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Ratzinger effect boosts Vatican's cash-flow

WITH donations to the Church from around the world almost doubling and pilgrims pouring into Rome in ever-greater numbers, Vatican watchers are beginning to reassess the two-year-old pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and noting a positive 'Ratzinger effect'.

Today the Vatican will publish the Pope's "motu proprio" decree allowing broader use by Roman Catholics of the Latin Tridentine Mass - the Pontiff's last act before leaving for his traditional summer holiday in the mountains of northern Italy.

The move, which amends the Second Vatican Council's decision that worship should be in the vernacular, is regarded as yet another sign of Benedict's conservative attachment to tradition and doctrine.

Some Catholics have accused him of "encouraging those who want to turn the clock back" and say that they fear the rite will revive pre-Vatican II prayers for the conversion of "the perfidious Jews".

The Vatican denies this, however, and points instead to the huge appeal of the Latin Mass - and Gregorian chant - not only for disaffected right-wing Catholics but also for many ordinary believers who value "the sheer beauty" of the ancient liturgy.

Wisdom

"This is a Pope who - contrary to conventional wisdom - is in tune with the faithful," one Vatican source said.

The unassuming and scholarly Benedict does not have the star appeal of John Paul II. At 80, he does not travel as much as the "Pilgrim Pope" or write as many documents, and has said that he does not know "how much time the Lord will give me".

But while less theatrical than his predecessor, Benedict has grown more adept and relaxed at greeting people.

Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, head of economic affairs at the Holy See, said that the "remarkable increase" in both donations and numbers of pilgrims showed that there was "a mutual sympathy between this Pope and Christian people everywhere".

Presenting the Holy See's annual budget yesterday, Cardinal Sebastiani noted that not only had it closed last year with a surplus of €2.4m, partly thanks to diocesan donations, there had also been a "huge jump" in 'Peter's Pence', the annual church collections given directly to the Pope to use for charity, from €44m in 2005 to €75m.

Record numbers attend Benedict's weekly audiences, and seven million people a year now visit St Peter's, a rise of 20pc.

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Similar increases are recorded for pilgrimages to Catholic shrines at Assisi, Lourdes, Fatima in Portugal and Madonna di Guadalupe in Mexico. (© The Times, London)


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