"The courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion." Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Palm Sunday mass on March 28, 2010 on Saint-Peter Square at the Vatican. (Daylife-Getty Images)
All pictures courtesy of Daylife
Palm Sunday reflection:
So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt (Jn 12:13-15)!"
Today we commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery. In the old calendar before Vatican II, the Church celebrated Passion Sunday two Sundays before Easter, and then Palm Sunday was the beginning of Holy Week. The Church has combined the two to reinforce the solemnity of Holy Week.
The Palm Sunday procession is formed of Christians who, in the "fullness of faith," make their own the gesture of the Jews and endow it with its full significance. Following the Jews' example we proclaim Christ as a Victor... Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. But by our faith we know, as they did not, all that His triumph stands for.
He is the Messiah, the Son of David and the Son of God. He is the sign of contradiction, acclaimed by some and reviled by others. Sent into this world to wrest us from sin and the power of Satan, He underwent His Passion, the punishment for our sins, but issues forth triumphant from the tomb, the victor over death, making our peace with God and taking us with Him into the kingdom of His Father in heaven.
"Being Christian is a path, or better: a pilgrimage, a walk together with Jesus Christ," underlined the Holy Father at Palm Sunday Mass on an extraordinary spring morning in Rome. He said it is in this communion on the path towards Jerusalem that we find our way to the "new City of God."
Tens of thousands of people were in St. Peter's Square to have their palms and olive branches blessed and to join in the celebration of the Mass, marking not only the start of Holy Week but also the 25th World Youth Day.
During his homily, the Holy Father emphasized that being Christian means “considering the way of Jesus Christ as the just way for being men - as that way that leads to the goal, to a fully realized and true humanity."
As Jesus walked up to Jerusalem, so we too walk up towards Heaven, "the new City of God," said the Holy Father. It is Jesus who leads us towards the heavens, towards “what is great, pure, he leads us towards the healthy air of the heights: towards the life according to the truth; towards courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the chattering of the dominant opinions; towards the patience that supports and sustains others."
He leads us to assist the abandoned and suffering, to be faithful and to kindness that is unfailing even when met with ingratitude, said the Pope. "He leads us towards love... towards God."
We walk and we are also carried, added the Pope. Jesus “pulls and sustains us" when we accept that we cannot do it alone. "The humility of 'being with' is essential for the ascent."
Benedict XVI said that another part of the "ascent" is the Cross. As "great results cannot be achieved without renunciation and hard exercise... [likewise] the way towards life, towards the realization of our humanity is tied to the communion with Him who went up to the height of God by way of the Cross."
The Cross, he explained, is “the expression of what love means: only he who loses himself, finds himself."
Summarizing, Pope Benedict XVI said that the story of Christ asks us to "reawaken" to the longing for God and for being truly men, so that we enter into communion with the Church and Jesus Christ to reach the path to Heaven and live the Word of God in faith, hope and love.
"In this way," said the pontiff, "we are on the path towards the definitive Jerusalem and already from then on, in a way, we find ourselves there, in communion with all the Saints of God."
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, facing one of the gravest crises of his pontificate as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Church, indicated on Sunday that his faith would give him the courage not to be intimidated by critics.John Allen's NYT defense of B16:
The 82-year-old pontiff led tens of thousands of people in a sunny St. Peter's Square in a Palm Sunday service at the start of Holy Week events commemorating the last days in Jesus's life.
While he did not directly mention the scandal involving sexual abuse of children by priests, parts of his sermon could be applicable to the crisis he and the Roman Catholic Church are facing.
The pontiff said faith in God helps lead one "toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion."
He also spoke of how man can sometimes "fall to the lowest, vulgar levels" and "sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty."
One prayer read at the Mass asked God to help "the young and those who work to educate and protect them," which Vatican Radio said was intended to "sum up the feelings of the Church at this difficult time when it confronts the plague of pedophilia."
As the scandal has convulsed the Church in the United States and Europe, the Vatican has gone on the offensive, attacking the media for what it called an "ignoble attempt" to smear Pope Benedict and his top advisers "at any cost."
In London, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told the BBC: "The Pope won't resign. Frankly, there's no strong reason for him to do so. In fact it's the other way around: he is the one above all else in Rome who has tackled these things head on."
IN light of recent revelations, Pope Benedict XVI now seems to symbolize the tremendous failure by the Catholic Church to crack down on the sexual abuse of children. Both the pope’s brief stint as a bishop in Germany 30 years ago and his quarter-century as a top Vatican official are being scoured for records of abusive priests whom he failed to stop, and each case seems to strengthen the indictment.
For example, considerable skepticism surrounds the Vatican’s insistence that in 1980 the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, was unaware of a decision to transfer a known pedophile priest to his diocese and give him duties in a parish. In some ways, the question of what he knew at the time is almost secondary, since it happened on his watch and ultimately he has to bear the responsibility. However, all the criticism is obscuring something equally important: For anyone who knows the Vatican’s history on this issue, Benedict XVI isn’t just part of the problem. He’s also a major chapter in the solution.
To understand that, it’s necessary to wind the clock back a decade. Before then, no Vatican office had clear responsibility for cases of priests accused of sexual abuse, which instead were usually handled — and often ignored — at the diocesan level. In 2001, however, Pope John Paul II assigned responsibility to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s all-important doctrinal office, which was headed by Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal.
