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00Thursday, November 1, 2007 4:34 PM

ICEL completes draft translations of book of prayers for Mass

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
November 1, 2007

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The International Commission on English in the Liturgy announced it has completed draft translations of the 2002 Roman Missal, the book of prayers used for Mass.

In a Nov. 1 statement, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, England, said the commission had sent English-speaking bishops the draft translation of the final section of the Missal.

"Thus, the draft phase of the commission's work of translating the Missal has been brought to completion, some five years after the publication of the original," the statement said.

Members of the 11 bishops' conferences sponsoring ICEL are asked to review the draft translation, make comments or suggestions, and return those to ICEL by March 2008.

The bishops' suggestions and those of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which established the Vox Clara Committee to help it review English translations, are used by ICEL to prepare a final proposed translation.

The individual bishops' conferences vote on the translation, with or without local adaptations, and submit it to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments for final approval.

While ICEL has completed the first drafts of all the Mass prayers, the Nov. 1 statement said it expected to continue working until the end of 2008 preparing the final proposed translations for the bishops' conferences.

The 11 conferences cover Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States.

The last section of the Missal to be translated into English consisted of material listed in the appendix of the original Latin-language missal.

According to ICEL, the bishops are getting their first look at prayers for blessing and sprinkling holy water; the rite for commissioning a minister to distribute Communion; and 11 sets of sample formulas for the "universal prayer" or prayers of the faithful for specific times of year or specific circumstances.

Also included in the new draft are translations of a variety of prayers priests can use in their personal preparation for celebrating Mass and for giving thanks after having celebrated the liturgy.

The Latin-language missal's original appendix also included eucharistic prayers for Masses with children and eucharistic prayers for reconciliation and for various other needs. Draft translations of those prayers were sent to the bishops for comment earlier, ICEL said.

In his letter to the bishops, Bishop Roche also said, "the music is not yet in final form." The original appendix of the Roman Missal contains musical settings for the main prayers used at every Mass.

00Thursday, November 1, 2007 5:22 PM
Christians Called to Fight Torture

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2007 ( Christians are called to defend human rights, and particularly work for the abolition of the death penalty, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Renato Martino affirmed this during a Friday meeting with the president of the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual, a communiqué from the Vatican dicastery reported.

The cardinal said: "Christians are called to cooperate for the defense of human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against the human person in time of peace and in case of war."

"These practices are grave crimes against the human person, created in the image of God, and a scandal for the human family in the 21st century."

00Friday, November 2, 2007 4:45 AM
I know Teresa posted news about this development a while back but Magister seems to have written a new article about it. If this is a repeat of something you already posted, Teresa, please zap it.

Special Report: Are they inventing their own Mass in Holland?

By Sandro Magister

The experimentation with the Words of consecration and the Rubrics render the service hardly recognizable as a Catholic Liturgy at times. In place of a priest are men and women selected by the lay faithful. And all together they pronounce the words of consecration, which are varied as desired. In the view of the Dutch Dominicans, this is what Vatican Council II wanted. No bishop has ever authorized this form of celebration.

ROMA, (Chiesa) – In restoring full citizenship to the ancient rite of the Mass, with the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," Benedict XVI said that he wanted in part to react to the excess of "creativity" that in the new rite "frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear."

In view of what happens in some areas of the Church, this creativity affects not only the liturgy, but also the very foundations of Catholic doctrine.

In Nijmegen, Holland, in the church of the Augustinian friars, each Sunday the Mass is concelebrated by a Protestant and a Catholic, with one presiding over the liturgy of the Word and the sermon, and the other over the liturgy of the Eucharist, in alternation. The Catholic is almost always a layperson, and is often a woman. For the Eucharistic prayer, the texts of the missal are passed over in favor of texts composed by the former Jesuit Huub Oosterhuis. The bread and wine are shared by all.

No bishop has ever authorized this form of celebration. But Fr. Lambert van Gelder, one of the Augustinians who promote it, is sure that he is in the right: "In the Church there are different forms of participation, we are full-fledged members of the ecclesial community. I don't consider myself a schismatic at all."

Also in Holland, the Dominicans have gone even farther, with the consent of the provincials of the order. Two weeks before the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" went into effect, they distributed in all the 1,300 Catholic parishes a 9,500-word booklet entitled "Kerk en Ambt", "The Church and the Ministry," in which they propose to make into a general rule what is already practiced spontaneously in various places.

The proposal of the Dominican fathers is that, in the absence of a priest, a person chosen from the community should preside over the celebration of the Mass: "Whether they be men or women, homo or heterosexual, married or unmarried is irrelevant." The person selected and the community are exhorted to pronounce together the words of the institution of the Eucharist: "Pronouncing these words is not thought to be the sole prerogative of the priest. The words constitute a conscious declaration of faith by the whole community."

The booklet opens with the explicit approval of the superiors of the Dutch province of the Order of Preachers, and its first pages are dedicated to a description of what happens on Sundays in the churches of Holland.

Because of a shortage of priests, the Mass is not celebrated in all the churches. From 2002 to 2004, the overall number of Sunday Masses in Holland fell from 2,200 to 1,900. At the same time, there was a rise from 550 to 630 in the number of "services of Word and communion," meaning substitute liturgies, without a priest and therefore without sacramental celebration, in which communion is distributed using hosts that were consecrated earlier.

In some churches, the faithful clearly understand the distinction between the Mass and the substitute rite. But in others they don't, and the two ceremonies are thought to be equal in value, entirely interchangeable. Even more, the fact that it is a group of the faithful that selects the man or woman who leads the celebration of the substitute liturgy reinforces among the faithful the idea that their selection "from below" is more important than the sending of a priest from outside of the community, and "from above."

The same is true of the formulation of the prayers and the arrangement of the rite. It's preferred to give creativity free rein. The words of consecration are often replaced during the Mass by "expressions easier to understand and more in tune with modern faith experience." In the substitute rite, it often happens that non-consecrated hosts are added among the consecrated hosts, and all of them are distributed together for communion.

Within these practices, the Dutch Dominicans distinguish three widespread expectations:

– that men and women be selected "from below" to preside over the Eucharistic celebration;

– that, ideally, "this choice would be followed by a confirmation or blessing or ordination by Church authority";

– that the words of consecration "could be pronounced both by those who preside in the Eucharist and by the community from which they take their origin."

In the view of the Dutch Dominicans, these three expectations are well grounded in Vatican Council II.

The decisive action by the Council, in their judgment, was that of placing the chapter on the "people of God" before the one on the "hierarchical organisation built up from top downwards by the pope and the bishops" within the constitution on the Church.

This implies the replacement of a "pyramidal" Church with an "organic" Church, with the initiative belonging to the laity.

And this also implies a different vision of the Eucharist.

The idea that the Mass is a "sacrifice" – the Dutch Dominicans maintain – is also connected to a "vertical," hierarchical model in which only the priest may validly pronounce the words of consecration. A male and celibate priest, as prescribed by "an antiquated view of sexuality."

But the model of the Church as the "people of God" produces a more liberal and egalitarian vision of the Eucharist, as a simple "sharing of bread and wine by brothers and sisters, in which Jesus is in our midst," as "a table which is open also for people from different religious traditions."

The booklet from the Dutch Dominicans ends by exhorting the parishes to choose "from below" the persons who are to preside over the Eucharist. If, for disciplinary reasons, the bishop does not confirm such persons – because they are married, or because they are women – the parishes should continue along their way regardless: "They should know that in any case they are able to celebrate a real and genuine Eucharist whenever they come together in prayer and share the bread and wine."

The authors of the booklet are fathers Harrie Salemans, a pastor in Utrecht; Jan Nieuwenhuis, the former director of the ecumenical center of the Dominicans in Amsterdam; and André Lascaris and Ad Willems, former professor of theology at the university of Nijmegen.

In the bibliography that they cite, another more famous Dutch Dominican theologian stands out – Edward Schillebeeckx, 93, who during the 1980's came under the scrutiny of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith for ideas similar to the ones included in the booklet.

The Dutch bishops' conference is refraining from making an official reply. But it has already let it be known that the Dominicans' proposal appears to be "in conflict with the doctrine of the Catholic Church."

From Rome, the general curia of the Order of Preachers reacted feebly. In a press release on September 18 – which was not posted on the order's website – it described the booklet as a "surprise" and took its distance from the proposed "solution." But it said it shared the "concern" of its Dutch confreres on the shortage of priests: "It may be that they feel as if the Church authorities have not dealt adequately with this question, and as a result they are pushing for a more open dialogue. [...] We believe that this concern must be answered with theological reflection and a prudent pastoral approach between the entire Church and the Dominican order."

From Holland, the Dominicans have announced that the booklet will be reprinted soon, after the first 2,500 copies quickly ran out.


Dear Benefan -
I checked. No it's not a new one by Magister. The article is the same one he wrote on October 3 -

We'll keep it here anyway. We all need to be reminded of the madness that can afflict even well-meaning men of God. What the Dutch Dominicans did is a complete rejection of the nature of the Mass - a sacrifice recalling Christ's supreme sacrifice celebrated by a priest in persona Christi, for which he was consecrated.

The Dutch Dominicans reduce it, in their priestless Mass, only to what they call 'a celebration of faith', which is fine, but then they should not call it a Mass. A layman - who has not received Holy Orders - cannot consecrate the Body and Blood of the Lord.

If we followed the Dutch Dominicans' logic, none of us would need to go to Mass at all - we could all 'consecrate' bread and wine ourselves at home.

What they're doing is a copout and completely counter-productive to the Church's drive for vocations
- they are simply throwing up their hands to say "The Church will never have enough priests so we must resort to things like this!" - instead of doing what they can to inspire more vocations.

Also, as I commented when this issue first came up, why don't these 'progressive' Augustinians and Dominicans in Holland not try instead to send their own priests to the parishes that do not have any priests to celebrate Sunday Mass? Priests belonging to orders generally do not have parishes, Holland is such a small country, it is not overwhelmingly Catholic - surely there are enough Augustinians and Dominicans to drive around on Sundays and say Mass for the priestless parishes, of which there cannot be hundreds, or even dozens!


00Friday, November 2, 2007 1:06 PM
Signs of life in Latin America
All Things Catholic
by John L. Allen, Jr.
Friday, November 2, 2007

NB: From the article, the 'signs of life' in the title refers to liberation theology.

When President Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay arrived at the Vatican on Monday for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, he planned to present the pontiff with a multi-colored poncho as a symbol of Latin America -- home to almost half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, and a region dubbed by Pope John Paul II as "the Continent of Hope."

In the end, however, Benedict had to settle for an IOU: Duarte's bags got lost somewhere between France and Italy, including his gifts for the pope.

That small snafu offers a metaphor for what has been a recent season of discontent for Benedict XVI with regard to Latin America. [The way this phrase is expressed makes it seem as though the discontent were directed towards the Pope, although I think he means the discontent is the Pope's]. Despite the best efforts of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's doctrinal czar, to suppress liberation theology* in the 1980s and 1990s, this synthesis of Catholic social doctrine and progressive political action is showing surprising - and, at least from the pope's point of view, sometimes vexing - signs of life.

[*I am surprised that even John Allen falls into the trap of speaking about liberation theology as if it were a monolithic thing, and as though Cardinal Ratzinger opposed everything about the liberation theology preached by its leading advocates in the late 20th century. What the Church - through Joseph Ratzinger's CDF - objected to was the reduction of Jesus to a social activist and the reduction of faith itself to mere social activism, in the Marxist model to boot. Obviously, the Church was never against the so-called 'preferential option for the poor', which is not an invention of the LT activists but something inherent in the faith itself. Therefore, the references to LT in this entire article are very misleading, and the very premise of the zrticle itself is therefore misleading.]

Consider events from just the last several days:

- Venezuela's bishops announced Wednesday that a special delegation is headed to Rome to meet Benedict XVI, both to explain their opposition to a constitutional referendum set for Dec. 2 that would grant leftist President Hugo Chavez sweeping economic powers and allow him to rule almost indefinitely, and to discuss the activity of some Chavez-friendly priests.

- Inspired by liberation theology, these priests have accused their bishops of reactionary opposition to reform; Fr. Vidal González, for example, a pastor in Zulia state, recently told reporters that the bishops have all but said they'd like Chavez dead. Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Mérida, head of the bishops' communications committee, asserted Wednesday that such priests are "determined to insult the hierarchy" in order to distract attention from the merits of the referendum.

- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a Catholic Socialist and graduate of the storied Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, popped up at a Sant'Egidio-sponsored conference in Naples, Italy, last week to call for a "new Catholicism" in the 21st century, which, he said, would challenge globalized capitalism and offer a rebuke to what Correa described as "anti-immigrant U.S. Christians."

- When Benedict XVI and Duarte met Oct. 29, they faced the prospect that Paraguay's next government could be formed by Fernando Lugo, a Catholic bishop who's tendered his resignation but who is officially still on the books.

Known as Paraguay's "red bishop" for his commitment to liberation theology, Lugo has been ordered by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, not to run for public office in national elections set for April, an order Lugo has defied.

Polls currently show him in the lead, and at least one of his brother bishops is on board: Bishop Mario Melanio Medina Salinas of the San Juan Bautista de las Misiones diocese has said that he would vote for Lugo "100 times" if that were possible.

- While in Italy on Sunday to receive a peace prize from former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales playfully suggested that the Vatican be sent packing to New York while the United Nations relocates to Rome. (Morales has never been a fan of ecclesiastical authority. Last July, he said the Catholic bishops had "historically damaged the country" by functioning as "an instrument of the oligarchs.")

Such church/state tensions in Latin America are often construed as part of the anti-colonial and anti-capitalist mindset of the left, and that's certainly an important ingredient. Given the Catholic history and culture of the continent, however, intra-ecclesiastical skirmishes inevitably also play a role.

In effect, what's happened over the last decade is that some of those Catholics most committed to liberation theology have gravitated out of the church and into secular politics. [Which just goes to show how mistakent hey are about the role of the Church.]

In a number of Latin American countries, the electoral success of leftist populists has given the liberationists a new lease on life.

Lugo, a former Verbite priest and the emeritus bishop of San Fernando in Paraguay, offers the most explicit case in point. Activism runs in his veins; his father was arrested no fewer than 20 times under the regime of former dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and three of his four brothers were expelled from the country for more than 20 years.

In 1996, Lugo hosted a continent-wide gathering of base communities, the small faith groups dedicated to spiritual formation and political action associated with liberation theology. In 2004, Lugo supported peasants in his rural diocese who organized to protest unequal land distribution and the inroads of massive commercial agriculture, an experience that helped propel him toward explicit political activism.

Lugo has been careful, however, to position himself as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue.

"When the pope speaks against liberation theology, he speaks against the exaggerations of this theology only, particularly regarding the Marxist message of interpreting reality," Lugo said earlier this month. "But he also accepts that there is a part of it which is accepted by the official church." [There you are! Lugo gets itt, except that his ego compels him to go out and be the Paladin himself who will singlehandedly rescue Paraguay.]

Correa is likewise a practicing Catholic who, aside from his degree from Louvain, says that his real education came from working as a lay Salesian missionary in the mid-1980s in the largely indigenous province of Cotopaxi.

