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Via Media

To be in church…

Lescombes_1 …and have the Pope stop by.

Yesterday (Sunday), Benedict stopped by a prayer service in the village of Rhemes-St.-Georges. He listened to the readings, from the Mass of the day, and then spoke extemporaneously for seven minutes to the congregation – about a hundred people. Courtesy of Teresa Benedetta at the Papa Ratzinger Forum, here is a transcription/translation:

(if you are interested in matters papal, or even church news as reported in the European press, the Papa Ratzinger Forum should be on your favorites list.)


First, the reading from St. Paul (Ephesians 2,13-18):
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."

The Pope’s meditation


Just a brief word of meditation on this reading. What strikes us, with the background of the dramatic situation in the Near East, is the beauty of this vision: Christ is our peace. He has reconciled one with the other, Jews and pagans. By uniting together in His body, they have overcome enmities. In His body on the Cross, with His death, He has overcome all enmity and he has united us all in His peace.

The beauty of this vision strikes us even more forcefully in contrast with the reality that we are experiencing and witnessing. We cannot do other than ask the Lord at first: Lord, what does Your Apostle tell us? He says: they are reconciled. But we see that in truth, they are not reconciled. There is still is war among Christians, Muslims, Jews. And there are others who foment the war, and everyone is still full of enmities and violence.


Lord, what remains of the effects of Your sacrifice? Where in history is this peace of which Your apostle speaks to us?

We humans cannot resolve the mystery of history – the mystery of human freedom saying no to the peace of God. We cannot resolve all the mystery of the relation between God and man, of His actions and our responses. We must accept the mystery, but nevertheless, there are elements of response that the Lord gives us.

The first element is that the reconciliation effected by the Lord, through His sacrifice, has not been without effect. There is the great reality of communion in the universal Church, of all peoples, the network of eucharistic communion which transcends the frontiers of cultures and civilizations, of peoples and of time.


There is this communion, and there are islands of peace, in the Body of Christ (the Church). There are forces for peace in the world. We see it in history.

We can see great saints of charity who created oases of God’s peace on earth, who succeeded in rekindling their light with renewed capacity to reconcile peoples and to create peace.

There are the martyrs who have suffered with Christ, who have given their testimony of peace and of love which sets a limit to violence.

And seeing that there is that kind of reality, even if the other reality remains, we can look more deeply into the letter that St. Paul wrote the Ephesians.

Christ triumphed on the Cross – He did not win by setting up a new empire, with a force so strong that He could destroy others. He triumphed through a love unto death. This is God’s way of winning. To violence He does not oppose a greater violence. To violence, he opposes the very contrary: love to the end, to His cross. This is God’s humble way of winning.


With His love, and only thus, is it possible to place a limit on violence. This method of winning appears to us too slow, but it is the true way to defeat evil, to defeat violence, and we should trust in the divine way of winning.

To trust means to enter actively into this divine love, to participate in it in order that we may become what the Lord says, "Blessed are the peacemakers because they are the children of God."

We should bring our love in every way we can to all those who suffer, knowing that the Judge at the Final Judgment identifies with the suffering. Therefore, whatever we do for the suffering, we do for the ultimate Judge of our life.

This is important even at this moment: we can bring His victory to the world by participating actively in His charity.


Today in the world, many men of culture, many religious persons, many are tempted to say: It is better for the peace of the world among religions and cultures not to speak too much of the specifics of Christianity, that is, not speak too much of Christ, of the Church, of the sacraments. It is better, they say, to limit ourselves to the things that can be common to everyone.

But that is not true. Precisely at this time, which is also a time of great abuse of the name of God, we need the God who wins
on the Cross, who wins not through violence but through His love. Precisely at this time, we need the face of Christ so we may recognize the true face of God and thus bring reconciliation and light to the world.

That is why, together with the message of love, with all that we can possibly do for those who suffer in our world, we should also bear witness on behalf of this God, for the victory of God in non-violence on His Cross.


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Comments read comments(18)
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posted July 24, 2006 at 9:47 pm

What a beautiful, encouraging message! But I would have been too excited to pay attention if I had been there!

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posted July 24, 2006 at 9:49 pm

Another gem from the Holy Father. And to be there when the Pope dropped in would be oh so thrilling!
Cheers from Canada. Tony.

