Changing of the Guard

What follows is some reflection written in 2005 about the election of a new Pope and the passing of the old: Return to some April events HERE

La pierre rejetée des bâtisseurs
est devenue pierre d'angle.
Voici le jour que fit le Seigneur,
jour d'allégresse et de joie !
The stone rejected by the builders [for the foundation]
has become the cornerstone.
This the day that the Lord has made,
day of elation and rejoicing !    Psalm 117:22,24

Le corps que le Christ porta au tombeau était un corps passible et mortel qu’il avait pris pour nous; il ressuscita avec ce même corps glorieusement transfiguré et immortel: « Sa chair n’a pas changé de nature, mais elle a revêtu les qualités qui conviennent à un corps ressuscité » (Saint Ambroise: commentaire de l’évangile selon Saint Luc). -- lapidem quem reprobaverunt ædificantes hic factus est in caput anguli

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ...: Ephesians 4:4

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord” --

On Friday morning, April 1, 2005, Pope John Paul II asked his aides to read the Liturgy of the Hours for the 14 stations, a traditional Friday reading. This is known as the Way of the Cross, the path that Jesus took to His Crucifixion and burial. John Paul took particular interest in the Scripture for the Third Hour (Station 12). According to tradition, Christ died at three o'clock in the afternoon. The 264th Pope followed attentively and embraced the cross. He has embraced that cross before, perhaps best demonstrated after the attempt on his life (May 13, 1981), when he walked alone into the cell of his assailant and would-be executioner to forgive him. Ioannes Paulus PP. II -- Karol Wojtyla {16.X.1978 -- 02.IV.2005} -- The World has lost a champion of freedom ! ! !

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.
When the centurion, who stood facing him,
saw that he thus breathed his last, he said:
"Truly this man was the Son of God"

Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 15

John Paul II completed his race on the evening of April 2, 2005. The first funeral Mass was held on the piazza before St. Peter's Basilica on the morning of the next day. Before the Mass, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, John Paul's Vicar for Rome, issued the traditional, formal announcement of John Paul's death. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, celebrated the Mass.

Afterwards, John Paul's body began to lie in repose at Vatican Palace. Swiss guards, in their traditional uniform of red, blue and yellow stripes, stood at either side of his platform, which lay in front of a fireplace in Clementine Hall. The next steps saw the body brought into the Basilica for public viewing. A funeral was held later in the week (Friday the 8th), attended by millions, watched by the world. The burial took place at 2:26pm (local time), when the pontiff was placed into the ground within St Peter's. He now rests in the Peace of the Lord.
Already people speculate about his expected Beatification and Canonization. According to Scripture, every Christian is a saint. {Beloved, we are now the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall become: however, we know that, when He shall return, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is -- 1 John 3:2} The saints are set apart by God through baptism and the infilling of His Grace. When a person is Beatified, she or he is granted a feast day with a proper Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. The word Canonize comes from the readings of the martyrs’ names during the time of the early Church. Today, after a more formal process, a saint may be honored by the term Saint.

Monday April 18, 2005: The conclave of Roman Catholic Cardinals began meeting on the 18th to decide, guided by the Holy Spirit, who will become the next Pontiff. The Sistine Chapel is the site of their deliberations. The doors closed at 5:27pm local time in Rome, the secret considerations have begun. An extensive discussion of what will happen and the historic background is found here:,_2005 The Sistine Chapel is located in the Palace of the Vatican, the official residence of the Roman Catholic Pope. Built between 1475 and 1483, in the time of Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, it is one of the most famous places in the Western World. It is known worldwide both for being the hall in which conclaves and other official ceremonies are held, including some papal coronations, and for having been decorated by Michelangelo. It is located to the north of St. Peter's Basilica, after the Scala Regia, and originally served as the Palatine chapel inside the old Vatican fortress.