On the campaign trail, speaking in both Spanish and the indigenous language Quíchua, Correa routinely invokes Catholic social teaching. In a September address in which Correa attempted to lay out a Socialist vision for the 21st century, he invoked the work of Fr. Leonidas Proaño, probably the most famous liberation theologian in Ecuador.

Chavez is himself backed by a sector of progressive (and often anti-American) grassroots sentiment in the Venezuelan church, including his own court theologian, a Jesuit named Fr. Jesús Gazo, a chaplain at the Universidad Católica del Táchira. Gazo has said that Chavez has "a very strong theological formation." Gazo is not alone in his admiration. [How Jesuistic/casuistic!Just because soemone has a 'very strong theological formation' does not mean he is necessarily a good Christian. And if Gazo is Chavezx'z court theologian, of course, he would be admiring!]

Fr. Jesús Silva, an Uruguayan priest, has lived in the Caracas slum of El Valle for 26 years, and claims there is "no doubt" that Chavez is a committed Catholic. The country's "eternally excluded and exploited social classes," Silva said in May, today feel "they have a man in whom they confide."

In Bolivia, Morales' own police chief is an ex-Jesuit and a staunch liberation theologian, Rafael Puente Calvo, considered one of the president's ideological hardliners. Upon his appointment, a Catholic newspaper in Argentina noted sardonically, "When the revolutionaries need an official to carry out their ideological programs with extreme cruelty, usually they can rely on a lapsed priest."

(In one of history's ironies, Puente taught as a Jesuit scholastic in northwestern Spain, where one of his students was Mariano Rajoy, today the leader of Spain's center-right People's Party.)

Similar links between some stalwarts of liberation theology and secular political forces can be found wherever the left has come to power in Latin America, such as the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil.

This secular reincarnation of liberation theology, with its inherent tendency to spawn tensions with the Catholic hierarchy, comes atop a series of serious challenges already facing Catholicism in the region.

They include the steady erosion of Catholics towards Pentecostalism (more people defected from Catholicism to Protestantism in Latin America in the 20th century than in Europe during the Reformation), and the emergence for the first time of a sociologically significant pool of people, concentrated especially in the impoverished barrios of Latin America's teeming mega-cities, who say they have no religious faith at all.

Despite all this, one can nevertheless make a case for optimism about the future of the church in Latin America.

For one thing, the Pentecostal challenge may be eroding Catholicism's traditional monopoly, but it also seems to be doing what competition usually does - producing a new sense of hustle. Experts say it's awakening a church that for centuries sometimes seemed content to baptize, marry and bury its people, offering little else by way of formation or pastoral care.

In the forthcoming volume Conversion of a Continent (Rutgers University Press), Dominican Fr. Edward Cleary, a longtime observer of the region, argues that that Latin America today is actually in the grip of a major religious revival, with the surge in Pentecostalism representing its leading edge.

Catholicism, Cleary says, is also becoming more dynamic, generating higher levels of commitment among those who remain. Cleary believes that this Catholic awakening had its roots in lay movements that go back to the 1930s and 40s, but it's been jump-started by healthy competitive pressure.

In effect, Cleary argues, recent Latin American experience confirms what believers in the United States have long understood -- an open religious marketplace, unfettered by an established church, is healthy for churches all the way around.

As one bit of evidence, Clearly cites vocations to the priesthood. In Honduras, the national seminary had an enrollment of 170 in 2007, an all-time high for a country where the total number of priests is slightly more than 400. Twenty years ago, there were fewer than 40 candidates.

Bolivia saw the most remarkable increase; in 1972, the entire country had 49 seminarians, while in 2001 the number was 714, representing growth of 1,357 percent. Overall, seminarians in Latin America have increased 440 percent in the last two decades, according to Cleary.

This new social capital intersects with a new spirit among the Latin American bishops, who in the main seem determined to avoid the ideological fractures of the past and to strike a more pastoral and evangelical tone.

During the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held last May in Aparecida, Brazil, the bishops effectively endorsed a moderate form of liberation theology, centered on four points:

- The option for the poor
- The concept of structural sin
- The "see-judge-act" pastoral method
- Base communities

The bishops' assessment was clear from the decision to meet with a group of liberation theologians prior to the opening of the conference, and from the fact that several acted as theological advisors.

Asked about the relationship, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras told the press, "There is no opposition or antagonism, by any means. We have been open to them from the beginning, and I can say that we remain in contact with them." Bishop Roque Paloschi of Roraima, Brazil, was blunt: "The theology of liberation lives."

Given that stance, it's conceivable that the mainstream leadership of the church may be able to work out a modus vivendi with Latin America's new leftist governments, focused on pragmatic social policy and economic development that benefits the poor, while unleashing the church's new missionary energies to help build a more dynamic civil society.

Doing so might allow church leaders to more persuasively challenge the anti-democratic and extremist features of regimes such as Venezuela under Chavez, without coming off as apologists for ecclesiastical privilege.

While a Latin American recovery of Aristotle's insight that virtue falls between two extremes might not convert the Hugo Chavezes of the world, it could at least help the Catholic church to avoid being backed into a cycle of endless opposition to the new forces today shaping a sizeable chunk of the continent, positioning the church instead to help those forces realize the best version of themselves.

00Friday, November 2, 2007 5:18 PM
How the Church of Rome Is Responding
to the Letter of the 138 Muslims

For now, only the experts are speaking, while the official response is being studied.
But meanwhile, cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Libyan theologian Aref Ali Nayed are exchanging a series of messages.
Here are the complete texts:

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, November 2, 2007 – They began a year ago, 38 of them, with an open letter to Benedict XVI one month after his lecture in Regensburg. They soon grew to 100.

Last October 11, they were 138, and they wrote a second letter to the pope and to the other heads of the Christian Churches.

Now they are 144, from 44 nations, belonging to the different currents and schools of Muslim thought – Sunni, Shiite, Ismaili, Ja'fari, Ibadi.

The latest signature came on October 26. It was that of Tariq Ramadan, the most controversial Islamic thinker in the West. He resides in Geneva, is president of the European Muslim Network in Brussels, and teaches at Oxford. But he is also the nephew and disciple of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, historically a foundry of fundamentalism.

Among the scholarly Muslims who signed the second letter to the pope, Ramadan is not the only one who provokes alarm. There's the rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Ahmad Muhammad al-Tayeb; there's the sheikh Izz al-Din Ibrahim, founder of the University of the United Arab Emirates; and there are others like them who exalt as "martyrs" the terrorists who blow themselves up in a market, on a bus, in a school.

It is a strident contrast with a letter that aims to make the love of God and neighbor the "common word" between Muslims and Christians.

But the task facing the leaders of the Church of Rome is to look at the effective novelties and the positive elements of the Muslim initiative, and to prepare an adequate response.

After the letter from the 38 in October of 2006, no response came from the Vatican – to the great disappointment of the Muslims who had written it – this next letter from the 138 was immediately followed by authoritative signals of appreciation.

The first came from cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious dialogue.

The second came from cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice and founder of a study center and of a magazine in multiple languages, including Arabic and Urdu, "Oasis," both dedicated to the Christian Churches in Muslim-ruled countries.

Tauran announced over Vatican Radio that the letter "will certainly receive a response."

But the experts have already moved into action, in anticipation of the official response that will be released in a few months, not by Benedict XVI himself, but by the ad hoc [Since when was it ad hoc?] Vatican office headed by Cardinal Tauran.

The PISAI – Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies – has begun planning a conference with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars, and on October 25 it published its own commentary on the letter from the 138, signed by its president, Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, and by four of the institute's professors: Frs. Etienne Renaud, Michel Lagarde, Valentino Cottini, and Felix Phiri.

Two other in-depth commentaries on the letter have been written by two Jesuit scholars of Islam who have pope Joseph Ratzinger's great attention and respect: Samir Khalil Samir, from Egypt, and Christian W. Troll, from Germany.

Both the analysis by Fr. Troll and the commentary by the PISAI scholars emphasize, among the letter's virtues and original features, the fact that it also addresses the Jews amicably, especially where it says that the love of God is the first commandment, not only in the Qur'an and the Christian Gospel, but also "in the Old Testament and the Jewish liturgy."

But what most attracts the attention of the Church authorities are the new developments within the Islamic camp. Never before have Muslims of such different tendencies found themselves in agreement, and moreover on the mine-strewn terrain of relations with Christians.

The initiative began in Amman, with Jordan's King Abdullah and above all with Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, president of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a well-educated Muslim who is married to a Hindu and who, according to Jesuit Fr. Samir, displays "today's Islam at its best."

Also from Jordan is Sohail Nakhooda, director of Islamica Magazine, a periodical read by Muslim professors in English and American universities.

Two other prominent members of the brain trust are the sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, director of the Zaytuna Institute in California, and Libyan theologian Aref Ali Nayed, a professor at Cambridge University, and previously an instructor at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

And then there is Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, the only Italian to sign the letter of the 138, a scholar who together with Nayed acts as a 'representative' of Islam in dealing with Vatican authorities.

The initial objective of the Amman committee was to reinforce doctrinal and practical consensus in the Muslim camp, especially between Shiites and Sunnis. In 2004, a document of agreement on three points was endorsed by more than 500 Islamic leaders, some of them on opposite ends of the spectrum, including the anti-Khomeini grand ayatollah al-Sistani, Sheikh Tantawi of al-Azhar University, the ideological leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaradawi, and even Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

Then, on September 12, 2006, came Benedict XVI's stunning lecture in Regensburg. And the committee attempted the great step of extending a friendly hand to the Pope and to his thesis on faith and reason.

Obviously, there was no endorsement from intolerant Muslims. But with the two letters of the 38 and of the 138, a new and daring road has been opened, one never before taken, with unforeseeable developments around the bend.

This road also has its obstacles, as shown by the following synopsis.

The first roadblocks

On Sunday, October 21, Benedict XVI was having lunch during a visit to Naples. Sitting with the pope was one of the signatories of the letter sent to him from the 138 Muslims, Sheikh Izz al-Din Ibrahim, of the United Arab Emirates. But there was also the head rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger. And only the presence of the pope restored the peace between the two, after the first difficulties flared up.

But that afternoon, after Benedict XVI left to return to Rome, the sheikh and the rabbi resumed their quarreling, this time in public, at the inaugural forum of the interreligious meeting organized by the community of Sant'Egidio.

Rabbi Metzger accused of duplicity those who talk about peace, and at the same time remain silent about Iran's threats to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.

Sheikh Ibrahim rebutted by turning the accusation back against the enemies of "peaceful" Iran, and first among them "the puppet state" of Israel, crammed full of "weapons of mass destruction."

But behind the scenes of the meeting in Naples lurked another controversy, which would come back to bite the Vatican authorities.

It was sparked by a statement from Cardinal Tauran in an October 18 interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.

This was the cardinal's statement: "We can have theological discussions with some religions. But not with Islam, or at least not for now. Muslims do not accept that the Qur'an can be debated, because it was written, they say, at the dictation of God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the content of their faith with them."

Having read this statement, some of the signatories of the letter of the 138 – including Aref Ali Nayed – drafted a statement of their own in which they criticized not only Cardinal Tauran, but also Benedict XVI himself, from whom, they emphasized, "Muslims are still awaiting a proper response."

And they wrote: "Dialogue is not about imposing one’s views on the other side, nor deciding oneself what the other side is and is not capable of, nor even of what the other side believes."

Nevertheless, not all the Muslims consulted were in favor of publicizing such a polemical statement. Some of them objected that it would chill the dialogue it was hoped would follow the letter of the 138. In the end, the statement was given to the community of Sant'Egidio, which entered it among the proceedings of the meeting in Naples, without publicizing it:

A Communiqué by Muslim Scholars...
... on the Occasion of the Encounter "For a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue", Naples, October 21-23, 2007

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. May Blessings and Peace be upon Prophet Muhammad, and upon all the Prophets and Messengers of God.

We greet you with God’s peace. We wish to thank the hosts and organizers from the community of Saint Egidio. They have been working very hard for many years now, and we appreciate and support their peace-loving endeavors.

Muslim scholars are with you today in response to the kind invitation of the community of Saint Egidio, hoping to keep alive the memory and momentum of the Assisi interfaith work of the late Pope John Paul II. His attitudes and gestures towards Islam were always gracious and were always very much appreciated by Muslims. We are here to grow the positive work of John Paul II and of the Saint Egidio Community.

The hearts of many Muslims today are full of appreciation for the enlightened and friendly responses Muslims have already received from many Church leaders of various denominations, and from some of the world’s top seats of theological learning (such as: Cambridge, Georgetown, Yale, and Princeton Universities) as can be seen on the dedicated website: www.acommonword,com

These responses welcomed the recent letter, signed by 138 Muslim scholars representing all the schools of mainstream Islam, and proposing Love of the One God and Love of Neighbor as the basic foundations for Muslim-Christian relations and dialogue.

However, Muslims are still awaiting a proper response from H.H. Pope Benedict XVI for this unprecedented initiative. An initial cautiously positive response from the re-established Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, quickly turned negative a few days later. His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue speaking in an interview on Friday October 19th with the French Catholic daily "La Croix", said: “Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Koran [sic.] in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith."

This attitude, it seems to Muslims, misses the very point of dialogue. Dialogue is by definition between people of different views, not people of the same view. Dialogue is not about imposing one’s views on the other side, nor deciding oneself what the other side is and is not capable of, nor even of what the other side believes. Dialogue starts with an open hand and an open heart. It proposes but does not set an agenda unilaterally. It is about listening to the other side as it speaks freely for itself, as well as about expressing one’s own self. Its purpose is to see where there is common ground in order to meet there and thereby make the world better, more peaceful, more harmonious and more loving. It is thus that the scholars proposed a mutual common ground for this dialogue based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbor. Unfortunately, even the annual ‘Id greeting gesture, kindly established during the time of John Paul II, has been made polemical of late.

We call upon His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to continue the principles of Assisi and the legacy of the much-beloved John Paul II. We call upon him to embrace the initiative that our scholars made with the same good will that has already marked its reception by so many Christians: leaders, theologians, and ordinary believers.

Meanwhile, we will Deo Volente work with all sincere men and women of good will, including Catholics, like our colleagues from the Community of St. Egidio toward a peaceful and harmonious world.

May the Lord embrace the whole world and all our lives with His peace and compassion.

God knows best.

But Nayed came back to this issue in an interview on October 31 with Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service, the agency of the United States' bishops' conference. The interview has been published in its entirety by Islamica Magazine:
> Aref Ali Nayed Interview with CNS

The central portion of the interview includes an extensive, complex explanation of the Islamic interpretation of the Qur'an, placed beside the Catholic interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. I

n Nayed's view, the Islamic interpretation of the Qur'an not only does not clash with modern Catholic exegesis of the Bible, but it preceded and nourished this. And therefore the dialogue between Muslims and Christians should not be limited to the principles of natural ethics, but should be "theologically and spiritually grounded."

As for the possibility for Muslims to "debate the Qur'an," the views among the leaders of the Catholic Church are more nuanced than cardinal Tauran's statement implies.

