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NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH & THE VATICAN

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8/27/2007 8:00 PM
 
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Because of a page change in the middle of the news day, here are the 3 items posted earlier today in the preceding page:


NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH
Polish newspaper claims Polish bishops will ask for removal of Fr. Rydzyk from direction of
Radio Maryja - Translated from PETRUS.

How the media 'misinterpret' Mother Teresa's crisis of faith - A CNA story on the headline-seeking
spin placed by secular media on a natural and frequent occurrence even among - and perhaps, especially
with - saints.

84-year-old Milwaukee Jesuit joins Protestant group sending medical aid to Cuba - He protests
US embargo and says he intends to lead an ecumenical service at Che Guevara's tomb in Havana.

=====================================================================


Portrait could be second miracle
needed to create Australia's first saint

By Liam Houlihan
Sunday Herald Sun
Melbourne, Australia
August 26, 2007



A RELIGIOUS picture weeping oil in a Dromana home could point the way to the beatification of Australia's first saint.

Julie Zammit, 75, claims drops of oil have been emerging from a wall near a picture of Mary MacKillop for more than a year.



She initially thought the liquid leaking from near her home altar was the result of recent rains.

Now she believes it could be the second miracle needed to make Mary MacKillop Australia's first saint.

"I realised it wasn't coming from the ceiling but from around the picture," Ms Zammit, a devout Catholic, said.

"When I touched it I thought, that's not water it's oil. And I freaked," she said.

Ms Zammit said the oil had been inexplicably leaking out of the wall around the picture since May last year.

"I can't explain it. There was another fresh cluster of spots this morning," she said.

"And for many weeks I have felt something around me."

Ms Zammit said she had long prayed to MacKillop.

"Sixteen years ago I walked away from an unhappy marriage of 42 years," she said.

"Since I've been by myself I've been blessed in my life. I'm poor in money, but rich in blessings."

Ms Zammit said flowers on her home altar also stayed fresh while those elsewhere in the house drooped and died.

She does not plan to open her house to public tours of "the miracle of Dromana".

She also does not intend to alert the Vatican to her weeping wall for investigation as an official miracle.

MacKillop was beatified in 1995, but to be made a saint a second miracle must be proved.

There is speculation Pope Benedict XVI could announce MacKillop as Australia's first saint when he visits Sydney for the World Youth Day festival in July.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/27/2007 8:05 PM]
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8/27/2007 10:26 PM
 
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MEDIA DUST-UP ABOUT THE CHURCH AND TAX ISSUES IN ITALY

This is a summary of various news items from La Stampa, PETRUS and korazym. org.

A news item in today's La Stampa by Galeazzo Galeazzi ran a supposed interview with a Curia official under the headline 'The Church is ready to re-negotiate the Concordat and its fiscal provisions'.

According to korazym.org, in a story by Mattia Bianchi this afternoon, a denial statement has been issued in behalf of the Curia official, Mons. Karel Kasteel, a Dutch bishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, by the Council.

The statement points out that Kasteel was simply answering some questions asked of him by the reporter on the telephone, that the questions had to with the charitable activities of the Church, and that the printed answers were totally taken out of context.

More important, it was pointed out that Cor Unum certainly does not have the competence or jurisdiction to speak about the issue at all.

The Concordat is the 1984 agreement between the Vatican and the state of Italy which updated the Lateran Pacts of 1929. These agreements had settled most outstanding juridical issues between the two states following dissolution of the former Papal states with the reunification of Italy in the 1860s.

Earlier, PETRUS reported that the vice-director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, when asked about the Stampa story, said Mons. Kasteel may have been expressing his own personal opinion, which was not the Church's position.

Here is how La Stampa reported the supposed interview with Kareel:

"We are certainly not closed to the idea - the Holy See is ready to sit down with the government to update the Concordat and adjust the question over taxes."

This was declared in an interview given to La Stampa by Mon. Karel Kasteel, secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and observer of the Holy See [to where?], responding to recent polemics on the issue.

"A generation has passed since the Concordat was singed," the prelate said. "The text of 1984 applied to its time and therefore, some modifications to the question of taxes may be possible for example where it concerns Catholic schools or the juridical status of church institutions. The 1929 Lateran Pacts themselves were replaced because they had become anachronistic. And now, the State and the Church, being both sovereign entities in their own fields, can negotiate other changes.

"Taxes and similar fiscal issues can be discussed. For instance, the case of religious 'hotels'. These are places that offer lodging to those who cannot afford a hotel. The Church has been doing this for 2000 years for pilgrims and families who visit Rome. Any financial profit earned by religious institutions [which are supposed to be non-profit] goes to missions in Africa. So I think we should do as Craxi (Prime Minister then) and Casaroli (then Vatican Secretary of State) did in 1984 - sit down together instead of unilateal protocols."



The Cor Unum statement said that Mons. Kasteel "did not intend to give an interview but simply limited himself to answering specific questions asked on the telephone, which were not about the fiscal question, but rather the charitable aid given by the Church, including that given through Cor Unum, to whoever requires assistance."

"Isolated from that context," the Cor Unum statement continues, "the statements attributed to him do not express his opinion [about the fiscal issue in general] on a matter which is, moreover, beyond the competence of the dicastery in which he works.

[The question of the Church and taxes was ignited in the Italian media when Prime Minister Prodi suggested that priests should preach from the pulpit against tax evasion, claiming that at least 30% of Italians are tax evaders.

Any mention of Church and taxes touches off a Pavlov reflex in leftist politicians who object to the 0.0008% share of Italian tax revenues that the 1984 Concordat grants to the Church in Italy. What they ignore is that it was a formula agreed upon to compensate the Church for all the properties confiscated from it by the Italian government after the unification of the 1860s and the dissolution of the former Papal states.

Other politicians then questioned the tax-exempt status of non-profit Church organizations, an exemption accorded not only to the Catholic Church but, as in most Western nations, to all religious organizations.

Cor Unum is affected by the debate because it administers much of the Church's funds for charitable assistance - funds which are tax-exempt under the law
.]

8/28/2007 1:35 AM
 
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CARDINAL BERTONE JOINS PERUVIANS IN PRAYER NEAR QUAKE'S EPICENTER
By Barbara J. Fraser
August 28, 2007
Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

PISCO, Peru (CNS) – A subdued crowd of several hundred residents and rescue workers gathered in the main plaza of Pisco to pray with a top Vatican official who had come to remember victims of the mid-August earthquake.


Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, presents a rosary from Pope Benedict XVI in honor of earthquake victims during an Aug. 24 prayer service in Ica, Peru. (CNS)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, conveyed "greetings, solidarity and blessings" from Pope Benedict XVI to worshippers in Pisco, as well as a crowd of more than 5,000 people at an earlier prayer service Aug. 24 in Ica, about 42 miles south of Pisco.

The mood was more subdued in Pisco, the city closest to the epicenter of the quake, than it was in Ica. More than 300 of the more than 500 quake victims died in Pisco – at least 100 of them when the roof of St. Clement Church collapsed during a memorial Mass for a parishioner who had died a month earlier.

The cardinal urged residents not to give up hope and to remember that God is present even in the midst of tragedy.

After the service, Cardinal Bertone waded through the thick adobe dust on the site of the church and led prayers for those who had died and for their families. He then viewed the remains of collapsed buildings near the plaza and visited a shelter housing about 700 people left homeless by the quake, where he was greeted by a crowd of children.

Peruvian officials say the magnitude 8 quake that hit southern Peru Aug. 15 left tens of thousands homeless and seriously injured at least 1,200 people.

At the service in Ica, Cardinal Bertone conveyed a greeting from the pope "especially to the children" and gave Bishop Guido Brena Lopez of Ica a $200,000 check for relief efforts. In both cities, he presented rosaries sent by the pontiff.

The service in Ica was held outside the shrine that normally houses the image of the Lord of Luren, the site of a popular religious devotion. The church was heavily damaged in the earthquake when part of the bell tower fell through the roof.

The image – a dark-skinned crucified Christ, with Mary kneeling by his side and Mary Magdalene embracing the foot of the cross – was unscathed in the disaster and was carried in procession to the site of the prayer service Aug. 24.

During the service, the cardinal said the fact that the image was undamaged was a reminder that "the Lord has not abandoned us. He is here among you. The Lord wants to remain with you and accompany you."

