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Friday, 08 March 2013 11:11

Cardinals set conclave for Tuesday

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Cardinals have set Tuesday as the start date for the conclave to elect the next pope.

The Vatican press office said the decision was taken during a vote today of the College of Cardinals. Tuesday will begin with a Mass in the morning, followed by the first balloting in the afternoon.
Published in National News
VIENNA (AP) -- Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn is a soft-spoken conservative who is ready to listen to those espousing reform. That profile that could appeal to fellow cardinals looking to elect a pontiff with widest-possible appeal to the world's 1 billion Catholics. His nationality may be his biggest disadvantage: Electors may be reluctant to choose another German speaker as a successor to Benedict XVI. A man of low tolerance for the child abuse scandals roiling the church, Schoenborn himself was elevated to the its upper echelons of the Catholic hierarchy after his predecessor resigned 18 years ago over accusations that he was a pedophile. --- EDITOR'S NOTE: As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, The Associated Press is profiling key cardinals seen as "papabili" - contenders to the throne. In the secretive world of the Vatican, there is no way to know who is in the running, and history has yielded plenty of surprises. But these are the names that have come up time and again in speculation. Today: Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn. --- Multilingual and respected by Jews, Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Benedict XVI's friend and former pupil was one of the cardinal electors in the 2005 papal conclave that chose the German as head of the Catholic church. A scholar who is at home in the pulpit, Schoenborn also is well connected in the Vatican - and appears willing to make it his home, if reluctantly. Asked if he would like to succeed Benedict on news of the pontiff's plan to step down, he said: "my heart is in Vienna, my heart is in Austria - but naturally with the whole Church as well." Such reticence is not unusual for a prince of the church known for a quiet management style focused on steering the Austrian church around controversy. That has not always been possible. The austere Schoenborn owed his own elevation to the scandal involving his predecessor, Hans Groer, who was accused of abusing young boys. Appointed Vienna's archbishop in 1995, Schoenborn initially stayed silent. But he showed courage three years later, personally apologizing "for everything that my predecessors and other holders of church office committed against people in their trust." In a measure of his dislike of confrontation, he fired his reform-minded vicar, Helmut Schueller, in 1998 by shoving a dismissal letter under Schueller's door. Yet, while grappling with the pornography scandal roiling the church in 2005, he took on the Vatican. "It's sad that it took so long to act," he said of Rome's reluctance to investigate the wrongdoing, saying later of the scandal: "The church is greater than its human weaknesses." He went further than that as cases of sexual abuse continued rocking the church, calling for a re-examination of priestly celibacy in 2010 - only to roll back in typical style shortly after, by having his spokesman issue a denial that he was questioning the rule on priests not marrying. While accepting the possibility of evolution, Schoenborn criticized certain "neo-Darwinian" theories as incompatible with Catholic teaching, writing in a 2005 New York Times editorial, that "any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science." Ideologically, his tenure has been marked by a turn away from inner-church reform. Instead he has focused toward respect for Catholic dogma - while understanding those who fall by the wayside. "It is not easy for the church to find the right path between the ... protection of marriage and family on the one hand and ... compassion with human failings," he said in 2004, alluding to church opposition to - but his personal understanding of - divorce. His audience, at a funeral Mass for Austrian President Thomas Klestil, included both his widow and his divorced wife. Later, however, he made clear that he backed the sanctity of marriage, telling an Austrian weekly shortly after Benedict's resignation that its indissolubility "can be traced back to the instructions of Jesus" and thus could not be changed. He spoke out about bending church dogma in response to pressure in the same interview, saying: "If Christ communicated a teaching that we believe is true and brings salvation to humanity, then nobody gains if that teaching is falsified, even if he were to gain in popularity by doing so." Born Jan. 22, 1945, into an aristocratic Bohemian family, Schoenborn's destiny appeared to have been influenced by his heritage - 19 of his ancestors were priests, bishops or archbishops. After joining the Dominican order in 1963, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 by Cardinal Franz Koenig. Like most Austrians, Schoenborn idolized Koenig for his social engagement and courage to speak out on controversial issues - but was initially eclipsed by Koenig's overwhelming personality. In the late 1960s, when Koenig played tennis in Schoenborn's hometown of Schrunns, Schoenborn "always fought to be Koenig's ball-boy," said Schoenborn confidant Heinz Nussbaumer in a telling reflection of the later relationship between the two churchmen. Because of Koenig's strong persona, Schoenborn "had a difficult start," said Nussbaumer, publisher of a Catholic weekly. "But later he was able to develop his own personality." His reputation as a scholar - and bridge-builder to Orthodox Christians - began with a dissertation on icons even before he became a theology professor at the Catholic University of Fribourg, Switzerland in 1975. Fluent in French and Italian, proficient in English and Spanish, he is well-connected in the Vatican, as reflected by his role as a cardinal elector for Benedict. He built on his image as an ecumenist with visits to the patriarchs of Russia and Romania and met with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 11 years ago, on the first trip of a Catholic church leader to the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution. Normally above the fray of international politics, he spoke out sharply in 2002 about President George W. Bush's inclusion of Iran with prewar Iraq and North Korea as part of the "the axis of evil." "In the best case it's naive," he said, contending such comments could "alienate Iran's moderate factions."
Published in National News
Thursday, 28 February 2013 04:22

