Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fr. Federico Lombardi, a year in review

Five overseas trips, four pastoral visits in Italy, an Apostolic Exhortation, a consistory, 45 general audiences, a book-interview. 

These are just some of the event’s that marked 2010 for Pope Benedict XVI. Twelve intense months, not without difficult times. 

A year, acknowledged the Pope in his address to the Roman Curia, marked by the scandal of abuse by clergy. 

Focusing on four main events in 2010, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi begins his reflection with the painful tragedy of the sex abuse scandal:

“The problem is not an entirely new one. Countries like the United States had already intensely experienced the problem a dozen years ago. In Ireland the problem dates back to the past and, in 2009, it was addressed by the Pope, together with some Irish bishops: the Pope announced a letter to the Catholics of Ireland on this issue. It 's true, however, that during the year the problem gathered strength in other European countries and this has generated a considerable response and dismay. The Pope has drawn up many acts and made many interventions on how, and with what spirit, to intervene on the issue, which have been exemplary. He demonstrated by listening to the victims on several occasions, an attitude of readiness to listen, to understand, to participate in their suffering. On various occasions he invited the Church to a profound renewal; let us not forget his closing address for the Year of the Priest, which touched us all very deeply. He has also concretely encouraged all those who are committed to prevention, and healing these wounds. So we are in the right direction to overcome the tragedy of this scandal, which has deeply hurt many people, but one which must be seen as an occasion for a renewal, for a capacity to listen, to reflect in depth on all issues at stake. Not only the issue of priestly holiness, but also on issues of sexuality and respect for the person in the world today, where so often this respect is missing from the dimension of sexuality and realm of affections. I hope , this great tragedy will serve as an impulse for renewal and deeper commitment within the Church on the frontiers of service to human dignity and the sanctity of life”.

Q. The Pope has dedicated the message for World Day of Peace to religious freedom,, an issue of relevance today, given also the resurgence of anti-Christian persecution ...

“When we think of the persecutions, the difficulties of Christians, we primarily tend to look to the Middle East, but unfortunately it is true that problems are also present in many other regions of the world; we think of events in India, the Philippines and in other parts of Asia. What has been particularly painful for us, especially in recent months, are the problems posed to freedom of religion, of conscience of Christians in China. Vatican authorities made some very explicit and important interventions in this regard. The document for the World Day of Peace this year, however, also invites the West, secularized societies, to broaden our vision. The theme of "Christianophobia" was used for the first time, in [the Pope’s] address to the Roman Curia, and it is something that also affects our countries and our cultures, this attempt to exclude Christian signs and expressions of Christian life from public life in particular. One of the Holy Father’s most significant messages during his trip to the United Kingdom, in particular in his speech in Westminster Hall, was his insistence on the right to practice the Christian faith freely and explicitly in all areas of the world, even in secular countries, as contribution to a healthy society”.

Q. - One of the highlights in the life of the Church in 2010 was the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. Also on this occasion, the Pope reminded us as Christians, and not only in the Holy Land, to be promoters of reconciliation, peace-builders ...

" Yes, even if there were, unfortunately, even after the Synod, signs of violence and difficulties for Christians - we remember the bombing of the church in Baghdad - the Synod gave us an impression of the vitality, commitment, desire to actively witness, of Christians of the various rites, the various communities in the region. So, it was also a sign of hope, despite the difficulties that persist".

Q. – Pope Benedict made many trips during the year: four in Italy and five overseas. The journey to the UK, in his own words, was memorable, especially the beatification of John Henry Newman ...

“The figure of Newman was important on this trip. The figure of Newman a figure of crucial significance for this Pope, because of the relationship between faith, reason and spirituality. In the his speech to the Roman Curia, the Pope spoke of one aspect in more depth than he had while travelling in the United Kingdom, that of consciousness: what does conscience mean, for Cardinal Newman, as a criterion in the search for truth. Newman, especially in the Anglophone world, but also for the universal Church, is held up by the Pope as a luminous figure at a time when we must find even amid difficulties, the right path in the context of a very challenging cultural, religious, spiritual, debate”.

Q. - Among the wide horizon of decisions taken by the Pope this year is the establishment of a dicastery for the New Evangelization. Also the creation of a "Courtyard of the Gentiles", proposed by Benedict XVI for the people of our time ...

“The creation of a new Congregation was perhaps a surprise, because nobody thought that we needed new institutions as part of the Roman Curia. However it sends a very clear message; that of the priority of proclaiming the Gospel, the mission of the Church, always down through the centuries, even in difficult situations. The Council for New Evangelization is a specific message, but must work within the context of the broader mission of the Church, contextualising the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world”.

Q. – You described the book- interview, "Light of the World" an “act of true communicative courage. " In your opinion, what is Benedict XVI’s challenge to the world of communications, a phenomenon that distinguishes - almost defines - this the era in which we live?

“We continue are still discovering Pope Benedict XVI specific characteristics towards communications. There was the idea that the Pope was not communicative, compared to his great predecessor. In fact, he is finding the formulas that are his, characteristic, but new - even for a pope - to communicate his message. We only have to think of the book "Jesus of Nazareth", of which we are awaiting the second volume, hope to have a third volume: a theological and spiritual book, written personally by a theologian Pope, is another great novelty of this pontificate, as is the book-length interview. This certainly shows the Pope’s reflection on and search to find suitable, appropriate and personal ways to communicate. I would add the other classical forms of his communication, which are the homilies, catechesis or great addresses. The homilies, in particular, qualify the service of the Pope as a great contribution to the synthesis between theology and spirituality for the Church today: a teacher of homiletics for the whole Church.