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Wednesday, September 13, 2006


VATICAN CITY, SEP 13, 2006 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to King Taufa'ahau Tupou V of Tonga for the death of his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV who died on Sunday, September 10 at the age of 88 following a long illness. He had been king of Tonga since 1967.

  "I was saddened to learn of the death of His Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, your beloved father, and I send my heartfelt condolences to you, the royal family and all the people of Tonga. Assuring the bereaved of my prayers and spiritual closeness at this time of national mourning, I commend the long reigning late king to the loving mercy of Almighty God and invoke upon the country the divine gifts of consolation and peace. As a pledge of hope in the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I impart my apostolic blessing."


VATICAN CITY, SEP 13, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, after celebrating a private Mass at the major seminary of St. Wolfgang in Regensburg, Benedict XVI travelled to the basilica of Alte Kapelle (Old Chapel), three kilometers away.

  That church, built around the year 1000, occupies the entire southern end of the city's old wheat market square and was originally the chapel of the ducal palace. It is dedicated to Our Lady and contains an image of the Virgin which local tradition attributes to St. Luke, a gift from Pope Benedict VIII to Henry II.

  On arrival the Holy Father was welcomed by the dean and the chapter. He then proceeded to bless the new organ, which is dedicated to him, and pronounced a brief address.

  "Music and song are more than an embellishment of worship," said the Pope, "they are themselves part of the liturgical action."

  The organ, "transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, evokes the divine. ... It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God."

  "Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love. The more we allow ourselves, through the liturgy, to be transformed in Christ, the more we will be capable of transforming the world, radiating Christ's goodness, His mercy and His love for others."

  After the ceremony, Benedict XVI went by foot to the house of his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, where he had lunch.

  In the early afternoon, the Pope and his brother are due to travel by car to the nearby Ziegetzdorf cemetery where their parents, Maria and Joseph, and their sister Maria are buried. After praying at the tomb of his family, the Pope will travel by car to Pentling, a village of around a hundred inhabitants in which he lived when he was a professor at the University of Regensburg, and of which he holds honorary citizenship.

  Benedict XVI will visit the house and garden where he used to live with his brother, remaining until around 7.30 p.m. when he is due to return to the major seminary of Regensburg where he will spend the night.


VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2006 (VIS) - This evening, the cathedral of St. Peter in Regensburg was the setting for an ecumenical celebration of Vespers, presided by the Pope and attended by representatives from various Churches and ecclesial communities in Bavaria, the Lutheran and Orthodox Churches of Bavaria, and members of the ecumenical commission of the German Episcopal Conference.

  Prior to his arrival, the Pope paused briefly at the church of St. Ulrich, less than 100 meters from the cathedral, where he greeted the provost and rector of the church, and the president of the Jewish community of Bavaria. Then, in procession with the representatives from other confessions he moved on towards the cathedral. For many years the cathedral's famous choir was directed by the Pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, now director emeritus of that institution.

  "We are gathered here - Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants - to sing together the evening praise of God," said the Pope at the start of his homily. "This is an hour of gratitude for the fact that we can pray together in this way and, by turning to the Lord, at the same time grow in unity among ourselves."

  The Pope then addressed a special greeting to representatives of the Orthodox Church saying "I have always considered it a special gift of God's Providence that, as a professor at Bonn, I was able to come to know and to love the Orthodox Church, personally as it were." And in this context he recalled how "in a few days time, at Belgrade, theological dialogue will resume on the fundamental theme of 'koinonia'."

  "Our 'koinonia' is above all communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. ... This communion with God creates in turn 'koinonia' among people, as a participation in the faith of the Apostles, and therefore as a communion in faith - a communion which is 'embodied' in the Eucharist and, transcending all boundaries, builds up the one Church."

  The Holy Father expressed the hope that the Belgrade meeting would prove fruitful so that communion in the faith may mature towards full unity. "'So that the world may believe,' we must become one," he said, "the seriousness of this commitment must spur on our dialogue."

