Totus Tuus - To Jesus through Mary.

To impel the beauty of the new evangelization – this is the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel; Its founder, Monsignor João Dias explains."The Heralds of the Gospel is a private association of faithful with a very special charism based essentially on three points: the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope."

The Heralds of the Gospel are an International Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right, the first to be established by the Holy See in the third millennium, during a ceremony which occurred during the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (February 22) in 2001.

The Heralds of the Gospel strive to be instruments of holiness in the Church by encouraging close unity between faith and life, and working to evangelize particularly through art and culture. Their apostolate, which differs depending upon the environments in which they work, gives pride of place to parish animation, evangelizing families, providing catechetical and cultural formation to young people, and disseminating religious Iiterature.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Chiara Corbella Petrillo a witness to joy

From the Editor’s Desk (Wednesday, 11-04-2015, Gaudium Press) The first biography of Chiara Corbella Petrillo has just been released by the Sophia Institute Press: “Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a witness to joy” by authors: Simone Troisi, Cristiana Paccini, preface by: Enrico Petrillo and translated by: Charlotte Fasi. This book tells the story of an amazing Italian woman, died in 2012 at age 28, maybe a future canonized saint.

Chiara Petrillo was seated in a wheel chair looking lovingly toward Jesus in the tabernacle. Her husband, Enrico, found the courage to ask her a question that he had been holding back.

Thinking of Jesus's phrase, "my yoke is sweet and my burden is light," he asked: "Is this yoke, this cross, really sweet, as Jesus said?"

A smile came across Chiara's face. She turned to her husband and said in a weak voice: "Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet."

At 28 years old, Chiara passed away, her body ravaged by cancer. The emotional, physical, and spiritual trials of this young Italian mother are not uncommon. It was her joyful and loving response to each that led one cardinal to call her "a saint for our times."

Chiara entrusted her first baby to the blessed Virgin, but felt as though this child was not hers to keep. Soon, it was revealed her daughter had life-threatening abnormalities. Despite universal pressure to abort, Chiara gave birth to a beautiful girl who died within the hour. A year later, the death of her second child came even more quickly.

Yet God was preparing their hearts for more-more sorrow and more grace.

While pregnant a third time, Chiara developed a malignant tumor. She refused to jeopardize the life of her unborn son by undergoing treatments during the pregnancy. Chiara waited until after Francesco was safely born, and then began the most intense treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, but it was soon clear that the cancer was terminal.

Almost immediately after giving birth to Francesco, Chiara's tumor became terminal and caused her to lose the use of her right eye. Her body was tested, and so was her soul as she suffered through terrible dark nights.

She said "yes" to everything God sent her way, becoming a true child of God. And as her days on earth came to an end, Enrico looked down on his wife and said, "If she is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?"

Each saint has a special charisma, a particular facet of God that is reflected through her.

Chiara's was to be a witness to joy in the face of great adversity, the kind which makes love overflow despite the sorrow from loss and death.

“You must abort this baby,” Chiara’s doctor insisted.

“The baby has no skull. She can’t survive outside your womb.

“She is alive. She is there,” Chiara replied.

 Chiara refused to abort her child.

Baby Maria lived but 40 minutes after her birth. In that brief time, Chiara had her baptized, holding her closely until she breathed her last.

Then . . .a second pregnancy!

 And the same demand: “You must abort this baby.

“He has no legs, and his lungs and kidneys will not develop. He cannot live outside the womb.”

 Chiara refused to abort her son.

Baby Davide was born and his mother received him and embraced him tenderly.

“My son, my love,” she whispered to him. 

He was baptized, and died 38 minutes after his birth.

Chiara would say he had, “an appointment in paradise.”

A third pregnancy!  This time good news: you’re going to have a healthy baby!

And then bad news, almost immediately, while Francesco was still in the womb. “Chiara, you have cancer.”

 Once again, the doctors proposed treatment that would risk the life of Chiara’s unborn child.

“I have no intention of putting the life of Francesco at risk,” Chiara responded, despite knowing it might cost her her life.

 It did.

Although baby Francesco was born healthy, his mother, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, just 28 years old, soon died from her cancer.

