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00Saturday, October 31, 2009 11:03 PM

First posted in ISSUES, but this is the kind of concrete pastoral action one would like every diocese and parish to undertake.

I almost could not believe it when this news came out last Friday, but it certainly represents the high point so far in the conspicuous 'reclamation' of Catholic identity by the US bishops that has been evident since Cardinal George was elected president last year. After decades of passive and active liberalism, at long last, a promise of orthodoxy! I cannot imagine a more pro-active action taken by another local church in the post-Conciliar years, for which we can only say Deo gratias and Laudetur Jesus Christus!

US Bishops' Conference blankets parishes
with inserts against expanding abortion
through health care reform

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 — In an extraordinary call to Catholics to prevent health care reform from being derailed by the abortion lobby, the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent bulletin inserts to almost 19,000 parishes across the country.

"Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them," the insert states. It urges readers to contact Senate leaders so they support efforts to "incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights" in health reform legislation.

"If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed," it adds.

The insert highlights the Stupak Amendment from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) that, it states, "addresses essential pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights."

"Help ensure that the Rule for the bill allows a vote on the amendment," the insert states. "If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed."

A dramatic ad of a pregnant woman notes that the Hyde Amendment, which passed in 1976, has prevented federal funds from paying for elective abortions, yet healthcare reform bills that are advancing violate this policy. The ad message: "Tell Congress: Remove Abortion Funding and Mandates from Needed Health Care Reform."

The insert also directs readers to www.usccb.org/healthcare.

Bulletin inserts were distributed to dioceses October 29, the day Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled the House health care reform bill and in expectation that they will show up in parishes in early November.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the USCCB; Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities; Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville, Centre, New York, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development urged fellow bishops to promote this campaign in their dioceses.

"The bishops want health care reform, but they recoil at any expansion of abortion," said Helen Osman, USCCB Secretary for Communications, who helped organize the campaign. "Most Americans don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions via health care either. This impasse on the road to reform of health care can be broken if Congress writes in language that assures that the Hyde Amendment law* continues to guide U.S. federal spending policy."

The Catholic bishops have a long history of support for health care reform based on its teaching that health care is essential for human life and dignity and on its experience providing health care and assisting those without coverage.

*About the Hyde amendment:

Medicaid funded abortion until Congress expressly stopped such funding in 1977 by passing the Hyde appropriations ban, which bars most taxpayer funding of abortions.

But a federal Circuit Court of Appeals, while defending the legitimacy of Hyde, did, however, make clear that “abortion fits within many of the mandatory care categories, including ‘family
planning,’ ‘outpatient services,’ ‘inpatient services,’ and ‘physicians’ services.’”

However, the Hyde amendment is an appropriation limitation that mut be renewed every year. As a candidate President Obama stated he “does not support the Hyde Amendment” and believes that reproductive health care (abortion) is basic health care".

Further, the current House health care reform bill, H.R. 3200, has self-appropriating features that would not be covered by the Hyde Amendment.

To ensure that U.S. policy against funding or mandating abortion coverage is maintained in any new health care law, abortion
must be permanently and explicitly excluded. [Under the law, any action not expressly prohibited in any piece of legislation is allowed.]

So, until and unless any health care reform bill that passes Congress includes a provision that says no federally-funded health insurance can cover abortion services, 'public-option' or government-run health insurance will - which means American taxpayers will be subsidizing abortions.

00Sunday, November 1, 2009 7:05 PM

In the past two days, Anglophone media have sort of played up an item claiming 'the Vatican' condemns Halloween as anti-Christian. And I ignored it, as usual, because the attribution to the Vatican was, once again, erroneous. But this item examines how such items get to be reported as the latest 'Vatican idiocy' - and touches an essential aspect of present-day reporting about the Church, the Vatican and the Pope.

Vatican condemnation
of Halloween is false

Nov. 1, 2009

In what is a common occurrence that happens more than you think, the media again has done a poor job of reporting the news that emanates from the Vatican. If it came from the Vatican at all. The new one today is that the Catholic Church condemns Halloween, or some variation there of.

Various news outlets have reported that the Pope, the Catholic Church, or the Vatican have condemned, blasted, slammed, or as the Times of London said, “reserved their venom for the millions of parents who allowed their children to celebrate this “pagan” festival.”

And people say anti-Catholicism doesn’t exist?

Apparently some reporter of London’s Telegraph read on the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper based in Rome, Italy, that Halloween is anti-Christian. L’Osservatore Romano is sometimes referred as the “semi-official” or even “official” newspaper of the Vatican, ie, the Catholic Church.

First of all, it has an independent editorial board that has connections with the Vatican, hence the confusion of whether it is an official or semi-official mouthpiece of the Vatican. My personal opinion is that it is semi-official, if that.

[It is run from the Secretariat of State, but it has always described itself as an unofficial organ of the Vatican, even if its primary purpose is to be a record of the Pope's activities. Its daily feature Nostre Informazioni, which lists the Pope's daily appointments, as well as nominations of bishops and positions in the Curia and various Vatican agencies] and papal texts, is considered to be the only official feature of the peper. Even the papal texts and documents that it publishes are not considered the formal official versions of these texts, which are to be found only in the Acta Apostolicae Sedae (AAS).]

L’Osservator Romano covers all of Pope Benedict XVI”s public activities, publishes editorials by prominent clerics and laypeople, and runs official documents from the Vatican. The fact that it publishes editorials by prominent clerics does not mean that it is official, standing policy of the Vatican. Only the Vatican via it’s official documents can do this.

Hence the confusion when editorials are run that can be confusing to most non-Catholics and even Catholics themselves. Even the secular website Wikipedia entry about L’Osservatore Romano notes that these mistakes often happen:

A common error for journalists and theologians is to interpret the texts of L’Osservatore Romano as if they were of official value for the Magisterium. In fact, they cannot have such a value, except if a high-ranking bishop is writing a more solemn text, and not a mere theological opinion... [Even such texts become official only if and when formally approved by the Pope] ...

For instance, a 2008 article expressed the wish that the debate on brain death be re-opened because of new developments in the medical world. An official spokesman said that the article presented a personal opinion of the author and “did not reflect a change in the Catholic Church’s position”.

More importantly the article that reported the Vatican condemning Halloween in L’Osservatore Romano quoted a Father Joan Maria Canals, CMF, a liturgy official with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference.

As Jack Smith of The Catholic Key Blog reports:

Now there is a fellow named Fr. Joan Maria Canals, CMF, a liturgy official with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference who has been pushing the idea that as Spain appropriates this U.S. holiday it ought to do so in a life affirming way as opposed to celebrating the occult and death. Catholic News Agency wrote about that effort and similar efforts in France and Chile.

I expect L’Osservatore wrote a similar report. I’m certain the Pope didn’t comment in the article. Unfortunately, L’Osservatore does not archive their articles, so the first sensational or misrepresentative press piece about any article in L’Osservatore becomes the 'primary' source – no other source being available.

So there you have it. A quote from a priest in Spain reported in an Italian newspaper read by an Englishman who then reported it as fact that the Vatican condemns Halloween.

Any generally harmless popular celebration is acceptable to Catholics if it is not abused. Halloween is one of them - and it is up to Catholic families in countries where Halloween has become a popular observance to teach their children what it is - it did originate as a celebration of All Hallows - to relate it to the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and to warn them of the weird and unholy associations that non-Christians can attach to it.

00Sunday, November 1, 2009 11:49 PM

The reports on the tenth anniversary of the historic Joint Declaration on Justification - the first with a Protestant church - provide a good status report on the ecumenical dialog with the Protestants, the fourth Christian group with whom the Church is wprking towards unification (after the Lefebvrians within the Church itself, the Orthodox Churches, and the Anglicans, all of whom have been very much in religion news lately).

Churches celebrate 10th anniversary
of 'Justification' agreement

By Joshua Goldberg

Nov. 1, 2009

Methodists, Lutherans and Roman Catholics worldwide on Saturday observed the tenth anniversary of the signing of a landmark ecumenical agreement considered as one of the most significant since the Reformation.

On Oct. 31, 1999, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation got together to sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, in which the two church bodies together confessed:

"By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works."

Members of the World Methodist Council later adopted the document by unanimous vote as well, in 2006, sharing the belief that a common understanding of justification was "fundamental and indispensable" to overcoming the division between Catholics and Protestants.

During an ecumenical service in Augsburg, Germany, the Catholic Church's ecumenical representative, Cardinal Walter Kaspar, said the JDDJ was a sign of the workings of the Holy Spirit but also emphasized that it was only one step in a longer journey.

“Ultimately, ecumenism is not an end in itself: it aims to go beyond itself toward reconciliation, unity and world peace,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) in his sermon.

Following Kaspar, the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of LWF, took to the pulpit, stating how sharing in God's mission through the power of the Holy Spirit enables Christians "to overcome the ever-present forces of division in church and in society.”

“It helps us to seek responsible ways of reducing the enemy images that isolate and separate us from the gift of communion with God and with one another," he stated.

Though differences remain over language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification with regard to such matters as good works, Lutheran and Catholic churches say those differences do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths of the Christian doctrine.

"Even if open questions still remain, the Joint Declaration is a very important step by the two churches toward removing the tension from the divisive core area when it comes to the way the churches understand the message of justification," commented Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of the Mainz diocese in Germany.

“The wording 'consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification' aptly describes the present [state]: it is a genuine agreement in basic truths of the doctrine of justification, not a consensus covering all issues," affirmed Lehmann, according to LWF.

According to JDDJ, justification is the forgiveness of sins; liberation from the dominating power of sin and death, and from the curse of the law; and acceptance into communion with God – all of which is from God alone, for Christ's sake, by grace, through faith in the gospel of God's Son.

The document was the culmination of two decades of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, which claims to represent 66.7 million of the world's 70.2 million Lutherans.

Representing about 75 million people, the World Methodist Council comprises most of the world's Wesleyan denominations.

Here are the reports from the site of the World Lutheran Federation:

Celebrations in Augsburg

AUGSBURG, Germany/GENEVA, 31 October 2009 (LWI) – Celebrations in Augsburg, Germany, marking the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) ended today with a festive ecumenical service. Methodists, Lutherans and Roman Catholics underlined how much had been achieved in ecumenical dialogue over the past ten years.

In his sermon in the Augsburg Cathedral, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) Walter Cardinal Kasper stated that the JDDJ was a sign of the workings of the Holy Spirit.

“We cannot be thankful enough for that and for many, many other steps that have been possible since. The godless complaining about the supposed standstill in the ecumenical movement and the miserable moaning about what has not yet been achieved, forgetting all that has been given us in the last few years - all that is sheer ingratitude,” he asserted. “We need a spiritual ecumenism, and it has grown, thank goodness, in the last few years.”

Kasper’s closing words were: “Ultimately, ecumenism is not an end in itself: it aims to go beyond itself toward reconciliation, unity and world peace. Let us thus be the vanguard and precursors of this unity and this peace.”

The second preacher at the festive ecumenical service, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), evoked “our sharing in [God’s] mission through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This enables Christians “to overcome the ever-present forces of division in church and in society. It helps us to seek responsible ways of reducing the enemy images that isolate and separate us from the gift of communion with God and with one another.”

Noko went on to say that, “As citizens of Christ’s kingdom rooted in God’s forgiveness we are brought into life in communion with God in Christ and with one another. Walls of separation, isolation and imprisonment are broken down.” Both Noko and Kasper were among the JDDJ signatories on 31 October 1999.

In his greeting, Augsburg’s Roman Catholic Bishop Dr Walter Mixa, praised what had been achieved, expressing his conviction that, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a milestone on this path of growing consensus. A milestone is an important marker but not the goal. To be honest, we have to admit that we still have a long way to go until all differences in faith have been worked through. Let’s get moving. Today is also an opportunity to pray: Ut unum sint.”

Earlier, on Saturday morning, Dr Walter Klaiber, former bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany and Karl Cardinal Lehmann, former chairperson the German Bishops’ Conference, paid tribute to the Joint Declaration.

In his paper, Klaiber underscored the timeless significance of the message of justification. “It frees people from the destructive compulsion to have to justify their own lives through success, performance or possessions, and from the fatal despair of thinking that for lack of such self-justification, their life is a failure and without value and meaning,” he said.

Klaiber stressed, “We must thus spell out - with the successful and the unsuccessful, with the self-satisfied and those doubting and despairing of themselves - what God’s Yes to their life means for them: liberation for a dignified life that does not lie in the ‘product’ of our action or fail for lack of achievement, but is founded in God’s love.” The Methodist World Council affirmed the JDDJ in 2006.

Cardinal Lehmann emphasized the need to continue the ecumenical dialogue on the basis of the JDDJ. “Even if open questions still remain, the Joint Declaration is a very important step by the two churches toward removing the tension from the divisive core area when it comes to the way the churches understand the message of justification."

"The wording ‘consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification’ aptly describes the present [state]: it is a genuine agreement in basic truths of the doctrine of justification, not a consensus covering all issues,” affirmed Lehmann.

There were still a few areas deserving further attention in the future ecumenical conversations. In Augsburg, Lehmann expressed his regret that in some respects the JDDJ had so far not led any further, “because it has not been further deepened, implemented and thus made spiritually fruitful. It must thus become the sign of a new beginning. Then it can become even more fruitful in the coming and ongoing ecumenical dialogues, particularly on the urgent topic of the Church and justification.”

The anniversary celebrations began on Friday evening, 30 October, with a festive hour in the Golden Hall of Augsburg town hall, during which, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) Presiding Bishop Dr Johannes Friedrich said decades of patient dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics had paid off with respect to the Joint Declaration.

Augsburg’s Lord Mayor Dr Kurt Gribl praised the JDDJ as a “historic document” marking an “ecumenical milestone” in church history. The keynote lecture by Prof. em. Dr Eberhard Jüngel (Tübingen) was titled “What Does Our Happiness Have to Do with Our Blessedness?” (864 words)

Cardinal Kasper says ecumenism
need not be re-invented

AUGSBURG, Germany/GENEVA, 1 November 2009 (LWI) - When signing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) ten years ago, "we committed ourselves to a joint ecumenical journey," said Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

He was speaking at celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the JDDJ signing in Augsburg, Germany, on Saturday 31 October in the Golden Hall of Augsburg's town hall.

On 31 October 1999 "we did not doubt that we will walk together on new ways. We acted in full awareness of the remaining difficulties between us," Noko recalled. "And yet," he added, "we did not allow the remaining theological disagreements to keep us from taking this significant step."

On Reformation Day 1999 the LWF and the Vatican agreed in a solemn act of worship that the centuries of repeated mutual condemnations on the decisive question of justification were no longer the subject of present-day teaching in their churches. The member churches of the World Methodist Council affirmed the JDDJ at their 2006 assembly in Seoul, South Korea.

"The mutual condemnations from the past remain a part of our history; that history cannot be changed," Noko stressed. "Ten years ago, in this city of Augsburg, we said that these memories of separation and hostility would not be the memories of our children," he added.

"Even when we disagree with one another, even when our remaining difficulties are irreconcilable, the very sharpness of our disappointment shows the new quality of our relationship," Noko concluded.

For Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a new beginning does not mean starting all over again.

"We do not need to reinvent ecumenism," he declared. "It has been successful as consensus ecumenism and it shall remain so. It builds on the consensus that remains between our churches, despite all painful divisions: the confessing of one Lord Jesus Christ as the one Savior and Mediator between God and us human beings, as testified to in Scripture and our common Apostolic Creed."

"That is not the old hat nor is it a matter of splitting theological hairs," Kasper went on to say. "That is the Christian response to the questions about the ultimate meaning, happiness, and where we come from and where we are going in life."

"Quite a few people have expressed the criticism that the Joint Declaration has had no consequences for the teaching and practice of the church," commented the PCPCU president.

He cautioned, however, "It is simply not true that nothing has happened and that there have been no steps forward. The last joint Lutheran-Catholic document on the apostolicity of the Church, deliberately built on the Joint Declaration and made notable progress in so doing."

This document was adopted at the March 2007 LWF Council meeting in Lund, Sweden, after eight years of deliberations. "Admittedly, we have not experienced a great breakthrough to date," Kasper conceded.

In Kasper's view, "we should soberly add that much remains to be done. We will need patience but also impatience on the rest of the way. Both are part of God's Kingdom. There are many people - not just in Germany - who are waiting with longing and impatience for the one Church at one Lord's Table, who pray for it and work hard that all may be one."

00Monday, November 2, 2009 12:02 AM
Re: Hallowe'en: The Church does not like this celebration, because it has become pagan - witches, ghosts, children terrifying old people at their front doors asking for "trick or treat". In my town all the churches gathered to have a sort of Festival of Light [it was organised by the Baptist church]. So, I have to say, that the Vatican probably would condemn Hallowe'en if asked, but as far as I know there has been no statement to that effect.
00Monday, November 2, 2009 3:23 PM

Irish turn out for apparition,
defying Church plea

Oct 31, 2009

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Some 10,000 people gathered at a Irish shrine hoping to witness an apparition of the Virgin Mary on Saturday despite pleas from an archbishop to ignore invitations to the event by a self-proclaimed spiritual healer.

