Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and Opus Dei . . . and, oh! The New Pope Loves Cats

I'm not a conspiracy theorist but doesn't this whole thing, with Pope Benedict and all in just three ballots, smell of Opus Dei? "The Work's" finger prints are all over this, but that's just my ignorant uninformed opinion.

Anyway, Opus Dei approves of Pope Benedict

LA Times: Opus Dei has stake in Papal Vote

Now with its papal benefactor gone, Opus Dei's influence under the next pope — and its role in choosing the new pontiff — have become hot topics in a city awash in speculation as the world's cardinals meet behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel to elect John Paul's successor.


Others note that for the first time, two of the 115 voting cardinals — Julian Herranz of Spain and Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru — are members of Opus Dei, giving the group the ability to work inside the conclave.

"They have a chance to lobby the other cardinals from an inside position," said an official with a lay organization that has close ties to the Vatican. "Opus Dei has international connections, they know many cardinals, are appreciated by some. They are entitled to talk to cardinals, to invite them to dinner, all with authority."

Several European cardinals are sympathetic to Opus Dei, among them Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian prelate who runs the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the pope, and a contender to succeed John Paul. Ruini last year opened proceedings to declare Opus Dei's Del Portillo a saint.

But recently, several Italian newspapers breathlessly reported that the two Opus Dei cardinals were throwing their support behind the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German-born traditionalist who has served as chief enforcer of church doctrine for two decades.

It is interesting to note that on March 22, 2002, John Allen listed Ratzinger along two other Cardinals as most unpapabile. Anyway, Mr Allen reports on Ratzinger's love for Opus Dei:

I saw Ratzinger recently at the presentation of a new book by author Giuseppe Romano, entitled Opus Dei: Il Messaggio, le Opere, le Persone (Opus Dei: The Message, The Works, The People, San Paolo, 2002). Ratzinger is a fan of the founder of Opus Dei, Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, set to be canonized Oct. 6. The book launch took place at the Augustinianum, just down the Via Paolo VI from the Holy Office, where Ratzinger works.

Ratzinger, who turns 75 on April 16, is weaker than when he took up his post 20 years ago. He has spoken wistfully about retiring to his home in Regensburg in Bavaria. In recent months he has turned over major chunks of responsibility to his lieutenant, Italian Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. Yet he was in good form at the Opus Dei event, speaking without a prepared text in polished Italian.

The cardinal devoted the gist of his talk to his admiration for the implied significance of the phrase “Opus Dei,” which means “Work of God.” Escrivá, Ratzinger suggested, realized that he was not doing his own work, but God’s. His task was to be an instrument.

Ratzinger contrasted this attitude with what he called a “temptation of our time, also among Christians,” to believe that after the “Big Bang” God withdrew from the world and left things to function on their own. But God is not withdrawn, Ratzinger insisted. We simply have to learn to put ourselves at God’s disposition, and that is the “message of very great importance” which Ratzinger attributed to Escrivá.

Ratzinger also praised Escrivá for his “absolute fidelity to the great tradition of the church,” while at the same time being open to the “great challenges of the world” in universities and various professional environments.

Ratzinger closed with an uncharacteristic personal touch. He confessed, as friends and students already knew, that he is a cat lover. Noting that the book on Opus Dei has a small chapter entitled the “invisible cat,” he joked that he was especially pleased with that section. (The reference, by the way, is to a phrase of C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves about the danger of assuming the existence of something despite the absence of proof, like an invisible cat on the sofa. The author, Romano, uses Lewis’ concept to refute the idea that Opus has a political agenda).

Afterwards I said a quick hello to Ratzinger, who has always been gracious despite my somewhat critical 2000 biography, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith (Continuum). I watched him walk back to the Holy Office in the company of his ever-present personal secretary, Msgr. Josef Clemens. I found myself thinking, once again, that few church leaders have helped shape their times the way Ratzinger has.



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