Smiling in the face of death’s horror that had stalked her and her three babies since the very first days of her marriage, happy she had chosen her young son’s life over her own, and joyful she would soon be with her beloved Jesus.

 What strength! What courage! What faith!

Now Chiara’s biography – just published by Sophia Institute Press – shares with you the sources of Chiara’s strength, so that when life’s troubles and sorrows threaten to overwhelm you, you will be able to stand firm like Chiara – and joyful – even in the face of death.

You see, like you, Chiara was not born a saint, nor was she particularly holy as a young adult. Her stormy engagement with Enrico was punctuated with frequent quarrels, breakups, and reconciliations.

She had to learn – and her example can teach you – many essential things about living a good life in our turbulent modern world, including:

How abandonment of self leads to recovery of the person you are actually called to be

 How to defeat the anger and despair that suffering too often breeds, and use it as a means to bring you closer to those you love

 How to treasure – even more than you do already – life in the womb as well as the gift of those persons God has chosen to bring into your life

Why you need never lose faith in God’s goodness, even in the face of horrors as great as those faced by Enrico and Chiara.

 Chiara Corbella Petrillo died in June 2012.

This biography of Chiara, written by two friends who walked with her every step of her way of the Cross, even unto death, shows how we can transform our own crosses, no matter how painful they may be, into occasions of holiness and even joy. That’s a skill no Christian can afford to live – or die – without.

 The book can be purchased at

Source: Sophia Institute Press



Chiara Corbella Petrillo


Monday, 26 October 2015

Cardinal DiNardo: The Church Needs to Do a Better Job Forming Faithful Families

The Vatican (Monday, 10/26/2015, Gaudium Press)  For Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, the final report of Ordinary Synod of Bishops won’t be “an ideal document” which is why he is glad that it “goes to the Holy Father” who will make a decision on it.

 In an Oct. 21 interview with the Register, the cardinal also said he was pleased that, whereas in the past synod fathers from developing countries might have been “reticent to talk,” they were “very unafraid” to do so during this meeting.

Cardinal DiNardo also spoke about the concerns over the methodology at the synod, and the divorce-remarriage issue, noting that this year’s meeting has been one of “conviviality” but not one of “harmony and consensus.”

What will you take back to your diocese, and what are the issues that are particularly important to America?

The issues to my mind that are most important that came out of the synod are that almost everyone agreed that the forms of preparation that we do for marriage need to be invested with either greater energy, or we have to spend a longer period of time — what the Italian group has called in some fashion — a remote, proximate and immediate preparation for marriage. There was already talk about this in Familiaris Consortio. I mean this is not something totally new but it is maybe with more urgency. Some bishops have gone so far as to say, in their ability to compare things, that we need a kind of marriage catechumenate, that people have to come to grips with discipleship with Jesus Christ, as well as entering into this beautiful covenant of marriage.

So I think the entire reality around, given the cultures we live in today, of marriage preparation is important. That’s been said by everybody, even in countries like in Africa or in Asia, which may have different issues than the West, than developed countries have. That’s really significant. When you hear that coming from all over — and my group had like 15 different nations — you realize this is a pretty significant issue for everybody. I think that is good.

One of the other issues that I thought was good, certainly it was true before but is very clear in this synod, is that the Church is universal and some of the countries who in the past would have been reticent to talk are very, very unafraid to talk right now.

You’ve seen that, that’s a change for this synod?

Yeah, I’ve seen what we would like to call the developing world, in particular we see it in Africa, but we see it in other places too. I think that’s great.

Do you see the African bishops upholding the tradition of the Church, in contrast to some in the West?

Well if, for them, if you look at that, and one of your problems is still polygamy, you’re not going to be really interested in issues related to divorce and remarriage.  They are trying to really make stable what are in some ways beautiful traditions: traditional families, that families together help constitute what is a marriage. But they do not see the preoccupations maybe of some of those in the West as that significant.

The use of language has been very important too hasn’t it?

Yes, being welcoming. I think that comes from the Holy Father. If you’re going to accompany people you have to welcome them.

