Benedict XVI : Memories

Benedict XVI : Memories

+ Michael Cardinal Fitzgerald, M.Afr.

I had more to do with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) than with him as Pope Benedict XVI.

According to the rules laid down in Pastor Bonus, the reform of the Roman Curia under Pope John Paul II, all dicasteries had to have the approval of the CDF before publishing any document that touched upon theology. This was the case for Dialogue and Proclamation, published in 1991 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID. Become now the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue) together with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP). This involved three-way meetings of the top officials of the CDF, CEP and PCID. Cardinal Ratzinger was always well-prepared with written notes. He never bluffed his way with many words in answer to a question. He was always precise and polite in presenting his opinion.

Cardinal Ratzinger, at the request of a former student of his who had been chosen as the Orthodox bishop of Chambésy, Switzerland, became a founder member of the Foundation for Inter-cultural and Interreligious Dialogue based in Geneva. Before he was elected Pope, he asked me to replace him on the Board of the Foundation. I mention this because it shows that he had confidence in me. When, in 2006, so during his pontificate, I was sent to Egypt as Nuncio, it was not because Pope Benedict disagreed with my attitude towards Islam and relations with Muslims, as the social media at the time insisted.

The same media stated that had I been still the President of the PCID Pope Benedict would have shown me the draft of his lecture at Regensburg in September 2006 and the conflict that ensued with Muslims would have been avoided. I think, though I have no way of verifying this assertion, that Pope Benedict would not have asked the advice of anyone in preparing a lecture to be delivered at the university where he used to teach.

Had I been consulted I would have said that speaking about Muhammad is like treading on holy ground, and so it is necessary to have the delicacy to take off one’s shoes and tread lightly. One can understand the reaction among Muslims to the negative quotation that Pope Benedict used in his Regensburg speech. As one Muslim leader said to me at the time: “If Pope Benedict had said ‘I don’t agree with this’ there would have been little reaction, but unfortunately it was only later that it was made clear he did not agree with the quotation.” (On this whole question of the Regensburg lecture, see the special dossier in Islamochristiana 32(20060) pp.273-297).

During his pontificate Pope Benedict did not receive Nuncios in audience, which is strange since Nuncios are the personal representatives of the Sovereign Pontiff. This meant that between 2006 and 2012 I had no relations with him. After retiring I was granted a private audience and found that Pope Benedict was well briefed on Egypt and had many questions about the situation there. He had, after all, presided over the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East and published the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente.

I saw the body of Benedict XVI

The word of the Lord remains forever

Reginald Cruz

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Pet. 1:24-25

These words of Scripture resonated in me when I saw the body of Benedict XVI. The death of any Pope would offer faithful people a moment of retrospection, even if the greyness of his embalmed body gave the air a slightly darker touch.

A steady stream of people lined up before the late Pope Emeritus. Many seemed to be tourists lucky enough to be in Rome, content to commemorate the event with their mobile phones. Yet there were those visibly affected by the loss of this “painfully introverted” theologian but great erudite, once feared as God’s rottweiler.

Joseph Ratzinger was not – as many have wrongly claimed – overly eager to occupy the See of Peter. Aware of the limits of his administrative skills, he was constantly learning to become a Pope. This self-awareness is the basis of his most incredible legacy to the Church: the deep humility to recognize and accept what neither mind nor body can ever understand and the willingness to hand over the Papal See. So it is that Benedict XVI was a servant of Christ and a herald of the Word of the Father who lives forever.

 

Christmas and Hanukkah

Christmas and Hanukkah

The lights of Hanukkah and Christmas will shine together in the coming days, one discreet and obstinate in Jewish homes, the other in churches and Christian homes, discreet too, although drowned in the illuminations of streets and monuments.

Lights that, in today’s world, each in its own way, signify a vision that runs through the anxieties of our world, and even its all too familiar dramas. Hanukkah: the light in the heart of the Temple, victorious over a totalitarian enterprise that wanted to level the Empire under the same power, the other, the Star of David, is a witness to a Kingdom whose subjects are destined to become princes and princesses flooded with divine glory.

Jews and Christians, we carry these lights which, in essence, offer a similar message: that of a transcendence of love which radically challenges the contemporary undertakings of levelling humanity under blind dictatorships, of dreams of power which become mortal enslavement, of the will to impose profane or religious ideologies which refer only to themselves, excluding anything resembling a dialogue. We know that anti-Semitism, unfortunately still very active, touches the dark root of these trends.

In frontal opposition to all this, the lights that we, Jews and Christians, witness, beyond the differences that we respect, are bearers of the same transcendence, that of the One God, bringing together a humanity in which the differences shine with the same fire. It is in this project that our Jewish-Christian Friendship is inscribed, a mission that we must keep with obstinacy and happiness, and at the heart of which our commitment is necessary.

Jean Massonnet

Jean Massonnet is a French biblical scholar and Catholic priest of the diocese of Lyon. He has a doctorate in theology and is a graduate of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

We will miss him for a long time

The death of a confrere is often a source of sadness, but the one of Richard, Cardinal Richard, is felt as a tragedy because it is difficult for us to separate it from the succession of events since May. He was appointed Cardinal, then President of SECAM, he came to Rome for the consistory and for this we mobilised ourselves to give thanks and celebrate here at the Generalate, receiving delegations and friends from all over! All of a sudden, everything stopped!