At the meeting in Naples, Cardinal Walter Kasper, in an address about the Scriptures in the monotheistic religions, said that "interpretation and adaptation to new historical and cultural situations, without discarding the essential content of the Qur'an," is an open rather than a closed question in the Muslim camp.

And this is also the thought of Benedict XVI, both before and after his lecture in Regensburg.


Magister then provides an appendix titled "A reminder on names, events, documents" referring to previous articleon www.chiesa and related links. This is the link to Magister's full post today that includes his appendix.

00Saturday, November 3, 2007 4:59 AM
A mission to speak out of Africa


Times Online
Greg Watts
Nov. 2, 2007

While Roman Catholicism continues to shrink in Europe, in Africa its numbers have tripled over the past 30 years to nearly 150 million. One of the most influential Catholic leaders on the continent is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the Archbishop of Cape Coast. He received the red hat from Pope John Paul II in 2003, making him the first cardinal from Ghana.

In the 1980s Pope John Paul II had acknowledged the increasing importance of the African Church by appointing Cardinal Bernadin Gantin of Benin as head of the Congregation of Bishops, and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria as head of what is now the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Both Gantin and Arinze were once considered papabile. At the next conclave, the figure most likely to be proposed as a possible African pope � the first for 1,500 years, since St Gelasius (492-96) � is Cardinal Turkson.

It is easy to see his appeal. He has an international outlook, having studied in Rome and New York; he is a biblical scholar and is fluent in eight languages. In Ghana he has good relations with the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, and is regarded as a forward thinker. What is more, at 59, age is on his side.

There are about 3 million Catholics in Ghana. All of its 18 bishops are indigenous, as are 95 per cent of its 1,200 priests. However, there is alarm in the Vatican over the exodus of Catholics in developing countries to Pentecostal and evangelical churches. During a visit to London in October, the Cardinal Turkson suggested that the Catholic Church has much to learn from these churches, not least their emphasis on the Bible and personal conversion.

“I think that our traditional way of making people Catholic needs to be reconsidered. The declaration that Jesus is Lord is meant to be an expression of a person's commitment. It's like somebody being offered knowledge of a person and consciously accepting to enter into a relationship with that person and establish personal ties. This is what holds people in these evangelical churches,” he says.

He added that some priests and bishops were products of “notional Christianity” � they had been brought up in a Catholic home, had a Catholic education, and learnt their theology in seminary, but they had never experienced a personal conversion.

“The danger facing the Catholic Church in Africa is that we just feed people with a few notions. Who is God? What is the Trinity? What is a sacrament? These definitions can be learnt by heart and just repeated to anybody who asks questions.

“At the last meeting I attended of the Council for Christian Unity we discussed the threat of Pentecostals in Latin America. I said that we need to celebrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit more: prophecy, healing, intercessionary prayer and all of that. This is one of the things the Pentecostals do.”

When he visits parishes for Confirmation, the Cardinal Turkson makes time to meet the children the night before and conducts an informal catechesis session with them. He adopts a similar approach to seminarians in their diaconate year, inviting them to live with him. “Initially, they were apprehensive, and didn't know why I was inviting them. I have done this for the past ten years. I get to know them and they get to size me up.

“There have been occasions when I have picked up signals from students that have been useful to me later in dealing with them as priests. If I pick up signals that are really serious, I call them in for a chat. I also ask them their spirituality and prayer life. I tell them it's not enough to pray the breviary. They are encouraged to develop a personal prayer life and deepen their spirituality.”

In some parts of Africa vocations to the priesthood are so plentiful that priests are being sent to Europe. For example, the Missionary Society of St Paul, a Nigerian religious order, has priests working in London and Bristol.

“The few local African churches which have sent priests and missionaries to churches in the West have done so not out of a surplus they have. They have done so as an expression of their charity, solidarity, being each other's keeper, and being in communion with other churches,” the Cardinal Turkson says.

Europe is now mission territory, he adds. “Mission was once understood as missionaries from Europe going to Latin America, Africa and Asia. They were considered to be going on the missions. This led to the impression that mission does not take place here in Europe. Mission was equated with civilisation, so to go on the missions was to go and civilise a population.”

In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI will host a second synod for Africa in Rome. Its theme will be “The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace”. The first synod was held in 1994.

One topic for discussion will be the Church's opposition to using condoms to combat the transmission of HIV. The Cardinal Turkson has indicated that there might well be a case for them to be considered not as a means of preventing life but of preventing death. Unlike some African bishops, however, he has not spoken openly from the pulpit in favour of condom use, prefering to talk about helping people to make their own decision. But this will just be part of a larger debate about issues such as poverty, injustice, corruption, globalisation and Islam.

“At the second synod for Africa we must look at how we are a Church in Africa. Rwanda was supposed to be 99 per cent Catholic. How could it end up with a genocide?

“We need to realise that probably notional Christianity has been too strong. Instead, we need a radical conversion that will make the presence of God real and personal for each one of us.”

00Saturday, November 3, 2007 5:22 AM

Remember Tiny? Well, guess what?

Condom-Promoting Catholic Bishop Given Early Retirement by Pope Benedict

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

ROME, November 1, 2007 ( - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Petrus Maria Martinus "Tiny" Muskens of the diocese of Breda in the Netherlands. He is succeeded by Mgr. Johannes Harmannes Jozefus van den Hende, until now coadjutor in the see.

Not yet 72, Bishop Muskens is over three years from the usual retirement age of 75, but has surrendered the pastoral governance of the diocese in conformance with can. 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law. The canon states, "A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office."

Bishop Muskens gained notoriety in 2006 by advocating the use of condoms to stop AIDS. The bishop told Radio Netherlands that the use of condoms can be acceptable for AIDS prevention and cited the Catholic theological position of the “lesser evil” to defend his idea. Muskens was quoted saying, “It is permissible to opt for the lesser evil of condom use to prevent the greater evil of AIDS.”

Earlier this year he was quoted on Dutch television encouraging Catholic faithful to pray to God as "Allah" in order to promote a better relationship between Catholics and Muslims.

00Saturday, November 3, 2007 2:38 PM
Conscience First:
Chilean bishops defend right of pharmacists
to conscientious objection

Santiago, CHILE, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA).- The president and general secretary of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference came to the defense of the “legitimate right” of pharmacists to exercise conscientious objection and not sell the so-called “morning after pill,” this week.

In dialogue with the press, conference president, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, referred to the sanctions against pharmacies that refuse to sell the drug.

“I believe the legitimate right to conscientious objection exists and you cannot be intolerant towards a conscience that does not want to contribute to the promotion of a pill that could be abortive when scientific doubt regarding the issue still exists,” the bishop said.

Likewise he reiterated that reasonable scientific doubts exist about Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient in the morning after pill.

“In one of two hypotheses that exist today regarding the abortifacient nature of the pill, it is not therapeutic, it simply impedes gestation of a new life, and if gestation has already occurred, it destroys it. Nobody can oblige [me] by law to act against my conscience,” Bishop Goic said.

Conference secretary general, Bishop Cristian Contreras, said, “The issue is much wider than the sanctions against pharmacies. We have been specific about the issue innumerable times: the issue is life, how we address the issue of life. We see that when there are doubts about the existence of a human being we must always choose the safer option.”

“I think it is providential what Pope Benedict XVI said about the freedom of conscience that people must have when we are dealing precisely with a drug that can have an abortifacient effect,” he added.

A Lifesite News item on Oct. 31 reporting on the reactions to the Pope's address to Italian pharmacists reported this about the situation in Chile:

In Chile, where the government has passed legislation allowing girls as young as 14 to be given the morning-after pill without parental consent, the three major pharmacy chains have not been selling the pills, according to the BBC, citing the lack of locally available stocks. The government responded by fining the stores, importing supplies and then said the stores now had no excuse for not selling the pill, the report continued.

A spokesman for one of the chains, in a statement quoted by Associated Press, said the government was violating freedom of opinion about the pill which he said was abortive. "We express conscientious objection to being forced to sell a product that can have that effect."

00Saturday, November 3, 2007 5:50 PM
Revisiting the Modernist wars
By George Weigel
Oct. 24, 2007

Mr. Weigel writes the weekly column 'The Catholic Difference' for the Archdiocese of Denver's diocesan newspaper. I have been remiss about checking it regularly. In this column, he remembers the 100th anniversary of the anti-Modernist encyclical Pascendi gregis (Pasturing the flock) earlier commented by Sandro Magister.

I’ve long had a high regard for Pope Benedict XV, least-known pontiff of the twentieth century, whose slight, stooped figure masked a diplomatic and historical intelligence of the first caliber.

Benedict saw with clarity that World War I, prolonged, would be a civilizational catastrophe for Europe. The Great Powers refused to listen; Italy blackballed the Holy See from any post-war peace conference.

Benedict nevertheless spent the Vatican’s financial resources in supporting wartime prisoners and refugees — to the point where Pietro Gasparri, the Cardinal Camerlengo, had to borrow money from the Rothschilds to pay for the 1922 conclave to elect Benedict’s successor.

Benedict XV began his pontificate, however, by trying to stop another war: the civil war within the Church over Modernism, which his predecessor Pius X had condemned in the 1907 encyclical Pascendi gregis as “the synthesis of all heresies.”

Anti-Modernist sentiments ran high after Pascendi; clandestine ecclesiastical networks dedicated to rooting out Modernists, crypto-Modernists, and/or alleged Modernists from seminaries and theology faculties ran amock; some entirely reputable scholars were gravely damaged in the process.

It was a tawdry business, even if the principal Modernist paladins (like Alfred Loisy and George Tyrell) were men of highly dubious theological opinions. Benedict XV called off the dogs, and a measure of stability, if in a more subdued mode, returned to Catholic intellectual life.

On the centenary of Pascendi, Peter Steinfels dedicated his New York Times column to some predictable progressive bleating about the encyclical’s deleterious effects: Pascendi, Steinfels mourned, “crippled those very elements in European Catholicism that might have resisted the Church’s sympathy for authoritarian regimes after World War I, when liberal parliamentary governments were besieged by rising totalitarianism.”

Pascendi, in other words, decisively shaped the Church’s role “in the blood-drenched history of the first half of the twentieth century.”

I wouldn’t go so far as some commentators in the Catholic blogosphere, who charged Dr. Steinfels with suggesting that “less Catholic dogmatism would have prevented the Holocaust.”

Steinfels is too clever a writer for that. But his column did seem lacking in a broader historical perspective, which would have suggested the possibility that the popes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had been put in a very difficult position by the modern liberal state in Europe — a position that inevitably shaped their attitudes toward other aspects of modernity, including modern theological adventurousness.

Historians like Michael Burleigh (Earthly Powers), Owen Chadwick (A History of the Popes 1830-1914), and Michael Gross (The War Against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany) vigorously disagree with certain papal tactic vis-à-vis anti-clerical European governments.

But they also demonstrate, in vivid detail, that those governments indeed waged a kind of war on the Church.

“Liberalism,” to the popes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, did not mean William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt, or Woodrow Wilson.

It meant the French government closing all Catholic schools, monasteries, and convents in the early twentieth century; it meant Bismarck’s late-nineteenth century “culture-war” against the Church; it meant anti-clerical violence in Spain and Portugal; it meant the destruction of the old Papal States by the Italian Risorgimento.

Small wonder that the popes, given their Eurocentricity (and continental Eurocentricity, at that) did not view “liberal democracy” as the Church’s friend. To suggest, however, that this “conservative” theological and political critique of real-existing-liberalism in continental Europe helped pave the way for fascism is not a claim that will withstand much scrutiny, not least because it was theological innovators, not those benighted conservatives, who were were seduced early-on by the siren-songs of Nazism.

The Steinfels column was of a piece with the Cowboys-and-Indians interpretation of Vatican II, in which Good Liberals defeat Evil (anti-Modernist) Conservatives.

Fortunately, for both the Church and the historical record, we have been blessed with two papal veterans of Vatican II, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who have proposed a far more interesting interpretation of the Council as both a reaffirmation and a development of classic Catholic truth claims.

Some people, it seems, take rather a long time to get the message.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.

00Sunday, November 4, 2007 5:23 PM

Spanish bishops talk about
increase in priestly vocations

Madrid, Nov 2, 2007 CNA).- Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona and Bishop Josep Angel Saiz Meneses of Terrassa told the Spanish daily La Razon some of the reasons behind the explosive growth in the number of young aspirants to the priesthood who have entered their respective seminaries.

Both seminaries are merely two years old and yet the number of aspirants to the priesthood “grows quicker that in other dioceses with greater populations. Terrassa has 28 seminarians and Tarazona has 15.

Bishop Fernandez came to the Diocese of Tarazona three years ago. His priority was to reopen the local seminary.

“Up to that time aspirants to the priesthood in the diocese studied in Zaragoza, while a building with a capacity for 300 students had been abandoned for decades,” he told La Razon.

Asked if “there could be a diocese without a seminary,” Bishop Fernandez said, “A diocese without a seminary is a dead diocese or in danger of extension,” and he compared the situation to that of “a mother who no longer has any children: she continues to be a mother, but she needs to be accompanied to a good death.” He said he was joyful to be able to give the universal Church “many and holy priests.”

Bishop Fernandez defended the importance of minor seminaries, saying it is important that young people begin their priestly formation at an early age.

“I am convinced that the important ideals of a person are forged around the age of 15. Their ideals are full of dreams and imagination, which afterwards will have to mature, but these ideals are an amazing driving force for all of life.”

La Razon also interviewed the new bishop of Terrassa, where “there wasn’t even a physical place” for a seminary. Bishop Saiz Meneses, the first bishop of this new diocese, earmarked a donation for building a seminary that has now been open for over a year. The 13 candidates of the seminary had been studying at the seminary in Barcelona.

Asked about the increase in seminarians for his diocese, Bishop Meneses explained that the key is humility and trust in God, and therefore he asked for prayers for vocations and exhorted the infirm “to offer their sufferings for this intention.”

“At the same time, he revealed, we strive to pose the issue of vocations in a direct way and without hang ups. Just to name two specific aspects, I think it is very important that we truly believe that God continues calling young people to the priesthood, and it is also essential that we make the joy of a life committed to the Lord though this walk transparent.”

Bishop Meneses also defended the importance of minor seminaries.

“God calls who he wishes and when he wishes. Sometimes people question whether a 12 year-old child or an 18 year-old young person can see his vocation clearly. There are children who from a young age say they want to be a doctor or teacher and end up becoming one,” he said.

“Others decide what they want to be when they are older but later they take a different path. The same thing happens with religious vocations. Some of the children who show signs of a vocation end up in the priesthood, others don’t. We need to accompany them in the process of personal maturation and help them to discern the will of God.”

Asked whether it is more difficult today to listen to the call to the priesthood, Bishop Meneses said, “In a society increasingly more secularized and consumerist, it’s not only difficult to listen to the call to the priesthood, it is also difficult to live the Christian faith consistently. God “undoubtedly calls many to the path of the priesthood.”

What is needed is “silence, prayer [and] reflection to listen to his call,” the bishop said.

00Monday, November 5, 2007 2:55 PM

Hindus celebrate Diwali (also called Deepavali) or Festival of Lights every year as one of their biggest religious festivals. Based on Hindu mythology, it celebrates the victory of truth over lies, light over shawdows, life over death, good over evil.

