29 Nov 2010

Bad Friday: Pope's personal preacher plays persecution card, compares criticisms of church to anti-Semitism



Canada.com - AFP April 2, 2010

On Good Friday, criticism of pope likened to anti-Semitism

By Gina Doggett | AFP


ROME - The Vatican preacher said Friday that criticism of the Roman Catholic Church over paedophilia scandals was similar to anti-Semitism, citing a letter of solidarity from a "Jewish friend" during a Good Friday observance.

"The stereotyping, the transfer of personal responsibility and blame to a collective blame reminds me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," the friend wrote, according to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household at the Vatican.

"I have followed with disgust the violent attack... against the Church (and) the pope," said the letter read out by Cantalamessa during the ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica as Pope Benedict XVI looked on.

Speaking on the theme of violence, Cantalamessa — by tradition the only person allowed to preach to the pope — said he would not refer to that "inflicted on children, with which a consequential number of clergy have been tarnished (because) it is being discussed enough elsewhere."

Several Catholic prelates have rallied around the pope ahead of the Easter weekend observances.

The child abuse scandal has engulfed much of Europe and the United States, prompting harsh criticism of the Vatican’s handling of the scourge.

With new cases being reported almost daily, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for Rome, told Vatican Radio that it was a "moment of suffering" for the Church.

Benedict, 82, presided over a traditional procession later Friday at Rome’s Colosseum re-enacting Jesus Christ’s final hours and crucifixion.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims holding candles attended the ceremony outside the imposing monument, which was dramatically lit up, as the pope looked on from a stage on the Palatine hill overlooking the site.

The pope faces allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the Vatican’s chief morals enforcer, he helped to protect predator priests.

The head of the Catholic Church in the pope’s native Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, said Good Friday must "mark a new departure which we so badly need."

Dozens of people have come forward in Germany alleging they were abused as minors by priests. Most cases date back years if not decades.

Zollitsch said the abuse cases filled Catholics’ heart with "pain, fear, and shame," lamenting that many victims had been "unable to express their pain in words for decades."

In his own archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, the Church said a special prayer for victims during Good Friday services.

"Pray for the children and the young who, in the middle of the people of God and in the Church community, were wronged, abused and wounded in their body and soul," the prayer said.

France has become the latest European country to implicate paedophile priests.

A lawyer for Father Jacques Gaimard, director of a Christian radio station in northern France, said he had admitted sexually assaulting a boy in the early 1990s and saw his arrest as a "deliverance" after years of private torment.

In another case, a parish priest near the French city of Rouen, Father Philippe Richir, is suspected of possessing paedophile pornography.

An Austrian victim support group said Friday it has received reports of 174 more cases of maltreatment and sexual abuse in Catholic institutions since creating a hotline two weeks ago.

"We are learning daily about the methods of education in Catholic institutions in Austria during the 1960s and 1970s," said Holger Eich, a psychologist from the Platform for Victims of Violence by the Church.

Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni said the Church was going through its "hardest period since the publication (in 1968) of the ’Humanae Vitae’ (Of Human Life)" — a papal encyclical by pope Paul VI that attacked use of the birth control pill as a mortal sin.

"At that time the crisis was as deep, with personal attacks against the pope and the Church in general," Bartoloni told AFP.

On Saturday, Benedict will hold an Easter vigil in St Peter’s Square, where he will also celebrate Easter mass on Sunday to be followed by his "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing.

This article was found at:

http://www.canada.com/news/story.html?id=2756681

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MSNBC - Associated Press April 2, 2010

Pope’s priest: Abuse flak like anti-Semitism

Personal preacher says accusations similar to ‘collective violence’ on Jews


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher is likening accusations against the pope and the church in the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.

Reaction from Jewish groups and victims of clerical sex abuse ranged from skepticism to fury.

The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday sermon, with the pope listening to him in St. Peter's Basilica, that a Jewish friend has said the accusations remind him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

The 82-year-old pontiff looked weary as he sat near the central altar during the early evening prayer service before he was scheduled to take part in a candlelit Way of the Cross procession near the Colosseum which commemorates Christ’s suffering before his crucifixion.