While waiting more than an hour for the service to begin, the crowd of worshippers prayed and sang hymns, clapping as the cardinal arrived with a delegation that included Archbishop Passigato Rino, the papal nuncio to Peru; Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne of Lima; Archbishop Hector Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference; and Bishop Miguel Irizar Campos of Callao, president of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Peru.

In Pisco, several hundred residents, rescue workers, firefighters, civil defense workers, doctors and nurses gathered in the plaza, surrounded by emergency shelter tents and portable toilets. The makeshift altar at the foot of a statue of South American liberator Jose de San Martin held a crucifix rescued from a damaged church and was flanked by a colonial-style statue of Christ that was also undamaged by the quake.

The two towers of St. Clement Church – all that remain now that the rubble has been cleared – loomed in the background. At the end of the service, Cardinal Cipriani pledged the Archdiocese of Lima's support to rebuild the church as quickly as possible.

Cardinal Bertone was in Peru to preside over a five-day national eucharistic congress that began Aug. 25 in Chimbote. Upon arriving in Lima Aug. 23, he said, "Everyone is in solidarity with the Peruvian people," and he called for "a new hope, a new force of moral reconstruction and material reconstruction" in Peru.

On Aug. 24, he met with Cardinal Cipriani and President Alan Garcia before traveling to Ica and Pisco.

Meanwhile, in Rome, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, celebrated a memorial Mass for the earthquake victims Aug. 23 at the Basilica of San Camillo de Lellis. Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, concelebrated the Mass, which was attended by Latin American diplomats and members of the fraternity of the Lord of the Miracles, the most popular religious devotion in Peru, as well as by members of religious congregations and Peruvian Catholics living in Rome.


SOURCE: www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?...


Another picture from korazym.org:



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/28/2007 2:42 AM]
8/28/2007 3:44 AM
 
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Vatican flights offer heavenly prices for pilgrims

Richard Owen in Rome
Times Online
August 28, 2007

For once, the phrase “on a wing and a prayer” could be taken literally. Yesterday 140 pilgrims lifted off from Fiumicino airport, Rome, on the Vatican’s first low-cost charter flight service to Lourdes, in a Boeing 737 with the papal logo and a crew trained “in voyages of a sacred nature”.

Vatican City does not have its own aircraft, let alone an airport. Instead, it has struck a deal with Mistral Air, an Italian cargo carrier that is owned by the Italian post office.

For the inaugural flight the exterior was painted white and yellow – the papal colours – and the interior, including the headrests, was decorated with the inscription “I search for your face, Lord”. “As we take off we will say a prayer for pilgrims dating back to mediaeval times,” Father Caesar Atuire, of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican organisation for pilgrims, told The Times as the passengers boarded. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar of Rome, and head of ORP, said that whereas in the past pilgrims went on foot and train, now people were “short of time” yet needed “spiritual solace” more than ever. The Lourdes trip will be followed next year by other routes such as Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Czestochowa in Poland, as well as the Holy Land and eventually Guadalupe in Mexico.

Mistral Air said it expected to transport about 150,000 pilgrims annually when charter services start in earnest next year. It has a fleet of three Boeing 737-300s and two BAE 146 aircraft and the stewardesses wear outfits designed by Gattinoni, the Italian fashion house. Francesco Pizzo, the head of Mistral Air, said it had signed a five-year agreement with the Vatican.

Father Atuire said that seat prices had yet to be fixed but would be “at least 10 per cent lower” than those currently charged by ORP for its package tours using scheduled airlines. “This is not a money-making operation” he said. “The aim is to make pilgrimages more affordable.”

Ryanair, which runs a service from Rome Ciampino to Santiago de Compostela, said that it already offered trips at “a heavenly price”. But Father Atuire said that the Vatican flights were “a religious experience from the moment the pilgrim leaves home to the moment he or she returns”.

Cardinal Ruini said there were no plans for Pope Benedict XVI to use the low-cost airline, “though I shall give him a full account of this first trip”. When the Pope travels by air he uses an aircraft leased from Alitalia, the Italian national carrier.


This picture, courtesy of PETRUS.




[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/28/2007 6:44 AM]
8/28/2007 10:27 PM
 
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BUT DOES WYD-SYD 2008 HAVE A PLAN B????
Papal mass now 'out of the question'
By Jill Rowbotham and Tony Arrold
The Australian
August 28, 2007



EQUINE influenza could be the final blow to World Youth Day organisers' hopes of staging the religious festival's vigil and papal mass at Sydney's Randwick racecourse next July.

Holding the centrepiece events there was now out of the question because the cost of disruption and damage would multiply the financial effects of the equine influenza crisis, trainer John O'Shea said.

"If we go through both World Youth Day and equine influenza that would be the death knell for training at Randwick," said Mr O'Shea, vice-president of the Randwick Trainers' Association.

"We are going to take a massive financial hit now," he said of the effect equine flu would have on this season's racing.

Relations between trainers and World Youth Day organisers are at a low ebb after the trainers, led by Mr O'Shea and association president Anthony Cummings, said last week they would no longer negotiate with Catholic church and state Government organisers.

Both sides confirmed there were no meetings planned this week because of the equine flu crisis, but Mr O'Shea said trainers would meet the Australian Jockey Club, which leases the course from the NSW Government, and representatives from regulator Racing NSW today to explain their position.

A World Youth Day spokesman said organisers hoped to meet Racing NSW and possibly the AJC later in the week and had yesterday provided details each had requested about the plans for preparing the racecourse for July.

"We hope the crisis is over as soon as possible," the spokesman said of the equine flu outbreak.

"We do not believe it will significantly delay negotiations with the racing industry about World Youth Day."

Organisers had hoped about 300,000 visitors to the six-day festival would be able to sleep at Randwick on the night of Saturday 19th July, with more arriving the next morning for the papal mass and some spilling over into nearby Centennial Park to watch the event on screens. In all, up to 500,000 will see Pope Benedict XVI conduct the mass.

Mr O'Shea said trainers walked away when they discovered that while they had been in discussions about a plan to vacate the course for 10 weeks, transferring hundreds of horses to other sites, World Youth Day organisers had, without telling them, come up with an alternative which would require only three days off the course.

When they examined the "three-day plan", they decided it was not viable.

Part of the speculation about the future of the event has been whether the NSW Government would legislate to hold it there despite the objections of the AJC.

The chief executive of the regulatory body, Racing NSW, Peter V'Landys, has already expressed grave reservations about the occupational health and safety risks involved in modifying the grounds and tracks at the course to accommodate the events.

He said the three-day plan was "totally unworkable".

Mr O'Shea said the so-called three-day plan would involve at least 24 days of disruption.


====================================================================

The WYD-SYD organizers should have seen this coming and should have been working on Plan B. Maybe they are. They have some 10 months-plus to work it out.


8/28/2007 10:36 PM
 
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I really do hope they have a plan B. My friend mentioned to me that there is alot of open space in Sydney, Australia. Perhaps they can have it in a field like they did in Germany in 2005.

"In all, up to 500,000 will see Pope Benedict XVI conduct the mass."

Hmm...I don't think so. More like close to a million or more.

[Edited by loriRMFC 8/28/2007 10:43 PM]
8/28/2007 10:37 PM
 
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For the Pilgrim on a Budget, the Vatican Has Air Charters
A report from The New York Times on the new air charters provided by the Vatican.


Nuns arrived in France on Monday on the first flight of the Vatican’s charter airline. The airline will take pilgrims to holy sites around the world.

By NICOLA CLARK
Published: August 28, 2007

PARIS, Aug. 27 — It already has its own postal service, its own bank and even its own Internet domain. On Monday, the Vatican inaugurated its latest venture: a low-cost charter airline to ferry thousands of Catholic pilgrims from Italy to popular religious sites around the world.


The service’s slogan, “I’m Searching for Your Face, Lord,” is imprinted on headrest covers throughout the 150-seat cabin.

The carrier’s first flight — a one-day visit to the shrine at Lourdes, France — departed Monday morning using a Boeing 737 owned by the Italian cargo airline Mistral Air. At less than half a square kilometer, or 109 acres, the Holy See is too small to support its own runway, so the plane took off from Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome.

“The way to make pilgrimages can change over time, but their deepest meaning remains the same: to look for a deeper contact with God,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome, told reporters before boarding the flight, The Associated Press reported. Cardinal Ruini, a former head of the Italian Bishops Conference, was also expected to serve as the official guide for the tour group, which included Italian notables and church leaders.