The Knock shrine in northwest Ireland, which dates back to an apparition in 1879 of Mary, St. Joseph and St. John, attracts 1.5 million pilgrims each year, including Pope John Paul in 1979.

The head of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese issued a statement on Monday urging the faithful to disregard the forecasts by Dublin-based "spiritual healer" Joe Coleman that Mary, worshipped by Christians as the mother of God, would reappear.

"Faith makes Knock pilgrims firm in hope," Archbishop Michael Neary said in the statement. "They do not expect visions or seek further apparitions."

Some of those present said Mary appeared on Saturday, most attributing her presence to the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, changing color and appearing to come closer.

"I saw the sun spinning," one pilgrim told public television RTE. She added, however: "Who is to know that it isn't climate change or something like that causing that?"

Archbishop knocks reported
new ‘apparitions’ in Knock

by Ed West

30 October 2009

A senior Irish archbishop has told pilgrims not to look for fresh apparitions at the Marian shrine in Knock.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam spoke out after 5,000 people gathered at the shrine earlier this month looking for a repeat of the famous sighting of 1879, following the advice of Dublin clairvoyant Joe Coleman, who predicted the Virgin Mary would appear.

Dozens of people said they witnessed the sun "dancing in the sky", shimmering and changing colour after they flocked to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary. They insisted that on October 11 they saw the sun moving outside the old parish church where Our Lady was seen in 1879.

But Archbishop Neary said: "Such events are to be regretted rather than encouraged. It is not healthy, does not give glory to God and certainly is not good witness to the faith to be looking for extraordinary phenomena."

The village in County Mayo remains popular with pilgrims who visit the site where Mary, Joseph and St John are said to have appeared 130 years ago.

But it was Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979 that brought Knock to international attention. In 1986 an airport opened, the culmination of a long campaign by parish priest Mgr James Horan, who raised millions from various sources to upgrade facilities at the shrine.

The archbishop said: "Knock is a much-loved place of pilgrimage and prayer. For 130 years now the pilgrims to Knock have been pilgrims in faith. This is their great blessing, the blessing in fact that Jesus mentions to the doubting Thomas: 'They have not seen and still they believe.'

"Such faith makes Knock pilgrims firm in hope and active in love for the sick and suffering. They do not expect visions or seek further apparitions. God has manifested Himself in Jesus Christ and His people have responded ever since. It is not healthy, does not give glory to God and certainly is not good witness to the faith to be looking for extraordinary phenomena.

"The apparition of 1879 was neither sought nor expected by the humble, honest people who were its astonished witnesses. Their faith reveals the patience and humility that characterises true belief. The Shrine of Knock is living witness to that faith.

"Unfortunately, recent events at the shrine obscure this essential message. They risk misleading God's people and undermining faith. The shrine of Knock will be best served by retaining its authentic identity."

Thousands made the trip earlier this month after Mr Coleman, who claims to have seen regular visions of Our Lady since 1986, made his claims on the television channel RTÉ. During the gathering, there were ripples of applause from the crowd when some people said they could see the sun shimmering, changing colour and dancing in the sky.

Many people claimed to have witnessed strange phenomena in the sky between 3.17pm and 3.24pm on the day, with various photos and images appearing in the Sunday newspapers.

The crowds waited in the open air despite an invitation on loudspeaker from Knock parish priest Mgr Joseph Quinn to enter the adjacent basilica and participate in ceremonies to mark the annual Dominican pilgrimage.

Archbishop Neary issued his statement after Mr Coleman predicted another "spiritual awakening" would take place at the shrine on October 31. The psychic, who describes himself as "an acclaimed visionary", argued that what happened was similar to the "Miracle of the Sun" at the Portuguese shrine of Fatima in 1917.

After the archbishop's comments Mr Coleman insisted that thousands had witnessed the event.

"I am not surprised at Dr Neary's statement. I am deeply disappointed," he said.

He said that since the events he had been contacted by thousands of people who had witnessed these events, including business professionals, priests, ordinary people and pilgrims from abroad.

"Many of these people have photos, videos ... images are even on YouTube ... and yet the people who disbelieve the most are the clergy." Mr Coleman predicted that up to 10,000 people would arrive on October 31 and added that he had received a message from Our Lady urging "all her children to go to Confession and get reconciliation from her son, Jesus".

He told the Mayo News newspaper: "I have seen her twice in recent months in the Gable chapel at Knock.

The statue comes alive, she opens her arms, a lovely pink cloak comes around her, there are stars above her head, she turned into Jesus, then to Padre Pio and then back to herself. While the vision is happening, I can see nothing else in the chapel.

"She has told me she wants to make the biggest statement she has ever made on this earth. Knock is the spiritual heart of Ireland."

00Monday, November 2, 2009 7:33 PM

Texas churches help pave way
for new Vatican plan

By Angela K. Brown

ARLINGTON, Texas, Nov. 2 (AP) — At Saint Mary the Virgin Catholic Church, the 75-year-old priest is married, members sing from an Episcopalian hymnal and parishioners kneel at the altar to receive Communion.

Years ago, the Texas parish and a handful of other conservative Episcopal churches in the U.S. decided to become Roman Catholic. Though they were confirmed by the Vatican, they were still allowed to practice some of their Anglican traditions, including having married priests.

Now, these churches may have helped pave the way for Anglicans worldwide, or Episcopalians as they are known in the U.S., to become Catholic under a new Vatican plan created to make it easier for such conversions.

The surprise move revealed in October is designed to entice traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and blessing of same-sex unions. [No, it was not 'designed to entice' - it was a practical response to requests made by Anglicans wishing to return to the Church of Rome.]

The Rev. Allan Hawkins, who leads Saint Mary the Virgin church outside of Dallas, said the Vatican's decision could start unifying the Catholic and Anglican churches after a centuries-old rift.

"I didn't think I would live to see this day," Hawkins said during a recent Sunday Mass.

Saint Mary the Virgin is one of three churches in Texas to become Catholic after the Vatican's 1980 approval of the "Anglican use" provision, which allowed U.S. churches to convert on a case-by-case basis but also retain their traditions and identity.

The small church 20 miles west of Dallas made the switch in 1994 after members decided to leave the Episcopal church because they felt it was going against Biblical teachings when it ordained women as bishops and accepted gay priests.

Saint Mary the Virgin stuck to many of its Anglican roots, such as offering a more traditional way of receiving Communion that includes kneeling instead of standing. But in other ways, it operates the same as Catholic parishes.

"We didn't join to be completely different," said Giles Hawkins, 42, the priest's son and parish member.

The new effort by Pope Benedict XVI to make it easier for Anglicans worldwide to convert to Catholicism is considered part of his overall aim of unifying the church and putting a highly conservative stamp on it.

The decision was reached in secret by a small group of Vatican officials, and the spiritual leader of the global Anglican church was not consulted about the change and was informed only hours before the announcement. [No, according to the most authoritative accounts, the Archbishop of Canterbury was made aware something was imminent at the Vatican - after all, he has known of these requesdts made to the Vatican by disaffected Anglicans for years, and certainly, about the letter Cardinal Levada sent the head of the Traditional Anglican Commmunion in July 2008 (and made public by the TAC) assuring him that the Vatican was studying the matter! It was the timing that caught Archishop Williams by surprise.]

The Vatican and Anglican leaders have been in talks for decades over how to possibly reunite since Anglicans split with Rome in 1534 when English King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment. But the Vatican move could be considered as a signal that the ecumenical talks' ultimate goal is converting Anglicans to Catholicism. [That is uninformed BS! Not even the Church of England has said that. The Catholic Church has never proselytized among other Christian confessions, at least not after Vatican II. It has not needed to, and in Europe, at least, the priority is to have baptized Christians remain Christian and not all turn secular.]

"Christ's will for his church is that it's one," Hawkins said. "As Anglicans, our background is with the church (in Rome), and we didn't create that division. I would also like to see Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians unite as well."

However, no one expects a large number of Anglo-Catholic parishes to be created in the U.S. The decision was prompted mainly by Anglo-Catholics in England and the Traditional Anglican Communion, a 77-million strong organization led by an Australian archbishop. [Ach, this reporter has many of her 'facts' wrong - are there any editors at AP at all that fact-check their reporters' stories before indiscriminately feeding it to the world? The TAC has 400,000 members it's the total worldwide Anglican Communion that has 77 million.]

Although details have not been finalized, the U.S. bishops are expected to create the equivalent of a nationwide diocese with one leader to oversee Anglo-Catholic parishes. [And now, she's trying to foist off her interpretation of 'personal ordinariates' to her readers!] Currently, each parish answers to a local Catholic bishop.

When San Antonio's Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church converted to Catholicism in 1983, it was the first parish to do so under Rome's new provision. At the time, it was a group of 18 people who had left several Episcopal churches and wanted to become a Catholic church, said the Rev. Christopher Phillips, the parish priest. It has since grown to 500 families.

"But being a married priest has never been an issue. When I'm with other priests, they always ask about my family. I've been accepted as a Catholic priest because that's what I am," Phillips said.

And an even earlier precedent from a century ago...

Wnen an entire Anglican community
of Franciscans crossed the Tiber

By Beth Griffin

GARRISON, N.Y., Nov. 2 (CNS) -- One hundred years before Pope Benedict XVI captured headlines by establishing a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Catholic Church, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, originally Anglican, became the first religious group to be received into the Church in its entirety.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican ambassador to the United States, said the pope's recent overture to the Anglicans could be seen as a fruit of 100 years of prayers offered for the unity of the Church by members of the Society of the Atonement.

Archbishop Sambi spoke at Mass Oct. 30 celebrating the centennial of the society's reception into the Church. The Mass was concelebrated by New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan at Graymoor, the society's headquarters.

In remarks to some 400 people after the centennial Mass, Archbishop Sambi said, "Your charism is a charism of the future." From its founding in 1900, the Society of the Atonement has dedicated itself to Christian unity.

"The spirit of Jesus creates unity," said Archbishop Sambi. "Where there is love and unity, there is God. Where there is unity, there is a spirit of family."

Father James Puglisi, minister general of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, said the Atonement founders Father Paul Watson and Mother Lurana White made a "prophetic and revolutionary decision" when they asked to be received into the Church.

They did not consider their action "conversion, but rather coming home and completing their faith by being united around the chair of Peter," he said. "They never felt or believed for one moment they had been outside of the Catholic faith."

The priests, sisters and lay members of the society were accepted into the Church Oct. 30, 1909, in a ceremony held at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Graymoor.

Father Puglisi said it was the first time in Church history that "a group entered into communion with Rome keeping their original name, their original religious habit and their original mission. The founders were insistent on the corporate aspect because they felt the original division was corporate and so should be the reunion."

Father Puglisi said the founders "knew the cost of their decision to follow their hearts' desire. This was the small price that they had to bear for following their consciences."

He said the cost was they were no longer in the Anglican Church, but they were not fully accepted in the Catholic Church. "It took a long time for them to be accepted."

Pope Benedict's special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage was announced Oct. 20 by Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Father Puglisi said there were echoes of the Atonement experience in Cardinal Levada's announcement.

Archbishop Sambi and Father Puglisi stressed that the Pope's invitation to Anglicans was a pastoral one.

"It is not, as some media have reported, that the Catholic Church is going fishing in the Anglican pond," Archbishop Sambi said. "It is to make it easier for those who wish to go back to the Catholic Church to do so."

Father Puglisi said, "This was a response to a pastoral need. Many in the Anglican Church are anguished by certain things."

Anglican Bishop George Langberg, a guest at the Graymoor event, said the Atonement reception in 1909 was a precursor to the Pope's welcome announcement. He is an Anglican bishop who wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express his group's request for full communion with the Church.

Bishop Langberg is the retired head of the Northeast diocese of the Anglican Church in America, the U.S. branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion, which was formed in 1991 and opposes the ordination of women and sexually active homosexuals as priests and bishops.

He told Catholic News Service that he and 29 other bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion wrote to the Holy See in October 2007 to ask how they might "bring to fruition" the unity envisioned in 1966 by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury, England.

"I hope I can be forgiven for seeing Cardinal Levada's announcement first and foremost as Rome's answer to that question," the bishop said.

He said the Vatican announcement was not directed specifically at the Traditional Anglican Communion, but did respond to the communion's concerns and its "goal of unity in accordance with our Lord's will for his church."

He said the development is a small piece of the much bigger task of Christian unity. He said, "While the announced action is historic, it is a 'baby step' in a long and difficult journey."

Archbishop Dolan said, "The purpose of the Church is to welcome people in. For 100 years, the people of the Society of the Atonement have been welcoming people into the church. Theirs is a beautiful ministry of hospitality."

00Tuesday, November 3, 2009 1:31 PM

Sorry I missed this item at the time it was posted... Yet another example of the bad faith that the Israeli side has shown in the endless negotiations to implement a 1994 agreement on the juridical status of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and related questions.

Israel restricts visas for priests
and religious in the Holy Land

by Arieh Cohen

Tel Aviv, Oct. 31 (AsiaNews) - The Israeli Ministry of Interior is refusing entry visas to priests and members of religious orders and is also reducing their period of stay in the Holy Land.

Among those denied are not only figures from the Arab world, but also well-known personalities and biblical experts from Europe and Africa.

The restrictive policy has been exacerbated by the Shas, the fundamentalist party, that has returned to control the Ministry of Interior in the new Netanyahu government. It is causing new problems in the relationship between Israel and the Catholic Church and the Vatican.

The latest round in the Holy See-Israel negotiations concluded on Thursday 29 October, as foreseen, with a renewed reference to the good "atmospherics" and mutual good will, though with no sign as to when the much needed Agreement may be expected.

Observers think it very positive though that a two-day session for November also has been confirmed, along with a Plenary planned for 10 December, in the Vatican. It will be the first occasion for the new Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, to lead the Papal delegation.

The Agreement, which has been under discussion for more than ten years now, is intended to achieve security for the Church in Israel, in terms of reconfirming her historic tax exemptions and safeguarding the property of the Holy Places.

However new challenges for the Church's security appear daily, and not only in the fiscal or property sphere.

As expected, the return of the Fundamentalist party Shas to control of the powerful Interior Ministry in the present Israeli government has brought with it renewed trouble for clergymen and members of religious orders. In the nature of things in the Holy Land, the majority of those come from other countries and need admission to the territory of the State to be able to function.

In Israel's first years as a State, they were able to become residents (although even then almost never citizens). Later the State adopted a policy of denying residence and offering only "visas" that need to be renewed periodically.

At first, such visas were given for five years at a time, later the period was reduced to one year for citizens of Arab countries (citing security concerns) and two years for Europeans.

On the last occasion that Shas controlled the Foreign Ministry, several years ago, the issuance and renewal of such visas was stopped altogether and a couple of hundred Church personnel were reduced to the category of illegal immigrants and risked arrest and deportation.

Only world-wide publicity and strong international pressure brought about the resumption of issuing visas, though under worse conditions.

Now Church sources report, problems are no longer confined to Arab clergy and religious. At least two priests from Africa expected at a biblical study centre in Jerusalem have not been issued visas, while several European priests, who have worked and lived in Israel for many years, have seen their applications for renewal of their two-year visas denied. Instead they have been offered only one year visas, even though Israel has been their home for many years and they are very well known.

At stake is the international character of the presence of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. Like Rome, the Holy Land is a place where the world-wide Catholic Church becomes visible in all her diversity.

Making it impossible in practice for seminarians, priests and religious from all over the world to live, worship and minister in the Holy Land threatens this unique character of the Church's presence in the earthly homeland of the Redeemer.

Catholic authorities in the Holy Land are extremely worried by this trend, but are mostly hesitant to speak out, for fear that any public statement might have adverse consequences for their institutions. However, if the present trend is not soon reversed, another very public "visa crisis" may not be far off.

In seeking to persuade the State to take back control of visa policy from the fundamentalists, Church officials can rely on the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel (1993). There, in Article 3, Paragraph 2, the State recognises the right of the Church to "deploy" its own personnel to Israel.

Reached by AsiaNews, the noted expert on Church-State relations in Israel, Franciscan Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, who was part of the bilateral team that wrote the Agreement, confirmed that this was understood on both sides as being the meaning of that treaty provision, and the precise reason for the otherwise unusual use of the word "deploy" in reference to Church personnel.

“Of course - he adds - later in that text, the Church recognises the right of the State to ensure the safety of its people, and that this means, in the present context, that the State can in good faith decline to permit the entry of individuals who might pose a risk to public safety, but that the State may not otherwise substitute its judgement for that of the Church with regard to the personnel the Church may wish to 'deploy" from anywhere in the world to its own institutions, for its own purposes, in Israel”.

Father Jaeger has clarified that he cannot comment on the facts and violations here reported. But that as jurist he says he is “confident that the key to resolving any difficulties in the matter lies in the 1993 Fundamental Agreement”.
00Tuesday, November 3, 2009 3:08 PM

Some of the references in this article can be found in posts made earlier in the ISSUES thread.

