Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pope gives top Curia officials cake, sparkling wine and end of year review

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I seem to recall that back in my bureaucratic, pagan days, theory demanded that in a perfectly designed organization, no supervisor should have more than 7-10 individuals reporting to him (that was before diversity, folks).

This photograph of the Pope and his staff a couple of weeks ago indicates that, according to modern organizational theory anyway, the Roman Catholic Church leaves something to be desired.




Of course, "modern organizational theory" does not take into account the Holy Spirit and personalities like Pope Benedict XVI.

There has been much written on the Pope's recent annual meeting with his Vatican officials and much of it I found boring and hard to understand.

Fortunately, the Catholic Herald in England, under the interesting and able direction of its editor, Damian Thompson, knows how to write an interesting and informative paragraph. They are even better at writing headlines. I don't need volumes. I have too much to read as it is trying to find posts for Stella Borealis.


Pope gives top Curia officials cake, sparkling wine and end of year review

Benedict XVI gave his Roman Curia officials the traditional bottle of sparkling wine and panettone cake for Christmas, and he added a gift they can chew on for days: a seven-page speech on the Holy Spirit's presence in the Church events of 2008.

The Pope met his top administrators to exchange Christmas greetings and review the year as it draws to a close. His talk was not a simple "Best of 2008" list, however, but a probing analysis of what lies behind some of the Church's most visible activities.

In particular, he offered his interpretation of two issues that prompted headlines in recent months, but whose meaning he believed was misunderstood: the international World Youth Day celebrations and the Vatican's strong pronouncements on ecology.

The Pope recalled his trip to Australia for the World Youth Day gathering in July, where he presided over events with 200,000 young people. Fears of paralysed traffic or public disturbances proved unfounded, he said, and the encounter turned out to be a "festival of joy."

The Pope noted that some people view World Youth Day as the Church's version of a rock concert, where the Pope is just the main attraction. Others, including Catholics, wonder whether they really have any lasting impact on the participants.

The Pope responded by saying these objections don't take into account the power of the Holy Spirit.

He quoted first the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who said that throwing a party wasn't as hard as finding people able to attend it with joy. Then he quoted St Paul, who said joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit - something abundantly evident at World Youth Day.

He pointed out that the Australian assembly was the culmination of a long spiritual pilgrimage for the young participants, one focused intensely on Christ.

"So even the Pope is not the star around which all this turns," he said.

Those who describe the youth encounters as the Catholic variant of rock festivals, he added, are really trying to remove the all-important "question of God" from the discussion.

In a similar way, the Pope said, the Church's teaching on ecology needs to be understood as arising from God - the "creator Spirit" - who made the earth and its creatures with an "intelligent structure" that demands respect. Because of faith, the Church has a responsibility for protecting the created world and for proclaiming publicly this environmental responsibility, he said.

The Pope then explained why the human being must be at the centre of the Church's ecological concern.

"The Church must protect not only the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. It must also protect man against self-destruction," he said. "The tropical forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as a creature does not deserve any less."

By "self-destruction", the Pope said he meant "contempt for the Creator", and he said examples could be found in so-called "gender" issues today.

He offered a case in point: marriage as a permanent union between a man and a woman was something instituted by God as "the sacrament of creation".

Although the Pope didn't specifically talk about same-sex marriage, the meaning was clear enough to prompt some unusual headlines about rainforests and homosexuals.

The Pope said the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of another important event of 2008, the Synod of Bishops on Scripture. The Synod emphasised that, far from being a dead letter, the word of God was alive and was speaking to contemporary Christians in a modern Pentecost. UK Catholic Herald
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