Homes are decorated, sweets are distributed by everyone, and thousands of lamps lit to create a world of fantasy. It is festival of fun and revelry but also a time of prayer and offerings to the gods.

Oil lamps and flowers, sometimes with food offerings, are major features of Diwali preparations

Hinduism is the world's oldest extant religion, whose earliest origins can be traced to the ancient Vedic civilization some 3000 years ago. It is the world's third largest religion following Christianity and Islam, with approximately a billion adherents, of whom about 905 million live in India and Nepal. Other countries with large Hindu populations include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Diwali celebration actually lasts five days marking the start of the Hindu New Year, family reconciliation especially among brothers and sisters, and adoration of God. This year the main festival day (third day) will fall on November 9.

For the occasion, the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialog (PCID) has sent this Diwali message to all Hindus, the first one sent by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as president of the PCID.


Dear Hindu Friends,

1. As Diwali approaches, your religious feast, I am sure all of you in your respective families, neighbourhoods and communities will be taking time to share your joy with one another.

On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue I am happy to have this opportunity, for the first time since taking office, to send you my greetings.

Sensitive to your religious feelings and respectful of your ancient religious tradition, I sincerely hope that your search for the Divine, symbolized through the celebration of Diwali, will help you to overcome darkness with light, untruth with truth and evil with goodness.

2. The world around us is yearning for peace. Religions promise peace because they trace their origin to God who, according to Christian belief, is our peace.

Can we, as believers of different religious traditions, not work together to receive God’s gift of peace and to spread it around us so that the world becomes for all people a better place to live? Our respective communities must pay urgent attention to the education of believers, who can so easily be misled by deceitful and false propaganda.

3. Belief and freedom always go together. There can be no coercion in religion: no one can be forced to believe, neither can anyone who wishes to believe be prevented from doing so.

Allow me to reiterate the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which is quite clear on this point: "It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free. Therefore no one is to be forced to embrace the faith against his own will" (Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, 10).

The Catholic Church has been faithful to this teaching as Pope Benedict XVI reminded recently to the Ambassadors of India and other countries to the Holy See: "… Peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of conscience of individuals and of the freedom of peoples" (18 May 2006).

Forming believers first of all to discover the full dimensions and depth of their own religion, and then encouraging them to know other believers as well constitutes an important challenge for religious communities committed to building world peace.

Let us not forget that ignorance is the first and, perhaps, the principal enemy in the life of believers, while the combined contribution of every enlightened believer provides a rich resource for lasting peace.

4. Like all human relationships, those between people of different religions need to be nourished by regular meetings, patient listening, collaborative action, and above all, by an attitude of mutual respect.

Accordingly, we must work to build bonds of friendship, as indeed must the adherents of all religions. "Friendship is nourished by contacts, by a sharing in the joy and sadness of different situations, by solidarity and mutual assistance" (John Paul II, Message to the participants of the International Convention "Matteo Ricci: for a dialogue between China and the West", 24 October 2001, 6).

In situations of misunderstanding, people need to come together and communicate with one another, in order to clarify, in a fraternal and friendly spirit, their respective beliefs, aspirations and convictions.

Only through dialogue, avoiding all forms of prejudice and stereo-typed ideas about others and by faithful witness to our religious precepts and teaching, can we truly overcome conflicts. Dialogue between followers of different religions is the necessary path today, indeed it is the only appropriate path for us as believers. Together, in collaboration, we can do much to build a society of harmony and a world of peace.

5. Dear Hindu Friends, the hand I warmly extend to greet you on the occasion of your feast is also a gesture of willingness on the part of the Catholic Church to meet and collaborate with you, your families, your community leaders and all followers of the Sanatana dharma [Sanskrit phrase meaning 'eternal law', by which Hinduism is formally known] , in order to promote harmony in society and peace in the world. Once again, I wish each one of you a happy Diwali.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran

+ Pier Luigi Celata

00Monday, November 5, 2007 7:03 PM
2,000-Year-Old Christian Community in Iraq Gains a Spiritual First in Baghdad

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly is the first prelate in Iraq in modern times to be named a cardinal by the Roman Catholic Church.

The New York Times

Published: November 5, 2007

BAGHDAD, Nov. 4 — There is neither a cross nor a sign on the heavy metal gate to indicate that this is the official residence of one of the country's most prominent Christians, the first in Iraq in modern times to be elevated to cardinal by the Roman Catholic Church.

The simple structure, in a dilapidated neighborhood of this capital, opposite empty former ministry buildings, is the home of Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, whom the pope named on Oct. 17 to the College of Cardinals along with 22 others from around the world.

The only outward sign that this compound is Christian is in the garden, where a lawn surrounded by roses and zinnias is watched over by a graceful white statue of the Virgin Mary.

Many of his fellow cardinals come from Latin America, Africa and the Far East, places where Catholic practice is only a few hundred years old. But Cardinal Delly, 81, the patriarch of the Baghdad-based Chaldean Church, comes from Mosul, in northern Iraq, a place where Christian rites have been practiced for nearly 2,000 years.

There, as in Baghdad and other places where members of Iraq's shrinking Christian population still live, it is possible to attend a Sunday Mass sung in Aramaic, one of the Semitic languages spoken at the time of Jesus.

"Christians and Muslims have lived together here for 1,400 years," Cardinal Delly said in an interview. "We have much in common; in Iraq, the Christian house is next to the Muslim house."

Cardinal Delly has a message honed from his many decades living in two worlds: that of Western Europe, where he studied, and that of the largely Muslim Middle East, which is his home.

"I am not happy when people ask, 'How is the situation for Christians?'" he said. "Those who kill don't kill only Christians. They kill Muslims as well — the situation is the same for both."

The Chaldean Church is an Eastern Rite church affiliated with the Roman Catholics but allowed to retain its customs and rites, even when they differ from the traditions of the Roman church. Most Chaldeans live in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, with scattered communities elsewhere in the Middle East. There are two Chaldean communities in the United States, one near Detroit and one near San Diego.

The Chaldeans are the most numerous of Iraq's Christians, although their numbers have plunged since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Although there is no census, Christian priests estimate that fewer than 500,000 Chaldeans are left in the country, about one million fewer than when Mr. Hussein was in power, when the country had about 24 million people. Other Christian sects with small populations in Iraq include Assyrian Christians, Armenian Christians and Sabeans, an ancient sect.

A fluent speaker of Italian, French and his native Arabic as well as some English — he spoke in Italian in this interview — Cardinal Delly has spent his life thinking about the common ground between Muslims and Christians.

He indicates that he views his role in a broad sense as an Iraqi spiritual leader. But he also has spoken up on behalf of Iraq's Christians. During the summer, he and the Assyrian patriarch issued a call for help for Iraq's Christians after a Chaldean priest and three assistants were killed in Mosul.

Iraq's Christians have fared poorly since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, whose government treated them well, needing their support. They have been persecuted primarily by Sunni Arab extremists, who brand them apostates and in some areas have bombed their churches and burned their homes.

And because the Christian population is relatively well off, Christians also have been the targets of kidnappings. Many of those who lived in Baghdad and surrounding areas have moved back to northern Iraq, which was traditionally where most Christians lived. Many more have fled to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon or — when they can manage it — Western Europe.

Cardinal Delly met recently with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to plead for protection for Christians. During the writing of the Iraqi Constitution, he met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shiite religious leader in Najaf, who shares his ecumenical views on faith.

The new cardinal was born in Mosul to a Christian family in which several close relatives also became priests. His maternal grandfather became a priest, as did several cousins. He went to school there until he was 19, when he left for Rome to study. He stayed 14 years, traveling through Europe to holy places and completing his studies. He obtained three degrees — a master's in philosophy, a doctorate in theology and a doctorate in canon law — and his studies included the Koran.

In philosophy he chose to study Abu Nasr al-Farabi, an eminent early Islamic philosopher. For his doctorate in theology, he wrote on a debate about religion and virtue between a 10th-century Christian bishop and the Muslim minister of Morocco.

"The Christian house is next to the Muslim house," he said. "Each has his own religion, each defends his own home, each defends his religion.

"But your faith is for God, the country is for everyone."

00Monday, November 5, 2007 8:27 PM
Nine chosen as patrons for World Youth Day 2008

SYDNEY, Australia, NOV. 5, 2007 ( World Youth Day organizers say that Servant of God Pope John Paul II was a natural choice as one of the event's 10 patrons, since the Polish Pontiff invented WYDs in 1986.

L'Osservatore Romano published the list of patrons chosen for WYD '08, to be held in Sydney in July.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti, a student and athlete who worked with Catholic Action of Italy, also made the list. Blessed Pier died at age 24 in 1925.

The Polish woman religious who inspired the future John Paul II, Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), was also chosen.

Another patron is a native of WYD's host country. Blessed Mary McKillop, the first Australian woman to be canonized, was also the first to found a religious order Down Under, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Cross.

Also included is St. Peter Chanel and St. Therese of Lisieux. Another Oceanian is Blessed Peter To Rot, a catechist from Papua New Guinea, the son of a tribal chief and a husband, who was martyred in a Japanese concentration camp at the end of World War II.

St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta were also chosen. And finally, the Virgin Mary under the title of "Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians," protector of Australia, is being counted as the event's patron.

The organizers are encouraging youth to consecrate themselves to the Virgin of the Southern Cross with the spirit of John Paul II's motto, "Totus Tuus."

00Thursday, November 8, 2007 4:42 AM

Here we go again.

St. Louis Archbishop warns of excommunication over women's ordination

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ST. LOUIS: St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has warned two Roman Catholic women that they will be excommunicated if they proceed with a planned ordination Sunday.

Rose Marie Dunn Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath say they are set to be ordained as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement that began in 2002.

A Roman Catholic canon says only baptized men may be ordained, and Pope Benedict XVI's has maintained the Vatican's firm opposition to women priests. Hwoever, a majority of Catholic respondents to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken just after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 said they favored ordination of women.

The Womenpriests and the advocacy group, the Women's Ordination Conference, are among Catholics pressing to change the tradition.

Both women said they will ignore Burke's warning.

"It's a typically hierarchical form of intimidation, and we will not be intimidated," McGrath said.

In letters delivered by courier to the women's homes Monday evening, Burke warned the women they would be committing a "grave error" and "act of schism" by trying to receive priestly ordination.

He reminded them that the pope has stated infallibly that only men can receive a valid ordination.

"Should you refuse to comply ... in order to protect the faithful from grave spiritual deception ... you will incur automatically ... the censure of excommunication," wrote Burke, who is also a church lawyer.

He said "additional disciplinary measures will also have to be imposed."

The archdiocese declined to comment on the letters.

Both women have graduate degrees in theology or pastoral studies and have been active in ministry for years.

McGrath, 69, is the widow of a Roman Catholic deacon. She has worked for the archdiocese, for the theology department at Saint Louis University, has been a campus minister and edited for a religious publisher. She and her late husband were part of a national leadership team for marriage preparation and enrichment programs.

Hudson, 67, is a retired teacher who has been active in parish life. She has done prison ministry for the last 15 years.

Of the roughly 100 women who have been ordained as priests or deacons worldwide in the Womenpriests movement, including 37 in the U.S., only the first seven were officially excommunicated by the Vatican, said spokeswoman Bridget Mary Meehan. Others have received letters from their bishop such as those sent by Burke, she said.

"It means you are no longer a Catholic in good standing, that by your very own decision you have chosen to separate yourself from the church," Meehan said. "But we are disobeying an unjust law that discriminates against women.

00Thursday, November 8, 2007 4:59 AM

Korean Catholic university opens new bioethics institute

Seoul, Nov 7, 2007 / 12:25 pm (CNA).- In what the Archbishop of Seoul called "a sign of the times," the Catholic University of Korea has opened an institute dedicated to bioethics—the study of moral issues related to technology and medicine.

Called the Highly Specialized Institute for Bioethics in Asia, it is named after the Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong. The institute has been approved by the Ministry for Education and the Development of Human Resources, and students have registered for the 2007-2008 school year, according to Fides. It is the first Asian institute of its type.

Scientists, doctors, theologians, and anthropologists will staff the institute. They will work out of two departments: Bioethics and Culture of Life. Courses are open to students, doctors, journalists, politicians, members of civic organizations, and other interested persons.

The first Dean of the School, Reverend Remigio Lee Dong-ik, stated: "Bioethics starts from a correct understanding of the human person, which has as its basis God's love for humanity. I expect our schools will help diffuse bioethics in a Christian spirit.”
00Thursday, November 8, 2007 1:27 PM
Church stil holds public influence,
says French bishops' leader

Lourdes, Nov. 5, 2007 ( - The president of the French bishops' conference has challenged the general impression that the influence of Catholicism is waning in that country.

As the French episcopate gathered at Lourdes for its annual meeting, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard said that the Church still has an important role to play in a secular society.

The Church, he said, should make important contributions to public discussions on immigration, bioethical issues, environmental protection, the country's demographic decline, and the need for solidarity with the poor.

In an interview with the newspaper La Croix, however, Cardinal Ricard observed that although the government under former President Jacques Chirac had shown a keen interest in Catholic teachings regarding some social problems, the same government had brushed aside the Church's teachings on the nature of marriage and family and the sanctity of human life.

Prior to the French bishops' meeting, Cardinal Ricard had told La Croix that it is a mistake to regard French Catholicism as a problem for the universal Church.

Questioned by La Croix about the perception that the Vatican sees the French Church as an enfant terrible, the cardinal replied: "Reactions like that actually come from second-rank functionaries at the Vatican."

In his own meetings with leading officials of the Holy See, he continued, reactions have been more positive. Cardinal Ricard said that a typical Vatican official might tell him, "Your situation is difficult, but we know all you are doing for the life of the Church."

In his presidential address at the opening of the bishops' meeting in Lourdes, Cardinal Ricard devoted more attention to the question of how the Church can influence secular society.

Recognizing the 1905 laws that set up a rigid barrier between the government and the Church in France, the cardinal said that it is still possible to achieve a healthy secularity in which Church-state relations are marked by "understanding and collaboration" rather than suspicion and hostility.

Regarding other issues on the French bishops' agenda, Cardinal Ricard said that top priority should be given to the training of future priests and the religious education of young Catholics.

Touching on another issue that roused considerable controversy within the French hierarchy during the past year, the cardinal said that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum had "caused more anxiety before its appearance than after."

He claimed that the French bishops have heard few requests for the use of the old Latin liturgy, but when such requests do come, the French bishops will respond properly. "All the dioceses of France welcomed this motu proprio," he reported, and are prepared to accommodate the traditional Latin Mass.

Cardinal Ricard was concluding his second term as president of the French episcopal conference. The bishops chose Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris-- soon to become a cardinal, at the November consistory-- as the new president of the conference.

00Thursday, November 8, 2007 1:31 PM
The Orthodox Church enjoys
unprecedented freedom in Russia today,
says Metropolitan Kirill

Moscow, November 2, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church has called on Russian authorities to follow traditional spiritual and moral values of this country in their decision making.

“Of cause, decisions should be taken in accordance with the law but with due consideration of our basic values. I believe that if something is happening in our religious life that ruins the spiritual identity of our people, the authorities should find reasonable ways to restrict this.” said Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations at a newsd conference held in connection with the exhibition forum The Orthodox Rus.

