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Pope Francis: 'Don't turn back clock on Vatican II'

Pope Francis had some inspiring words about our fear of the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, to me the most neglected aspect of the Trinity among Catholics -- even as it moves millions of other Christians to holiness in other parts of the Christian world. As Vatican Radio reports on today's homily, his words were in the context of embracing the changes pushed by the Second Vatican Council:

Pope Francis homily at the mass was centred on the theme of the Holy Spirit and our resistance to it. It took its inspiration from the first reading of the day which was the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen who described his accusers as stubborn people who were always resisting the Holy Spirit.Put frankly, the Pope continued, the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward. He said that we wish to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong. Pope Francis said thats because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, its what gives us the strength to go forward but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.Nowadays, he went on, everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but its not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it. The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. But 50 years later, have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council, he asked. The answer is No, said Pope Francis. We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we dont want it to upset us. We dont want to change and whats more there are those who wish to turn the clock back. This, he went on, is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.

Some could easily read that as a contradiction of Benedict XVI's view of the council, which emphasized taming the "spirit" of the council and undoing changes through a "reform of the reform." I doubt Francis necessarily intended to tweak his predecessor on the ex-pope's 86th birthday, an event Francis also noted and prayed for.In any case, I think this portrait of Benedict, a birthday tribute that Greg Kandra points to, is the real insult to His Other Holiness. It's meant as a nice thing, from the German Embassy to the Holy See. I'm no art critic, but really now...

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Francis throws in a few more adjectives in the Italian text:This is called being stubborn, this is called wanting to tame the Holy Spirit, this is called becoming foolish and slow of heart.The last part quoting Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Wow! I've never seen the Holy Spirit called "the strength of God" before. I wonder if the sermon is actually directed at the bishops who downgrade VII, and Francis is getting them prepared for change. These daily sermons are so good! The Hours just don't fit me, a contemporary old woman -- they're much too often military metaphors about enemies and devastation, etc., etc. Yes, they're often about the Law and gratitude and the kindness of God, but they don't relate all that well to an ordinary contemporary life like mine. Pope Frances' homilies are very varied and relevant. Thank you, Pope Frances.

Haha. The portrait is hideous. So is the other one on Kendra's (glitchy) site.

To Ann Olivier:Very good point. According to: holy spirit is not merely a force, but a person (masculin); the third person of the trinity.references: John 14:16-17John 15:26-27John 16:7-15Sects such as the Jehovah's witnesses, who don't believe in the holy trinity, say that the holy spirit is just the force (or strength) of God. Perhaps Pope Frances should join them :)

The B16 portrait confirms the old adage: "A picture is worth a thousand words."The fact that this obviously hideous portrait comes from the German embassy speaks volumes of the high esteem "Emeritus Papa" is held in home country.I think that Francis should send the portrait to some Bavarian monastery as a house warming gift for Joseph.

Portrait = very good rendering of the man or, more appropriately, his fear and suspicion.

Pope Francis in this homily defined Vatican II as "unopera bella dello Spirito Santo" (a beautufil work of the Holy Spirit) and "continuit della crescita della Chiesa" (continuity of the growth of the Church") - very carefully worded. In my opinion, the signals he is sending about how he is dealing with B16's legacy about Vatican II are clear.

Pope Benedict had a profound love for Vatican II. Pope Benedict / Joseph Ratzinger is an eminent theologian, a holy priest and a very great man.

If anyone has the persona and authority to ensure that this church does not turn back the clock on V2, it is Francis. Look what B16 was able to do to foster recidivism! Granted, he has a lot of willing co-conspirators.His leadership and focus will be critical to set the tone and direction of how the church lives out and finishes the implementation V2.

"had", not "has" ....

Looking at that portrait, I wonder:Did Pope Benedict really use to have such a round face and non-sunken eyes?What about all those buttons on our popes' robes:do they really have to button them up every morning when they get dressed, or are they just pretend buttons, and is there some hidden zipper or velcro somewhere underneath?

This is one more welcome sign of openness coming from Francis. There is no doubt that Benedict XVII is a fine man. He simply had grown afraid of the momentum of Vatican II and did his best to slow down the process, close down the openness and make us feel as if we couldn't speak our mind about pressing issues. JPII also began that process - so we've had many years of this retreating behavior. I believe it was a bid to hold onto their power, prestige and perks. Then enter Francis and everything gets turned upside down. My prayer is that in Francis' desire for simplicity that he will pave the way for greater simplicity in the Curia, placing authentic God seekers, not power seekers, to help him achieve his vision for the Church. There is so much at stake here for the global church. I hope he knows how we sitting in the pews feel about all of this.

I think there is little chance B-16 will change his Facebook profile pic to this.

Claire,I remember a story where a priest used the buttons of his cassock to pray the rosary, so maybe there are 60, or even 170...

Right, cassocks. I always forget the term.

A discussion on the number of buttons can be found online, along with possible made-up symbolism:30 = Judas' wages33 = number of years in the life of Jesus on earth39 = thirty-nine articles defining the church of EnglandI have no idea how many buttons Pope Benedict Emeritus had.

Is it just a coincidence that in this new portrait Benedict looks remarkably like Bernard Law?

What's wrong with the painting? I think it looks very realistic and kind of cool, like he's right in the middle of being a little startled.

Massimo,I have yet to see anything said by Francis that constitutes a departure from what Benedict has said. I think Benedict could agree with the words you cited. As I think Francis could agree with these words of Benedict pronounced on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council:"I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the letter of the Council that is to its texts also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity."That Francis will do things differently and perhaps, different things, is certainly possible. We will have to wait and see. In the meantime I do not think that praising Francis requires disparaging Benedict as some seem to do.