Thousands of Holy Week pilgrims were in St. Peter’s Square as the church defends itself against accusations that Benedict had a role in covering up sex abuses cases.

The “coincidence” that Passover falls in the same week as Easter celebrations, said Cantalamessa, a Franciscan who offers reflections at Vatican Easter and Advent services, prompted him to think about Jews.

“They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms,” the preacher said.

Quoting from the letter from the friend, who wasn’t identified by Cantalamessa, the preacher said that he was following “‘with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful of the whole world.”’

“The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,”’ Cantalamessa said his friend wrote him.

'Repulsive, obscene'


Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said Cantalamessa's remarks were "a so-far-unheard-of insolence."

"It is repulsive, obscene and most of all offensive toward all abuse victims as well as to all the victims of the Holocaust," Kramer said. "So far I haven't seen St. Peter burning, nor were there outbursts of violence against Catholic priests. I'm without words. The Vatican is now trying to turn the perpetrators into victims."

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, U.S. director of interreligious relations for the American Jewish Committee, called the comments "an unfortunate use of language."

"The collective violence against the Jews resulted in the death of 6 million, while the collective violence spoken of here has not led to murder and destruction, but perhaps character assault," Greenebaum said.

Quoting from the letter from the Jewish friend, who wasn't identified by Cantalamessa, the preacher said that he was following "'with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful of the whole world.'"

"The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,'" Cantalamessa said his friend wrote him.

In the sermon, he referred to the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying “unfortunately, not a few elements of the clergy are stained” by the violence.” But Cantalamessa said he didn’t want to dwell on the abuse of children, saying “there is sufficient talk outside of here.”

Peter Isely, the Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, denounced the anti-Semitism analogy as "reckless and irresponsible."

"They're sitting in the papal palace, they're experiencing a little discomfort, and they're going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz?" he said. "You cannot be serious."

Benedict didn’t speak after the homily, but, in a tired-sounding voice, chanted prayers. He leaned up to remove a red cloth covering a tall crucifix, which was passed to him by an aide. He took off his shoes, knelt and prayed before the cross.

'Wrongly intended desire'

Meanwhile, the head of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops said in an unusually forthright Good Friday statement that the church in the pope's homeland failed to help victims of clerical sex abuse because it wanted to protect its reputation.

Clerics have neglected helping abuse victims by a "wrongly intended desire to protect the church's reputation," Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg said on the day that Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The news about sexual and physical abuse of children by priests and other employees leaves the church with "sadness, horror and shame," he said.

The Catholic church has been rocked by a widening abuse scandal in Benedict's homeland and across Europe in recent weeks as hundreds of allegations of harsh physical punishment and sexual abuse have been made.

Reports of new cases have been cropping up almost daily in neighboring Austria, where the country's top Catholic, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, held a service for victims and acknowledged church guilt in the controversy this week.

Austria's Platform Of Those Affected By Church Violence — a group that includes victims, psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers — said about 150 people had called a new hot line, with about a third claiming they had been sexually abused and the rest reporting physical or verbal abuse.

"We're dealing with a lot of sadistic education methods from the 60s and 70s," Holger Eich, who supervises the hot line, told reporters. "I hope that most of these methods are no longer being used in church institutions — but I'm not sure."

Offended

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, who said he recently had "cordial" talks at the Vatican with church and other Jewish leaders as part of efforts on both sides to improve Catholic-Jewish relations, sounded dismayed.

"It's an unfortunate use of language to make this comparison, since the collective violence against the Jews resulted in the death of 6 million, while the collective violence spoken of here has not led to murder and destruction, but perhaps character assault," said Greenebaum, U.S. director of interreligious relations for the American Jewish Committee.

German Jewish leader Stephan Kramer described Cantalamessa's remarks as unheard-of "insolence."

"It is repulsive, obscene and most of all offensive toward all abuse victims as well as to all the victims of the Holocaust," said Kramer, general secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews, in an interview with the AP in Berlin.

