China & Turkey & Advent, Oh My!

Potpourri of Popery, Immaculate Conception Edition

But First
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...
Not that Ezekiel's vision had anything to do with finding St. Paul's remains, but someone has --in excavations under St. Paul's Outside the Walls-- and I felt the need of musical accompaniment. Now then.
A week or so ago, just as the Bishop of Hong Kong left for Viet Nam, the Chinese ordained another illicit bishop. He did not receive this news with Zen-like tranquility:
in order to achieve their purpose, the methods they used this time are not only threat, allurement, and deceit, but also forceful abduction and kidnapping!
The Vatican's official response was equally blunt. Here's the account of a bishop who had to escape kidnappers to avoid participation in the illicit ordination. Cardinal Zen says China could learn a thing or two from Viet Nam:
I noticed that the government is truly opening up to religious freedom: it has removed all limits on priestly ordinations and recruits to the seminary. This is very important, because it is precisely these limits that created many problems for the local Church. Now there is much more freedom, even in this respect. The Chinese government should take Vietnam as an example.
And he's also written the preface for the recently-released (271 pp!) Red Book of Chinese Martyrs. He says what needs to be said about the Church under communism, but ends nicely:
These pages are not only pages of suffering and pain; they are above all pages of joy. No one will be able to take away from us the joy and beauty of being disciples of Jesus.
Just about everything I've read is tosh (Pope going soft; aged Pope "learned something" from Regensberg; Pope not really the pope because he prayed in the Blue Mosque blah-blah-blah). Howzabout we stick to what His Holiness has to say about his trip? What does he think he accomplished? He spoke about it briefly in Sunday's Angelus:
I want to thank the Lord once again, along with you, for the apostolic journey I undertook over the past days to Turkey: I felt accompanied and supported by the prayer of the whole Christian community. I address to all my cordial gratitude!
and more at Wednesday's audience (no official translation yet, but scroll down here for a stab at it). The pope says all papal pilgrimages involve concentric circles of mission work --to Catholics, Christians and humanity at large-- and describes his experiences with each circle as it were. The outer circle of civic leaders and Turks:
Turkey is a country with a very large Muslim majority, but is regulated by a constitution that affirms state secularism. It is, therefore, an emblematic country in regard to the great challenge in course today at the worldwide level: on the one hand, we must rediscover the reality of God and the public relevance of religious faith; on the other, we must ensure that the expression of this faith be free, exempt from fundamentalist distortions, and capable of firmly repudiating every form of violence.
For those who fear His Holiness may have converted to Islam while in the Blue Mosque, he clues us in on what he prayed for:
Pausing for a few moments of recollection in that place of prayer, I turned to the one Lord of heaven and earth, the merciful Father of all humanity. May all believers recognize his creatures and bear witness to true brotherhood!
Which is a nice way of saying, Lord, convert these people whom you love! Tell them to stop killing themselves and us in your name. I won't go on, but do read it for yourselves. It's short but evocative and you'll have a sense of how much the Holy Father enjoyed his trip. The zenit interview with papal spokesman Fr. Lombardi is interesting too.
We read B16's homily for the first Sunday of Advent as he departed Turkey, and he added to that a little in his Angelus message, linked above. Mostly he prepared us for today's feast of the Immaculate Conception, which, for you religion reporters, refers not to the Virgin Birth, but to Mary's being preserved from sin from the moment of her conception.
To live this Advent period more authentically and fruitfully, the liturgy exhorts us to look at Mary most holy and to undertake spiritually with her the path to the cave of Bethlehem. When God knocked on the door of her youth, she received him with faith and love. In a few days, we will contemplate her in the
luminous mystery of her Immaculate Conception. Let us be attracted by her beauty, reflection of divine glory, so that "the God that is coming" will find in each one of us a good and open heart, which he can fill with his gifts.

He had a few more words on that topic for us this morning --and invited us to celebrate the feast with him this afternoon at the Spanish Steps. (Unfortunately, I read the invitation just as the event was getting started.) One more Advent thingy: Amy Welborn quoted some Episcopal priest a few weeks ago pertinent to the apocalyptic readings of the Advent cycle. Ah, here it is:
Advent is a penitential season filled with prayer, study and the terrible reality of having, at last, to pay the heavenly piper. ...The idea is to prepare for the coming retribution and then be overwhelmed and astonished when God's act is the gift of a child rather than hell fire.

Happy Feast Day!