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00Monday, February 8, 2010 2:03 PM

There's been a minor furor in the past few days over a homily delivered recently by the Superior-General of the FSSPX, Mons. Bernard Fellay, in which he said that 'humanly speaking', it would not be possible to come to an agreement in the current doctrinal talks with the Vatican, which was reported by the Italian news agency ASCA - and immediately picked up by the other Italian media - which failed to report the sentences that followed that statement.

I have not had time to translate the developing story, nor to listen to the full video of Mons. Fellay's homily, but here is a translation of the relevant part of his homily:

And now, it is asked, will a result be achieved in the discussions with Rome, will we soon have an agreement? Frankly, sincerely, speaking in human terms, we do not see such an agreement in view. What does an agreement mean? On what are we in agreement? On the fact that only through the Church we find the means of salvation? ...

This does not mean abandoning truth in order to find a middle way, absolutely not; yes, in human terms, we will not reach an agreement, the way we see things, [the talks] do not serve any purpose, in human terms. Yet, when we speak of the Church, we do not speak in human terms, we speak of a supernatural reality to which Our Lord promised that it would not fail, against which the gates of hell would not prevail.

And, therefore, even if we face a difficult and contradictory reality, we know that events are in God's hands, He who has the means to put things in order.

It would be proper to recall that to talk and to debate is necessary, but it is not enough: when one talks about saving souls, when one considers how God rescued the Church from other crises it faced through the centuries, we see that holiness is that with which He renews and heals the Church.

Without grace, and remaining solely at the level of men, all is lost from the beginning. All of us, as Catholics, must, therefore, act, advancing in grace, in the love of God, in charity

It was wrong of ASCA to take one statement out of context, and even more wrong of the other Italian media and Catholic commentators to go to town denouncing Mons. Fellay for bad faith and subversion without checking out what he actually said.

I appreciate the staunchly traditionalist but also very reasonable people at messainlatino.com who not only had the good sense to reproduce exactly what Mons. Fellay had said, but also interpreted him correctly - in the Christian way that he said and obviously meant his words!

00Tuesday, February 9, 2010 11:20 PM

Cardinal asks dialogue partners
if an ecumenical catechism might work

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 8 (CNS) -- A Vatican official has floated the idea of a shared "ecumenical catechism" as one of the potential fruits of 40 years of dialogue among Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and members of the Reformed churches.

"We have affirmed our common foundation in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity as expressed in our common creed and in the doctrine of the first ecumenical councils," Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told representatives of the churches.

Opening a three-day symposium at the Vatican to brainstorm on the future of ecumenism, Cardinal Kasper said it is essential "to keep alive the memory of our achievements" in dialogue, educate the faithful about how much has been accomplished and prepare a new generation to carry on the work.

He said the members of his council "proposed an ecumenical catechism that would be written in consultation with our partners," but "we do not yet have any idea how such a catechism could be structured and written."

One thing for sure, he said, is that there is a need for "an ecumenism of basics that identifies, reinforces and deepens the common foundation" of faith in Christ and belief in the tenets of the creed. The churches may hold those positions officially, but if their members do not hold firmly to the basics of Christian faith, the dialogue cannot move forward, the cardinal said.

Cardinal Kasper, a theologian who will be 77 in March and has led the council for nine years, also said that ecumenical dialogue "is perhaps in danger of becoming a matter for specialists and thus of moving away from the grassroots."

He called for "a people-centered ecumenism" that would support and give new energy to the theological dialogues.

The symposium was a follow-up to the publication in October of Harvesting the Fruits, a book complied by Cardinal Kasper and his staff summarizing the results of 40 years of official Catholic dialogue with the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

As for questions that still must be tackled in order for Christians to reach full unity and be able to share the Eucharist, the cardinal identified two basic areas: a common understanding of the church and its structure; and a common approach to applying the Gospel to modern social and moral concerns without falling into relativism.

Ethical issues, such as homosexuality and women's equality, not only divide churches, he said, they raise more fundamental questions for modern and post-modern society, such as, "What is man, and what does it mean to be a man or woman in God's plan?"

In the area of church structure and ministry, he said, the dialogues have seen progress toward a common agreement on the sacramental nature of ordination and on apostolic succession in the ministry of bishops, and have taken initial steps toward discussing the primacy of the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

But on a more basic level, the dialogues must get into "not only what is the church, but where is the church? Has God given his church a specific structure or has he left the church to find its own structure, in such a way that a pluralism of structures is possible?" Cardinal Kasper asked.

The cardinal said the Vatican needs to better explain to its dialogue partners the Catholic conviction that "the Catholic Church is the church of Christ and that the Catholic Church is the true church," even while "there exist many and important elements of the church of Christ outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church."

The Catholic Church does believe "there are deficits in the other churches," he said. "Yet on another level there are deficits, or rather wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin, also in the Catholic Church."

Ecumenical dialogue is the place where all Christians "learn to grow and mature in their faithfulness to Christ," he said, and as each moves closer to Christ, they naturally will move closer to each other.

00Friday, February 12, 2010 10:53 AM

As expected, it did not take long for Sandro Magister to react - and at great length - to the Secretariat of State communique on the Boffo case which has now become more the Bertone-Vian case. However, the haste tells in some basic omissions - in regard to facts about the events, which I have supplemented in parentheses where necessary; and his failure to cite the sources of some quotations attributed to Bertone and Vian.

He is more belligerent than I expected, but he marshals his arguments fairly well, as he usually does on other issues, and of course, to defend his point of view tendentiously. But although I see where his argument leads, I do think his title is definitely overblown

Italy, the United States, Brazil:
From the Vatican to the conquest of the world

The ambitious captain is the cardinal Secretary of State, with the help of L'Osservatore Romano.
The objective is to subject the national Churches to itself, on the terrain of politics.
But the bishops are resisting and reacting. A lesson from the experience of the Italian bishops.

ROME, February 11, 2010 – After more than two weeks of silence since the new explosion of controversy over the case of Dino Boffo, the Vatican secretariat of state, with a statement issued two days ago, flatly denied the accusations raised against the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone himself.

The statement
- Denies that either of them had released or approved the anti-Boffo fliers that had defamed Boffo and forced him to resign as editor of the newspaper of the Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire;
- Rejects what it calls "a defamatory campaign that involves the Roman pontiff himself"; and
- States that Benedict XVI "reaffirms his full trust in his collaborators."

Rome has spoken; is the question closed? Not quite.

The Boffo case has opened eyes to inter-ecclesial conflicts that go beyond the 'mechanics' behind the Boffo case. Conflicts and disorders that have not been addressed or removed by the Vatican statement. Of which the Boffo case is only one chapter, very Italian but ultimately global.

But the key to readings these events was evident from the start.

On August 28, 2009, Vittorio Feltri, editor of the newspaper Il Giornale, wrote a front-page broadaside against Boffo that proved to be immediately fatal for the latter's career.

On the basis of an authentic legal document [showing that Boffo had been fined by a local Italian court in 2004 for 'telephone molestation'] and an anonymous flier [which Feltri claimed to be a police informative document when it was one sent in the past to Italian bishops and media alike but previously ignored by all], Feltri branded Boffo a 'notorious practising homosexual', citing the flier, and also claimed that the molestation was for "harassing the wife of a man with whom he had had a relationship."

On the same day, in La Repubblica, the leading progressive Italian newspaper, lay theologian Vito Mancuso accused Cardinal Bertone of sitting at table with Herod, meaning Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with whom the Secretary of State had in fact planned a dinner meeting. [The dinner was cancelled that day.]

That same afternoon, L'Osservatore Romano [which is administratively under the Secretary of State], defended Cardinal Bertone in a front-page editorial in the next day's issue by its leading commentator, Lucetta Scaraffia - whereas it consigned the bishops' defense of Boffo to three lines from a news agency report carried in one of the inside pages.

Asked why the uneven treatment, Vian answered that the Church's real enemy is whoever attacks Bertone, "and therefore the Pope", not the one who goes after Boffo. According to Vian, Il Giornale was even too kind toward Boffo, writing about him with "exemplary moderation" and "Anglo-Saxon" cool. [Magister should have cited his source for these quotes. Not doing so, which is standrd journalistic practice, puts them on the level of gossip, not journalism.]

Three days later, when the attack on Boffo was at its height, Vian became even less evenhanded. He not only did not defend Boffo and Avvenire - he criticized them for, in his opinion, compounding the damage to the Vatican hierarchy. He said so to Corriere della Sera, in an interview that, as he later made known, had "the approval" of Cardinal Bertone.

Was it because Boffo and Avvenire represented, among other things, the Cultural Project of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI)now headed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was president of the Italian bishops' conference from 1991 to 2007? In the Corriere interview Vian mocked the "cultural project of Christian orientation" likening it to a phoenix.

Within a few days of the Giornale broadside, Boffo resigned [all his positions in the CEI - editor of Avvenire, and director of the CEI's radio and TV networks] .

At which time, Cardinal Bertone [reportedly] confided to a very talkative politician friend, "My biggest mistake was making Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco head of the CEI, in Ruini's place." [Again, the quotation is not sourced.]

[Subsequently, in early December] Feltri admiited that the flier he uses as a basis for his story was false [although the court order on the fine was authentic] and retracted his accusations against Boffo. But he pointed out that he had taken the word of "a reliable informant, I would say, someone beyond suspicion" who had provided him with the documents.

Last January 23, Feltri said [in an interview with Il Foglio] that his informant was "a figure of the Church who should be trusted institutionally," making other statements that seemed to indicate the source of the information was Vian [and implying it was done with Bertone's approval].

[What Magister does not mention is that on the day the Foglio interview came out, Feltri dined openly with Boffo at a Milan restaurant where presumably they made their peace. But according to the Foglio account of the dinner, Feltri greeted Boffo by asking "But what is it that Cardinal Bertone has against you? And what does Vian have against you?" In a statement, Feltri did not deny making asking those questions, but did state carefully, "I do not know either Bertone or Vian and have not met any of them at any time".]

The antagonism between the Secretariat of State and the national bishops' conferences is a classic in the Church's recent history.

As soon as Bertone was appointed Secretary of State, in September of 2006, he made no secret of the fact that he wanted to subject the CEI to his leadership. He tried to have Cardinal Ruini replaced by a second-tier bishop, whom he could easily control [but the Pope instead chose Mons. Angelo Bagnasco, Bertone's successor as Archbishop of Genoa].

As soon as Bagnasco was installed at the CEI, Bertone wrote him a letter, immediately made public, that he himself would personally handle all "relations with political institutions" in Italy [something the Italian bishops had always done, particularly since the Lateran Pacts were updated in 1984].

The CEI, beginning with its new president, rebelled [An exaggeration by Magister since Bagnasco never deigned to answer Bertone's 'usurpation' but simply went ahead doing the CEI's business autonomously but in keeping with Benedict XVI's line, as Ruini had done before him], and from that point on, looked at Bertone's actions for signs of his presumption of command.

The current Secretary of State is also isolated in the Vatican. [Is there objective proof of that, apart from the hostility of some within his own department?]

Veteran diplomats won't forgive him for not being one of them. And in fact, Bertone's Curial experience was not with the Secretariat of State but with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Cardinal Ratzinger entrusted him with some sensitive cases, like the Third Secret of Fatima and the Milingo case....

Bertone compensates for his internal isolation with a profusion of external activities of every kind: celebrations, appearances, anniversaries, addresses, inaugurations, interviews.

One of his predecessors, Agostino Casaroli, a great career diplomat who served from 1979 to 1990, gave a total of 40 speeches during that time. In a little more than three years, Bertone has given 365.

And then, there's his travelling. He has gone to Argentina, Croatia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Poland, Mexico - and in each place, he has met with heads of states and bishops, ambassadors and professors, with an agenda constructed like a papal trip.

[Until he left for Poland Tuesday afternoon to receive an honorary degree from Wroclaw], he did not travel in the past year, dedicating himself to governing the Curia, which reports to him by statute. But the past year was also the most harrowing, since it saw him eventually involved in the Williamson case and the Boffo case.

Bertone's only secure fortress is L'Osservatore Romano, with Vian as editor. The bond between the two is very close, marked by the telephone call that they share each day, late in the evening.

And the latter's responsibilities are not limited to the Vatican newspaper. Bertone has also entrusted Vian with the role that, at the time of John Paul II, was filled by Joaquin Navarro Valls: that of orchestrating the Italian and global media from behind the scenes.

Vian does this with some success here and there. He is the Vatican pundit most consulted by Corriere della Sera [considered Italy's leading newspaper]. The proximity between Vian and Corriere derives from his friendship with Corriere editorialist Ernesto Galli della Loggia, husband of Lucetta Scaraffia, an editorial writer for L'Osservatore, and with Paolo Mieli, Corriere editor, who, in 2005, was one of the most tenacious secular adversaries of Cardinal Ruini in the battle over the referendum on assisted reproduction. [Mieli, who is also a historian and of Jewish descent, has since written a couple of articles for OR about Pius XII, whom he defends against the standard Jewish accusations.]

And yet, there was a previous clash between Vian's newspaper and Avvenire, before the Boffo case - over the coverage of Eluana Englaro in 2008 and 2009.

Avvenire committed itself to leading the campaign to keep Englaro alive. By contrast, Vian hardly ever reported on the case, and was known to have expressed himself about the 'unconvincing arguments' and 'hysterical' defense mounted by Avvenire. [Again, Magister does not source this quote! Bad journalism!]

In the Englaro case, as well, Vian was apparently opposing the idea of a Church that is very visible and active in culture and politics - a position Cardinal Ruini once defined as "better to be contested than to be irrelevant".

The Vatican's failed attempt to dominate the newspaper of the CEI [I wouldn't call it 'the Vatican's attempt' since it appears to have been Vian's own personal bias, nor would I say that his bias was "an attempt to dominate the newspaper of the CEI" - as you cannot do that just by letting loose with a few barbs, no matter how sharp] is therefore one chapter in a struggle between much more than two newspapers: it is between two visions of Church governance, on a worldwide scale.

In addition to the Italian Church, in fact, the Vatican Secretariat of State has put itself at odds with other national Churches, including some of the most vigorous.

The actors and the script are almost always the same: Cardinal Bertone, L'Osservatore Romano, a very lively national episcopate, battles in defense of the life and the family.

On a war footing with Rome today, among others, are the two largest episcopates in the world, that of the United States and that of Brazil.

In the United States, the newly assertive wing of the bishops, headed by Chicago archbishop Cardinal Francis George, was first stirred up when an editorial in L'Osservatore Romano evaluating the first hundred days of Barack Obama's presidency, not only gave him a positive assessment, but credited the new President for a "rebalancing in favor of motherhood" which according to the American bishops, was far from the truth, because the exact opposite had happened. [And as anyone who reads the US newspapers would have known full well!]

A second conflict arose from the decision of the University of Notre Dame, the most renowned Catholic university in the United States, to give Obama an honorary degree. About eighty US bishops (including the most prominent ones) rebelled against the honor being given to a political leader whose positions on bioethics are contrary to Church teaching. Before and after the event, they manifested their opposition in vigrous dicussions and statements almost completely ignored by Vian in L'Osservatore Romano. [As I recall, Vian posted exactly one report on the bishops' objections, and featured the Notre Dame event on Page 1 with a report and a photograph.]

The other issue between the United States and the Vatican newspaper is over withholding communion from Catholic politicians who support abortion. Many of the American bishops refuse to compromise on this, and see the silence of the Secretariat of State and of the Vatican newspaper on the issue [even around the time of Edward Kennedy's death, when this issue occupied the Catholic debate in the US] - as a judgment on them, not to mention a moral surrender.

The desire to have peaceful institutional relations with the establishment, regardless of their ideology, seems to be typical of Bertone. In this, he is applying a classic canon of Vatican diplomacy, which is traditionally "realist," even at the cost of clashing with the national episcopates that are often critical of their respective governments.