Painful memories of the strained relations between the two religions were raised earlier in Benedict's papacy, when he favored a revival of the pre-Vatican Council version of the Tridentine Mass, which includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews.

Cantalamessa in his sermon said there was no need to dwell on the scandals. He referred to the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying "unfortunately, not a few elements of the clergy are stained" by the violence. Still, he said, "there is sufficient talk outside of here."

A vocal U.S.-based victims lobby, SNAP, reacted scathingly to the sermon.

"It's heartbreaking to see yet another smart, high-ranking Vatican official making such callous remarks that insult both abuse victims and Jewish people," said David Clohessy of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's morally wrong to equate actual physical violence and hatred against a large group of innocent people with mere public scrutiny of a small group of complicit officials."

This article was found at:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36149297/

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CBC News - Associated Press April 2, 2010

Papal priest’s comments anger Jewish groups

Statement made during Good Friday services


Jewish leaders around the world expressed anger after Pope Benedict XVI's personal priest likened the recent allegations against the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse cases to anti-Semitism at a Good Friday service in Vatican City.

Jews "know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also, because of this, they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms," said Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan priest, at St. Peter's Basilica on Friday, with the Pope in attendance.

Both Jewish and victims' groups responded that it was inappropriate to compare the discomfort being experienced by the church leadership in the sex abuse scandal with the violence that culminated in the Holocaust.

Cantalamessa said he was inspired by a letter from an unidentified Jewish friend who was upset by the "attacks" against Benedict.

"The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," he said, quoting from the letter.

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, called Cantalamessa's speech "breathtaking in its obscenity."

Farber said it was "hard to believe that a priest of the Roman Catholic Church would find it somehow appropriate to make this link" between the church's situation and the "mass murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children."

"I understand they're under attack, but this kind of an analogy is certainly not going to help matters."

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said the group was "sorely disappointed" by Cantalamessa's statements.

"The Vatican is entitled to defend itself, but the comparison with anti-Semitic persecution is offensive and unsustainable."

Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, later contacted The Associated Press and said Cantalamessa wasn't speaking as a Vatican official when he made the analogy.

Such parallelism can "lead to misunderstandings and is not an official position of the Catholic church," Lombardi said.

Invoking any comparison of the recent allegations against the Catholic church with anti-Semitism was particularly sensitive on Good Friday, itself a delicate day in a decades-long effort by Jews and Catholics to overcome a legacy of mistrust. There was a long-held Catholic belief that Jews were collectively responsible for executing Christ, and a landmark achievement of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s was a declaration stating the Jews should not be blamed for the crucifixion.
German bishop denounces church's failures

While Cantalamessa delivered his defence of the Pope, the head of Germany's Catholic bishops issued a statement denouncing past failures and mistakes in the church's handling of abuse cases.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg said members of the clergy have neglected to help abuse victims by a "wrongly intended desire to protect the church's reputation."

Zollitsch condemned "the appalling crimes of sexual abuse" and urged the German Catholic church to face its painful record on the handling these cases.

The Catholic church in Germany, Benedict's homeland, has been rocked by a widening abuse scandal in recent weeks.

Hundreds of cases of alleged harsh physical punishment in Catholic institutions and cases of alleged sexual abuse — most of them dating back years if not decades — have been publicized.

In 1980, Benedict himself, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, allowed a pedophile priest to be transferred from the northwestern city of Essen to undergo therapy in Munich, where he was then archbishop.

However, the Munich archdiocese says Benedict wasn't involved in a lower-ranking official's later decision to allow the priest to return to pastoral work. Rev. Peter Hullermann went on to work with youths again and was sentenced for sexual abuse in 1986.
Chance to build faith: Canadian priest

Rev. Thomas Rosica, chief executive of Catholic Salt and Light television in Canada, said the scandal is a "major crisis" for the church.

At the same time, he said it's not fair for the media to reduce recent events to "sentiments of the moment" by asking for reaction from the street.