The question I raise is: You have to welcome people and accompany them without losing any sense of the truth what the faith teaches. And that can be tricky. There’s no question, I think it’s sometimes a difficult issue.

Are you concerned at all the Church’s teaching can be weakened by changes in language? There was talk about doing away with the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”?

I think that’s a good distinction to make at times. If people are not living up to the truth of the faith or Jesus’ words, you want to be inviting but in a kind way speak the truth. That means you have to first invite them. You are not going to at first sledgehammer them. A perfect example: I knew a couple, they went to see a priest and he kind of threw them out. They were really furious. The parents got them to talk to me. So first of all, I basically asked them, “What’s happening in your lives. What’s your relationship to the Lord. Is there some reason why you want to come now?” The problem with this is that it takes time. Eventually they get to the point. You know the priest probably did it the wrong way, but he made an important point, you’re living together, this is not right. So that’s the point of accompaniment.

There has been a lot of emphasis from the Holy Father and others on the Church as a mother, nurturing others, but a lot of talk from the outside of the synod has been that what people really want is a bit more fatherhood, and they want a bit more truth. Do you think there has got to be a bit more balance in the discussions?

Holding mother and teacher together is never easy. Ask any mother and she’ll tell you. I think the same is true for the Church. Whenever the Holy Father might, out of his love for people, want to emphasize the accompaniment and mercy, as he does this there’s going to be some elements, but what about the truth of things. And if you emphasize the truth of things he’ll say you’re harsh, you’re intransigent.

So it is a question of, as they’re using the word discernment, of prudence, good judgment. There’s no recipe for that. There’s simply good training. Part of this is a sideline of the training of priests and those of pastoral work. I would agree. Training is to form them to my mind in the discipleship of faith themselves is what this means. That’s going to be important if they are going to approach people.

I’ve found that in my archdiocese, our priests in my area are good with people who approach them. They try hard. Now we have to make sure that when that happens that we get these young couples to realize, you know, the cross is always going to be there. You can’t deny the cross. There are groups of people who go to churches where it has always an upbeat positive message. You know if you follow the Lord you’re going to be successful. I’ve told my people in sermons in homilies that it’s just not true. You know it’s just not true. Because the centerpiece of the Christian message is the beauty and mercy of the cross. And the cross is an invitation to follow. That requires sometimes discipline, sorrow, toughness. I think we need that too. But a priest has to be a decent enough judge of character to be able to know when to push when to step back and say all right, let’s see where you’ve been. I hate to be involved and say I’m going to take sides. I want to be on both sides of this. Because I think the truth is very important.

Do you think with the crisis of fatherhood in the West means it kind of demands the priest to be a bit more assertive?

With some people, sure, that would be necessary, where there is an absence as it were of the notion of fatherhood. I also find that we find in some of our families and some of our parents that they are so overly protective with the kids at all times at every step of the way. The child never learns. Sometimes you have to make your little choices. You may learn the hard way. A parent has to accompany you and say this is wrong. And then on the other hand we have the absentee. Well that’s very hard for young people.

I’ll use this example, not because I want to go back and dwell on second marriage and remarriage and all, but I had a person see me. I don’t know if it was about a year and a half, two years ago. He was 12 years old and his sister was about 13 or 14 when his parents separated and divorced and remarried. Each parent had another child I think. Just to give the background. This was 24 or 25 years ago.

He was 12 years old. Everyone was telling him this is not your fault, but you’ll have to grow up now. He said: “I tried, but there was a problem there. I shouldn’t have had to. I was only 12 years old.” And now his parents were trying to be the kind that were remarried and re-approach the Church and receive the sacraments. He was pretty negative about it.

But I think he was pretty angry with both sets of parents. You know now that he’s in his late 30s. It was in effect and I’m not saying he’s right in saying this, “Now I’m going to be a child.” You were supposed to be an adult then and you weren’t. You made a child try to grow up. His life was pretty traumatized by it and he didn’t realize until he got older.

People who deal with the issues of the divorced and remarried need to realize there’s a whole grid of relationships that is affected by this. It’s much more difficult. The church’s stand with the Lord Jesus on the sacramentality of marriage, it’s irrefutable, is pretty important.

