldn’t see much by way of a plan of action.

But this is not a letter from the CEO of a company. It is a pastoral letter from the leader of the Catholic people. Same difference? No – not same difference! HUGE difference!  There’s an infinite difference between someone who believes that God who created everything, entered history at a particular time and place, and lived here on earth, and that he did that because he wants us to share his life. That’s pretty amazing and pretty radical. And it gives you a completely different way of thinking about everything. There’s a big difference between someone who thinks like that – and someone who believes we live and die, and that’s it.

So the things that might strike a person of faith are things that, looked at without faith, make little sense or no sense at all: offering Friday penances (Friday what?) for one year for the renewal of the Church here; discovering again the sacrament of Reconciliation (isn’t Confession a thing of the past??) As for Eucharistic Adoration – what good is that going to do??

But though eyes that see the world differently, there are the seeds of a real renewal of the Church here, if we decide to take it.

(More to come on Pope’s Letter)

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“With words that come from my heart, I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

Each of us should take time to read and re-read the Pope’s letter to us, to reflect on it carefully, first as individuals and then together as suggested below.

Here’s the link to the text:



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