Pope benedict

Pope Benedict helped me know and love Christ

It was Benedict XVI’s election as Pope, his speeches and his writings that prompted my conversion, and it was his words at Bellahouston Park during his 2010 visit to the United Kingdom that first made me seriously consider my vocation. Without Pope Benedict XVI I would not have become a priest. His passing is for me incredibly personal, but it’s not just because of that, that I find him so incredibly difficult to sum up, it’s because whatever his detractors and admirers insist, he didn’t follow an ideology so much as a person.  ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter

The truth behind the Pope Benedict inquiry

How are we to interpret the revelation that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI misled a sex abuse inquiry? That might seem an odd question. What is there to ‘interpret’ about the former Archbishop Ratzinger’s decision 43 years ago to allow a child abuser, Peter Hullermann, to live in Munich after he was thrown out of the diocese of Essen in 1979 for molesting an 11-year-old boy? The priest subsequently reoffended after Ratzinger moved on from the diocese, becoming Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II. And shouldn’t we be shocked that a former pope told this huge inquiry into decades of abuse in Munich that he wasn’t at

The Vatican’s fake news: Pope Francis’s staff caught blurring out key words in photo of letter from Benedict

Fake news is dangerous because it uses ‘distorted data’ to manipulate the public, Pope Francis warned us in January. Well, he should know. Yesterday it emerged that his press office doctored a photograph of a letter from Benedict XVI in which the Pope Emeritus apparently praised some new books containing Francis’s collected writings. Benedict wrote that the books reveal ‘the interior continuity between the two pontificates, with all the differences in style and temperament’. But he added that he hadn’t read them. The blogger Sandro Magister, an indefatigable critic of Francis, noticed the Vatican’s sleight of hand and the Associated Press followed up the story. To quote from its report: The

The Benedict option

Hannah Roberts, an English Catholic friend, was once telling me about her family’s long history in Yorkshire. She spoke with yearning of what she had back home and how painful it is to live so far away. I wondered aloud why she and her American husband had emigrated to the United States from that idyllic landscape, the homeland she loved. ‘Because we wanted our children to have a chance to grow up Catholic,’ she said. It’s not that she feared losing them to the Church of England — it’s that she feared them losing Christianity itself. She and her husband Chris, an academic theologian, are now raising their four young children

Let’s renew the EU

From the time of the French revolution, the Catholic Church has always encouraged relationships between nations that draw them together rather than divide them. It is for this reason that the Church has always been broadly supportive of the European Union, although with reservations. There will be many Catholics on both sides of the coming referendum. Many of us have concerns about recent developments in the EU, such as the official removal of the reference to the continent’s Christian history from the European Constitution a few years ago. The more general push towards secularisation troubles us, too. Recent popes have questioned the tendency to regard the goal of the EU

Pope Francis condemns Catholic ‘fundamentalists’ and hints at support for use of condoms against Aids

Pope Francis has used another mid-flight press conference to make a statement of significance to millions of Catholics. Asked if the Church should drop its opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of Aids (a teaching already modified by Benedict XVI), he effectively declared that the debate was a waste of time. He referred to Jesus’s practice – opposed by the Pharisees on legalistic grounds – of healing on the Sabbath. ‘Healing is obligatory!’ he said. Earlier in the interview, the Pope took aim at Catholic ‘fundamentalists’ whose attachment to rules was ‘idolatrous’. Here’s a transcript from RomeReports: Question: Aids is a serious problem in Africa, the epidemic continues. We know that prevention is

This week the Catholic Church is in chaos. And Pope Francis is to blame

The Catholic Church is this week in the biggest mess it’s been in since the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Francis is to blame. The Vatican cardinals in charge of doctrine, finance and worship are believed to have written to Francis at the beginning of the Synod on the Family – now in its second chaotic week – privately warning him that it was likely to spin out of control. That’s because most of the world’s bishops don’t support any major change to the church’s rules on allowing divorced and remarried people to receive communion, or to the way it treats gay couples. You may think they’re wrong, but that is the situation. Also,

Pope Francis drops a bombshell: Catholics can receive absolution from dissident SSPX priests

Pope Francis, unpredictable as ever, has just announced that during the forthcoming ‘Year of Mercy’, Catholics can receive absolution from priests of the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which has illicitly ordained its own bishops and doesn’t recognise the Second Vatican Council. He’s also given all priests permission to absolve anyone who truly repents of the sin of having or procuring an abortion – which they could already, though they might need the permission of the local bishop since it incurs automatic excommunication. So this isn’t such big news. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-91) was the arch-reactionary who, defying Pope John Paul II, ordained four bishops including the Holocaust-denying nutjob

Benedict’s back

One of the finest speeches Benedict XVI ever delivered was about sacred music. It is a small masterpiece, in which Benedict recalls his first encounter with Mozart in the liturgy. ‘When the first notes of the Coronation Mass sounded, Heaven virtually opened and the presence of the Lord was experienced very profoundly,’ he said. Benedict robustly defended the performance of the work of great composers at Mass, which he insisted was necessary for the fulfilment of the Second Vatican Council’s wish that ‘the patrimony of sacred music [is] preserved and developed with great care’. Then he asked: what is music? He identified three places from which it flowed. First, the

Pope Francis and ‘the Great Division’: the Catholic civil war draws closer

In the magazine a couple of weeks ago I asked if we were in the early stages of a Catholic civil war fuelled by confusion over Pope Francis’s apparent willingness to soften the Church’s pastoral approach to divorcees and gay people. Hostilities began during the disastrous Synod of the Family, at which liberal officials gave a press conference implying that the Church was about to admit remarried divorcees to Holy Communion and celebrate the positive aspects of gay unions. The synod fathers, furious at this hijacking of the proceedings, voted down every liberal proposal – leaving the Pope looking foolish. He has since sacked Cardinal Raymond Burke, the most truculent of the conservatives, from his post