The Vatican pilgrimage office, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, has signed a five-year agreement with Mistral Air to fly passengers from seven Italian airports, including ones in Rome, Verona and Brindisi. Planned destinations include the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, and the Holy Land. The airline expects eventually to transport 150,000 pilgrims a year.

It was not immediately clear how much the flight and tour packages would cost. But the Rev. Cesare Atuire of the pilgrimage office told La Repubblica this month that fares would “bear in mind that the customers will be pilgrims and do not have a great deal of money to spend.”

The Vatican may still find it tough to compete with established low-cost rivals, however. Ryanair, based in Dublin, for example, already offers cheap flights to Santiago de Compostela from Rome.

“Ryanair already performs miracles that even the pope’s boss can’t rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Aboard Monday’s flight, the airline’s official slogan, “I’m Searching for Your Face, Lord,” was imprinted on headrest covers throughout the 150-seat cabin. The carrier said that its flights would be staffed with a cabin crew “specialized in voyages of a sacred nature” and that instead of standard movies, the in-flight entertainment system would play religious videos.

“We want to create the conditions to enable pilgrims to live their pilgrimage starting at their city’s airport and even before they arrive at their destinations,” Father Atuire said.

Founded in 1981 by the Italian action film star Bud Spencer, Mistral Air runs parcel transport services for the Italian post office and other logistics companies like TNT of the Netherlands. The airline is controlled by the Italian post office, but the Vatican pilgrimage office also owns a minority stake.

Press officers for the Vatican could not be reached for comment on whether Pope Benedict XVI planned to use the airline. The pontiff traditionally charters a plane for himself and his entourage for his foreign visits.


SOURCE: www.nytimes.com/2007/08/28/business/worldbusiness/28vatican.html?_r=1&ref=business&ore...

====================================================================


For the record, here's the eutes report yesterday - notable for the picture of Cardinal Ruini on his way to baord the plane:


Vatican airline takes to the skies
By Cristiano Corvino


ROME, Aug. 27 (Reuters) - While some passengers only turn to prayer when jolted by turbulence, the Vatican made it standard on Monday by launching the world's first airline for Catholic pilgrims.


Complete with Vatican logos on headrests and air hostesses' uniforms, the inaugural flight traveled from Rome's Fiumicino airport for the shrine of Lourdes in France.

The charter flight's slogan spoke volumes about what its clients are doing above the clouds: "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord."

"It is a spiritual journey," explained Francesco Gherra, one of the pilgrims who boarded Monday's inaugural flight hosted by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of Italy's bishops.


Cardinal Ruini, rarely seen without a cassock,
prepared to board the inaugural flight
.


The Vatican aims to serve 150,000 pilgrims a year on its chartered Boeing 737, run by Italy's Mistral Air.

Destinations range from the shrine of Fatima in Portugal to Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses is said to have received the 10 Commandments from God.

In-flight entertainment on the way to the world's holy sites will, somewhat predictably, be religious in nature, the Vatican said.

"The crew has been informed that there are (religious) messages that will be transmitted, that films will be shown during the flight," said Father Cesar Atuire at the Vatican office coordinating pilgrimages.

Keeping costs for pilgrims low is another Vatican priority, Atuire said.

The Vatican's venture into the airline industry did not go unnoticed by competitors, including Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost carrier.

The Vatican hopes to fly pilgrims from Rome to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a route already serviced by the low-budget carrier.

"Ryanair already performs miracles that even the Pope's boss can't rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros," Ryanair said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Paul Hoskins in Dublin)

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/28/2007 11:04 PM]
8/29/2007 1:52 AM
 
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THE CHURCH AND TAXES IN TALY: NOW THE EU WANTS TO GET INTO THE ACT
AND WHAT BUSINESS IS IT OF THEIRS?

The anti-Church bureaucracy of the European Union has found a possible new way to 'get at' the Church -
a truly depressing constant fact of life these days. Here is the translation of a report taken by Lella from
Repubblica online tonight:



EU may investigate tax exemptions
enjoyed by the Church in Italy



BRUSSELS - The European Union will ask the Italian government for 'additional information' about 'certain fiscal advantages of the Italian churches' although it has not yet decided whether to open an investigation.

This was stated by Jonathan Todd, spokesman for the EU Commission on Fair Competition, who said that an investigation in the context of the European anti-trust law would look into 'illegal aid' provided by the state.

"We have not yet decided whether to open an inquiry," Todd said, saying the Italian government already responded to the Commission's initial request for information, but Brussels needs 'a surplus of information, which we are asking to be provided in written or verbal form."

He said the Commission wants to examine a provision in a 2006 financial law passed by the Berlusconi government which granted tax exemption to the Church's real estate properties being used for commercial purposes. The same exemption is given to all other religious and non-profit organizations in Italy.

Brussels also wants to investigate a 50% reduction in taxes on the Church's commercial enterprises.

Todd explained Brussels requested the information after 'some Italians', whom he did not identify, called the Commission's attention to the provisions of the 2006 law.

Coincidentally, Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishop's conference (CEI), published today a statement by Mons. Giuseppe Betori, CEI secretary-general, in which he points out that "The tax exemption applies only to those activities that are religious and/or social in nature, and are exactly identical to that given to other non-commercial entities. Those who question the State's concessions to non-commercial entities are expressing a mistrust of so many social organizations of diverse inspiration who are particularly active in fighting poverty and need."

[NB: One rationale for tax exemptions given to religious and charitable organizations is that they are carrying out necessary activities that provide services which the government cannot.]


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/29/2007 2:31 PM]
8/29/2007 1:22 PM
 
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AND WHAT WAS THE OCCASION FOR THIS NEW STATEMENT?
Yahoo has posted this Reuters filephoto with a story caption, in which the Russian Patriarch has apparently
sounded off again about his insistence that Catholic proselytism among Orthodox is an obstacle to meeting with
the Pope. No separate news story as yet.





Reuters - Wed Aug 29. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexiy II leads a service at Tatiana Day
in Moscow January 25, 2007. Alexiy II told an Italian paper that a first meeting with Pope Benedict would only make
sense if the Vatican gave up any missionary ambition to spread Catholicism in his country. (A.Natruskin/Reuters)


P.S. Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale has a brief interview with Alexei in Moscow, where indeed the Patriarch
restates his usual concerns about supposed Catholic proselytism, but also praises the 'restoration' of the traditional
Mass by the Pope.

Will translate later.





[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/30/2007 1:22 AM]
8/29/2007 2:27 PM
 
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Italian priest says he's in love,
wants to be a 'chaste fiancé'

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
New York
Aug 29, 2007



John Allen updates us about this Italian soap opera with a new twist!


No Roman summer would be complete without a Catholic soap opera, and this year it has been provided by Fr. Sante Sguotti, a priest of the Monterosso diocese near Padua. Sguotti has acknowledged falling in love with a 40-year-old local woman, separated from her husband, and helping her name her one-year-old child. He has made conflicting statements, however, about whether he is the child’s father.

Sguotti told a crowded press conference inside his parish church yesterday that he intends to become a “chaste fiancé” of the woman on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent. He said he won’t get married, and plans to stay within the limits on priests imposed by the Code of Canon Law, albeit at the edge of those limits.

The local bishop has reportedly asked Sguotti to resign the priesthood and barred him from celebrating Mass.

Sguotti also said that he hopes to meet with rebel Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, no stranger to Roman theater himself. Milingo broke with the church in 2001 to marry a Korean acupuncturist and member of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Milingo later reconciled with the church, only to break away again and found a movement called “Married Priests Now!” campaigning for the abolition of mandatory clerical celibacy.

Sguotti told reporters yesterday that falling in love with a woman is actually a boon to his priesthood.

“A person can’t be a good priest or nun or anything else in life unless he has experienced love at least once,” he said.

“Life in the seminary, where all contact with women is forbidden and you are banned from going to bars, swimming pools and movies, is wrong because it warps your personality,” Sguotti said. He also argued that the Church's celibacy requirement meant that “only the most closed and narrow-minded priests, the least humane ones, get ahead.”

Sguotti called upon all priests who are in similar relationships to step “out of the shadows” and to acknowledge their situation publicly.

The Bishop of Padua, Antonio Mattiazzo, told reporters he was profoundly saddened by Sguotti’s comments, and that he shared the suffering of the faithful as well as Sguotti’s parents.

“Mercy is a great Christian virtue, but it doesn’t remove the need to shine light on the truth,” he said.