US bishops go on offense
By Robert Royal

Nov. 2, 2009

A Notre Dame professor reminded me this week of an old football saying: offense sells seats, but defense wins games. Painfully true about the problems of the Irish this year, but I’ve never thought much of that proposition. Taken to its logical extreme, the most you could hope for relying solely on defense is 0-0 ties. Far preferable is the profound and incarnational wisdom of the coach who said that “prayers work better when the linemen are big.”

I’ll drop the football metaphors, not least because, in an odd way, the Church is also on the side of the other team’s players, though not their views.

But the metaphors suggest truths about the Church in America. We’ve played defense too long; meanwhile the other side has run up the score. I’m happy to say, however, that, in recent weeks, some of the American hierarchy have gone beyond defense and onto cultural offense.

You won’t hear much about it in the secular media, or find it characterized this way, but we are seeing a new generation of bishops with big enough shoulders not only to stand up for Catholicism but to try to move the ball forward in American culture.

First, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has become, as a body, rock-solid about opposing current healthcare proposals if they include abortion.

They have warned Congress of that threat, despite the bishops’ long held view that healthcare is a “basic human right.”

You don’t have to be a sophisticated theologian to see this as concrete living out of the belief that, as the bishops and Vatican have often said, the right to life is the basis of all other rights and therefore takes precedence over them.

A high-placed prelate told me a few days ago that if coverage of abortion is not removed from the reform proposals, the bishops as a group will go on the attack “because we’ll have nothing to lose.”

That’s refreshing talk. Not that long ago, there might have been vocal resistance within the USCCB itself, but recent reforms of the conference have all but removed that possibility and enabled strong action. Note the bishops' healthcare petition drive, which began yesterday.

Individual bishops have been stepping up the offensive, too. Perhaps none more sharply than Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence. Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy (Ted Kennedy’s son) professed in October not to understand the Church: “You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they [sic!] were pro-life?”

Instead of the usual diplomatic response, Tobin called Kennedy an “embarrassment” to the Church, and continued “Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s statement about the Catholic Church’s position on health care reform is irresponsible and ignorant of the facts. . . .But the Congressman is correct in stating that 'he can't understand.' He got that part right."

Sad to say, Kennedy does seem to have been occupied at some celestial watering hole when they were passing out brains. But Tobin’s candor – and demand for an apology – may make other compromised Catholic politicians a bit more gun shy.

Similar scuffles have occurred internationally. I was in Rome in early October when Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput’s article appeared in the newspaper Il Foglio, rebutting an earlier piece by Swiss Cardinal Georges Cottier, who defended Notre Dame’s invitation of President Obama. The cardinal had clearly been put up to the job by someone in America.

In Italy, where political correctness is less evident than here, the headline to the Chaput article read, “The Redskin Bishop’s Tomahawk.” Chaput is part Native American...

Either way, though, another example of taking Catholic truth aggressively to the culture.

But maybe the best example of the trend is an op-ed submitted by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan last week to The New York Times. The Times declined to run his embarrassing evidence of media bias – not least by the NYT itself – against the Church.

Dolan cites, by way of example, news stories in the Times about sexual abuse by rabbis in the Jewish community (forty last year alone) and by numerous teachers in NYC public schools. But neither of these regrettable abuses has drawn the public scolding and calls for investigation that Catholic lapses have.

In fact, says the good archbishop, the Times just went out of its way to report a quarter-century-old story about a single Franciscan who had fathered a child, “above the fold” on the front page.

The bias is not limited to the news pages. The Times allows columnists like Maureen Dowd regular attacks on the Catholic Church, most recently over the visitation of women’s religious orders, about which Dowd and the Times know nothing.

Dolan does not mince words, “But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.”

Somewhere Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes, one of Dolan’s nineteenth-century predecessors in New York, who a newspaper in his own day tried to ruffle by calling him “more a Roman gladiator than a devout follower of the meek founder of Christianity,” must have been smiling.

Don’t think these scuffles are just part and parcel of a vigorous American pluralism. They portend something far more sinister.

The Washington Post just carried an interview with the militant atheist Richard Dawkins making utterly outrageous remarks about Catholicism in a regular column on faith. The Post would have taken great pains not to publish such slanders about any other religion. (Please read it. If your blood does not boil, consult your physician.)

So far, it’s all been only words, but words lead to deeds, and right now such words are everywhere. That’s why our bishops's turn to offense is not only encouraging. They are needed to ward off something much worse than words from developing in our culture.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.
00Tuesday, November 3, 2009 3:52 PM

CDW Prefect celebrates
Pontifical EF Mass
on All Saints Day in Rome

Nov. 1, 2009

The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, celebrated Pontifical Mass for the Feast of All Saints on Sunday at Rome's personal parish for the usus antiquior, Santissma Trinità dei Pellegrini.

Photos courtesy of John Sonnen.

00Wednesday, November 4, 2009 10:23 AM

I am posting this only for the record, because the headline is deliberately misleading. The person quoted is not a Vatican official at all but the mayor of Rome! Of course, it remains a possibility butwhat's the point in jumping the gun?

Pope John Paul II
'to be beatified within months'

By Nick Squires in Rome

Nov. 2, 2009

The mayor of Rome, who would play a pivotal role in organizing the event, said the beatification of John Paul is expected to take place "at the latest" by 2010.

Speaking on a visit to Krakow, in the former Pope's native Poland, Gianni Alemmano said: "These are internal decisions (for the Vatican) but it is expected to take place at the latest by next year."

Vatican observers say the most likely date for the beatification would be April next year, on the fifth anniversary of the popular Pontiff's death.

Beatification precedes canonisation and involves a complicated process including the verification of miracles attributed to the person being considered.

A miracle normally takes the form of the curing of a disease or affliction which has no scientific explanation. A second miracle is then required for sainthood.

In John Paul's case, the miracle under consideration is said to have taken place when a French nun was cured of Parkinson's disease.

The process leading to sainthood usually takes decades, but Pope Benedict XVI launched the beatification process for John Paul just two months after his predecessor's death on April 5, 2005.

During the summer, the former Pope's spokesman said the beatification process would not be delayed by the publication in Poland of correspondence between John Paul and a female compatriot.

Wanda Poltawska, who was one of a handful of people by the Pope's bedside when he died, published a book with extracts of letters that she exchanged with John Paul, whom she met in 1962 while he was in Krakow. It is due to be published in Italy in February.

There is no suggestion that they had a romantic relationship, but some Roman Catholic Church officials were reportedly annoyed that she had "exaggerated" her friendship with the late pontiff and that the relationship would have to be scrutinised as part of the beatification process.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who ran the Vatican press office for 22 years, said there was no special connection between Mrs Poltawska, 88, and the former Pope.

00Wednesday, November 4, 2009 8:41 PM

Yesterday, I posted the above European Court of Human Rights ruling in the ISSUES thread, remarking it was a landmark event in the de jure secularization of Europe, which will be consolidated with the impending ratification of the so-called Lisbon Treaty by all European Union member states, after the last holdout - ironically, the Czech Republic - gave in, having received assurances that its juridical decisions within the nation would be recognized as valid.

But how does that square with the above ruling which would override the unanimous decision of successive Italian courts - all the way to its Constitutional Court - about the display of the crucifix in Italian public shcools?

The terrifying and inevitable question is: What next will these Eurocrats - all secularized to the point of mindlessness - target next? They are no better than the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which has been filing court suits right and left against any and all expressions of Christianity - oral, visual or written - in the public place. Except that so far, the US Supreme Court has so far struck down lower court decisions in favor of the ACLU.

The Vatican and many commentators in the Italian media have now reacted to the crucifix ruling.

Vatican denounces European ruling
against crucifixes in schools

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 4 (CNS) -- The Vatican said it experienced "surprise and sorrow" when a European court ruled that the crucifixes hanging in Italian public schools violate religious freedom.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Nov. 3 that the crucifixes hanging in every public classroom in Italy were "a violation of the freedom of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions and of the religious freedom of the students."

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, reacted to the decision saying, "The crucifix has always been a sign of God's offer of love and a sign of union and welcome for all humanity. It is sad that it is being considered a sign of division, exclusion or limitation of freedom. That is not what it is and that is not the common feeling of our people."

In his statement Nov. 3, Father Lombardi said, "It also is surprising that a European court is intervening so heavily in a matter that is deeply tied to the historic, cultural and spiritual identity of the Italian people."

The case was brought to the court by a Finnish-born Italian citizen who had been trying since 2002 to get the crucifixes removed from the school her children attended in Abano Terme, Italy.

Italy's minister of public education, Mariastella Gelmini, announced the government would appeal the decision, saying the presence of the crucifixes "does not mean adhesion to Catholicism, but is a symbol of our tradition. The history of Italy includes symbols and removing them would be to remove a part of ourselves."

Father Lombardi said it was particularly serious that the European court wants to remove from educational institutions "a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture."

Religion, he said, contributes to the moral education and growth of individuals and is "an essential part of our civilization."

Father Lombardi said it appeared that the court was trying to deny "the role of Christianity in the formation of European identity, which has been and remains essential."

The Italian bishops' conference issued a statement Nov. 3 saying the court was looking at the crucifix with "a partial and ideological vision" that ignored the fact that it is not only a symbol of faith, but also a symbol of one of the major influences on Italian culture.

In addition, the bishops said, the decision did not take into account the fact that as recently as 1984 the Italian government formally approved a treaty with the Vatican defining the principles of Catholic faith as "part of the historic patrimony of the Italian people." [In an administrative updating of the 1929 Lateran Pacts reiterating a historical fact mentioned in the original pacts.]

The ruling risks promoting "hostility to any form of religion's political and cultural relevance" in public life, the bishops' statement said.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, was asked about the court decision Nov. 4 during a visit to a Rome pediatric hospital. The cardinal said, "This Europe of the third millennium has left us only the pumpkins of the recent holiday and has taken away our most precious symbols."

"This is really a loss," he said, adding, "we must try with all our strength to preserve the signs of our faith."

So the Italian Ministry of Education will appeal the Strasbourg court's decision. What chance does an appeal have against the unanimous decision of the judges who made the original ruling - one of them being Italian himself?

In many ways, this is a dire harbinger of the growing tendency to invest itnernational institutions with the right to regulate the internal affairs of single nations. I hope experts in international law can weigh in on this right away - though their opinions may not count for anything in practice if they do not sit on these supranational courts themselves.


Perhaps the most original reaction I have read so far to the Strasbourg decision comes from Massimo Introvigne, not where he says that the judgment is "the sign that Christianophobia has passed from the indirect to the direct phase" - which is certainly true - but in this:

Why does not Mrs. Lautsi [the Finnish woman who filed the lawsuit against the crucifix] ask her country to change its national flag, which features a cross? People like her ought to understand that the cross in school or on a flag is not a tool of religious proselytism but the symbol of a multi-century history.

I looked it up and found the following:

Left photo, flag of Finland. In fact, the Nordic cross is the characteristic of all five Scandinavian flags.
Right photo, from left: Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark.

Other European flags with the cross: From left, Greece, the UK, Georgia, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

And what if some nut now lodges a suit with the Strasbourg court to question the crosses on all these flags? Will that court then compel them to revoke part of their national history and replace their flags???? This is absolute lunacy.

What the Strasbourg court demonstrates - besides its anti-Christian bigotry and bookish literalness in interpreting human rights - is ignorance of human history, in which after the circle, the cross has been one of the most universal signs even in pre-Christian cultures. Just consider the Egyptian ankh or even the Celtic cross!

NB: I will post further discussions of the Cross ruling in the ISSUES thread.

00Thursday, November 5, 2009 6:57 PM

The expected Vatican denial of an earlier report claiming that John Paul's beaitification is set for next year:

Holy See says beatification
of John Paul II not imminent

Vatican City, Nov 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy See press office has denied a report published by the Italian daily La Repubblica, which made claims that John Paul II will be beatified in 2010 and that Rome and Krakow are locked in a dispute over which city will host the ceremony.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office said Pope John Paul II “will surely be beatified,” but the process must be completed, including the decree certifying a miracle.

Lombardi also denied the reported tension between Rome and Krakow, Poland. “The Pope is the Pope and he belongs to the universal Church,” he said.

CNA had a later report quoting the Vatican Secretary of State:

Cardinal Bertone says
'several phases' to go
before beatification

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2009 (CNA).- The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, denied reports this week claiming that Pope John Paul II will be beatified in April 2010.

According to Vatican Radio, the cardinal said, “No, the news about the beatification next spring is not based on any concrete decision.” Several phases in the late Pope’s cause have yet to be completed, he added.

Vatican Radio also reported that the cardinal’s statements “confirm the opinions recently made by members of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints” who noted “it would be difficult to conclude the beatification process of John Paul II by the fifth anniversary of his death,” that is, by April of 2010.

00Saturday, November 7, 2009 12:26 AM

Thanks to

which shared today the English version of a report on the recent second annual conference on Summorum Pontificum [See preceding page on this thread for earlier reports on the conference.]

A Conference on the Motu Proprio
'Summorum Pontificum'

A long awaited conference was held in Rome on 16–18 October, just a few steps from the Vatican, entitled' A Great Gift for the Entire Church, on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI'. The success of this important event is undeniable and it was marked with a Papal greeting to the participants.

The event was organized by the association “Amicizia Sacerdotale Summorum Pontificum” (Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum”) and the lay group “Giovani e Tradizione” (Youth and Tradition). The conference was chaired, directed and concluded by the organizer and founder of the two aforementioned organizations, the Dominican theologian, Father Vincenzo Nuara.

The Conference proper, which was preceded by a retreat for priests on Friday 16 October, commenced on 17 October. The great numbers of young priests, seminarians and religious, many of them under the age of 30, was a clear signal that the current “signs of the times” are indicating a clear return to the roots of Christian faith, doctrine and spirituality.

Following the celebration of Holy Mass in the extraordinary form by Monsignor Athanasius Schneider, Fr. Nuara gave a remarkable opening speech to the conference in which he reminded his audience that since the promulgation of the Motu proprio the lives of many of those present had been changed.

Regretting the difficulties surrounding the application of the pontifical text, Fr. Nuara recalled the ascetic significance of suffering for a just cause: it was precisely because of the pains endured in silence and abandonment by those priests and faithful who are wholeheartedly attached to the traditional rite that the true reform of the Church will begin.

The first lecture was that of Mgr Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan), on the theme “The Sanctity and Beauty of the Liturgy of the Holy Fathers”. According to the prelate, the worship of God must take place in awareness of divine sanctity.

This fundamental and unavoidable notion has been present since to the very first ancient liturgical texts that come from tradition. In practice, he said, this is the exact opposite of that which the prevalent liturgical “fashion”, steeped in humanistic and worldly values, has tried to impose for the past few decades.

The symbolism and gestural expressiveness are essential for the proper understanding of the mystery being celebrated. Mons,. Schneideer said "nothing - absolutely nothing - must be left to chance, improvisation or human discretion".

This was followed by a presentation by Professor Roberto de Mattei, president of the Lepanto Foundation, who spoke on “Catholicism and Romanità in the Church Today”. He presented a synthesis of the significance of Rome and of the Roman tradition within the Catholic worldview.

He noted that the Roman tradition is not merely a supplement of secondary value used to identify God’s true Church; rather, it is the quintessence of Catholicism. It is not by chance that the enemies of the Church are also enemies of the (true) Roman and Latin traditions.

Modernism, inaugurated by the Lutheran anti-Romanism, demonstrates two phenomena which are in fact mirror images of one another. On the one hand it seeks to purify Christianity from the Roman tradition — as do all Protestant sects, Jansenism, and then modernism and neo-modernism.

On the other hand, Ancient Rome wassexalted so as to create a sort of anti-Catholic idol: one thinks of Frederick II, Machiavelli, the Ghibellines, Jacobins and lay nationalism of the 19th century.

That same morning, there were two brief but important talks given by the Vice President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and for Sacred Archeology, Dom Michael John Zielinski, and Mgr Valentino Miserachs Grau, President of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

Both stressed the importance for sacred art and Church music of their ties to the Latin and Gregorian liturgical traditions. Both prelates criticized many of the recent artistic and musical evolutions that hide that sanctity which is so necessary for Christian worship and the spirituality of the faithful.

After lunch, the lecture by Mgr Guido Pozzo, new Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission, was warmly received. The prelate reiterated the importance of the traditional liturgy for the continuity of Catholic doctrine and noted that, despite the current difficulties, implementation of the Motu proprio will continue to expand.

The lecture by Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, founder of the “Francescani dell’Immacolata” (Franciscans of the Immaculate) - one of the youngest and most prominent families of the “Franciscan reformation” – had been eagerly awaited.

The distinguished priest addressed, at length and with heartfelt pleas, the inseparable bond that exists between religious life - which he has lived for well over half a century - and liturgy.