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Aimee Milburn

posted July 24, 2006 at 9:54 pm

That he says things of such beauty and unity extemporaneously is truly breath-taking. This is a man permeated with the mind of Christ.
“He triumphed through a love unto death.” How many of us, I wonder, are willing to really love unto death?

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Tom Haessler

posted July 24, 2006 at 10:24 pm

An extremely powerful, poignant, and challenging message delivered with such simplicity and unction! But how, specifically and concretely does such a challenging vision take shape? Is there a subtext here, that the countercultural witness of Catholics needs to begin to detach from allegiance to this worldly alliances in favor of a sort of Amish-Mennonite non-resistance? It seems that one feature of Benedict’s homiletic candor is that the proclamation of the Mystery itself becomes somewhat mysterious – in the sense that it provokes many questions and reflections that hopefully will issue in discernment and decision.

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posted July 24, 2006 at 10:40 pm

We have been greatly blessed by a man who can speak great truths in simple language. May God bless him and keep him. And give him long life for the sake of His church.

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Chris Sullivan

posted July 24, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Thank you to our wonderful Holy Father for focusing our minds on the message of Christ and how non-violence and not excuses for war are the way to peace.
Christ triumphed on the Cross – He did not win by setting up a new empire, with a force so strong that He could destroy others. He triumphed through a love unto death. This is God’s way of winning. To violence He does not oppose a greater violence. To violence, he opposes the very contrary: love to the end, to His cross. This is God’s humble way of winning.
While some Catholics are calling for a strong empire and stronger armies, the Pope teaches us that such is not the way of Christ.
When many despair that “love your enemies and pray for them” can actually work, the Holy Father inists they can. He gives hope to a Christendom which has lost hope in the way of Christ.
With His love, and only thus, is it possible to place a limit on violence. This method of winning appears to us too slow, but it is the true way to defeat evil, to defeat violence, and we should trust in the divine way of winning.
Our resort to arms and war is in essence a crisis of faith. Despite all Christ did and taught we don’t really believe him. We refuse to put down our swords and to trust in God. We prefer war, killing and violence.
Evil cannot overcome evil. Only love an overcome evil.
Let us stand with the Holy Father and choose the way of love.
God Bless

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Chris Sullivan

posted July 24, 2006 at 10:56 pm

But how, specifically and concretely does such a challenging vision take shape?
I think the start is the Holy Father’s call for an immediate ceasefire.
To violence He does not oppose a greater violence. To violence, he opposes the very contrary: love to the end, to His cross.
In contrast to much opinion on St Blogs, finally we hear a Catholic teaching what Christ taught – “love your enemies and pray for them”, “put back your sword” and “do not kill”.
Why do we prefer our weapons to the way of Christ ? Because we have more faith in weapons than in Christ.
God Bless

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Clare Krishan

posted July 24, 2006 at 11:00 pm

Evocative – Il Papa’s proximity to that small Alpine flock – as Christ’s to the Holy Land
      This method of winning appears to us too slow…
Truely challenging … we so need to keep praying “lead us not into temptation…”

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posted July 25, 2006 at 4:43 am

Re: Amish non-engagement
Um… I’m thinking that is not the Pope’s thought _at all_. He’s very clear in his other work, particularly in Deus Caritas Est, that the laypeople of the Church are supposed to be doing their duty as full citizens of their countries and towns, and influencing matters for Christ through exercising their prudence there. Amish people act more like monks than laypeople. They are disengaged from the world.
(And, it seems, even from their responsibility to protect their own children from family predators, if you read that one article about the rampant pedophilia and domestic abuse found among the Amish.)
The thing is, the Holy Father is speaking and teaching here from his heart, and that’s good. But indeed, the implementation of what he says is not so easily explained — because that goes into prudential matters.
Of course, if it were all that easy to figure out what to do in every situation, prudence wouldn’t be a virtue and discernment wouldn’t need doing.

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posted July 25, 2006 at 5:39 am

I also remember a few days ago the Holy Father hoped for a conversion of heart by the terrorists. That’s one way Christians can help, by praying for that.