Veni Creator Spiritus, is a Gregorian Chant, whose text dates from the late 8th Century (probably by Hrabanus Maurus (780-856)). It is a hymn for Pentecost (Whitsunday), a feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit. The text is generally attributed to Hrabanus Maurus, a German scholar and theologian. Hrabanus was an abbot at Fulda (822-842), the monastery founded by Bishop Bonifatius, (The Apostle to the German people from Devon, England). Hrabanus became bishop of Mainz (Mayence) in 847. He had considerable influence on Charlemagne's advisers.

Hrabanus wrote an encyclopedic dictionary, De universo, in 22 volumes. His scholarship and excellent administration made Fulda an outstanding academic center. Some sources maintain that he wrote down the Veni Creator Spiritus in 809, while the first mention of the hymn, found in records of the Royal Monastery of Kempten (Kempten in the Allgæu {Bavaria} -- old latin name: Cambodunum), dates to the 10th century.

The chant has attracted a lot of prominent interest. John Dryden (1631-1700) translated it into English; Luther and Gœthe into German. Gœthe mentions the chant in Faust, where he refers to it in a letter as an appeal to the universal world spirit. It has been a center-piece of the Anglican Church's rite of consecration for Bishops (and Priests), along with the passage at John 20:19-23, where Jesus imparts the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) to his assembled disciples.

Original Latin Text   Dryden's English Translation
Veni Creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
  Come, Creator Spirit,
visit the minds of those who are yours,
fill with the highest grace
the hearts of those whom you have created.
Qui diceris Paraclitus [1]
Altissimi donum Die,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
  You are called comforter and protector,
you are God's greatest gift,
the power of life, fire, mercy,
and ointment for the soul.
Tu septiformis munere, [2]
digitus paternae dexterae,
tu rite promissum Patris, [3]
sermone ditans guttura.
  You are the sevenfold gift,
the right finger of the Father,
the fulfillment of the Father's promise,
preaching tongue.

[1] The Greek word parakletos means comforter, advocate, intercessor, protector, mainstay. From John 21-22: Where Jesus said to them Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. This mimics Genesis 2:7 -- God breaths on Adam, giving him life. Man's life comes from God, and a new spiritual life comes from Jesus. This also recalls the dry bones in Ezekial 37, which come to life again. The passage from John is his retelling of Pentecost.

[2] The "sevenfold gift" (munere means an "office," as in a term of office) refers to Greek and Roman philosophy (the four cardinal virtues): prudentia (prudence, wisdom), temperantia (self-control), fortitudo (strength, courage) and iustitia (justice) and the three apects recognized by Christian theologians of the early Middle Ages: fides (faith), caritas (love) and spes (hope).

[3] Literally this means the mode of the Father's promise and refers to the Gospel of St. John 14:16, (I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete who will be with you forever the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him.) The passage likens the Holy Spirit to Jesus.


On one of the Walls of the Sistine Chapel is the powerful rendition of the last judgement:

And I, John, saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying; Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:2-4 (KJV)

April 19, 2005 -- Habemus Papam !!! Joseph Ratzinger was elected the new Pope Benedict XVI in the late afternoon -- white smoke, slowly at first, then bells -- a brief visit and prayer -- then cheers, car horns and sirens, and a crowd that just would not leave. The last Pontiff named Benedict (XV) was Pope through the end of World War I. He cannonized Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) in 1920. The last German Pope ? That is a somewhat harder question to answer. It appears to be Victor II (1055-1057AD), but there are some other contenders: (Adrian not Hadrian) -- -- Adrian VI (500 years ago) claimed by some to be the last, was from today's Netherlands (Utrecht), but spent his time in Germany as that part of Holland was allied with other German States within the Holy Roman Empire. Victor II was from Swabia, unquestionably a German area 1000 years ago and today.

Swabia (in German Schwaben), an historic region of southwestern Germany, includes what is now the southern portion of Baden-Württemberg and the southwestern part of Bavaria, as well as eastern Switzerland and Alsace. Swabia's name is derived from that of the Suebi, a Germanic people who, with the Alemanni, occupied the upper Rhine and upper Danube region in the 3rd century AD and spread south to Lake Constance and east to the Lech River. Known first as Alemannia, the region was called Schwaben from the 11th century. The Franks under Clovis (about AD 500) governed them by the Lex Alemannorum, a law code based on the tribe's customary law. By the 7th century Irish missionaries began to introduce Christianity. Centers of Christian activity included the abbeys of St. Gall and of Reichenau and the bishoprics of Basel, Constance, and Augsburg; most Swabian sees came under the larger episcopal province of Mainz (Mayence).

Swabia, one of the five great Stamm (stem or tribal) duchies of earlier medieval Germany along with Franconia, Saxony, Bavaria and Lotharingia (Lorraine), was held by successive ruling families.

Utrecht founded by the Romans (47 AD) in order to ward off invasions from Germania, was an outpost on the south bank of the Crooked Rhine at a fordable point (called a Trajectum in Latin), one of the forts on the northern borders of the Roman Empire. In the late 7th century, Willibrord, a missionary from Northumbria, settled on the site of the Roman ruins. The information about Willibrord comes to us from the Venerable Bede (History of the English Church and People, volumes 10-11), and from a biography by his younger kinsman Alcuin (Minister of Education under the Emperor Charlemagne). Willibrord was born in Northumbria in England about 658, and studied in France and Ireland. First a missionary, later he became the first Bishop of Utrecht. His small church stood on the site of the present-day Dom Square. Following the Viking invasions, the Bishopric of Utrecht also became an influential ruler protected by the German emperor, which exercised secular power over the northern Netherlands. In the 11th century, one of the manifestations of this power and resulting wealth was the construction of a number of churches, together forming the pattern of a cross spanning the old city, with the cathedral at its center.

Second of April, 2007: The Arch-basilica of Saint John in Laterano, located in Rome, is the oldest church in Rome (although much rebuilt and expanded). After ten years in construction, Constantine dedicated the Lateran structure, located north and east of the Colosseum. In that sense it is the mother church of all churches.

Constantine took over from his rivals in 312AD, ending the persecution of Christians throughout the empire. Pope Sylvester the First, Archbishop of Rome, lived at Lateran and expanded the residence, added a church and baptistry. The complex remained the official home of all Popes until the move to Avignon (1309-77), althogh during this time it was ravaged by barbarians and wrecked by earthquakes. Its most recent face-lift was during the baroque epoch (18th Century), the architect Alessandro Galilei in 1735.

The Lateran basilica will be the site of a second anniversary remembrance of Pope John-Paul II on April 2, 2007. A mass will be held at Saint Peter's later in the day presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope will not attend Monday‘s ceremony at the Lateran basilica in order to complete the official investigation into John Paul‘s life, a key step in the process of beatification (blessedness) and canonization (sainthood), which has been placed on the fast-track. The Vatican's procedures dictate that a miracle attributed to the candidate‘s intercession be confirmed before beatification and requires an additional miracle for canonization. Ironically, John-Paul II holds the record for recognizing these special persons of holiness in the Church.

April 16, 2007: The Vatican invited rank-and-file faithful to the late-morning Mass on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica to help the pontiff celebrate both his 80th birthday today and the anniversary of his April 19, 2005, election to the pontificate. Thousands of pilgrims from Bavaria attended the Mass, and German-speaking voices echoed in the ancient alleys leading to the Vatican as groups streamed to the square. Some of his fellow countrymen and women wore traditional dress, including feather-trimmed hats; others waved German flags. A much more thoughtul and extensive reflection about this occasion can be found at:
Tuesday, April 15 2008: April 15th is the day in the USA where the Federal (and State) government requires us to voluntarily report our income from the previous year and to pay any tax due that exceeds the amount mandatorily withheld during the year. So, it is interesting this year to discover that the Pope Benedict began his visit to the States on this day. During the previous weekend, many stories appeared, most with the viewpoint that the Pope is out-of-touch with most people of faith, because he is not pro-abortion, not for the ordination of women to the Priesthood, not for equal rights --- et cetera. Moreover, his speaking out against violence is seen as provocative in face of extremism; it risks aiding the spread of the virulent strain of that belief, rather than discouraging it. Indeed, Al-Qaeda and its supporters have issued several threats against the Pope since the day he had the audacity to quote a medieval Byzantine emperor in a speech in Germany, and, thereby, proved that he was the true leader of a new crusade against the Islamic faithful. Prominent Christians have been slain in Iraq in recent weeks. Moreover, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians are believed to have left their land because of direct attacks and threats of violence.

From the April 21, 2008 issue of Newsweek (on news-stands Monday, April 14) --RELIGION (p. 41): Why This Pope Doesn't Connect. Senior Editor, Lisa Miller, proposes that Pope Benedict XVI has done little to appeal to Americans, that she feels are in need of serious spiritual catharsis. "It's not just that Benedict pales in comparison to his predecessor John Paul II in almost every respect," Miller writes. "It's that Benedict himself has done very little to win the hearts of his American flock at what may be the most critical moment in their history." But then, it appears from some of her earlier articles, that she is not much of a Benedict fan and perhaps could be said to lean left of center. You can be the judge of that, however -- just run a Google® search: +"Lisa Miller" +Newsweek.

Today (Sunday 13th), various news articles appear about the faithful and their support (80% approve), the Pope's prayer for Spiritual Renewal and President Bush's plans to meet the head of the Vatican State (April 20th). For Catholics who attend Mass at least once a month (which I guess is a standard for being a church regular), an overwhelming majority of the younger (post-1980) and older generation (pre-1960) believe Christ is present in the Eucharist; however, most believe they could be good Christians without attending Mass, and few parishioners said they go to confession. An orthodox response to this poll is HERE.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed pilgrims who gathered Sunday within St. Peter's Square (Vatican City) to pray for the success of his trip this week to the United States. The pontiff said that he hopes the six-day visit, his first to the USA since called to shepherd the Roman Catholic Church (April 19, 2005), to be a time for spiritual renewal for all Americans. --

Wednesday (16th) is the Pontiff's 81st birthday, and the menu at the White House on that day will celebrate his German ancestry with Bavarian-heritage food, although he cannot attend. The Prez-Pope con-fab on Sunday will be the 25th get-together between such leaders (while both were in their respective offices). AP Article The Pope will preside over a public mass in the new Nationals Park-sur-mer (baseball stadium -- Anacostia). The sermons will be delivered in both English and Spanish. Many are coming from all over the country to be at this service, including students from at St. Winifred's in Mt. Lebanon.

Guess who also arrived in the US on the 15th to have a high profile, important visit ? Hint: A former US President, from Plains Georgia, visited Hamas today. One of its clerics disclosed (a few days ago) that Islam intended to conquer Rome, then the rest of Europe, before it turns its attention on North and South America.,2933,351242,00.html Some news articles today (15th) have said that the Pope now looks at the US differently now than he does the rest of Europe. Now we know why. He is looking for a new Avignon -- a Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Americas. As I have said elsewhere, viticulture explains it all.

As both pope and philosopher, however, Benedict has been prepared to raise with Muslims quite painful and tough questions on the relationship between faith and violence -- and between God and reason. In his Regensburg lecture, he said that Christianity now accepts that God's truth could not be spread by violence and, in effect, sought an assurance that Islam felt the same way. Despite the angry riots in the Middle East against it, this lecture persuaded moderate Muslim leaders to respond. A serious Muslim-Christian dialogue between Islam and the Vatican is now beginning.

On the occasion of his 81st birthday, the Pope and our Nation was treated to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- live on TV from the South Lawn of the White House. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." This, of course, is ... the Nunc dimittis of Luke 2:29-30, where, upon the first presentation ... in the Temple, Simeon says, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation." National Review, ibid.

On Thursday, in a meeting with representatives of several different faiths, Pope Benedict referenced the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose nineteenth century writings observed that in America, religion and freedom are linked intimately with democracy. The Pope hoped that other countries might learn from the United States that “a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right.” He quoted also approvingly of the motto e pluribus unum, meaning “out of many, one.” Earlier the same day the Pope celebrated an outdoor Mass.

"Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season ... I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (see Acts 2:14ff) ... I pray, then, that this ... will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

[En español] Queridos hermanos y hermanas de lengua española: Deseo saludarles con las mismas palabras que Cristo Resucitado dirigió a los apóstoles: "Paz a ustedes" (Jn 20,19). Que la alegría de saber que el Señor ha triunfado sobre la muerte y el pecado les ayude a ser, allá donde se encuentren, testigos de su amor y sembradores de la esperanza que Él vino a traernos y que jamás defrauda.

No se dejen vencer por el pesimismo, la inercia o los problemas. Antes bien, fieles a los compromisos que adquirieron en su bautismo, profundicen cada día en el conocimiento de Cristo y permitan que su corazón quede conquistado por su amor y por su perdón.

La Iglesia en los Estados Unidos, acogiendo en su seno a tantos de sus hijos emigrantes, ha ido creciendo gracias también a la vitalidad del testimonio de fe de los fieles de lengua española. Por eso, el Señor les llama a seguir contribuyendo al futuro de la Iglesia en este País y a la difusión del Evangelio. Sólo si están unidos a Cristo y entre ustedes, su testimonio evangelizador será creíble y florecerá en copiosos frutos de paz y reconciliación en medio de un mundo muchas veces marcado por divisiones y enfrentamientos.

La Iglesia espera mucho de ustedes. No la defrauden en su donación generosa. "Lo que han recibido gratis, denlo gratis" (Mt 10,8).

Father Joseph Rogers, of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C, concelebrated today's Mass. He said: "I think the Holy Father, by choosing the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, was giving us a sign of his greater intentions for the Church of America, [that is] to confirm, by his ... authority [as Peter's successor], the new pentecost, the new evangelization, which is a sign of hope in a world that so needs the love of Christ."

From the 19th -- Saturday in NYC: I am particularly happy that we have gathered in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Perhaps more than any other church in the United States, this place is known and loved as "a house of prayer for all peoples" (cf. Is 56:7; Mk 11:17) ... [T]he stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light [-- f]rom the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers -- here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne -- have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit.

Like all Gothic cathedrals, [this] is a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation ... The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity -- as Saint Paul has told us -- of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose. ... The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God.

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself ... My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is “objective”, relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the “knowable” is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of “personal experience”.

The final day in the USA:,0,2830967.story

God of Peace, Bring Your Peace to Our Violent World: ... It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives. And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today. As "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land! Past generations have left you an impressive legacy. In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst. On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise ... I invite you to look to the future with hope, allowing Jesus to enter into your lives. Only he is the path that leads to the happiness that never ends, the truth that satisfies the noblest human aspirations, and the life overflowing with joy for the good of the Church and the world.

Happy are you who believe ! (1 Pet 2:7). Let us [all] turn to Jesus ! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.

What we have written on the visit of the Pope to the US HERE. Sunday culminated the visit with the Sermon on the Mound at Yankee Stadium. He leaves at 8:30pm tonight, after a brief send-off ceremony, which the Vice-President hosted, and President Clinton and his wife attended. One had to be impressed by a genuine, heartfelt smile seen at the house that Babe built, in profound contrast to the solemn blessing at Ground Zero, earlier in the day. Received with joy and affection, he leaves with the knowledge that the Faith still resonates here with a universal message of hope and love. Please know that your visit inspires and heightens in the hearts of all of us that “life-changing and life-sustaining hope” about which you wrote in your Encyclical Letter with such depth and learning. We pray for the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff, and the Vicar of Christ; and we promise to continue that prayer throughout the years that lie ahead with ever-greater love and hope.

May God Bless America !!!

History for the entire year: January -- February -- March -- April -- May -- June -- July -- August -- September -- October -- November -- December

Current History-based NewsLetter

The top part written in April 2005 -- Moved to this Page October 19, 2006 -- last revised earlier portion on 04/17/2007
Last revision on the remainder == 4/20/08