Papal Farewell - Benedict XVI steps down today

Pope Benedict XVI is making history today, becoming the first pontiff to retire in nearly 600 years.

Only a handful of popes have ever done so.

The last was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.

Benedict is saying farewell this morning to his closest advisers in Clementine Hall at the Apostolic Palace. Then shortly before 5 p.m., he will leave the palace for the last time as pope and fly by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Benedict Greets Cardinals on Last Day As Pope



Exactly at 8 p.m. — when his resignation takes effect — the doors at Castel Gandolfo will close and the papacy that began on April 19, 2005, will come to an end.
Published in National News
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI basked in an emotional send-off Wednesday from an estimated 150,000 people at his final general audience in St. Peter's Square, recalling moments of "joy and light" during his papacy and also times of difficulty when "it seemed like the Lord was sleeping." The crowd, many toting banners saying "Grazie!" ("Thank you!"), jammed the piazza to bid Benedict farewell and hear his final speech as pontiff. In this appointment, which he has kept each week for eight years to teach the world about the Catholic faith, Benedict thanked his flock for respecting his retirement, which takes effect Thursday. Benedict clearly enjoyed the occasion, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen children handed to him by his secretary. Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance - then gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech. Benedict made a quick exit, foregoing the typical meet-and-greet session that follows the audience as if to not prolong the goodbye. Given the historic moment, Benedict also changed course and didn't produce his typical professorial Wednesday catechism lesson. Rather, he made his final public appearance in St. Peter's a personal one, explaining once again why he was becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign and urging the faithful to pray for his successor. "To love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself," Benedict said to thundering applause. He noted that a pope has no privacy: "He belongs always and forever to everyone, to the whole church." But he promised that in retirement he would not be returning to private life - instead taking on a new experience of service to the church through prayer. He recalled that when he was elected pope on April 19, 2005, he questioned if God truly wanted it. "'It's a great burden that you've placed on my shoulders,'" he recalled telling God. During his eight years as pope, Benedict said he had had "moments of joy and light, but also moments that haven't been easy ... moments of turbulent seas and rough winds, as has occurred in the history of the church when it seemed like the Lord was sleeping." But he said he never felt alone, that God always guided him, and he thanked his cardinals and colleagues for their support and for "understanding and respecting this important decision." The pope's eight-year tenure has been beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, discord over everything from priestly celibacy to women's ordination, and most recently the betrayal by his own butler who stole his private papers and leaked them to a journalist. Under a bright sun and blue skies, the square was overflowing with pilgrims and curiosity-seekers. Those who couldn't get in picked spots along the main boulevard leading to the square to watch the event on giant TV screens. About 50,000 tickets were requested for Benedict's final master class. In the end, the Vatican estimated that 150,000 people flocked to the farewell. "It's difficult - the emotion is so big," said Jan Marie, a 53-year-old Roman in his first years as a seminarian. "We came to support the pope's decision." With chants of "Benedetto!" erupting often, the mood was far more buoyant than during the pope's final Sunday blessing. It recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Benedict has said he decided to retire after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the "strength of mind or body" to carry on. "I have taken this step with the full understanding of the seriousness and also novelty of the decision, but with a profound serenity in my soul," Benedict told the crowd. Benedict will meet Thursday morning with cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome. There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over - for now. Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience. Those included retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, the object of a grass-roots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests. Mahony has said he will be among the 115 cardinals voting on who the next pope should be. "God bless you," Mahony said when asked by television crews about the campaign. Also in attendance Wednesday were cardinals over 80, who can't participate in the conclave but will participate in meetings next week to discuss the problems facing the church and the qualities needed in a new pope. "I am joining the entire church in praying that the cardinal electors will have the help of the Holy Spirit," Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, 82, said. Herranz has been authorized by the pope to brief voting-age cardinals on his investigation into the leaks of papal documents that exposed corruption in the Vatican administration. Vatican officials say cardinals will begin meeting Monday to decide when to set the date for the conclave. But the rank-and-file faithful in the crowd weren't so concerned with the future; they wanted to savor the final moments with the pope they have known for years. "I came to thank him for the testimony that he has given the church," said Maria Cristina Chiarini, a 52-year-old homemaker who traveled by train from Lugo in central Italy with about 60 members of her parish. "There's nostalgia, human nostalgia, but also comfort, because as a Christian we have hope. The Lord won't leave us without a guide."
Published in National News
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted the Catholic masses in St. Peter's Square Wednesday for the last time before retiring, making several rounds of the square as crowds cheered wildly and stopping to kiss a half-dozen children brought up to him by his secretary.

