Forming and informing –
100 editions and counting
Today is an exciting day – the publication of the 100th edition of OnLine Catholics! Although my association with the publication has not been extensive, I take pride in being its editor for this edition. That the journal is independent and online is an exciting position for it to hold. It means that we can discuss freely issues within the Church and society that concern us or enliven us. We should not be afraid to allow our reflections to celebrate that which is good (and there is much for which we are grateful) nor express dissent.
When the events of the day raise questions that touch fundamental Christian principles … clergy and laity will encourage a free expression of opinion and a wide variety of points of view. They will do this because it satisfies the different interests and concerns of readers and because it contributes to the formation of public opinion in the Church and the world. (Communio et Progressio, #141)
Plurality of opinion is one of the gifts we enjoy within the Catholic Church.
Being online allows us to be engaged globally.
This edition is an excellent example of both experiences. The letters section is a fine example of a free expression of opinion and a wide variety of points of view. The letters, along with the lead article from Fr Timothy Radcliffe, have come from many parts of Australia – most States are represented this week – and parts of the world – London, Oxford, Glasgow and Malta. We are indeed a universal Church.
As we strive for reform and renewal within the structures of the Church, we must be mindful of our personal response to the invitation extended to each one of us from the God of infinite and unconditional love. That we are celebrating this milestone in Easter week is another joy, with its senses of hope, life, newness – resurrection!
In marking this day, I wish, on your behalf, to thank the previous editors, Kate Mannix and Chris McGillion, for their considerable contributions to bringing OnLine Catholics alive and into our lives. But the biggest thanks must go to those who had the vision and the courage of their convictions – and still do - to take OnLine Catholics from being a good idea to a stimulating reality.
As we continue into the future with confidence, I ask for your continued prayer support that OnLine Catholics may truly be a leaven for renewal and reform in our communities. I ask for your ongoing interaction with the publication through your contributions, letters and suggestions, so that OLC may provide a place of intelligent and respectful conversation. And I ask you to be bold in telling your friends and family about this exciting, thought-provoking, different e-journal that is a “must” weekly read!
1 year and counting
It really was a “do you remember what you were doing?” experience – when the world was told that Joseph Ratzinger was the new pope. I was in a bus pulling into St Beuno’s Spirituality Centre having spent the day in Liverpool when one of our party received a text message with the news. No-one believed her. Some 10 or 15 minutes later, it was confirmed on the 6pm news. Jan Coleman, of Melbourne, was a little bit closer to the action, as she recounts …
On this first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s accession to the Chair of Peter, I’m thinking back to St Peter’s Square. All that speculation over the identity of the new head of the Catholic Church was resolved there in the wee small hours, Melbourne time. Three of our family heard the name declared late afternoon in Rome, and in my case, in that very Square.
Just by chance I’d gone to St Peter’s at that time. My husband and son were off jogging along the Tiber for an hour or so and I had wandered towards the Vatican. Just a preview glimpse of the great Basilica, that was all I intended, because we planned to do the tourist thing there the following day. The preview turned into an unforgettable experience.
There was a big crowd in the Square and, despite the sunshine, arc lights blazed down from the columns and along the length of Via Conciliazione. Television cameramen and sound boomers roved among groups of excited pilgrims, young priests, nuns and a mass of locals and tourists. Some large screens were televising that all-important smoke blowing from a little pipe-chimney above the Sistine Chapel and outbursts of clapping and cheering broke out every time the strong breeze caused the smoke to appear lighter in colour. A band of American priests in black suits and roman collars were discussing this. “How pale does grey have to be before it becomes white?” one wondered. But any doubt quickly vanished as the bells began to peal. The little chimney quickly disappeared from the television screens, the swinging bells took over and immediately all of Rome went into action.
With a mighty roar from the crowd we all surged forward. I landed mid-Piazza, somewhere between Caligula’s obelisk and the Maderno fountain and was soon stuck fast among masses of people. They had been summoned by the bells or by friends on mobiles and they had shut up shop, left their work places and homes and ran or scootered in on their Vespas to witness the historic moment. It didn’t take long for us all to fill the whole Square right out through the Bernini columns and down the length of Via Conciliazione to the banks of the Tiber. It became impossible to move, let alone try and get out of the area. I wondered whether my family was now craning for a glimpse from the Tiber Bridge.
Newspapers had reported that the new Pope would have 40 minutes in which to be enrobed in one of three different-sized outfits made especially for the occasion and then presented to this great throng. The waiting crowd spent the time on their mobiles, clapping, cheering and waving the papal flags and flags of their own countries. Near me a group of American priests sang many of those pre-Vatican II hymns I’d sung at school and loved; prayers were recited in various languages and there were outbursts of “Papa! Papa!”, “Santa Giovanni Paulo!”, “Brava! Brava!” The excitement and tension were palpable. I shifted from foot to foot, a vertical sardine in a tightly packed tin.
Finally, the doors above the entrance to the Basilica opened and a Cardinal emerged. You remember it all, of course. The big words: “Habeamus Papem!” rang out and the crowd cheered and the flags went wild. In his Italian accent he then declared the successful new Servant of the Servants of God: “Yoh-seffe Raaatz-eeng-aire!”
All around me, the people jumped and pumped. My heart sank. Down, down it went to about the same level as St. Peter’s tomb below the baldequin inside the Basilica. Was that first Pope turning in his grave? There was much disquiet about the person who was now to lead the Catholic Church into this new millennium. Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal, had played a leading role in narrowing the direction of the Church and in the suppression of those who dare to have a broader vision. He had been integral in recasting the Congregation of the Faith back into the role of its precursor, the Inquisition. It seemed there would have to be a big shift to have Pope Benedict XVI open his heart and mind to the needs and realities of the Church today.
Since his succession, the media and even some of those he has reprimanded and proscribed have been at pains to highlight his virtues and graces, his shyness, gentleness and spirituality. Good attributes these but somewhat more is needed in what is (or was) one of the most powerful positions on earth.
One year has passed. There is much hope for good witness in his years to come.
May the Easter antiphon: This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia! Alleluia! ring in your hearts and lives this week.
19 First anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI
100th edition of OnLine Catholics
24 People in dialogue: Living in a multicultural society public lecture series, Room 10, Blackfriars Building ACU National Canberra Campus, Watson; 7-8pm
First anniversary of the Mass of Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI
25 Anzac Day
27 Remembering the Sho’ah, St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, from 6pm
ACU National (Australian Catholic University) public forum to explore mission and identity in Catholic organisations, Leone Ryan Auditorium, North Sydney Campus (MacKillop); 7.30-9pm.