As a result, bishops were required to send their case files to Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. By all accounts, he studied them with care, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse. The experience gave him a familiarity with the pervasiveness of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim. And driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have undergone a transformation. From that point forward, he and his staff were determined to get something done.
One crucial issue Cardinal Ratzinger had to resolve was how to handle the church’s internal disciplinary procedures for abusive priests. Early on, reformers worried that Rome would insist on full trials in church courts before a priest could be removed from ministry or defrocked. Those trials were widely seen as slow, cumbersome and uncertain, yet many in the Vatican thought they were needed to protect the due process rights of the accused.
In the end, Cardinal Ratzinger and his team approved direct administrative action in roughly 60 percent of the cases. Having sorted through the evidence, they concluded that in most cases swift action was more important than preserving the church’s legal formalities.
Among Vatican insiders, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became the primary force pushing for a tough response to the crisis. Other departments sometimes regarded the “zero tolerance” policy as an over-reaction, not to mention a distortion of the church’s centuries-long legal tradition, in which punishments are supposed to fit the crime, and in which bishops and other superiors have great leeway in meting out discipline.
After being elected pope, Benedict made the abuse cases a priority. One of his first acts was to discipline two high-profile clerics against whom sex abuse allegations had been hanging around for decades, but had previously been protected at the highest levels.
He is also the first pope ever to meet with victims of abuse, which he did in the United States and Australia in 2008. He spoke openly about the crisis some five times during his 2008 visit to the United States. And he became the first pope to devote an entire document to the sex-abuse crisis, his pastoral letter to Ireland.
What we are left with are two distinct views of the scandal. The outside world is outraged, rightly, at the church’s decades of ignoring the problem. But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.
Be that as it may, Benedict now faces a difficult situation inside the church. From the beginning, the sexual abuse crisis has been composed of two interlocking but distinct scandals: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up. The impact of Benedict’s post-2001 conversion has been felt mostly at that first level, and he hasn’t done nearly as much to enforce new accountability measures for bishops.
That, in turn, is what makes revelations about his past so potentially explosive. Can Benedict credibly ride herd on other bishops if his own record, at least before 2001, is no better? The church’s legitimacy rests in large part on that question.
Yet to paint Benedict XVI as uniquely villainous doesn’t do justice to his record. The pope may still have much ground to cover, but he deserves credit for how far he’s come.
Pray for Jerusalem:
Archbishop Dolan's defense of the Pope:
“May I ask your patience a couple of minutes longer in what has already been a lengthy — yet hopefully uplifting —Sunday Mass?
The somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year.
The recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.
Anytime this horror, vicious sin, and nauseating crime is reported, as it needs to be, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame anew, and sincere Catholics experience another dose of shock, sorrow, and even anger.
What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs.
Sunday Mass is hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions.
But, Sunday Mass is indeed the time for Catholics to pray for “ . . . Benedict our Pope.”
And Palm Sunday Mass is sure a fitting place for us to express our love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.
No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI. The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made — — documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors — — could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.
Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past?
Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing.
All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.
Sorry to bring this up … but, then again, the Eucharist is the Sunday meal of the spiritual family we call the Church. At Sunday dinner we share both joys and sorrows. The father of our family, il papa, needs our love, support, and prayers.”
Cardinal Roger Mahoney's defense:
While I have no personal information on some of the specific allegations against our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, when he served the Church of Munich in Germany, I am able to assert without hesitation the action steps which he undertook in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he served as Prefect of that Congregation.Related Links:
Beginning in that dark year of 2002, the then Cardinal Ratzinger responded quickly and affirmatively to all of our requests for assistance here in the United States.
Recall that Canon 1324, par. 4, states that in Canon Law a minor is a person under the age of 16 years. However, in the civil laws of the United States, a minor is deemed to be a person under the age of 18 years. After we brought this gap to the attention of Cardinal Ratzinger, the canonical age was also raised to 18 years to accommodate civil law in our country and in other countries.
With respect to the processes of dealing with cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests in our Archdiocese, Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation responded swiftly and gave us advice on how to proceed with each of these cases. We never had delays or a lack of proper response.
Whenever I proposed that a certain priest be returned to the lay state and no longer serve as a priest, the Congregation responded quickly and in accord with my recommendations. Whether the priest petitioned himself for a return to the lay state, or whether I insisted upon his return to the lay state, Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation responded in favor of the Church, not of the priest individually.
Without the proactive and helpful assistance of Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation over these years, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would never have been able to move forward aggressively to remove priests from ministry who were proved to be guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.
The Congregation continues forward with the same vision and policies of then Cardinal Ratzinger, and I am grateful to the present Prefect and staff of the Congregation for their proactive efforts to assist us in our local Dioceses and Archdioceses to remove from active ministry any priest or religious found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.
We have had a large number of former priests and religious returned to the lay state under the auspices of Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Without those insights by the Congregation, many guilty priests would still be considered priests in our Church. That is no longer the case.
All of the procedures and processes which Cardinal Ratzinger implemented over the years have helped me and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles resolve many unfortunate cases in a manner to make certain that the Church is a safe place for all peoples, especially children and young people.
Text of the homily that Benedict XVI gave today in the Mass for Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of Vatican Radio responds to sexual abuse allegations
The Holy Week and Easter celebrations presided over by Benedict XVI will be available online in a live video and audio stream
Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem
Holy Week advice and suggestions
25 years of World Youth Day