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Rome Notes: Longtime Vatican Aide, Now a Bishop;

1/9/2004 - 7:00 AM PST

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Former Secretary Under Cardinal Ratzinger Is Installed

By Delia Gallagher

ROME, JAN. 8, 2004 (Zenit) - On Tuesday, in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger celebrated the episcopal installation of Monsignor Josef Clemens, the former secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Under Bernini's imposing bronze and gold chair of St. Peter, the new prelate was welcomed into the fraternity of bishops by 13 Vatican cardinals, more than 35 bishops and the melodious voices of the Legionaries of Christ choir.

Tourists who happened in on the basilica on that cold evening on the feast of Epiphany were able to witness the intimate warmth that the Vatican offers to one of its own.

The Mass was celebrated in Bishop Clemens' native tongue, German, as well as in Latin and Italian.

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a longtime friend of Josef Clemens, read the first reading in impeccable Italian. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope's private secretary, sat with his fellow bishops behind a row of cardinals that included Giovanni Battista Re, Renato Martino and DarÝo Castrillˇn Hoyos, who head the dicasteries overseeing bishops, justice and peace, and clergy, respectively.

Cardinal Ratzinger in his homily spoke of the mission of the bishop "in a dark world."

"A careful reading of the sacred Scriptures shows us something new," said Cardinal Ratzinger. "We see not only the pilgrimage of the faithful toward God, but the pilgrimage of God toward us."

"God comes down from the stars, just as the song says," said the cardinal, referring to a popular Italian Christmas song, "and looks for man."

"And this is the beautiful mission of a bishop: to be an instrument of the pilgrimage of God towards humanity," he said.

"In a dark world," said Cardinal Ratzinger speaking without notes, "the bishop lights a candle of great joy and is the carrier of the divine light."

Bishop Clemens, in a short thank-you speech after the Mass, said: "I wish to add something to Cardinal Ratzinger's invitation to the bishop not to proclaim himself but the message of the one who sends him."

"The bishop is also one who guides the gaze of humanity toward the star which never is never spent; that man will not lose himself on other paths," said Bishop Clemens.

* * *

"Seeds of the Word"

Ecumenism -- what it is and how it should be carried out -- has long been a source of debate in theological and pastoral circles within the Church.

This week, La CiviltÓ Cattolica, the Jesuit journal that is vetted by the Vatican's Secretariat of State before publication, weighs in on the issue with an article entitled, "The Seeds of the Word, Elements of Truth in Non-Christian Religions."

The article refers specifically to a debate going on in Italy and Germany, but its points may be of interest to English-speaking ecumenical watchers.

The argument in brief is that the "semina Verbi" (seeds of the Word) referred to by the Church Fathers as present in classical Greek thinkers "has been illegitimately extended by the Second Vatican Council to include religions, cultures and national traditions of non-Christian people," according to the article.

"It is the scandal of those who in the words of Jean Dumont, want to keep separate Rome and Jerusalem," continues the CiviltÓ Cattolica article.

The article states that for some German theologians, "the doctrine of 'semina Verbi' was applied by the apologist Fathers only to certain great thinkers, not to ancient religions as a whole."

So Justin, for example, praises Socrates, while Clement refers to the Greek poets and philosophers who have recognized the one true God.

Yet this idea of a seed of truth present in pre-Christian thinkers, the German argument goes, "does not lend itself neither to the promotion of a theory of universal redemption nor of a re-evaluation of pagan religion."

Vatican II, however, did just that.

"Semina Verbi," according to La CiviltÓ Cattolica, appears only once in a Vatican II document ("Ad Gentes," Article 1, No. 11), but its idea pervades other documents, particularly "Nostra Aetate," on non-Christian religions.

Further, says the article, "a discussion on 'semina Verbi' cannot but enlarge itself to other related themes ... regarding the salvation of non-Christians, the salvific value of non-Christian religions, the absolute salvific role of Christianity ... and the rapport between these and the missionary duty of the Church."

La CiviltÓ Cattolica admits it is "praiseworthy to establish the exact meaning of the formula 'semina Verbi' in those ancient authors," but it admonishes those ...

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