Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Pope Benedict's Angelus 'Homilies'

~from Chiesa

The words that Benedict XVI speaks every Sunday at midday, before and after the Angelus – the "Regina Coeli" during the Easter season – are among those most closely followed by the media.

But the media almost always reproduce only those words of the pope that pertain to situations or events in the news, especially when these are political.

For example, on Sunday, September 30, it was Burma, the two Koreas, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Sunday before that, it was his views on capitalism and the "logic of profit." And the Sunday before that, the Montreal protocol on the hole in the ozone layer...

What the media say and write gives listeners and readers the impression that the pope dedicated his entire message to the topic cited.

But that's not the case. It is almost always during the greetings in various languages, which he extends to the faithful after the praying of the Angelus, that Benedict XVI dedicates to current issues just a few brief remarks that are then emphasized by the media.

The real and proper message comes before the prayer. And it is – with rare exceptions – a brief homily on the Gospel and the other readings of that day's Mass.

This little homily is most of what is heard by the great numbers of faithful who come to each Sunday noontime encounter with the pope, at Saint Peter's Square in Rome and at Castel Gandolfo in the summer.

These are texts unmistakably conceived and written by pope Joseph Ratzinger. In some cases, it is easy to note similarities with his book "Jesus of Nazareth," in the places where he discusses the same passage from the Gospel.

As in the Wednesday catecheses Benedict XVI is gradually recounting the life of the Church from the Apostles to the Fathers, so in the Sunday Angelus he is presenting to the faithful the figure of Jesus.

But there's more. The path that the pope takes to get to Jesus each week is the same one that every member of the Catholic faithful travels in participating at Mass that same Sunday.

This is clearly a deliberate decision, and one typical of this pope's vision. The Gospel upon which Benedict XVI comments at the Angelus is not "sola Scriptura," it is not a bare book. It is the Word that becomes flesh – the body and blood of Jesus – in the liturgy of the day.

In order to raise to acceptable levels the average quality of the millions of homilies pronounced every Sunday all over the world, Catholic priests could do no better than to enroll themselves in the school of Benedict XVI's Angelus addresses.


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