Tens of thousands of people toting banners saying "Grazie!" - "thank you" - jammed the piazza to bid farewell to the pope at his final general audience - the appointment he has kept each week to teach the world about the Catholic faith.

Pilgrims and curiosity-seekers picked spots along the main boulevard leading to the square to watch Wednesday's event on giant TV screens. Some 50,000 tickets were requested for Benedict's final master class, but Italian media estimated the number of people actually attending could be double that.

"It's difficult - the emotion is so big," said Jan Marie, a 53 year old Roman in his first years as a seminarian. "We came to support the pope's decision."

With chants of "Benedetto" erupting every so often, the mood was far more buoyant than during the pope's final Sunday blessing and recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Benedict on Thursday will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, a decision he said he took after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the strength of mind or body to carry on. He will meet Thursday morning with cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over - for now.

Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience, including retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, object of a grass-roots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests. Mahony has said he will vote.

Vatican officials say cardinals will begin meeting on Monday to decide when to set the date for the conclave to elect the next pope.

But the rank-and-file in the crowd on Wednesday weren't so concerned with the future; they wanted to savor the final moments with the pope they have known for eight years.

"I came to thank him for the testimony that he has given the church," said Maria Cristina Chiarini, a 52 year old homemaker who traveled by train early Wednesday from Lugo, near Ravenna, with some 60 members of her parish. "There's nostalgia, human nostalgia, but also comfort, because as a Christian we have hope. The Lord won't leave us without a guide."
Published in National News
Sunday, 17 February 2013 08:26