Last weekend, Sguotti informed his 800-member congregation of his situation from the pulpit. According to local media reports, most lined up in support of Sguotti. Some began to sport T-shirts with the slogan, “Don Sante is my Father” – under the circumstances, some wags observed, an potentially ambiguous expression.

===================================================================

Allen has a couple of other items today of local interest, so I'll leave it for someone else to post it, as I have to leave now.



8/29/2007 10:39 PM
 
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Mother Teresa's order battles on a decade after her death


Aug 28 10:47 PM US/Eastern
AFP

In the decade since Mother Teresa's death in 1997, the Missionaries of Charity order she led has overcome her loss and other challenges to expand its global presence, her successor says.
"It has been a journey of faith," Sister Nirmala told AFP at Mother House, worldwide headquarters in Kolkata of the order where the Nobel peace laureate lived and worked for decades.

"It has been challenging," she reiterated, attired in the order's signature white cotton sari with blue borders, but "we feel Mother's presence in all we do."

Mother Teresa, an Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun who dedicated herself to working among the sick and destitute of this sprawling city in eastern India, died on September 5, 1997 days after celebrating her 87th birthday.

Since then her order, which runs homes for abandoned children, the old and destitute, as well as those suffering leprosy and AIDS, has opened branches in 14 new countries.

From 733 in 130 countries in 1997, it now has 757 in 145 nations while the number of nuns has also risen and now stands at 4,800.

In addition, 257 novitiates from different nations are waiting to join the order while 435 are in the early stages of preparation, said Sister Nirmala, a diminutive, bespectacled 73-year-old.

She attributed the success to Mother Teresa, noting that the new countries included the likes of Israel, Algeria, Bosnia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.


The Kabul centre, which opened last year, is operated by four sisters who work with poor and handicapped children. To fears over the risk to aid workers and missionaries in Afghanistan she retorts: "Our work is the work of love so people always appreciate it."

Meanwhile in Kolkata, a steady stream of Indian and foreign visitors bears witness to the enduring appeal of Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje in 1910 and who arrived in India as a novitiate back in 1929.

"We have scores of visitors every day, it's hard to keep up with numbers," one nun said after bidding goodbye to a young Italian couple.

Dignitaries coming to Kolkata make it a point to see the order -- the most recent last week was Akie Abe, wife of Japan's premier Shinzo Abe.

"It's incredible the kind of work Mother Teresa did for the poor," said Tom Lederer, a young American volunteer at a home for the old and dying here.

Rose-Anne Riley, another US volunteer, said the life of the nun -- awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work -- epitomised "the true Christian spirit of selfless love at the service of humanity."

As well as paying respects at her simple grave in the ground-floor prayer hall of Mother House, visitors spend time at a new one-room museum displaying her belongings.

They include a low wooden stool, plain writing table, a wheelchair she used in the last days of her life, her sari neatly darned in places along with a pin used to secure it, and her leather sandals.

Exhibits also include her pen and pencils, crockery, photocopies of prayers in her writing and pictures of her meeting the late Pope John Paul II.

"There are no words to express my feelings," said a tearful Indian visitor to the museum.

"A life of love and unflinching service for the people rejected by society of another country, far away from where she was born, it's unbelievable."

Although set on the road to sainthood by the Vatican in 2003, Mother Teresa is yet to be declared a saint as "there has been no miracle yet that qualifies for canonisation," said Sister Nirmala.

She said she was not disappointed. "It will come in its own time. This is God's work... when he wants it done, it will happen."




8/30/2007 3:39 AM
 
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Jailed Chinese 'underground' priest released

August 29, 2007
UCANews (www.ucanews.com)

HONG KONG (UCAN) – Father Paul Jiang Surang (alias Sunian), diocesan chancellor of the "underground" Catholic community in Wenzhou, eastern China, was released on Aug. 24 after being detained for 11 months.

The 38-year-old priest had been kept in a small solitary cell in the Putaopeng Detention Center in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, 1,380 kilometers (about 855 miles) southeast of Beijing.

He and the diocese's vicar general, Father Peter Shao Zhumin, 46, were arrested together in Shenzhen, southern China, on Sept. 25, 2006, shortly after they returned from a pilgrimage to Europe. Their belongings were confiscated, including notes and photographs taken when Pope Benedict XVI received them in the Vatican.

In March, both priests were charged with "illegal exit." Father Jiang was sentenced to 11 months' imprisonment. Father Shao was sentenced to nine months, but was released on parole in May due to severe hearing and gallstone problems. Recently, he underwent an operation on his right ear, sources said.

According to some local church sources close to Father Jiang, both priests were placed in the same detention center they were held in following their September arrest, instead of in prison, because their sentences were for less than a year.

The sources told UCA News Aug. 28 that the detention center was strict about inmates meeting with relatives or receiving things from them. They also noted that the present head of the detention center was previously the official who had led a crackdown on the Wenzhou underground church in 1999. The underground community refuses to recognize state-approved administrative structures for the Church.

During his imprisonment, Father Jiang was allowed to receive medical treatment in a hospital when his nasosinusitis, an inflammation of the nasal sinuses, worsened, the sources said.

They added that based on a brief medical checkup upon his release, Father Jiang was diagnosed to have heart disease, high blood pressure and vascular sclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. He is scheduled for a more thorough physical examination in early September.

While in jail, the two priests were not allowed to see each other.

The sources said Father Jiang told them that although everyone else in the detention center could hear him shouting to Father Shao in an attempt to communicate with him, the vicar general, who was in an adjacent solitary cell, "could hear nothing" because of his hearing impairment.

Local Catholics told UCA News the two priests described their European trip as "a special plan of God," because they had never imagined they could leave the country and meet the pope, even though their trip ended in jail.

Father Jiang said the prison experience was "a gift and an ordeal" from God and "meeting with the pope was a precious experience that we will keep forever in our hearts," according to the Catholics.

While the laypeople of Wenzhou are happy about the priests' release, the sources said Father Jiang had promised the government officials not to organize any celebration over his release or the priests' meeting with the pope.


SOURCE: www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?...
8/30/2007 3:57 AM
 
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Scholars decry poor Bible study at Catholic seminaries

August 29, 2007
Catholic Information Service for Africa (www.cisanewsafrica.org/)

NAIROBI, Kenya (CISA) – Though future Catholic priests spend many years in seminaries, it has emerged that they are not adequately taught how to teach others something very basic to the Christian faith: the Bible.

Because of this, Catholics in eastern Africa have not yet fully appreciated the importance of the word of God in Christian life, according to Bible scholars from 10 African countries attending a workshop here last week.

There is "lack of adequate biblical apostolate formation in our major seminaries and other formation houses," they concluded.

The participants said there was need to ensure that "seminarians are equipped with tools and methods to communicate the Word of God, and that the rightful position of the Bible is reclaimed in priestly formation."

They also identified the need for "ongoing biblical formation, with specific programs for pastoral agents: bishops, priests, religious men and women and catechists. Such formation should extend to specific groups like the youth, children and the laity in general."

Two Kenyan bishops, Peter Kihara of Marsabit who is in charge of seminaries, and Emmanuel Okombo of Kericho, in charge of the Biblical Apostolate, attended the workshop.

It was organized by the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar (BICAM) and the Pastoral Department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA), ahead of the Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church to be held in Rome, Oct. 5-26, 2008, and the second African Synod, in Rome, Oct. 4-25, 2009.

In a communiqué issued at the close of the event on Aug. 24, the 32 participants pledged to set up a team to develop a course on biblical apostolate for seminarians in eastern Africa to "help the seminarians to link the Bible with their life; that is, to help the seminarians know, love, live and proclaim the written word of God."

On the other hand, ongoing formation in the Word of God should be conducted by biblical coordinators in collaboration with Bible scholars in each country and throughout the AMECEA region, they agreed..

To achieve better pastoral use of the Bible in and outside the seminaries, there is need for relevant materials, for instance, publications and radio broadcasts in the African context and perspective, the participants said.

Biblical apostolate teams should also be established at the diocesan, national and regional levels.

It was suggested that dioceses and parishes in the AMECEA region set aside a day to collect special funds to promote the biblical apostolate in their areas.

The workshop also proposed that there be an annual month of the Bible in order to bring out the importance of the word of God in the Christian life in the AMECEA region. Participants suggested September, when the feast of St. Jerome, patron of the Bible, is celebrated.

They requested that AMECEA bishops endorse these proposals.


