Pope’s Apostolic Visit to Czech Republic (end)

Source: FSSPX News

Sunday, September 27

In Brno

A crowd of approximately 150,00 faithful greeted the pope when he landed at Brno, the capital of Moravia which has the highest number of Catholic faithful in the Czech Republic. The Pope celebrated a High Mass at 10:00 a.m. on a large white podium covered by a white canopy, near the airport’s runways.
It was “the greatest Catholic meeting ever organized in the Czech Republic.” The Sovereign Pontiff was “impressed by the prayerful atmosphere” and the “silence” according to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Press Office of the Holy See. Next to the metallic structure a 11-meter high white anchor, symbol of Christian hope, had been set up.
Addressing his “sons and daughters of this blessed land, in which the seed of the Gospel has been sown for over a thousand years,” Benedict XVI invited them to bear witness to Christ and to their hope. “In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient, or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours which is alienated “when too much trust is placed in merely human projects,” only Christ can be our certain hope,” he added.
The pope recalled that the Czech Republic like other nations “is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope. In fact, in the modern age both faith and hope have undergone a “shift”, because they have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere, while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed.” Benedict XVI pointed out the ambiguous character of such a progress: “it opens up possibilities for good as well as evil.” The pope explained: “Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. And who can save him if not God?” And he emphasized that man’s “firm hope is therefore in Christ.”
In this former communist land, the German pope declared that: “History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions.” And he explained that: “freedom has constantly to be won over for the cause of the good.”
During the prayer of the Angelus, Benedict XVI lamented that: “the pace of modern life tends to diminish some elements of a rich heritage of faith. Yet it is important not to lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs,” before the communist regime (1948-1989). Then the Sovereign Pontiff insisted upon the importance of “maintaining the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and to make it answer to the needs of the present day.”

At the Archbishop’s House of Prague

Around 5:00 pm, the pope went to the Archbishop’s House of Prague to meet members of the Ecumenical Council of the Czech Republic.
Paul Cerny, head of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, greeted the pope and recalled that: “during the time of the persecution of Churches, many priests and lay persons without distinction of their religious denominations suffered in common, prayed together and encouraged each other in prisonners’ cells.” “The barriers and prejudices fell down” giving birth to a “new ecumenical movement”; “We realized that, within the particulars Churches we are not able to achieve many of the tasks, and that, consequently, we will have to serve and work together,” he stated.
After the welcome extended by Cardinal Miloslave Vlk, archbishop of Prague and head of the Ecumenical Council, Benedict XVI gave a speech before about ten officials from the various Christian denominations in the Czech Republich.
He said: “We may ask ourselves, what does the Gospel have to say to the Czech Republic and indeed all of Europe today in a period marked by proliferating world views? Christianity has much to offer on the practical and ethical level.” And he added that: “God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the “economy” of charity at work in this world: He offers salvation. (…)The artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life should prompt us to engage in a mutual “self-critique of modernity” and “self-critique of modern Christianity,” specifically with regard to the hope each of them can offer mankind.” The pope observed that Europe continues to undergo many changes, before confiding that: “As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future.”
Evoking the “collapse of former regimes”, the pope emphasized that it opened a “way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures. During this period, Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, cooperation for peace and the advancement of the common good. Yet the pope regretted: the “attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life – sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the well-being of society.”
Next Benedict XVI spoke about St. Adalbert and St. Agnes of Bohemia who spread the Gospel “motivated by the conviction that Christians should not cower in fear of the world but rather confidently share the treasury of truths entrusted to them. Likewise Christians today, opening themselves to present realities and affirming all that is good in society, must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.” And the pope continued: “From this perspective, we understand more clearly why Christians are obliged to join others in reminding Europe of her roots. It is not because these roots have long since withered. On the contrary! It is because they continue – in subtle but nonetheless fruitful ways – to supply the continent with the spiritual and moral sustenance that allows her to enter into meaningful dialogue with people from other cultures and religions. Precisely because the Gospel is not an ideology, it does not presume to lock evolving socio-political realities into rigid schemas.”
After the address, Benedict XVI went to the Castle of Prague to meet with members of the academic community.