But the effects often seem contradictory. Last March, an article in L'Osservatore Romano denounced the Brazilian bishop of Recife [for 'lack of compassion'] because he excommunicated the doctors who performed an abortion on a 9-year-old girl who conceived twins after being raped by her stepfather.

The Brazilian bishops saw this as a betrayal by Rome as a time when they were fighting a tough battle with the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva over his full liberalization of abortion.

The author of the article, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, apparently wrote it at Bertone's request. The protest of the Brazilian bishops was joined by a rebellion within the Pontifical Academy for Life, of which Fisichella is president.

A good number of academy members called for his dismissal, and some of them appealed to the Pope, who ordered the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a note of "clarification," in defense of the bishop of Recife.

But Fisichella will remain in his place, as will Vian, and Bertone, who has just been reconfirmed.

In the Boffo case, Pope Benedict "knows". And he personally sees things more the way Cardinals Bagnasco and Ruini do, rather than like his Secretary of State.

[Not that the Pope has articulated this, but one may reasonably conclude so, by his continuing rapport with Cardinals Bagnasco and Ruini. The directives he has given the Church in Italy - notably his quite detailed address to the decennial Church convention in Verona in 2006 - certainly urge the continued activism of the Church in the public defense of non-negotiable values.

Each of his addresses to bishops on ad limina visit likewise always includes an exhortation for them - and for Catholic politicians - to play an active role in the public debate on issues that have to do with their own pastoral care of the faithful.]

But the Pope's pace is that of the perennial Church. Long and patient.
{What does that mean? A cop-out statement? Magister obviously does not want to criticize the Pope for not 'punishing' Bertone, Vian and Fisichella, but that is what he implies.

We cannot second-guess the Pope. He has information that neither the public nor the most 'wired-in' Vaticanista is likely to know, and he also has practical considerations that he must balance against off-message incursions by his closest collaborators. He will know, as he did with dissenting bishops last March, when to do what he must do, and how.]

00Friday, February 12, 2010 11:03 AM

Senior Anglican leader
dismisses Pope’s offer

By Anna Arco

12 February 2010

The Archbishop of York in front of Manchester Cathedral.

The Archbishop of York has suggested that Anglicans hoping to take up the Pope's offer would not be "proper Catholics".

Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior figure in the Church of England, told a reporter for the BBC: "If people genuinely realise that they want to be Roman Catholic, they should convert properly, and go through catechesis and be made proper Catholics."

He said: "This kind of creation [the Apostolic Constitution] - well, all I can say is, we wish them every blessing and may the Lord encourage them. But as far as I am concerned, if I was really, genuinely wanting to convert, I wouldn't go into an ordinariate. I would actually go into catechesis and become a truly converted Roman Catholic and be accepted."

He also said that if he were a Catholic bishop he would have a number of questions to ask of a "group within my diocese being looked after by an Ordinariate whose reference was back to the Vatican".

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, one of the Anglican bishops considering the Pope's offer, said the Catholic Church was far more complicated than Dr Sentamu acknowledged.

He pointed out that Catholic bishops often have groups of people in their dioceses belonging to other jurisdictions, such as religious orders, military dioceses and the personal prelatures of Opus Dei. The Personal Ordinariates proposed in the Pope's decree Anglicanorum coetibus would differ from the personal prelatures in that the laity would fall under the jurisdiction of the leader of an ordinariate.

Bishop Burnham, who is one of the bishops who ministers to Anglo-Catholics who cannot in good conscience accept women priests, said that, while catechesis and a genuine desire to be in communion with Rome were necessary for Anglicans taking up the Pope's offer, Dr Sentamu underestimated how close Anglo-Catholics were in belief to the Catholic Church.

Anglo-Catholic blogger Fr Edward Tomlinson SCC rejected the idea that Ordinariates made Anglo-Catholics taking up Anglicanorum coetibus second-class citizens.

He also suggested that while the beginning of a Personal Ordinariate in Britain would be small, consisting of some 20 parishes, hesitant Anglo-Catholics might be drawn to an ordinariate once it has been established.

Dr Sentamu's comments came shortly before the Bishop of Manchester put a dampener on the hopes of some traditionalist Anglicans that an alternative legal structure might be found within the Church of England so they would not have to accept women bishops.

The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who is in charge of the group drafting legislation for women bishops, told the General Synod on Monday to expect the legislation to follow a model where diocesan bishops would delegate ministry to groups who objected to women bishops to a suffragan bishop. This will be presented at the General Synod in July.

Traditionalists - both evangelical and Anglo-Catholics - had hoped for a structure in which they would fall under the jurisdiction of a society or a new diocese.

The model being proposed would abolish the flying bishops - as the Provincial Episcopal Visitors who minister to parishes who cannot in conscience accept women priests are called - and parishes which fall under the jurisdiction of a woman bishop would be ministered to by a male delegate of the woman bishop.

The discussion of legislation for women bishops has been moved to July because the revision committee was inundated by hundreds of suggestions.

He said they had created a traffic light system by which some suggestions were given red lights or amber lights and that the committee had rejected the proposal to create additional dioceses in the summer.

He said: "But proposals for a recognised society, some sort of transfer or vesting, or for adopting the simplest possible legislative approach all got initial amber lights - that is, we agreed to consider them further.

"This meant that after more than six months' work we had rejected all the options which would have involved conferring some measure of jurisdiction on someone other than the diocesan bishop."

Earlier this month, Anglo-Catholic leaders pushed back the date on which they would ask their flock to make a decision in response to the Pope's provision for groups of Anglicans coming into full communion with the Church.

Bishop Burnham said the date, originally February 22, would constitute a day of prayer and reflection but he said he would ask his flock to make a decision only after the General Synod had discussed legislation proposed by the revision committee.

Since the discussion has been moved to July, the bishop said he would also move the day on which the response is to be made.

But he said decisions on Anglicanorum coetibus should not be dependent on what the General Synod would do.

Bishop Burnham has been accused of backtracking on earlier statements welcoming the offer made in the Apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus last year.

The decree offered Anglicans wishing to be in full communion with the Church a new canonical structure known as a Personal Ordinariate, similar in structure to military dioceses.

But friends of the bishop believe pastoral concerns have also contributed to the later date at which an official announcement is made.

They think the bishop feels it is necessary to wait for a critical mass of people willing to join a Personal Ordinariate before making a move and that some people would not make up their minds until they were faced with the reality of the General Synod's decision.

Other traditionalist Anglicans in Bishop Burnham's flock who have decided to stay in the Church of England want those who are considering taking up the Pope's offer not to rock the boat until the General Synod has a chance to make provisions for them.

00Friday, February 12, 2010 8:26 PM

A round-up of reactions
Translated from

February 11, 2010

The Vatican cannot have been too happy the day after the unusual communiqué issued by the Secretariat of State.

There were those who recalled past history in this regard: that in the days of someone like Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (John Paul II’s Secretary of State from 1979 to 1990), his office either immediately rebutted accusations against the Vatican with strong arguments, or, if it was controversial, kept quiet for months, sometimes years.

“I can say that in the years of Casaroli, something like this never happened,” Cardinal Achille Silvestrini told La Repubblica on February 4 [a week before the Vatican finally commented on a controversy that had been revived on January 23.

On Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 11, Cardinal Bertone left for Poland, and must have read the morning papers and how his note had been received.

In Corriere della Sera, political commentator Massimo Franco, former editorial writer for Avvenire, writes that the Vatican communiqué “can only raise new questions”.

He says, “It reads like the position of a structure under attack which reacts by using the Pope as a shield, in the belief that he is their strongest defense”.

[Because as usual – as in the Wielgus and Williamson causes – once again, Benedict XVI has taken the fall for his subordinates who should be helping him, not being counter-productive to him, and having to be defended by him.]

In Repubblica, long-time Vatican observer Giancarlo Zizola [habitually hostile to Benedict XVI] dismisses the communiqué as “a document in which the anxious desire to deny everything, along with its careless formulation, betrays too easily the attempt to negate facts.”

In Libero, Antonio Socci says the one thing the communiqué fails to do is to ‘stop the controversy’.

Ubaldo Casotto in Il Riformista asks: “Why do they have to involve the Pope in denying generic accusations?” – and indeed, using the Pope as shield remains the most singular curiosity about the communiqué.

Benedict XVI was completely out of the question in all of this. There was no question or doubt - and there isn’t now – about him.

And yet, he was put in the difficult position of having to approve a much belated reply – it was January 23 when Il Foglio published the article that reopened the controversy – which did not come from the Vatican Press Office.

A communiqué that even goes so far as to belie a blog! Because it was Sandro Magister, a Vaticanista evidently held in high regard at the Vatican, who said in a blog entry that it was Vian who had inspired or written an article published in Il Giornale in September.
[The article was written under the pseudonym ‘Diana Alfieri’ for the Sept. 19 issue of Il Giornale, almost three weeks since Boffo had resigned, but on the eve of the autumn meeting of the CEI’s permanent council, so the timing in itself was dubious.

Among other things, the article claims that the CEI and Cardinal Ruini’s supporters had done all they could to try and keep Boffo at the helm of “the entire galaxy of Catholic media… despite his history of ‘molestations with a sexual basis that were punished by the judge in Terni”. She goes on to question Boffo’s ‘moral fitness… (which) casts a cloud on the entire Church”. I don’t know if this ‘Diana Alfieri’ ever took back all these slander against Boffo after Feltri retraced his charges in December!]

The last line of the communiqué notes that the Pope hopes that ‘truth and justice’ may be upheld and expresses his trust in his ‘collaborators’. (In Vatican jargon, ‘collaborators’ refer to prelates, not laymen.)

The communiqué also says that the Vatican police had nothing do with this case. It was discussed before drafting the communiqué – Chief Inspector Domenico Giani was questioned by Cardinal Bertone, and after him, Vian, who conferred with Bertone and his deputy, Mons Fernando Filoni.

Together they framed the draft which they sent to the Pope, who approved it. The text was then published, first on line as a Vatican bulletin, and the following day in L’Osservatore Romano where, to dispel any possible doubt about the origin of the text, it was introduced with the statement that “The Holy Father approved this communiqué and ordered that it be published”.

The Italian bishops conference (CEI) released its own statement, which Avvenire, now edited by the moderate and competent Marco Tarquinio, published on Page 2 without comment, along with the Vatican statement, also without comment.

As a former newspaper editor, my hat is off to Tarquinio for the elegant manner in which he showed editorial impartiality on the Vatican and CEI notes, and the whole affair - after all, the time is long past for this sort of rearguard action. He simply placed both statements, appropriately highlighted by shading, in the center of the editorial page, playing up the statements without need of commentary!

[Very prudent of Tarquinio. Any comment would have been interpreted as fanning the flames, and, unnecessary, in any case, to Avvenire readers who have followed the developments.]

The CEI took note of the Vatican statement, mentions neither Bertone nor Vian [nor the Pope! – wisely I think], and expresses the hope that the Vatican’s statement may help to ‘bring back calm’.

A few lines to reflect the position of the CEI president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who has kept himself away from the issue [since September when he accepted ‘with regret’ Boffo’s resignation from his media positions at CEI].

It is known he is clear about how everything developed, and the prudence manifested in his statement yesterday appears significant.

00Friday, February 12, 2010 8:52 PM

John Thavis wraps up most of the information I gleaned about this story from the Italian media earlier this week and posted earlier on this page as a quick summary at a glance, as I did not have time to be translating the articles.

Sainthood scoop:
Book on the 'real' John Paul II
snubbed at Vatican

By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 12 (CNS) -- When it was unveiled in late January, the insider book about the "real" Pope John Paul II looked at first glance like the Vatican's own effort at a pre-beatification biography.

But as the fallout over the next two weeks made clear, the Vatican was not directly involved. Nor was everyone happy that the book was co-authored by the official postulator, or promoter, of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause, using information that is generally considered confidential.

In addition, several officials thought the book's simple presentation of the late pope's reported penitential practices, with little explanation or context, was unwise and counter-productive.

The book reported that Pope John Paul regularly carried out various types of self-mortification. "In his closet, among the cassocks, there was a hook holding a particular belt for slacks, which he used as a whip," it said.

That news made headlines and prompted questions and even a bit of ridicule by people unfamiliar with the history of penitential practices in the church.

Right photo, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, emeritus Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, was with Oder at the news conference to present the book.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the postulator of the cause, teamed up with an Italian Catholic journalist to write, "Why He's a Saint: The Real John Paul II According to the Postulator of His Beatification Cause." Apparently no one at the Vatican told him not to write a tell-all book, so he did.

After the fact, however, the displeasure was quietly communicated in a number of ways. For one thing, no active Vatican official attended the book's presentation at a hotel a few steps from St. Peter's Square. The Vatican newspaper has not written a word about the book.

Polish Father Adam Boniecki, a longtime aide to Pope John Paul, said bluntly that Msgr. Oder had improperly published "episodes, documents and revelations about the private life" of the late pope.

"It is a surprising and serious thing that it was the postulator who wrote such a book," Father Boniecki said.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz was said by Polish sources to have been upset and to have called Msgr. Oder for an explanation.

Top officials at the Congregation for Saints' Causes refused official comment, but were also described as perplexed and unhappy at the book's publication. By early February, Msgr. Oder had withdrawn into "total silence" and was refusing to talk about the book, according to his secretary.

The role of postulator of a sainthood cause typically involves quiet investigation and discretion. Sources in Rome with experience in handling these causes said that while Msgr. Oder may not have technically broken any rules, he had acted imprudently on a couple of counts:

-- If writing a book about the subject of a sainthood cause, the postulator should be careful not to cite information provided by witnesses, because this could make future witnesses reluctant to come forward. This is particularly true if a witness has something to say against a sainthood cause, they said.

"If a witness feels he has to make objections and the next day it's in the newspapers, people will not be so willing to testify the next time. A postulator has to know these things, but publishing them is an entirely different question," said one church official.

-- Msgr. Oder cited unnamed members of the pope's Polish entourage as the source of the reports of self-mortification, but it was unclear whether he had asked and obtained their permission to publish this information. And even if he did, such a request might condition people's answers.

Italian newspapers speculated that the quiet controversy over the book's publication might even delay the beatification of Pope John Paul. Sources told Catholic News Service that was unlikely; the late pope's cause is awaiting approval of a miracle, and many believe the beatification could come later this year.

Others wondered if Msgr. Oder would be dismissed as postulator. That, too, seems improbable. "In the past, he might have been replaced. But that's not the way things are done around here now," said one Vatican official.

Publishing evidence of a "hidden" side of a would-be saint is not completely new. In 2002, the year before Blessed Mother Teresa's beatification, the postulator of her cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, posted an article about Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul," detailing her feelings of inner doubt and spiritual darkness.

But in this case, the details of the "crisis of faith" came from Mother Teresa's own letters, not from witnesses called to testify in the sainthood process. Father Kolodiejchuk's 2007 book detailing the correspondence, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," caused quite a stir, especially because Mother Teresa had repeatedly begged for her personal correspondence to be destroyed.

That wish was ignored by her spiritual advisers and others, who felt the letters offered future generations a witness of unique holiness.

What Oder did is highly improper and almost distasteful. Certainly in poor taste. At the very least, he could have waited until after the beatification.

The Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood should lay down the rules now - postulators or others who have the inside track on confidential information used in the beatification and canonization process should be prohibited from exploiting their privileged access, and should not be able to profit from it at all by writing tell-all books, under pain of dismissal as postulator. (Or at least, there should be some timeline - not until five years after the canonization, or something reasonable.)

00Monday, February 15, 2010 10:34 AM

Vatican archive documents
on Pius XII going online

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is planning to publish on the Internet, free of charge, several documents from the Vatican Secret Archives in relation to World War II.

The initiative is partially in response to a petition from Pave the Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to bridging gaps between religions.