Could next Pope come from America

NEW YORK (AP) -- Conventional wisdom holds that no one from the United States could be elected pope, that the superpower has more than enough worldly influence without an American in the seat of St. Peter. But after Pope Benedict XVI's extraordinary abdication, church analysts are wondering whether old assumptions still apply, including whether the idea of a U.S. pontiff remains off the table. Benedict himself has set a tone for change with his dramatic personal example. He is the first pontiff in six centuries to step down. Church leaders and canon lawyers are scrambling to resolve a litany of dilemmas they had never anticipated, such as scheduling a conclave without a funeral first and choosing a title for a former pope. The conclaves that created the last two pontificates had already upended one tradition: Polish-born Pope John Paul II ended 455 years of Italian papacies with his surprise selection in 1978. Benedict, born in Bavaria, was the first German pope since the 11th century. "With the election of John Paul, with the election of Benedict, one wonders if the former boundaries seem not to have any more credibility," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, discussing Benedict's decision this week at SiriusXM's "The Catholic Channel." The election also follows a pontificate that featured Americans in unusually prominent roles. Cardinal William Levada, the former San Francisco archbishop, was the first U.S. prelate to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's powerful guardian of doctrine. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop, is the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court. And Benedict appointed others from the U.S. to handle some of his most pressing concerns, including rebuilding ties with breakaway Catholic traditionalists and overseeing the church's response to clergy abuse cases worldwide. But as Christopher Bellitto, a historian at Kean University in New Jersey who studies the papacy, said, "There's a big difference between letting somebody borrow the car and handing them the keys." "The American church," he said, "comes with a lot of baggage." Among the negatives is the clergy sex abuse scandal, which has affected every U.S. diocese and bishop. The 11 U.S. cardinals expected to vote in the conclave will include Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Los Angeles archbishop who was recently stripped of public duties by his successor over his record on handling abuse cases. Also attending will be Cardinal Justin Rigali, who stepped down as Philadelphia archbishop after a landmark indictment of priests revealed he had kept several clergy on assignment despite claims they molested children. The cardinals are also struggling against the perception, held particularly by Europeans, that most Americans aren't sophisticated enough to handle the papacy. In a faith 2,000 years old, the United States is considered relatively new ground. Europe was still sending missionaries to the U.S. to create the church through the early 1900s. Popes are also expected to be multilingual, or to at minimum speak Italian fluently. Dolan, considered to have one of the highest profiles in the U.S. church, speaks only halting Italian and a little Spanish, but no French or Latin. He led the North American Seminary in Rome, a kind of West Point for American priests, but has never worked in a Vatican office. "There really never has been any American who rises above his American-ness and holds the esteem of the international group of cardinals because of his service, because of what he's done for the church," said Brother Charles Hilken, a historian at Saint Mary's College of California, who has studied the papacy. Beyond the qualities of individual candidates, the cardinals take church history into account. The church has tried to keep the papacy separate from a reigning superpower for centuries, whether the Holy Roman Empire, France or Spain, according to the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church." When France captured the papacy, the nation moved the seat to Avignon in 1309 and kept it there for seven decades. But the role of the United States in the world today is what weighs most heavily against a American pope. The Vatican navigates complex diplomatic relations within the Muslim world, in China over the state-backed church, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and beyond. An American pope could be perceived as acting in the interests of the United States instead of Catholics. "That would be enough of a concern for enough cardinals to make them leery about voting for an otherwise good American candidate," Hilken said. "These men come from places. They're citizens of other countries of the world." Despite all these factors, Dolan is being mentioned in some church circles as a potential - albeit longshot - choice. Round and quick to joke about his size, he is an ebullient and approachable representative of the church who is a strong speaker and is known in Rome. "He's the bear-hug bishop," Bellitto said. Dolan already was part of one upset election: In a surprise 2010 vote, his fellow church leaders chose him over the expected victor as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was the first time in the history of the conference that the man serving as sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost.
Published in Local News
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI is telling the faithful in his first public appearance since announcing his resignation that he stepping down for "the good of the church."

Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.

At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."

He asked the faithful "to continue to pray for the pope and the church."
Published in National News
VATICAN CITY (ABC) - Below is the offical Vatican translation of what the Pope said today regarding his resignation.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

Pope Benedict XVI Sends First Tweet Watch Video However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Published in National News
Monday, 11 February 2013 05:18

UPDATE: Pope Benedict XVI resigning

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The 85 year old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning.

He emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.

There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
Published in National News
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