Do you think that proposals to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion is going to be put to bed in this synod?

My real answer, and I’m not trying to hedge the question, is that I don’t know. I don’t know. Certainly there are large numbers of people in the synod who would not be favorable. There are very strong voices who are favorable and I’m not sure where it will all lead. All this goes to the Holy Father and who knows what he might do.

It’s one of those hot-button issues, so it gets all of the discussion and some of the other things don’t. At the same time it’s an issue for which at this point if people ask me what’s going to happen, I can’t say, I just don’t know.

Do you think good can come from this in that it’s underlining the importance of the sacrament and how to receive it with minimum requirement?

Yes, I put it to people that I’m not favorable to this. So people come to me and say I’m intransigent, and I say no, I just think it’s something if we say it’s indissoluble then it has to be exclusive and the Church does provide. Even now the Pope has been very generous in opening up and streamlining further the annulments process so it’s not as though there aren’t some remedies. And the remedy, even of spiritual communion which Pope Benedict had put forward. I don’t think those who say that if you can do that you can go to communion physically. I don’t necessarily follow that.

There are degrees of our communion in the Church and I think we want to respect them. It sounds so legalistic and I don’t mean it to be legal. The sacramentality of marriage says something about the sacramentality of the Church. That’s my real preoccupation, it really is.

It’s also important to stress how receiving holy Communion without those requirements, you heap condemnation on yourself?

Yes, you cannot — in Paul, 1 Corinthians, it’s already mentioned that in the most ancient Church it wasn’t just a blind invitation to receive the Eucharist. It involves the reception of the body, blood of our Lord and I believe in that. It also involves an understanding of who you are in the Church. … We are in a time when the Church, as a good mother and teacher, is opening up and wants to accompany people and so we do have some newness in the Church. At the same time you cannot walk away from what I call the great Tradition — with a capital T — of the faith, which is what Jesus’ words are. Paul… never said “it’s something I invented.” I think that’s pretty important myself.

On the question of clarity. There has been a lot of talk about the confusion that this synod process has engendered. Are you confident or hopeful that the Pope will issue a clarification?

Well, I think what the Holy Father will do… I think we have to go back to our dioceses and be clear on the teaching. No matter what, you know, even if we tend to be more — and again I’m quoting ­— merciful or more traditional, whatever you are you, have to show the big picture. If I’m going to say I don’t favor this, I have to tell people.


I still want to accompany people who have been divorced and remarried. There are ways in which some of this, not all, can be ameliorated for you in terms of Church life. You have to do a whole picture. I think that I’m going to start out very positively. There are large numbers of very faithfully living families in the sacrament of marriage in my local church in my country, in other countries [too] and want to salute them. Want to tell them: “We are with you.” I also want to say there are families that are hurting and all. We want to tell them “We are with you, too.”

To my people, I already told them that I was not favorable to an expansion, as it were, of the reception of holy Communion to those who have been civilly remarried, I mean divorced and remarried civilly, without the benefit of an annulment or some form of it. A marriage to my mind is something public. That’s what I’m trying to show.


There are people who have written me and agree with me and love it, and there other people who have written me and think that I’m a troglodyte. Hey, that’s what happens. You can’t get angry. You have to try to keep explaining as best as you can.


So overall are you hopeful that the synod will bear good fruit?

I think it will bear fruit, at least even in the areas where there is concord. If we can go back home in the conferences, dioceses, whatever, and put some renewed emphasis on the long term engagement of discipleship in what the sacrament of marriage is as a vocation and a call to holiness, yeah, I think that’s great. And I mean, that’s my real thinking: that we have to  [have more] catechesis, allowing more families who are good [to] be of help to families struggling, and training people for marriage.


We’ve already done this in my diocese. Couple-to-couple formation for those who are engaged is one of the best ways to teach and form a couple that is getting married. It’s far better than any course work you might do. But that family who’s training them has to be themselves well-formed. We do some work on that in our diocese. But the couple-to-couple experience has usually been proven for the engaged to be very good.