The foundation proposed making digital files of, and later publicizing, some 5125 descriptions and copies of documents from the closed section of the Vatican archives, covering the period of March 1939 to May 1945.

Gary Krupp, the foundation's president and founder, told ZENIT that "the 'Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale [Acts and Documents of the Holy See relative to the Second World War],'" which were "previously published and mostly ignored," will "shortly be available for worldwide scrutiny and study online, free of charge."

[The 'Actes...' were published in 12 volumes in the 1960s by a committee of historians assigned by Paul VI to compile the documents available in the Archives, in order to answer criticisms against Pius XII, following the propaganda success of The Deputy. For some reason, Jewish critics who keep insisting that the Archives containing these same documents be opened to researchers now, never refer to the 'Actes...' - as though they had never been published!]

He explained that these documents will be available on the Web site of his foundation as well as that of the Vatican.

This project is part of the mission of the foundation, a non-sectarian organization that works to remove obstacles between religions, foster cooperation and to end the misuse of religion for private agendas.

The organization's president, who is from New York but of Jewish decent, stated, "In the furtherance of our mission we have recognized the papacy of the war time Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) as a source of friction impacting over one billion people."

Krupp told Zenit that the publication of these documents was "not meant to be a substitute for the full access" to the Vatican archives, "but will absolutely show the unique efforts of Pope Pius XII and the dangers he was forced to operate under a direct threat from the Nazi regime."

[Yes, it is something that Pius XII's detractors could study between now and 2014 when the actual Archives will be open to outside researchers.]

Fr. Blet, who headed the scholars' group that compiled the 'Actes' later published a book summarizing the contents of the 12 volumes. Fr. Blet died last December.

P.S. The ZENIT item was reported by the Israeli news agency JTA, but I have not seen reactions yet.

00Monday, February 15, 2010 10:57 AM

after the Feb. 8-10 symposium
on 40 years of ecumenical work

February 13, 2010

In October 2009, Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue was published. This book gathers together the results of forty years of bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council, and also raises important questions for the future direction and content of ecumenical discussion.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity hosted a Symposium from 8 to 10 February 2010 on the issues presented in the book. Theologians from the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Methodist traditions met at the offices of the Pontifical Council at the invitation of its President Cardinal Walter Kasper.

The aim of the Symposium was not merely to take account of the many elements of agreement produced by forty years of official dialogue, but to consider ways of communicating this remarkable achievement to the members of all the various Christian communities, so they can express more fully in their lives the progress towards unity that has been made.

Over the three days of discussion, there was detailed examination of the question of reception of joint statements and agreements, the need for the common witness of Christians at every level, and the changed context in which Christianity must undertake its mission.

The Symposium also looked ahead, to ask discern how ecumenical dialogue should take place in future. There was detailed consideration of the steps that must be taken towards the goal of ecumenism, which remains full and visible communion.

As Cardinal Kasper reminded the participants, "What does communion mean in the theological sense? It does not mean community in the horizontal sense but communio sanctorum – what we might call vertical participation in what is ‘holy’, in the ‘holy things’ – that is, the Spirit of Christ present in his Word and in the sacraments administered by ministers .. duly ordained."

The Symposium explored how traditional disagreements might be re-assessed if they are looked at in the context of Mission and the vision of God’s Kingdom. There was mention of the new and promising approach whereby ecumenical dialogue is viewed as an exchange of gifts, and frank conversations were held on the limits of diversity and the role of the hierarchy of truths.

Discussion also included practical proposals to encourage the search for unity, most particularly the production of a Common Statement of what we have achieved ecumenically. One possible form this might take would be a common affirmation of Baptismal faith, including a commentary on the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

Participants in the Symposium included those experienced in bilateral dialogues as well as younger theologians new to ecumenism. Theological discussion was at a high level, and the many positive suggestions that it produced will be taken forward to the Plenary of the Pontifical Council in November 2010.

The participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to discuss in depth the real challenges encountered in the search for Christian unity, and affirmed that the ability to call together meetings of this nature is a particular potential of Rome, indicating the wider service that the Petrine ministry can offer to ecumenism.

Earlier, John Allen wrote about the symposium.

An unusual Vatican event marks
Kasper's (not-quite) swan song

Feb. 8, 2010

Both in style and in substance, a highly unusual Vatican meeting is taking place this week in the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In terms of content, the Feb. 8-10 event brings together leading Catholic minds with their counterparts in the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed traditions, for a sort of “state of the union” consideration of the entire ecumenical project, meaning the effort to put the divided Christian family back together again.

That’s a departure from normal practice in two senses. First, the Vatican normally conducts ecumenical conversation in bilateral fashion, one church at a time. Second, those dialogues are usually focused on some specific topic – Mary, for example, or the Bible, or authority in the church. This time, the field is wide open.

Stylistically, the most striking thing about the three-day session is that it’s actually a working meeting, with most of the time devoted to informal, unscripted back-and-forth conversation. There’s only one major address scheduled, delivered this morning by Kasper, with four short responses from representatives of the other traditions.

After that, none of the formal speech-making which typically distinguishes Vatican events – participants are instead spending most of their time on a working document to identify guidelines for future ecumenical dialogues.

Informally, this week’s gathering represents, if not quite a “swan song” for Cardinal Walter Kasper, at least the beginning of his farewell tour.

Widely considered one of the best theologian-bishops of his generation, and often thought of as a leading Catholic “moderate,” Kasper has led the Vatican’s ecumenical office since 2001. Now 76, it’s widely expected that Kasper will hand the reins to a successor sometime in 2010. (Speculation currently centers on Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, Switzerland, 59, who coincidentally had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.)

In some ways, Kasper has had the bad luck of being a gifted ecumenical leader during a period that some, at least, perceive as one of vast ecumenical malaise. While groundbreaking agreements have been negotiated with various Christian churches, when the dust settled it often wasn’t clear what authority those agreements actually enjoy inside the churches which signed them.

Meantime, the gap between Catholicism and some branches of Protestantism over hot-button issues such as the ordination of women or the blessing of same-sex unions becomes ever wider, making the venerable ecumenical aim of full structural communion look ever more like a pipe dream – or, at best, what many call an “eschatological” objective, not anything to expect in the here-and-now.

One indication of the “big ecumenical chill” is the working text for this meeting itself, which is the book Harvesting the Fruits published under Kasper’s name in 2009. The fact that the book came out as a personal work by Kasper, rather than an official document of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led some to speculate that it wasn’t viewed positively within the Vatican or by Pope Benedict XVI.

In his speech today, Kasper tried to soothe those fears, reporting that an Italian version came out shortly after the original English edition. It was forwarded, he said, to all the offices of the Roman Curia, “and they, like the Pope himself, expressed gratitude and appreciation,” Kasper said.

(On background, Vatican sources say the primary reason the book came out under Kasper’s name was to short-circuit the normal lengthy review process for official Vatican texts, which in this case would likely have involved a review by both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Secretariat of State.)

The point of this week’s gathering seems to take stock of what’s already been achieved – that’s the “harvest” part, born of a conviction that several fairly stunning ecumenical achievements in recent years aren’t well-known – and then to ponder how to move forward. One element of that effort is passing the torch to a new generation of leaders.

All told, some forty people are taking part in the session. They include some prominent members of the old ecumenical guard, such as Thomas Wright of the Anglican Communion, Geoffrey Wainwright of the Methodists, and Harding Meyer for the Lutherans, as well as several representatives of a new generation of theologians and church leaders.

The latter include Neil Presa, an American representing the Reformed tradition; Scott Cowdell, an Anglican from Australia; and Dawn de Vries of the Union Theological Seminary, another representative of what’s seen as a strong Reformed contingent.

In his address this morning, Kasper argued that the success of the ecumenical movement in the 20th century offered “a counterpoint of reconciliation and unity to the destructive forces of evil and violence” witnessed over the last one hundred years.

The “mutual respect, trust and friendship” developed over these years, Kasper said, represents the true “fruit” of the ecumenical movement.

“There is no reason to be doscouraged or reisgned, as many are today,” Kasper said. He pointed to a “new phase of dialogue ... which may be less enthusiastic than the dialogue of our youth, but will be more mature and no less imbued with courage and hope.”

Kasper then outlined four categories of problems facing ecumenical dialogue, which he outlined as follows:

• Hermeneutical: How to read the Bible and doctrine in the light of the church’s own tradition and self-awareness, “without falling into the trap of either fundamentalism or relativism.”

• Anthropological: Not just specific ethical issues such as homosexuality, but the deeper question of what it means to be a human person in light of God’s plan – a question, Kasper argued, with implications for “human rights, social justice, peace, bioethics, safeguarding creation, etc.”

• Ecclesiological: What is the church, and in particular, what are the sources of authority in the church? Pride of place in this category, of course, goes to the issue of the role of the pope.

• Sacramental: This category includes the vexed question of inter-communion, the absence of which is usually the most visible index of ecumenical frustration.

Kasper acknowledged that all these categories represent issues about which the various Christian traditions can, and do, have very different ideas.

“Yet if there is one thing I have learned in my academic life,” he said, “it is that once a problem is clearly identified it is half-resolved.”

Kasper offered “spiritual ecumenism” as the true heart of the movement, arguing that an over-emphasis on the “horizontal” dimension, meaning full structural communion, risks ignoring the “vertical” dynamic of joint movement towards Christ. In that regard, he said, all churches need to acknowledge their need for “repentence and renewal” – including, he pointedly added, the Catholic church.

“There are deficits, or rather wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin also in the Catholic church,” he said. “The Catholic church is not perfect and is in need of constant renewal.”

In that regard, Kasper referred to the 2000 document Dominus Iesus, which caused a storm of ecumenical controversy by reasserting the traditional Catholic doctrine that the Catholic church is the church of Christ.

It was a “mistake,” Kasper said, not to have made it more clear that Catholicism did not intend this as a closure to ecumenical dialogue, but rather an “openness,” by also affirming that there are also important “elements” of the church of Christ outside the visible Catholic church.

“There is not an ecclesiastical vacuum outside the Catholic church,” Kasper said.

In his concluding remarks, Kasper floated one idea that may be discussed this week: The idea of an “ecumenical catechism,” written in consultation with the various Christian traditions and then issued by “the competent Catholic authority.”

“We do not yet have any idea how such a catechism could be structured and written,” Kasper said. “Perhaps some suggestions on this may emerge also from this symposium.”

00Monday, February 15, 2010 8:39 PM

For those who can make it to Padua this week, a rare opportunity:

For more information and pictures, visit the English subsite of the Basilica:

00Friday, February 19, 2010 4:10 PM

Unprecedented pilgrim flow
to 'see' St. Anthony

by Silvio Scacca
Translated from
the Italian service of

February 18, 2010

PADUA - St. Anthony is 'surpassing himself': yesterday, the line was a kilometer long to get to enter the chapel where his remains are on exposition till February 20, and there is no sign the pace will slacken.

In 1981, some 700,000 pilgrims came to venerate the saint and briefly touch his plexiglas casket during an exposition that lasted 29 days, Padua authorities expect that number to be doubled during this weeklong exposition.

Since the exposition opened on Monday, the line of pilgrims has been endless, filing into the exposition chapel at the rate of 2,000 per hour - after standing in line for 3-4 hours, often in chilly wind and under winter rain.

But for the pilgrims, it is a small sacrifice for the great reward of being 'one on one' with the great saint who expressed in the immediate and simple language of the people his own perfection of life and profound theological insights.

It was a vivid image of what Benedict XVI said in his recent catechesis devoted to St. Anthony whom he called "one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church".

One of the pilgrim groups to Padua yesterday was a delegation of fifty Franciscans from the Sacred Convent in Assisi, led by their superior, Fr. Guido Piemontese.

In his homily, Fr. Piemontese recalled the many personal and epistolary contacts between St. Francis and St. Anthony, whom he called 'Francis's most illustrious spiritual son', as well as the Holy Father's reference to Anthony as the first Franciscan theologian and precursor of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Blessed Duns Scotus.

Meanwhile, it seemed unlikely that the exposition would be prolonged because of the organizing committee's limited resources and the unavailability of enough volunteers beyond the time period originally scheduled.

The occasion for the exposition was the completion of a two-year renovation of the Renaissance Chapel of the Ark where the saint's tomb is located. During the renovation, the casket was temporarily kept enclosed in another chapel.

00Saturday, February 20, 2010 4:35 PM

Prayers for sainthood answered -
including that of a 100-year-old
great-aunt of the new saint


February 21, 2010

SYDNEY - God may move in mysterious ways, but it was an SMS from Rome that conveyed the official news that Blessed Mary MacKillop would be canonised.

Left, Sr. Maria Casey and Australian ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fischer in front of St Peter's Basilica; and right, Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Mother McKillop's tomb and shrine in Sydney in July 2008.

''Yes, she's a saint. 17th of October,'' read the text from Sister Maria Casey, who was in the meeting with Pope Benedict where the news was confirmed. [Sister Casey was the postulator for Mother McKillop's cause.]

Sister Anne Derwin, congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, was the recipient.

The news was greeted with joy - and cups of tea - from the sisters, including 100-year-old Sister Agnes O'Brien, who said she had been ''waiting, longing and praying'' for the day to come. The Blessed Mary, to be known as St Mary of the Cross, is the cousin of Sister Agnes's grandmother.

Born just two months after Blessed Mary died, she has devoted 84 years of her life as a Josephite nun to Blessed Mary's legacy.

''Today has been a wonderful day. I never really believed I would live to see [it] and I am so thankful to God to be here,'' she said.

Sister Agnes turns 101 on October 18 - the day after St Mary of the Cross will be canonised in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. She said she was sure there would be a big party.

In October more than 100 Josephite nuns will be making the pilgrimage to Rome to witness the canonisation. Sister Catherine Therese Kane, 93, said the announcement was ''like winning a gold medal''. She said it was a ''relief'' that the world had finally recognised that Blessed Mary was a saint.

''This is really putting Australia on the world map,'' Sister Catherine Therese said.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, said Blessed Mary was an example of immense loyalty not only to her fellow sisters ''but to the Church leadership which did not always treat her well''.

''Mother Mary of the Cross was a very normal Australian; she wasn't an exotic miracle worker; she wasn't an eccentric; she stuck at her task,'' he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Blessed Mary's story was a great inspiration: ''This is a deeply significant announcement for the 5 million Australians of Catholic faith and for all Australians whether of Catholic faith or not,'' he said.

Australian ambassador to the Holy See, Tim Fischer, said: 'This is a terrific salute to an outstanding Australian, a giant leader in education and many other fields.''

For Sister Maria Casey, who has lobbied for more than eight years, said the canonisation was a spiritual coming of age for Australia.

''Today it has been recognised that a woman can become a saint in the Australian environment with all its complexities and challenges,'' she said.

00Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:43 PM

Announcement of Brother André’s
canonization brings elation to many

Ottawa, Canada, Feb 19, 2010 (CNA) - The announcement of Bl. Brother André’s Oct. 17 canonization has caused a grateful reaction and much anticipation among Catholics and Canadians devoted to the humble porter who showed great devotion to St. Joseph.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Br. André’s coming canonization in the Consistory Hall of Vatican City on Friday. The Oratory of Mt. Royal in Montreal said that his audience included priests and brothers of the blessed’s order, the Congregation of Holy Cross. They were joined by members of the Oratory and members of the Archdiocese of Montreal.

Those gathered showed elation and greeted the announcement with “warm applause.”

Fr. Hugh Cleary, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and Rector of St. Joseph’s oratory, Fr. Claude Group, CSC, were part of the delegation, as was Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See Anne Leahy.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, discussed the announcement at a press conference at St. Joseph’s Oratory. He said the announcement was “the best thing that could have happened this year for the Church of Montreal.”

“I have always been impressed by this man, both a humble man and a visionary, a man of deep faith. An example of determination, still relevant today in 2010,” the cardinal said of the soon-to-be saint.

Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, Canadian Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, called the announcement a “wonderful gift” that will be received with “delight” by Br. André’s beneficiaries and supporters.

“For the religious of Holy Cross, it represents more than ever a source of inspiration, a model of faith and trust in God and in the human condition. He shows us how to envision great things and how to look toward the future!”

Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jérôme, speaking in his role as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said Friday that the bishops of Canada welcomed the Pope’s announcement.

“Brother André lived his life with great humility. Guided by a deep faith and devotion to Saint Joseph, he dedicated his life to praying, serving the poor, welcoming strangers, healing the sick and comforting the suffering,” the bishop commented. “To this day, his memory remains an important witness to all Canadians of faith and love.”

Bishop Morissette cited Pope Benedict’s comments that each saint is unique in his or her own way but all of them have been “impressed with the ‘seal’ of Jesus or the imprint of his love witnessed through the Cross.”

The bishop’s statement closed with the hope that Brother André’s canonization will be “a moment of rejoicing” throughout Canada and that his legacy can remind us of the achievements possible through faith and love.

Bishop Morrissette quoted Brother André’s own words: “It is with the smallest brushes that the artists paint the most beautiful pictures.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a Friday statement said he joins Catholics, Quebecers and all Canadians in welcoming the news of Brother André’s canonization.

“Brother André’s life shows us the power of faith and the importance of concern for the sick and others in need. In this solemn act, the Roman Catholic Church is honoring a Canadian who achieved greatness through humility, determination and service to others.

“Brother André’s devotion to St. Joseph, the patron saint of Canada, led to the building of the magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal. Today’s news heightens the inspiration we feel on seeing that religious landmark, a symbol and center of faith in Montreal and all of Canada.”

Blessed André was born Alfred Bessette to a poor Quebec family in 1845, a biography from St. Joseph’s Oratory says. His father died in a work accident when he was nine, and his mother died three years later. His large family was split up and the future Brother André, barely literate and physically weak from birth, moved from job to job for years.

In 1870 he presented himself as a candidate for the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. He was made porter at Notre-Dame College, where his daily tasks consisted of washing floors and windows, cleaning lamps, carrying firewood and working as a messenger.

He welcomed the sick and heartbroken, inviting them to pray to St. Joseph. His reputation grew as people reported that their prayers had been answered. He received visitors regularly for twenty-five years. Out of devotion to St. Joseph, he built a chapel with help from friends and money he earned from giving haircuts to students.

Larger versions of the chapel were constructed as more and more pilgrims came.

Brother André died in 1937. Over a million people attended his wake and burial.

A series of religious and cultural celebrations linked to his upcoming canonization will be announced soon for both Rome and Montreal, the Oratory of Mt. Royal reported.

00Tuesday, February 23, 2010 5:38 PM

Cross-posted from the BENEDICT thread:

Some happy news for the Holy Father during his retreat: Many Anglo-Catholics took advantage of the Feast of Peter's Chair yesterday to 'advance' the objectives of Anglicanorum coetibus. Damian Thompson describes one.

Anglo-Catholics looking to Rome launch
'Friends of the Ordinariate'(FOTO)

February 22, 2010

Today is the Forward in Faith Day of Prayer, a moment of reflection for Anglo-Catholics considering the Pope’s offer to enter into full communion with the Holy See on pretty much their own terms.

That may sound flippant, but it can’t be stressed enough that the Ordinariate is the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s response to requests from his Anglican friends for special pastoral oversight.

What a good day, then, for a group of Anglo-Catholics to launch Friends of the Ordinariate (FOTO).

The website proclaims:

We are Anglicans in the UK who are members of The Church of England, The Church in Wales, The Scottish Episcopal Church and The Church of Ireland, and we invite you to join with us as Friends of the Ordinariate in order to signify your interest in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

By joining us you will not be committing yourself to any course of action, present or future. We are a group of concerned Anglicans and we guarantee complete confidentiality and will not share your details with anyone else.

I can’t see any reason for Catholics not to support this initiative wholeheartedly. The Holy Father has made an offer which is being misrepresented by ecumenical dinosaurs on both sides of the Tiber. This is an opportunity for the exchange of accurate information and ideas.

The other great initiative was the Day of Prayer cited by Thompson. I was rather distracted yesterday and should have noted this more promptly. This was ZENIT'S anticipatory report yesterday, but the best evidence of good faith on the part of Anglican bishops who welcome the Pope's initiative comes in a booklet of 'spiritual resources' that they published online yesterday to aid the participating faithful:

The complete booklet - which cites many statements by Benedict XVI - can be donwloaded from

AngloCatholic bishops call
Day of Prayer and Discernment
on the feast of Peter's Chair
to consider the future

LONDON, FEB. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Anglican bishop of Ebbsfleet and the Forward in Faith group have called Anglicans to mark today's feast of the Chair of St. Peter with prayer -- preferably together with Roman Catholics -- to discern the path to follow after Benedict XVI has opened the way for them to enter communion with Rome.

"[T]his is not a day of decision," Bishop Andrew Burnham wrote in the prayer materials provided by Forward in Faith. "The apostolic constitution (Anglicanorum Coetibus) is not a crisis point but the opening up, permanently, of a new way into unity with the See of Peter. Decisions about how and whether this should happen for each of us will take place in different ways, and at different times. The time now is a time of prayer and discernment."

Anglicans around the world have been discerning their response to the Pope's November document, which provides the possibility of Anglicans establishing personal ordinariates, expressing full communion with Rome, but maintaining Anglican tradition.

The apostolic constitution responds to desires expressed by many Anglicans, disgruntled with the Communion's move toward acceptance of homosexual behavior and the ordained ministry for women.

The day of prayer, Bishop Burnham proposed, "is an opportunity to reflect, pray, and discern the way forward for each of us, our priests and our parishes."

In the material provided for the prayer day, the bishop's February pastoral letter on unity was included, in which Bishop Burnham reflects on the meaning of the term Anglo-Catholic.

He noted that the early 19th century initial use of the term in English focused on "continuity of the Church of England with the Church of apostolic times."

The bishop went on to consider the growing momentum toward unity in Christ, particularly among Anglo-Catholics, Orthodox and Catholics.

"Anglicanorum Coetibus" is another step along this path, he suggested.

"Though it is addressed to Anglicans in general, the particular focus of Anglicanorum Coetibus is, of course, Anglo-Catholics," Bishop Burnham proposed. "We are the ones who have longed for the reunion of the Catholic Church. We are the ones who, with candles, and devotions, and incense, and music, and prayers, and vestments have got as close as we can to Roman Catholic practice. [...]

"More important, we are the ones who in matters of faith and morals -- what we believe about the Gospel, the creeds, the ministry, and the sacraments -- and how we live -- have always claimed to be ‘Catholic.'

"Do we mean it? And, if we do, what do we do about it? Individually and in groups. That’s what we are saying our prayers about."

Specifically, the Anglican bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough - who were reponsible for the document illustrated here asked their parishes to undertake a day of prayerful discernment for the future of Anglo-Catholics, especially in the light of the Pope's Apostolic Constitution.

The bishops published a directory of Anglican and Roman Catholic parishes and places of worship that are taking part in the observance - many were combined events; bringing Roman Catholics and Anglicans together to pray for the unity of Christ’s church.

00Tuesday, February 23, 2010 7:30 PM

Bartholomew I defends Catholic-Orthodox
dialog in a patriarchal encyclical

Istanbul, Turkey, Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - A new encyclical from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople encourages dialogue between the Orthodox Church and other Christian churches and laments those who are “unacceptably fanatical” in challenging such dialogue. He specifically condemned the false rumors spread about Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

Patriarch Bartholomew’s patriarchal and synodal encyclical was dated Feb. 21, Orthodoxy Sunday, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the defeat of the iconoclastic heresy.

His letter began by noting the failure of those who have tried to suppress, silence or falsify the Orthodox Church. He said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate cares about “protecting and establishing” the unity of the Orthodox Church in order that the Orthodox Christian faith may be confessed “with one voice and in one heart.”

Orthodoxy, he said, must be promoted with humility and interpreted in light of each historical period and cultural circumstance.

“To this purpose, Orthodoxy must be in constant dialogue with the world. The Orthodox Church does not fear dialogue because truth is not afraid of dialogue,” Bartholomew continued, saying that a Church enclosed within itself would no longer be “catholic.”

Dialogue with the outside world must first pass through all those who call themselves Christian, he wrote.

“We must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible,” the Patriarch continued, citing Jesus’ prayer that all his disciples “may be one.”

From this source, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has conducted official Pan-Orthodox theological dialogues with the larger Christian Churches to discuss divisions in faith.

He noted that although these dialogues are conducted “with the mutual agreement and participation of all local Orthodox Churches,” they are challenged in “an unacceptably fanatical way” by some who claim to be defenders of Orthodoxy.

Such opponents raise themselves above episcopal synods and risk creating schisms, the Patriarch warned.

He also accused some critics of distorting reality to “deceive and arouse the faithful” and of depicting theological dialogue not as a pan-Orthodox effort, but an effort of the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone.

“They disseminate false rumors that union between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is imminent, while they know well that the differences discussed in these theological dialogues remain numerous and require lengthy debate; moreover, union is not decided by theological commissions but by Church Synods,” Bartholomew wrote. “They assert that the Pope will supposedly subjugate the Orthodox, because the latter submit to dialogue with the Roman Catholics!”

According to the Patriarch, such critics also engage in condescension towards efforts aimed at achieving Christian unity and wrongly condemn them as representing “the pan-heresy of ecumenism.”

“Beloved children in the Lord, Orthodoxy has no need of either fanaticism or bigotry to protect itself. Whoever believes that Orthodoxy has the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue,” the Patriarch stated. “Orthodoxy cannot proceed with intolerance and extremism.”

Patriarch Bartholomew encouraged Orthodox believers to have “utmost confidence” in their Mother Church.

He closed his encyclical letter with a prayer of Lenten blessing, asking that readers become worthy of celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with all faithful Orthodox Christians.

...And Cardinal Kasper sends
greetings for Bartholomew's
70th birthday

VATICAN CITY, February 23 (Translated from SIR) - Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, espressed his thanks 'from the heart' for the 'apostolic work' carried out in the past several years by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in a greeting to the Patriarch on his 70th birthday on February 29 [March 1 this year, since this is not a leap year].

"I remember with gratitude," Cardinal Kasper wrote, "the many fraternal meetings we have had in the past 10 years at the Fanar [the headquarters-residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul], and I hope that the Lord may grant me the joy of meeting with you again soon."

"The frinenship, the mutual trust and the frankness which have always characterized our conversations have been a great gift to me and a sign of progress in relations between our Churches.

"I wish that Your Holiness will continue with tireless commitment to contribute to an even more profound reciprocal knowledge and fruitful collaboration between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, so we may offer the world a common testimony of our faith in our one Lord Jesus Christ".

Born Dimitrios Archontonis on the island of Imbro in Turkey on February 29, 1940, Bartholomew I was elected Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church on October 22, 1991, to succeed to the late Patriarch Demetrius. He formally assumed the positiion on November 2, 1991.

I suppose the Pope's letter to the Patriarch will be made known to the public later, closer to the date of the Patriarch's birthday.

00Thursday, February 25, 2010 9:33 AM

The attention in the international media to the six upcoming new saints of the Church has focused On Blessed Mary MacKillop and Blessed Andre Bessette because they are Australian adn Canadian, respectively. But the list also includes a Polish priest, a Spanish nun, and two Italian nuns. This is about one of the Italian nuns whose life spanned the 15th-16th centuries..

Princess on earth, saint in heaven:
To be canonized after 100-year delay

By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, FEB. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The nuns of the Poor Clare convent nestled in the eastern Italian town of Camerino are expecting the canonization of a princess of the region to have universal repercussions.

Last Friday, Benedict XVI approved the Oct. 17 canonization of Blessed Camilla Battista da Varano, who founded the convent in Camerino. After the announcement, the bells of the convent rang out at noon and the sisters held a vigil of prayer in thanksgiving.

"We are certain that the canonization will have universal breadth," Mother Chiara Laura Seroboli, abbess of the convent of St. Clare of Camerino, wrote in a letter sent to ZENIT. "[...] In fact, the last canonization that the region of Las Marcas recalls was that of St. Maria Goretti, 60 years ago, an event that, despite the fact that there was not the quantity of media that exist now, had a grandiose resonance."

Both the abbess as well as the provincial minister of the brothers, Father Valentino Natalini, have established an organizing committee to promote events and initiatives to spread awareness about the saint in parishes and schools, and among young people, families and associations.

Camilla da Varano (1458-1524) was born to Giulio Cesare, the prince of Camerino. She spent her youth enjoying social life, studying Latin, law, painting and horseback, and basking in the surroundings of a sumptuous palace.

In her autobiography, Camilla recounts that when she was 9 years old she heard a homily on Good Friday in which Brother Domenico da Leonessa asked those present to shed at least one tear every Friday out of love for Jesus. She took it as a vow to follow all her life.

Early in her youth she intuited a vocation to the religious life, but it was hard for her to accept. Once she decided to abandon herself into God's hands and saw clearly that he was calling her, her father opposed the decision, wishing her to marry. She succeeded in overcoming the obstacles to her vocation and at 23, entered the convent of St. Clare in Urbino.

"Lord, make me always praise, bless, and glorify you with my life and edify my brothers," the future saint wrote.

Two years later Camilla made her religious profession, taking the name Sister Battista, together with eight sisters of Urbino. She then entered the new convent of Camerino.

Her father and her brothers were killed in a persecution her family suffered in 1502. Camilla was obliged to take refuge in Atri, a small town of the Abruzzi region, in southern Italy.

In 1505, Pope Julius II sent her to found a convent in Fermo, and in 1521 and 1522 she traveled to San Severino delle Marche to form the local religious who in that period had adopted the rule of St. Clare.

"Serve him out of pure love because he is the Lord who alone merits to be served, loved and praised by every creature," she wrote.

Camilla had a number of mystical experiences, reflected in her numerous writings, in which she reveals her ardent love for the crucified Christ.

She died May 31, 1524, during a plague.

"You have resurrected me in You, true life who give life to all the living," wrote Camilla.

Her body is kept and exposed for devotion in a crypt dedicated to her in the church of the convent of Camerino.

The miracle which took place for her canonization occurred in 1877: the cure of a girl called Celia Ottaviane in Camerino, who suffered from rickets.

Blessed Camilla's cause for canonization was then delayed for about 100 years due to problems with the original postulator. It was taken up again in 1998 and last December, Benedict XVI signed the decree approving the miracle for her canonization.

Camilla's works have been compiled and are being republished because of her canonization: "Memories of Jesus," "The Mental Pains of the Passion of Jesus," "Autobiography," "Instructions to the Disciple," "Treatise on the Painting of the Heart," and "Considerations on the Passion of Our Lord."

00Friday, February 26, 2010 2:49 PM
Nuncio decries 'endless'
string of deaths in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The long list of homicides in Iraq seems endless and so much destruction of human life is horrifying, a note from the apostolic nunciature in Iraq affirmed.

The statement from the nunciature points out that Christians have often been targets, and especially the Christians of Mosul "have paid a high price, despite their unanimously recognized peaceful life."

Eight Christians have been killed in that city in just 10 days.

"One has the impression that the reason to attack these minorities is strictly and only their religious faith or their different ethnic membership," the nunciature note continues. "Many Christians live in fear of staying in the territory which has seen them present for 2,000 years.

"Someone is trampling on their indisputable right to full citizenship, driving them with the force of violence to abandon their homes and flee."

The apostolic nunciature lamented that "the horror of violent and senseless acts" would be covered up and affirmed that prayer is more necessary than ever.

The statement declares that "urgent help is needed: Especially necessary is that the pressure of world opinion not fall, so that all the violence and discrimination ends immediately."