Since his death, we have tried to make sense of it all. Only one feeling prevails: only God knows. It is only in faith, in the word of God, that we have found consolation, for faith and the word do indeed bring us back to what we deeply are, brothers and sisters of Christ, adopted sons and daughters destined for the fullness of life in God. Baptised with Christ into death, as we heard in the first reading, Richard entered and still lives in the new life. We believe that, as in his life he ate the “living bread that came down from heaven”, he will “live forever” and we hope that we too will live with him when the time comes.

Allow me to share a word about Cardinal Richard. Those who lived with him appreciated his total commitment to the good of the Society and of the confreres. Richard was a great worker but he was also a charming companion. As we know, his health was not good and several times he had to stop and had to be hospitalised. But when he was discharged, he was back at it again: trips, visits, meetings and conferences. Richard had become a true representative of our Society and an icon for many of us. His last appointments show how much his intelligence, his clear-sightedness and his commitment were recognised at the level of the Church in Africa and of the Universal Church.

During the Mass of thanksgiving for his nomination as Cardinal that I presided over here, I mentioned how happy we were to welcome different delegations in the house where he lived for 16 years! That’s longer than he lived anywhere else in the same place! It is beautiful in a way that it is in this house that he spent his last days on earth.

We will miss him for a long time. We pray that he may rest in peace and be reunited in joy with the One he served so well.

Father Stanley Lubungo,
Superior General
Farewell Mass – 19/12/2022

Pontifical Urbaniana University, Mass for H.E. Richard Kuuia Baawobr,

Communication

Before the body of the late Cardinal, His Eminence Richard Kuuia Baawobr, M.Afr., leaves Rome for the funeral in Ghana, which will take place on January 11 and 12, 2023, a Eucharistic celebration will take place on Saturday, December 17, 2022, in the chapel of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, at 10.30 a.m. It will be presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization. Concelebrants are asked to bring alb and purple stole.

Rome, December 9, 2022

Andre-L. Simonart, M.Afr.,
Secretary General

Marc François R.I.P.

Society of the Missionaries of Africa

Father Ivo Wellens, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Belgium,
informs you of the return to the Lord of Father

Marc François

on Tuesday 06  December 2022 in Bruges (Belgium)
at the age of 76 years, of which 51 years of missionary life
in Rwanda  and Belgium.

Let us pray for him and for his loved ones.

Download here the announcement of Father Marc François’s death

(more…)

A bishop close to his people

A bishop close to his priests and his people

In his homily at the Mass on Monday, 5 December, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops since 2010, underlined some of the virtues of Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, such as his great spirituality, his missionary spirit and his remarkable intelligence.

A thoughtful zeal to proclaim eternal truths.
Cardinal Re outlines the various stages of the life of the Bishop of Wa, from his birth into a Catholic family on 21 June 1959 in Nandom in the Lawra District of Ghana to his death on 27 November 2022 in Rome.

Cardinal Re emphasized that Richard Kuuia Baawobr’s life is marked by a spirit of initiative, organisational skills, and a thoughtful diligence in proclaiming the eternal truths of the Gospel, with the language and style of the new times. He also understood that the missionary commitment of the Society of Missionaries of Africa should not be limited to Africa but should also be extended to countries with a Catholic tradition, which were in need of the Word of God and of a revival in the renewal of faith and Christian witness.

With him went a very significant figure of “the African bishop“.
In 2016 Richard Kuuia Baawobr was appointed bishop of Wa by Pope Francis; he was a pastor close to his priests and his people; always available to meet and say a word of kindness to those around him. He knew deeply “the responsibility that lay upon him by virtue of being a successor of the Apostles”. Last July, the plenary assembly of the episcopate of Africa and Madagascar elected him as its president, emphasised Cardinal Re, and affirmed that “with him disappears a very significant figure of the ‘African bishop'”.

The dean of the college of cardinals also emphasised that “this unexpected death, although it has caused consternation, is part of God’s inscrutable plan, mysterious but always inspired by love and strengthened by the immortal certainties of faith.

Commitment to mission in a spirit of openness.
In July 2020, the Holy Father appointed him as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This was the beginning of a close collaboration with the Apostolic See. In many situations he was seen as an industrious protagonist with a great sense of responsibility, a desire to do good and driven by an innate missionary spirit,” Cardinal Re continued. The Bishop of Wa was engaged in intense pastoral activity, with a view to a future at the service of the Church and humanity. Cardinal Baawobr gave much and seemed to promise even more. But “God’s ways are not our ways“, concluded Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

Cardinal Richard Baawobr / Return to the Celestial Father

With sadness and pain we hereby inform you of the return to the heavenly Father of Cardinal Richard Baawobr which occurred today, Sunday, 27 November 2022. Our confrere was taken by ambulance from the Generalate to the Gemelli Hospital at 5.45pm and we received the sad news at 6.25pm. May Richard rest in the peace of his Lord whom he so generously served. On behalf of the bereaved Society. Our prayer and our thoughts go also to his family, to his diocese, his fellow bishops, to all his friends and acquaintances.

Rome, 27th November 2022

André-Léon Simonart,
Secretary General.

To express your condolences:
baawobr.condolences@mafr.org