Friday, April 18, 2008

On Benedict's Words

~by Fr. Neuhaus in First Things (I'm excluding the music portion...enough has been said there...the words need highlighting)
The homily at National Parks, as usual in Benedict’s low-key but intense manner, touched on many subjects but kept close to the overarching theme of the entire pastoral visit “Christ Our Hope.” Here the emphasis was on America as a nation of hope. To the bishops yesterday he spoke of the errors of construing salvation in a narrowly individualistic manner, thus shortchanging the eschatological and cosmic dimensions of redemptive promise. So also in this homily, Benedict counters individualism with words on the Church as a structured community that is, at the same time, the mystical body of Christ. Here he lifts up the continuing ministry of Peter in strengthening the apostolic mission of the entire Church.

In the course of the homily, Benedict once again spoke to the sex abuse crisis, this time emphasizing the responsibility of all to play a part in reconciliation and healing. So all the chatter prior to the visit about whether the crisis would be addressed is decisively laid to rest. It was said that he would take up that subject at the Saturday Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, but at this point one wonders what else needs to be said about it that he has not already said. An additional note in this homily is the unity of faith and reason in the evangelization of culture, and the renewing power of continuing conversion in the life of the Church and the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in effecting that conversion.

...Thursday afternoon was the meeting at Catholic University with hundreds of leaders in Catholic education. There was an edge to some of his remarks. For instance, “We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom.” Education is about truth, and the crisis of truth is a crisis of faith. Authentic freedom is discovered in the exploration of truth. “Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in—a participation in Being itself.” And, as always, he emphasizes the unity of faith and reason and does so in ways that require a careful reading of the text.

He has had a very busy day. Earlier this afternoon he met privately with five victims of sex abuse. Then he was off to address the educators at Catholic University, after which he took the popemobile across the road to the John Paul II Cultural Center for the meeting with “the representatives of other religions.” In the past, Ratzinger/Benedict has been skeptical of interreligious dialogue that moves too quickly to the theological before dealing with cultural differences and conflicts. In this address, however, he urges a common effort to explore the most important truths about “the origin and destiny of mankind,” making clear that, in that effort, “Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things.”

Recognizing the unique relationship between Judaism and Christianity, the meeting with representatives of world religions was immediately followed by a further, albeit very brief, meeting with a smaller group of Jewish leaders. Benedict’s remarks are titled “To the Jewish community on the Feast of Pesah.” He did not deliver the text but merely handed the paper to the assembled Jewish leaders. And, of course, there will be a brief visit to a synagogue in New York as Jews are preparing to celebrate Passover.

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