Last Wednesday, the Chapter attended the Wednesday Audience with Pope Benedict XIV. Here is my overdue account of what happened.
In previous General Chapters, there was usually a special audience for the Capitulars during the Chapter, not just in Pope John Paul II’s time, but also in the time of Pope Paul VI and Pope Pius XII (and maybe others too). However, Pope Benedict invites General Chapters to take part in the Wednesday Audience, in line with his policy of having less events on the papal calendar. The Postulator General, Father Giovanni Zubiani (who is responsible for the Causes of our Saints, Beati, Venerables and Servants of God) was already there to guide us to our place; through his work with Canonisations and Beatifications, he is quite at home in Saint Peter’s Square. Here he is, holding the General’s coat.
Our seats were on the Sagrato, the space immediately in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, which gave us a good view not only of where the Pope would sit but also of the entire square. In the front row was Father Ottaviano, our Superior General; beside him was the new Superior General of the Saint John of God Brothers, Brother Donatus, an Irishman who worked in Korea for several years. Here they are, talking to one another, before the Holy Father arrived.
I was in the fourth row, directly behind Father Ottaviano, at the end of the row furthest away from the Basilica, which meant I was able to get some good pictures of Saint Peter’s Square and see the Pope as he arrived.
The Holy Father arrived in an open vehicle (SCV, not an SUV) and drove around the square for several minutes.
There were some anxious-looking security men on duty, but Pope Benedict seemed perfectly relaxed.
Looks like you have to hold on with both hands when going uphill.
For the last weeks, Pope Benedict has been speaking about each of the apostles in turn; yesterday it was the turn of Judas to whom he added, for decency’s sake, Matthias, who was chosen to take the place of Judas. Here is part of his English summary of the main talk, which he gave in Italian:
Today I conclude my series of reflections on the Apostles by speaking of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. Why did he do it? Some say he was too fond of money, and the offer of thirty pieces of silver was too much to resist. The Gnostic writers say he wanted to liberate Jesus from the shackles of mortality. But the Gospels tell us that Satan entered into the heart of Judas. He yielded to a temptation from the Evil one. It is a mistake to think that the great privilege of living in company with Jesus is enough to make a person holy. Jesus does not force our will when he invites us to follow him along the path of the Beatitudes. The only way to avoid the pitfalls that surround us is to give ourselves entirely to Jesus, to enter into full communion with him, so that we think and act as he did, in total obedience to the Father. God can turn everything to a good purpose. Even Judas’s betrayal became, through divine Providence, the occasion for Jesus’s supreme act of love, for the salvation of the world.
In his remarks before the blessing, he greeted the members of our General Chapter, and also members of other chapters being held in Rome this month, including the Brothers of Saint John of God. After the blessing, the bishops present, of whom there were a very large number, went up one by one to greet the Holy Father and receive his blessing. Among them was our own Passionist Bishop Paul Michael Boyle.
After all the bishops had been blessed, the Holy Father came over to our side and greeted Father Ottaviano very warmly and also Father Denis Travers, the new First Consultor. (There is a good photo of this at The Passionist Charism.)
Just behind Father Ottaviano and Brother Donatus were Father Laurentino Novoa, delegate from Spain, and Father Gregor Lenzen, the Provincial of Bavaria and Austria. Father Laurentino spoke to the Holy Father in German, reminding him of when they used to meet at the Paulusheim, the Passionist student house in Regensburg. Father Laurentino had been taught by the former Professor Josef Ratzinger at the University of Regensburg. When Pope Benedict heard the word “Paulusheim”, he stopped and seemed to move into another world, that of his past; it was at the Paulusheim that he used to say his daily Mass when staying at his own house, right up until he became Pope. He chatted with Father Laurentino and then, looking behind Father Laurentino, the Pope said: “Und Pater Gregor ist auch hier” (and Father Gregor is here too!). Then he joked and said “It’s the whole Province!” (-the Bavarian-Austrian Vice-Province is very small, with only fourteen members). It was a lovely moment of familiarity in the midst of a vast crowd of people. Here is Father Laurentino talking to the Pope, with Father Gregor on his left.
Here’s a clearer picture of Pope Benedict as he moved along the front row.
And here is Father Denis looking pleased with himself, after meeting the Pope. My picture of Father Denis was used by Australia’s CathNews website.
As we were leaving, I noticed SCV 1 waiting to take Pope Benedict to lunch.