Monday, October 3, 2011

Pope Benedict's visit to Germany: Part 5: girl altar servers, reception of Holy Communion, and who's been blowing the Roman pipe of rumour'?

Girl altar servers:
I don't intend to rehearse the argument about  girl 'altar boys'. They are licit in Germany and the Holy Father, who never has them in Saint Peter's would have wanted to avoid the almost certain outcry there would have been had he banned them from his German liturgies. But at least one wished that some taste had been exercised when it was decided what they would wear, particularly at a Papal celebration. The 'girls' at the Berlin Mass (and with Dylan Parry I wondered whether they were in fact grown women) must have been deeply devoted to their 'serving' role and completely lacking in worldly vanity, in order to wear such ugly garments, which looked as if they had been salvaged at the last minute from the used flour-sack pile at the local mill or bread factory. The result was to make the girls stand out as proverbial sore thumbs. I am sure that cannot have been the intention of the 'organisers'. My commenter, 'Genty' suggested that a general feature of this trip was that girl servers outnumbered boys. I can't say I noticed that and haven't had time to check the videos, but if he is right it would lend weight to the argument that the minute girls enter sacristy and sanctuary, boys tend to make themselves scarce.

The manner of receiving Holy Communion:
The fact that most of the German faithful received in the hand was quite startling. There can only be two reasons for this. One, an ignorance of the Holy Father's example and teaching on the matter, or two, a determination to ignore those things, either in complete disagreement with him or in the belief that listening to the Holy Father is a mere option.. This above all (apart from at Erfurt Cathedral) showed the German Church to be stuck firmly in the 70s and 80s. Since Pope Benedict began his practice of giving the Host on the tongue to kneeling faithful, there has been, and continues to be, a steady increase among congregations at his publicly televised Masses in Italy and other European countries, of those who are following suit. His teaching by example is being seen to work. But not in his native land. Germany is definitely far out on a limb.

Papal resignation?
Even before the Pope left Germany the rumour about his intention to resign next year on his 85th birthday had begun to circulate and was said to have its source in the Vatican and to be doing the rounds there. Why was this rumour publicised at this particular moment? I do think it was by design and not by accident.

Here are my instinctive and considered answers:
1.The Vatican is well known to house its own 'gossip shop', and the people who involve themselves with it rarely, if ever, act for the good of the Church.

2. Only the most naive would imagine that there is not in the Vatican, a group which is opposed to Benedict's vision for the future of the Church.

3. Using quotes from 'Light of the World' and from Mgr Georg Ratzinger's recently published book, 'Mein Bruder der Papst', they manage to hint that the Pope will resign. Of course they would have been well-pleased if the German trip had been a complete disaster. 'Well tough that it wasn't' they say, 'but let's circulate the rumour anyway'.

4.This rumour is so negative and potentially damaging because it frightens the truly faithful who know of the Holy Father's increasing physical frailty, and because it encourages those who are more concerned about the election of his successor and trying to influence the next conclave in a modernist direction. In short it is potentially wounding to the Body of Christ. The above makes me suspicious of this rumour and those who have launched it.

As Shakespeare said:
 'Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures'
and I for one am among those who 'will stop the vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks'.
At the beginning  of Henry IV Part II, Rumour admits thus of himself:
'Upon my tongue continued slanders ride
The which in every language I pronounce
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.'

'Genty' also laments that the Holy Father looked so weary and resigned in Germany, in contrast to his energy and positivism when in the UK last year. I think this is explained by the fact that he saw the UK as new territory for evangelisation and that inspired the effectiveness of his visit to us. In Germany, sadly, he knew what awaited him and what to expect from his own.

When he got back to Rome he was quoted as having said at last Wednesday's General Audience that the visit had been 'a feast of faith'. I couldn't remember his having said that and checked the recording. I could not find that quote. I did find in his speech to the Evangelical Council that he had said their meeting was 'a feast of shared faith'.

Pray, pray, and pray unceasingly for our most Holy Father..

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