Painting is of an imposter - no mozzetta.

The picture, imho, looks nothing like him. When I saw it, before I read the headline or the post, I wondered who it was. I thought it was a 19th-century pope, pre-Leo XIII. Benedict doesn't have a furtive look like that. He has a shy little smile at times that is nice. And the chair dwarfs him. The big clumsy arm. The ugly upholstery. I think it should be burned, as Clementine Churchill burned the Sutherland portrait of Winston.

Kind of a disturbing painting - the eyes, the posture. I wonder if it was done from a photo or from a live sitting.

Shortly after he was elected, Pope Francis gave a talk to the Cardinals in which he said:"He, the Paraclete, is the supreme protagonist of every initiative and expression of faith. It's curious: It makes me think that the Paraclete makes all the differences in the Churches and seems to be an apostle of Babel. But, on the other hand, [the Holy Spirit] is the one who makes unity of these differences, not in equality, but in harmony."I was very much struck at the time by that description of the Spirit as a seeming "apostle of Babel". It seems from today's homily that this may be an emerging theme in the Holy Father's preaching.

Massimo,What is clear is that Francis' papacy is a repudiation of Benedict's and today's homily confirms it. Vatican Ii is now firmly in play as is its collegiality, evidenced by his selection if a worldwide council of cardinal advisors. It is the vindication of Rahner's assessment of Vatican Ii as inaugurating a world Church. The hermeneutics of continuity no longer holds sway and the real meaning of Vatican II as a rupture with the past is back on the table. Watch for the suppression of Summorum Pontificum, the other shoe waiting to drop. As I have been saying, there is a new Pope in town.

Francis continues to impress and intrigue.

I was once told by a priest that the cassock buttons were chastity buttons .... X opportunities to say "no" as you were tempted to disrobe.Or so I was told.Obviously that was an old wive's tale.

Benedict XVII and Frances -- what a lively line-up of popes the typos are assembling!I agree with Fr Imbelli that there is no sign of difference between B XVI and Francis -- apart from greater sartorial simplicity.

"Wow! Ive never seen the Holy Spirit called the strength of God before" -- In Luke 1:35 we have "the Holy Spirit shall come upon you (Pneuma hagion, without article) and the Power of the Most High shall overshadow you" (dynamis hypsistou, without article)Hebrew poetic parallelism places the two expressions Spirit and Power in apposition here.

One of the things that make me happy is the disappearance of the words "authentic" and "correct" that peppered Pope Benedict's speeches. Often they came in the context of "people often think that this means ----, but the correct meaning is ---", an approach which I have grown allergic to, especially now that "for all" has been replaced by "for many" with the explanation that "for many" does not restrict "for all". " Along with the "for many", there was the framing of Pope Benedict as being in a world that was apart from us. For example a memo from last October requested bishops, priests and religious to wear a cassock during most occasions when visiting Rome, and in particular when in presence of the pope. It apparently came at the bequest of Pope Benedict XVI in person. The memo recalled a 1982 letter asking that priests wear the more formal dress as a "distinguishing mark" which contributes to "the beauty of the priest in his external behavior."So, we were watching a Vatican court evolving deeper and deeper in its own alternative universe, and, with the new missal and its own alternative version of English, we have been pressured to join that fake world ourselves. It's been like being pulled deeper and deeper into a nightmare.The new pope is, in many ways, ordinary: it's like waking up. What a relief!

Thank you, David Tenney, for that quote from Francis' talk to the cardinals. I hadn't seen that before. Very fascinating indeed. The Holy Spirit as seeming Apostle of Babel, yet the unifying force behind the diversity which the Spirit blows us into. We trail so far behind the Holy Spirit. And yet we are invited to dance in the Spirit's movement, if only we dare.

CNS video interview with Cardinl Pell on what he sees as the role of the Group of Eight.

Joseph S. O Leary 04/17/2013 - 1:21 amI'm all in favor of there being a Pope Frances ... but this apparently is not that time.

Frank Gibbons: only the test of time will determine what you are claiming.Let's hope that the rush to determine JPII to be "santo subito" even in the light of his obvious deficiencies with respect to Maciel and some other matters that now haunt this church is not repeated in the case of B16.

Robert - Thank you for providing the following text of Benedict's talk on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council. I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the letter of the Council that is to its texts also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity.While Francis might agree with the words, he takes his departure with the "spirit" of the law versus the "letter" of the law. I believe all that Francis has already done and will continue to do, in the" spirit" of the Council, is to do away with all the nonsense which has prevailed with JPII and BXVI, e.g, the persecution of loyal priests with progressive ideas, pursuing the nuns, unnecessary and illogical liturgical changes, complete disregard of collegiality--all this while the Church endures the priest scandal.Francis has already pronounced his direction with the appointment of the Advisory Cardinals. He has my prayers for his sccess.

Perhaps B16 preferred returning to the "letter" of the council, but any good historian will not overlook the "context" of the letters emanating from a major historic event. Then, of course, we have not just the official record of a council, we also have its trajectory. Therein perhaps is the proverbial "rub" for Ratzinger and likeminded. A church council is not only a response (or reaction) to the environment. It is also a course-setting event.

Pope Francis continues with his little gems of sermons. Today he criticized a certain kind of prudence and common sense, complaining of those who "... walk following only their good sense, common sense, a sort of mundane prudence ; that very mundane prudence which represents temptation". I'm wondering if he's hinting at some unexpectedly bold decisions he's going to implement. I just hope they're not a matter of some unexpectedly conservative theological positions.

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