Tagged: Pope Benedict XVI

“First an Earthquake, then a Hurricane”: Life & Justice Interview with CNN’s John Allen

As mentioned here on Friday, National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent and CNN’s Vatican correspondent John Allen was the keynote speaker at the Diocese of Camden’s Justice for All Dinner last week. John is one of the most respected Church observers, and he provided invaluable coverage throughout Pope Benedict’s resignation and all that followed.

At the end of his talk here, John said he hoped the evening would just be the start of a conversation. I took him up on the offer, and emailed him some Life & Justice questions connected to his areas of expertise: the papacy and the ongoing transformation of the Catholic Church. He kindly replied despite his incredibly full schedule.

John Allen with Pope Benedict XVI.

MJL: You mentioned at the Justice for All Dinner Pope Francis’ line that he wants a church that is “poor and for the poor.” How have you seen this commitment lived out already early in his papacy? How do you think it might develop in the future?

JA: There’s the obvious: shunning the papal limo as much as possible, living in the Casa Santa Marta rather than the papal apartment, and so on. I visited his sister’s home in Buenos Aires, and it gives new meaning to the term “simple”! More deeply, it’s clear based on the trajectory of this pope’s life that the poor are at the heart of his pastoral vision. My suspicion is that Francis will nudge Catholicism towards a simpler, more evangelical style of life, and towards greater solidarity with the poor at all levels.

 MJL: The vision of Life & Justice Ministries in Camden is to promote a consistent ethic of life, from conception until natural death and every moment in between. Pope Francis seems to embrace this both/and philosophy, resisting the barriers that sometimes divide “pro-life Catholics” and “social justice Catholics.” Do you see this “both/and” vision in Francis’ thinking?

JA: Very much so, but I saw it in Benedict XVI and John Paul II as well. We Catholics are often creatures of our culture, and the political culture in the States does a terrific job pitting these two dimensions of Catholic social teaching against one another. If we’re going to overcome that, it will require a deeply counter-cultural commitment from us, not just once-and-for-all but every day. Papal vision can help, but ultimately it’s up to us.

MJL: As the Catholic Church’s population center continues shifting toward the Global South, what can we in the United States do to stand in solidarity with our Catholic sisters and brothers who are not from the West?

JA: Most deeply, we can accept the premise that American Catholics are just six percent of the global Catholic population, so membership in this global family of faith means that we can’t always have things our own way and that the welfare and perspectives of Catholics in other parts of the world matters too. Everything else flows from that.

What was one of the most powerful things your saw or learned during your recent visit to Cardinal Bergoglio’s hometown of Buenos Aires?

I visited one of the villas miserias, the slums in Buenos Aires, where then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio spent enormous amounts of time and where his pastoral vision of a “poor church for the poor” came alive. Talking to the often abandoned people who live there, it was clear that politics and the media may have forgotten about them, but the Church under Bergoglio had not.

MJL: A little experiment, if you’re willing: Write a six-word memoir of your experience in Rome since February 11, the date Pope Benedict announced his resignation.

JA: First an earthquake, then a hurricane.

Picking Popes: Special Event with Leading Papal Expert

Dr. Chris Bellitto is coming to the Diocese of Camden for a once-in-our-lifetimes event. Listen to a great interview with him by clicking the NPR logo, and then read about his visit below.

“I remember exactly where I was when it happened.”

Certain important moments are burned into our brains for life.

My father, who wasn’t yet 10 when JFK was assassinated, recalls every detail from that day.

At my childhood home, I could show you just where I was standing in 1994 when my parents told me I was going to be a big brother again.

Those instants when our world or our lives are changed forever grab hold of our memory like nothing else.

Last month, my wife Genevieve and I attended a conference in Washington called the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which brings together about 400 Catholics from around the country who are involved in various life & justice ministries.

A text message woke her up early on the Monday morning of the conference, and she jostled me awake.

“I just found out about a big story before you did,” she said, poking fun at my near-addiction to reading the news on Twitter.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“Pope Benedict is resigning.”

“What?!” I bolted up.