That said, he continued, we should respect different ways of thinking, but “the authority cannot avoid such pressing issue as the preservation of the basic values of our society, otherwise Russia will be destroyed.”

According to Kirill, in the 1990s, at every presidential election, “people were afraid of the future they faced - earthquake, collapse, the road we would choose this time – whether Western democracy or communism or any different way.”

Mentioning relations between the Church and the state, Metropolitan Kirill said that today many people were concerned that the Church “is under the control of state authorities and is not independent.”

“Frankly speaking, I can hardly think of any other country today, including countries of the West, where the Church is so independent from the state, so individual, and so fearless in pursuing its own avenues as in Russia,” said metropolitan Kirill.

“Thank God, we have a lot of Orthodox people in charge of the country today, and we certainly favour this fact, but it does not mean that the Church is enthralled by secular power,” he said.

According to Kirill, “For the first time in its history, the Church occupies an independent position, it has the right to speak up and tell what it deems necessary to tell. And we do this, but we do this for the love of our people and our state, without creating any civil or political challenges, but building the unity and integrity of the society,” he said.
00Thursday, November 8, 2007 1:50 PM
Holy Land religious leaders visit U.S.,
announce peace initiatives

By Regina Linskey
Catholic News Service

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel;
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem;
Rabbi Yonah Metzger, chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel;
and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III
. (CNS/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON , Nov. 7 (CNS) -- Leaders of the three major religions of the Holy Land traveled to Washington to announce initiatives to institutionalize their commitment to decreasing violence.

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said the religious leaders will help expedite "rapid communication" among Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to address hot issues before they become sources of conflict.

Holy sites help spark conflict, but the religious leaders will work together so that the sites "remain only places for prayer," Patriarch Sabbah said at a Nov. 7 press conference. He said the religious leaders also have agreed to "reflect on the status of Jerusalem," a city regarded by Muslims, Jews and Christians as holy.

Interfaith leaders announced the initiatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, an organization of Jewish, Muslim and Christians religious leaders. Council members' visits to the United States were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In addition to the communication hot line and Jerusalem's status, council members said they would:

-- Monitor and respond to the media for "derogatory representation of any religion."

-- "Promote education for mutual respect and acceptance in schools and the media" and sponsor a conference for Palestinian and Israeli educators.

-- Demonstrate to the religious leaders' constituents peaceful conflict resolution through their dialogue and relationships.

-- Provide consultation with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, called the council's creation "both amazing and pathetic" because "it has never happened before." The recently established council grew out of religious leaders' 2002 pledge to end violence in the Holy Land.

"We are not here to be politicians. We are here to say no political situations will work without a religious dimension," Rabbi Rosen said, adding that religious leaders provide a "psycho-spiritual glue."

Salah Zuheikeh, Palestinian deputy minister of religious affairs, said the council and its initiatives send a strong statement to extremists who do not want to see Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders sit at the same table.

Rabbi Yona Metzger, Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, said the initiatives "will open up a wind and a gate for peace" by teaching young Palestinians and Israelis about each other by speaking of each side to the other without hate.
00Thursday, November 8, 2007 2:09 PM
Israel-Holy See Commission
meets next on December 12

Tel Aviv, Nov. 7 (AsiaNews) – The delegations of the Holy See and the State of Israel met today at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, "to continue negotiations on the 'Economic Agreement' concerning fiscal and property matters.”

It was earlier made known that the negotiations, within the framework of the "Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel", are set to resume on 12 December this year, and then to continue further, in Plenary session, on the next day.

00Friday, November 9, 2007 2:40 AM
Red Hat, Brown Radical
In Rocco Palmo's blog, there's a wonderful article on Card. Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap. It's heart is his love for St. Francis and the Rule of the Capuchin Order to which he belong. It has some quite interesting details about what happens when a Religious Order priest is raised to the episcopacy, but the beauty of the article is an insight into how the Cardinal strives to live Poverty, Charity and Prayer. It's an excerpt, but still a bit lengthy, but well worth the read. Hope this comes out ... it's the first time I've tried to post an article ... [SM=g27828]

It's no secret that the cardinal-archbishop of Boston finds his life's joy in his charism as a Capuchin.

Sure, Sean O'Malley's continued affinity for the habit he's referred to as the "brown wrapper" might ruffle a few feathers among his presbyterate, but eight centuries after St Francis, the widespread fascination continues with the garb and the Rule it represents.

Though canonically released from his vow of poverty on his appointment to the episcopacy in 1984, the Friar-prelate has gone to considerable lengths to maintain the simple state of life.

As bishop of Fall River, for example, O'Malley once got a group of priests excited by inviting them to dinner at his "new favorite restaurant," only discovering when they pulled into the parking lot that their bishop's choice was a Pizza Hut. Then, in Boston, he sold the Italianate palace occupied by a century's worth of his predecessors to help fund the archdiocese's abuse settlement, taking up residence in a spare room at the rectory of Holy Cross Cathedral.

The third US cardinal-elector ever drawn from a religious community, the Bloggin' Eminence is more closely identified with his community than most of the church's professed princes (a quality he shares with the Salesian Secretary of State). Along those lines, in an unusually candid intervention given last month in Venice, the "most authoritative American Capuchin" offered some pointed words of advice on the recently-announced revision of the order's constitutions.

Begun on Pentecost by the recently-elected Capuchin minister-general, Swiss Fr Mauro Jöhri, the constitutions will be reviewed for three years and are slated to be debated and approved at an extraordinary chapter of the congregation in 2010.

At the Venice event, held in anticipation of the 800th anniversary of the church's sanction of the Franciscan "Proto-Rule," the cardinal urged his community to shy away from "introducing the Trojan Horse into the City of God," a direction which, he said, would "allow the radical nature of our life as Capuchins to be watered down."

Noting that the community appeared set to include more elements of social justice and ecology into its foundational document, O'Malley warned of a "false sense of security," citing his experience in the US.

"I see many religious communities in my country produc[ing] documents worthy of the Green Party," he said, "but they are dying on the vine themselves."

While bishops culled from the ranks of the professed are released from their vows of poverty and obedience on their elevation, they remain members of their native institute and may continue to take part in its deliberations. As one religious put it, when an episcopal confrere would speak in their community's chapters, it was understood that he "spoke for the whole church."

First circulated among the friars of the cardinal's Pittsburgh-based home province, the order has posted the fulltext of O'Malley's remarks, which are excerpted below.
As a young friar I longed to go to the missions, and I was thrilled when I was ordained a deacon the Father General asked that I be sent to Easter Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was going to work with a German friar, Father Sebastian, who had been working with the Indians there for forty years.

I began studying Rapanui, but before I left for the missions the Archbishop of Washington appealed to my Provincial for Spanish speaking friars who could work with the thousands of undocumented refugees fleeing the wars in Central America, from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua. My assignment was changed from Easter Island to the Lent of the illegal aliens.

I was allowed to live among the poor in a building where the Centro Católico Hispano was located. There was seldom heat or hot water and the cockroaches were the size of rats, and the rats were the size of cats. There were often gunfights in the building so one day I gathered all the tenants in the lobby for a “disarmament summit”. I put a table in the center of the room and asked everyone to hand over their guns. One old grandmother wearing a little bonnet opened her purse and produced a huge pistol. She waved it under my nose and said: “You are a priest, no one is going to do anything to you; me, I am keeping my gun”. Needless to say, I did not collect any guns that day. Working with the poor and with my brother Capuchins was a joy. I was the happiest man in the world. One day God said – look at Father Seán. He is too happy. Let’s make him a Bishop. When I was told – I said: “I should have studied harder in the seminary.” I have been a friar for 42 years. I should be much holier after so many years of religious life. I am still a construction site.

The joy of my life has always been my vocation as a Capuchin. My reflections today are not those of an expert, but those of a lover. I love Francis, his ideal, his way of life, his rule.

I love the Capuchin Order more than my life. I feel so privileged to be a part of this family, and my only desire is that we be better sons of St. Francis. The more we love the same things, the more we do the same things, the more we live the same ideals the deeper our fraternity and the more powerful our witness of poverty, prayer and charity....

How the world has changed. When I was a seminarian, at the beginning of the 1960’s, I went to Europe. In those days, it was clear from the first glance what country a person came from by looking at their clothes, their shoes, and their haircut. Forty years later, everyone dresses the same. We call this phenomenon globalization. I am sure it has its advantages and its disadvantages, but it is a reality that has resulted in a smaller world, and it has leveled the peculiar aspects of individual culture and ethnic identity.

As members of the Catholic family and followers of Saint Francis who is the universal brother, our vocation has an aspect of spiritual globalization. When our new Constitutions were written, there was a great emphasis on pluriformity. Having participated in the Chapters that have worked on the Constitutions, I understand the noble motivations of the leaders. Still, it has always concerned me, I feared that we might be introducing the Trojan Horse into the City of God and so might allow the radical nature of our life as Capuchins to be watered down....

I am not a great theologian, I am not nor have I ever been a Provincial, nor a definitor, and not even a Guardian . When I was named Bishop, one of the friars was heard to say, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” My sole credential for formulating these reflections is that I love the Capuchin Order more than my own life....


Thanks for the post, PapaBear. I could not resist and went to the site that has Cardinal O'Malley's full letter - which deserves to be read in full
which I believe should be posted in READINGS. Except that it's a 7+-page letter in PDF format, and it takes time to re-space all the lines.

However, I will take the time to re-space and re-print the CONCLUSION of the letter here, because it presents his main arguments - which, as tactfully as he expresses them - are a critique of many of his fellow Franciscans who have not only watered down the Rule of St. Francis but have probably betrayed it.

This, too unfortunately, is an unpleasant aspect of the so-called 'spirit of Assisi' that did arise with the Franciscans of Assisi themselves, albeit this is an aspect of that fallacious 'spirit' that affects the Franciscans only.

And what the cardinal says about prayer and meditation as the fundamental activities that cannot be minimized echoes what Pope Benedict always exhorts all priests and bishops


Capuchin Identity is safeguarded by the Constitutions only in as much as it inspires us to live the Rule and Testament in a radical way. Generalities will never do.

The Gospel Life of the Capuchin Brotherhood is about radical love. It is a life that begins with contemplative prayer. This allows one to imitate the self-emptying of Christ’s kenosis and leads to a radical witness that invites people to renounce the extreme individualism and materialism of our age in order to follow Christ poor and crucified.

Some people are advocating removing some of the concrete directives on prayer that are in the Constitutions and place them in the Ordinances. This would be a fatal mistake. The ordinances are unknown and irrelevant to most of the friars. The Rule and Constitutions will always be the documents that form us and teach us our identity.

The Constitutions cannot be a weak exhortation to live a vague ideal of the most common denominator. Rather, the Constitutions should be a challenging document that incorporates concrete directives about the life of prayer, poverty, and austerity.

We need more boldness in our Constitutions if we are going to inspire young men to join our ranks.

If we embrace or institutionalize a comfortable, bourgeois life style, the Order will die out, no matter how much lip service we give to a liberal social agenda.

Our way of life lived in all its radical renunciation is capable of producing men whose witness of prayer, poverty and love will help transform society by calling people back to God, calling them to come home to the Church, by helping people to have a sense of personal vocation and to be part of a communal mission.

It is my conviction that the contemplative aspects of our life should be addressed first of all. The Capuchin charism begins with the eremitical emphasis of the first friars as reflected in the document of Albacina; the subsequent Constitutions elaborate more on ministry and mission.

The point of departure however is the contemplative basis of our vocation. When the life of prayer is carefully delineated, then the other aspects of our life take shape. The centrality of the Eucharist and mental prayer needs to be very clear.

Daily celebration of a communal Eucharist, two periods of meditation, and the communal praying of the entire liturgy of the hours needs to be enshrined in the Constitutions as a bare minimum.

To leave that up to local communities to legislate is too risky. By leaving things out of the Constitutions we are sending a signal that they are not really important and we encourage a take it or leave it attitude.

The subjective mood, weak exhortations and mild recommendations do not communicate the sense of urgency that Francis wants to communicate in the Rule. It is a matter of life and death.

St. Paul says no one will follow an uncertain trumpet blast. Our legislation should not be an exercise in subtleties. The directives about prayer and poverty need to be concrete, airtight and unyielding.

In looking at our Constitutions over our history, one finds that our Constitutions are not legalistic documents with a lot of regulations. However, they are concrete enough to guarantee a unified identity of what it means to be a Capuchin.

Preparing ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of the Rule of St. Francis, I pray so that our Capuchin Family commits itself anew to follow with decision and love our Seraphic Father, not at a safe distance, but up close.

May the work to which the Father General has called us reinforce our Constitutions and at the same time reinforce our decision to live our vocation of radical prayer, poverty and charity.

May the Mother of the Divine Pastor intercede for us as we invoke the special blessing of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, the most illustrious member of this venerable Institution. “Nos cum Prole Pia, benedicat Virgo Maria.”

Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
Trip to Venice, October 15-19, 2007

00Friday, November 9, 2007 4:17 AM
The Capuchin Charism
Thank you ever so much, Teresa. I was afraid to post the entire article and take up so much space. The conclusion you posted is indeed spiritually bold and even brings tears to my eyes.

Our parish is staffed by Franciscan Capuchins and the friars are so dear to us, one of the parishioners remarked to our Bishop Silva on his parish visitation two weeks ago "Can we keep them forever?"

I'm sure it's because they are working so diligently in the vineyard, giving of self, giving us a "good slice of bread" in the homilies, stressing outreach to the sick and marginalized and .... they want to know every person's name. We see them at morning and evening prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. We all know that Thursdays is their community day with the other friars from two other parishes. And, we hear their laughter amongst themselves and with us.

And yet, it was only about a year and a half ago that they finally "reeled one in" and the first local brother toke final vows. It was a day of great joy, but why did it come 20 years after the Capuchins came?

I fear there's a "softness" that has grown up in some young people, or perhaps it's a fear of commitment. I don't know. But it should tell us that prayers for vocations must offered trustingly to God and encouraged one-to-one with our young men.

Pax et Bonum

[SM=g27822] [SM=g27822] [SM=g27822]


PapaBear, your parish is lucky to have Capuchisn who continue to live the Franciscan rule in the spirit of St Francis himself. I just posted an item in REFLECTIONS ON OUR FAITH... about some Franciscan sisters who teach New Age practices in place of traditional Catholic prayer and meditation, claiming this is what they believe St. Francis and St. Clare would have wanted.

I thought that Fr Bernard Groeschel's decision to establish his order called the Franciscan Fathers of Renewal was a very significanct reaction against what I would call the 'Assisi-fication' (or 'sissification', too, if you will) of the order.

The Jesuits were always the most prone to 'liberalizing' the rule of their founding father almost to non-recogtnition and yes, outright betrayal. Many Franciscans have proven to be just as self-indulgent. And then there are the Dominicans of Holland with their priestless Mass, which, I believe, some Augustinians there also favor.

What is happening to the great medieval orders? And what would St. Ignatius, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and St. Augustine say to all this?