The current liturgical decadence, often pointed out by Benedict XVI, has certainly had an impact on priestly and religious vocations, as well as on the secularization of monasteries, convents and institutes that once flourished.

The decision by the Franciscans of the Immaculate to return to the traditional Mass and liturgical offices is bearing precious fruit, both in terms of the number of vocations and in terms of the improvement of the spiritual life in both their male and female communities.

According to Fr. Manelli, the Motu proprio especially encourages religious to resume the ancient liturgical and ascetic practices; by doing so, will they form those holy oases that the faithful say are ever more necessary.

The last speaker was the renowned theologian Mgr Brunero Gherardini, the author of a recent important study on the development on the value (and limitations) of Council documents.

After having reminded the audience that the Motu proprio has been set up as a “sanatio” [a healing], he demonstrated the true sense of Tradition, as a banner of dogmatic and magisterial continuity.

With acumen and theological depth, Mgr Gherardini demonstrated the opposition between living Tradition, understood in a Catholic sense - that is to say, the infinite capacity of the Magisterium to proclaim “new” dogmas which in fact are already a part of Divine Revelation - and the so-called “living tradition” invented by Modernism that uses this expression to adjust dogma and doctrine to the almost infinite variations of the fragile human mind.

Fr. Nuara closed the conference by thanking all guests and noting that the Conference itself was the result of God’s grace and its success a true miracle.

On Sunday, 18 October, the participants had the joy of attending Pontifical Holy Mass, celebrated by Mgr Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signature, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

It should be noted that the final Mass, as with those throughout the conference, was attended by members of all the institutes that use the old Missal: from the Fraternity of St. Peter to the Institute of Christ the King, from the Franciscans of the Immaculate to the Institute of the Good Shepherd, as well as the well known figure of Mgr Camille Perl, who was the secretary of Ecclesia Dei when it was an independent commission under Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos.

The unity of the “traditional Catholic family”, even among so many difficulties, is not the least of the successes of Fr. Vincenzo Nuara’s initiatives.

During the Angelus on that same day the Holy Father greeted all Conference participants, thereby supporting this important initiative from the very top.

00Saturday, November 7, 2009 6:16 PM

This post is one week late, but still worth considering... And after reading this brief essay, it will pay to go back to
which is a 17-page interview entitled "Luther and the unity of churches" with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published in the Fall 1984 German edition of Communio, and translated by Albert Wimmere.

Reformation Day
by Timothy George

Oct 30, 2009

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg and nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the church of his day.

In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. At Beeson Divinity School, for example, we do not celebrate Halloween on October 31. Instead we have a Reformation party.

But did this event really happen? Erwin Iserloh, a Catholic Reformation scholar, attributed the story of the theses-posting to later myth-making. He pointed to the fact that the story was first told by Philip Melanchthon long after Luther’s death. Other Luther scholars rushed to defend the historicity of the hammer blows of Wittenberg.

In fact, the door of the Castle Church did serve as the official university bulletin board and was regularly used for exactly the kind of announcement Luther made when he called for a public disputation on indulgences.

But whether the event happened at two o’clock in the afternoon, or at all, is not the point. Copies of Luther’s theses were soon distributed by humanist scholars all over Europe.

Within just a few weeks, an obscure Augustinian monk in a backwater university town had become a household name and was the subject of chatter from Lisbon to Lithuania.

It was not Luther’s intention to divide the Church, much less to start a brand new church. To the end of his life, he considered himself to be a faithful and obedient servant of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

Though Luther renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun, Katarina von Bora, he never forgot that he had received a doctorate in Holy Scripture. His vocation was to teach the written Word of God and to point men and women to the Lord of Scripture, Jesus Christ.

On this Reformation Day, it is good to remember that Martin Luther belongs to the entire Church, not only to Lutherans and Protestants, just as Thomas Aquinas is a treasury of Christian wisdom for faithful believers of all denominations, not simply for Dominicans and Catholics.

This point was recognized several weeks ago by Franz-Josef Bode, the Catholic Bishop of Osnabrück in northern Germany, when he preached on Luther at an ecumenical service. “It’s fascinating,” he said, “just how radically Luther puts God at the center.”

Luther’s teaching that every human being at every moment of life stands absolutely coram Deo - before God, confronted face-to-face by God — led him to confront the major misunderstanding in the church of his day that grace and forgiveness of sins could be bought and sold like wares in the market.

“The focus on Christ, the Bible and the authentic Word are things that we as the Catholic church today can only underline,” Bode said. The bishop’s views have been echoed by many other Catholic theologians since the Second Vatican Council as Luther’s teachings, especially his esteem for the Word of God, has come to be appreciated in a way that would have been unthinkable a century ago.

The year 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of the Joint Declaration of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.

Like The Gift of Salvation statement issued by Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1997, the Joint Declaration represents a measure of convergence between Catholic and Reformational understandings of that article of faith by which the Church either stands or falls, to quote a favorite Lutheran saying.

For example, the Joint Declaration asserts, “We confess together: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”

But convergence on justification does not equal consensus on all aspects of the doctrine of salvation. The framers of the Joint Declaration itself were forced to add an annex to the document delineating unresolved differences on simul iustus et peccator, Luther’s idea that justified believers are at one and the same time sinful and righteous before God.

How justification and sanctification are related in the life of the Christian still continues to be debated. On these and many other issues related to authority and ecclesiology, the way forward is not to smudge over deep differences that remain between the two traditions but to acknowledge them openly and to continue to struggle over them together in prayer and in fresh engagement with the Scriptures. The way forward is an ecumenism of conviction, not an ecumenism of accommodation.

Several years ago I was asked to endorse a book by my friend Mark Noll called Is the Reformation Over? I responded by saying that the Reformation is over only to the extent that it succeeded. In fact, in some measure, the Reformation has succeeded, and more within the Catholic Church than in certain sectors of the Protestant world.

The triumph of grace in the theology of Luther was — and still is — in the service of the whole Body of Christ. Luther was not without his warts, and we can hardly imagine him canonized as a saint. (Remember: simul iustus et peccator!)

But the question Karl Barth asked about him in 1933 is still worth pondering this Reformation Day: “What else was Luther than a teacher of the Christian church whom one can hardly celebrate in any other way but to listen to him?” [And especially, as Cardinal Ratzinger suggested, rad what Luther when he was still an Augustinian monk in full communion with the Church!]

Timothy George is founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, a member of the editorial board of First Things, and a senior editor of Christianity Today.

00Wednesday, November 11, 2009 4:30 AM

Most laymen, even well informed ones, probably do not know there is a Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which is one of the world's most prestigious scientific academies - of which, not incidentally, Cardinal Ratzinger was named an honorary member in 2000 [though I see his name is no longer listed on the roster), It was in the news today because it just held the first-ever international conference on Astrobiology.

Vatican academy pioneers inquiry
into the possibilities
of extra-terrestrial life forms

VATICAN CITY, 10 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The conclusions of a study week on astrobiology, organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican Observatory, were presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Participating in the press conference were Fr. Jose Funes S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory; Jonathan Lunine, professor at the department of physics in Rome's Tor Vergata University; Chris Impey, professor at the department of astronomy in the University of Arizona and the Steward Observatory, Tucson, U.S.A., and Athena Coustenis, professor at the "Observatoire de Paris-Meudon", LESIA/CNRS, France.

"Why is the Vatican involved in astrobiology?" asked Fr. Funes in his remarks, going on to explain that "although astrobiology is an emerging field and still a developing subject, the questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very interesting and deserve serious consideration. These questions offer many philosophical and theological implications".

"Astrobiology is the study of life's relationship to the rest of the cosmos: its major themes include the origin of life and its precursor materials, the evolution of life on earth, and its future prospects on and off the earth. ... The study week provided a special opportunity for scientists from different basic disciplines to spend an intensive week understanding how the work in their particular specialty might have an impact on, or be impacted by, that in other areas. Nowhere is this more evident than in the work being done on how life formed on the earth and evolved with the changing environment", explained Professor Lunine.

For his part, Professor Impey observed that "if biology is not unique to the earth, or if life elsewhere differs bio-chemically from our version, or if we ever make contact with an intelligent species in the vastness of space, the implications for our self-image will be profound. It is appropriate that a meeting on this frontier topic be hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The motivations and methodologies might differ, but both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe. There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe".

The press conference on the study work - held in the Vatican's Casina Pio IV from 6 to 10 November - concluded with the remarks of Athena Coustenis on the subject of the exploration of outer planets and their systems.

The Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens.

The PDF booklet on the Study week, with abstracts of the papers presented and biodata on the participants can be found on

When E.T. phones the Pope
By Marc Kaufman

Sunday, November 8, 2009

ROME -- A little more than a half-mile from the Vatican, in a square called Campo de' Fiori, stands a large statue of a brooding monk. Few of the shoppers and tourists wandering through the fruit-and-vegetable market below may know his story; he is Giordano Bruno, a Renaissance philosopher, writer and free-thinker who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in 1600. Among his many heresies was his belief in a "plurality of worlds" -- in extraterrestrial life, in aliens.

Though it's a bit late for Bruno, he might take satisfaction in knowing that this week the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences is holding its first major conference on astrobiology, the new science that seeks to find life elsewhere in the cosmos and to understand how it began on Earth.

Convened on private Vatican grounds in the elegant Casina Pio IV, formerly the pope's villa, the unlikely gathering of prominent scientists and religious leaders shows that some of the most tradition-bound faiths are seriously contemplating the possibility that life exists in myriad forms beyond this planet.

Astrobiology has arrived, and religious and social institutions -- even the Vatican -- are taking note.

Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer, director of the centuries-old Vatican Observatory and a driving force behind the conference, suggested in an interview last year that the possibility of "brother extraterrestrials" poses no problem for Catholic theology.

"As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God," Funes explained. "This does not conflict with our faith because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God."

Yet, as Bruno might attest, the notion of life beyond Earth does not easily coexist with the "truths" that many people hold dear. Just as the Copernican revolution forced us to understand that Earth is not the center of the universe, the logic of astrobiologists points in a similarly unsettling direction: to the likelihood that we are not alone, and perhaps that we are not even the most advanced creatures in the universe. This may not "conflict with our faith," but it may conflict with the stories we tell about who and what we are.

The Vatican's five-day conference is chaired by the religious leader of the highly regarded Academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. Scientists (many of them nonbelievers) are offering presentations on subjects as varied as how life might have begun on Earth; what newly found "extremophile" microbes living in harsh places on our planet might tell us about possible life on others; and how life forms might be detected in our solar system, or how their bio-signatures might be found on and around the many distant exoplanets.

Having overcome the giggle factor of most things extraterrestrial, astrobiologists are telling a scientific story to an audience that may someday use it to defend -- or enhance -- its faith.

The Catholic Church isn't the only institution preparing itself for what could be a world-changing event. For instance, NASA's National Astrobiology Institute, established in 1998, sponsored a meeting of scientists, ethicists, religious leaders and philosophers in February to brainstorm about the societal implications of astrobiology, and it is preparing a semiofficial "road map" of sensitive issues we'd need to address should the presence of life elsewhere be established.

Initial extraterrestrial discoveries -- which many scientists believe are on the horizon, if not yet in reach -- are likely to be of microbial life just below the parched surface of Mars, in the waters of Jupiter's moon Europa under its thick crust of ice or in the liquid plumes of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Though it will be easy to dismiss extraterrestrial microbes as unthreatening to anyone's worldview, cosmologists and astrobiologists generally contend that the existence of two separate geneses in one solar system would enormously increase the probability that life is commonplace in the universe. And as we know, under the right conditions microbes can evolve over eons to become dinosaurs, hummingbirds and us.

The possibility of extraterrestrial life is not much of an issue for Eastern religions, which tend to be less Earth-centric. Islam also has little problem with extraterrestrials because the Koran speaks explicitly of life beyond Earth, as do some newer Christian groups such as Mormons.

It is in mainstream Western religious traditions, in which humans and God are central, where astrobiology poses the biggest challenge.

"I think the discovery of a second genesis would be of enormous spiritual significance," says Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist from Arizona State University who is speaking at the Vatican conference. He believes the potential challenge to Christianity in particular "is being downplayed" by religious leaders.

"The real threat would come from the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, because if there are beings elsewhere in the universe, then Christians, they're in this horrible bind. They believe that God became incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ in order to save humankind, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on other planets."

Davies explained the tensions within the Catholic Church: "If you look back at the history of Christian debate on this, it divides into two camps. There are those that believe that it is human destiny to bring salvation to the aliens, and those who believe in multiple incarnations," he said, referencing the belief that Christ could have appeared on other planets at other times. "The multiple incarnations is a heresy in Catholicism." (As Giordano Bruno learned.)

Many Protestant scholars agree with Funes, saying that the discovery of extraterrestrial life would not pose a major challenge to their faith or theology, especially if it was not intelligent or morally aware. But on the evangelical side, there is a deep concern, one reminiscent of the battles over evolution.

"My theological perspective is that E.T. life would actually make a mockery of the very reason Christ came to die for our sins, for our redemption," Gary Bates, head of Atlanta-based Creation Ministries International, told me recently in a critique of the Vatican conference.

Bates believes that "the entire focus of creation is mankind on this Earth" and that intelligent, morally aware extraterrestrial life would undermine that view and belief in the incarnation, resurrection and redemption drama so central to the faith. "It is a huge problem that many Christians have not really thought about," he said.

The big question involves intelligent life. Astronomers say there are something like 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the known universe, and more planets are discovered orbiting some of them all the time. (On one day last month, the European Space Agency announced the discovery of 32 new extra-solar planets.)

It is increasingly difficult to assume that our sun and planet are the only ones capable of supporting complex and evolved life -- the kind of life that Christians might assume would be in need of salvation. Questions inevitably follow: Are Christianity and, to some extent, other religions only stories about life on Earth? And if they are not "universal" in a cosmic sense, does that diminish their significance?

Thus the conference on astrobiology at the Vatican -- an institution that got Copernicus, Galileo and other men of science wrong and doesn't want to do that again. In the words of Pierre Lena, a French astrophysicist and member of the Pontifical Academy who pressed for the astrobiology conference: "Astrobiology is a mature science that says very interesting things that could change the vision humanity has of itself. The church cannot be indifferent to that."

Funes, an earnest priest-scientist with a wry sense of humor, seemed a bit nonplussed last week about the worldwide attention that his "brother extraterrestrials" comments from last year and the astrobiology conference have drawn.

Speaking to me from the new Vatican Observatory headquarters outside Rome -- the Church also operates a telescope in Arizona -- he didn't retract his statements or express regret about them, and said he has not been chastised by higher-ups at the Vatican.

But he did emphasize that he was not speaking officially for the Church, even though his 2008 interview ran on the front page of the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. The Church, he said, has no official position on extraterrestrial life or on theological issues it might raise.

Just as some people write science fiction, Funes said with a mischievous smile, he is attracted to "theological fiction" -- what might become important religiously if life beyond Earth is discovered someday.

"There's no need for the Church to speak on this point now," he said. "But yes, that could certainly change."

Marc Kaufman, a science and space reporter for The Washington Post, is on leave writing a book about astrobiology.

00Sunday, November 15, 2009 6:12 PM

Portraits of Ricci, his tomb in Beijing, and a monument to him at Beijing's Immaculate Conception churchyard.

Father Ricci's lesson:
How to "inculturate" Christianity in China

An exhibition at the Vatican offers the great 17th-century Jesuit missionary as a model.
Even for Beijing authorities as well, tne man they affectionately call "Li Madou" is a national treasure.

ROME, November 13, 2009 – From this month until January 24, those who visit Rome will see in Saint Peter's Square a huge display showing two figures in Chinese dress, with writing in the Mandarin language.

The figure on the left is the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), the one on the right is a high-ranking Chinese official whom he baptized, Xu Guangqi.

At the fourth centenary of his death, an exhibition has been dedicated to Matteo Ricci in the Braccio di Carlo Magno wing of Saint Peter's Square.

At the Vatican on Nov. 4, Pope Benedict XVI is presented with a copy of the exhibit catalog.

An exhibition in his honor will also open in Beijing in February, before moving on to Shanghai, Nanjing, Macau, and finally Seoul.

Matteo Ricci is one of the very few foreigners who have taken their place among the fathers of Chinese history. In the Millennium Center in Beijing, an immense edifice celebrating the glories of the nation, the gigantic bas relief in multicolored marble dedicated to the history of China, from the first emperor to the protagonists of the twentieth century, bears only two images of foreigners, both of them Italian.

One is Marco Polo at the court of Kublai Khan, the other is Matteo Ricci himself, dressed as a Mandarin Confucian and looking out at the horizon.

At the end of last October, at the People's University of Beijing, Matteo Ricci was also the center of attention for the scholars taking part in a major international Sinology conference. He is even considered the creator of this discipline.

The conference was organized by Yang Huilin, vice-rector of the People's University and one of the most proficient scholars of Christianity in China. Speakers at the conference included Hans Küng, as an author of studies on the Chinese religions, and Gianni Criveller, an Italian member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, who gave a talk about how the Jesuits who came to China on the heels of Matteo Ricci used images to represent the Christian faith in its totality.

