LES COMBES, Italy, Aug 1, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI said the Vatican and Italian police who watched over him while he was on vacation in the Italian Alps were like "guardian angels, discreet and efficient."
But he was not quite so sure what his own guardian angel was up to.
"Unfortunately, my guardian angel -- certainly following orders from above -- did not prevent my accident," he said, referring to the fact that he tripped in the dark July 17 and broke his wrist.
Before leaving Les Combes to fly to the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome July 29, the pope met with the police, firefighters and other officials who were involved in maintaining public order and security while he vacationed in northern Italy.
Still referring to his broken right wrist, the right-handed pope told them, "Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me greater patience and humility, and give me more time for prayer and meditation."
The pope said he had spent the past 16 days immersed in a "heavenly peace," with the silence interrupted only by the songs of birds, rain falling on the grass and the wind blowing through the trees.
He told the dozens of security officers, "Angels are invisible, but efficient at the same time. And you were the same -- invisible, but efficient."
"I enjoyed a heavenly peace here. No disturbance could enter. But many good things -- both material and immaterial -- got in. Many cakes, cheeses, wines," he said.
Pope Benedict posed for a separate group photograph with each of the public security agencies responsible for patrolling the Salesian-owned chalet where he was staying and with the journalists who followed him to the Alps.
Cardinal Severino Poletto of Turin, papal custodian of the Shroud of Turin, visited the pope July 26 in Les Combes, Italy, where the pope was spending part of his vacation. The Alpine village is about 85 miles from Turin.
The cardinal gave the pope the latest news concerning preparations for next year's public exposition of the shroud and the pope "confirmed his intention to go to Turin for the occasion," said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, in a written statement July 27.
The specific date of the papal visit has yet to be determined, the priest added.
The last time the Shroud of Turin was displayed to the public was in 2000 for the jubilee year. The shroud is removed from a specially designed protective case only for very special spiritual occasions, and its removal for study or display to the public must be approved by the pope.
The shroud underwent major cleaning and restoration in 2002.
According to tradition, the 14-foot-by-4-foot linen cloth is the burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.
The church has never officially ruled on the shroud's authenticity, saying judgments about its age and origin belonged to scientific investigation. Scientists have debated its authenticity for decades, and studies have led to conflicting results.
A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters.
She said that in 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud and in 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that probably were portions of the phrase "The king of the Jews."
Castex's recent discovery of the word "found" with another word next to it, which still has to be deciphered, "together may mean 'because found' or 'we found,'" she said.
What is interesting, she said, is that it recalls a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, "We found this man misleading our people," which was what several Jewish leaders told Pontius Pilate when they asked him to condemn Jesus.
She said it would not be unusual for something to be written on a burial cloth in order to indicate the identity of the deceased.
Frale, who is a researcher at the Vatican Secret Archives, has written a new book on the shroud and the Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order which, she says, may have held secret custody of the Shroud of Turin during the 13th and 14th centuries.
She told Vatican Radio that she has studied the writings on the shroud in an effort to find out if the Knights had written them.
"When I analyzed these writings, I saw that they had nothing to do with the Templars because they were written at least 1,000 years before the Order of the Temple was founded" in the 12th century, she said.
Vatican City, July 10, 2009 - When Pope Benedict XVI gave President Barack Obama a Vatican document on bioethics, he was trying to be clear with him about church teaching and open a path to further dialogue, the Vatican spokesman said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, told reporters after the meeting between the pope and the president that, in giving Obama the document July 10, "the intention was not to be divisive or political, but for clarity and objectivity; to say that, for us, this is extremely important."
Pope Benedict gave Obama the document "Dignitas Personae" ("The Dignity of a Person"), which was published in December by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In discussing issues such as abortion, artificial fertilization and stem-cell research, the document started with two fundamental church teachings: that the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception and that responsible human procreation occurs in an act of love between a man and a woman in marriage.
"There was no intention to be polemical," Father Lombardi said. "I do not agree with the idea that the pope was trying to point out their differences."
"It is important to talk about these things and to find a path to dialogue," he said.