00Friday, November 9, 2007 7:14 PM
At the UN, Holy See Presses
for 2-State Solution in Mideast

NEW YORK, NOV. 8, 2007 ( The Holy See is convinced that a two-state solution is the best way to solve the crisis between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this today when he addressed the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly on the topic of Palestinian refugees in the Near East.

The archbishop said that at the heart of the matter is the problem of injustice. He said, "To postpone endlessly the resolution of this conflict by a refusal to negotiate and to compromise reasonably, by indecision or by a willingness to maintain the status quo, is to perpetuate injustice."

"Whether such a mind-set is deliberate or not does not alter the reality on the ground, namely, innocent people and entire families on all sides continue to suffer terribly and infrastructures are destroyed even before they are ready for use," the prelate continued.

Affirming that the Holy See believes a two-state solution has the best chance to settle the crisis, Archbishop Migliore called on both Israelis and Palestinians to resolve themselves to work for peace.

He said: "Bringing this solution to reality is not the primary responsibility of the Quartet, but of the parties directly concerned and the neighboring countries who have immediate interests in the whole question."

The Quartet on the Middle East, which is involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, comprises the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The prelate continued: "While the international community can only do so much in providing all the support needed to bring together those in conflict, it is indispensable that the parties must set aside the pretense of peacemaking and start full negotiations on the two-state solution.

"My delegation earnestly hopes that the international conference planned for the end of this month may move the peace process towards this end, towards the definition of a realistic accord that the parties will be determined to implement."

Archbishop Migliore acknowledged that decades of violence have caused rage among the people of the area, "fueling the vicious cycle of violent retaliations."

However, he called on "groups within both the Israeli and Palestinian civil societies which, sharing the same loss and fear, reach out to one another to offer and receive forgiveness and reconciliation. We appeal not only to authorities, but to the entire Israeli, Palestinian and neighboring peoples, to consider how much this disposition of mutual empathy can bridge their otherwise mutually exclusive and contradictory claims which have so far prevented talks to come to fruition."

The archbishop concluded by noting that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be part of a lasting solution.

"In light of the numerous incidents of violence and challenges to free movement posed by the security wall," he said, "the Holy See renews its support for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the city of Jerusalem the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities."

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:44 AM
Preview of the U.S. bishops' fall meeting
All Things Catholic
by John L. Allen, Jr.
Friday, November 9, 2007

[Editor's note: John Allen will be filing daily reports during the Nov. 12-15 fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland. The reports will be available beginning Monday here: [1].]

Inevitably, the election of Cardinal Francis George as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops next week will invite comparison to the era of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the man George followed in Chicago, and a driving force in the American bishops' conference for the better part of three decades.

The parallel is evocative not merely because both men are from the Windy City, but because both have been leading American exponents of the dominant current in the Catholicism of their day.

Bernardin embodied the era of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), pushing the church to embrace what he saw as the best of secular modernity.

George, on the other hand, reflects the more evangelical outlook associated with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, focused on reclaiming a strong sense of Catholic identity and concerned that the church not end up, in the famous phrase of Jacques Maritain, "kneeling before the world."

It would be misleading and unfair to style this as a contrast between a "liberal" Bernardin and a "conservative" George. Bernardin was deeply rooted in tradition, and George is nobody's idea of a reactionary.

In a recent interview with NCR, he stressed that there can be no return to the past; the search for new models of Catholic identity, he said, has to be "developed naturally in relationship to today's crisis."

Yet there is a difference. Many historians say the two great impulses that produced Vatican II were aggiornamento, meaning bringing things up to date, and ressourcement, or a return to the wellsprings of tradition, and theologians will tell you that ultimately the two belong together.

Nonetheless, in different periods one may wax and the other wane; synthetically, one could say that Bernardin leaned to the aggiornamento end of the equation, while George inclines a bit more to ressourcement.

Beyond this personal contrast, though certainly related to it, there's also a difference between the conference itself in the Bernardin era and the body that George will inherit. Over the last decade, the conference has experienced three important realignments in its theology, operations, and structures.

Theological: Pope John Paul II, in his 1998 document Apostolos Suos, ruled that bishops' conferences cannot issue authoritative teaching unless they're unanimous or they have the prior approval of the Holy See.

The idea was to emphasize that a bishops' conference is not a new layer of authority between the pope and the individual bishops, thereby encouraging bishops to exercise their own judgment rather than submitting to a kind of group-think. [The Church term for it is 'sentire cum Ecclesia' - thinking with the Church.]

One example of that policy was the diversity of responses from American bishops witnessed in 2004, which will likely recur in 2008, over the issue of communion for pro-choice Catholic politicians.

While most bishops still feel a strong psychological tug in favor of presenting a unified front, it's become more difficult to use the conference as a means for achieving (and, perhaps the critical point, enforcing) that unity.

Operations: Those frustrated with the conference in the '80s and '90s sometimes complained that the bishops didn't seem to be in charge, but instead were taking their cues from staff and advisors.

One oft-cited case in point, for those who hold this view, was a 1998 document addressed to the parents of homosexuals titled "Always our Children," issued by a subcommittee of the conference with the approval of the Administrative Committee, but widely perceived as a collective statement of "the bishops."

Part of the logic for the recent restructuring of the conference, with parallels to similar shakeups in other bodies of bishops such as the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, has been to ensure that decisions and documents are truly the work of the bishops, rather than reflecting somebody else's agenda.

Structures: The elimination of some 60 jobs at the conference along with parallel cuts in the number of committees, approved by the bishops last year and taking full effect in 2008, reflect a financial squeeze on the American church created by payouts related to the sexual abuse crisis, the transition to salaried lay ministers in the place of priests and nuns, rising costs of pensions and health care, and a host of other factors.

When the dust settles, the conference will have a depleted staff in such critical areas as bioethics, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and outreach to various cultural and ethnic groups.

The net result is a conference forced to rein in its ambitions and to sharpen its focus. Optimists argue that the changes will produce a "leaner, meaner" conference, one in which the bishops feel a greater sense of ownership, and in which work is developed collaboratively rather than in self-contained bureaucratic compartments.

Skeptics, on the other hand, fear the actual result will be an "incredible shrinking conference," receding as a major force in broader cultural and political affairs, devoting its limited resources largely to insider church baseball.

Bernardin succeeded in moving the levers of power within the bishops' conference to make it an effective instrument of American aggiornamento. The question now is whether another cardinal from Chicago will be able to similarly animate the conference as a vehicle for ressourcement -- using more limited means, and, to some degree perhaps, moving towards different ends.

* * *

One key item on the bishops' agenda in Baltimore is a new version of the document "Faithful Citizenship," intended to represent their collective contribution to American political debate heading into the 2008 elections. The conference has produced such a document for the last 30 years, but this time it's being submitted to the full body of bishops for debate and a vote.

Anyone familiar with the recent track record of Catholic political engagement in the United States knows that it sometimes suffers from a curious sort of bipolar disorder.

"Peace and justice" Catholics tend to emphasize issues such as poverty, health care, the environment, and war, often invoking Bernardin's image of a "seamless garment" of social concerns.

"Pro-life" Catholics, on the other hand, generally concentrate on what one rival Catholic voter's guide refers to as the five "non-negotiables": abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and gay marriage.

In that clash, "Faithful Citizenship" has often been read as shading towards the seamless garment perspective, making it something of a bête noire for Catholics who emphasize the pro-life issues; one widely read Catholic blog, for example, has referred acidly to "the USCCB's seemingly long term partnership with the party of death."

Responding to such perceptions, the new draft of "Faithful Citizenship" attempts to hold together two propositions:

- Catholic teaching requires concern wherever human dignity is at stake, from protecting unborn life to feeding the hungry and welcoming immigrants;
- Within that range of issues, pride of place must go to the right to life.

The draft warns of two "temptations" to be avoided.

"The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity," it says. "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many."

The second temptation, the draft says, "is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity," citing racism, the death penalty, unjust war, torture and war crimes, hunger and health care, and unjust immigration policies.

Based on these considerations, the draft offers what to some observers may seem a candidate for understatement of the year: "Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the church's comprehensive commitment to the dignity of the human person."

None of this is really new, although the current draft of "Faithful Citizenship" accents the primacy of the life issues more clearly than previous editions.

What is perhaps most noteworthy about the draft is less its substance than the process behind it; for the first time, it has been generated not just by the Committees on Domestic and International Policy, long seen as the bailiwicks of the peace-and-justice folk, but also by the Committees on Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities.

Both were extensively involved in drafting and editing the text. That's intended to send a clear message that this is not just the document of one wing of the church, but of the bishops as a whole.

To borrow an ecumenical metaphor from Pope John Paul II (who himself borrowed it, by the way, from Russian poet and Catholic convert Vyacheslav Ivanov), the attempt seems to be to encourage the church in 2008 to "breathe with both lungs" in the political arena.

The decision to bring the document to the floor for a vote is a calculated roll of the dice. There may be proposals for amendments to strengthen the language on abortion and other life issues, or to emphasize that matters such as economic justice or immigration leave greater scope for prudential judgment. The document requires a two-thirds vote to pass, and there may be some anxious moments when it comes time to count noses.

Nonetheless, the draft of "Faithful Citizenship" at least represents an intriguing effort to put two oft-estranged Catholic constituencies back on speaking terms.

One final point worth making is that the draft spells out the reasons why the church does not endorse specific candidates, stating that the role of the bishops is to form consciences, but it remains the task of "each individual Catholic" to make voting decisions.
* * *

Other noteworthy items on the agenda include:

Money: The conference will consider a requirement for bishops to obtain approval from their diocesan finance council and college of consultors for five specific financial decisions:

1) Going into debt beyond $1 million for a diocese with more than a half-million Catholics, and $500,000 for dioceses with smaller populations;

2) legal settlements exceeding those same amounts;

3) running a business not directly related to the spiritual or charitable purposes of the church;

4) any contract or agreement that involves a potential conflict of interest for the bishop or other senior diocesan officials; 5) going into bankruptcy.

On a related front, Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa, Calif., will make a presentation on the importance of parish audits. (Walsh is an appropriate choice, having taken over in Santa Rosa in 2000 after the former bishop, Patrick Ziemann, left a $17 million debt amid a track record of suspect money management).

The discussion reflects a series of recent financial headaches for the church - including, for example, an estimated $36 million spent by the Detroit archdiocese on the under-utilized John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, and a 2007 survey by Villanova University that found 85 percent of American dioceses reporting some embezzlement of church funds within the last five years.

Sex Abuse: Researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Fordham University (both in New York) will present preliminary results of their study of the causes and context of the sexual abuse crisis.

Among other things, the findings are expected to offer a contrast between the periods 1960-1990 and 1990-2002, suggesting that the number of incidents declined and the aggressiveness of the church's response improved in the latter period.

The bishops have already spent $1 million on the study and expect to eventually allocate $2 million, with the project slated for completion in 2009. The results will be keenly anticipated, since the underlying causes of the sex abuse crisis remain a matter of keen Catholic debate.

Marriage: The bishops will review a new series of public service announcements and a Web site ( [2]) intended to promote traditional marriage and the family structure.

The efforts are part of a "National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage" approved in 2004. (The PSAs feature a series of couples answering the question, "What have you done for your marriage today?", such as a woman who says she got her husband mustard and mayonnaise for his sandwich.)

Youth: The bishops will review a new brochure on stewardship aimed at youth, encouraging young people to make good use of their gifts. The campaign includes an appeal for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The conference will also consider two new catechetical documents for young people, one laying out a broad curriculum for faith formation and the other targeted specifically at formation in "chaste living."

Music: The longest document on the agenda is a 22,000-word text on liturgical music titled "Sing to the Lord," which, if passed, will have the force of church law in the United States. It would replace two earlier documents on music, "Music in Catholic Worship" and "Liturgical Music Today."

One aim seems to be to promote more traditional and reverential music in the Mass, such as Latin hymns and Gregorian chant. The bishops' office for liturgy solicited input from 50 different organizations in developing the document.

On other liturgical matters, the bishops will consider a text for "Weekday Celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word," for situations where no priest is available to say Mass, and revisions to Scripture readings for Sundays in Lent.

It does not appear that the bishops will receive any update on the five dubia (meaning "questions") they submitted to the Vatican about Pope Benedict XVI's recent document liberalizing permission for the Latin Mass in use prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Among other things, the Vatican was asked to clarify whether the old rite can be used during Holy Week, including controversial Good Friday prayers for the conversion of the Jews.

The current thinking in Rome is that the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei Commission, charged with responsibility for the old Mass, may prepare a document based on the dubia received from various parts of the world, but there's no clear sense yet of when that document might appear.

* * *

Finally, the bishops will also elect new officers. With the choice of George as president a foregone conclusion, the drama will focus on the race for vice-president, since that person will be in line to succeed George in three years as president.

The candidates are:

Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin, Texas
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut
Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia
Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Duluth, Minnesota
Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania
Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of Oakland, California

As always, the results will be scrutinized for indications of which way the winds are blowing. Though this sort of political calculus is terribly crude, the election of someone like Trautman would be seen by some as a victory for the "center-left" faction, while Vigneron or Rigali would appeal more to the "center-right."

Ideology, of course, is only one of many factors as bishops weigh their options. Another is who's best equipped to act as a public voice for the church in the United States, and in that regard, some observers feel Dolan may have an edge.

The former rector of the North American College in Rome, Dolan is without peer among his brother bishops in terms of his capacity to work a room. To some extent, the gift of gab is in his gene pool; his brother Bob Dolan is a popular radio and TV personality in Milwaukee.

Dolan's charisma is one reason many church insiders regard him a strong candidate to become the next Archbishop of New York, perhaps the ultimate "big stage" in American Catholicism.

Kicanas, however, is no slouch himself in the wit department. On Monday of this week I was in Tucson, giving two presentations to the priests of the diocese along with a public lecture in the evening, all held in the gorgeous Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks.

Despite a busy schedule and a nagging cold, Kicanas spent most of the day with us. At one point, he told the priests that he had recently been in Jerusalem as part of a pilgrimage group, where he made a stop at the famed Western Wall.

While there, Kicanas said, a man approached him and asked if he could pray over him.

"Of course," Kicanis responded.

"Brother, what is the name of your wife?" the man asked.

Clearly dressed in clerical garb, the startled bishop responded, "Oh, I'm not married."

Draping Kicanis in his prayer shawl, the man then boomed out, "Dear Lord, please grant this man a wife!"

With a gleam in his eye, Kicanas wrapped up the anecdote by telling his priests: "I guess we'll see."

* * *

Normally speaking, the election of committee chairs does not arouse the same level of interest, but this time one race in particular will be closely watched. The two candidates to lead the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance are Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago.

Burke has been perhaps the strongest voice among the American bishops calling for a tough stance on giving communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians.

In a recent essay in the canon law journal De Re Canonica, Burke argued that the church has emphasized canon 916, which deals with the duty of the individual communicant to make a decision about their worthiness, at the expense of Canon 915, which states that those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" are not to be admitted.

Burke served from 1989 to 1994 as the Defender of the Bond in the Apostolic Signatura, the church's equivalent of the Supreme Court. In 2006, Benedict XVI made Burke a member of the Signatura.