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posted July 25, 2006 at 6:24 am

If the Allied Christians during the last war had loved the Nazis, Fascists etc., in the way that the Pope suggests, we (in Europe) would now be living in a pagan Third Reich and speaking German. Not to mention about all the people who would have been final solutioned out of existence. There is a theological problem in describing Christ as a pacifist and as (only) a martyr. The Pope doesn’t, but others do. I think the Pope is stuck between a rock and a hard place over the Middle East with so many Christian minorities at risk in Islamic countries, but the Catholic Church has always had a theology of just war and Benedict knows it.

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posted July 25, 2006 at 9:26 am

The Pope is stuck in a hard place. Europe has millions of agitated and unassimilated Muslims. He (wisely)isn’t going to say anything that will set them off just now.

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Tom Haessler

posted July 25, 2006 at 10:22 pm

Well, Dymphna, he’s already, in courteous but forceful language denounced jihadist ethics, which might not upset relatively liberal Turkish imams, but certainly will arouse strong feelings in the many European Muslims who support terrorist tactics (especially in Britain). One can be as committed as the Holy Father to seeking peace and still recognize that the unbelievably revolting behavior of officials at De Paul University (summarily firing a pro-Zionist daily Communicant Catholic professor without a hearing for “offending Muslim students’ feelings”). Of course, at the same “Catholic” university, a very high profile anti-Zionist Jew (Norman Finkelstein) who’s made a name for himself denouncing the Holocaust “industry” inflames strong feelings among Jewish students without experiencing any penalty. Noone has the right to not have their feelings hurt by a frank exchange of views in an academic setting.

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Andrea Harris

posted July 25, 2006 at 11:27 pm

Loving your enemy doesn’t necessarily mean letting them do whatever they want to you. Sometimes to love someone you have to tell them “no.” Sometimes saying “no” takes the form of physical violence, since none of us has the ability to stop an attacker using our mental abilities alone.
Of course, this is upsetting to consider. We would all like to think of ourselves as nonviolent loving paragons of peace that no one would ever harm. If we’re lucky, this viewpoint is never challenged by reality, but most people in the world aren’t that lucky.

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Nate Wildermuth

posted July 26, 2006 at 12:17 am

What will the American Church do when the Magesterium finally puts away all theories of justified violence, and accepts the nonviolence of the cross.
What will you do?

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Mike Petrik

posted July 26, 2006 at 12:34 pm

“What will the American Church do when the Magesterium finally puts away all theories of justified violence, and accepts the nonviolence of the cross.
What will you do?”
Well, I doubt I’d get crucified, Nate. Just murdered in some garden variety way, hopefully before I see my wife and kids murdered.

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posted July 26, 2006 at 2:05 pm

Beauty and truth. There you have it. I wish this particular meditation could be preached from every Catholic church pulpit and proclaimed on every Catholic media outlet.

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Tom Haessler

posted July 26, 2006 at 4:44 pm

It’s an extremely powerful and challenging appeal to recognize and put into action core Gospel values. But it’s not a papal endorsement of pacifism for states. There’s definitely a place in Catholic thinking for a sort of vocational pacifism for some individuals. But Benedict is the same person as Cardinal Ratzinger who approved, as part of his work at the doctrinal congregation, several pages in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church about the right of an individual to self-defense and later extending this right to states defending their people when unjustly attacked. The Holy Father rightly reminds us that God’s choice of His powerlessness ( Jesus, nailed, naked, to the Cross) as the vehicle of return to Paradise is a reminder that we can’t even defend ourselves within appropriate limits without the redemptive power of grace. After all, Aquinas treats just war under the rubric of “charity”, not justice. And rightly insists that our intention in a just war is not to kill the enemy, but to defend the innocent. Catholic pacifists, like Chris Sullivan, are a reminder to us all that REAL wars (as opposed to the ones found in scholastic manuals) always involve sin on both sides, and violations (even from those fighting justly to defend against unjust aggression) of jus in bello. Far from resenting the Holy Father’s peace appeals as pacifist meddling, the Rome Conference invited the Holy See to listen to the discussions. I have the utmost confidence in Benedict XVI’s ability, with his extraordinary intellectual and spiritual gifts, to provide state of the art spiritual guidance for God’s people and the world in these troubled times. My lament about the character of Cardinal Sodano’s initial assessment and the Holy Father’s echo was directed at the absence of teaching and preaching. We must hope that we’ll be fortunate enought to hear MORE AND MORE of Benedict, and prepare for this by deeper prayer.

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