The statement suggests the the future of minorities depends on international attention.

"Moreover, it is hoped that the local authorities will not fail to attempt anything to guarantee the defenseless all the protection to which they are entitled, precisely in virtue of their Iraqi citizenship, which they have never betrayed," it continues. "Christians request that they be able to live their life in tranquility and profess their faith with total security, a basic condition of every civilization."

Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, 56, is the nuncio in Iraq. He was appointed to the post in 2006.

00Saturday, February 27, 2010 4:13 PM

Sorry for the belated post. I had no time to translate Italian news items, and also, because of having to prioritize my time, I am not always able to be prompt about posting news not directly related to the Holy Father. But I owe this to St. Anthony, whose shrine, other than St. Peter's, I have visited more than any other shrine, for the simple reason that Padua is a convenient side trip on the train route to northern Italy and beyond, so it was always a profound pleasure to stop over to pray at his shrine on habitual Eurailpass excursions in previous years.

200,000 visit St. Anthony's relics
during weeklong exposition

PADUA, Italy, FEB. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Some 200,000 people took advantage of the special showing of St. Anthony's relics that occurred at the basilica in Padua last week.

"What is amazing is that all those people -- it was an interminable procession -- had the clear perception not of being before someone who was dead, a skeleton or some bones, but before a person who is, and who is alive," the vicar-general of the Diocese of Padua, Monsignor Paolo Doni told Vatican Radio.

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi, is "one of the most popular saints in the whole Catholic Church, venerated not only in Padua [...] but in the whole world," Benedict XVI said at a general audience earlier this month.

This popularity was reflected in the large numbers of pilgrims who came during the 80 hours of the special display of the relics.

Monsignor Doni said it was a "spontaneous movement on the part of very many people, not only of the city and of the diocese, but also of many other places of Italy and also from abroad."

The vicar said the large turnout shows that "people have a great need to have a spiritual reference point, a person."

The pilgrimages to Padua, he proposed, were due to "the presence of a person -- in this case Anthony -- who is not of the past but of the present," according to "the great truth that is the communion of saints," which "transcends time and space."

Furthermore, the monsignor continued, St. Anthony continues to represent today love of the poor, justice and the law.

"This presence of Anthony, with the values he proposed and continues to propose, has been as though renewed these days," he said.

Last week's display marked the liturgical feast of the transfer of St. Anthony, also known as the feast of the tongue. The Feb. 15 feast commemorates the first time his remains were moved, April 8, 1263, under the direction of St. Bonaventure, and the final transfer, Feb. 15, 1350.

When St. Anthony's coffin was opened at the first transfer, some 30 years after his burial, most of his body was found to have returned to dust. However his tongue remained fresh, seen as a sign of his gift of preaching. Anthony's relics were last displayed in 1981, marking the 750th anniversary of his death.

00Saturday, February 27, 2010 4:30 PM

Thanks to ZENIT for its updates on the most pressing situations afflicting Christians in certain parts of the world:

Siro-Catholic Patriarch says Iraqi government
is complicit in anti-Christian killings

BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In a letter sent to the Iraqi prime minister, the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church accused the authorities of complicity with the perpetrators of the massacre of Mosul Christians.

His Beatitude Ignace Joseph III Younan, 65, sent the letter on Wednesday to Nouri al-Maliki, decrying the murder of Christians in Mosul, northern Iraq.

Eight Christians have been killed in 10 days, while others are leaving the area where their families have lived for 2,000 years in order to flee for safety.

The Patriarch affirmed: "While we write you, our hearts bleed over the tragic news we receive every day from Mosul, where Christians constantly suffer the attacks of 'unknown' criminals.

"They are murdered, massacred, threatened on the streets, in schools and even in their homes for the fact of belonging to a religion that is different from that of the majority of inhabitants of the city."

The last murder occurred Tuesday, when an armed commando entered the home of a Christian family, killing the father and two sons in front of his wife and daughter, whose lives were spared by the criminals. Some 15,000 Christians remain in the Muslim-majority city of Mosul.

Patriarch Younan continued, "But what is worse is that there is no one who asks questions about the issue of justice, or about the issue of law, and there is no one who punishes the aggressors. Believe us: when it's too much, it's too much!"

He wrote: "There is no human conscience than can accept this lack of security in Mosul, where it has become licit to kill the innocent and defenseless.

"We are astonished at the reasons given by government employees and from their failure we can deduce that there is complicity in the process of emptying the city of Christians, who have lived there for centuries.

"We raise our voices and ask: If the security forces in Iraq have not been able to protect the innocent and vulnerable, why in the name of God aren't weapons given to the innocent so that they can defend themselves instead of letting them be taken to the slaughter like sheep?"

The patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians asserted that "what is happening in Mosul cannot be justified by anyone, not for any reason, not because of the election, or because of work, or because of the conflicts between parties."

"It's known that Iraqi Christians have never sought power," he added, "they haven't attacked anyone and have not revenged themselves on the guilty."

"Has the moment not arrived for their government, according to the state of law, to take energetic measures and punish the criminals and their accomplices of Mosul?" Patriarch Younan asked.

He continued: "We realize and say to you with all clarity that the sorrow that oppresses the heart of Christians in Iraq will turn into anger outside of Iraq, where protests will take place in front of all the Iraqi embassies to condemn the lack of security of innocent Christians in Mosul."

The patriarch concluded, "Trusting in your wisdom and impartiality, we thank you."

The Syriac Catholic Church has its see in Beirut, Lebanon, though the majority of its members live in Iraq (42,000).

The Syriac Catholic Church separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but returned to full communion more than a millennium later.

Pakistani bishops decry government lethargy
in dealing with Taliban oppression of minorities

LAHORE, Pakistan, FEB. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Pakistani bishops' conference issued a statement decrying the lethargy of government authorities faced to militant Muslim organizations.

The statement, prepared by the conference's Justice and Peace Commission, was signed by the conference president, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore.

It condemned the "lethargic attitude on part of the government" that allows the Taliban free reign, Fides reported.

This encourages militant organizations to impose "Jizya," a tax for being non-Muslim and enables "kidnapping for ransom, target killing and internal displacement in frequency," it explained.

Thursday, Christians expressed solidarity with the similarity minority Sikh community, when two of its members were kidnapped and beheaded in a Taliban-dominated neighborhood.

The conference noted that these "frequent incidents of violence" and crime pose "grave threats to the life, liberty and property of the members of religious minorities in the country."

Referring to Thursday's murders, the archbishop stated that "this was not a solitary incident of brutality against the religious minorities in Pakistan."

"The federal and provincial governments should treat these incidents as alarm bell and must take stringent measures to control the situation," he added.

Archbishop Saldanha affirmed: "While the Sikh community has become an easy prey for the militants in the North-West Frontier Province, the Hindu community has faced violent crimes in Sindh and Baluchistan in the past few years. Dozens of Hindus have lost their lives and property to kidnappers." He added that Christians have also been harassed in many areas.

The statement asserted that "the government should protect the religious minorities as a priority as they happen to be one of the most vulnerable groups to social and organized crimes."

It also "recommended the repeal of all discriminatory laws to promote tolerance and social harmony."

Spanish bishops mobilize against
new abortion liberalization law

MADRID, Spain, FEB. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Spanish bishops are denouncing the recent liberalization of abortion laws in the country as a "serious step backward in the protection of the right to life."

Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino of Madrid, who is a spokesman for Spain's episcopal conference, said Thursday at a press conference that the law is also "a greater abandonment of expectant mothers as well as, in the last analysis, a very serious destruction of the common good."

Bishop Martínez addressed the press at the end of a meeting of the permanent commission of the bishops' conference, which took place the day after the Senate in Spain voted to allow abortion without restrictions up to 14 weeks.

The new legislation also allows for 16- and 17- year olds to have an abortion without parental consent, although they are required to inform their parents.

Previously, abortions were illegal except for cases of rape (up to week 12) and in cases where the fetus was malformed (up to week 22). Women could also abort at any time if it was determined that the woman was under emotional distress.

The new legislation permits abortion up to 22 weeks if the mother's health is at risk, or if there is a fetal malformation. And abortion beyond 22 weeks is allowed if the fetus is severely malformed, or diagnosed with a serious or incurable disease.

King Juan Carlos I is now required by the Constitution to sign the law for it to become law.

When asked about the decision now facing the king, Bishop Martínez said the bishops' conference "does not want to pronounce itself on the responsibility and unique act that the king exercises on sanctioning the law."

The spokesman of the Spanish bishops differentiated the situation of Juan Carlos I from that of politicians in voting for the law. "It is different to sanction the law than to vote on it," he said.

"As the king's act is unique, very different from that of a politician who gives his vote to this law being able not to give it, the [conference] is not going to give advice. General principles are not possible," the bishop added.

Referring to its content, the bishop described as "sad" and "grave" the approval of "a law that changes abortion into a supposed right," "a law that gives license to kill one's children."

Bishop Martínez stressed "the will of the Church to continue defending the right to life of those about to be born."

At the same time, he pointed out that the Church understands "the problems that the expectant mother can meet in her life" and offers "alternatives to the tragedy and crime of abortion."

He also recalled that Pro-life Day in Spain is March 25, and that the bishops hope it "will be an important moment for the revitalization of the consciences of the citizens who will demand the abolition of this law as soon as possible."

00Saturday, February 27, 2010 6:09 PM

This news totally escaped me - it was not posted on the Vatican site, contrary to what the item says. I re-checked just now, and it definitely was not one of the Vatican bulletins in February, though there were five bulletins issued on Feb. 13. And I obviously did not check out ZENIT on Feb. 13!

P.S. It turns out it was published by VIS on February 14, saying it was a bulletin released 'yesterday evening'. Mea culpa! I don't check VIS everyday unless there is no advance text or available English story for a known papal event.

Even more strange - the news is not even reported in the official site of the Fatima shrine!

Vatican to start beatification process
for Sister Lucia of Fatima -
Holy Father approves 5-year waiver

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI announced he will dispense with the five-year waiting period established by Canon Law to open the cause of beatification of Sister Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries.

Sr. Lucia with John Paul II on May 13, 2000, when he came to Fatima to beatify her cousins Jacinta and Francisco; right, one of the two books Sr. Lucia wrote about her rxtraordinary life.

The news was announced today in the cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal, by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, on the third anniversary of the Carmelite's death. She was 92.

The Holy Father dispensed with the established waiting period once before for the cause of Pope John Paul II. Benedict XVI made the announcement on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, some 42 days after the Pontiff's death in 2005.

John Paul II waived the waiting period in the case of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The blessed died Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified by John Paul II on Oct. 19, 2003.

A communiqué of the Vatican press office states: "Benedict XVI, taking into account the petition presented by Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, and supported by numerous bishops and faithful from all parts of the world, has revoked the five-year waiting period established by the canonical norms (cf. Article 9 of the 'Normae Servandae'), and he has allowed for the diocesan phase of the Carmelite's cause of beatification to begin three years after her death."

Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was 10 years old when she said she saw for the first time, on May 13, 1917, a lady whom she later identified as the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the Cova de Iria.

She saw the vision with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were beatified by John Paul II in Fatima, in 2000.

In a pastoral letter dated Oct. 13, 1930, the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, José Alves Correia da Silva, declared the apparitions of Fatima worthy of faith and allowed public devotion. Since then, the shrine has become a center of spirituality and pilgrimage of international scope.

Born in Aljustrel in 1907, Lucia moved to Oporto in 1921, and at 14 was admitted as a boarder in the School of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, on the city's outskirts.

On Oct. 24, 1925, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and at the same time was admitted as a postulant in the congregation's convent in Tuy, Spain, near the Portuguese border. She made her first vows on Oct. 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on Oct. 3, 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.

She returned to Portugal in 1946 and two years later entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she made her profession as a Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949, taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.

She wrote two volumes, one entitled "Memories" and the other "Appeals of the Fatima Message." In her writings, she recounts how the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus appeared to her on other occasions, years after the initial apparitions.

The mortal remains of the Carmelite were moved in 2006 to the Shrine of Fatima. The body of the nun, who died at age 97, is buried next to Jacinta. Francisco is buried in the same basilica.

00Sunday, February 28, 2010 12:43 PM

From left: Catholic congregation in Malaysia; Islamists demonstrating against Christians in Indonesia; a US soldier guards a church in Mosul; church in Pakistan being burned, and after the fire.

A most informative overview from an unexpected source - even more interesting because it names radical Islamism as the chief perpetrator of Chrstian persecution today. For once, no kowtowing to political correctness!

Victims of radical Islam:
Christianity's modern-day martyrs

The rise of Islamic extremism is putting increasing pressure on Christians in Muslim countries,
who are the victims of murder, violence and discrimination.
Christians are now considered the most persecuted religious group around the world.
Paradoxically, their greatest hope could come from moderate political Islam.

February 26, 2010

Kevin Ang is cautious these days. He glances around, taking a look to the left down the long row of stores, then to the right toward the square, to check that no one is nearby. Only then does the church caretaker dig out his key, unlock the gate, and enter the Metro Tabernacle Church in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

The draft of air stirs charred Bible pages. The walls are sooty and the building smells of scorched plastic. Metro Tabernacle Church was the first of 11 churches set on fire by angry Muslims -- all because of one word. "Allah," Kevin Ang whispers.

It began with a question -- should Christians here, like Muslims, be allowed to call their god "Allah," since they don't have any other word or language at their disposal?

The Muslims claim Allah for themselves, both the word and the god, and fear that if Christians are allowed to use the same word for their own god, it could lead pious Muslims astray.

For three years there was a ban in place and the government confiscated Bibles that mentioned "Allah." Then on Dec. 31 last year, Malaysia's highest court reached a decision: The Christian God could also be called Allah.

Imams protested and disgruntled citizens threw Molotov cocktails at churches. Then, on top of everything, Prime Minister Najib Razak stated that he couldn't stop people who might protest against specific developments in the country -- and some took that as an invitation to violent action.

First churches burned, then the other side retaliated with pigs' heads placed in front of two mosques. Sixty percent of Malaysians are Muslims and 9 percent Christians, with the rest made up by Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. They managed to live together well, until now.

It's a battle over a single word, but it's also about much more than that. The conflict has to do with the question of what rights the Christian minority in Malaysia is entitled to. Even more than that, it's a question of politics. The ruling United Malays National Organization is losing supporters to Islamist hardliners -- and wants to win them back with religious policies.

Those policies are receiving a receptive welcome. Some of Malaysia's states interpret Sharia, the Islamic system of law and order, particularly strictly. The once liberal country is on the way to giving up freedom of religion -- and what constitutes order is being defined ever more rigidly.

If a Muslim woman drinks beer, she can be punished with six cane strokes. Some regions similarly forbid such things as brightly colored lipstick, thick make-up, or shoes with clattering high heels.

Not only in Malaysia, but in many countries through the Muslim world, religion has gained influence over governmental policy in the last two decades. The militant Islamist group Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, while Islamist militias are fighting the governments of Nigeria and the Philippines.

Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen have fallen to a large extent into the hands of Islamists. And where Islamists are not yet in power, secular governing parties are trying to outstrip the more religious groups in a rush to the right.

This can be seen in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Indonesia to some extent, and also Malaysia. Even though this Islamization often has more to do with politics than with religion, and even though it doesn't necessarily lead to the persecution of Christians, it can still be said that where Islam gains importance, freedoms for members of other faiths shrink.

There are 2.2 billion Christians around the world. The Christian non-governmental organization Open Doors calculates that 100 million of them are being threatened or persecuted.

They aren't allowed to build churches, buy Bibles or obtain jobs. That's the more harmless form of discrimination and it affects the majority of these 100 million Christians. The more brutal version sees them blackmailed, robbed, expelled, abducted or even murdered.