At the Prague Castle

Upon his arrival, the pope was escorted up to the center of a prestigious medieval hall by all the rectors of Czech universities robed in their red gowns. Before his address, which was often applauded, a university choir performed several pieces of music. President Vaclav Klaus was seated in the first rank in the large vaulted hall.
Next, Benedict XVI explained to the Czech university world how education “finds meaning in its accountability to the authority of truth.” To those who “argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason,” the pope retorted that: “man’s thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith.”
“The proper autonomy of a university, or indeed any educational institution, finds meaning in its accountability to the authority of truth,” attested the sovereign pontiff during his address to the rectors of the Czech universities, and representatives of professors and students. That autonomy can be thwarted: “by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit,” as well as by the “pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals.” If European “culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments” or if “it detaches itself from its life-giving roots,” the pope warned, “our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good.”
In this context and confronted with the “fragmentation of knowledge” (…) “and the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth,” Benedict XVI expressed his wish that: “The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, be regained.” (…) “Not only do the proponents of this positivistic exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason negate what is one of the most profound convictions of religious believers, they also thwart the very dialogue of cultures which they themselves propose,” the pope warned.
At the end of the meeting, Benedict XVI signed the golden book of the University of Prague with the words of Christ’s promise: “ Veritas liberabit vos”, the truth shall make you free, taken from the Gospel of St John (8; 32).

Monday, September 28

Some thirty kilometers to the North-East of Prague, the pope celebrated Mass in the open before some 40,000 people, among them many young on the feast day of the country patron saint, St. Wenceslaus, who died in 935).
Before the Czech faithful, and in the vicinity of the tomb of St. Wenceslaus, Benedict XVI presented the Prince of Bohemia as “a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples.”
During his homily, he asked whether holiness was still relevant today, but also asked “how long does earthly success last, and what value it has.”
Benedict XVI next remarked that: “The last century – as this land of yours can bear witness – saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights. Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are.”

At the end of the Mass, some Czech young people came to present gifts to the Pope, among them a book with photos of their main national meeting, and also “of the activities of religious orders, movements and communities which devote themselves to the young,” explained a 27-year old German teacher who was also introduced to the Pope. They also gave 16,000€ to Benedict XVI to show their “solidarity with the young in Africa” and support the charitable projects of the pope, especially on the black continent.

