At a time when much of the world's media coverage of the Catholic Church has been focused on leaked documents coming from the Holy See (an episode labelled as the Vatican's own “Wikileaks” crisis) the Pope
himself has been focusing on delivering a series of poignant addresses.
He began the week by reassuring Catholics that the love of God “is stronger than all evil, even the most contagious and terrible.”
|The Pope arrives at the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena.
The Pontiff then spent the rest of the week addressing issues of real substance including the safeguarding of religious freedom, the importance of fostering vocations, promoting the family — notably large families — and criticizing the abuse of finance and the media. Despite each issue being highly relevant to the current times, most of them went unreported in the mainstream media.
“There is much talk about the Church of Rome, many things are said,” Benedict XVI told a large gathering of seminarians in a spacious and brightly lit chapel at Rome's largest seminary in the evening of Feb. 15. “Let us hope that people also talk about our faith.”
Speaking frankly and off-the-cuff to the seminarians, the Pope alluded to a “force of evil” in today's world which he singled out as the “two great powers” of finance and the media. These can be both “good and useful in themselves but easily open to abuse” and so liable to “go against their true goals,” the Pope said.
Today, he continued, "we see how the world of finance can dominate mankind. Possession and appearance dominate and enslave the world . . . Finance is no longer a tool to promote well being and to support the life of man, but a force that oppresses him, one which almost has to be worshipped". He called on his audience not to conform to this power, stressing that what counts “is not possession but existence."
Turning to the media, the Pope recognized “a great need of information, knowledge about the truth of the world” but warned against “a power of appearance which in the end counts even more than reality itself.
The crisis of leaks at the Vatican also threatened to muffle comment on the Obama administration's contraception mandate and its assault on religious freedom. But the Pope's views were clearly heard after a Feb. 15th meeting at the Vatican with a delegation of British government ministers.
In a Vatican statement, the Holy See stressed “the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions” and went on to underline the “necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”
The Pope tackled more substantive matters in a message published Feb. 12 to coincide with the Catholic Church's day of prayer for vocations. The Pope reminded readers of the fundamental Catholic belief that “we are loved by God even 'before' we come into existence” and that “every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God’s thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting.” The discovery of this reality, the Pope added, “is what truly and profoundly changes our lives."
Pope Benedict went on to explain that the “high standard of the Christian life consists in loving 'as' God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful and fruitful gift of self." He also underlined the importance of Christian families, where young people “can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love,” and so find their calling in life.
Addressing a group of visiting European and African bishops attending a Rome conference that week, the Pope drew attention to key concerns of the Church today: religious indifference, a secularised environment often hostile to Christian faith, hedonism, and pornography and prostitution which, he said, are a symptom of "serious social malaise.”
He reminded the participants that “culture nourished by faith leads to authentic humanization, while false cultures end up by leading to dehumanization.”
Again he reiterated the importance of the family plays in pastoral care and fostering vocations. And as in an address to an Italian association for large families, his message was one of hope — such families, he said, are “witnesses of faith, courage and optimism, because without children there is no future."
But it wasn't just the Pope's addresses that have escaped media attention; so too have major developments in the Catholic Church's commitment to tackling clerical sex abuse.
At a high level symposium in Rome in early February attended by senior church leaders from around the world and experts on the subject of sexual abuse, participants committed themselves to working as cooperatively as necessary with secular authorities in preventing clerical sex abuse, dealing with such cases justly, and helping victims.
“It was an important occasion attended by a large community of bishops and church leaders who expressed their sorrow, pledged a new commitment and asked for pardon before God,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Newsmax. “There is a strong will and a real desire to follow the line the Pope has shown through example: by listening to victims, and approaching the problem with truth, clarity and decisiveness.”
“We must approach it this way,” Lombardi said.
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