Bishop Margot Kässmann, who was head of the Protestant Church in Germany before stepping down on Feb. 24, believes Christians are "the most frequently persecuted religious group globally."

Germany's 22 regional churches have proclaimed this coming Sunday to be the first commemoration day for persecuted Christians. Kässmann said she wanted to show solidarity with fellow Christians who "have great difficulty living out their beliefs freely in countries such as Indonesia, India, Iraq or Turkey."

There are counter-examples as well, of course. In Lebanon and Syria, Christians are not discriminated against, and in fact play an important role in politics and society. And the persecution of Christian is by no means the domain of fanatical Muslims alone -- Christians are also imprisoned, abused and murdered in countries such as Laos, Vietnam, China and Eritrea.

Open Doors compiles a global "persecution index." North Korea, where tens of thousands of Christians are serving time in work camps, has topped the list for many years. North Korea is followed, though, by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Maldives and Afghanistan. Of the first 10 countries on the list, eight are Islamic, and almost all have Islam as their state religion.

The systematic persecution of Christians in the 20th century -- by Communists in the Soviet Union and China, but also by Nazis -- claimed far more lives than anything that has happened so far in the 21st century.

Now, however, it is not only totalitarian regimes persecuting Christians, but also residents of Islamic states, fanatical fundamentalists, and religious sects -- and often simply supposedly pious citizens.

Gone is the era of tolerance, when Christians enjoyed a large degree of religious freedom under the protection of Muslim sultans as so-called "People of the Book" while at the same time medieval Europe was banishing its Jews and Muslims from the continent or even burning them at the stake. Also gone is the heyday of Arab secularism following World War II, when Christian Arabs advanced through the ranks of politics.

As political Islam grew stronger, devout believers' aggression focused not only on corrupt local regimes, but also more and more on the ostensibly corrupting influence of Western Christians, for which local Christian minorities were held accountable. A new trend began, this time with Christians as the victims.

In Iraq, for example, Sunni terrorist groups prey specifically on people of other religions. The last Iraqi census in 1987 showed 1.4 million Christians living in the country. At the start of the American invasion in 2003, it was 550,000, and at present it is just under 400,000. Experts speak of a "creeping genocide."

The situation in the region around the city of Mosul in northern Iraq is especially dramatic. The town of Alqosh lies high in the mountains above Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

Bassam Bashir, 41, can see his old hometown when he looks out his window there. Mosul is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, but inaccessible. The city is more dangerous than Baghdad, especially for men like Bassam Bashir, a Chaldean Catholic, teacher and fugitive within his own country.

Since the day in August 2008 when a militia abducted his father from his shop, Bashir has had to fear for his and his family's lives. Police found his father's corpse two days later in the Sinaa neighborhood on the Tigris River, the body perforated with bullet holes. There was no demand for ransom. Bashir's father died for the simple reason that he was Christian.

And no one claims to have seen anything. "Of course they saw something," Bashir says. "But people in Mosul are scared out of their minds."

One week later, militiamen slit the throat of Bashir's brother Tarik like a sacrificial lamb. "I buried my brother myself," Bashir explains. Together with his wife Nafa and their two daughters, he fled to Alqosh the same day. The city is surrounded by vineyards and an armed Christian militia guards the entrance.

Bashir's family members aren't the only ones who came to Alqosh as the series of murders in Mosul continued. Sixteen Christians were killed the next week, and bombs exploded in front of churches. Men in passing cars shouted at Christians that they had a choice -- leave Mosul or convert to Islam.

Out of over 1,500 Christian families in the city, only 50 stayed. Bassam Bashir says he won't return until he can mourn for his father and brother in peace. Others who gave up hope entirely fled to neighboring countries like Jordan and even more to Syria.

In many Islamic countries, Christians are persecuted less brutally than in Iraq, but often no less effectively. In many cases, the persecution has the tacit approval of the government.

In Algeria, for example, it takes the form of newspapers reporting that a priest tried to convert Muslims or insulted the Prophet Mohammed -- and publishing the cleric's address, in a clear call to vigilante justice.

Or a public television station might broadcast programs with titles like "In the Clutches of Ignorance," which describe Christians as Satanists who convert Muslims with the help of drugs. This happened in Uzbekistan, which ranks tenth on Open Doors' "persecution index."

Blasphemy is another frequently used allegation. Insulting the core values of Islam is a punishable offense in many Islamic countries. The allegation is often used against the opposition, whether that means journalists, dissidents or Christians.

Imran Masih, for example, a Christian shopkeeper in Faisalabad, Pakistan, was given a life sentence on Jan. 11, according to sections 295 A and B of Pakistan's legal code, which covers the crime of outraging religious feelings by desecrating the Koran. A neighboring shopkeeper had accused him of burning pages from the Koran. Masih says that he only burned old business records.

It's a typical case for Pakistan, where the law against blasphemy seems to invite abuse -- it's an easy way for anyone to get rid of an enemy. Last year, 125 Christians were charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. Dozens of those already sentenced are on death row.

Government-tolerated persecution occurs even in Turkey, the most secular and modern country in the Muslim world, where around 110,000 Christians make up less than a quarter of 1 percent of the population -- but are discriminated against nonetheless.

The persecution is not as open or as brutal as what happens in neighboring Iraq, but the consequences are similar. Christians in Turkey, who numbered well over 2 million people in the 19th century, are fighting for their continued existence.

It's happening in the southeast of the country, for example, in Tur Abdin, whose name means "mountain of God's servants." It's a hilly region full of fields, chalk cliffs, and centuries-old monasteries many.

It's home to the Syrian Orthodox Assyrians, or Aramaeans as they call themselves, members of one of the oldest Christian groups in the world. According to legend, the Three Wise Men brought the Christian belief system here from Bethlehem. The inhabitants of Tur Abdin still speak Aramaic, the language used by Jesus of Nazareth.

The world is much more familiar with the genocide committed against the Armenians by Ottoman troops in 1915 and 1916, but tens of thousands of Assyrians were also murdered during World War I.

Half a million Assyrians are said to have lived in Tur Abdin at the beginning of the 20th century. Today there are barely 3,000. A Turkish district court threatened last year to appropriate the Assyrians' spiritual center, the 1,600-year-old Mor Gabriel monastery, because the monks were believed to have acquired land unlawfully. Three neighboring Muslim villages had complained they felt discriminated against by the monastery, which houses four monks, 14 nuns, and 40 students behind its walls.

"Even if it doesn't want to admit it, Turkey has a problem with people of other faiths," says Ishok Demir, a young Swiss man with Aramaean roots, who lives with his parents near Mor Gabriel. "We don't feel safe here."

More than anything, that has to do with the permanent place Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Catholics and Protestants have in the country's nationalistic conspiracy theories. Those groups have always been seen as traitors, nonbelievers, spies and people who insult the Turkish nation.

According to a survey carried out by the US-based Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Turks see Christianity as a violent religion. In a more recent Turkish study, 42 percent of those surveyed wouldn't accept Christians as neighbors.

The repeated murders of Christians come, then, as no surprise. In 2006, for example, a Catholic priest was shot in Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. In 2007, three Christian missionaries were murdered in Malatya, a city in eastern Turkey. The perpetrators were radical nationalists, whose ideology was a mixture of exaggerated patriotism, racism and Islam.

In even graver danger than traditional Christians, however, are Muslims who have converted to Christianity. Apostasy, or the renunciation of Islam, is punishable by death according to Islamic law -- and the death penalty still applies in Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Even in Egypt, a secular country, converts draw the government's wrath. The religion minister defended the legality of the death penalty for converts -- although Egypt doesn't even have such a law -- with the argument that renunciation of Islam amounts to high treason.

Such sentiments drove Mohammed Hegazy, 27, a convert to the Coptic Orthodox Church, into hiding two years ago. He was the first convert in Egypt to try to have his new religion entered officially onto his state-issued identity card. When he was refused, he went public. Numerous clerics called for his death in response.

Copts make up the largest Christian community in the Arab world and around 8 million Egyptians belong to the Coptic Church. They're barred from high government positions, diplomatic service and the military, as well as from many state benefits. Universities have quotas for Coptic students considerably lower than their actual percentage within the population.

Building new churches isn't allowed, and the old ones are falling into disrepair thanks to a lack both of money and authorization to renovate. When girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted, the police don't intervene. Thousands of pigs were also slaughtered under the pretense of confining swine flu. Naturally all were owned by Christians.

Six Copts were massacred on Jan. 6 -- when Coptic celebrate Christmas Eve -- in Nag Hammadi, a small city 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the Valley of the Kings.

Predictably, the speaker of the People's Assembly, the lower house of the Egyptian parliament, called it an "individual criminal act." When he added that the perpetrators wanted to revenge the rape of a Muslim girl by a Copt, it almost sounded like an excuse.

The government seems ready to admit to crime in Egypt, but not to religious tension. Whenever clashes between religious groups occur, the government finds very secular causes behind them, such as arguments over land, revenge for crimes or personal disputes.

Nag Hammadi, with 30,000 residents, is a dusty trading town on the Nile. Even before the murders, it was a place where Christians and Muslims mistrusted one another. The two groups work together and have houses near each other, but they live, marry and die separately.

Superstition is widespread and the Muslims, for example, fear they could catch the "Christian virus" by eating together with a Copt. It comes as no surprise that these murders occurred in Nag Hammadi, nor that they were followed by the country's worst religious riots in years. Christian shops and Muslim houses were set on fire, and 28 Christians and 14 Muslims were arrested.

Nag Hammadi is now sealed off, with armed security forces in black uniforms guarding roads in and out of the city. They make sure no residents leave the city and no journalists enter it.

Three presumed perpetrators have since been arrested. All of them have prior criminal records. One admitted to the crime, but then recanted, saying he had been coerced by the intelligence service. The government seems to want the affair to disappear as quickly as possible. The alleged murderers will likely be set free again as soon as the furor has blown over.

But there are also a few small indications that the situation of embattled Christians in Islamic countries could improve -- depending on the extent that nationalism and the radicalization of political Islam subsides again.

One of the contradictions of the Islamic world is that the best chances for Christians seem to crop up precisely where a major player actually comes from the political Islam camp.

In Turkey it is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former Islamist and now the country's prime minister, who has promised Turkey's few remaining Christians more rights. He points to the history of the Ottoman Empire, in which Christians and Jews long had to pay a special tax, but in exchange, were granted freedom of religion and lived as respected fellow citizens.

A more relaxed attitude to its minorities would certainly signify progress for Turkey.

00Tuesday, March 2, 2010 6:38 PM

Cardinal Levada to preach
at Tridentine Mass in new
traditionalist chapel

February 28th, 2010

The glorious rehabilitation of the traditional Latin Mass at the highest level of the Church will be illustrated on Wednesday when Cardinal William Levada, the Pope’s successor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will preach at the consecration of the first traditionalist seminary chapel built in America for 40 years – at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska run by the Priestly Society of St Peter (FSSP).

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, will celebrate Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form – of course – in a ceremony to be broadcast by EWTN. The entire procedings will last five hours, I gather, so in the unlikely event of the Tablet’s Bobbie Mickens attending. he’ll need a maxi-pack of tissues to soak up the tears of rage.

Many congratulations to the FSSP, which commissioned architect Thomas Gordon Smith to build something a little more uplifting than recent Catholic architectural triumphs, such as the Los Angeles “cathedral” or indeed the chapel at Hinsley Hall, HQ of the massively indebted Diocese of Leeds.

Anyway, according to the FSSP, “the [Nebraska] seminary chapel reflects a contemporary rebirth in the rich tradition of classical Catholic architecture. Upon entering through its mahogany doors, the visitor will be immersed in the chapel’s beauty and grandeur which include an elevated main altar, emphasized by a 31-foot marble canopy or baldachino, the chapel’s seven side altars and liturgical choir stalls which seat 92 seminarians and priests.”

You may be wondering: what is to stop the building of an equally beautiful chapel in England, or indeed the foundation of an FSSP seminary in this country?

The seminarians could be found; so could serious backing from sponsors who would rather spend money on traditional Catholicism than on servicing the shinypants of Eccleston Square. I wonder what the problem is. Any ideas, folks?

00Wednesday, March 3, 2010 8:10 PM
Reminder to myself - three important subjects I have failed to post on so far:

1. The new archbishop of Brussels - most of the material has to be translated from French or Italian
2. The Rino Fisichella case (i.e., revolt in the Ponitifical Academy of Life) - because it is a case I find personally distasteful, as I think that in the case of the Brazilian abortion, Fisichella has not acted in the best interests of the Church. (Fortunately, Sandro Magister is keeping track.)

After the 'shortcomings' of Cardinal Bertone in failing to backstop the Pope when he should, using him as a shield instead, and all the egregious questionable actions and statements of Cardinal Schoenborn, I find it sad that yet another prelate closely identified with Benedict XVI has turned out to be less than admirable.

3. The Italian bishops' recent pastoral statement on the problems of the Italian South

I will try to start making up with posting something on the admirable Bishop Andre Leonard, formerly of Namur, now of Malines-Brussels.

00Thursday, March 4, 2010 3:33 PM

Traditional Anglicans in the US
request to 'come home'

This statement was released yesterday by the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America, Traditional Anglican Communion.

3 March 2010

We, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America of the Traditional Anglican Communion have met in Orlando, Florida, together with our Primate and the Reverend Christopher Phillips of the "Anglican Use" Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement (San Antonio, Texas) and others.

At this meeting, the decision was made formally to request the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States of America by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

I had every good intention of finding out exactly what the above statement meant in terms of numbers but I did not have the time to do the research, buyt today, here's a UK Daily Telegraph Sotory that places the above ACA statement in the right context:

100 US Anglican parishes
converting to Roman Catholic Church

By Simon Caldwell

March 5, 2010

About 100 traditionalist Anglican parishes across the United States have decided to convert en masse to the Roman Catholic Church, it emerged yesterday.

The Anglican Church in America (ACA) will now enter the Catholic Church as a block, bringing in thousands of converts. They have voted to take up the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI in November that permits vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions, including married priests.

By issuing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus (on groups of Anglicans) the Pope was accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their Church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops.

But the Vatican insisted that the move to create self-governing "personal ordinariates", which resemble dioceses in structure, came as a result of requests from at least 30 disaffected Anglican bishops around the world for "corporate reunion" with the Catholic Church.

The Anglican Church in America (ACA) will now enter the Catholic Church as a block, bringing in thousands of converts along with their own bishops, buildings and even a cathedral.

They will worship according to Anglican rubrics, and use the Book of Common Prayer, but they will be in communion with the Pope, recognising him as their leader.

The decision was taken by the House of Bishops of the ACA during a meeting in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week.

The bishops said in a brief statement afterwards that they had agreed to formally "request the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States of America by the (Vatican's) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith".

The ACA belongs to the Traditional Anglican Communion, which broke from the Anglican Communion nearly 20 years ago because of its drift from orthodox Christian doctrines.

Unlike 77 million Anglicans worldwide, it is not in communion with the much larger US episcopal church nor does it recognise Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Church but still considers itself Anglican in its origins.

Its decision to rejoin the Catholic Church represents the second group of Anglican churches to take up the Pope's offer.

The first was the Australian branch of Forward in Faith, a traditionalist group in communion with the Church of England and other mainstream Anglican churches, which last month directed its governing council to take the first steps needed for the mass conversion of 16 parishes to Catholicism.

The UK branch of Forward in Faith is also considering mass conversion but has delayed a decision until July at the earliest – though its leaders are known to be holding secretive meeting with high-ranking Vatican officials.

In the meantime Forward in Faith UK has set up a "Friends of the Ordinariate" group to help to gauge the level of support for conversion among rank-and-file worshippers.

If they decide to take the path to Rome, Britain will see unprecedented numbers of conversions, possibly involving in the region of 200 Anglican congregations, which would amount to thousands of converts.