Where were you when you found out about Pope Benedict’s resignation?

We turned on CNN. Like us, the reporters had lots of questions. Why did Pope Benedict make this decision? How long had he been thinking about it? What will he do when he retires? What will we call him? Has this ever happened before? How can we as church best respond? Who will be the next Pope?

What was your initial reaction?

I grabbed my phone, and started pecking out an email to Christopher Bellitto, PhD.


Just two days before, I had attended a fantastic lecture by Dr. Bellitto at the conference. A medieval historian from Kean University specializing in church and papal history, he had talked about lessons that we as the church today could learn from our two millennia of successes and failures. His dynamic style made church history engaging, relevant, and fun – I was hooked.

Who better to give a special presentation here in South Jersey on the resignation, upcoming conclave, and the future of the Church? As we wonder how this unprecedented transition will affect our faith community, there’s no better time to gather, reflect, and learn.

Dr. Bellitto said he’d be willing to come, but there was one problem. He had just returned home from Washington when his schedule filled up quickly. He became one of the media’s primary experts on the resignation, featured by the New York Times, NPR, CNN, the Atlantic Magazine, and many others. As the conclave to pick a new Pope convenes over the next couple of weeks, more and more interviews are sure to follow.

Dr. Bellitto is an engaging teacher who weaves a lived commitment to justice into his presentations.

Dr. Chris Bellitto is an engaging teacher who weaves a lived commitment to justice into his presentations. Don’t miss his visit to the Camden Diocese!

He was graciously open to squeezing us in, and we found a date that worked: Wednesday, March 27 – one night before our newly elected Pope will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in Rome.

Please join us for this special Holy Week event, entitled “Picking Popes: Resignation, Enclave, and the Future.” It’s sure to be a fascinating and informative evening. You don’t want to miss it. Come with an open mind and plenty of questions!

Dr. Christopher Bellitto presents “Picking Popes: Resignation, Enclave, and the Future.”

Wednesday, March 27, 7:30-9:00 pm.

St. Mary’s Parish Hall

2001 Springdale Road

Cherry Hill, NJ 08003

Free admission. All are welcome. Questions? Contact Mike Jordan Laskey at 856.583.6119 or michael.laskey@camdendiocese.org

Wednesday Round-Up: 5 Pope Benedict XVI Quotes on Social Justice

The staggering news from Monday remains on our hearts and minds as Lent begins today. So today’s round-up consists of five beautiful life & justice quotes from Pope Benedict XVI good for our journey toward Easter, from this USCCB compilation and elsewhere.

BXVI has truly been a life & justice, both/and Pope. His deep commitment to social justice has not been featured in the secular press’ biased stories on his legacy. But even a cursory review of his statements and writings shows his passionate solidarity with those most in need.

1) “The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbour or hate him altogether. Saint John’s words should rather be interpreted to mean that love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God.” Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), #16

2) “Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9).”, World Day of Peace message, 2012, #5

3) “As Isaiah proclaimed, ‘For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One: On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed’ (Isaiah 57:15). God chooses, therefore, to be with the weak, with victims, with the last: This is made known to all kings, so that they will know what their options should be in the governance of nations. Of course, he does not just say it to kings and to all governments, but to all of us, as we also must know which option we must choose: to be on the side of the humble, the last, the poor and the weak.” Commentary on Psalm 137(138): God “Cares for the Lowly,” Dec. 7, 2005

4) “To make a concrete response to the appeal of our brothers and sisters in humanity, we must come to grips with the first of these challenges: solidarity among generations, solidarity between countries and entire continents, so that all human beings may share more equitably in the riches of our planet.This is one of the essential services that people of good will must render to humanity. The earth, in fact, can produce enough to nourish all its inhabitants, on the condition that the rich countries do not keep for themselves what belongs to all.” Audience to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, June 16, 2005

5) “It is necessary not only to relieve the gravest needs but to go to their roots, proposing measures that will give social, political and economic structuresa more equitable and solidaristic configuration.” Message to Mexican Bishops, Sept. 29, 2005