  Pope Benedict then extended "warm greetings to our friends of the various traditions stemming from the Reformation. ... Obviously, I think in particular of the demanding efforts to reach a consensus on justification. ... I am pleased to see that in the meantime the World Methodist Council has adhered" to the declaration on justification.

  "In theology justification is an essential theme," said the Pope, "but in the life of the faithful today - it seems to me - it is only dimly present. Because of the dramatic events of our time, the theme of mutual forgiveness is felt with increased urgency, yet there is little perception of our fundamental need of God's forgiveness, of our justification by Him. Our modern consciousness in general is no longer aware of the fact that we stand as debtors before God and that sin is a reality which can be overcome only by God's initiative. Behind this weakening of the theme of justification and of the forgiveness of sins is ultimately a weakening of our relation with God. In this sense, our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives."

  This rediscovery, said the Pope, depends on three key concepts, all contained in the passage from the Letter of John read out during the ceremony: confession, witness and love.

  "The 'confessio' that ultimately distinguishes us as Christians," said the Pope, is "faith in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God Who has come in the flesh. ... It is through Him that we come into contact with God. In this time of inter-religious encounters we are easily tempted to attenuate somewhat this central confession or indeed even to hide it. But by doing this we do not do a service to encounter or dialogue. We only make God less accessible to others and to ourselves. ... In this common confession, and in this common task, there is no division between us."

  Confession "must become witness," Pope Benedict observed again returning to the Letter of St. John where the Apostle claims to be a witness of Christ with the words: "We have seen." This presupposes "that we also - succeeding generations - are capable of seeing, and can bear witness as people who have seen. ... Let us help one another to develop this capacity, so that we can assist the people of our time to see, so that they in turn, through the world fashioned by themselves, will discover God! Across all the historical barriers may they perceive Jesus anew. ... To be a witness of Jesus Christ means above all to bear witness to a certain way of living. In a world full of confusion, ... it is the responsibility of Christians, now, to make visible the standards that indicate a just life."

  The final concept, love ('agape') "is the key-word of the whole Letter," concluded the Holy Father, "and particularly of the passage which we have heard. 'Agape' does not mean something sentimental or something grandiose; it is something totally sober and realistic." It "is really the synthesis of the Law and the Prophets. In love everything is 'fulfilled;' but this everything must daily be 'filled out.' ... Yes, man can believe in love. Let us bear witness to our faith in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love, 'so that the world may believe'."


VATICAN CITY, SEP 12, 2006 (VIS) - Today at 4.45 p.m., the Pope travelled to the University of Regensburg where he participated in a meeting with representatives from the world of science. The university, founded in 1965, currently has 12 faculties and 25,000 students.

  After having taught dogmatic and fundamental theology at the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology in Freising, and later in the universities of Bonn, Munster and Tubingen, from 1969 to 1971 Msgr. Joseph Ratzinger held the chair of dogmatics and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg, during which time he was also vice rector of the institution.

  In his long address to the assembled academics, the Holy Father reflected upon the relationship between faith and reason.

  Having first dedicated some remarks to those who use threats or violence to oblige others to convert, Benedict XVI went on to identify "a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly," asking: "Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God."

  "In the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder the synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's 'voluntas ordinata.' ... God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, Whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind His actual decisions.

  "As opposed to this," he continued, "the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. ... The truly divine God is the God Who has revealed Himself as 'logos' and, as 'logos,' has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf."

  The encounter between Biblical faith and Greek philosophy "was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. ... This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."

  Benedict XVI went on: "The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a 'dehellenization' of Christianity."

  This dehellenization "first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century," and later with "the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. "The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the Triune God."

  There is, said the Pope, a "third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress," according to which "the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision."

  After highlighting that "the positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly," the Holy Father warned against "the dangers arising from these possibilities, ... we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons."

  "Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions."

  Benedict XVI concluded his address by highlighting how "the West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time."

  The meeting concluded, Benedict XVI moved on to Regensburg's cathedral of St. Peter, famous for its choir, the director of which for many years was the Pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, currently director emeritus.

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