Review of the Apostolic Visit During the Audience on September 30

During the general audience following his return, Benedict XVI reviewed his pastoral visit in the Czech Republic. He gave thanks to God having been able to accomplish this “mission to the very heart of Europe”. It was, he explained, “a real pilgrimage, (…) “because for more than a millennium Bohemia and Moravia have been lands of faith and holiness; and a mission, because Europe needs to rediscover in God and in his love its firm foundation of hope.”
Taking up again the theme of his visit: Our strength is the love of Christ, Benedict XVI emphasized how much this strength “inspires and gives life to true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and that sustains us in moments of crisis, permitting us to straighten up when freedom, recovered with great effort, risks losing itself, its own truth.” This visit, Benedict XVI also confided to the faithful crowding St. Peter’s Square enabled “me to meet a people and a Church with profoundly historical and religious roots. He said he met with “a warm welcome” in the Czech Republic.
In the Church of Our Lady of Victory, where the Infant Jesus of Prague is venerated, “I prayed for all children, for parents and for the future of the family. The true "victory" for which we ask Mary today is the victory of love and life in the family and in society!” he said. To the diplomatic corps, the pope recalled “the indissoluble bond that must always exist between freedom and truth. One must not fear truth, because it is a friend of man and of his freedom; indeed, only in the sincere search for the true, the good and the beautiful is it really possible to offer a future to today's youth and to the generations to come.” Moreover, “those who exercise responsibility in the political and educational fields must be able to find light in that truth which is a reflection of the Creator's eternal Wisdom; and they are personally called to bear witness to it with their lives.”
The Holy Father stressed what a “difficult period Central and Eastern Europe are going through. In addition to the consequences of the long winter of atheistic totalitarianism are the harmful effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism,”. Mentioning the ecumenical meeting, Benedict XVI confirmed “The effort to progress towards an ever fuller and more visible unity amongst us, believers in Christ, makes our common commitment to rediscovering the Christian roots of Europe stronger and more effective.” During the meeting with important figures of the cultural world, said Benedict XVI, “I insisted upon the role of the university (…) as “a vital environment for society, a guarantee of freedom and development, as is shown by the fact that the so-called "Velvet Revolution" came into being precisely in university circles. Twenty years after that historic event, I proposed the idea anew of an integral human formation rooted in truth, to oppose a new dictatorship, that of relativism combined with the domination of technology.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, also commented upon the bilateral meeting at the Presidential palace on September 26. The Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, had declared, after a meeting with Cardinal Tarcision Bertorne, Secretary of State of the Vatican, that the issue of the restitutions of the goods confiscated under the communist regime was “not a priority.” Fr. Lombardi confirmed the words of the head of the Czech government. “There will be other opportunities, in the future, to discuss again these issues,” he said, adding that: “The Czech society understands the positive attitude of the Catholics.” DICI n° 203 - 17/10/10-Sources: Apic/Imedia/Vis/Vatican.va)

Analysis

On September 29, the Internet website of the weekly La Vie, under the pen of Jean Mercier saw in the pope’s declaration during his visit to the Czech Republic a summary, as it were, of the strong points of his pontificate. He classified them under four headers: 1. Christianity must be considered as a “creative minority”; 2 There can be “no liberty without truth”; 3 Europe must not cut itself off from its “Christian values”; 4 “A right to an inventory” must be recognized to “modern Christianity.”
In this analysis, the reader is invited to consider especially what Benedict XVI is not and what he did not say: “Benedict XVI is not a reactionary, but appears like an ‘ecologist’ militating in favor of the survival of an endangered species: men and women who think contrary wise to unique thought.” “The pope does not plead in order to maintain the influence of his Church, but because he is convinced that the survival of democracy according to the European pattern is closely bound to the fact that the Gospel’s values are taken into account.
Some lines above, in the article, a paragraph explains everything: “As the negotiations between Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X are about to begin, we can note that this renewed affirmation (the Church as a ‘creative minority’) goes against the conviction of integrist Catholics who never cease to claim the social reign of Christ. So there can be no mistake: though he is rather “traditional” in liturgical matters, Benedict XVI is deep down quite opposed to the integrist vision. Implicitly, we read the guiding line of the pontificate: Catholics can (and must) defend clear and strong positions on Faith and morals all the more so that they are a minority (and hence cannot threaten any society of a theocracy on the Iranian pattern).
And by way of conclusion: “The idea of an self-criticism of modern Christianity recalls some elements contained in the motu proprio of 2007 about the liturgy, when the pope questioned ‘conciliar’ Catholics for their brutal rejection of the old Mass in the past. But this time he goes further: beyond the visit to the Czech Republic, the pope is questioning every Christian concerning his relationship with technical modernity in its broadest sense, with the problems linked with the overexploitation of the planet, the feats of bioethics, dependence toward cell-phones or an ultra-comfortable society. It is some kind of prophetic warning.”
Of course, we leave to the journalist of La Vie the entire responsibility for his analysis. Yet it is interesting to note here that the upcoming doctrinal discussions between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X are an occasion to raise questions about the relations of the Catholic Church with the modern world since Vatican II. Of old, such questions could not be raised because it was considered that they had been resolved precisely thanks to the Council. Likewise the traditional Mass was reputed to be definitively forbidden. Thus, what was considered yesterday as obvious, becomes today the object of a salutary interrogation.