Then, what we aren’t good at in most of the churches, is the follow-up after they are married. We are discovering and finding out that the first five to eight years of marriage is tough.


Frequently these couples are on their own. That’s probably not good. We’ve got to find ways when they move in to invite them to the parish right away. And you’ve got to stick with them and find ways in which you can support them in their married life. I think if we’ve heard this from one, we’ve heard this, you know, from 75 bishops or experts or even families saying: You’ve got to get to them once they are married. It’s probably a weakness.


A lot of people have said the crisis isn’t a crisis of marriage or family so much as a crisis of faith. What do you say about that?

I mean one could say at any given time, Jesus’s words in the Gospel of Luke: “When the son of man comes will he ever find faith on earth?” It takes various forms in different times and different cultures.


To my mind, questions of difficulties in faith are always an issue, either because of the media, because of a certain outbreak of kinds of modernity that see people as just isolated individuals. … Modernity has not always been kind to, what I could call, the body of Christ as a corporate body living out the faith. So therefore I can see people saying that, but as far as people coming to faith who are staying in the faith, that’s more of a perennial issue, maybe, than we’d like to admit. And wouldn’t that have to be true? The message of Jesus is very — and we are used to hearing it — very radical, the invitation to faith and growth to conversion. It’s grace that helps do it.


Of course it’d be the only way, but our cooperation with grace is sometimes difficult. Flannery O’Connor, whom I love, said in some of her letters — people would ask her about the faith, back then in the Church, she would be more stringent, she says: “Wait a minute, grace has to cut before it can heal and we don’t like that.”


And I think that’s true and it’s true with everybody. It’s not just true with married people. It’s true with priests, it’s true with bishops. So grace has to cut before it can heal. Most of the time we aren’t happy with that so we try to find another way which isn’t the way of God’s grace and mercy.


What are your brief reflections on the Pope’s speech of last week regarding decentralization?

I think some decentralization can always be good, but the centrifugal forces of the Church are much more intense right now than the centripetal ones. So we have to be conscious of some practices of the Church which I don’t want to see happening regional, like divorce and remarriage. There are other issues that can be handled more at the local and regional level. I’m happy to see some of that happening. But this particular issue I would not want to see handled just regionally.


Some people have thought it might be wiser to give a little more freedom to bishops in terms of liturgy, the liturgy’s very precious, we have to be careful. Some things yes can be done probably more regionally but I’m not convinced yet the translation should be handled just regionally. A review by Rome is pretty helpful whenever you’re dealing with texts. Liturgical texts are very important.


Are they any other reflections you’d like to make?

I think the synod is a great experience. I want to express my great appreciation for so many families and married couples, even some of them in difficulty, who strive valiantly to live the Christian faith in a culture that doesn’t always appreciate them and occasionally even sneers at them.


Source NCR/Edward Pentin (Register’s Rome correspondent)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

St Jane Frances de Chantal: a saint to inspire women keen to enter religious life

St Jane Frances struck up a close friendship with St Francis de Sales
Those who want to show that women have wielded great influence in the Catholic Church would do well to bring the life of St Jane Frances de Chantal to public attention. St Jane Frances worked closely with the hierarchy of bishops to achieve her goals and to make life easier for women who want to enter religious life – it’s her feast day today
St Jane Frances de Chantal was a Frenchwoman born in 1572. At the age of 21, she married her sweetheart, Baron de Chantal and together they had four children. Widowed at the age of 28, she decided not to remarry. She had an extremely busy life, managing the estate of her late husband, raising her children and also giving food and nursing care to the poor people who lived nearby. Four years after her husband’s death, St Jane Frances met St Francis de Sales, he was bishop of Geneva at the time, and they struck up a close friendship.
St Francis de Sales acted as her spiritual director, and supported her vocation to religious life and her ambition to become foundress of a new and daring religious order which would accept women who were turned away by other convents because of failing health, physical disability or their age. On at least one occasion she accepted a woman in her 80s and on another occasion she accepted a blind lady.
After making sure her children were provided for, St Jane Frances departed for Annecy, an alpine town in south-eastern France where she founded the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.
For its time, it was radical; the sisters were more like Mother Theresa than the nuns of their day who usually were cloistered. After about eight years, there were too many objections to the nuns of the Visitation being too involved in active service and St Francis de Sales decided to make it a cloistered community.
St Francis de Sales masterpiece, Introduction to the Devout Life, is still a popular text among Catholics who want to go deeper into holiness. But a lesser known body of spiritual direction are the letters of St Jane Frances. Through her interesting letters, we get a good sense of her character. In one she discusses a potential love match for her daughter, in another she is profusely thanking another nun for her prayers. One nice surprise is that St Jane Frances’s character comes across as genuinely kind and gentle. Too often nuns from a distant century are portrayed as cold-blooded fanatics who made the lives of other nuns hell.
St Francis de Sales’ decision to make the order a cloistered one did not inhibit its growth and by the time St Francis de Sales dies, there were 13 houses. 73 more houses had sprung up by the time St Jane Frances died, bringing the grand total to 86 houses founded in her lifetime

