Benedetto XVI Forum Luogo d'incontro di tutti quelli che amano il Santo Padre.


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    00 10/31/2009 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

    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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/2/2010 11:31 AM]
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    00 11/1/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/1/2009 7:13 PM]
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    00 11/1/2009 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."

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/2/2009 12:05 AM]
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    00 11/2/2009 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.

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    00 11/2/2009 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."

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/2/2009 3:38 PM]
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    00 11/2/2009 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."

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/3/2009 1:21 PM]
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    00 11/3/2009 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”.
    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/3/2009 1:32 PM]
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    00 11/3/2009 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.
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    00 11/3/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/3/2009 3:52 PM]
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    00 11/4/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/10/2010 12:19 AM]
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    00 11/4/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/6/2009 8:56 PM]
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    00 11/5/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/10/2010 12:20 AM]
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    00 11/7/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/10/2010 12:22 AM]
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    00 11/7/2009 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.

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    00 11/11/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/10/2010 12:23 AM]
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    00 11/15/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/10/2010 12:25 AM]
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    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

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    00 11/16/2009 11:45 PM

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

    BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 16, 2009 ( 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."

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/17/2009 11:08 PM]
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    00 11/17/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/17/2009 11:17 PM]
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    00 11/18/2009 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.

    [Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/18/2009 7:38 PM]