SOURCE:http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=25201
8/30/2007 5:56 AM
 
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Negotiations for Papal Mass at Australian racehorse track take a turn for the worse


Sydney, Aug 29, 2007 / 11:05 am (CNA).- The dispute continues over whether the World Youth Day closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI will be held at Randwick racecourse. The international Catholic youth event is expected to draw 500,000 youth and the racecourse is the only venue capable of accommodating such large numbers.

However, angry horse trainers say they’re staying put and the closing events for WYD should be held elsewhere.


The trainers argue that the event would cause great business losses in terms of lost training time and alternative accommodations for their horses.

A few months ago, they proposed that the Catholic Church provide them with compensation for the 10 weeks leading up to the event that WYD organizers said they would need to prepeare the racecourse for the Pope’s visit.

But trainers were angered when, instead of offering compensation, the local Church announced that the racecourse would be out of action for only three days. Training would be allowed to proceed while the preparations are underway. Trainers say this scenario puts their horses and business at risk, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

A meeting of racing industry representatives passed a resolution yesterday accusing the Church of acting in bad faith and restated their request that the papal Mass be held elsewhere.

Furthermore, said the president of the Randwick Trainers Association, Anthony Cummings, the outbreak of an exotic equine influenza strain had only hardened trainers' resolve to resist any eviction.


According to the Herald, trainers have given WYD organizers a Friday deadline to provide a plan for alternative accommodation for up to 700 horses and guarantees for next year's event.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said it was a matter for the local government to resolve as owner of the racetrack. Minister for Transport John Watkins told the Herald the government could not comment while negotiations are in process.


I'd suggest the trainers read what happened to Egypt when Pharoah didn't let Moses have his way. The exotic equine influenza outbreak is just the start.

8/30/2007 6:31 AM
 
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WHAT PRIVILEGES? ALL RELIGIONS GET TAX EXEMPTIONS!

Here are two items from the Italian papers on the continuing - and totally unnecessary - polemics raised by the left against the Church and its supposed tax privileges. I chose the two articles that best show what's what.

'Such presumptuous interference' -
Mons. Bagnasco denounces
EU inquiries on Church taxes in Italy

By ORAZIO LA ROCCA and COSTANTINO MALATTO


"Such presumptuous interference!" Mons. Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops conference CEI was blunt, decisive, and unhesitating, about a new request to the Italian government by the European Commission on Fair Competition for more information on supposed 'tax advantages' for Church organizations in Italy.

Bagnasco was asked about it after a procession last night of the Madonna della Guardia of Genoa, presided over by Bagnasco as Archbishop of Genoa.

Bagnasco lamented, "They always insist on presenting tax exemptions as privileges of the Church. They are not. The Church, thanks to these concessions, is better able to do the good works it has done and continues to do not just for Catholics but for all of society. That is why I find these outside interventions presumptuous, and I don't understand their reasons."

Then why are the European commissars seeking 'clarification' about church tax exemptions to decide whether they should start a formal investigation?

"I think it is all due to disinformation," said Mons. Domenico Mogavero, Bishop of Mazara del Vallo and president of the CEI's council for juridical affairs.

"We have no idea what information the Italian government has already provided to the EU, but if there is the same confusion about this issue on the European level as there is in Italy, then I fear we (the Church) must have been presented in a very bad light.

"The fact is the Church does not enjoy any special privileges that other religions don't, so we are not concerned about that, let the commissars do their work. But if they really want to, they can understand everything easily because everything is clear, everything is out there, namely, that all church organizations - of any faith - all have the same tax concessions recognized by most democratic governments and all non-governmental organizations. I would not consider this request for more information as a form of anti-clerical persecution, but if it goes on, then we may be justified in suspecting so!

Repubblica, 29 agosto 2007


=====================================================================


'The law privileges no one, but
there are those who stoke
ideological positions'

By FRANCA GIANSOLDATI


VATICAN CITY - A cabinet minister of the Prodi government has said there is need to set up a bilteral panel between italy and the Holy See to examine the issues of tax provisions in favor of the Church.

We spoke to Prof. Giuseppe della Torre, who was a member of the joint commission on the revision to the Concordat in 1984.


Professor Dalla Torre, what do you think of the proposal?

A bilateral panel is irrelevant! This question does not just involve the Catholic Church but all other religious organizations in the country. If there's to be any negotiation, everyone has to be at the table.


So the Church has no privileges in this respect?

Let me just remind everyone that organizations of any and all religious faiths in this country enjoy tax exemptions as long as they have social and charitable functions and are non-profit. This exemptions apply to a huge spectrum of organizations including all ONLUS [Italian acronym for Organizzazione Non-Lucrativa di Utilita Sociale - non-profit organization for social utility]. So it is quite clear that the Catholic Church does not enjoy any privileges in this respect. Privilege means favorable treatment for some entity when all other things are equal. In the case of these tax exemptions, we have a variety of different situations that are all treated in the same way.


So even the Muslims benefit from tax exemptions?

All organizations of all religious confessions have it. But for the Muslims, perhaps the benefit is at present merely theoretical, unless there are existing Muslim entities with juridical personality and activities that entitle them to these exemptions.


The State therefore treats all these organizations in the same way....

Exactly, that's why to speak about 'privilege' for the Catholic Church is misleading. If these property tax exemptions weren't given, then we would be giving exactly the same treatment to commercial properties intended to make business as for those that are used for the purpose of giving social, cultural or religious assistance.


So these polemics are completely out of place?

I think the atmosphere these days is getting charged with too many elements that we thought had been dead and buried at the end of the 19th century!


So this is purely an anti-clerical thing...

Basically, I think it is also a great ignorance about fiscal matters.
There are aspects which, if not properly understood, give rise to misplaced readings, to downright errors of understanding.

Then, there are those who, out of sheer ideological and political motives, feed these errors by singling out the Catholic Church as if it was the only beneficiary of tax exemptions.


But isn't the Church required to pay taxes on properties that are used for commercial purposes?

Yes. Here's the difference. Buildings housing the soup kitchens of Caritas, for example, cannot be taxed, or a building used for an orphanage or a home for old people. But a building which is rented out, that's different.


Now the European Union is thinking of opening an inquiry to clear this up...

I know. They want to know if such tax exemptions could constitute unfair competition. But it doesn't make sense. What competition is a Caritas soup kitchen to a five-star restaurant, for example?


Il Messaggero, 29 agosto 2007

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/30/2007 6:44 AM]
8/31/2007 2:24 PM
 
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The Christians Are Coming Back to Arabia –
Fourteen Centuries after Mohammed


They could soon become the majority of the population in the United Arab Emirates.
And in Saudi Arabia, too, their numbers are increasing.
Who they are, where they come from, and how they live.
A report from Dubai and Abu Dhabi

by Sandro Magister



ROMA, August 31, 2007 – Three months ago to the day, on May 31, the Holy See established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors with the United Arab Emirates.

Few noted the fact that the United Arab Emirates has the greatest Christian presence of any Islamic country.

And it is a new and growing presence. Exactly the opposite of what is happening in other regions in the Middle East like Iraq, Lebanon, the Holy Land, where Christian communities of very ancient origin actually face extinction.

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain – situated along the middle of the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The capital is Abu Dhabi. Almost all of the citizens belong to the official religion, Islam.

But there are many more immigrants than citizens. Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the more than 4 million inhabitants, coming from other Arab countries, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines.

More than half of these foreign workers are Christians. Adding up the figures, Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates. Around a million of them are Catholic. And it's not only in the UAE – in Saudi Arabia, too, it is estimated that there are already about a million Catholics from the Philippines.

But how do these Christians live in Arab lands? What does this young, growing Church look like? What scope for freedom does it have?

The report that follows responds to these questions. It was published on August 19 in the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, Avvenire.


Engulfed: The Church
in the Arab Emirates

by Fabio Proverbio


It's early afternoon, and I'm in a car with Santos and Lea, moving through frenetic Dubai. Around me are big SUV's that are barely moving in the congested urban traffic, luxurious and ultramodern buildings, huge construction sites swarming with armies of workers: all confirmation that we are in one of the most cutting edge, bustling cities on the planet.

We're heading toward a place of refuge provided by the Filipino embassy for the housing and protection of young immigrant women fleeing from their employers.

Once at our destination, which is inside an elegant building, I meet a hundred or so young women absorbed in compensating for the state of natural disorder generated by the overcrowding. All standing side by side, they sing hymns and prayers, exchanging embraces of mutual consolation. I note the tears that none of the girls is able to hold back, and I search fruitlessly for some reason for so much sadness. I will understand at the end of the prayers, when Santos and Lea recount for me the dramatic experiences of these young immigrant women.