In UK, assisted suicide vote looms as a key moment for disabled


... Under current law in the United Kingdom, it is illegal to encourage or to help someone attempt to take their own life. On Sept. 11 the House of Commons will debate and vote on a private member’s bill to legalize assisted suicide.

Like the Catholic Church, the Church of England opposes changes to current U.K. law. On July 16 it urged churchgoers to contact their MPs to oppose the bill. James Newcome, the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle and the group's lead bishop on health care, said legalization would create a “very uncertain and dangerous” future for the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the disabled.

“This is a key moment for all of us as we decide what sort of society we want to live in and what future we want for our children and grandchildren, one in which all are valued and cared for, or one in which some lives are viewed as not worth living,” he said.

The Church of England’s general synod unanimously passed a motion to oppose the bill. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called assisted suicide “mistaken and dangerous.”

The Catholic Church in England and Wales urged opposition to the bill in a July 1 Question and Answer, which stressed that every person’s life is equally worthy of respect and compassion.

Those say they wish to die, the statement said, “deserve care, support and sometimes medical treatment for depression, not assistance with suicide.” It emphasized the duty to provide good pain control and hospice care for those in need.

“The Church teaches that life is a gift from God and supports high quality care for the dying and protection for the weak and vulnerable.”

Lord Carey said he thought Parliament could craft laws that are resistant to abuse and unintended consequences.

However, the Catholic Church statement said it is “wishful thinking” to think there would be adequate safeguards once the ethical and legal principles against assisted suicide are violated. It pointed to abuses in Holland and several U.S. states where assisted suicide is legal or not prosecuted. The statement said doctors in these places often fail to diagnose clinical depression in those who would be eligible for legal suicide.

“Each year the numbers dying by assisted suicide increase and the ‘safeguards’ are taken less and less seriously,” the statement charged.

Pope Expresses Condolences to Victims of Tianjin Explosion

Rome, August 16, 2015 ( Junno Arocho Esteves

Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the victims of the tragic explosion that occurred in Tianjian, located in northern China.
On Wednesday night, a fire began at a Ruihai Logistics warehouse, which contained various hazardous chemicals. Firefighters, who were unaware of the dangerous reaction of water to the toxic chemicals, inadvertently caused a chain reaction of massive explosions.
The death toll of the explosions, as of now, has reached 112, with 95 people still missing, and hundreds more injured.
Investigators believe that poor record keeping, as well as several major discrepancies left authorities unable to identify the dangerous substances that were stored in the warehouse.
Following his Angelus address on the Feast of the Assumption on Saturday, the Holy Father conveyed his thoughts and prayers to the victims of the tragic explosion.
"I assure my prayers for those who have lost their lives and for all those who are suffering from this disaster," he said.
"May the Lord give them comfort and support to all those engaged in relieving their suffering."
According to Vatican news blog, Il Sismografo, Chinese television broadcasted the Holy Father's words on the explosion. Italian journalists in Peking noted that the broadcasting of the Pope's message was "an important gesture" and unprecedented in nature. 