John Broadhurst, the Anglican Bishop of Fulham and chairman of Forward in Faith, said mass conversion was a real prospect. "We have a thousand priest members in my organisation and there are many others who agree with us," he said last year.

"The main issue for many Anglican priests is now the ownership of parish churches."

In preparation for an influx of converts the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have established a commission which is expected to look at the possibility of church-sharing and also the chances of taking out 100-year leases of some Anglican parishes.

An early conversion came last month, however, when it emerged that Paul Robinson, the former assistant Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, converted just weeks after stepping down from his post.

The 63-year-old was received into the Catholic Church in January and is now a regular worshipper at St George's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, following a move to London.

'It's really a journey I've been on for some time,' he said. 'It's just like coming home.'

Last summer, Mr Robinson claimed that the dramatic fall in church marriages and baptisms was an indication that Britain was no longer a Christian nation.

He has predicted the demise of the Church of England as the established religion within a generation.

Pope Benedict will visit Britain in September to attend the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a high-profile Anglican cleric who shocked Victorian England by converting to the Catholic faith.

00Saturday, March 6, 2010 9:59 AM

Here from the site of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, is the beautiful presentation made by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of the positive side in the debate 'England Should be a Catholic Country again' sponsored by The Spectator magazine and held in London on March 2.

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to see so many of you here this evening for this great event. Not like the bishop who went to a parish for a function. There were very few people there and he was a bit annoyed. He said to the Parish Priest: Father, there are very few people here; didn’t you tell them the bishop was coming? No, my Lord, says the Parish Priest, but the news must have leaked out somehow! Well, the news of this debate has clearly leaked out and you want to know why England should be a Catholic country again.

But what is “a Catholic country”? Does it mean claiming back our historic cathedrals … and paying for their upkeep? Or is it a call for political power, where Bishops appoint the Prime Minister, rather than the other way round? If you were hoping for a good old fashioned punch-up – Protestants versus Catholics, pausing only to stop Richard Dawkins interrupting us - I am afraid you are going to be disappointed.

Most English people, if they thought about the matter at all, would probably say that, on balance, the Reformation was a good thing. The Reformation brought education, biblical truth, independent thinking and progress, therefore it was a good thing.

By the same logic, Pre-Reformation England, therefore, was bad: with corrupt and worldly prelates like Cardinal Wolesey, and an uncouth and ignorant clergy. The only signs of Christian life came from the Lollards, the Protestants who rejected the mumbo-jumbo of the sacraments, read the bible in English, so all in all, England was ready for the good news of Protestantism.

A raft of studies shows in fact that the English parish churches on the eve of the Reformation were vigorous, adaptable and popular. The laity had a wholesome piety and ready charity. The Episcopate was not corrupt, and Erasmus himself thought early Tudor England the most enlightened place in Europe. And those monasteries, swept away with such zeal: along with them went the education, the medical care, and the hospitality they provided for the love of God.

My point is that the Reformation, notwithstanding its positive contribution, brought a tremendous loss to this country. It was a great hiatus. It dug a ditch, deep and dividing, between the people of this country and their past.

Overnight, a millennium of Christian splendour, the world of Gregory, Bede, Anselm, Catherine of Siena, Francis, Dominic, Julian of Norwich, Bernard, Dante, all the men and women who nourished the mind and heart of Christendom for a thousand years, became alien territory, the Dark Ages of Popery.

Protestantism was founded on two affirmations about the grace of God and Salvation; the Revelation of God in Scripture. But it accompanied these affirmations with a series of negations and rejections, as it smashed the statues, white-washed the churches, denounced the Pope and the Mass. Protestantism – and its particular form here in England – became constituted by its ‘No’ to Catholicism.

In speaking of a Catholic Country, let us agree that the Reformation conflict is over. We do not need to trade history. And I for one would be the first to be grateful for so much that the Anglican Church and other Christian Churches have brought to this country that has been of such benefit over the past four hundred years.

Instead, let me give you a better starting point for our debate. Go back to the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. For many, the key image was the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, kneeling before the shrine of St Thomas a Becket, side by side in prayer. It was extraordinarily moving.

Our two churches have already come a long way on the path back to the unity which Christ called for. And it will take more than even The Spectator to push us apart again. I am a convinced and dedicated ecumenist and I believe that the ecumenical movement is like a road with no exit. We are not in competition but in a shared endeavour. It is not a choice between the Church of England or Catholic England: it is a choice for the Church in England.

My vision is for the English Church, united with all its history and genius, is to be aligned and in communion with the billion and more Catholic Christians throughout the world, with four or five thousand bishops and in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Only last month Pope Benedict praised our ‘firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all’; he urged us to participate in national debate through ‘respectful dialogue’; and he praised our traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion. I can live with that.

It was a privilege, too, for me to preach before Her Majesty the Queen some years back, something that just would not have happened fifty years ago. Times have changed and I am sure the Queen, or her successor, would not mind too much having a lesser say in the appointment of the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.

Let me be clear, my vision for the English Church is two-fold. Firstly, that it be united with the Universal Church – Catholic means universal – and secondly, to bring to the Universal Church the particular characteristics and genius of the English which would, indeed, be an enrichment for the whole Church.

So, the English Church is a Church united and strong. It is out there in the areopagus, the market place of our diminished secular society which is looking for meaning and hope. This English Church would speak to the nation of true belief, of the dignity of the human person from the beginning of life to its natural end.

It would preach a Gospel of life and truth.

It would speak of what the Church is for, not so much of what it is against.

It would speak for the poor, for the prisoner, a voice for the voiceless.

It would speak of the family, to help forge a healthy nation, and seek to defuse, as the Chief Rabbi has said, the bomb that has been put under the cement that brings life together here in our country, namely, the family.

A culture that encourages sex without love, marriage without commitment, children without the stability to nurture them properly, is a culture that needs a Church in the market-place; and a voice that speaks about the place of religion in society and of God who, in Christ, shows Himself a God of forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Many secularists believe that the Church - and religion in general - is a private eccentricity; that it has no place in public life; that it must not influence the country in any way; and that it has nothing to do with a healthy society. What are they afraid of? The English Church would be a model of how to love God and our neighbour.

The English Church would continue to respect and dialogue with those who differ from us, people of other faiths, people with no faith, the agnostics and atheists.

The English Church would be a strong voice, witnessing to all that is good and true. It would be a Church, sustained not only by Scripture, tradition and reason favoured by the Anglican Church but, crucially, by Scripture, tradition, reason and teaching authority. It would encapsulate that authority in teaching the truth and the beauty of the Christian faith.

I must move to close. Of course, I could have spoken about the sins, the failure of the Catholic Church in so many ways – I am sure our opponents tonight will mention them – and I am aware that the Church must always be reformed. But that is not the point.

The Catholic Church, the English Church of which I speak, has a strength and an assurance that the forces of darkness will not prevail. As John Henry Newman said, it will not fail because it has been tried through the ages.

An English Church, in unity together, in communion with the Universal Church, would bring the Good News and meaning to our generation and generations yet to come. It would be open to all the challenges of today, while being strong enough to resist every accommodation to the prevailing mores.

Above all, it will be and should be noted for the holiness of its members, their desire to love God and to love and serve their neighbours. It would serve the Common Good.

It is in humility and with some diffidence that I speak to you this evening. The Prophet Joel said, Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions.

So I have given you a vision, and I am an old man, with a dream of the English Church in this land which we love so much and, let me tell you, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a dream that can be, that should be, that will be realised.

This was the full panel of speakers at the debate:

Speakers for the motion

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor studied for the priesthood at the English College in Rome and was ordained in 1956. He served as a parish priest in Southampton, and later as Private Secretary to Bishop Derek Worlock. In 1971 he was appointed Rector of the English College in Rome. In 1977, he was ordained Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, a position he was to hold for some 23 years until his appointment as Archbishop of Westminster in 2000. He was created a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on 22 February 2001 and serves on the bodies of seven Vatican dicasteries. He retired as Archbishop of Westminster in May 2009.

Piers Paul Read
Piers Paul Read is the author of a number of novels, among them A Married Man, The Free Frenchman and, most recently, The Death of a Pope. His works of non-fiction include Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors; The Templars, a history of the crusading order; and Alec Guinness. The Authorised Biography. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Ampleforth, studied history at Cambridge, and is a vice-president of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. He wrote Hell and Other Destinations, A Novelist’s Reflections on This World and the Nextcin 2006 and a new novel, The Misogynist, will be published by Bloomsbury in July this year.

Reverend Dom Antony Sutch
Reverend Dom Antony Sutch has been parish priest of St Benet, Beccles, since 2003. He was born in 1950 and was educated at Downside School and Exeter University. He was headmaster of Downside School between 1995 and 2003. He has been a contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the day since 2003.

Speakers against the motion

Lord Harries
Richard Harries was Bishop of Oxford from 1987-2006. On his retirement he was made a life peer (Lord Harries of Pentregarth). He is currently Gresham Professor of Divinity and an Honorary Professor of Theology at King’s College, London. He has written books on a range of subjects, most recently Faith in Politics? Rediscovering the Christian Roots of our Political Values, to be published by DLT in March. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been a regular contributor to the Today programme since 1972.

Matthew Parris
Matthew Parris was born in 1949 in Johannesburg, and was educated in Britain and Africa, graduating from Clare College, Cambridge, and going on to study International Relations at Yale. Elected Conservative MP for West Derbyshire in 1979, he gave up his seat in 1986 to become presenter of Weekend World, a political interview programme, until 1988. He was the Parliamentary sketchwriter for The Times for nearly 14 years but gave it up at the beginning of 2002 though he remains a columnist for the paper. He also writes for The Spectator every week. He was the winner of the Orwell Prize in 2004.

Stephen Pound
Stephen Pound was born in 1948 and educated at the LSE. He has been Labour MP for North Ealing since 1997. Before entering the Commons he was area housing manager of Paddington Churches Housing Association, and is a lay reader at his local Catholic church.
00Saturday, March 6, 2010 11:09 AM

In Tamil Nadu state, police arrest
then release bishops and faithful
marching for 'pariah' rights

by Nirmala Carvalho

CHENNAI, India, March 5 (AsiaNews) – Indian police today arrested Christian bishops, priests, nuns and ordinary Catholics, and released them after four hours.

Mgr Anthonisamy Neethinathan, bishop of Chinglepet, Malayappan Chinnappa, archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, and Mgr Peter Fernando, archbishop of Madurai, were among those taken into custody. All of them took part in a march for equal rights for Christian Dalits. [Dalits are the pariahs, the lowest caste in India's Hindu society.]

Fr G. Cosmon Arokiaraj, member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), talked to AsiaNews about the incident, slamming the State (Tamil Nadu) and Union governments for treating this way people involved in “legitimate democratic struggles.”

The arrests came at the end of a “long march”, a month-long march that set off from Kanyakumari to Chennai, in the State of Tamil Nadu, in southeast India, drawing thousands of Catholics. Its purpose was to raise awareness amongst the population and the authorities over the discrimination still practiced vis-à-vis Christian Dalits or outcastes.

Despite the disturbances, a public meeting will still go ahead at Mangkollai, in Chennai. It had been scheduled to conclude the demonstration, but was cancelled after prelates and faithful were arrested. Some 15,000 people are expected to be present at the event.

Tonight, at 7 pm (local time) a private meeting is also scheduled between the bishops and other arrested Catholic leaders and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Fr G Cosmon Arokiaraj, executive secretary of the CBCI Commission for Schedule Caste and Backward Tribe, described to AsiaNews what happened.

“Around 12.30 today, Mgr Neethinathan and 500 faithful wanted to join the march. When they reached Guindy, a Chennai neighbourhood, police stopped them and prevented them from going any further. It then proceeded to arrest them.”

Earlier in the morning, at around 11.30, the other two prelates tried to meet the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. However, the latter said that he was not prepared to meet Catholic leaders.

When they learnt about the arrest of the bishop of Chinglepet, “Mgr Chinnappa and Mgr. Peter Fernando went to the area of the incident, near St Thomas Mount, and were promptly arrested as well.”

The priest slammed the bishops’ arrest as well as that of the faithful. “This is how the State and Union governments respond to those who undertake legitimate democratic struggles.” For this reason, he called on all Christians "to awake and respond to state repression.”

00Saturday, March 6, 2010 7:52 PM

Another speculation on the status of John Paul II's cause....

'Miracle cure' nun
reported to be ill again

by John Hooper

March 5, 2010

It was the miracle that set Pope John Paul II on the road to sainthood and provided faithful followers with proof of his holy powers. But hopes that the former Pope's canonisation would be fast-tracked by Sister Marie Simon-Pierre's recovery from Parkinson's disease have been set back by reports that the French nun has fallen ill again.

Simon-Pierre described three years ago how she regained her health after a night of prayer to the then recently deceased Polish pontiff. John Paul also suffered from Parkinson's disease, which is incurable.

"It's like a second birth," she said at the time. "I feel like I've discovered a new body, new limbs."

In 2007 Simon-Pierre could barely move her left side, could not write legibly, drive or move around easily and was in constant pain.

Her disease worsened after the Pope's death, and her order prayed for his intervention to ease her suffering. Then after writing his name on a paper one night, she woke up the next day apparently cured and returned to work as a maternity nurse with no traces of the disease.

But according to the Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, one of the doctors charged with scrutinising the nun's case believed she might have been suffering from a similar nervous disease, not Parkinson's, which could go into sudden remission. A report on the paper's website went further, saying that the 49-year-old nun had become sick again with the same illness.

The Vatican was making no comment on the grounds that the late Pope's case was still under examination.

Although no date has been fixed for the late Pope's beatification, there had been an expectation that it would be announced in mid-October. His case was fast-tracked by his successor, Pope Benedict, and the anniversary of John Paul's election falls on 16 October.

The first sign that all might not be as it should be came when the Vatican fixed the canonisation of six new saints for the following day, a Sunday, making a beatification the same weekend impossible.

Vatican sources stressed that the panel of doctors which will examine the evidence relating to Simon-Pierre's recovery was not due to meet until April, when it will consider a report by two medical experts.

Beatification is an intermediate step on the road to canonisation, though not all of those declared "blessed" go on to become saints. Beatification requires at least one miracle. A second is needed for sainthood.

The Vatican, whose congregation [department] for the cause of saints deals with canonisations and beatifications, has been under relentless pressure to speed up John Paul's progress.

On the day of his funeral in 2005 there were unparalleled scenes in St Peter's Square, when the crowd took up a chant of "santo subito", or "saint straightaway".

00Tuesday, March 9, 2010 2:30 AM

Vatican appeals for Holy Land Christians

VATICAN CITY, March 8 (AP) – The Vatican has launched an appeal for support for Christians in the Holy Land, seeking to stem the exodus from the ancient community.

The annual appeal, announced Monday, seeks to raise funds for schools, housing, scholarships and the restoration of Christian sites.

Members of the region's once large and prosperous communities are increasingly leaving conflict-ridden areas, including Iraq and the Palestinian territories, to seek better lives in the West.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed their plight during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year. The Vatican calls it vital to preserve the region's Christian roots.

The appeal came formally in the form of a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of teh Congregation for Oriental Churches, to all Catholic bishops. Here is the text of the letter released by the Vatican Press Office.

Your Excellency,

The preparation for Easter once again launches the appeal to the Pastors of the universal Church to support the Holy Land by offering prayers, attentive participation and practical generosity.

Sensitivity to the needs of the Church in Jerusalem and in the Middle East finds its motivation in the "we" of the Church. This sensitivity becomes help, like the relief sent to the brethren who lived in Judea (Acts 11:29-30); remembrance, like St Paul’s invitation in his Letter to the Galatians (2:10), and a collection that responds to precise practical instructions (1 Cor 16:1-6) and is described as the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints (2 Cor 8-9 and Rom 15).