Watch out Pope Francis: the Catholic civil war has begun

‘At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,’ said a prominent Catholic conservative last week. No big deal, you might think. Opponents of Pope Francis have been casting doubt on his leadership abilities for months — and especially since October’s Vatican Synod on the Family, at which liberal cardinals pre-emptively announced a softening of the church’s line on homosexuality and second marriages, only to have their proposals torn up by their colleagues. But it is a big deal. The ‘rudderless’ comment came not from a mischievous traditionalist blogger but from Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura

Anglican bishop: Rome must protect Christians from Islamism

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester and an evangelical Christian, has delivered a remarkable message to a group of Catholics: ‘Bishop Nazir-Ali said that, with the growth of Islamic militancy and the persecution of Christians worldwide, many people were now looking to Rome as the voice that could stem the tide. He said these people included many Evangelicals who never, in the past, would have thought about Rome. ‘So the Catholic Church has both a great opportunity and also a great responsibility.’ He is right on two counts. First, that the persecution of Christians worldwide is overwhelmingly the work of Muslim militants – as the Archbishop of Canterbury

The View from 22 — the new God squad, Labour’s campaigning quandary and the secrets to a successful marriage

Are Lambeth Palace and the Vatican about to undergo a significant transformation in how they operate and present themselves in public? On the latest View from 22 podcast, the Telegraph’s Damian Thompson explains how the evangelicals are taking over both the Catholic and Church of England, which will result in a dynamic shift in how they are viewed by the outside world. He also examines the similarities surrounding the appointment of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby. James Forsyth also discusses the problems Labour face on running their general election campaign, and why David Cameron has won a major concession on the EU referendum bill. With the resignation of Tom

At last! A tango-dancing pope

Just a year ago on this page I was writing about Pope Benedict XVI’s elder brother Georg and how, while ostensibly discreet and loyal to his celebrated sibling, he contrived at the same time to make him look too old and bumbling for the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. In a book, My Brother, the Pope, this old priest from Bavaria said that his younger brother had never wanted the job, was too physically frail for it, and found it a tremendous strain. Georg Ratzinger must now be feeling somewhat vindicated, but at the time he was ‘off message’, for the Vatican was insistent that the pope was on

Long life | 28 February 2013

Eight years ago I was in Rome for The Spectator to write a piece about the election of a new pope after the death of John-Paul II. Within two days, and after only four ballots, some wispy white smoke emerged from the little chimney on the roof of the Sistine chapel. The College of Cardinals had made its decision and chosen the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be the 265th occupant of the throne of St Peter. He was already 78 years old and said to be longing for speedy retirement from his taxing job as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the oldest of the

Freddy Gray

Sex, lies and the next Pope

In a corner of the Sistine Chapel, below Michelangelo’s hell, is a door to the little chamber they call ‘the room of tears’. Some painter-decorators are in there, frantically doing the place up. That’s because, in a matter of days, a new Pope will be led into the room. According to tradition, at that moment, as he first contemplates the magnitude of his role, he will weep. A myth, you might think. But we can be sure that the next Supreme Pontiff — whoever he is — will have plenty to sob about. Since Benedict XVI’s resignation two weeks ago, each day seems to have brought yet more bad news.

An Almighty diary clash?

Will the arrival of a new Pope clash with the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury on March 21? The mere possibility has caused real anxiety among Church officials. If Pope Benedict does not issue a Motu Proprio bringing forward the date – he is still expected to – the conclave will not begin until March 15. The nightmare scenario, then, is that the conclave ends – and the world watches as a new Pontiff emerges on the balcony of St Peter’s – on the day of Archbishop Welby’s installation. The story would push the Anglican celebration way off the global news agenda. The cheerier news, for ecumenists at

Take the Vatican ‘Gay Mafia’ talk with a pinch of holy salt – for now

A rather feverish mood around the Vatican today: La Repubblica’s sensational splash suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI was pushed out by a ‘gay mafia’ within the Church hierarchy has set Latin tongues wagging. Lurid whispers about sex and bribery abound. The theory – given wind by Benedict’s Ash Wednesday statement that opposition ‘mars the face of the church’ – is that the Pope was so appalled by the findings of the top secret 300-page dossier he commissioned into the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, he decided he couldn’t go on. It’s all rather intoxicatingly Italian, even if it sounds a bit too much like a pastiche to be true. More sober voices point out

Charles ‘most popular Prince of Wales ever’

I wonder what Prince Charles makes of the fashion for abdication? Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Pope are both vacating the seat of power before shuffling off this mortal coil. Perhaps the old Lupin-whisperer imagines his destiny is close. Royal chatter reaches Mr Steerpike that someone at Clarence House recently commissioned a private poll on the public’s perception of senior royals. I hear that they were delighted with one pearl amongst the grit: Prince Charles is the most popular Prince of Wales ever. Funnily enough, the living population had little recollection of how previous heirs apparent conducted their public duties; smiled as they opened leisure centres; worked the room; or treated

The View from 22 – Ex-Benedict, Mexican Horsemeat and goodbye to Sindy

What does Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation mean for the future of the Catholic church? In this week’s View from 22 podcast, the Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson and Freddy Gray discuss our in-depth cover feature on the papal resignation. What will be Benedict be remembered for? Will his sweeping reforms be left in place? How does his legacy compare to John Paul II? Was there more to the resignation than just his health? And what challenges lie ahead for his successor? And just who might that be? James Forsyth also joins to discuss his political column in this week’s Spectator, revealing the huge scale of the horsemeat imports from Mexico. Listen