The Sinology conference concluded in an emblematic way: with a dinner in the Forbidden City, the site of the imperial throne but also the epicenter of the work of many missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. Matteo Ricci – Li Madou for the Chinese – is buried not far from there.


The exhibition in Saint Peter's Square unfolds in two sections: the first, with a blue background, illustrates Rome and Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries; the second, with a red background, houses works and documents from that era in China. The visitor makes the same journey that Matteo Ricci did over his lifetime.

On the first half of the journey, the eye is drawn above all to a masterpiece by Rubens, a large canvas in flaming colors depicting the glory of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and his followers.

On the second half, the visitor is struck by an altar of Confucius in lacquer and gold, of imposing dimensions, across from a pensive and compassionate Buddha, the perfect representation of the refined philosophical Chinese religious sensibility.

When Matteo Ricci entered the Society of Jesus it was 1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto, when the Christian fleet stopped the Turkish assault on Europe. But the spirit that moved the young Jesuit was not that of a Christianity in a state of siege. On the contrary.

At the inauguration of the exhibition, Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci described the missionary audacity of Matteo Ricci:

Together with the Christian good news, Li Madou brought to China Euclidean geometry, astronomy, mechanics, cartography. He brought the 'De Amicitia' of Cicero that he had transcribed in an exquisite Mandarin booklet dedicated to a senior dignitary who was a bit Confucian, a bit animist, a bit Christianized.

He therefore brought the culture of the West, signified in the exhibition by astrolabes, planetary models, maps of the city and of the empire.

He also brought Christianity, naturally. But he did so by using the entryway of science and technology, the shared heritage of both West and East, and in any case by treading very lightly, with an extraordinary capacity for assimilation, with absolute and exquisite respect for the culture and traditions of the country he had decided to make his own.

He became Chinese among the Chinese, he even wore the distinctive garb of the imperial official, he was as ceremonious and indirect, as hyperbolic and bureaucratic, as poetic and pragmatic as custom and etiquette required.

If he had not behaved in this way, he would not have had the honors that modern China grants to him and that permit us to place him, truly, at the summit of history.

It was a history that was too soon interrupted but that today, at a time of integration founded on dialogue and therefore on respect and understanding, seems more relevant than ever."

Also at the inauguration, Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata, Matteo Ricci's birthplace, highlighted the "global" nature of his activity:

He designed mappa mundi that introduced the Chinese to the rest of the world that was largely unknown to them, marking out on these large maps the places most important for Christianity.

He translated into Chinese books of philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, and introduced the West to the texts of Confucius. He established a very intense dialogue with the most illustrious men of letters and culture in China, turning these conversations into books that were in part intended to prepare the soil for the sowing of the Gospel.

This led to the 'Real meaning of the Lord of Heaven', published in Beijing in 1603, and also explains the extraordinary success of the book 'Ten Paradoxes', published in Beijing in 1607, in which Matteo Ricci addresses the great questions of life in a philosophical tone.

He thus succeeded in laying solid foundations for the penetration of the Gospel and for mutual understanding between East and West, between China and Europe, between Beijing and Rome, opening a new phase for the history of humanity not unlike the one opened a century before, on the opposite side of the planet, with the endeavor of Cristoforo Colombo.

Additional information from

“Ricci’s method of dialogue and inculturation is still relevant, and in many ways has not been surpassed,” Mons. Giuliodori said.

He also revealed that the cause for Father Ricci’s beatification is making headway. He plans to lead a pilgrimage from Macerata to Beijing to pray at the priest’s tomb in 2010 and expressed the hope that the day would soon come when the Church will declare him a saint in recognition of “his missionary genius, his moral and spiritual stature, his openness and cultural far-sightedness.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, expressed that same hope but added that he would also like to see the Jesuits’ first and perhaps greatest Chinese convert, Xu Guangqi, who worked closely with Father Ricci, canonized alongside him.

The exhibition is organized by the Committee for the Celebration of the Fourth Centenary of Father Matteo Ricci [organized by the Diocese of Macerata] in collaboration with the Vatican Museums, the General Curia of the Company of Jesus, and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

00Monday, November 16, 2009 4:10 PM

Great Roman polyphony
returns to Saint Peter's

Not in a concert, but in a Mass.
Conducted by Domenico Bartolucci, the most brilliant interpreter of Palestrina's music alive today.
He was removed as head of the Sistine Chapel choir 12 years ago, but Pope Benedict has 'rehabilitated ' him.

ROME, November 16, 2009 – Among the arts to be represented in the Sistine Chapel next Saturday, November 21, at the highly anticipated meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, music is perhaps the one that has suffered the most from the divorce that has taken place between artists and the Church.

The distress in sacred music was the earliest to afflict the Church. Because while the masterpieces of Christian painting, sculpture, and architecture still remain accessible to all, even if they are ignored and misunderstood, great music has literally disappeared from the churches if no one performs it anymore.

And one can effectively speak of an almost generalized disappearance when it comes to those treasures of Latin liturgical music that are Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the organ.

Fortunately, however, during the same days when Papa Ratzinger will be seeking to reestablish a fruitful relationship with art, the organ and great polyphonic music will return to give the best of themselves in the basilicas of Rome.

They will again be heard not only in the form of a concert, but also in the living environment of liturgical action.

The culmination will be on Thursday, November 19, when the setting sun blazes through the apse of Saint Peter's. That evening, making his solemn return to the basilica to conduct a sung Mass, will be the greatest living interpreter of the Roman school of polyphony, the one that has come down from Giovanni Pierluigi of Palestrina – whom Giuseppe Verdi called the "everlasting father" of Western music – to our own day.

This interpreter of undisputed greatness is Domenico Bartolucci, for decades the "permanent maestro" of the Sistine Chapel choir, the Pope's choir, and now, at age 93, still a miraculously adept director of Palestrina.

Bartolucci is a living witness of the elimination of liturgical music from the West, but also of its possible rebirth. The last time he conducted a complete Mass by Palestrina at Saint Peter's was all the way back in 1963.

The last time he conducted the Sistine Chapel choir was in 1997. That year he was brutally dismissed, and without him the choir fell into a sorry state.

But now comes its return – powerfully symbolic – to the basilica built over the tomb of the prince of the apostles.

At the Mass on November 19 at Saint Peter's, Bartolucci will not conduct Palestrina, but his own polyphonic compositions, in alternation with Gregorian chants from the Mass "De Angelis."

And with that, he will show how it is possible to cherish the best of the Latin musical tradition even within the canons of the modern post-conciliar liturgy: just what Pope Benedict wants, as a profound theologian of the liturgy and a music connoisseur.

Naturally, Bartolucci's secret dream is to return at last to conduct the emblematic "Pope Marcellus Mass" by Palestrina, at a Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI at Saint Peter's.

The anticipation that these signs will soon be followed by naming a new conductor for the Sistine Chapel choir becomes more impatient from this point forward.

The context within which Bartolucci will return to conduct a Mass at Saint Peter's is that of the International Festival of Sacred Music and Art, which is held each fall in the basilicas of Rome, on its eighth edition this year.

The 2009 program has two focal points: Roman polyphony and organ music.

It will open Wednesday, November 18, in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, with a concert in the spirit of Palestrina, conducted by Bartolucci himself.

Another event in the spirit of the Roman school of polyphony, in a modern reinterpretation, will be the oratorio "Paolo e Fruttuoso" (Paul is fruitful) [homage to St. Paul], composed and conducted by Valentino Miserachs Grau, conductor of the choir of the basilica of Saint Mary Major and head of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, the Vatican's "conservatory."

The second focal point will be the organ. The Fondazione Pro Musica e Arte Sacra has completed the restoration of the huge Tamburini organ of the Roman basilica of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

Its inauguration will involve a series of four concerts performed by the organists who supervised the restoration – Goettsche, Paradell, and Piermarini – and by other world famous organ virtuosos like Leo Krämer and Johannes Skudlik.

The organ is the main instrument of liturgical music, which unforgivably has been overlooked despite the fact that it is present in countless churches.

But non-liturgical music will also be included in the program, with works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert. On November 20, the octet of strings and woodwinds of the Wiener Philarmoniker will perform Schubert's sublime Octet in F Major in the basilica of Saint Mary Major.

The Wiener Philarmoniker is a constant presence at the Festival of Sacred Art and Music. Of all the major orchestras of the world, it is the one in which sacred and profane music are most closely intertwined.

For the next edition of the festival, the Wiener Philarmoniker has already agreed to perform Bruckner's Ninth Symphony and a selection from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" in the Roman basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, on October 26, 2010.

The detailed program of the concerts at the basilicas of Rome:
> VIII International Festival of Sacred Music and Art, November 18-22, 2009

00Monday, November 16, 2009 11:45 PM

Cardinal George tells US bishops
'Time to move beyond clergy scandals'

BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops' conference president is urging his fellow prelates to move beyond the clergy abuse scandals of the past, and look to build unity within the Church.

Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, affirmed this in his presidential address in Baltimore, where the conference's annual fall general assembly began today.

He highlighted the necessary role of priests, who together with bishops, exercise authority in Christ's name over the people. Without priests, he pointed out, the people would be left only to the authority of the civil and secular government.

"Without ordained priests," the cardinal continued, "counseling passes into the hands of the therapists," many of whom carry out their work "without consideration of the action of God's grace."

He affirmed that "without ordained priests, the Church would be deprived of the Eucharist."

Thus, the prelate affirmed, in this Year for Priests, "we as bishops are called to reflect on our relationship with priests", and to "unite with them around Christ."

As bishops, he continued, we "must look for ways to strengthen Church unity," with "relations not of control, but of love."

The prelate underlined the conference's commitment to look for ways for all Catholics to remain in communion.

In particular, Cardinal George affirmed that the bishops are looking to strengthen relations with universities and the media.

It is important to have "pastoral concern for ecclesial unity," he stated.

Some would keep us in the past, the prelate said, or imprisoned in the sexual abuse scandals in recent years. Yet, at this moment, the "clerical ranks have been purged, priests and bishops," he pointed out, and great lengths have been taken to protect children.

Thus, we cannot allow these things of the past to destroy current relations within the Church, the cardinal said.

The conference president spoke on behalf of the other prelates, affirming that they "look forward to the dialogues" in which they plan to "clarify the conditions necessary for us to be truly Catholic."

He emphasized the necessary role of the bishops, to stand for the truth and to clarify its application. In this country, the cardinal affirmed, we have tried to be leaven in the debate about health care, not by proposing specific means, but by being a moral voice.

We speak to the lawmakers, he said, stating that in any health care policy, everyone should be cared for and no one should be killed.

Cardinal George affirmed: "Questions that are moral before they become political, remain moral questions after they become political."

Thus, in these days of the general assembly, which runs through Thursday, the conference president affirmed: "We gather to seek [God's] will for ourselves, our priests and our people. With his authority, we govern."

00Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:57 PM

Researchers tell US bishops:
Pattern of clerical sexual abuse continues
decline that began around 1985

Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2009 (CNA) - Researchers investigating the sexual abuse of minors by clergy presented their interim report at the November assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday.

They said new reports of sexual abuse do not alter the pattern of clerical sexual abuse, which peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s before declining in the 1980s.

The Interim Report on the Cases and Context Study, written by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, aims to explain the increase of sexual abuse by priests in the late 1960s and 1970s and its decline after 1985.

Researchers gathered and analyzed archives and also collected data from priest, psychologists, sociologists and the U.S. bishops.

According to a USCCB press release, the Interim Report found that cases of abuse reported after 2002 showed the same pattern of a rise of sexual abuse in the 1960s and decline in the 1980s. The researchers do not believe that unreported cases will be brought forward that change the time frame of the abuse.

The researchers found that the pattern of deviant sexual behavior by clerics is consistent with several other changes in society between 1960 and 1990, including the increased use of drugs and an increase in divorce and criminal behavior.

Clergy who as seminarians had “explicit human formation preparation” seem to have been less likely to abuse than those without such preparation. Such formation is described in a 2008 USCCB document, The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, as the cultivation of priests so that their humanity is “instrumental in communicating Jesus Christ.”

“While a celibate commitment is not expressed in genital sexual activity or in an exclusive intimate relationship, the priest remains a sexual person who is expected to develop mature expressions of chaste love and caring,” the document reads.

The Interim Report also found that dioceses’ responses to charges of clerical sexual abuse changed substantially over a 50-year period, with decreased reinstatements and more administrative leave being given to abusers in recent years.

The Causes and Context Study was funded by the USCCB, the National Institute of Justice and several foundations. A complete version of the study is expected in December of 2010.

00Wednesday, November 18, 2009 7:34 PM

Sandro Magister's post today in www.chiesa
is his re-working of the interview given by Cardinal Kasper to L'Osservatore Romano published in its 11/15 issue
and translated/posted in the BENEDICT thread on 11/14
It was Kasper's first extended commentary on the development that culminated in the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus
and is very much worth reading and re-reading.

00Wednesday, November 18, 2009 8:03 PM

Books presented at the Vatican
look at how the Bible is depicted
in the Sistine Chapel

LA PAROLA DIPINTA: La Bibbia nella Cappella Sistina, vol. 1-4, Vatican Museums & Il Sole 24 Ore, 2009.

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 17 (AP) - A series of four books presented Tuesday at the Vatican seeks to explain how Michelangelo and other artists translated the Bible into images to produce in the Sistine Chapel some of the world's most renowned frescoes.

The first volume focuses on Michelangelo's ceiling and its scenes from the book of Genesis and the creation of the world. Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci said the volume offers a "basic code" to understand the symbols and scenes that adorn the room where popes are elected.

"Everybody knows the Sistine Chapel, but how many can recognize the scenes?" Paolucci said Tuesday at a book launch just steps away from the Sistine Chapel.

He said the book succeeds in clarifying "the infinite forest of symbols that are all linked to each other" in the ceiling that the Renaissance master painted between 1508-12.

The series is called LA PAROLA DIPINTA (The Painted Word) and is published by the Vatican Museums' publisher along with Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

The first installment, a coffee-table volume rich in photos, comes out on Friday. Two more will follow focusing on the wall paintings by 15th-century artists such as Sandro Botticelli, and the series will end Dec. 11 with a volume on Michelangelo's Last Judgment.

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, which gather hundreds of artworks from painters including Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Over 4 million people visit the Vatican Museums every year.

CNS has a more detailed story:

Sistine Scriptures: New book series
underlines Bible stories behind the art

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 18 (CNS) -- To really see the Sistine Chapel, it's more important to have a Bible in your hands than mini-binoculars, said Msgr. Roberto Zagnoli, an official of the Vatican Museums.

The Italian monsignor is the principal author of "The Painted Word," a new series of books published by the Vatican Museums and the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

In the four-part series, the Italian monsignor quotes and explains the biblical passages that inspired the famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. The first volume focuses on Michelangelo's work on the Sistine ceiling.

"Fascinating the eyes and the spirit," visiting the Sistine Chapel with a Bible helps visitors appreciate Michelangelo's work and come to a more vivid understanding of the Scriptures, said Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

The cardinal presented the first volume of the new series Nov. 17 in the Vatican Museums, which plans to issue the series in English in December.

The ceiling frescoes Michelangelo painted from 1508-1512 focus on nine events from the Book of Genesis; the artist's depiction of the creation of Adam -- with God's outstretched hand filling him with life -- is one of his most widely recognized works.

Msgr. Zagnoli said that rather than showing God shaping Adam out of the clay of the earth, Michelangelo "presents Adam as coming forth from the earth, called to life by the powerful hand of God."

The artist's choice, he said, underlines the mysterious and forceful creative power of God.

In the scene of the creation of Eve, she is shown with her hands clasped in prayer or thanksgiving with her mouth partially open, "underlining the awe and marvel of that first instant of life," the monsignor wrote.

Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, said everyone knows of Michelangelo's solitary and even misanthropic character, but too many fail to recognize the religious passion he brought to the work.

"The entire Sistine Chapel, taken as a whole, tells the history of salvation," he said. But in order to understand that people need to read the Bible, Paolucci said.

The themes treated in Genesis -- the origin of the universe, the uniqueness of each human person, the presence of good and evil in the world -- "are matters of faith for us Catholics, but they also are issues of common concern for all human beings," which is why each of the millions of people who visit the chapel every year can be touched by the experience, he said.

"The hope is that those who read the book will feel led to approach the word of God and discover unexpected riches there and that they will allow themselves to be excited by the language of beauty," which is a reflection of the beauty of God, Paolucci said.

From the webpage cappella-sistina.ilsole24ore.com/ dedicated to the book series.

Pier Luigi Vercesi, director of Il Sole 24 Ore's publishing group, said that as an executive in a company primarily concerned with business and finance, he felt an obligation to figure out how much it cost the popes to build and decorate the Sistine Chapel.

