“Whilst I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our (Jewish) brothers, I hope the memory of the Shoah (Holocaust) will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man,” the Holy Father said. The Holocaust, he added must be “a warning against oblivion, negation or reductionism because violence against even one human being is violence against all.”
Benedict XVI’s remarks come in response to the controversy caused by a traditionalist bishop, Mgr Richard Williamson, who has denied the gas chambers ever existed, cutting the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust to at best 300,000.
The Pope’s words also coincide with the decision by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate to cut ties with the Vatican, this according to The Jerusalem Post, following the lifting of the excommunication of the Lefebvre-consecrated Holocaust-denying bishop.
The Chief Rabbinate also cancelled a meeting scheduled for 2-4 March in Rome with the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
As for relations with the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, the Pope mentioned the parable of the Miraculous Draught of Fish to illustrate the constant quest for Church unity, saying he granted “the remission of the excommunication pronounced on four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without pontifical mandate in 1988 [. . .] in compliance with this service of unity.”
“I performed this act of paternal mercy because the prelates expressed to me their heart-felt suffering over the situation in which they found themselves,” the pope said.
“I hope that my gesture will be followed by a considerate commitment on their part to take the necessary steps to realise full communion with the Church, thus showing true faithfulness to and recognition of the magisterium and authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.
As AsiaNews reports elsewhere, Benedict XVI also invoked the Holy Spirit for the new Patriarch of Moscow Kirill.
In his address to the 8,000 people gathered for the general audience, the Pope stressed the need to read the Scriptures “in a spiritual way” so as to “understand God’s presence in history” instead of looking at them as it is done today “as a historical curiosity about facts and tales.”
In the life of early Christian communities this attitude existed and was for this reason rectified by Saint Paul in his pastoral letters, which he sent to individual pastors, two to Timothy and one to Titus, both close collaborators of the Apostle.
However, they are also destined for a new generation of Christians, in an ecclesial situation that is different from that of Saint Paul’s.
In them special reference is made to Scriptural reading, deposit of faith and Church structure.
“As an open community, the Church prays for everyone whatever their level or order so that they may learn the truth because Christ died for all”
In the “pastoral letters” mention is also made of the “good deposit”, which is “the tradition of the apostolic faith that must be protected with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us,” and is the “sum of the apostolic tradition and the standard of faithfulness to the Gospel announcement.”
These letters contain a reference to the ministerial structure of the Church with its triple subdivision into episcopus, presbyters and deacons. In this “we have the essence of the Catholic structure,” to which must be added “the personal structure of the successors as witnesses of the apostolic announcement.”
Lastly the audience experienced an especially festive moment when a group of male and female jugglers from the Medrano Circus performed their act next to the Pope. Smiling, the Pontiff watched the artists, joining the crowd in applause at the end of their brief show. The Holy Father also petted a baby lion brought before him by its trainer.