Benedict XVI and Christian Europe, as seen by a Japanese scholar

From: Catholic News Agency
By Kevin J. Jones

.- Benedict XVI’s role in Europe is the focus of a Japanese scholar who says the Pope emeritus’ recent decades show his engagement in a dialogue that promotes both Catholic identity and what he saw as the best of Western values.

“What Pope Benedict XVI wanted to emphasize was the independence of the Catholic Church,” Hajime Konno told CNA Aug. 12. He said this principle of self-determination was central to the Pope on questions of Church reform.

At the same time, Benedict did not hesitate to dialogue with thinkers such as the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas and the Italian Social Democrat and atheist Paolo Flores d’Arcais.

“In his opinion, a dialogue does not automatically mean a compromise of the Catholic side, as many outsiders expected,” Konno explained. “But a dialogue without agreement is much better than violence without dialogue, for the coexistence of many cultures.”

Konno, who teaches German studies at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, has authored a new book on the former Pope: Benedict XVI: the Renewal of Christian Europe. The Japanese-language book draws on his research in German history, culture, and politics.

In Konno’s view, Benedict’s efforts to renew Christian Europe had two main methods. The first approach: an emphasis on Christian and Catholic identity.

“He insisted that the dialogues with other confessions and religions must not be confused with one-sided compromises of the Catholic Church. He did not hesitate to criticize other confessions and
religions,” the professor said. He noted Benedict's Regensburg speech of 2006, which critically compared the roles of faith and reason in Islamic thought with their roles in Christianity.

This approach, as well as Benedict’s dedication to liturgical principles, encouraged traditional Catholics in their faith. While this helped build bridges with such groups as the Society of St. Pius X, it sometimes drew protests and objections from the Pope’s opponents.

Benedict's other approach emphasized “Western values” as a common base for humanity.

“He insisted that the modern ‘western values’ were originally Christian ones, that Christianity is a religion of rationality and an indispensable foundation for the European community,” Konno said.

According to Konno, Benedict’s 2004 discussion with Habermas was among his successes, and the Pope emeritus' work has had an impact.

“Thanks to these efforts, he was accepted by most political leaders in the world as the moral leader of the time,” Konno said. He acknowledged that some of the Pope’s past rivals, like the Swiss theologian Hans Kung, were not satisfied.

Benedict saw the dignity of humankind as a valuable principle of modernity. He also saw possibilities to cooperate with political progressives in areas such as bioethics and Middle East peacekeeping.

At the same time, the Pope’s most important target of criticism was “the idea that man can always decide his fate by himself.”

“According to Pope Benedict XVI, this attitude means a lack of modesty before God, and is the main cause for many problems of the time, such as environmental problems, divorce, abortion, and social inequalities. But this idea is a basis of freedom for the progressives,” Kanno said.

He explained that Benedict is not well-known in Japan, and he wants his book to show Japanese people “the western discussion on the modernity of the Catholic Church.”

Kanno, who is agnostic, said Benedict’s arguments were not always persuasive. The professor found his view of the rationality of Christianity to be “one-sided.”

Kanno’s family, from the north of Japan, was traditionally Orthodox Christian. “Although my father was an atheist and I am not a Christian, I am interested in Christianity as a culture,” he said.

One of his areas of interest includes the conflicts between the Catholic Church and German left-wing intellectuals in the late 20th century.

“The German progressive intellectuals insisted that all persons in Germany must accept unconditionally ‘Western values’.” This insistence applied to the Catholic Church, to East Germans, Turkish immigrants, and Japanese students.

“I thought, the modern ‘Western values’ are really theoretical weapons against the people who seem to be not completely modern,” Kanno said.

He explained that he first became interested in Cardinal Ratzinger when the future Pope was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger published the 2000 declaration Dominus Iesus, on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.

Kanno saw the document as a rejection of the idea that the Catholic Church must adapt without conditions to the mode of the time.

“That was a very courageous and dangerous act,” he said.

Kanno sees Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor, as a “modest and humble man,” but not a strong reformer.

“The Catholic Church needs his reign as a truce,” the professor said. Following Francis' pontificate, he thinks the cardinals “must think again how the Catholic Church has to confront the modern world.”

Kanno’s book is available in Japanese, though he hopes to have it translated into English.