He said the chapel cost "3,000 ducat," a monetary unit that no longer exists. But a rough calculation of the purchasing power of 3,000 ducat today would be between 1.5 million and 2 million euros ($2.2 million-$3 million), he said, "which means that the Sistine cost 1,200 euros a square meter ($167 a square foot)."

The newspaper is releasing the Sistine Chapel volumes every Friday Nov. 20-Dec. 11. The second and third volumes look at the work of the 15th-century painters, including Sandro Botticelli and Perugino, who depicted events from the life of Moses on the chapel's south wall and events in the life of Christ on the north wall. The final volume returns to Michelangelo, examining the Scriptural basis of his massive fresco of the Last Judgment.

New look for Holy Cross reliquary
in the Vatican collection


VATICAN CITY, Nov. 19 (AP) – One of the gems of the Vatican's priceless religious art collection — a 6th century reliquary containing the purported fragments of the cross on which Jesus was crucified — has been restored to its Byzantine-era glory.

The Vatican on Thursday unveiled the restored Crux Vaticana, a foot-high (40-centimeter-high) jewel-encrusted golden cross containing what tradition holds are shards of Jesus' cross inside.

The Associated Press was given an early look at the piece, and Byzantine art experts said the restoration rendered the cross much closer to what it would have looked like at the time the Byzantine Emperor Justin II gave it to the people of Rome.

Most significantly, the restoration corrected a botched 19th century restoration that threatened to corrode the piece. And it replaced the brightly colored gems that were added in previous centuries with the large, imperfect pearls that are emblematic of Byzantine-era imperial masterpieces, said restorer Sante Guido.

A circle of 12 pearls now surrounds the relic, and pearls around the cross' edge now alternate with emeralds and sapphires — the two other gems most often associated with Byzantine emperors, he said.

While there are purported fragments of Christ's cross in churches around the world — including at Paris' Notre Dame and even across town at Rome's Holy Cross basilica — the Crux Vaticana is considered the oldest reliquary of the cross. It is the crown in the Vatican's Treasury of St. Peter's collection of religious and historic artifacts.

In addition to the relic inside, the cross itself is an important piece of early Christian art. Measuring 40 cm by 31 cm (15.75 inches by 11.81 inches) it's a rare example of an imperial gift and an expression of the emperor's Christian faith.

Across the piece is written in Latin: "With the wood with which Christ conquered man's enemy, Justin gives his help to Rome and his wife offers the ornamentation."

"It's the most important reliquary of the 'true cross' that we have," Guido told the AP. "It's particularly important because it's the only reliquary that came from an emperor, so there are various levels of religious and historic significance."

For centuries, the cross was used in the Vatican's most solemn ceremonies at Christmas and Easter. But 1,500 years of candle wax and smoke had dulled the gems and the cross's warm golden hue — grime that has been removed following a two-year restoration.

The work was paid for by an anonymous donor who didn't want the pricetag to be made public, officials said.

Ioli Kalavrezou, a Byzantine art history professor at Harvard University who has taught classes on the cross, said the restoration clearly rendered the cross closer to what it would have looked like when it was presented to Romans sometime between 565-578.

"I can't say it's exactly as it would've been, but it comes much closer to what an object like that would've looked like," she said in a phone interview.

The exact circumstances of why Justin gave Rome the relic are unclear. Guido noted that even though the eastern Byzantine Empire gained prominence in Constantinople after the 476 fall of the Roman Empire, Rome remained a religious capital because it was the "city of martyrs" — where Saints Peter and Paul were buried.

Emperor Justin clearly wanted to give the Pope and people of Rome "a recognition of Rome as a city of Christianity," Guido said. At the time, most parts of Christ's cross were in the hands of the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople after being moved from Jerusalem in the 4th century, Kalavrezou noted.

"This is one of the earliest examples of this imperial gift, where he (Justin) shows the power he has in his hands — to control the most important relic in Christiandom and to have the luxury to make a gift of that," she said from Washington, where she is a visiting scholar at the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine research library.

The cross will be on public display inside St. Peter's Basilica through April 12.

The 11/20/09 issue of L'Osservatore Romano has this item about the Crux Vaticana:

The emperor's gift
Translated from
the 11/20/09 issue of

The exposition 'Vexillum Regis: the Crux Vaticana, or Justin's Cross" opened Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Sacristy Chapel of St. Peter's Basilica.

Until April 12, 2010, one can admire the jeweled cross, recently restored by Sante Guido who restored it after the super-impositions and damages undergone by the original over the centuries.

Characterized by a precious adornment of pearls and gems, the jeweled cross also carries the inscription: "Ligno quo Christus humanum subdidit hostem dat Romae Iustinus opem et socia decorem ("With this wood, through which Christ subjugated the enemy of man, Justin presents Rome with the work and from his wife, its ornaments") in characters typical of Latin writing at the end of late antiquity in the Oriental part of the empire.

The text manifests the votive intention of the emperor: to donate to the city of Rome a treasure that is an exemplary testimony to the faith, and from, his wife, the Empress Sofia, the pearls and gemstones that she endowed on it for the same purpose.

In the present restoration, the crown of twelve pearls around the sacred relic of the Cross has been put back, along with the 18 pearls along the front edge of the outer framework.

In the 18th century, the precious stones decorating the cross had been replaced with semi-precious gems, just one indication of the improper handling of the reliquary which lost much of its original design as it had been conceived by the imperial goldsmith in Constantinople.

After the Cross reliquary was restored, it was also decided to create a new compartment for the relic, following the description in the 1779 treatise De Cruce Vaticana by Cardinal Stefano Borgia, which reproduced both the front and back designs of the Cross.

00Thursday, November 19, 2009 2:18 PM

The Church's problems in China
and Cardinal Bertone’s recent letter

by Annie Lam

Hong Kong, Nov. 18 (AsiaNews) – The Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone recently wrote a letter to mainland Chinese priests.

For some Church-in-China experts, it is a significant contribution to the debate; for others, it falls short of what is needed.

For Cardinal Joseph Zen, the situation of China’s official Catholic Church has deteriorated rather than improved.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki is a senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. For him, the letter by the Secretary of State appears to be telling the mainland’s clergy to study more closely the papal letter (released in June 2007) and its compendium (published in May 2009) in order to make it more effective.

Nevertheless, “it may be too early to see the effect of the papal letter just two years after its release,” he said.

For Lam, the Vatican is hard pressed to address in a single letter all the problems of the Chinese Church, such as the unity of official and underground communities.

Cardinal Bertone’s letter focuses on cooperation between bishops and priests, suggesting thatit can be improved through better priest training. Its emphasis is on improving communication and dialogue between bishops and priests.

The researcher points out the letter calls on the Chinese Church to develop a more “normal” pastoral organisation, that it urges mainland Church leaders to better define Episcopal and priestly ministries, and set up more appropriate bodies to manage the dioceses such as priest councils, as suggested in the papal letter.

Kwun Ping-hung, a Hong Kong-based observer of Sino-Vatican relations, noted that Cardinal Bertone has written two letters to the Church in China in two years. This is a sign that since the start of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, the Vatican has become deeply concerned about the Chinese Church, especially after the Holy Father issued his Letter to the Chinese Church in 2007.

“This helps the Holy See strengthen its ties and internal communion with the Chinese Church,” he noted.

As Cardinal Bertone noted, some signs of hope have emerged in recent years in terms of reconciliation within the Church and relations with Chinese authorities. However, difficulties persist. Given this background, the Secretary of State chose to emphasise the priest training.

“This can be regarded as a rather pragmatic approach for the Holy See,” Kwun noted. In fact, many mainland priests live in an atmosphere of utilitarianism and secularisation where they face many tests and challenges. Thus, speaking for the Holy See, the Secretary of State has called on the Chinese Church to focus on priest training as way to ensure the long-term development of the Church in China.

For Fr Gianni Criveller, the cardinal’s unmediated letter to priests is somewhat “unusual” since most Vatican letters are directly addressed to Chinese bishops. However, for Fr Criveller, Cardinal Bertone’s letter is actually directed at the bishops. China’s young pastors need training and support from the universal Church, he said.

Unfortunately, Criveller notes, the Vatican has invested more time and energy in writing nice letters than in implementing what it wrote in them. The 2007 papal letter is a case in point. “So far,” he said, “only the Commission for China has been set up in the past two years, but little more.”

For him, Cardinal Bertone’s letter inadequately addresses challenges like secularisation and modernisation that priests must face in mainland China.

Cardinal Bertone’s letter also gave Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong an opportunity to write on the subject in his blog on the Hong Kong Diocese website.

Even though Cardinal Bertone’s letter sees some “signs of hope”, Cardinal Zen finds events in China over the past two years quite disappointing.

In his blog, the prelate describes how the situation of the Church in China has not improved; indeed, its abnormal situation has actually worsened.

In his opinion, the official Church made a mistake when it decided to take part in celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (July 2007), and the 50th anniversary of Episcopal ordinations without papal mandate (December 2008).

In his conclusion, Cardinal Zen noted that patriotism and love are not in opposition, and that the faithful should be allowed to live peacefully their faith according to their conscience.

For him, the best contribution the Church in China can make to the Chinese nation is having the Church live according to the papal letter.

00Friday, November 20, 2009 4:58 AM

The future of ecumenism
by Cardinal Walter Kasper
President, Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity
Translated from
the 11/20/09 issue of

Cardinal Kasper with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Colloquium.

This is the lecture delivered by Cardinal Kasper at the Colloquium sponsored by his dicastery to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, the first President of the Council whom he succeeded. Cardinal Willebrands died in 2006 at 96.

Cardinal Johannes Willebrands was one of the most important figures in the history of the Catholic Church in the preceding century.

He was one of those giants who carried us on their shoulders when it comes to ecumenism, as well as religious relationship with the Jews.

On the occasion of the centenary of his birth, we remember him with profound gratitude as a loving man and eminent theologian.

Willebrands succeeded in creating a network that proved very useful when, in 1960, John XXIII instituted the Secretariat for Christian Unity. Indeed the Pope could read the signs of the times, and indeed, could see the signs of the Holy Spirit at that time.

It was he who decided that the theme of the Council he announced on January 25, 1959, should be the unity of all Christians. It was he who, following the suggestion in 1960 of the Archbishop of Paderborn, Lorenz Jäger, set up the Secretariat for Christian Unity, thus offering an institutional channel for the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church, at the level of the universal Church.

As its first secretary, Willebrands contributed to shape the new organism, which was initially presided over by Cardinal Augustin Bea, and then by Willebrands himself, from 1969 until he retired in 1989.

He had the gift of finding and inspiring the right co-workers. To cite a few, I will mention here Jérôme Hamer, Charles Moeller, and Pierre Duprey, who all worked for the Secretariat (which later became the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), from 1963-1999.

His collaborators in a wider sense were Yves Congar, Gustave Thils, Balthasar Fisher, Karl Rahner, Johannes Feier, Jean Corbon, Emmanuel Lanne, Raymond Brown and others. Among the women, one must mention Corinna de Martini and Josette Kersters.

We are profoundly grateful to all the men and women who were there in the early years of the Council.

But the grand enthusiastic common vision of the past is absent today: this is a deficiency which also afflicts the World Council of Churches. [Excuse me, Cardinal Kasper. You are writing this in the Pope's newspaper - the Pope who, in his first homily a Pope, singled out the cause of Christian unity as the priority task he set for himself! How much more enthusiasm and what greater vision can there be? More to the point, who has had more ecumenical success in such a few years?] Public opinion has started to speak of stagnation in ecumenism and of an ecumenical winter.

Cardinal Willebrands was farsighted enough to predict that a certain disenchantment would set in after the initial enthusiasm. He warned against thinking that Christian reunification could be achieved in a few years, and that such expectations would only lead inevitably to disappointment.

In this difficult situation, the Catholic Church cannot simply sit around and wait. She has a special responsibility. Her one ecumenical responsibility derives paradoxically from the Petrine ministry, which is often seen as the principal obstacle to unity, but which is a ministry of unity.

In particular, it is precisely in this situation that the Church of Rome should take on herself the responsibility of being the 'seat that presides in charity', in the words of Ignatius of Antioch.

Let us concentrate therefore on the following questions:
- What is our vision for the future of ecumenism?
- What is our task at the start of this new century and new millennium?
- How can we exploit to the maximum the legacy of Vatican-II and of Cardinal Willebrands?

Ecumenism is not just an option that the Church can accept or reject. It is our sacred duty. Nor is ecumenism a mere addendum or 'an article of luxury' in our common pastoral activities: it is the future of the Church's entire life.

The Catholic principles of ecumenism, as expressed by Vatican-II in the decree Unitatis redintegratio - ecumenism in truth and love - are valid even for the future. This decree continues to be the Magna Charta of our ecumenical journey in the future.

The legacy of Cardinal Willebrands will be a good guide for us on this journey. And this goes even for recent developments in which individuals or groups from other Christian confessions, particularly in the Anglican Communion - by the grace of the Lord and impelled by their conscience - wish to join the Catholic Church, preserving legitimate elements of their liturgical and spiritual tradition.

If this comes to a good end, it will not mean a new ecumenism, as we have been reading the past few weeks in some news articles, even in those that should know better.

On the contrary, this has come to pass exactly in conformity with Unitatis redintegratio (No. 4), which clearly distinguishes between the conversion of individuals or groups of persons, on the one hand, and on the other, ecumenism as dialog with other churches with the objective of achieving full communion.

Because we cannot close our doors when someone knocks, even if this does not exonerate us from the mandate of our Lord to open our hearts with love for all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I repeat: There is no new ecumenism, and the 'old' one has not ended. On the contrary, what's happening is the fruit of ecumenical dialog in the past few decades and is therefore a strong impetus to proceed in our ecumenical commitment, including our dialog with the Anglican Communion, which has been so fruitful.

Nonetheless, both individual conversion as well as ecumenical dialog should be undertaken with the maximum transparency possible, with tact and reciprocal esteem, in order not to cause tensions, often devoid of significance, with our ecumenical partners.

The theological results have been much greater than people think. After two years of work, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has finally put together, in the so-called Harvest Project, the results of 40 years of bilateral dialog with the confessions belonging to the classical tradition of the Reformation (Anglicans, Lutherans and Reform Methodists).

We have put together all this under four headings: Jesus Christ and the Trinity, justification and sanctification, Church, and the two principal sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.

In every part of Harvesting the Fruits, we have achieved far more than I myself imagined in my most optimistic expectations.

Of course, we are not blind to the problems that remain open. We have also exposed those questions clearly. They are fundamental issues of hermeneutics, of anthropology, of ecclesiology, and of sacramental theology that still need to be resolved.

Nonetheless, identifying a problem with clarity is already halfway to solving it. We undertook the Harvest Project with two precise intentions: we believe it is time to facilitate the reception of the results of the dialogs we have had. And so, we need to begin this process of reception in our churches, so that the results of 40 years do not just gather dust on library shelves, but become a living reality in the body of our churches.

Moreover, a new generation of ecumenists is emerging with new and fresh ideas, but who do not know and cannot know what has been achieved so far, and what open issues will be handed down to them.

With this book, we 'old men' can pass on the torch to a new generation. We hope and trust in the fact that the book will offer them inspiration and encouragement to make further progress along the ecumenical journey.

On the basis of Harvesting the Fruits, we intend to have a consultation in the form of a symposium to be held early next year. Together with our ecumenical partners in dialog, we wish to discuss the results so far and decide how to proceed.

Subsequently, there will be other ecumenical events: the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the centenary of the Edinburgh Conference, the ecumenical Kirchentag in Munich, the plenary session of the World Lutheran Federation in Stuttgart, and the preparatory decade for the fifth centenary of the Reformation already under way and which will continue till 2017.

Therefore, 2010 will be a year that will be quite ecumenical. This proves that ecumenism is not a thing of the past. It is simply getting a fresh start.

00Friday, November 20, 2009 2:20 PM

Thanks to messainlatino.it for leading me to this interview in a French Catholic newspaper
with Mons. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Two years after Summorum Pontificum:
An assessment

Interview by Philippe Maxence
Translated from

November 18, 2009

How do you evaluate the application of Summorum Pontificum as of today in Europe, particularly in France?
Generally, it seems to me that two years since the publication of Summorum Pontificum , the situation is rather diversified. To generalize or simplify would not be fair.

Perhaps in France and the central and northern part of Europe, the problems are more acute, but in a transition period, reactions of a psychological nature and procedural questions are quite incomprehensible.

The difficulties in responding to the requests of the faithful who ask for the Holy Mass in the extraordinary form are sometimes due to hostility or prejudice, other times to obstacles of a practical nature, like the lack of priests or the difficulty of finding a priest who is competent to celebrate the traditional rite.

Besides, we are just starting to see how to harmonize the pastoral and catechetical objectives of celebrating the sacraments in the traditional rite with currently established objectives in individual parishes.

It is clear that the Motu Proprio calls on bishops and priests to welcome the legitimate requests by the faithful according to the norms which it has set forth, since this is not a concession made to them, but a right of the faithful to be able to have access to the Gregorian liturgy.