"Faith is not something of the moment," he told CBC, speaking from Windsor, Fla., where he's assisting with Holy Week services.

"For me, and for Christians and for priests, Good Friday is always a sad day. It's the death of our dearest member. It's the death of our Lord.

"This particular year has some added significance. There's a certain depth of sadness there because of the real crisis, the pandemic I would call it, that's erupted in Europe and in different places.

"So it gives us an opportunity to pray more and to be very forthright in how we explain the passion of Jesus continuing in the world and the church today," he said.

Rosica said Christians, and Catholics particularly, are aware of the scandal and are "extremely sensitive" to it, but he denied that it has shaken their faith.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/04/02/good-friday.html

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Canada.com - AFP April 3, 2010

New criticism of pope further clouds Easter Week

By Francoise Kadri, AFP

VATICAN CITY, April 3, 2010 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI faced fresh criticism Saturday after attacks on the Catholic Church over the paedophile priest furore were compared to anti-Semitism, further marring Easter Week celebrations.

Jewish groups and those representing victims of abuse by Catholic priests denounced the remarks by the pope’s personal preacher during a Good Friday homily.

Rome’s chief rabbi joined the chorus of criticism, saying in an interview published Saturday: "Its an inappropriate parallel and of dubious taste."

The comparison was not made on "any day, but on Good Friday, that is the saddest day in the history of relations between Christians and Jews," Riccardo Di Segni told the Italian daily La Stampa.

The parallel was drawn in a letter that Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household, said he received from an unnamed Jewish friend.

"The stereotyping, the transfer of personal responsibility and blame to a collective blame reminds me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," he wrote, according to Cantalamessa.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi later told AFP the comments were from "a letter read by the preacher and not the official position of the Vatican."

But a top official of the Central Council of Jews in Germany said he finds it highly unlikely the pope’s preacher would make such a statement without Vatican approval.

"It was a step taken at a high level to relativise anti-Semitism and the Holocaust," said Stephan Kramer, adding that such remarks make religious dialogue between Jews and Catholics impossible.

Benedict made no mention of the child abuse controversy during a traditional procession later Friday at Rome’s Colosseum re-enacting Jesus Christ’s Passion.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the largest and most active of such groups in the United States, denounced the remarks, saying they insulted "both abuse victims and Jewish people."

"The remarks are shameful, inaccurate and a complete distortion of history," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, demanding an apology from the pope himself.

The new woes for the 82-year-old pope came as he prepared to lead an Easter vigil in St Peter’s Basilica late Saturday.

The child abuse scandal has engulfed much of Europe and the United States, prompting harsh criticism of the Vatican’s handling of the scourge.

The pope himself faces allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the Vatican’s chief morals enforcer, he helped to protect predator priests.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, meanwhile, told the BBC in a radio interview to be aired next week that the Irish Catholic Church had lost "all credibility" over its massive abuse scandal compounded by evidence of cover-ups by high-ranking prelates, the Times of London reported Saturday.

Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of more than 70 million Anglicans, called the scandal a "colossal trauma" in comments that risk creating tensions with the Vatican ahead of the pope’s visit to Britain in September.

Leading prelates have rallied around the pope in the run-up to Easter, the most joyous day in the Christian calendar.

The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano on Friday published messages of support from around the world including a letter signed by a group of 70 leading French figures "paying homage to the pope’s will to shed light" abuse cases while expressing horror at paedophilia crimes and solidarity with the victims.

But in France the daily Liberation on Saturday carried a front page headline asking "It is time to change the pope?".

The paper concluded that while being a top theologian, Benedict XVI has demonstrated "scant political judgement during his five year pontificate and is a poor communicator, who accumulates one gaffe after another."

It doubted that the pope was up to dealing with the current crisis, saying that in the past he had shown "an incomprehension of the world as it is".

"It is down to him to respond to the expectations of his faithful and the secular world. Benedict XVI must come out of his bubble."

The pope celebrates Easter mass on Sunday, to be followed by his traditional "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) message.

This article was found at:

http://www.canada.com/life/story.html?id=2760547

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