The spokesman said Pope Benedict told him after the meeting that he felt Obama listened carefully, and the pope said that "the president explicitly expressed his commitment to reducing the number of abortions" and demonstrated his attentiveness to the church's concerns on a variety of moral issues.
In a briefing aboard Air Force One for reporters accompanying Obama to Accra, Ghana, Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the president and the pope had an extensive conversation about bioethics and abortion.
McDonough said the president emphasized his interest in finding common ground on reducing abortion and that Obama said he was looking forward to reading "Dignitas Personae."
"The election of Obama had an impact of global importance" and his policies have been known and followed "by everyone, including the pope and the (Vatican) secretary of state," Father Lombardi said.
"I think here we are talking about a level of attention and knowledge that I would say is very broad," he said.
Vatican City, June 17, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don — one of his most trusted collaborators in the Vatican and a forceful advocate for justice and peace — to head the archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka
A strong leader, he returns as head of the Sri Lankan Church in what many observers see as a particularly difficult moment. A bloody 30-year civil war has just ended with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers rebels.
One of only two Asians in top positions in the Roman Curia — the other being Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples — he succeeds Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the official retirement age of 75 over 18 months ago.
The Vatican made the announcement on June 16, confirming rumors that have circulated in Rome for almost two years.
Archbishop Ranjith was born in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 15, 1947 and completed his early studies in Colombo and Kandy, before going on to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a degree in theology.
Pope Paul VI ordained him priest in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, 1975.
He then went for higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
After various pastoral and academic appointments in Colombo archdiocese, and having served in various roles at national level, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991 and appointed him bishop of Ratnapura in 1995.
From 1995-2001, he served as secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development. In the latter role, he became heavily involved in the search for a solution to the country’s civil conflict. The government appointed him as its emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and on April 29, 2004, appointed him apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and Timor Leste.
Archbishop Ranjith was among the first of the new appointments to the Roman Curia made by Pope Benedict XVI after his election. On Dec. 10, 2005, the pontiff designated him secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he has held until now and which has given him considerable international experience and a wide understanding of the universal Church.
The archbishop speaks English, French, German, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil fluently, and has a fair knowledge of Indonesian and Spanish. He has also studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabic.
Many in Rome believe his new appointment puts him in line for a red hat. Sources expect Pope Benedict to make him a cardinal either in the forthcoming consistory, probably in 2010, or in the next one, about two years later.
- Asian Tribune -
Dublin, June 9, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI was visibly upset to hear June 5 of the abuse suffered by thousands of Irish children in the care of religious congregations, reported the archbishop of Dublin, Ireland.
Speaking at a June 8 press conference, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the pope was saddened to hear "how the children had suffered from the very opposite of an expression of the love of God."
Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, met with Pope Benedict for 45 minutes to brief him on the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which released its report May 20.
"The Holy Father listened very carefully, very attentively and very sympathetically to what we had to say" during the 45-minute private meeting at the Vatican, Cardinal Brady said during the press conference.
The visit with the pope followed a series of meetings to discuss the report's findings held by Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin in early June with Vatican officials, including seven cardinals from various pontifical congregations.
"He said in reply that this was a time for a deep examination of life here in Ireland in the church, Cardinal Brady said.
The pope referred to the points he made during the 2006 ad limina visit of the Irish bishops when he urged them to establish the truth of what happened, ensure justice on behalf of all, put in place measures to prevent such incidents from occurring again and healing "the hurts suffered by the survivors."
"No doubt he will be listening to the seven cardinals to whom we spoke over the course of the week and will be reflecting on all of that," Cardinal Brady said.
The commission's report is at the top of the agenda of the Irish bishops' summer meeting June 8-10 at the Pontifical University at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, in Kildare, Ireland.
The independent commission was established by the Irish government in 2000 to hear evidence from people alleged to have suffered abuse at institutions since 1940. Funded by the state but often run by Catholic religious orders, the institutions included schools, orphanages, hospitals, children's homes and other facilities where children were in the care of nonfamily members.