On the other hand, it is evident that we must be realistic and work with the necessary tact, because this entails formation and education in the perspective that Benedict XVI introduces in Summorum Pontificum.

He invites us to consider the two forms of the liturgy as two practices of the same single liturgical rite, and therefore not to be seen in opposition, but on the contrary, as an expression of substantial unity in the liturgy.

We are called on to have the forma mentis [the mentality] on which the Motu Proprio was based - which gives priority to the continuity of the history of the faith in the Church - its 'lex orandi, lex credendi'.

The renewal intended by Vatican II is to be understood in continuity with the great doctrinal tradition of the Church.

The history of liturgy has been that of internal growth and development, and we must reject all suggestion of rupture or discontinuity with the past. The patrimony and spiritual treasure of liturgical wealth found in the older form of the Roman Missal, made particularly visible in the extraordinary form, should not remain on the margins of ecclesial life, but should be promoted and appreciated in all the dioceses and ecclesiastical units.

Many of the requests for the extraordinary form of the Mass seem not to get anywhere because of the refusal by parish priests or bishops. Is there a recourse possible with your Commission?
The procedure indicated in the Motu Proprio must be respected: The faithful must first make their request to the parish priest, and if he has difficulties, they should ask the bishop. Only in the case of objections or hindrances on the part of the bishop to the application of the Motu Proprio that the faithful may then turn to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

The bishop himself may turn to Ecclesia Dei if any difficulties arise, for diverse reasons, in which Ecclesia Dei may offer its help and its suggestions.

One must point out that the Commission follows institutional procedures, like any other organism of the Roman Curia. It generally deals with bishops and religious superiors. But the faithful are free to send us any information and to refer any problems, and the Commission claims the right to be able to examine any issues and to decide how best to proceed, while maintaining contact with the diocesan bishop concerned.

Several months ago, it was said that the Commission would issue a document on interpreting the Motu Proprio. Will it be coming out soon?
Article 11 of the Motu Proprio says, among other things, that "This Commission will have the form, the responsibilities and the norms that the Roman Pontiff wishes to confer". An instruction will specify certain aspects about the competence of the Commission and the application of certain normative instructions. It is under study.

Generally, does your work [at Ecclesia Dei] come within the framework of an eventual 'reform of the reform'?
The idea of a 'reform of the liturgical reform' was suggested several times by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. If I remember right, he added that such a reform would not result from the work of a committee of experts, but would result from maturation within the life and ecclesial reality of the Church.

I think that at the point where we are, it is essential to follow the line indicated by the Holy Father in his presentation letter accompanying the Motu Proprio on the use of the Roman liturgy just before the liturgical reform of 1970, namely, that "the two forms can enrich each other reciprocally" and that "what was sacred for previous generations remains great and sacred for us, and cannot suddenly be totally banned, or even considered harmful. It is good for all of us to conserve the riches that have made the faith grow and to give them their right place".

That is what the Holy Father wrote. To promote this idea means contributing effectively to its maturation in liturgical life and consciousness, which could lead, in a not too remote future, to the 'reform of the reform'.

What is essential today in order to recover the profound sense of Catholic liturgy, in both forms of the Roman Missal, is to maintain the sacred nature of liturgical activity, the central role of the priest as the mediator between God and the Christian people, the sacrificial character of the Holy Mass as the primordial dimension which gives rise to the dimension of communion.

Strangely, the Commission charged with overseeing the application of the Motu proprio is named after the preceding Motu proprio on the same subject. Is there a reason for keeping the name Ecclesia Dei?
I think it is because of the substantial continuity of the institution, keeping in mind why it was born, and the necessary organizational adjustments made necessary by new circumstances. [Ecclesia Dei has been absorbed into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but retains its organizational integrity.]

00Saturday, November 21, 2009 6:15 PM

Death certificate imprinted
on the Shroud of Turin,
says Vatican scholar

by Richard Owen in Rome

Nov. 21, 2009

A Vatican scholar claims to have deciphered the "death certificate" imprinted on the Shroud of Turin, or Holy Shroud, a linen cloth revered by Christians and held by many to bear the image of the crucified Jesus.

Dr. Frale's book on the Shroud was published in Italy on 9/21/09. Her 2007 book on the true history of the Knights Templar is considered authoritative.

Dr Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican secret archives, said "I think I have managed to read the burial certificate of Jesus the Nazarene, or Jesus of Nazareth."

She said that she had reconstructed it from fragments of Greek, Hebrew and Latin writing imprinted on the cloth together with the image of the crucified man.

The shroud, which is kept in the royal chapel of Turin Cathedral and is to be put in display next spring, is regarded by many scholars as a medieval forgery. A 1988 carbon dating of a fragment of the cloth dated it to the Middle Ages.

However Dr Frale, who is to publish her findings in a new book, La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno (The Shroud of Jesus of Nazareth) said that the inscription provided "historical date consistent with the Gospels account".

The letters, barely visible to the naked eye, were first spotted during an examination of the shroud in 1978, and others have since come to light.

Some scholars have suggested that the writing is from a reliquary attached to the cloth in medieval times. But Dr Frale said that the text could not have been written by a medieval Christian because it did not refer to Jesus as Christ but as "the Nazarene". This would have been "heretical" in the Middle Ages since it defined Jesus as "only a man" rather than the Son of God.

Like the image of the man himself the letters are in reverse and only make sense in negative photographs. Dr Frale told La Repubblica that under Jewish burial practices current at the time of Christ in a Roman colony such as Palestine, a body buried after a death sentence could only be returned to the family after a year in a common grave.

A death certificate was therefore glued to the burial shroud to identify it for later retrieval, and was usually stuck to the cloth around the face. This had apparently been done in the case of Jesus even though he was buried not in a common grave but in the tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea.

Dr Frale said that many of the letters were missing, with Jesus for example referred to as "(I)esou(s) Nnazarennos" and only the "iber" of "Tiberiou" surviving.

Her reconstruction, however, suggested that the certificate read: "In the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Jesus the Nazarene, taken down in the early evening after having been condemned to death by a Roman judge because he was found guilty by a Hebrew authority, is hereby sent for burial with the obligation of being consigned to his family only after one full year". It ends "signed by" but the signature has not survived.

Dr Frale said that the use of three languages was consistent with the polyglot nature of a community of Greek-speaking Jews in a Roman colony.

Best known for her studies of the Knights Templar, who she claims at one stage preserved the shroud, she said what she had deciphered was "the death sentence on a man called Jesus the Nazarene. If that man was also Christ the Son of God it is beyond my job to establish. I did not set out to demonstrate the truth of faith. I am a Catholic, but all my teachers have been atheists or agnostics, and the only believer among them was a Jew. I forced myself to work on this as I would have done on any other archaeological find."

The Catholic Church has never either endorsed the Turin Shroud or rejected it as inauthentic. Pope John Paul II arranged for public showings in 1998 and 2000, saying:

"The Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin. The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age."

Pope Benedict XVI is to pray before the Shroud when it is put on show again next Spring in Turin.

Researcher says writing on
the Shroud of Turin
proves it is authentic


ROME, Nov. 21 (AP) - A Vatican researcher claims a nearly invisible text on the Shroud of Turin proves the authenticity of the artifact revered as Jesus' burial cloth.

The claim made in a new book by historian Barbara Frale drew immediate skepticism from some scientists, who maintain the shroud is a medieval forgery.

Frale, a researcher at the Vatican archives, said Friday she used computers to enhance images of faintly written words in Greek, Latin and Aramaic scattered across the shroud.

She asserts the words include the name "Jesus Nazarene" in Greek, proving the text could not be of medieval origin because no Christian at the time, even a forger, would have labeled Jesus a Nazarene without referring to his divinity.

The shroud bears the figure of a crucified man, complete with blood seeping out of nailed hands and feet, and believers say Christ's image was recorded on the linen fibers at the time of his resurrection.

The fragile artifact, owned by the Vatican, is kept locked in a special protective chamber in Turin's cathedral and is rarely shown.

Skeptics point out that radiocarbon dating conducted in 1988 determined it was made in the 13th or 14th century.

While faint letters scattered around the face on the shroud were seen decades ago, serious researchers dismissed them due to the test's results, Frale told the Associated Press.

But when she cut out the words from photos of the shroud and showed them to experts they concurred the writing style was typical of the Middle East in the first century -- Jesus's time.

She believes the text was written on a document by a clerk and glued to the shroud over the face so the body could be identified by relatives and buried properly. Metals in the ink used at the time may have allowed the writing to transfer to the linen, Frale claimed.

Frale claimed the text also partially confirms the Gospels' account of Jesus's final moments. A fragment in Greek that can be read as "removed at the ninth hour" may refer to Christ's time of death reported in the holy texts, she said.

On an enhanced image studied by Frale, at least seven words can be seen, fragmented and scattered on and around Jesus' face, crisscrossing the cloth vertically and horizontally.

One short sequence of Aramaic letters has not been translated. Another Latin fragment -- "iber" -- may refer to Emperor Tiberius, who reigned at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, Frale said.

"I tried to be objective and leave religious issue aside," Frale told the AP. "What I studied was an ancient document that certifies the execution of a man, in a specific time and place."

Frale's latest book, titled La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno, raised doubts among some experts.

"People work on grainy photos and think they see things," said Antonio Lombatti, a church historian who has written books about the shroud. "It's all the result of imagination and computer software."

Lombatti said artifacts bearing Greek and Aramaic texts were found in Jewish burials from the first century, but the use of Latin is unheard of.

Unusual sightings in the shroud are common and are often proved false, said Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pavia.

Jesus Christ's 'death certificate'
found on Turin Shroud

By Nick Squires in Rome

Barbara Frale, a Vatican researcher, claims to have discovered Christ's 'death certificate' on the Turin Shroud.

The historian and researcher at the secret Vatican archive said she has found the words "Jesus Nazarene" on the shroud, proving it was the linen cloth which was wrapped around Christ's body.

She said computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to its authenticity.

Her claim was immediately contested by scholars who said that radiocarbon dating tests in 1988 showed the shroud to be a medieval forgery.

Dr Frale asserts in a new book, The Shroud of Jesus the Nazarene, that computer enhancement enabled her to detect the archaic script, which appears on various parts of the material.

She suggested that it was written by low-ranking Roman officials or mortuary clerks on a scroll or piece of papyrus to identify Christ's corpse. Such a document would have enabled the relatives of a dead person to retrieve a body from a communal morgue, she suggested.

It would have been attached to the corpse with a flour-based glue and the ink could have seeped through into the cloth below, leaving a faint imprint.

Scholars first noticed that there was writing on the shroud in 1978 but when the radiocarbon tests a decade later suggested that the shroud was a forgery, historians lost interest in the script, Dr Frale said.

She claimed she had been able to decipher a jumble of phrases written in three languages, including the Greek words (I)esou(s) Nnazarennos, or Jesus the Nazarene, and (T)iber(iou), which she interprets as Tiberius, the Roman emperor at the time of Christ's crucifixion.

The text also mentions that the man who was wrapped in the shroud had been condemned to death, she believes. The hidden text was in effect the "burial certificate" for Jesus Christ, Dr Frale said.

"I tried to be objective and leave religious issues aside," she said. "What I studied was an ancient document that certifies the execution of a man, in a specific time and place."

But other experts were sceptical. "People work on grainy photos and think they see things," said Antonio Lombatti, a church historian who has written books about the shroud. "It's all the result of imagination and computer software."

00Monday, November 23, 2009 7:42 PM

These are pictures from

a blog on the activities of the Diocese of Kansas. They show a 'Christ the King' procession of participants in the National Catholic Youth Conference held in Kansas City on the weekend, on their way Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at the downtown Sprint Center.

P.S. Here's the news report from CNS:

Thousands of youths converge on Kansas City
to celebrate their faith

By Kevin Kelly

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, Nov, 24 (CNS) -- They clogged downtown streets, jammed restaurants, took up hotel rooms, ate up parking spaces and generally inconvenienced downtown Kansas City.

But the nearly 21,000 teens and their 3,000 adult chaperones and local volunteers also gave the city a three-day gift of faith.

They came to bring themselves closer to Christ. By the time they left the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 19-21, they showed Kansas City -- and the world watching live on the Internet -- what happens when Jesus Christ pours out of the hearts of thousands of believers.

The theme of the conference was "Christ Reigns." It was co-hosted by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan.

Participants heard from keynote speakers, were entertained by various musical artists and attended dozens of workshops on such issues as social justice, the Bible, prayer, spirituality and social networking.

They spent time at a special conference theme park called the Reign Forest, a 200,000-square-foot interactive venue with more than 150 exhibits.

Mass was offered daily, and there were opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, eucharistic adoration, meditation, recitation of the rosary, prayer through music and a labyrinth experience.

Ernie Boehner, in charge of the army of 1,100 adult volunteers whose job it was to make the conference run smoothly and safely, smiled through a face that could barely hide the exhaustion of days that began before dawn and ended after midnight.

"When you look at all these kids you don't see all the politics that adults argue about," Boehner told The Catholic Key, newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. "You just think about what a great foundation this church has for the future in these young people."

Just how well-behaved can thousands of teenagers be? Consider opening night, when nearly 20,000 of them, not knowing there was another entrance on the other side of the 20,000-seat Sprint Center, massed early at one entrance and waited for two hours for the doors to open and to undergo security checks of backpacks and purses.

The jam-up could have seemed interminable, but the youths started the conference a bit early outside the arena. They began meeting each other, partying and making new friends with other teens from other parts of the country.

"It's a lot different than Altamont, Kan.," said Seth Blackburn, who came with a group from Mother of God Parish in Oswego, Kan., in the southeast corner of the state. "It's incomprehensible to me. It's mind-blowing."

A group from the Archdiocese of Chicago began dancing with a group of umbrella-wielding, bead-wearing teens from the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"Mardi Gras!" said Ryan Erhardt. "We are young, spirited New Orleans Catholics, and we came to accept and spread God's message."

Bob McCarty, executive director of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry, said that three weeks before the conference began, registration had already exceeded the capacity of the main hall, the Sprint Center, where all the general sessions were scheduled.

That left organizers scrambling to prepare a "satellite" site for the overflow in the grand ballroom of the H. Roe Bartle Convention Center, with its own master of ceremonies. Both sites were linked with big screen, high-definition, closed-circuit television.

It worked so well that the masters of ceremonies at each site, musicians Steve Agrisano at Sprint and Jesse Manibusan at Bartle, were able to sing duets together across downtown Kansas City.

"We may be in two places, but we are one body in Christ," Manibusan told audiences in both places by the TV linkup.

Groups of teens were rotated from both sites so that no group was in the Bartle ballroom for more than one general session.

For many of the teens, just showing up in Kansas City was a physical ordeal. They came from all corners of the continental United States, plus Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. One delegation even came from a military base school in Japan, streaming their reports back to the Land of the Rising Sun via the Internet.

Those who lived closer to an ocean were more likely to book an airline flight. But others endured hours on buses.

Andrew Finch and his peers from Fife Lake, Mich., in the Diocese of Gaylord, rode 13 hours. But it was worth it, he said.

"This is ridiculous," Finch said as he joined the party outside the Sprint Center on opening night. "This is 20 times more people in my whole school."

"It's unbelievable," said Hannah Miller, a member of St. Mary's Parish in Albany, Ore., who came by plane.

"The speakers are just so amazing, and you learn so much about faith and how to share it," she said. "There are just so many Catholic teens here and we all believe the same thing."

Alyssa Petri, who came from Ascension Parish in Dayton, Ohio, in the Cincinnati Archdiocese, called it "freaking amazing, the whole atmosphere here. There are just so many people here sharing the same faith that you have."

McCarty make a grand entrance into the Sprint Center. An accomplished mountain climber, he rappelled by rope from the ceiling. Once he landed safely on the floor, he told the thousands of young people that they also need to "show up, step up and step out."

The conference, he said, wasn't just about having a three-day Catholic party. It was more about becoming disciples when they returned home.

"On Sunday, disciples show up for Mass even when they don't feel like it," McCarty said.

"Disciples are also challenged to bring their very best gifts to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ," he said.

"Disciples step up in prayer when painful changes and challenges occur," McCarty said. "And when we encounter disregard for human life, disciples step up in courage to proclaim Gospel values."

McCarty reminded the youths that one in six children in the United States live in poverty and hunger.

"Disciples can't close their eyes to that and give into fear," he said. "That's because we don't do this alone. Our Scriptures are filled with stories of people who stepped out. Our saints are models of people who stepped out."

00Monday, November 23, 2009 8:09 PM

Catholics set up a task force
for expected Anglican exodus

By Simon Caldwell

23rd November 2009

The Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have set up a task force to help the possible exodus of tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans into their church.

The move was announced as Anglican leader Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested to the Pope in the Vatican over its plans to receive Anglican converts en masse. [This is obviously blatant invention!]

In London, Catholic leaders announced the appointment of a commission to deal with the reception of up to 200 Anglican congregations - a figure proposed by Forward in Faith, an Anglo-Catholic group --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. 'The main issue for many Anglican priests is now the ownership of parish churches.'