Their stories are almost unbelievable, like that of Beng, who, tired of being closed up in the house where she worked and suffering abuse from the family, made a desperate escape attempt, which ended with a ruinous fall and a broken arm. Brought to the hospital by some passersby, the girl was later arrested on the accusation of having attempted suicide.

The intervention of Filipino diplomats finally set free the immigrant who today, in this protected place, is waiting for developments in her case. The housemaid who worked for the same family after her did not meet with better luck: she, too, tried to escape, with the same result.

Santos and Lea are members of the Legion of Mary, the Catholic movement that has become a point of reference here for many Filipino immigrant women who find in this community not only solidarity, but also the necessary legal assistance to be able to break free from working conditions that often do not correspond to those defined in their hiring contracts.

After saying goodbye to the young immigrant women, who in the meantime at least seem to have recovered some serenity and some of the cheerful spirit that characterizes the Filipino people, I leave for Abu Dhabi.

It is Sunday, but in a Muslim country like the United Arab Emirates this is just another day. And yet, late in the afternoon at the Catholic church of Saint Joseph in Abu Dhabi, I witness an extraordinary coming and going of faithful belonging to different ethnic groups, who come here to participate in the Mass celebrated in their own native language. There are Indians - mostly from Kerala or Tamil Nadu - Filipinos, Lebanese, Iraqis, or Christians from other Middle Eastern countries, and also Europeans and Americans.

On Friday, the weekly holiday in Muslim countries, the faithful stream through in even greater numbers, so much so that the church cannot hold them all. Many must follow the celebration from outside, in the front churchyard, where gigantic screens are set up on special feasts like Christmas or Easter so that everyone can participate.

Nonetheless, Paul Hinder, bishop of the apostolic vicariate of Arabia, takes care to clarify that those who come to the parish regularly are only a small proportion, 15-18 percent, of the Catholic population in the capital and the surrounding area.

The Christians present in the United Arab Emirates represent about 35 percent of the population, for a total of more than a million faithful, a majority of them Catholic.

They are all immigrant workers, and many of them, because they live on the outskirts and don't have easy transportation access to the city, cannot regularly attend the official places of worship. This is the situation of the thousands of Indians who work on the construction sites in Dubai and are housed in the largest village-dormitory in Asia.

According to unofficial estimates, this houses a population of about thirty thousand workers. Or there are the immigrants who work in the oil industry, who are cut off in isolated desert villages.

Another case is that of the Filipina housemaids who, because they don't have enough free time or enough money for transportation, remain bound to the places where they work. In consequence, small prayer groups - which are organized according to language and place of origin and meet in private settings like apartments, dormitories, and storage sheds - have become a very important and widespread form of religious expression for the Catholic communities. These are necessary moments of encounter, but they are also risky because of the rules imposed by the local authorities, who grant freedom of worship only in officially recognized places like the territory's parishes.

In this context, the Charismatic groups from India or the Philippines take on an important role in spearheading initiatives in support of immigrants living in the most difficult conditions. These are often not limited to religious initiatives, but also include services of practical assistance, as in the case of the Legion of Mary mentioned above.

The phenomenon of immigration to the United Arab Emirates is a relatively recent one, and is linked to the region's oil fortunes. When in the 1950's and '60's oil revenues began to bring prosperity and progress, the country's development made it necessary to bring in both specialized and non-specialized manual laborers from abroad.

Today, the Emirates are undergoing a process of modernization that has no equal in the world. Petrodollars are being reinvested in highly advanced structures and infrastructure, the Dubai stock market is taking on global significance, and its port is one of the world's busiest.

Artificial islands in the shape of palm trees, ski slopes in the desert, bizarrely shaped hotels, and a whole series of eccentric building projects - like the still incomplete tower Burj Dubai, which is set to become the tallest building in the world - are just a few examples of the "wonders" through which the local emirates intend to amaze the world and attract foreign investors, who find favorable investment conditions and extremely low labor costs here.

Immigrants represent 90 percent of the almost two million workers present in the Emirates, and 100 percent in the case of low cost manual labor. In fact, for the Arab locals the concept of poverty is either unknown - for the youngest - or is a timeworn memory from long ago. The lack of incentives for striving toward professional and economic success - which are guaranteed from birth - is creating complacency among the country's future leaders, with the risk of leaving them incapable of meeting the challenges of globalization.

The term "immigrant" is itself too generic to define the reality of those who are working today to transform the face of the Gulf. The true status of these workers, even of those who have been living in the Emirates for a number of years, is that of "expatriates," persons whose presence in the country is strictly connected to the possession of a valid work contract, but who can never become residents or buy houses or property.

Their destiny is bound to the decisions of their employers, who often hold their passports hostage out of fear that they will flee or become insubordinate. These manual laborers are employed in the oil industry, and more recently in the sectors of construction and domestic service.

They are the new poor of Dubai and its surroundings. Few of them make more than 200 dollars a month, and they work an average of 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, in temperatures that can reach 50C (122F). They live in suburb-dormitories that are as large as cities, but completely devoid of services.

Like huge barracks, these villages are entirely populated by men whose families are a distant memory, to be contacted periodically with a moneygram that permits the most fortunate to send their children to school or pay some debt arising from extreme poverty. The best that this army of grunts can hope for is to spend their working lives on construction sites in the Gulf, with brief visits to their loved ones every two or three years.

Speaking of poverty in a country undergoing very rapid economic expansion - and one whose leaders intend to make it one of the most important spots for contemporary art, with the opening of museums and exhibit spaces - seems like a paradox. And this is a reality particularly difficult to understand and accept for an outside observer, precisely because it exists side by side with such exaggerated opulence.

But these elements must also be considered in seeking to understand the reality of the Emirates today: a land of striking contrasts, where tradition meets modernity in a unique, surprising, and dramatically contradictory fusion of East and West.

8/31/2007 9:36 PM
 
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Final word is in for World Youth Day papal Mass location

Sydney, Aug 31, 2007 / 10:31 am (CNA).- The head of the provincial government of New South Wales, Premier Morris Iemma, has ruled out moving next year's World Youth Day rally from Randwick Racecourse, despite concerns about the impact on a racing industry already reeling from the equine influenza outbreak, reported The Age.

Racing NSW had called on the government to find an alternative venue for next year’s international youth event.

"What we want to do is to sit down with the AJC (Australian Jockey Club) and negotiate the event," Iemma told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"That's the most appropriate venue for a whole range of reasons, for crowd control, for ease of transport to accommodate the numbers."

Mr. Iemma said there was no alternative venue available in Sydney and the government would work through a solution that caused minimal disruption to horse trainers and the AJC.

9/1/2007 2:45 PM
 
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IS THIS THE PICTURE OF CATHOLICISM TODAY?

John Allen writes two articles for the cover story of this week's National Catholic Reporter - on evangelical Catholicism (what he thinks orthodox Catholicism is these days) and on liberal Catholicism, which he says, persists in the 'pastoral Church'?





The Triumph of Evangelical Catholicism
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
National Catholic Reporter



History always cuts deeper than headlines, a point that clearly applies to recent Vatican moves to dust off the old Latin Mass and to declare Catholicism the one true church. Beneath the upheaval triggered by those decisions lies a profound shift in the church’s geological plates, and perhaps the best way of describing the resulting earthquake is as the triumph of evangelical Catholicism.

Beginning with the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, Catholicism has become a steadily more evangelical church -- uncompromising and unabashedly itself. Evangelical Catholicism today dominates the church’s leadership class, and it feeds on the energy of a strong grass-roots minority.

Proposing a Catholic counterpart to evangelical Protestantism may seem the ultimate in apples-and-oranges comparison, especially since some evangelicals would view being lumped in with the pope as tantamount to fighting words.

Yet in a secularized, pluralistic world in which Christianity is no longer the air people breathe, Protestants and Catholics face the same crucial question: Should the relationship between church and culture be a two-way street, as most liberals say, with the church adjusting teachings and structures in light of the signs of the times? Or is the problem not so much a crisis of structures but a crisis of nerve, as most evangelicals believe, with the antidote being bold proclamation of timeless truths?

Liberal Catholicism enjoyed a heyday from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, and it’s not about to die off, overeager prophecies in some circles notwithstanding (see following story).

