Category Archives: Holy Father

Novo Millennio Ineunte

“I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). This assurance, dear brothers and sisters, has accompanied the Church for two thousand years, and has now been renewed in our hearts by the celebration of the Jubilee. From it we must gain new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires our journey of faith. Conscious of the Risen Lord’s presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37).

We put the question with trusting optimism, but without underestimating the problems we face. We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!

It is not therefore a matter of inventing a “new programme”. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a programme which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium.

Source: Novo Millennio Ineunte, 29


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The Jesus-event

From the General Audience: 3 September 2008 (with emphases and comment).

Today’s catechesis focuses on Saint Paul’s conversion. In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer. In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel. In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself [Or, an encounter with the Jesus-event]. In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord. Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel. He alone [NB!!] defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives. Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us. Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we – like Saint Paul – cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!

Christianity is an encounter with the Jesus-event that is life-giving and life-changing.


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Continuity in the community

In the original Greek text the central statement in the third section of the Creed runs simply: “I believe in Holy Spirit.” The definite article to which we are accustomed in our translation is thus missing. This is very important for the interpretation of the original meaning, for it means that this article was at first really understood in terms of salvation history, not of the Trinity. In other words, the third section of the Creed refers in the first place, not to the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Godhead, but to the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to history in the community of those who believe in Christ.

Introduction to Christianity, 331.

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Catholicism fundamentally creative!

I am just watching the EWTN’s coverage of this evening’s talks by the Holy Father. I am particularly impressed by the Address of Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic Educators of the United States. Here, for me, is the core of the issue:

Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God’s creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data – “informative” – the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing – “performative” (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

Of course, the Holy Father has already raised this theme before (Spe Salvi):

Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well. So now we can say: Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.

The fundamental issue is that Catholicism is not primarily informative but creative or performative. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself!

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More Reading reflections

I am reading the Holy Father’s book Principles of Catholic Theology. I am so impressed by his writings – this guy knows his theology!!!! His insight and ability to systematize his thought into a coherent discourse is beyond compare in the modern Church (but let’s not forget Saint Thomas!). Does anyone read him in German? Should I get a copy of his writings in the original?

Here is a quote:

These differences with the regard to the object of theology are linked, of necessity, to a variety of methodological orientations and to different concepts of the goal to be attained. … According to one – the Thomistic – view, theology is to be regarded as a scientia speculativa; according to the other – the Franciscan – view, it is to be regarded as a scientia practica. (318)

The Holy Father goes on to speak about the difference, after the Council, in attempts to reorient theology using the terms orthodoxy and orthopraxis. All of this brings us back to the central question of method.

Has anyone else read the whole book?

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The ecclesiological context of faith

I have regularly blogged about the intimate connection of faith and Faith. The Holy Father has again highlighted the context of great theology – The Church. Using Tertullian as an example, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that true theology is only done within the Church and not outside of it. Or, to put it another way, faith only comes through Faith.

Vatican, May. 30, 2007 ( – During his weekly public audience on May 30, Pope Benedict XVI (bio – news) resumed his series of talks on the leaders of the early Church, speaking about the influence of Tertullian.

A convert to Christianity who lived in north African in the 2nd century, Tertullian was “the first great Christian author to write in Latin,” the Pope observed.

Speaking to a crowd of over 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict said that Tertullian’s powerful arguments against his pagan contemporaries had an important influence on the early Church. He also noted that Tertullian gave theologians an accurate way to describe the holy Trinity as “one substance” and “three Persons.”

However, Tertullian’s life is also a caution to theologians, the Pope continued. The great African thinker became steadily more demanding in his moral teachings for Christians, “expecting them to behave heroically in all circumstances and especially during persecution.” Eventually “the intemperance of his character gradually led him to abandon communion with the Church,” the Pope recalled. In his later life, the Pope said, Tertullian “lacked the simplicity and humility to be part of the Church.”

Pope Benedict concluded that even great thinkers must be mindful of their own limitations, or risk losing the perspective that makes their ideas influential. He said: “The essential characteristic of great theologians is the humility to remain with the Church, to accept her weaknesses and their own, because only God is truly holy.

Thanks to Universal Indult Blog for the link.

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Some interesting thoughts

There is a most interesting speech by Pope Benedict XVI (then Jospeh Cardinal Ratzinger), at Pontifications. It was given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile before that nation’s bishops. It is a remarkable statement regarding the living Magisterium, dogmatic truth, constructive criticism, and self-examination. It looks at the Lefebvrian Schism but it also gives some great theological insights.

So here is a couple of sentences from Early Ratzinger on the Lefebvrian Schism.

One of the basic discoveries of the theology of ecumenism is that schisms can take place only when certain truths and certain values of the Christian faith are no longer lived and loved within the Church. The truth which is marginalized becomes autonomous, remains detached from the whole of the ecclesiastical structure, and a new movement then forms itself around it.

This is an insight to be considered well. Far from saying that reforming movements are all wrong, the Holy Father shows that the undervalued truths elevated by these reforming movements become normative. When truth is removed from the context of the Church it takes on a life of its own. Take the Protestant (as opposed to the Catholic) view of Scripture. Take the Catholic Anglican view of Sacramental Validity, and liturgy. The wholeness of the faith needs to be present at all times within the right context, the Church.

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