The commission is expected to look at the possibility of church-sharing and also the chances of taking out 100-year leases of some Anglican parishes.

Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops. [Accused by whom? The biased media! The worst criticism levelled by any Anglican prelate against the Catholic Church was of supposedly 'keeping Williams in the dark'.

Obviously, the Vatican did not consult with him about any solutions they planned as a response to Anglicans who wished to convert, since that is entirely an internal Catholic matter. But like anyone else who reads the news, Williams was certainly not unaware of what his 'traddie' constituents - especially those belonging to the Traditional Anglican Communion - were up to.

And Williams himself has said several times he does not see it as poaching - because he knows it is not. He knows it's the disarray within the Anglican Communion and his own inability to settle the internal disputes that caused the more traditional Anglicans (those who already feel near-Catholic) to actively lobby Rome to facilitate their conversion en masse.]

In response to requests from about 30 Anglican bishops around the world for 'corporate reunion' with the Catholic Church, he has permitted vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions - including married priests.

In a 20-minute meeting on Saturday, Dr Williams complained to the Pope about the 'lack of consultation' over the move, saying it had left him in an 'awkward position'. [A tather improbable assertion, which Williams, even assuming he actually 'complained' to the Pope, is too courteous to claim, even off the record!]

4,000 Anglican priests expected
to join Catholic Church

by Conan Businge

KAMPALA, Uganda, Nov. 21 - Over 4,000 Anglican priests all over the world, including married ones, are expected to join the Catholic Church, Bishop Matthias Ssekamanya said Friday.

Ssekamanya, who doubles as the chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University, said this does not mean that the Catholic Church is removing the requirement for priests to remain unmarried.

“We are not becoming soft on celibacy for Catholic priests. We shall also not tolerate homosexuals and polygamous marriages in the Catholic Church,” he added.

He was officiating at the 15th graduation ceremony of the Nkozi-based university.

Vatican officials announced that married Anglican priests would be allowed to remain in the priesthood on a case-by-case basis as they join the Roman Catholic fold.

The Vatican’s decision to allow Anglicans to keep some aspects of their liturgy had raised questions over whether the Catholic requirement for celibacy might change.

The Vatican this month released rules and guidelines, known as the Apostolic Constitution, as part of efforts to make it easier for disillusioned, traditionalist Anglicans to cross over to the Roman Catholic Church.

Under the Vatican’s initiative, Anglicans, turned off by their own church’s embrace of gay clerics, women priests and blessing of same-sex unions, can join new parishes, called ‘personal ordinariates’, that are headed by former Anglican prelates.

“There is no change in the Church’s discipline of clerical celibacy,” Bishop Ssekamanya re-affirmed. He praised celibacy as “a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity”.

The ceremony had 236 students graduating with masters, 522 with bachelors, 13 with advanced diplomas, 212 with diplomas and 10 with certificates.
00Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:19 PM

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- From the Vatican, Benedict XVI joined in the celebration of the Holy Land Christians who attended the beatification ceremony of Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas today in Nazareth.

In an address before praying the midday Angelus today, the Pope noted that "Mother Ghattas" has "the merit" of having founded "a congregation formed solely of women of the region, with the purpose of religious instruction, to overcome illiteracy and improve the conditions of the women of that time in the land where Jesus himself exalted their dignity."

Mother Ghattas was born Soultaneh Maria, a Palestinian in Jerusalem. She became a co-founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

The Pontiff affirmed, "The beatification of this very significant figure of a woman is of special comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land and it is an invitation to always trust, with firm hope, in Divine Providence and Mary's maternal protection."

The beatification ceremony of Sister Maria Alfonsina (1843-1927) was presided over by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes and special envoy of the Pope to the event, in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Beatified nun could inspire
Holy Land's Christians,
says Patriarch of Jerusalem

By Judith Sudilovsky

NAZARETH, Israel, Nov. 24 (CNS) -- A newly beatified nun from the Holy Land could serve as an inspiration for Christians who remain there, said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The Nov. 22 beatification "breathes upon us a new spirit, renews our church and invites us to the happy hope that we ourselves, too, can be saints like her," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, referring to Blessed Soultaneh Maria Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

"What the Church needs most is the witness of saints," he added in his homily at the beatification, a major step toward sainthood. "Holiness is the sign of the Church's credibility."

Patriarch Twal beatified Mother Marie-Alphonsine, as she is known, during a Mass for more than 3,000 people, who began filing into Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation almost two hours before the ceremony began. They filled the first-floor sanctuary, where the main ceremony took place; a closed-circuit TV showed the proceedings to pilgrims packed into the ground-floor sanctuary.

By the time the Mass began there was standing room only in both sanctuaries, and people crowded into the aisles, inching forward in the main sanctuary toward the metal fence separating the section next to the altar where members of the Rosary Sisters sat along with other dignitaries, including Helen Zananiri, whose prayer paved the way for Mother Marie-Alphonsine's beatification.

Zananiri had prayed for the protection of her daughter following a premonition just hours before a group of girls fell into a collapsed outdoor septic tank six years ago.

All of the girls, including Natalie Zananiri, who was under the toxic water for at least five minutes according to testimony given in the beatification process, were pulled out unharmed.

"This is a very big event for us, for Christian Palestinians in this land," said Helen Zananiri. "It shows all the world that there are Christians who speak Arabic. We are very proud we live in this holy land."

Natalie Zananiri, now 23, said before being rescued she had never heard of Mother Marie-Alphonsine and had "not really" believed in miracles. She said she now believes.

Slipping into the basilica just minutes before the Mass began, Habib Sabbara, 35, said he had come to Nazareth from East Jerusalem with his wife and two young children to honor a native of his own city.

"These footprints of Jesus Christ are still living. It gives a very big (incentive) to the local Christian community to go after those footsteps," he said. "Even though we (Christians) are less than 1 percent of the population here, we are the most powerful because we are like salt. A little bit of salt makes a big difference. It gives meaning to this land. Without Christians here, there is no meaning to this land."

Nadia Tadros, 16, a student at Rosary Sisters' High School in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, witnessed the beatification from one of several pews she and her classmates had claimed early in the morning.

Sister Hortense Nakhleh, the school's principal, said although she was looking forward to the ceremony, what was of greater significance to her would follow the beatification.

"After this my mission is to do exactly as our foundress. As she lived we have to live; as she was the shining face of the Lord so, too, we have to be the same in our society," she said. "For me that is more important."

Some 23 Rosary Sisters from Lebanon and 50 from Jordan, along with a large number of Catholics from Jordan, began the Israeli visa application process in August and received their permits to travel only days before the ceremony.

Sister Aline Barakat, principal of a Rosary Sisters' high school in Jbeil, Lebanon, said that in addition to asking Mother Marie-Alphonsine to "give us peace and give us grace ... to be like her," the sisters also asked her to send vocations.

Church bells rang out as the Mass began and a sense of excitement swept over the congregants. They applauded enthusiastically when a little girl, dressed in the habit of the Rosary Sisters and representing the order and its founder, walked with her mother to the section where the Rosary Sisters were sitting and was hugged and kissed by several of the nuns.

Applause again exploded through the sanctuary and people stood up in their places, straining to see as Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of Jerusalem completed reading in Arabic the text of the apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI, which had been read in Italian by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

As the bells grew to a crescendo and the white curtain covering the several-foot tall picture of Mother Marie-Alphonsine was lifted, several Rosary Sisters began to cry and wave their hands toward the picture, which hung from a balcony. Women in the pews behind began to trill in the traditional Arabic way of celebration.

Unable to see past the people crowding the aisles, an elderly nun from another order, sitting in the main section of the sanctuary, picked up her plastic chair and moved it closer to the front.

00Tuesday, November 24, 2009 2:32 PM

A belated post. Despite George Weigel's obvious hostility to the FSSPX, this is a very welcome note about the nature of the discussions between the CDF and the FSSPX, which have been routinely labelled by both religious and secular media as 'negotiations', even if Mons. Fellay himself has stated clearly, "We do not seek compromise - we seek clarity".

Weigel defines the disputed points, as identified by the Lefebvrians themselves, and makes it clear the Vatican does expect the Lefebvrians to agree to the Vatican-II positions on religious freedom, Judaism and Christian unity - about which the CDF can surely give them all the clarity they need as to any ambiguities in the Vatican-II documents regarding these issues.

The Vatican and the Lefebvrists:
Not a negotiation

Nov. 18, 2009

Prior to the opening of formal conversations between officials of the Holy See and leaders of the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which began on Oct. 26, the mainstream media frequently misrepresented these discussions as a negotiation aimed at achieving a compromise that both sides can live with.

That was to be expected from reporters and commentators for whom everything is politics and everything is thus negotiable. Alas, similar misrepresentations came from “Vatican insiders” who suggested that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was under joint review by the Holy See and the SSPX, which only made matters worse.

Here is what’s going on here, and what isn’t.

1. The conversations between leaders of the SSPX and the Holy See are just that: conversations. These are not negotiations, for there is nothing to be negotiated; nor is this a dialogue between equal partners.

On the one hand, we have the Bishop of Rome and those curial officials whose work is an extension of his papal office; on the other hand, we have a society of clergy who have been living in disobedience to the Roman pontiff for decades, and their lay followers, many of whom are more confused than willfully schismatic.

The purpose of these conversations is to make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught (especially about the nature of the Church), to listen politely to what the SSPX has to say, and to invite the SSPX back into the full communion of the Catholic Church, which the SSPX broke in 1988 when Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre committed the schismatic act of illicitly ordaining bishops without the authorization of the Roman Pontiff (and against the direct, personal pleas of Pope John Paul II).

2. Despite what some “Vatican insiders” have said, these conversations do not represent a bold initiative by the Holy See; and despite the carping from the mainstream media, these conversations are not a craven papal concession to the demands of angry traditionalists whose dissent from Vatican II Benedict XVI is alleged to share.

Rather, the conversations now underway are an act of pastoral charity by the Pope, who is quite clear about the settled doctrine of the Church and who wishes to invite all, including members of the SSPX, to adhere to that doctrine.

Nor is this about mutual enrichment; it is not easy to see how the Catholic Church is to be theologically enriched by the ideas of those who, whatever the depth of their traditional liturgical piety, reject the mid-20th century reform of Catholic thought of which Joseph Ratzinger was a leader.

The Pope is under no illusions on this score; his purpose is to invite the SSPX back into full communion, thus preventing the schism of 1988 from becoming a permanent wound in the Mystical Body of Christ.

3. The issues to be engaged in these conversations do not involve liturgy: The Pope has addressed the legitimate pastoral needs of SSPX clergy and SSPX-affiliated laity by his decree allowing the unrestricted use of the 1962 Roman Missal.

The real questions have to do with other matters.
- Does the SSPX accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom as a fundamental human right that can be known by both reason and revelation?
- Does the SSPX accept that the age of altar-and-throne alliances, confessional states, and legally established Catholicism is over, and that the Catholic Church rejects the use of coercive state power on behalf of its truth claims?
- Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on Jews and Judaism as laid down in Vatican II’s “Declaration on Non-Christian Religions” (“Nostra Aetate”), and does the SSPX repudiate all anti-Semitism?
- Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on the imperative of pursuing Christian unity in truth and the Council’s teaching that elements of truth and sanctity exist in other Christian communities, and indeed in other religious communities?

Those are the real issues. Conversation about them is always welcome. Those who confuse conversation with negotiation make genuine conversation all the more difficult.

If Mons. Fellay is sincere about desiring full communion with Rome for the FSSPX - as his statements in the past year seem to indicate - then surely, he must see these talks as a gracious 'exit strategy' [from their schismatic position] benevolently provided to the FSSPX by Benedict XVI, that will enable them to say at the end, "OK, we are satisfied that the CDF has clarified the points we questioned, and we accept the positions as such. We are coming home".

I do think Weigel and other adamant opponents of the FSSPX should show the same benevolence [literally, 'good will'] towards the FSSPX as Benedict XVI does!

00Wednesday, November 25, 2009 7:14 PM

My first post on this subject was in ISSUES because the Manhattan Declaration is an ecumenical document. However, Sandro Magister discusses it here in the context of teh Catholic church in Europe and in the United States.

The manifesto that's shaking America

It's been endorsed by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox leaders,
united in defending life and the family.
With the White House in the crosshairs.
In Europe, they would brand it political 'interference' by the Church

ROME, November 25, 2009 – On this side of the Atlantic, the news passed almost without notice: the news about a strong public appeal in defense of life, of marriage, of religious freedom and objection of conscience, launched jointly – a rarity – by top-level representatives of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, and the Evangelical communities of the United States.

Among the religious leaders who presented the appeal to the public on Friday, November 20, at the National Press Club in Washington, were the archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali (speaking, in photo), the archbishop of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl, and the bishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput.

And among the 52 first signatories of the appeal were 11 other Catholic archbishops and bishops of the United States: Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, Timothy Dolan of New York, John J. Myers of Newark, John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Richard J. Malone of Portland, and David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.

The 4700-word appeal is entitled "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," and takes its name from the area of New York in which its publication was discussed and decided last September.

The final drafting of the text was entrusted to Robert P. George, a Catholic professor of law at Princeton University, and to Evangelical Protestants Chuck Colson and Timothy George, the latter a professor at the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

The other signers include Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, archpriest Chad Hatfield of the Orthodox seminary of Saint Vladimir, Reverend William Owens, president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, and two leading figures of the Anglican Communion: Robert Wm. Duncan, primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria.

Apart from the bishops, the other Catholics who signed the appeal include Jesuit Fr. Joseph D. Fessio, a disciple of Joseph Ratzinger and founder of the publisher Ignatius Press; William Donohue, president of the Catholic League; Jody Bottum, editor of the magazine First Things; and George Weigel, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The Manhattan Declaration has not emerged in a vacuum, but at a critical moment for American society and politics: precisely while the administration of Barack Obama is pushing hard for passage of a health care reform plan in the United States.

Defending life from the moment of conception and the right to objections of conscience, the appeal contests two of the points endangered by the reform project currently under discussion in the Senate.

In Congress, the danger was averted thanks in part to aggressive lobbying conducted openly by the Catholic episcopate. After the final vote had guaranteed both the right to objections of conscience and the blocking of any public financing for abortion, the bishops' conference hailed this result as a "success."

But now the battle has started all over again in the Senate, on a working document that the Church again considers unacceptable. The bishops' conference has already sent the senators a letter indicating the changes it would like to see made to all of the points in dispute.

But now there is also the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration, the last chapter of which, entitled "Unjust Laws," ends with this solemn statement:

"We will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves."

And immediately afterward:

"We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."

In an initial passage, the appeal also says this:

"While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia."

And it is true. According to the most recent surveys, public opinion in the United States is shifting noticeably toward greater defense of the life of the unborn child.

From 1995 to 2008, all of the research had shown that more people were pro-choice than pro-life, with a significant margin between them: the former at 49 percent, the latter at 42.

Now, instead, the positions have been reversed. The pro-choice have fallen to 46 percent, and the pro-life have risen to 47 percent, overtaking them.

The religious leaders who are pressuring Obama on the minefield of abortion, of homosexual marriage, of euthanasia, therefore know that they have with them a large and growing segment of American society.

The issuing of the Manhattan Declaration has received extensive coverage in the media in the United States, without anyone protesting against this political "interference" by the Churches.

But that's just the way it is in the United States. There has always been a rigorous separation between religion and the state there. There are no concordats, and they're not even conceivable. But this is exactly why the Churches are seen as having the freedom to speak and act in the public sphere.

In Europe, the landscape is very different. Here "secularism" is understood and applied in conflict, either latent or explicit, with the Churches.

This may be another reason for the silence that greeted the Manhattan Declaration in Europe, in Italy, in Rome. It is held to be a typically American phenomenon, foreign to the European way of thinking.

A similar difference in approach concerns the denial of Eucharistic communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians. In the United States, this controversy is extremely heated, while on the other side of the Atlantic it isn't.

This difference in sensibilities also divides the hierarchy of the Catholic Church: in Europe and in Rome the question is practically ignored, left to the individual conscience.

But it most be noted out that something is changing on this point, even on the Old Continent. And not only because there is a Pope like Benedict XVI, who has stated that he prefers the American model of relations between Church and state.

A sign of this came a few days ago from Spain, where the Catholic Church is grappling with an ideologically hostile government, that of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which is preparing a law that would liberalize abortion even more than it is now.

According to reports from sources including L'Osservatore Romano, the secretary general of the Spanish bishops' conference, Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, did not hesitate to advise Catholic politicians that, if they vote in favor of the law, they will not be admitted to Eucharistic communion, because they will have placed themselves in an objective situation of "public sin."

Not only that. Bishop Martínez Camino added that those who maintain that it is morally legitimate to kill an unborn child put themselves in contradiction with the Catholic Church, and thus risk falling into heresy and into "latae sententiae,' or automatic, excommunication.

It is the first time that words so "American" have been heard from the leadership of a bishops' conference in Europe.

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