During the last quarter-century, however, the evangelicals have won most of the fights in terms of official Catholic policy. Whether that’s a rollback on reform or the emergence of a “new, sane modernity,” as Pope Benedict XVI claims, is a matter for debate, but there’s no mistaking which way the winds are blowing.

Released over three days in early July, the Vatican’s twin blows for traditional Catholic identity have produced both consternation and delight.

The first document, a motu proprio, meaning an exercise of the pope’s legal authority, allows priests to celebrate the Latin Mass from before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) without permission of the local bishop, either privately or in public whenever a “stable group” of Catholics asks for it.

The second, a brief declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addresses a phrase from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that the church of Christ “subsists in” Catholicism.

Many people thought it meant the true church cannot be identified with institutional Catholicism, and it was understood as a gesture of ecumenical openness. Now, however, the Vatican has ruled that “subsists in” means the true church “endures” in Catholicism alone, without denying that “elements” of the church can be found in other Christian bodies.

Viewing such robust assertions of tradition as an evangelical impulse has been around a while, even if few commentators have yet connected the dots in terms of the broad direction of the church.

Among those who have spotted the direction are David O’Brien of the College of the Holy Cross, Deacon Keith Fournier in his 1990 book Evangelical Catholics, and William Portier of the University of Dayton. It is also implied in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a project of former Nixon aide and prominent evangelical Charles Colson and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic convert from Lutheranism.

The evangelical impulse isn’t exactly “conservative,” because there’s little cultural Catholicism these days left to conserve. Instead, it’s a way of pitching classical Catholic faith and practice in the context of pluralism, making it modern and traditional all at once.

David Bebbington, a leading specialist on Protestant evangelicalism, defines that movement in terms of four commitments: the Bible alone as the touchstone of faith, Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for sin, personal acceptance of Jesus as opposed to salvation through externals such as sacraments, and strong missionary energies premised on the idea that salvation comes only from Christ. Clearly, some of these commitments mark areas of disagreement with Catholics rather than convergence.

Yet if these points are restated in terms of their broad underlying concerns, the evangelical agenda Bebbington describes pivots on three major issues: authority, the centrality of key doctrines, and Christian exclusivity. If so, there’s little doubt that Catholicism under John Paul II and Benedict XVI has become ever more boldly evangelical.

Defending church authority was a core concern of the John Paul II years, reflected in struggles to define the limits of theological exploration, to curb the authority of national bishops’ conferences and to assert Rome’s oversight of liturgical practice.

That effort shows no sign of letting up under Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger helped define the evangelical thrust of John Paul’s papacy. For example, among the new pope’s early moves was to drop the title “Patriarch of the West” as a way of insisting that papal authority is not just a phenomenon of the Western church but, at least in principle, is universal.

Two other illustrations, drawn from a potentially long list, make the point.

When Brazilian Franciscan Fr. Leonardo Boff was censured in 1985, it was seen as a blow against liberation theology, the controversial movement that took hold in Latin America beginning in the late 1960s and sought to place the church on the side of the poor. Sometimes forgotten is that it wasn’t Boff’s entire oeuvre that got him into trouble, but one 1981 book: Church: Charism and Power. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Ratzinger, objected that the book put too much stress on a “church from below,” undercutting the “church from above,” meaning the hierarchy.

Concern for authority was also behind one of John Paul II’s most controversial documents, Ad Tuendam Fidem, issued in July 1998. It created penalties for dissent from “definitive teachings,” meaning teachings not part of divine revelation but seen as linked to revealed doctrines by logical necessity, and which have been taught consistently by the church over the centuries.

At the time, Ratzinger offered several examples: the ban on women priests, the ban on euthanasia, and the immorality of prostitution and fornication.

To be clear, evangelical Catholicism isn’t fundamentalism. Benedict, after all, recently jettisoned limbo - understood as the eternal resting place of unbaptized babies - as a theological hypothesis that had outlived its usefulness. Yet just as Protestant evangelicals stay closely tethered to the Bible, evangelical Catholics strongly affirm the magisterium, meaning the church’s teaching authority.

The day before his election as pope, Ratzinger asserted that the core challenge for the church today is a “dictatorship of relativism” in Western culture. Like their Protestant counterparts, Catholic evangelicals see the frontlines of this battle in terms of defending traditional teachings about the person and the saving significance of Jesus Christ.

A Magna Carta of this conviction came with a September 2000 document from the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation titled Dominus Iesus. It insisted that apart from any parallels to other prophets or religious sages, Jesus is the unique and lone savior of the world. Non-Christians are, objectively speaking, in a “gravely deficient situation.”

Recent Vatican censures all have involved writers on Christology. Three were Jesuits prominent in theological circles: Frs. Jacques Dupuis, a Belgian who spent almost three decades in India; Roger Haight, an American; and Jon Sobrino, a Basque who lives and writes in El Salvador.

In each case, the Vatican wanted to limit claims that Christ and the Holy Spirit are active in non-Christian religions [???? Is any non-Christianb religion claiming this? Or is it just the 'religious pluralism' dissident Catholics who claim it for non-Christian religions?], or that the proof of doctrines about Christ is their capacity to build a better world rather than coherence with traditional formula.

Concern for traditional Christology was also the motive for Benedict XVI’s first book as pope, Jesus of Nazareth, released in April 2007.

Catholics have long held to the adage lex ordandi, lex credendi, or “the rule of worship is the rule of faith,” so it’s no surprise that concern for doctrine has also translated into concern for traditional ways of worship.

The “liturgy wars” that erupted in the mid-1990s, leading to translations of texts closer to the Latin originals, are an expression of the impulse; so, too, is recent approval for wider use of the pre-Vatican II Mass.

In a pluralistic age, faith has to be preached because most people no longer imbibe it from neighborhoods, schools or even families. John Paul II said he wanted to be the successor of Paul, the evangelist par excellence, as well as Peter, and his 104 foreign trips were proof of the point. Benedict’s willingness to put his views in a mass market book is, in a sense, an equally evangelical act.

While evangelical Catholics believe in dialogue, they insist it can’t come at the expense of strong Catholic identity. The bottom line is unambiguous assertion that the visible, institutional Catholic church alone possesses the fullness of the church willed by Christ.

That’s why Protestant bodies are called “ecclesial communities” rather than churches, and why the Orthodox churches can be “sisters” of local Catholic churches, but not of the universal Catholic church as such.

The Vatican’s declaration on the church in early July is a classic expression of this conviction, and like other elements of the evangelical Catholic outlook, it didn’t just drop from the sky. Nor does it reflect merely the personal musings of the current pope. Rather, it’s the product of a long incubation of evangelical thinking.

In 2005, German Jesuit Fr. Karl Becker, an influential consulter to the doctrinal congregation, published a front-page article in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. It argued that the phrase “subsists in” was intended “to reiterate that the church of Christ, with the fullness of the means instituted by Christ, perdures [continues, remains] forever in the Catholic church,” anticipating almost word-for-word the Vatican’s conclusion two years later.

Becker is an intellectual architect of the evangelical Catholic school, and his article drew on a dissertation written under him at Rome’s Gregorian University by a young German scholar named Alexandra von Teuffenbach, one of the first to draw on the diaries of Jesuit Fr. Sebastian Tromp, a theological expert at Vatican II. Tromp helped pioneer the term “subsists in.”

None of this means the Vatican is claiming that only Catholics can be saved. The congregation stated that other Christian bodies can be “instruments of salvation,” and there’s nothing in the document to roll back Vatican II’s teaching that non-Christians can also be saved “in ways known only to God.”

Yet evangelical Catholics reject suggestions that all religions are equally valid; ultimately, they insist, salvation comes from Christ, and the church is the primary mediator of this salvation. This belief remains the basic motivation for missionary work.

Thirty years of bishops’ appointments by John Paul II and Benedict XVI have ensured that a broadly evangelical outlook is shared by much of the church’s leadership.

In a 2005 interview with NCR, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said that his generation accented Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II document that called for Catholicism to embrace the “joys and hopes” of the modern world.

Today, Fiorenza said, more bishops are drawn to Dei Verbum, the document on revelation, with emphasis on maintaining Catholic identity. [As usual, there is an over-simplification here. Catholicism, as the Pope has recently reminded us, is not about 'either-or' but 'and-and'. Joy in one's faith is not mutually exclusive with - rather, dependent and based on - a solid Catholic identity!]

In the United States, evangelical Catholics may be a minority, but an undeniably dynamic one. Sociologists Rodney Stark and Roger Finke published research in the mid-1990s suggesting that dioceses with a strong emphasis on traditional Catholic identity generate more priests.

