By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Irish Catholics to read his pastoral letter on the sexual abuse crisis “with an open heart and in a spirit of faith.”
Addressing Irish visitors at his weekly general audience March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the pope said he had written the letter as “a sign of my deep concern” over “this painful situation.”
He used his audience to announce that he would sign the letter March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and send it “soon after.”
“My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal,” he said.
In December, the pope had said he would write the letter in the wake of the scandal that followed publication of an independent report that faulted the church for its handling of 325 sex abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Dublin in the years 1975-2004. The report said bishops sometimes protected abusive priests, and were apparently more intent on protecting the church’s reputation and assets than on helping the victims.
Pope Benedict called all the bishops of Ireland to the Vatican in February, discussing both the scandal as well as the potential content of his letter.
At his audience, he said that “the church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis.”
In his main audience address, the pope continued his series of talks about medieval Catholic theologians by looking at the similarities and differences in the teaching of St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, who were contemporaries.
In the year’s first outdoor audience, the pope pointed out that the statues of the two saints stand directly opposite each other on the top of the colonnade embracing St. Peter’s Square.
The 13th-century theologians, who both recognized the importance of faith and reason working together in religious life, still had different opinions about the ultimate purpose of theology, the pope said.
St. Thomas saw theology “as primarily a theoretical science,” whose aim was to help people know God.
St. Bonaventure, he said, “saw it as practical, concerned with that ‘wisdom,’ which enables us to love God and conform our wills to his.”
Reacting to erroneous trends in theology, which probably were present among his Franciscan brothers “and are also present in our day,” St. Bonaventure warned against “the violent attitude” of over-analyzing faith, thinking that reason can explain everything about God, the pope said.
“Before the word of God, we must contemplate, not analyze,” the pope said.
The Franciscan saint knew that while reason was important and could help explain many things about God, at a certain point only love could help people draw closer to God and to understanding why he would sacrifice his son to save humanity, he said.
St. Bonaventure knew that “precisely in the dark night of the cross, there appeared the greatness of God’s love,” the pope said.
Just before the pope began speaking, a man in the audience began shouting “abortion” and yelled for the pope to “excommunicate Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” respectively the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the vice president of the United States.
The man was escorted out of St. Peter’s Square by Vatican security. Because he was not arrested, the Vatican refused to release his name.
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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100317_en.html. The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100317_sp.html.
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