London -- Thursday March 8 2007
Heaven's door closed to DylanPaul MacInnes
It was unlikely that the pair would ever be close friends: Pope Benedict XVI, conservative theologian, and Bob Dylan, iconoclastic singer and poet. Yet the pontiff's feelings about the singer run so deep that he once tried to stop him performing at the Vatican.
In his new book, Pope Benedict recalls his doubts over whether Dylan should have been allowed to play a concert at the behest of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in 1997. Describing Dylan as a "type of 'prophet'", he claimed the singer's message diverged from that the Pope wished to convey.
Remembering the concert, which saw Dylan perform in front of 300,000 young Catholics in Bologna, Benedict writes in his book, John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor: "There was reason to be sceptical, and I was. Indeed, in a certain sense I still am today."
Pope Benedict goes on to say that he "doubts to this day whether it was right to let this kind of so-called prophet take the stage" in front of the Pope. He does concede, however, that Pope John Paul II was successful in conveying a spiritual message that day, one "ignored by the entertainment industry".
After failing to stop the concert, Pope Benedict, then a Cardinal, was forced to endure a set by Dylan which included Knockin' on Heaven's Door and A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall with Forever Young as an encore.
Pope John Paul II followed the performance with a sermon which addressed the message of Dylan's hit Blowing in the Wind. "You say the answer is blowing in the wind, my friend," he said. "So it is: but it is not the wind that blows things away, it is the breath and life of the Holy Spirit, the voice that calls and says, 'Come!'" This brought the house down. The Pope added: "You ask me how many roads a man must walk down before he becomes a man. I answer: there is only one road for man, and it is the road of Jesus Christ, who said, 'I am the Way and the Life'."
Pope John Paul II's willingness to associate with pop stars is not shared by his successor. Not just distrustful of Dylan, Pope Benedict has claimed that all rock music is the work of Satan and has called off the Christmas pop concerts at the Vatican introduced by John Paul. He also opposes the use of guitars in mass.
Sydney Morning Herald -- Wednesday March 14, 2007
Pope blesses some of that old-time religionLinda Morris Religious Affairs Writer
THE Pope has urged greater use of Latin prayers and Gregorian chants in large public and international Masses as he moves to wind back contemporary expressions of church prayer life.
The Pope has cast a critical eye over styles of musical accompaniment, the colour of the priests' vestments, even church art in a teaching document issued in response to an international synod of bishops on the celebration of the Eucharist.
Showing his traditional credentials, he has also championed work and family life balance, warning that Catholics should not be slaves to work.
Civil society needed to recognise that Sunday was the Lord's day and should be a day of rest from work, he said, in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis.
"It is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or idolise it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life," the Pope said.
Despite calls from Catholics in Australia and Europe to relax celibacy rules to permit married priests, the Pope has upheld the "witness of virginity" as a "priceless treasure" that would remain "obligatory in the Latin tradition".
A more equitable distribution of clergy would help solve the priest shortage and more Catholic men needed to be open to priestly calling. But the Pope cautions about short cuts to priestly vocations, warning bishops against admitting seminarians without the necessary qualities for ministry.
The Pope calls for more liturgical sobriety in the celebration of Mass. While he says no one song is better than another, music which failed to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided and he ordered Gregorian chants be "suitably esteemed". All future priests should study religious art, along with Latin texts. Priests should be attentive to their gestures, movement and even the colour of their vestments.
The teaching document is expected to be followed by a papal edict making it easier for Catholics to attend the Tridentine Mass, which dates back 1600 years and is celebrated almost entirely in Latin.
It was in effect replaced in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council by a new rite of Mass, celebrated "in the vernacular" or the dominant language of the country of celebration.
But the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Adrian Doyle, who attended the bishops' synod, said the Pope's preference for Latin prayers would be unlikely to change the celebration of Mass at parish level.
In his exhortation the Pope was reminding Catholics of the "wonderful gift that was the Eucharist". While Latin made sense for international events where multiple languages were spoken, English was probably preferred in a local setting, Archbishop Doyle said.
In Australia most Catholics under the age of 50 would not have had much contact with Latin Masses.
In Sydney, the Tridentine Rite is celebrated by the Priests of the Fraternity of St Peter, an institute established in 1988 by John Paul II specifically to preserve the traditional Mass as celebrated in the liturgical books of 1962.
Father Laurence Gresser, principal chaplain, said Latin was not taught in some seminaries and it remained to be seen how many Australian priests had the ability to implement Latin prayers in their parishes.
London -- Thursday March 8 2007
Why Benedict would have stopped John Paul going to see Bob Dylan
By Peter Popham in Rome
At the time he gritted his teeth and sat it out. But now Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that he thought his predecessor's encounter with the singer Bob Dylan was a lousy idea.
In 1997, John Paul II sat on a stage along with 50 cardinals in a vast fairground outside Bologna while slightly below and in front of him, Bob Dylan, wearing a cowboy hat and rhinestone-spangled zoot suit, crunched his way through "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "It's a Hard Rain" and "Forever Young".
After the second song Dylan ascended to the Pope's throne, doffed the hat, Nashville Skyline-style, and shook his hand.
The Pope then preached a sermon to the 300,000-strong audience. How many roads must a man walk down? "Just one," declared the Pope. What answer is blowing in the wind? "The breath and voice of the Spirit," he insisted, "a voice that calls and says, 'Come'."
At the time the event was seen as one of the more brilliant publicity stunts by the most publicity-savvy pope that ever lived. But in a book published this week, Benedict XVI, the late pope's theological adviser, reveals that he thought the whole thing a very bad idea. "The Pope arrived [at the Bologna Eucharist Congress] tired, worn out," he writes in My Beloved Predecessor. "Just at that moment Bob Dylan, the 'star' of the young, and others whose names I do not recall, turned up. They had a message completely different from that to which the Pope was committed. There was reason to be sceptical - which I was, and in a certain sense still am - to doubt whether it was really right to involve 'prophets' of this type."
Pope Benedict's admission is no surprise. A pianist who relaxes by playing Bach and Mozart, he has made no attempt to hide his dislike of the church's use of pop music to ingratiate itself with the young. Last year he called for an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional music. "The liturgy is not a theatrical text, and the altar is not a stage," he said. He has described "great mass gatherings" of pop fans as "a kind of cult, at odds with the cult of Christianity". He quietly cancelled the Vatican's annual Christmas pop concert.
Gerald O'Connell, an expert on Vatican affairs, commented: "I think the difference in their approaches comes from their very different life experiences. John Paul II went camping and canoeing with young people. He enjoyed singing round the campfire when he was at university. It's a question of different sensitivies. It's a sign of honesty in Benedict that he reveals this." But it is also part of a more general turning away from pop culture on the part of the church - in part a reaction to criticisms of Western materialism by prominent Muslims.
When Lou Reed, Alanis Morissette and the Eurythmics starred at a May Day concert attended by the Pope in his jubilee year, the bishop in charge, Fernando Charrier, said: "Do not be astonished. Rock is an expression of today's world, particularly dear to the young. All [forms of] human expression, when they have dignity, command respect. I do not believe there has ever existed a [form of] rock that is diabolical."
But with the condemnation of the materialist, consumption-mad West by Islamic writers in recent years, the church has had a rethink. "Something we should all give up, not just for Lent but for good," said the National Catholic Register last month, is "the excesses of pop culture ... Our first duty is to opt out of the aspects of pop culture that have become so debased ... The arts have become a cesspool."
If Benedict is a fogey, he is in good company. Meanwhile, his Bobness has only happy memories of Bologna. "That show was one of the best I ever played in my whole life," he said.