Friday, September 17, 2010

Papal Visit to the UK: Day Two - Memorial - St. Robert Bellarmine

DAY TWO On the second day the Holy Father is going to St Mary's University College, Twickenham, where he will pray with representatives of religious congregations - particularly those who have a charism for education.

He will meet 3,000 young people to celebrate Catholic education and, later, the leaders of other religions.

The Pope will also meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury and, as part of the State visit, address British society.

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For me the money quote of the Pope's Trip to the U.K. began on the flight over, in reply to one of five questions the journalists put to the Holy Father!

Have a look:

Q. - The UK, like many other Western countries - there is an issue that you have already touched on in the first answer –it is considered a secular country. There is a strong atheist movement, even for cultural reasons. However, there are also signs that religious faith, particularly in Jesus Christ, is still alive on a personal level. What can this mean for Catholics and Anglicans? Can anything be done to make the Church as an institution, more credible and attractive to everyone?

A. - I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power.

The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ.

In this regard, the Church does not seek to be attractive in and of herself, but must be transparent for Jesus Christ and to the extent that she is not out for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wants power, but is simply the voice of another, she becomes truly transparent for the great figure of Christ and the great truth that he has brought to humanity.

The power of love, in this moment one listens, one accepts. The Church should not consider herself, but help to consider the other and she herself must see and speak of the other. In this sense, I think, both Anglicans and Catholics have the same simple task, the same direction to take.

If both Anglicans and Catholics see that the other is not out for themselves but are tools of Christ, children of the Bridegroom, as Saint John says, if both carry out the priorities of Christ and not their own, they will come together, because at that time the priority of Christ unites them and they are no longer competitors seeking the greatest numbers, but are united in our commitment to the truth of Christ who comes into this world and so they find each other in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism.

--courtesy Vatican Radio (

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Today's liturgical memorial is of a wonderful teacher of the faith, unafraid to enter the challenging questions of his day:

Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a scholar, theologian and intrepid defender of the Faith during the controversies of the Reformation. As a cardinal he served three popes who counted on his wisdom and scholarly advice.

Roberto Bellarmino was born in central Italy, in the small hill city of Montepulciano, and was the nephew, on his mother's side, of Pope Marcellus II. His father initially opposed Bellarmine's desire to become a Jesuit and requested that he wait a year to test his vocation. Father General James LaĆ­nez decided to count that year as the young man's novitiate and accepted his vows as soon as he arrived in Rome.

After studying philosophy at the Roman College, he studied theology first at the University of Padua and then at Louvain. He was ordained in 1570 in the same year that the Jesuits opened their own theologate in Louvain where he was appointed the first Jesuit professor of theology. During his seven years there he became familiar with the writings of the Reformers, especially Martin Luther and John Calvin, whose objections against the Roman Church he answered in his courses.

The Jesuit theologian returned to the Roman College in 1576 to take the chair of "controversial theology" which meant specializing in those theological disputes that divided the Christian Church. The success of his lectures during his 11 years there led the pope to name him to papal commissions on revising the Vulgate (Latin) Bible and preparing a new edition of the Septuagint (Greek) Bible.

In 1586 he published the first of three volumes of his Controversies, his most important work. In 1598 he published his Catechism, which became widely used and was translated into 62 languages. As he devoted himself to writing, Father Bellarmine stopped teaching but continued spiritual direction of Jesuit students, including the young nobleman, Aloysius Gonzaga. In 1592 he was appointed rector of the college, with responsibility for 220 Jesuits; then in 1594 he was appointed provincial of the Naples province.

Bellarmine was only provincial for two years before Pope Clement VIII asked him to become his theological adviser. Despite the Jesuit's own desires, the pope named him a cardinal on March 3, 1599. Being a cardinal meant that he had to be surrounded by servants and gentlemen-in-waiting, but he continued to live simply and distribute to the poor money he did not spend on himself. To Cardinal Bellarmine's surprise, in 1602 the Holy Father named him Archbishop of Capua, a diocese north of Naples.

When Paul V was elected on May 16, 1605, the new pope asked Cardinal Bellarmine to remain in Rome, where he was named to several Vatican congregations

Cardinal Bellarmine always maintained a Jesuit spiritual life, and used the annual retreat, which he extended to 30-days per year, as an opportunity to write books on spirituality. As he progressed into his 70s, he asked the Holy Father for permission to retire and return to live in the Jesuit novitiate of Sant'Andrea in Rome. Both Paul V and his successor, Gregory XV, refused to allow Bellarmine to leave their service because they so valued his presence.

Eventually Pope Gregory relented, and the Jesuit cardinal moved into the novitiate only days before contracting a fever from which he never recovered. The simple funeral he had requested became, by order of the pope, something much more elaborate as testimony to someone whose service to the Church had been outstanding. His body was transferred in 1923 to the church of St. Ignatius.

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O God, who adorned the Bishop Saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and virtue to vindicate the faith of the Church, grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith, your people may always find joy. Through our Lord.

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