Our appeal this year is inspired by the pilgrimage "in the historical footsteps of Jesus" which the Holy Father Benedict XVI made last May.

I had the honor of accompanying him and of sharing the pastoral, ecumenical and interreligious concern that enlivened his words and actions.

Together with the ecclesial community of Israel and Palestine I listened to "a voice" of brotherhood and peace.

Strongly emphasizing the ceaseless problem of emigration, His Holiness recalled that "in the Holy Land there is room for everyone"! And he urged the authorities to support the Christian presence but at the same time assured the Christians of this land of the Church’s solidarity.

At Holy Mass in Bethlehem, he then encouraged the baptized to be "a bridge of dialogue and constructive cooperation in the building of a culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and frustration" so that the local Churches might be "workshops of dialogue, tolerance and hope, as well as of solidarity and practical charity".

The Year for Priests involves the beloved priests and seminarians of the whole Church, together with their respective Bishops, in a commitment to the Holy Places.

Let us, therefore, return in our hearts to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where the Teacher and Lord "loved us to the end"; to that place where the Apostles with the Holy Mother of the Risen Crucified One experienced the first Pentecost.

We firmly believe in the "flame" of the Holy Spirit "which is never extinguished" and which the Living One spreads in abundance. And let us work tirelessly to guarantee a future to Christians in the place where "the kindness and humanity" of Our God and Father first appeared.

The Pope has entrusted to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches the task of keeping alive interest in that blessed Land. In his name I urge everyone to reinforce the solidarity that has been shown so far.

In fact, the Christians of the East have a responsibility that belongs to the universal Church, in other words the responsibility to preserve the "Christian origins", the places and people who are the sign of them, so that those origins may always be the reference of the Christian mission, the measure of the ecclesial future and its security. They therefore deserve the support of the entire Church.

I enclose an informative document that illustrates all that the Custody of the Holy Land has been able to achieve with the 2009 Collection. And I recall that it is always thanks to the annual Collection that various interventions can be carried out by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and by the Eastern Catholic Churches in Israel and in Palestine.

I pray the Lord that he may lavishly reward those who love the Land that gave birth to him: it must remain, thanks to the "lively and youthful Church" which works there, a witness down the centuries to the great works of salvation.

In communion with the pastors and Christians of the Holy Land, I wish you an Easter filled with divine blessings.

Yours most devotedly in the Lord,

Leonardo Card. Sandri

Cyril Vasil, S.J.
Archbishop Secretary

00Wednesday, March 10, 2010 12:22 PM

In defense of Pius XII:
A sample from the documents
going online soon from
the 1965-1981 compilation

Translated from

March 7, 2010

“From the Vatican. 5 April 1940. Help to non-Aryans. How much money is available on hand to the Holy See? From the amount of $125,000 at the disposition of the Holy Father: $50,000 has been assigned to American aid societies; $30,000 to the Raphaelsverein association of Hamburg; 20,000 Italian lire have been sent t Cardinal Boetto to help Jews in Geneva… One anticipates a great increase in requests in the future to the degree that news of this aid gets known among the Jews…It must be noted that the funds for the Americans are meant for all Jews...".

Attached to this note from the Secretariat of State is a handwritten notation by the man who was then the deputy secretary of state Giovanni Battista Montini (later Paul VI), summarizes instructions given by Pius XII to his co-workers to constantly support the Jewish communities.

The document is part of the immense amount of documentation on Papa Pacelli and his actions during the Second World War which will soon be published on the Internet.

In a few days, the American Pave the Way Foundation, headed by Gary Krupp, an American Jew, will post online at least 5,125 documents from the Archives of the Vatican Secretariat of State on the period from March 1935 to May 1945.

These documents were first published in the Actes et documents du Saint Siege relatives a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale published in 12 volumes between 1965-1981 at the initiative of Pope Paul VI. Today, however, it can only be found in some libraries and in rare book stores, and its contents have been largely ignored by or unknown to many so-called Vatican experts. Republican will publish a selection of these documents.

Pave the Way, whose declared mission is to remove obstacles among religions, wants light to be shed on Pius XII.

“The Pontificate of Pius XII,” says Gary Krupp, “has become a cause for friction. Our research shows that five years after his death, the Soviet KGB organized a plot code-named Seat 12 to discredit the Catholic Church, which they considered an enemy... It was a dirty trick with false accusations against the Pope to lay down the myth that he had been silent about the Jews during World War II – of which the play The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth became the principal propaganda tool”.

The documents support the Vatican’s affirmation that Papa Pacelli actively aided the Jews during World War II, despite opinions to the contrary. In any case, some historians still expect to see the actual documents on Pius XII from 1938 onwards when the pertinent archives are opened by the Vatican in five years.

Meanwhile, in agreement with the Holy See, Krupp has decided to make the documents available online, both in the original languages and in English translation. They were compiled by four Jesuit historians (Pierre Blet, Robert Graham, Angelo Martini, and Burkhardt Schneider) who published not a ‘white book’ of selected documents, but all the documents on Pius XII and his actions relative to the war, the Nazis and the Jews.

One of the four compilers, Robert Graham, noted in a diary that he kept at his desk in the magazine La Civilta Cattolica: “Right now, I have the draft of Volume VIII [Vol IX in the published work] – humanitarian works in 1943. Schneider says I must write the Introduction and that it should be good in view of the nature of this documentation – which was on the Jewish question and the aid given to the Jews of Rome. It includes all the letters sent to Pius XII after Oct. 16, none of which indicated any knowledge of what was to happen." [Oct. 16 was the Black Saturday in 1943 when the SS rounded up Jews from the Rome ghetto for deportation to Auschwitz.]

A noteworthy document in this collection is the handwritten letter of thanks in blue ink from the chief rabbi of Zagreb. Miroslav Salom Freiberger: “Holy Father, with all respect, I dare to address Your Holiness to express my gratitude for the goodness without limit that the representatives of the Holy See and the heads of the Church have shown our poor brothers… I ask your Holiness to accept my assurances of the most profound gratitude”.

There is also a letter written by Angelo Roncalli, the future John XIII, apostolic delegate in Turkey and Greece, to King Boris of Bulgaria: “Istanbul, 30 January 1943. Your Majesty, as you know very well, the Holy See, faithful to its tradition, continues to multiply its forms of charitable assistance to those who suffer the effect of war, of every nation and language, including the children of Israel… It is precisely the practice of charity extended to the Jaws that gives me the occasion to appeal to the heart of Your Majesty”.

An interesting document is the handwritten manuscript of the conversation about that October 16 between the Secretary of State Cardinal Luigi Maglione, who was Pius XII’s working arm, and the German ambassador Ernst von Weizsaecker. It is very detailed.

Maglione asks the ambassador to intervene: ”I am telling you simply, Your Excellency, who have a tender and good heart, please try and save all these innocents. It is painful for the Holy Father that right here in Rome, under the eyes of the father of all, so many persons are made to suffer just because they belong to a certain race”.

Von Weizsaecker asks: “And what would the Holy See do if we went ahead?” Maglione replies: “The Holy See would not want to have to say a word of disapproval”. The ambassador proceeds to enumerate the grave consequences of any untoward step by the Vatican.

“I should have told him nonetheless that the Holy See should not be placed in a position of having to protest, but that whenever it must do so, it will trust in Divine Providence, for what the consequences may be”. [Note by Cardinal Maglione, 16 October 1943, ADSS, vol. 9, doc, 386)] A formal protest was never made.

Interesting addendum: Von Weizsacker never consulted Berlin about the conversation. The German archives show nothing about it, but instead has two reports by the ambassador who painted a rosy picture and spoke of a fictitious cordiality. English sources about the event confirm the Vatican version. In a way, the new historiographic mystery would be over why Weizsaecker was ‘silent’.

Subsequently, L'Osservatore Romano published an article in the March 8-9 issue about this article by Ansaldo.

On the same day, March 7, Andrea Tornielli also published an article in Il Giornale, in which he details the deliberate misrepresentation by two anti-Pius XII Italian self-styled historians who have continually claimed on their blog and in published articles that Pius XII never referenced the October 16 event when he met with the British ambassador on October 19 - an erroneous date mentioned in a wartime memoir by the American charge d'affaires at the time. Subsequently, the date was established to have been October 14, confirmed by Vatican records of the meeting and a notation of it in the 10/15/43 issue of L'Osservatore Romano. Pius XII made no mention of it because it had not happened on October 14, and the round-up in the Roman ghetto was a surprise move. I have not translated it because i previously translated Tornielli's blog on the same issue.

Lella has questioned why the OR chose to write about Ansaldo's article but not Tornielli's. It is strange - almost as though the OR was trying to curry favor with Repubblica, which has followed its usual vicious anti-Vatican line in reporting on the German sex scandals and Georg Ratzinger. But why at the expense of Tornielli, who is probably the most loyal Ratzingerian of all the Vaticanistas? Not to mention that he is the author of the most definitive biography so far of Pius XII.

P.S. I posted a New York Times profile of Pave the Way's Gary Krupp in NOTABLES on Monday.

00Wednesday, March 10, 2010 2:41 PM

From the online lists, it appears many newspapers and broadcast stations have picked up this NYT article on the German 'scandals'. I am posting it here for teh record because other stories containing the same material were posted earlier in the BENEDICT thread.

Vatican on defense as scandals build
By Rachel Donadio and Nicholas Kulish

March 9, 2010

ROME — Defending itself against a growing child sexual abuse scandal in Europe, one that has even come close to the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican said Tuesday that local European churches had addressed the issue with "timely and decisive action."

In a note read on Vatican Radio, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, cautioned against limiting the concerns over child sexual abuse to Roman Catholic institutions, noting that the problem also affected the broader society.

A wave of church sexual abuse scandals has emerged in recent weeks in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, adding to the fallout from a broad abuse investigation in Ireland.

In his note, Lombardi said local churches had demonstrated "a desire for transparency, and in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved dates from many years ago," he said.

He noted that in Austria, 17 abuse cases were found in Catholic institutions, while in the same period 510 abuse cases were found "in other areas."

"It would be as well to concern ourselves also with them," he continued.

The newly emerging scandals, especially those in Germany, cut particularly close to Benedict, who was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 before spending more than two decades in charge of the Vatican's doctrinal arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is ultimately responsible for investigating abuse cases.

Benedict's moral standing in Germany had already been diminished in some eyes by his outreach to a group of schismatic bishops, one of whom, it emerged, had denied the scope of the Holocaust.

The connection to Benedict's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, comes from accusations of physical and sexual abuse from former students at two Bavarian boarding schools connected to a choir he directed from 1964 to 1994, leading to questions about whether he could have known about the abuse.

According to a statement by the diocese in Regensburg, one former student said he was "abused through excessive beatings and humiliations, and molested through touching in the genital area" during "the early 1960s."

And the German magazine Spiegel reported this week on accusations involving one of the schools, quoting a former student, Franz Wittenbrink, as saying that the Etterzhausen boarding school had an "elaborate system of sadistic punishments combined with sexual lust," and that a priest had masturbated with pupils in his apartment.

"I find it inexplicable that the Pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, who had been cathedral bandmaster since 1964, apparently knew nothing about it," the magazine quoted Wittenbrink as saying, adding that a fellow student committed suicide shortly before graduation. [The article should have explained that the Etterzhausen school is the choirboys' preparatory (elementary) school which is autonomous and not located in the city center, where Mons. Ratzinger worked out of the Cathedral and the choirboys' rehearsal hall.]

Georg Ratzinger, 86, said in an interview this week with a Bavarian daily newspaper that the sexual accusations referred to a period before his tenure. But he apologized for slapping students before corporal punishment was outlawed in Bavaria in 1980.

"In the beginning I, too, slapped people in the face, but I always had a bad conscience about it," the daily, Passauer Neue Presse, quoted him as saying. He added that if he had known about excessive corporal punishment, "I would have said something."

"The problem of sexual abuse was never raised," Ratzinger said. "I believe it wasn't just the Church that remained silent. It was also clearly the society."

In Germany, new cases continue to come to light in the wake of abuse accusations made public in January involving students at the prestigious Canisius Jesuit high school in Berlin in the 1970s and 1980s.

In Austria, Bruno Becker, the head of a Salzburg monastery, resigned Monday after admitting that while studying to be a priest he had sexually abused a boy more than 40 years ago. Last week, the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands announced it would open an investigation after former pupils at a monastery school told the Dutch news media about systematic sexual abuse in the 1960s.

In December, several Irish bishops resigned after a report by the Irish government detailed the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children by Catholic priests in church-run residential schools.

In his note on Tuesday, Lombardi said that the church had made a good start in addressing the "very serious question" of sexual abuse of minors, investigating the accusations and showing concern for the victims.

He added that "the errors committed in ecclesiastical institutions and by church figures are particularly reprehensible because of the church's educational and moral responsibility."

Lombardi noted that Benedict had "demonstrated his own concern" in tackling the issue by meeting with Irish bishops at the Vatican last month and was preparing an open letter to Irish bishops on the abuse scandal. A Vatican official said the letter could appear as soon as next week.

On Friday, the pope is expected to meet at the Vatican with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops Conference. A spokesman for the archbishop said the abuse cases would be on the agenda.

Father Lombardi also defended the church's "specific" internal procedures for handling abuse cases, noting that canon law does not impose fines or detention, but that it prohibits the exercise of ministry and allowed for the loss of ecclesiastical rights. Under canon law, he said, "the crime of the sexual abuse of minors has always been considered as one of the most serious of all."

A day earlier, Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said the church put up a "wall of silence" in abuse cases, proceeding with internal investigations before involving law enforcement. In an interview, she said prosecutors should be brought in as soon as possible.

There is also discussion over whether to extend the statute of limitations in molestation cases, which currently expires 10 years after the accuser turns 18. The archbishop of Bamberg, Ludwig Schick, came out Tuesday in favor of prolonging the statute of limitations to at least 30 years.

Kristina Schroeder, Germany's federal family minister, has called for a roundtable discussion next month, in which the German bishops' conference plans to participate.

In his note, Lombardi said the church was "naturally ready" to join the roundtable discussions.

"Perhaps (the church's) own painful experience may also be a useful contribution for others," he said.

00Wednesday, March 10, 2010 4:21 PM
the miracle nun for Jean paul II case
The french conference as well as her congregation said she is fine

here is a link for the article in La Croix (in french)


Sorry for the delay, Flo - the stories about Mons. Georg and then our beloved Papa himself occupied what time I had - but here's the translation:

The Church of France belies rumors
about John Paul II's 'miracle nun'

Translated from


Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, the nun whose healing provided the miracle necessary for John Paul II's beatification, took part in a recent meeting in Bourgoin-Jallieu (Isère), the city where the mother house of her Congregation of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood is located, and where she resides at present.

But rumors have been flourishing these days about her health. After the meeting, the message from the hierarchy of the Church in France could not have been clearer: Sr. Marie is doing very well, it was evident during the meeting, and everything that is being said about her health these days are simply rumors.

The nun's case of being healed of Parkinson's disease inexplicably - a cure validated after the initial investigation conducted in 2007 in the diocese of Aix-en-Provence - has been the object of much publicity because her case was decisive to advance the cause of beatification for Benedict XVI's predecessor.

Notably, a Polish daily newspaper wrote last week that it was not definitively established that Sr. Marie was ill with Parkinson's to begin with.

Another rumor was that she has had a recurrence of the disease and that this would cause a setback to the beatification process. The superior-general of her congregation had to issue the first denial of these rumors.

Today, other authorized sources saud that not only is the nun's bill of health totally satisfactory, but that the process for John Paul II's beatification is following its normal course.

Then, are the doubts reportedly expressed in Rome by one of seven doctors of the medical commission - the doctors who have to rule if a cure is truly 'inexplicable, sudden, total and definitive', for it to be declared a miracle - completely unfounded?

In any case, that is was French experts and Church officials in France are saying.

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