Comparing 10 dioceses identified by a cross section of experts as either “traditional” or “progressive,” they found that traditional dioceses outperformed progressive ones in terms of ordinations by a factor of about 3 to 1.

Anecdotally, one could cite multiple eruptions of evangelical Catholic energy, from the Communion and Liberation meetings in Rimini, Italy, which annually draw more than 700,000 Catholics committed to challenging secularism, to World Youth Day, an international Catholic youth festival centered on the pope that routinely draws crowds in excess of a million and is one part liturgy and one part rock ’n’ roll.

The expansion of evangelical-tinged Catholic media and an ever-growing host of Catholic blogs reflect this trend, as does the proliferation of Catholic schools and colleges marked by evangelical fervor.

Former Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan is building an entire Florida town, Ave Maria, that might be described as the world’s first planned evangelical Catholic community. In a 2004 Communio piece, Portier argued that a disproportionate share of undergraduate and graduate theology students and parish ministers are drawn from the evangelical camp.

Evangelicals may not drive other views out of the church anytime soon, but the impulse is clearly more than a top-down phenomenon radiating out from Rome.

With this one-two punch of grass-roots ferment and official support, the Vatican’s latest expressions of evangelical Catholicism feel less like the dying ripples of a wave that has already crested and more like harbingers of things to come.



Liberal Catholicism
endures in pastoral church

By John Allen


Evangelical Catholicism may be running the table in terms of official policy, but most experts say that rumors of the death of liberal Catholicism have been greatly exaggerated.

Just as the evangelical impulse is one way of responding to modernity, so too is liberalism, and most sociologists say that complex religious institutions are likely to contain both and many others - only sects, they argue, have the luxury of rigid consistency.

Further, terms such as “evangelical” and “liberal” are ideal types rather than airtight ways of categorizing real people, and many Catholics reflect elements of both in their own thinking.

At least in the United States, many observers believe that a broad liberal instinct is firmly entrenched at the grass roots.

“I think the genie has been let out of the bottle, and there is no putting it back in,” said Richard Gaillardetz, a prominent lay theologian at the University of Toledo, Ohio, even though he conceded that “liberal Catholicism … no longer enjoys the ecclesiastical support to which many had become accustomed in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.”

Gaillardetz argued that in the United States, liberal Catholicism is less an ideology than a “pastoral phenomenon … alive in parishes that have a flourishing catechumenate, vibrant liturgies, thoughtful and relevant preaching, and multiple lay ministerial opportunities,” as well as “in a growing number of intentional Christian communities that are determined to keep alive a vision of the church that they associate with Vatican II.”

Looking around, observers such as Gaillardetz say that the moderate-to-liberal camp probably represents a disproportionate share of the church’s ministerial workforce, meaning priests, deacons, religious, and laity, as well as the theological guild.

Nor are these attitudes confined to a class of church professionals.

In fact, the evangelical camp seems a distinct minority within the overall Catholic population. In 2005, sociologist Dean Hoge published a survey about how American Catholics define what it means to be Catholic. At the top of their list was belief in the resurrection of Jesus, the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and helping the poor.

Other traditional markers of identity were sidelined - only 29 percent said a celibate male clergy was important, and just 42 percent said that about the teaching authority of the Vatican. Seventy-six percent said one could be a good Catholic without going to Mass on Sunday, and 75 percent said the same about following church teaching on birth control.

This is not just an aging cohort that will soon vanish, some stereotypes to the contrary. On several points, younger Catholics are more likely to hold what is popularly seen as a “liberal” position. Only 43 percent of Catholics 26 or younger, for example, agree that the Catholic church has “more truth” than other religions, as compared to 61 percent of Catholics 65 and older.

Pointing to Hoge’s survey, noted sociologist Fr. Andrew Greeley expressed skepticism about the long-term prospects of evangelical Catholicism.

It is not within the pope’s power to establish a Catholic identity,” Greeley said. “He may think it is, but he deceives himself.” [Well, Fr. Greeley, you and your fellow liberals go ahead and define yourselves. The Pope is the Pope, and it is part of his obligation to define and keep ever-clear what the Catholic identity is. The truly faithful will go with him.]

Some Catholics identified with progressive causes believe that, given the way the winds are blowing, the future lies in engaging social and political questions outside the church. Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell, for example, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby Network, said the call of the hour is “mission.”

“This mission is discovered by touching the anguish of the world, listening to the crying needs around us, and being willing to respond in new ways,” she told NCR.

In a lecture delivered a decade ago, Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese laid out seven survival strategies for reform-minded Catholics in an era in which church leaders are increasingly closed to their agenda:

- Schism
- Prophetic criticism and demands for reform
- Public conformity but private independence
- Silence
- Christian witness in the world
- Doing what you can within existing structures
- Laying the intellectual foundations for change

While one can debate the merits of each choice, perhaps the relevant sociological observation, Reese said recently, is that Catholic liberals today can be found doing all of the above.

Catholic liberalism may be in for some time in the wilderness as the evangelical movement rolls through the church and its package of concerns may mutate, but there’s little reason to believe it’s going away.

Finally, some observers of the global Catholic scene say the future may belong neither to evangelicals nor to liberals, but to a third force emerging in Africa, Latin America and Asia, usually called “charismatic Catholicism.”

While sharing some theological ground with evangelicals, these Catholics prioritize spiritual experiences, especially the gifts of the Holy Spirit - miracles, healings and deliverance from evil spirits - that correspond to the grass-roots religious instincts of much of the non-Western world.

Recent data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life suggest that a broadly charismatic approach is becoming the dominant way of being Christian across the global South, with a strong following inside Catholicism. Given that two-thirds of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics today live in Africa, Latin America and Asia, experts such as Gaillardetz believe it’s an important wave to watch.

9/3/2007 3:21 PM
 
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184,800 Registered for World Youth Day

SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Surpassing expectations, 184,800 pilgrims have already registered for World Youth Day.

World Youth Day chief operating officer Danny Casey said he was thrilled with the response from prospective pilgrims in Australia and from around the world for the event that is still 11 months away.

Casey said, "We appear to have exceeded our target for international visitors and are confident that the numbers of Australian pilgrims will grow even further."

"These numbers show the level of anticipation that is building in Australia and around the world for this historic event," that will be "the largest event held in Australia in terms of participants and will deliver a significant boost to the [New South Wales] and Australian economies," he said.

"With the support of the federal and state governments, we are progressing well in our plans for accommodation, catering and event planning," Casey added.

Australian pilgrims top the list of those registered with 50,710, while U.S. pilgrims are second with 36,171.

More than 500,000 people are expected to take part in at least one World Youth Day event.
9/4/2007 3:36 AM
 
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Ecumenical City Hosts Religious Meeting;
Pope Praying for Success of Assembly




SIBIU, Romania, SEPT. 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The 3rd Ecumenical Assembly, which opens tomorrow, will take place in an ecumenical city, according to the bishops of England and Wales.

The bishops explained in a note Friday that the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Conference of European Churches jointly organized the assembly, being held this year in a predominantly Orthodox city, but with large Catholic and Lutheran minorities.

The assembly is the concluding phase of a series of events, which began with activities in Rome in January 2006.

Benedict XVI's prayer intention during September is that the ecumenical assembly will bring Christians closer to the unity that Christ prayed for at the Last Supper.

The assembly's theme is "The Light of Christ Shines Upon All. Hope for Renewal and Unity in Europe."

According to the bishops of England and Wales, "The immediate reason for choosing Sibiu is that, along with Luxembourg, it is one of Europe's capitals of culture this year. But this is also the third European assembly of Christians from all denominations and confessions.

"The first took place in Basel in May 1989, and the second was in Graz in June 1997. So the first assembly was in a largely Protestant city, the second in a very Catholic one, and the third will be in a country where the majority of Christians are Orthodox - but Sibiu is unusual, in the sense that there has been a mixture of Romanians, Hungarians and Germans, which means there are fairly large and well-established Catholic and Lutheran minorities."

The assembly, gathering 2,100 official delegates from Churches and ecclesial communities and 400 guests, will last through Saturday, the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary.

Each day will include common prayer, a plenary assembly, and then work group meetings on a forum topic that participants will choose.

The light of Christ and its relation to the Church, Europe and the world make up the three themes for Wednesday through Friday. Afternoon forum topics include unity, religions and migration, creation, justice and peace.


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