Thursday, May 10, 2007

A gaggle of news stories about the Pope

...the media are in full tilt. Was there a style sheet that everyone's copying from? The tone, the presentation are all the same....

~from Time: Pope Rejects Pro-Choice Politicians
It didn't take long for Pope Benedict XVI's first trip to the Western Hemisphere to generate controversy — in fact, it started ten hours before he landed.

On Wednesday, as he flew toward his much anticipated five-day trip in Brazil, the Pope addressed the question of the "good standing" of Catholic politicians who support abortion rights — a delicate issue that has come up in the U.S., Europe and, most recently, Mexico. During an unprecedented 25-minute on-flight press conference, Benedict left little room for interpretation: pro-choice politicians not only should be denied communion, but face outright excommunication from the Church for supporting "the killing of a human child.

Standing before an Alitalia cabin full of reporters, two hours into the 12-hour flight to Sao Paulo, the Pope expressed his support for the Mexican bishops in the face of that country's first-ever law legalizing first term abortions. "Yes, that they are excommunicated isn't something arbitrary. It's envisioned in the law of the Church that � the killing of a human child is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ."

~also from Time: Brazil Welcomes a Very Different Pope
Pope Benedict XVI's five-day visit to Brazil, his first as pontiff to the region that is home to half the world's Catholics, is chockfull of critical social and spiritual missions. But the 80-year-old pontiff's first challenge is much more mundane — coping with jet lag. And he may not be as practiced on that front as his globetrotting predecessor: As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he had preferred to stay home in Rome. His last trans-Atlantic flight was in 1999....

...Indeed, Vatican watchers are already wary of comparing Benedict to John Paul, and the current papacy has clearly begun to create its own narrative. The question, then, is what this elderly European scholar aims to do in the New World.

~from LA Times: Pope Benedict XVI touches off a firestorm over abortion
Launching his first papal pilgrimage to the Americas, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday issued a strong condemnation of abortion and immediately touched off a firestorm by suggesting Catholic politicians who legalize it have excommunicated themselves from the church.

The flap began hours before his plane even touched down here, when he spoke to reporters in flight from Rome during his first full-fledged news conference as pontiff.

Asked whether he agreed with excommunication of Mexican legislators who recently legalized abortion in Mexico City, Benedict replied, "Yes."

"The excommunication was not something arbitrary," he continued. "It is part of the Code [of Canon Law]. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with being in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, [the bishops] didn't do anything new or anything surprising, or arbitrary."

As the flight continued, the pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, made several appearances of his own before the reporters in an attempt to downplay Benedict's statement. Roman Catholic church leaders in Mexico have not actually excommunicated the legislators, Lombardi noted, and said that the pope meant that politicians who favor abortion rights in effect excommunicate themselves and should be denied Communion, a milder sanction. Benedict did not mean to set new policy, Lombardi said.

"If the bishops haven't excommunicated anyone, it's not that the pope wants to," Lombardi said. "Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. Politicians exclude themselves from Communion."

Later, after arriving in Brazil, the largest Catholic nation in the world, Benedict made further strong remarks about abortion.

~from North County Times: Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Brazil determined to lay down church law on abortion
Pope Benedict XVI began his first trip to Latin America Wednesday by laying down church law on abortion, suggesting that he agrees with bishops who said Catholic politicians in Mexico had excommunicated themselves by legalizing abortion in that nation's capital.

Benedict, who will inaugurate an important regional bishops' conference during his trip, also spoke strongly against abortion during his first speech in Brazil. Speaking in Portuguese, he said he's certain that the bishops will reinforce "the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature."

Hundreds of faithful waiting in the cold rain for a glimpse of Benedict seemed not to care about the major challenges the Vatican says he hopes to confront during his visit, such as the church's declining influence in Brazil, the rise of evangelism, or his in-flight comments about Mexico City's politicians.

Catholic officials have been debating for some time whether politicians who approve abortion legislation as well as doctors and nurses who take part in abortions would subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church law. The pope seemed to agree with Mexico City's bishops who declared that the city's pro-abortion lawmakers had excommunicated themselves.

That's just Day One.

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