Tuesday, February 13, 2007

All Things Fluffy

So... was he rehearsing at Sunday's vigil?

Two months from Saturday, Papa Ratzi marks his 80th birthday. The diocese of Rome is doing the party-planning, topped off by an open-air Mass in the Square with the Birthday Boy on Mercy Sunday:
Benedict XVI will preside over a Mass in St. Peter's Square to mark his 80th birthday.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Holy Father's vicar for Rome, sent a letter Friday to invite all the faithful to the celebration on April 15, the eve of the German Pontiff's birthday.

"We pray with the Pope and for the Pope, praying for an abundance of divine blessings for him," wrote Cardinal Ruini, president of the Italian episcopal conference....

On April 2, Benedict XVI will preside over a Mass for the eternal repose of John Paul II.
This morning, as the Vatican gears up for next week's Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the pontiff's 2007 message for the penitential season was released. The symbolism is rich -- returning to the lines sketched out in his first encyclical, B16 apparently felt the need to (again) re-remind the church that God is (still) love.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God’s love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as “Lord and God” when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God’s eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens. Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.
As Roman Lent approaches, one thing which has not of yet leaked out is the identity of this year's preacher for the annual retreat of the Pope and the senior officials of the Roman Curia.

Since time immemorial -- or, at least, the retreat's heightened profile over the 20th century -- the selection of the preacher has become a closely-watched indicator of the prevailing winds in the papal apartment, the choice often falling to a voice the Pope might like to tout... and not just for a higher prominence on the preaching circuit.

Before their respective elections to the papacy, both Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla were tapped to lead the annual exercises, with the latter's 1976 "Sign of Contradiction" talks serving as a key springboard to his emergence two years later as Pope John Paul II. The 2002 preacher, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, will be in the Redemptoris Mater chapel this year for his first retreat as a Curial head and has been viewed both before and after the last conclave as papabile. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's 1998 turn helped increase his church-wide prominence, as did Cardinal Francis George's invite to preach the 2001 sessions. And not to be forgotten is Archbishop Bruno Forte, whose 2004 retreat to John Paul and Curia spurred his appointment to the episcopacy within weeks and a high place in the firmament of the Italian church and beyond.

In choosing his first retreat master last year, Benedict threw a monkey wrench at the traditional flurry of buzz by giving the talks to the retired patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Marco Cé. Whether he attempts the same tactic this year or goes with a more revealing younger choice will soon come to light -- the retreat usually takes place in the second or third week of Lent.

AP/Riccardo de Luca