In that light, many bishops could vote for Burke on the basis of his expertise as a canonist, even if they don't share his stand on the communion issue in all its particulars. Nevertheless, the election of Burke might be interpreted publicly as an endorsement of that position.

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 1:15 AM
Among other things, the citizenship class
recommends girls lose their virginity
before marriage, say critics

By Robert Duncan
Spero News

This item is datelined Oct. 19, but I didn't get to see it till now...and I do not understand why the news hasn't received more attention, if it is any idnication that I have not seen any reference to it in the past three weeks since this item first came out. It's more outrageous thn California's new law teaching the gay lifestyle along with the three R's.

The Spanish government says its new Education Law will promote plurality in a modern, democratic state. The law’s critics claim it is a tool for the Socialist government to indoctrinate students.

Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela of Madrid has said the course “clashes with the fundamental principles of the Constitution and with the right of parents to choose their children's moral instruction."

At the heart of the controversy is an obligatory Citizenship class (Educacíon para la Ciudadanía) taught over four years, beginning with 11-year old students. The course is being introduced this September in seven provinces, with a full rollout in the nation’s 17 provinces next year.

The Church says the course teaches a vision of man that is not Christian. Among other things, the Citizenship class recommends girls lose their virginity before marriage, say critics.

According to Libertad Digital, a popular conservative Spanish electronic news site, the Socialists argue that such behavior is needed to ensure girls “won’t be servants to unlimited prejudices and macho customs."

This week Madrid's Council of the Laity issued a statement that stressed “responsible people and lovers of freedom, and of course Catholics, cannot accept" the Citizenship class, adding elsewhere that the course is "incompatible with the right of parents to morally educate their children". It pointed out that it would "form the consciences of students, establish a relativistic ethic and defend terms and concepts of gender ideology."

"We think Catholic parents, should be the first to react in response to this attack on freedom and we would consider it a lack of solidarity with the rest of Spanish families if we did not do so just because the course may not be offered in one’s specific community or because Catholics schools have promised to adapt the course’s contents to their principles," the Laity statement noted.

Fernando Larrain Bustamante of the pro-family organization SOS Familia agreed that educational material used in the course infringes upon the rights of parents to educate their children in questions relating to religion and morality.

The course “supports abortion, premarital sex and the classic theory of class warfare. The material isn’t neutral,” said Larrain.

Other critics point out that the course teaches that there are 30 types of family units, and that the definitions of male and female are antiquated and should be replaced by the terms of gender – identified as being of seven varieties that can be freely chosen by individuals.

The course teaches that “if you don’t like one gender then you can just change for another one, just like you change clothes,” said Antonio Del Moral, a state prosecutor and critic of the course.

The Spanish Forum for the Family (Foro Español de la Familia) wants Spain’s courts to intervene and is encouraging parents to be conscientious objectors in clear defiance of the Socialist government’s stance that such status cannot be claimed.

Benigno Blanco, president of the Foro Español de la Familia, said that while they don't have all the numbers at the end of August over 15,000 people had claimed conscientious objector status.

The Foro Español de la Familia is the same group that organized millions to protest the Socialist government’s same-sex marriage legislation in 2005. While the government went ahead with that legislation, Blanco is optimistic in this case as he foresees a favorable court ruling.

“All conscientious objection cases eventually end up in court,” with a favorable ruling, “as it is a right guaranteed by the nation’s constitution,” Blanco said.

There is another way the case could end up before the courts – testing regional versus national powers. Some regional governments ruled by the Partido Popular – such as Madrid – have said they will ignore the Socialist government and allow parents to claim conscientious objector status.

In the case of Madrid, the regional government said it would accept voluntary social work as an alternative to the Citizenship course in 2008.

For its part, SOS Familia has launched a letter-writing campaign that seeks to convince the government to hold off the full application of the Education Law until 2008 – after the upcoming general elections.

As Larrain explained, “We don’t think that it makes much sense to implement a new education law just months before the general elections when the opposition party has said that if they come to power they will abolish the law.”

Since the launch of its campaign one month ago Larrain says on average around 2,000 letters each day are being sent to the Prime Minister’s office.

In another case, Carlos Seco Gordillo, a conscientious objector and attorney in the southern province of Andalusia, presented mid-August a petition to the regional court opposing the government’s plan in “defense of the moral liberty of our children.” Seco’s petition has since been mirrored by other concerned parents throughout Spain.

According to Antonio Santos, president of the Family Studies Institute (IDEFA), the Citizenship course is “an unnecessary invasion on the part of the government that encroaches on the rights and primary duties of parents in the education of their children. By imposing one unique school of thought in the classroom, and the difficulties with which parents can express their constitutional right to be conscientious objectors, these are yet further examples of this government’s lack of democratic criteria.”

None of the pro-family organizations have received a response from the Socialist government. However, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has repeatedly insisted his administration’s “firm intention” to implement the Education Law ahead of elections.

"No faith is above the law. Faith cannot be imposed,” Zapatero argued. “Spain is a non-confessional state, and its principles of laicism guarantee pluralism.” [But does not Zapatero see how he is contradicting himself? His government is the one that is imposing the 'secular faith', in effect, by this imposition of a decidedly secular 'citizenship course.']

In response, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Bilbao, and president of the Spanish bishops' conference, said “Faith is not imposed, but rather it is proposed …The State is non-confessional so that believers and non-believers, of one faith and others, can develop the religious liberty for which we have a right.”

Archbishop Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, vice-president of the Spanish Bishops Conference, noted that “laicism also cannot be above the law,” but this isn’t the case in Spain “where laicism is being consecrated as the official religion.”

In that vein, the Spanish Catholic Church issued a statement that said the Citizenship course "implies a serious wound to the original and inalienable right of parents and schools, in collaboration with them, to choose the moral formation that they want for their children. This is a right recognized by the Spanish Constitution (article 27.3). The government cannot supplant the society as an educator of the moral conscience."

Elsewhere the Spanish Catholic Church statement noted that if schools lose their ideological neutrality it “will impose on whoever has chosen the Catholic religion and morality another moral formation that hasn't been chosen by them."

In response to the Church’s reaction, Gregorio Peces-Barba Martínez, a Socialist heavyweight and one of the authors of Spain’s constitution, in August wrote a scathing editorial in the nation’s most widely-read newspaper, the left-leaning El Pais.

Peces-Barba warned that if the Church doesn’t stop attacking the education course, "it will be necessary to address the topic of the actions and situation of the Church and establish a new status, that puts them in their place and that respects the autonomy of the civil authority."

The government insists those who oppose the mandatory class are involved in a smear campaign.

Mercedes Cabrera, Minister of Education and Science, has said that the course forms part of a “philosophy” to educate students in the values of a varied, democratic system that is based on tolerance and dialogue. Cabrera said that those who oppose the course are “those who sadly don’t know, or are distorting,” the contents of the course. “They are creating problems where there are none,” according to Cabrera.

Those words, however, don’t faze Blanco. “I’m not a prophet, but I believe we will win this case,” he said.

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 3:49 AM
Because of scheduling and distance considerations, it is questionable whether Pope Benedict XVI will be able to attend the 49th Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in June next year. It would take place two months after the projected US trip and one month before his trip to Australia.

However, one can only hope and pray that if the Holy Father himself and his doctors decide after the US trip that he is physically fit to make another trans-Atlantic trip for what would likely be a one-day visit in that time frame, that he would decide to do so, after all. (Incidentally, it will be the first event to be handled by Archbishop Piero Marini in his new job as president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.)

The official site of the Congress (in French, English and Spanish) is excellent. This is the English site:

Quebec City along the St. Lawrence River is one of the most charming
historic cities to visit in North America

The year 2008 marks the 400th Anniversary of Québec City, the first permanent French settlement in North America. This anniversary will be celebrated by great festivities.

The arrival of French people with deep faith also marked the beginning of the Catholic Church north of Mexico. Those pioneers were soon joined by the first Récollet missionaries, in 1615, and by the Jesuits, in 1625. The first feminine religious congregations, the Ursuline Sisters and the Augustinian Nuns, came in 1639.

During the 2008 celebrations, the religious dimension will play an important role, since the Catholic Church has played and still plays an important role in the lives of Québec people.

In order that this religious aspect of the festivities may reach people of different interests and of all backgrounds, the diocesan Church in Québec is planning a variety of activities throughout the year. Furthermore, initial contacts with leaders of other Christian Churches have kindled hopes of organizing activities of an ecumenical nature.

With the support of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Québec’s Archbishop proposed to the Pope that the 49th International Eucharistic Congress be celebrated in Québec City in 2008.

Pope John Paul II officially announced the holding of the Congress in Québec during an address on October 17, 2004, inaugurating the Year of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic Congress will be the most important religious event of the 2008 celebrations for the foundation of Québec City.

The theme of the Congress is “The Eucharist, God’s Gift for the Life of the World”.

As Cardinal Marc Ouellet remarked, “The Eucharist, as we know it from the accounts of its institution, testifies to the gift of love which the Son gives of himself for all humanity, a gift of love for the Father and for us which seals the New Covenant. It can also be seen as the gift which the Father makes to the world of his only Son, incarnate and crucified, who gathers around his table the dispersed children of God…. Finally, it is the gift of Trinitarian communion for the life of the world, through the action of the Holy Spirit who assures the intimate participation of the faithful in this Covenant mystery.”

Procession in Old Québec
for the 2007 Feast of Corpus Christi

The 2008 International Eucharistic Congress will be the assembly of the Church in Québec hosting the universal Church to celebrate the Living Christ under the theme “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World.”

It will be an experience of faith lived in a festive atmosphere with believers of all ages coming from every corner of the globe. The Congress pilgrims will gather for a week of celebrations from June 15 to 22, at the Cité eucharistique or Eucharistic City, where most of the Congress will take place.

The Program includes highly varied celebrations, catecheses, religious and artistic activities, both for the Congress pilgrims and for the public.


What is an International Eucharistic Congress?
It is a gathering of the universal Church to celebrate Jesus alive and present in the Eucharist, source and summit of evangelization and center of the Church’s life. With the approval of the Pope, a diocesan Church invites other Churches to a unique time of prayer, reflection and commitment.

Have there been many Eucharistic Congresses in Canada?
Only one other International Eucharistic Congress took place in Canada, in Montreal in 1910. However, there have been many parish, regional and national congresses, one of which occurred in Québec City in 1938, but none since Vatican II.

Does a Eucharistic Congress require a long preparation?
The preparation is as important as the celebration. This preparation presupposes a deepened understanding of the Eucharistic mystery through catecheses, fervent celebration of the liturgy, and a search for solidarity and sharing initiatives to help fraternal relationships grow. That spiritual preparation nurtures the fruits of the Spirit operating in the Church.

What will happen during the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress?
A preliminary program will be presented in May 2008. Here are some indications:

- A catechesis and solemn Eucharistic liturgy, offered daily, will help to deepen understanding of the general Congress theme and daily themes.
- Congress pilgrims speaking various languages will gather in parish churches to socialize, share and pray with members of those Christian communities.
- Public celebrations will include a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, a youth prayer vigil, a family weekend program, along with artistic and cultural activities.
- A social service, which for years to come will witness to the fruits of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress, will be inaugurated on June 20th.
- Québec’s religious heritage will be highlighted by pilgrimages and guided tours.

Will the Pope come?
In 1964, Paul VI began the custom of having the Pope conclude an International Eucharistic Congress with a solemn Mass. John Paul II continued that custom, although his state of health prevented him from attending a few times. Benedict XVI told Québec’s Archbishop, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, that he hoped to come. The final decision will probably be known in December 2007.

When and where will these events take place?
The 2008 International Eucharistic Congress will occur from June 15 to 22, 2008. The main venue will be the city’s fair grounds, ExpoCité, which will be named Cité eucharistique or Eucharistic City for the occasion. The closing Mass will be celebrated on the Plains of Abraham. Some gatherings will also be held in certain churches.

What is the theme of the 2008 Congress?
“The Eucharist, God’s Gift for the Life of the World”

Who is in charge of its organization?
By right, Québec’s Archbishop is President of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress. He set up a Steering Committee to oversee its main orientations and major decisions.

How is a Eucharistic Congress financed?
The main sources of revenue are: the registration fees of Congress pilgrims; donations from communities and religious movements and institutions; contributions from the three levels of government; a public fundraising campaign; and donations via the internet. A corporation manages the budget in a strict and effective way.

The Canadian Bishops accepted to hold a collection during the 2007 and 2008 Corpus Christi celebrations. Moreover, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus has donated one million dollar.


The logo is composed of a cross dividing a circle into four quarters. The circle represents the host, body of Christ and bread broken and shared in Eucharist.

The circle also symbolizes the earth and its four compass points. As such, the logo evokes the life of the world invited to the universal gathering of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress.

The logo as a whole pictures a ship, symbol of the universal Church and of Peter’s boat. A ship likewise appears on the coat of arms of the City of Québec. Sailing up the majestic St. Lawrence River, the first missionaries and Monsignor de Laval set foot in Québec to introduce faith in Jesus Christ.

The color gold recalls the Eucharistic bread, and red, the Eucharistic wine. The two colors merge to express the Gift of God. These were likewise the dominant colors in the coat of arms of François de Laval, first Bishop of North America.

The logo is inscribed with a cross that separates in four parts the circle symbolizing the Eucharistic host, Corpus Christi. Thus, it signifies the broken bread of the shared Eucharist. We can find in this circle a reference to the earth and its four cardinal points.


O God source of life, we thank you for your gift:
this bread and wine for the life of the world.
United in praise, we come to the feast
to take in our hands, God's gift for life.
For this we praise you, Lord.

Words: Robert Lebel
Melody and harmonies: Mario Jacques and Jean Morissette

These words make up the refrain of the theme song for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Quebec City in June 2008. They plunge us into the heart of the mystery of the Eucharist —a gift of God for the life of the world — and introduce us to the theme of the upcoming Congress.

In preparation for the Congress, we are invited to read, sing, pray, meditate, and share the Eucharistic hymn. A number of Christian communities have already learned the hymn and are using it during their various assemblies.

The winner of an international music contest, our theme song “Gift of God” is the work of three artists and the fruit of many varied collaborations. May this song nourish our reflection, our prayer, and our faith!

The theme song is available on CD which includes the following:
- Multilingual version of the song in French, English and Spanish (download the words of this multilingual theme song in PDF)
- Instrumental score
- Interpretation of three verses per language
- One verse per section: alto, tenor, and bass

Links for more information and photos about Quebec:

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 7:27 PM

The following story is based on two separate reports by Bruno Volpe for PETRUS. One was informative, and the other was mostly commentary in defense of the Mass MP, which I have left out.

VATICAN CITY - For two days this weekend, amid an almost total absence of reporting in the so-called major Italian media, the Eternal City is hosting this weekend the annual international congress of Una Voce, a worldwide federation of traditionalist liturgy associations.

The Congress opened with the traditional Mass celebrated at the Church of the Holy Savior by Monsignor Luigi de Magistris, Pro- Penitentiary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, with Mons. Joseph Cramer as liturgical master.

