Thursday, May 25, 2006

"What's 'Che Gioia' in Polish?"

So, yes, the John Paul II Memorial Pilgrimage has begun.

Benedict XVI -- who, for some strange reason, has been wearing the ermine mozzetta and lace rochet all day long -- is currently greeting civil dignitaries after paying a courtesy visit on Polish President Lech Kaczynski at his residence.

While Benedict and Kaczynski were in their meeting, the Vatican television camera seemed a little lost as it followed Cardinal Sodano while he killed time looking at the artwork on the walls. Following the private session, the Pope prayed in the chapel of the presidential palace. (Yes, there's a chapel.... It is Poland, after all.)

Following a speech on his arrival at Warsaw Airport praising his amato predecessor -- whom the Holy See Press Office this morning referred to as Benedict's "Venerated Predecessor the Servant of God John Paul II" -- the day's major talk was at the capital's St John Cathedral, where he addressed a large gathering of priests and bishops.

The Sala Stampa, recognizing where the Pope's visibility comes from, has gratefully taken to translating the speeches into English... at least, so far....

Here's a snip from the Cathedral. Readers of "A New Song for the Lord" will recognize some of the concepts at work.

The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. With this end in view, when a young priest takes his first steps, he needs to be able to refer to an experienced teacher who will help him not to lose his way among the many ideas put forward by the culture of the moment. In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word. Solicitude for the quality of personal prayer and for good theological formation bear fruit in life. Living under the influence of totalitarianism may have given rise to an unconscious tendency to hide under an external mask, and in consequence to become somewhat hypocritical. Clearly this does not promote authentic fraternal relations and may lead to an exaggerated concentration on oneself. In reality, we grow in affective maturity when our hearts adhere to God. Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine mercy.

On the occasion of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II frequently exhorted Christians to do penance for infidelities of the past. We believe that the Church is holy, but that there are sinners among her members. We need to reject the desire to identify only with those who are sinless. How could the Church have excluded sinners from her ranks? It is for their salvation that Jesus took flesh, died and rose again. We must therefore learn to live Christian penance with sincerity. By practising it, we confess individual sins in union with others, before them and before God. Yet we must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances. Humble sincerity is needed in order not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in facile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for the different preconceptions of the time. Moreover, the confessio peccati, to use an expression of Saint Augustine, must always be accompanied by the confessio laudis – the confession of praise. As we ask pardon for the wrong that was done in the past, we must also remember the good accomplished with the help of divine grace which, even if contained in earthenware vessels, has borne fruit that is often excellent.....

Stand firm in your faith! To you too I entrust this motto of my pilgrimage. Be authentic in your life and your ministry. Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent. Serve everyone; be accessible in the parishes and in the confessionals, accompany the new movements and associations, support families, do not forget the link with young people, remember the poor and the abandoned. If you live by faith, the Holy Spirit will suggest to you what you must say and how you must serve. You will always be able to count on the help of her who goes before the Church in faith. I exhort you to call upon her always in words that you know well: "We are close to you, we remember you, we watch."
More as it happens.

AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff
PHOTO 2: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli