"The Present Pontiff"
Following are excerpts from the second catechesis (the first was posted on Feb. 1) about the Papacy in anticipation of the Pope's visit to Washington next month. Please click on the title of this post for the full text.
The Present Pontiff
1. When and where was Pope Benedict XVI born?
2. What was the Pope’s name when he was born?
Joseph Alois Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, was born on April 16, 1927 (Holy Saturday in 1927) in the town of Marktl am Inn, a small town and market center in southern Germany, in the province of Bavaria, the most Catholic area in Germany...
3. What are some of the important events in Pope Benedict’s early life that prepared him to exercise his ministry as Pope?
Pope Benedict XVI’s relatives agree that Joseph Ratzinger expressed his desire to be a priest when he was a very young boy. They relate a story about the future Pope which took place when he was only five years old. He was with a group of children who welcomed the visiting Cardinal Archbishop of Munich with flowers. Struck by the Cardinal’s brilliant red robes, he announced that very same day that he wanted to be a cardinal.
Like his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict grew up at a time when the Nazi Regime had overtaken not only Germany, but many surrounding countries of Europe as well. In 1941, just after his 14th birthday, he was forced to enroll in the Hitler Youth Corps, but he was an unenthusiastic member and never attended any of the meetings, reflecting his father’s disdain for the Nazis. In that same year, one of Ratzinger’s cousins of his own age, suffering from Down Syndrome, was murdered by the Nazis in the program to do away with those who were physically or mentally imperfect. He also witnessed the Nazis beating his parish priest before the priest celebrated Mass.
In 1943, while still in the minor seminary at age 16, Joseph was drafted into the German army as an anti-aircraft gunner. He then trained in the infantry. Due to illness, he did not have to undergo the usual rigors of military duty. In 1945, when the Allied front drew closer to his post, he escaped from the army and found his way back home to Traunstein. He was put into a POW camp, but was released a few months after the war in the summer of 1945. He reentered the seminary in Traunstein with his brother Georg in November of that year. The brothers were ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on June 29, 1951, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul...
10. What are some of the Pope’s hobbies?
Pope Benedict enjoys writing in what little spare time he has. He has written over 35 books, numerous articles and two encyclical letters. During his later years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he unsuccessfully tried to retire so as to devote more time to writing. The Pope is also an accomplished pianist. He tries to practice every day, and his favorite composers are Bach and Mozart.
11. Why is the Pope coming to Washington and New York? When will he arrive? How can we best prepare ourselves to welcome him?
Pope Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit to the United States, visiting Washington and New York beginning on April 15 through April 20, 2008. This will be the first papal visit to the United States since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1999. During his stay in Washington, he will visit President Bush at the White House and then celebrate the Eucharist at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. On April 16, 2008, Pope Benedict will celebrate his 81st birthday while in Washington. He will then go to New York City, where he will address the United Nations, visit “Ground Zero,” the site of the former World Trade Center and celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium.
The visit of the Holy Father will be a unique opportunity for us to renew our unity as a local Church and our unity with the Church throughout the world through the visible sign of that worldwide unity, the Pope himself. He wants to meet us, as well as give us the opportunity to meet him. He will undoubtedly speak to us about some of his major concerns as outlined above, and give us his vision of the Church, a vision of hope, a hope that we desperately need to renew at these crucial times for our country and our culture.
There are several ways in which we can prepare ourselves for this momentous visit. When an important guest is coming to visit, we make sure that our house is in order. So that our hearts and minds are open and ready to receive his message, we should make use of the sacrament of Reconciliation prior to his coming. Since the unity of the Church is experienced primarily in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we should participate in the Mass and in Eucharistic adoration as often as possible, even on a daily basis. Of course, we must pray for him, for a safe journey and stay in our country, and pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire him to speak in the name of Jesus as Christ’s Vicar on earth. When someone important is coming to visit us, we should get to know something about that person prior to his or her arrival. Therefore, we should participate in all the catechetical opportunities andresources available to us to get to know our Holy Father so as to greet him in the proper way and renew our fidelity to him and thus to the whole Church.