VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 11: A faithful holds a Polish flag at St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict XVI delivers his Regina Coeli Prayer from his summer residence on April 11, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pontiff expressed his 'profound sorrow' for the 96 victims of the air disaster, that claimed the lives of most of the Polish leadership. (Daylife Photos)
Pontiff grieves with Poland:
After the Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday, the Holy Father repeated his condolences to the "beloved Polish nation" for the deaths of President Lech Kaczynski and so many others in a plane crash on Saturday. The Pope assured the country of his prayers and entrusted the victims to the "merciful Lord of life."In Defense of Pope Benedict, Ross Douthat:
"As we all know, yesterday saw the tragic airplane accident in Smolensk (Russia) in which the President of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, his wife, various high authorities of the Polish State and all of the delegation, including the Military Ordinary Archbishop perished," the Pope said.
"In expressing my profound condolences, I assure my heartfelt prayer of homage for the victims and of support for the beloved Polish nation," he added.
The Polish leader and delegation were on their way to the village of Katyn to commemorate, in a ceremony with Russian officials, the 70th anniversary of the assassination of more than 20,000 Polish military officers in World War II.
It was confirmed on Sunday that 97 people died in the crash.
In his individual language greetings to pilgrims, the Pope said, in Polish, that it was "with deep sorrow" that he found out about the accident. Remembering the victims and the reason for their visit to Russia, he entrusted "all to the merciful Lord of life."
"I do it," he told the audience, "uniting myself with the pilgrims gathered from the Sanctuary of Lagiewniki and with all those devoted to the Mercy of God in the entire world."
Citizens of Poland observed two minutes of silence on Sunday to remember the victims.
But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.Though I do not concur with some of Douthat's assumptions and conclusions, I do believe that Cardinal Ratzinger, as he denotes, was a strident and a passionate counter-availing force against the "filth" which descended upon the Church, via the rampant and ubiquitous sexual abuse.
The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle.
Only one churchman comes out of Berry’s story looking good: Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money “for his charitable use.” The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” a witness said, and turned the money down.
This isn’t an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.
So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.
Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.
But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.
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Father Robert Barron:
Father Robert Barron:
"I'm just back from St. Peter's square, where I witnessed Pope Benedict's Sunday Angelus broadcast on large screens from Castel Gondolfo. The pontiff has spent the past week there, recovering from his grueling Holy Week schedule- and undoubtedly from the massively unfair press coverage he has been receiving of late. As I listen to the endless reportage dealing with the Holy Father's supposed negligence in matters of priestly sex abuse, I can only shake my head.
I want to say, "don't they realize that they are going after the one man in the world who can do the most to solve this problem?" No one in the world understands the gravity of the situation more fully or has taken more practical steps to solve it as Joseph Ratzinger. On numerous occassions, he has stated how disgusted he is by the "filth" (his word) that has found its way into the ranks of the priesthood, and time and time again, he has taken firm steps to remove abusers and to chastise those who protected them.
I would recommend to anyone who doubts Pope Benedict's resolve to read his recent statement to the Irish church.