It was also an occasion to consecrate bells cast in 1321 that have been donated Count Aldo Prachetti Peretti of the Marche, who had the bells inscribed with the date of July 7, 2007, when the pope issued theMass MP, as well as the names of Benedict XVI; Mons. Angelo Bagnasco as president of the Italian bishops conference; Mons. Luigi Conti, president of the Marche regional bishops conference; and teh Bishop of Fermo, Mons. Claudio Giulodoro.

The bells will be installed at the Roman churches of Sacro
Cuore and San Benedetto di Norcia.

The choice of Rome for this year's convention site was not by chance. It was meant to show the full and abolute loyalty to the Pope among these Catholics, especially in the year during which the Holy Fahter ssued his Motu Prioprio liberalizing the universal practice of the traditional Mass, over the protests of modernists and progressivists who reject anything 'pre-Conciliar' as regressive and anti-Vatican II.

Many bishops and priests, including some cardinals, have since then made public display of their disobedience to the Pope because they do not agree with the Pope's decree.

Una Voce has associations in many countries. Its local (city or regional) associations in Italy and the United States are particularly numerous and active.

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 9:06 PM

Translated from Il Giornale today:

Every Friday the chapel becomes a mosque for the weekly prayer service of some 200 Muslims. And the invocations to Allah echo throughout the little parish.

Courtesy of Don Aldo Danieli, 69, parish priest of Paderno in Ponzano Veneto, located in the diocese of Treviso, (northeastern Italy).

Every Friday, he throws the doors wide open to allow the Muslims in his parish to make use of the chapel, along with its adjoining facilities, including a kitchen.

"It is useless to speak about dialog if we close the doors in their face. Papa Wojtyla called them 'dear brother Muslims', so how can we close our doors to them? I consider them all children of God. Besides, our chapels are otherwise just gathering cobwebs," he says.

Therefore, better to use them for those who really want to pray, since Christians don't make use of them any more, the priest claims.

This has been going on for two years but it came to national attention only yesterday because someone cited it during a meeting in Rome.

"I prefer Muslims who pray than Christians who curse," the priest said, saying he did not ask permission from the Bishop of Treviso, Mons. Adrea Mazzoccato, for his initiative.

In any case, he says, if he had asked and been denied, he would not have obeyed anyway. "I'm older than the bishop," he said.

Of course, not all his parishioners welcome his action. He says he has even received e-mail warnings to watch out because 'they start coming to pray but they will end up trying to be masters.'

"I called a pastoral council and explained that there was no need to fear. That John Paul II had asked us to open wide the doors to Christ, and that means even Muslims."

The Diocese of Treviso did not make any comment, but Il Giornale learned that for some time, Mons. Mazzoccato has been trying to resolve the situation without raising hue and cry.

But some church authorities said that the diocese will be guided in this respect by a 1993 note from the Italian bishops conference, in which Paragraph 34 says: "Christian communities, in order to avoid useless misunderstandings and dangerous confusions, should not make disposable for purposes of non-Christian religious encounters, churches, chapels, and places consecrated for Catholic use, nor places intended for parochial activities."

The bishops' note also refers to the question of reciprocity, saying that "In some Islamic countries it is almost impossible to belong to, much less to practice Christianity freely."

Therefore, the official line of the Church in Italy is this: welcome, hospitality, assistance and support to all immigrants regardless of faith. But spaces for non-Christian prayer may not be provided within Church spaces.

"If it has to do with providing meals or fund- or aid-raising assemblies, then there is no question," said Mons. Alessandro Maggiolini, emeritus Bishop of Como. "But we are not obliged to provide non-Christians places for prayer."

He points out that an Islamic rule dating back to the second Caliphate considers any place 'consecrated by Muslim prayer' as forever belonging to Islam.

Perhaps the parish priest 'older than the bishop' - who has already announced he will disobey any contrary instructions from his superiors - should ask himself what responsibility he has about any chapel 'gathering cobwebs' in his parish, and whether it was necessarily inevitable!

Il Giornale, 10 novembre 2007


Another news item adds the information that don Aldo first made the chapel available to the Mislums for Ramadan two years ago, and that since then, they have used it not only for Friday prayers but also for other assemblies, that Muslims from neighboring towns also participate, and that last Ramadan, mroe than a thousand people gathered at the chapel.

Apparently, Paderno is two kilometers away from the main factor of Benetton, and the town has some 250 Muslim immigrant famlies, mostly from North Africa.

What do you think?

I know we Christians should be charitable to our neighbors and turn the other cheek, and this may well be one such case of showing charity and turning the other cheek (i.e., just because Christians are persecuted to death in some Muslim countries does not mean we stop being kind to others because they are Muslim).

However, the Church in Italy may need to make its guidelines clearer.

1. What is the rule about a place consecrt=ated for Catholic use and then used by non-Christians while it is still a Catholic place of worship?

I believe Cardinal Ratzinger's objection to the inter-religious rites in the first Assisi event was precisely the use of a consecrated space for non-Christian and even pagan rites.

2. Is it right for the parish to pay for the cost of hosting (maintenance, cleaning and utilities) the non-parishioners regularly?

3. Where does one draw the line betwen tolerance and respect of other religions and the Christian's mission to evangelize?

And no one has reported what the Muslims do to the Crucifix and other holy images and Christian signs and symbols in the chapel when they hold their services. Has don Aldo obligingly stripped the chapel bare for them? Do they cover it all up with a wall, screen or sheets? Have they put up a permanent mihrab [the place, usually a niche, in the wall representing the direction of Mecca, from where the imam leads prayers] or designated a place in the chapel as such?



Bishop lays dow the law:
A Church cannot be a part-time mosque!
Parish priest says he will obey
despie earlier statement

The parish church of Santa Maria Assunta in Paderno can never be a part-time mosque, the Bishop of Treviso, Mons. Andrea Mazzoccato, decided today.

A statement from the diocese said the decision was taken after a 'fraternal and cordial' meeting between Mons. Mazzoccato and don Aldo Danieli, the 69-year-old parish priest who has allowed his parish shapel and adjoining facilities to be used by Muslims for Friday services and other assemblies.

"The bishop met with don Danieli to make things clear, and don Aldo affirmed his obedience to the bishop and his readiness to resolve the problem."

The vice-president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, had requested the bishop to intervene because "I am not sure at all that what the parish priest has done is in line with Church teaching."

00Saturday, November 10, 2007 11:12 PM

Although the new editorial management at OR has made more information available online from its Page 1 coverage than the previous editors did, it still does not allow online access to all its pages as Avvenire does.

APCOM has come out with the report, translated here, on an article in today's OR which is not on Page 1, so we have non online access:

VATICAN CITY, Nov, 10 (Apcom) - L'Osservatore Romano has criticized the "recent media campaign against the alleged privileges said to be unjustly extended to agencies of the Catholic Church" and denounced the underlying "intention to attack the social activities that the Church is carrying out in Italy" in an article entitled "On the alleged privileges of the Catholic Church in Italy", written by Patrizia Clementi.

The article notes that the current campaign took its cue from "a new request for information from the Italian government by the European Commission" [on whether fiscal and tax privileges 'enjoyed' by the Catholic church may be a violation of European Union rules on fair competition], strengthened by a proposed amendment to the budget measure for 2008 which seeks to abolish the tax exemption for properties used for socially relevant activities."

"The controversy, created by an approximative reading of the law and the ill-meaning distortion of objective data," Clementi writes, "has actually been going on for almost two years, and is being padded gradually by elements which are extraneous to the original issue but are clearly meant to attack the social activities that the Church is carrying out in Italy through its various agencies."

Regarding the questioned tax exemptions, the article says:

"It is not true that such exemptions are extended only to ecclesiastical entities - they apply to all non-commercial entities. It is equally false that the exemption applies to all properties of the Church - it only applies to those that are used for specific social and charitable non-profit purposes defined by the law. In all other cases - bookstores, restaurants, hotels, businesses and property rentals - the Church pays the required taxes like all other businesses.

"The most hateful of the accusations is that the Church has gained tax exemptions [for otherwise non-tax-exempt properties] by placing a chapel within buildings so that they may qualify under the category of a building destined for 'non-exclusively commercial purposes.'"

It's the other way around, the article says, namely, a chapel inside a building used for other purposes loses the exemption which it woudll be entitled to as a chapel per se.

"Lastly," Clementi writes, "a clarification is needed about hotels or lodging places run by church agencies. It is not true when it is stated that no lodging activities are covered by any tax exemptions."

"Buildings used for so called 'receptive' activities are exempt, namely, places which provide 'complementary or secondary reception' defined and regulated by national as well as regional laws as places where admission is limited to specific categories of persons, such as student dormitories, hospitality houses for the families of patients in Catholic hospitals when they live in a different town or city, and
vacation lodging for student, employee or family groups."

In the last case, the article further explains, "local governments carry out verification of activity so that if any hotel or lodging house erroneously claims it is being used as 'holiday lodgings', they can be made to pay what taxes they should, after being penalized as well for carrying out lodging activity inconsistent with its existing permit."

00Sunday, November 11, 2007 12:29 AM

Lella posts the following three items from yesterday's issue of IL SOLE 24 ORE, Italy's financial daily newspaper, which though not particularly friendly to the Church, did run these items together to state the obvious. Here are translations:

Ideological bias is behind
the repeated harassment
of the Church

By law, the European Commission obviously has every reason to ask the Italian government, as it has, to present with maximum transparency the conditions and privileges to which the assets of the Church of Italy, and all its agencies, as well as of the Vatican - whose status as a sovereign state is recognized, as well as its extra-territorial rights to properties, particularly those that are located in Rome.

By law, Italy has every reason to respond, as it has already done, that any fiscal concessions have to do, on the one hand, with all activities of general interest or at least not purely commercial not only by the Catholic Church but also by all other confessions, and on the other, the properties of a state (the Vatican) with whom relationships are governed by an international treaty recognized by the Italian Constitution.

However, the repeated demands of the Commission have been inspired and solicited by repeated denunciations made by Italian opponents of the Church. Beyond which one can see clearly a familiar ideological motivation and not merely the alleged desire to defend fair competition.

Il Sole 24 Ore, 9 novembre 2007

Tax exemptions for all faiths,
not just for Catholics

The European Union is forgetting there are other religions. And has been hammering the Catholic Church on the question of property tax exemptions.

In its letter to the Italian government asking for a listing of beneficiaries of 'illegitimate' fiscal concessions, the European Commission asks for, among other things, "the list of the buildings owned by the Holy See indicated by Art. 2 of Dpr 601\1973, their corresponding cadastral value, and the annual tax that would have been due in the absence of the exemption granted by Art. 7, comma 1, letter (i), of the legislative decree 504/1992./"

Achille Colombo Clerici, president of the real estate association Assoedilizia, said: "The EU has expressed an obvious prejudice, forgetting that the tax exemption rule applies to all confessions, not only to the Catholic church. Obviously, they have absolutely no deep knowledge of Church and State relations."

In fact, the letter (i) provision cited by Brussels does not even refer to any specific exemption for the Catholic Church. It refers generically to juridical entities who do not exclusively csrry out commercial activities in buildings dedicated to recreational, cultural, and assistential purposes.

© Copyright Il Sole 24 Ore, 9 novembre 2007

Distorted reporting on tax exemptions

The Italian bishops conference (CEI) replied for the Church to the European Commission letter on alleged fiscal privileges for the Church: much of what the letter claims is all the result of 'distorting' the facts, according to Mons. Giuseppe Betori, CEI secretary-general, and the lawyers for CEI.

Just as it is distortion to claim that "all it takes is to place a chapel inside a building to obtain tax exemption for it", according to Patrizia Clementi, an official in the tax office of the Diocese of Milan and member of the CEI's economic commission which recently submitted the result of a study it begun one year ago on the question of tax exemptions.

The CEI points out that a property tax exemption is granted to all buildings owned by a non-commercial entity and which are used completely for any of eight specified activities - assistential or humanitarian, preventive care, health care, reception [in the sense of hospitality/lodging for persons with special needs], educational, cultural, recreational, and sports.

That is the basis for the tax exemption, which also stipulates that the entity may not profit from such tax-exempt asset, not even in the event of dissolution, and that any savings realized because of the tax exemption must be reinvested into the property.

These exemption goes back to 1992, and in 2006, a basic principle was agreed on: even if activities inside the tax-exempt building become commercial (meaning services are rendered in return for specific fees), as for instance for health services, such activity will not be interpreted as commercial provided it is within the allowed category of activity and that the specific enterprise continues to be non-profit.

The CEI also points out that the public discussion is deliberately being framed to make it appear that only the Catholic Church is a beneficiary of such tax exemptions, when it applies to all qualified properties of associations, foundations, sports associations, political parties, and what the Italians call ONLUS [acronym for non-profit social orbanizations in Italian].

Clementi also points out that Church-owned businesses like bookstores, restaurants, hotels and lodging houses must and do pay property taxes.

[The article furthe quotes Clementi giving the same arguments she wrote in the Osservatore Romano, as reported in the preceding post.]

Il Sole 24 Ore, 9 novembre 2007

00Sunday, November 11, 2007 3:44 AM

Translated from Apcom:

VATICAN CITY, Nov 9 (APcom) - Vatican-II continues to be divisive.

Rejected by the Lefebvrians and foreshadowed by men like Antonio Rosmini, the great assembly of bishops from all over the world in 1962-1965, which redefined the relationship of the Church with the world, has been the object of scholarly studies who have interpreted it either as a revolution in the history of Catholicism or a transition without rupture.

Monsignor Angelo Marchetto, secretary of the pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, and author of the book Il Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II. Contrappunto per la sua storia' (Vatican publishing house, 2005), spoke today of the second interpretation (which is also Pope Benedict's) while assailing the leading spokesman for the first, the historian Giuseppe Alberigo, who died last June after having dedicated his life to editing a massive History of the Second Vatican Council.

Marchetto, during a conference on "The Catholic Church in the XX Century" organized by the East-West Study Center of Ancona, disputed the interpretation given by Alberigo and his so-called 'Bologna school' (now led by Alberto Melloni, editorialist for Corriere della Sera).

He said Vatican-II was a great event, which synthesized tradition and renewal but was not a rupture with the past nor the creation of a new church.

However, he said, Alberigo and his fellow scholars "succeeded, through a wealth of means, diligent and persistent work, and a wide network of contacts around the world, to monopolize and impose an ideological interpretation" which today tends mainly to place John XXIII and Paul VI in opposition, promoting a so-called 'spirit of Vatican-II' that sees the Council as no less than "a Copernican revolution, the passage to another Catholicism."

Alberigo advocated a democratization of the Church, stating that "the hegemony of the institutional system over Christian life...reached an apex with the dogmatic definition of Papal primacy and the magisterial infallibility of the Bishop of Rome," when instead, he went on to assert, "it is faith, communion and the readiness to serve that make up the Church."

Mons. Marchetto chooses to emphasize 'identity in evolution' and 'faithfulness in renewal' as the defining characteristis of Vatican-II. He called on everyone to reread the address Pope Benedict XVI gave to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, when the Pope underscored that the interpretation of Vatican-II as a rupture with the pre-conciliar Church, promoted by the advocacy of mass media, had only created confusion.

The Pope has said since then that the correct interpretation of that great Church event has instead 'silently but ever more visibly' borne fruit.

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