Pope and change

Benedict always has an incisive but gentle message for any country he visits, any culture he addresses. Which he really intends for larger society as a whole….

He just visited Spain. And keeping with a trend he established, the pope gave an interview to the press on the plane, along the way…

And unlike some politicians, the pope doesn’t call on specific, pre-determined reporters. These aren’t choreographed events. He doesn’t spin his message.

“What significance can consecrating a church such as the Sagrada Familia have at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Is there some aspect of Gaudi’s vision that has struck you in particular?”

asked a reporter.

In Gaudi’s vision there are above all three elements that call my attention. The first is the blending of continuity and novelty, tradition and creativity. Gaudi had the courage to make himself part of the great tradition of the cathedrals. Using a completely new approach, he dared in his own time to make the cathedral a place for the solemn meeting between God and man. And this courage to remain within tradition, but with a creativity that renews tradition and shows the unity and progress of history, is a beautiful thing…

The great treasures of Western art – music, architecture, painting – were born from the faith of the Church. Today there is some dissent, but this harms both art and faith. An art which loses its transcendent roots no longer tends towards God, it is a truncated art without a living root. A faith which only has the art of the past, is no longer faith in the present, and today it must again express itself as everlasting truth.

In Barcelona, he consecrated the church. It’s about time. It’s only been under construction for about 128 years, and is still unfinished. I loved what he said about the famous…infamous…creator of this cathedral…

…the man who was the soul and the artisan of this project, Antoni Gaudi, a creative architect and a practising Christian who kept the torch of his faith alight to the end of his life, a life lived in dignity and absolute austerity.

Gaudi expressed in this cathedral a unique blend of nature and sacred liturgy, which Benedict loved.

Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God…

But the world’s attitude toward God has changed in these geo-politically charged times. Benedict deftly addressed that.

This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord.

“In this sense”, the Pope added, “I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him. In this masterpiece, Gaudi shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudi, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with Him Who is truth and beauty itself. The architect expressed his sentiments in the following words: ‘A church [is] the only thing worthy of representing the soul of a people, for religion is the most elevated reality in man'”.

But European society is losing its religion.

God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent.

Now there’s a radical culteral message.

How can it be that there is public silence with regard to the first and essential reality of human life? How can what is most decisive in life be confined to the purely private sphere or banished to the shadows? We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, Who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness?

That’s a challenging question that requires a response. To take it further…

The Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilisation and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents, and open to the living and true God, starting with the living and true man.

Europe is not doing too well with that right now. But Benedict proposes the change they need, which is nothing less than recalling who they are….or were.

“Forgiveness does not replace justice”

Big statement by Pope Benedict, who answered journalists questions on the plane as he traveled to Portugal, a now familiar habit of his on these journeys. They’re spontaneous encounters, Benedict and the press, and always yield interesting thoughts and sound bites. This one had a bunch of them…

First, on the secularization of Europe (extend that to other societies). He says ‘build bridges and create dialogue’, but takes it further, returning to his frequent call to join faith and reason as the common ground of human dignity. Build communication on that, he says.

Thus I would say that secularism is normal, but separation and contrast between secularism and the culture of faith is anomalous and must be overcome.

Next, the economic crisis, and here’s an interesting reflection:

“ethics are not something external, but inherent to rationality and economic pragmatism. … Catholic faith, Christian faith, has often been too individualist, it left concrete and economic matters to the world and thought only of individual salvation”, he said.

Yet “the entire tradition of the Church’s social doctrine has sought … to widen the ethical and faith-related dimension, over and above the individual, towards responsibility for the world, towards a rationality ‘moulded’ by ethics. Moreover, events on the markets over the last two or three years have shown that the ethical dimension is inherent and must become part of economic activity, because man is one, and what counts is … a sound anthropology that embraces everything.

But there’s more. Like the ‘Third Secret of Fatima,’ the suffering of the pope, which has been taken to explain the shooting of John Paul II. Benedict says yes, it was that. But it’s more… It’s the suffering of the pope beyond that pope, the need for a ‘passion of the Church’. Yes, the pope has been under attack, from the media and high profile dissidents and atheists…..though he didn’t say that part. Here’s what he did say:

“…attacks against the Pope and the Church do not only come from outside; rather, the sufferings of the Church come from inside the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This was always common knowledge, but today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church. Thus the Church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice”.

He would go on, later, to talk about where justice ultimately comes from.

War on Christians

What a way to end Holy Week. Not unlike the original one.

Of the reams of articles out there on the embattled Successors of Peter and the Apostles and the whole Church, some are particularly strong and startling and important to engage. I can’t get them to you fast enough when I find them.

Here’s another one. It’s short and compelling. Take this pull quote…

This war on Christianity would not be so dangerous if the Christians understood what was at stake, but a large number of them join in the general incomprehension.

In my opinion, there’s one word in this piece that leaps off the page in importance. Small and in the middle of a sentence late in the article. But it’s pivotal. The “why” in this line:

But if we understand why he is immovable, then the situation can be taken in hand and there is no need to just wait for the next blow.

That WHY contains volumes. And, in fact, millennia.

Understanding gains context in this MercatorNet piece by the discussion going on in the comments section…