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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Rome, Italy, August 13, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News)—The annual meeting of Benedict XVI’s students from his time at the University of Regensburg will gather next week to discuss the theology of the cross, a member of the circle has said.

The Ratzinger schuelerkreis, or “students’ circle,” has met to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor was pulled from academia to become a bishop.

This year’s encounter will be held at Castel Gandolfo August 21–24.

“As usual, the members of the schuelerkreis presented Benedict with three possible issues to be discussed, and Benedict chose one from among them,” Father Stephan Horn told CNA August 11.

Father Horn, a Salvatorian, was Ratzinger’s academic assistant at the University of Regensburg from 1971 to 1977 and is now organizer of the annual schuelerkreis meeting.

He said that after choosing the general topic of the theology of the cross, Benedict “gave total freedom to the general relator for the development of the topic.”

This year’s general relator is Karl-Heinz Menke, “a German theologian whom Benedict esteems greatly.”

Menke teaches dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn. The author of several papers in christology, the theology of the cross, and dogmatics, he gained prominence when in 2011 Ratzinger quoted from Menke’s book Jesus Gott der Sohn (Jesus, God the Son) in his book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

The idea for the annual meeting arose in 1977, when Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and when he moved to Rome in 1981 to take up the post of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it continued.

When in the spring of 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome, his former students thought their annual tradition would stop but were proved wrong.

“He always took part in our meetings, even when he had been elected pope,” Father Horn explained. “But after his resignation, Benedict has always chosen to remain at his enclosure.”

Although he no longer attends the Castel Gandolfo meeting, Benedict does say Mass at the Vatican for his schuelerkreis following their encounter.

“As he did last year, Benedict will say the concluding Mass of the schuelerkreis,” Father Horn said.

The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year before, ecumenism was the subject.

The Ratzinger schuelerkreis is formed of about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, but usually between 25 and 30 are able to make it to any given year’s meeting.

The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger but who are studying and developing upon his theological work.

Photo: Marianne Medlin, CNA


Washington D.C., August 11, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News)—Catholics in various parts of the United States have organized efforts to pray for peace in Iraq, especially for persecuted Christians.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, has called for collective prayer for peace in Iraq on Aug. 17 using a prayer written by the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon.

“Lord, the plight of our country is deep, and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening,” reads the prayer of Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako. “Therefore, we ask you, Lord, to spare our lives and to grant us patience and courage to continue our witness of Christian values with trust and hope.”

“Lord, peace is the foundation of life; grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety and with dignity and joy,” the prayer concludes. “Glory be to you forever.”

The bishop noted the struggles of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Militants with the Islamic State have burned and looted churches, homes, and businesses and have threatened those who do not convert to Sunni Islam.

Bishop Pates cited Pope Francis’ call for peace, citing the pope’s declaration that “violence generates more violence” and dialogue is “the only path to peace.”

The bishop encouraged Catholics to tell their legislators about their concerns for Christians and other religious minorities suffering in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

The Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging Catholics to say a prayer attributed to St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

The archdiocese is also encouraging fasting. It encourages sharing the story of persecuted Christians on social media, using the hashtag #WeAreN.

The hashtag refers to the first letter of the word Nusrani, indicating “Christian.” Militants are painting nun, the Arabic equivalent of N, on the homes of Christians to target them for harassment and violence.

In the Archdiocese of New York, Holy Innocents Parish is holding a prayer vigil for peace on Aug. 11. Marking the feast of the transitus of St. Clare of Assisi, it will include Mass at the parish, followed by a candlelight prayer rally at Manhattan’s Herald Square.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila will host an interreligious prayer gathering for Middle East peace at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Aug. 11. Together with the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon’s ecumenical and interfaith office, the effort aims to halt the murder of Christians and the destruction of Christians’ homes, properties, and churches.

“Though no simple resolution to these tragedies is readily apparent, we as people of faith cannot help but be moved to respond in some way,” Archbishop Aquila said.

The prayer effort also seeks an end to the persecution of Jewish and Muslim minorities in the Middle East.

Representatives at the event will include Catholic and Orthodox Churches from the Middle East, Protestant and Catholic representatives from Western Christianity, and Jews and Muslims.

“We are coming together as a people who believe in God, . . . proud of our diversity yet honored to call one another brothers and sisters, to celebrate and protect the civilization of diversity, peace, love, and co-existence,” said Father Andre-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Parish in Lakewood and director of the Maronite eparchy’s interfaith office.

The prayer service will include readings from the Pentateuch, the New Testament, and the Koran as well as hymns and prayers for peace.

The Our Father will be chanted in Hebrew, Syro-Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and English. There will be prayers in Arabic as well.

Archbishop Aquila will deliver a statement expressing solidarity on behalf of the religions gathered.


Rome, Italy, August 8, 2014 (CNA)—Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia, the young Italian religious who won the last season of The Voice Italy, renewed her temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on July 29 at one of the congregation’s convents in Sicily.

A member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Family in Milan informed CNA about the ceremony but said she could not give her name because of harassment the community has endured from Italian tabloids.

In recent days a reporter from the Italian magazine Di Piu followed Sister Cristina and two others to a store near their convent located on the outskirts of Milan.

“Right now, I’m tired,” she told the reporter. “The last six months have been hard. Right now my commitment is to take care of my interior life in order to be able to continue giving much to others.” The magazine published the comments along with pictures of Sister Cristina and her companions making their purchases at the store.

After winning The Voice Italy, Sister Cristina plans to record an album with Universal Music, although for the moment the project is on hold.

“It was always very clear: I went [on the show] to send a Christian message,” she told Di Piu. After being announced as the winner, Sister Cristina invited the entire studio audience to join her in praying the Our Father “so that Jesus will be present here.”

The Ursuline sister said that despite winning, her priorities would always be to continue in religious life. She plans to make her perpetual vows in 2018.

Sister Cristina caught the attention of the world in March when she sang Alicia Keys’s “No One” on the popular program. The official video of the performance has received more than 56 million views on YouTube.