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cyanmagentayellowblack Catholic Herald. Page:01 Edition:1 Date:07.12.2007 Slip:0 Version:0






No. 6331

December 7, 2007 £1 (Republic of Ireland €1.50)

Pope tells Christians to live in hope of the Last Judgment


POPE BENEDICT XVI has issued a historic encyclical that seeks to reinvigorate the Church with the hope that Christ brought to the world. Spe Salvi, “Saved by Hope”, has surprised many commentators by its lack of reference to the documents of the Second Vatican Council. It argues that genuine hope can be found only in the prospect of eternal life, and cannot be based on scientific or political progress. It criticises the idea that true justice can be achieved on earth with the right social structures and strongly emphasises the significance of the coming Last Judgment. Benedict XVI also offers a fresh approach to the subject of purgatory, which will undoubtedly appeal to Orthodox Christians who do not share the Church’s formal doctrine. A senior Church of England bishop also hailed a possible breakthrough on the subject of purgatory. Dr Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham and one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, said: “The Pope reduces purgatory from a period of time to a sharp and transforming encounter with Jesus. “This is something that a lot of people have been hoping for from Rome.” According to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, the document is “absolutely and personally” the work of the Holy Father, who wrote it over the summer while staying in the Italian mountains and at his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo. He said advisers working

on the Pope’s forthcoming social encyclical were “surprised” that Benedict XVI had finished Spe Salvi so quickly. Vatican observers have noted the upbeat tone of the document and have praised its clear and accessible style. It is the Pope’s second encyclical after Deus Caritas Est, published in January 2006. In Spe Salvi the Pope argues that the modern world’s lack of faith has led to “the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice”. He says that ideologies such as Marxism abandoned God and tried to create perfect justice on Earth through political structures. But “the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false”. The Pontiff continues: “It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice: rather it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.” The modern world has mistakenly placed its hope not only in political structures but also in scientific progress, Benedict XVI said. While science offers some “possibilities for good”, it also “opens up appalling possibilities for evil – possibilities that formerly did not exist”. Instead true hope should be found in the eternal salvation brought by Christ. One problem, Benedict says, is that many people believe that eternal life would be unbearable. But he dismisses this notion

by explaining that “eternal life” would not be an “unending succession of days in the calendar” but “something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction”. He says: “It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time –the before and after –no longer exists.” Benedict XVI also points to the Last Judgment as a source of hope. The image of the Christ’s judging the living and the dead is not “primarily an image of terror”, but one that “evokes responsibility”. It is the moment, the Pope says, when God offers not only grace but justice as well. He explains: “Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. “Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” The document also offers a powerful description of purgatory as a searing encounter with Christ that cannot be measured in time. This encounter, Benedict XVI explains, “is the decisive act of judgment” that “burns us, transforms us and frees us”. “Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. It is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.” He adds that we cannot cal

culate the duration of this encounter, since it “eludes earthly time-reckoning”. Cardinal Georges Cottier, a theologian of the papal household under John Paul II, presented Spe Salvito the media. He said the encyclical could be a “document of unity” for the different Christian denominations. It includes a quotation from the Protestant Biblical scholar Helmut Koester. Dr Wright, who has just published a book entitled Surprised by Hope, said that although Spe Salviwas “fascinating and exciting”, it was also frustrating because it did not refer to any hope for renewal on Earth. “I was delighted by [the Pope’s] trenchant rejection of Marxism, but I didn’t think he fully articulated what the real Christian alternative is. But there are many wonderful things in the document.” The distinguished Catholic commentator Fr Tim Finigan, a parish priest in Blackfen, said Spe Salvi tackled areas that had been avoided in recent years, such as the Last Judgment and purgatory. “The Holy Father continues to present his challenge to secularism courteously but insistently. His rigorous analysis shows that there is no genuine hope, in theory or in practice, where God is excluded from human life. “He demonstrates that the promotion of justice or ‘progress’ in the social order is doomed to failure without God. In the background is the spectre of Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ and its terrible consequences.”

Editorial comment: Page 11

Pope Benedict XVI signs Spe Salvi, his second encyclical

Photo: CNS


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Benedictines tipped for Westminster succession

Calendar turns priests into pin-ups

Keep Christ in the Middle East


TWO BENEDICTINE MONKS have been tipped as possible successors to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor when he retires as Archbishop of Westminster. Abbot Edmund Power of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, Rome, and Abbot Hugh Gilbert of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland have been suggested by Vatican watchers as possible replacements for the Cardinal. According to an article in the Spectator magazine the Pope may be looking for a candidate outside the “magic circle” of English bishops, some of whom have been accused of failing to implement the liberation of the traditional Latin Missal. Influential traditionalists are believed to have lobbied the Vatican for a “fresh start”, believing that few bishops in England and Wales share Pope Benedict’s vision of liturgical renewal. Abbot Power is the second Englishman to be incharge of the second largest basilica in Rome, St Paul’s Outside the Walls. The basilica was founded by Emperor Constantine and is probably best known as

The pectoral cross worn by the Cardinal

PA Photos

the reputed burial place of St Paul. Abbot Power, 54, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, looks after 27 monks there. He has a string of theology degrees, including a doctorate and an unusually impressive curriculum vitae. Before being appointed Abbot he was the prior of the Benedictine University of St Anselm’s in Rome. He is also a former headmaster of Douai Abbey school. He was among Pope Benedict XVI’s first appointments in 2005 and is reported by one Vatican source to be very close to the Holy Father. Vatican watchers have also hinted that Scotlandbased Abbot Gilbert is in the running for the Westminster post.

Appointed as the second abbot of the medieval abbey in 1992, Dom Hugh has recently published a book Unfolding the Mystery: Monastic Conferences on the Liturgical Year. He is a convert to Catholicism. However, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham remains 2-1 favourite with Irish bookmakers Paddy Power. The second favourite is Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark at 5-1, with Fr Timothy Radcliffe, former head of the Dominican order, at 6-1. Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham is also thought to be a contender. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor is expected to step down within the next 18 months.


FROMPARISHpriests to poster pin-ups –a dozen Leeds clerics are appearing in a new calendar aimed at boosting vocations within the diocese. The calendar, which features the strapline: “A priest is for life, not just for Christmas and Easter” and shows priests relaxing away from the pulpit, was created by the Leeds Diocesan Vocations Promotion team, and has been praised by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds. The calendar shows a prison chaplain posing in sunglasses and relaxing in front of a copy of Heat magazine, while another, Fr December, catches 40 winks under a sleeping mask. Priests are also snapped engaging in other everyday activities, like watching a game on television or DIY. It also has an “If I wasn’t a priest I’d...” section for each priest that draws some revelatory responses from the clergy. The calendar is the brainchild of Fr Simon Lodge, a member of the vocations team who wanted to veer away from generic vocational appeals with this attempt. “It is a risky question to ask clergy what they do in their spare time,” he said. “Our lives are lived out very publicly, so when we get time to ourselves we like to disappear from the crowd. This is a more honest look at what priests are like.”

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