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Archive for November 2009

Pope Benedict: Christ is the centre of the liturgy

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Photo: Pope Benedict pictured during yesterday’s Angelus prayer (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

In his address before the Angelus yesterday, Pope Benedict reminded pilgrims that the First Sunday of Advent marked the start of the Church’s year.

He said:

The [Second Vatican] Council insists on the fact that Christ is the centre of the liturgy. It is similar to the sun, around which rotate the planets. Around the liturgy rotate the Blessed Virgin Mary – she is the closest – and the martyrs and the other saints that ‘in heaven sing to God the perfect praise and intercede for us’.

This is the reality of the liturgical year seen, so to speak, ‘from God’s side’. And from the side – shall we say – of man, of history and of society? What importance can it have? The answer is suggested properly by the advent journey, which we undertake today.

The contemporary world needs above all hope: It is needed by developing peoples, but also by those economically developed. We increasingly see that we are in the same boat and that we must all be saved together. Above all, seeing so many false securities crumble, we realize that we need a trustworthy hope, and this is found only in Christ, who, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, ‘is the same yesterday, today and always’ (13:8).

The Lord Jesus came in the past, he comes in the present and will come in the future. He embraces all the dimensions of time, because he died and rose, he is ‘the Living One’ and, sharing our human precariousness, remains forever and offers us God’s very stability.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Archbishop Nichols sees signs of a revival

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The Daily Telegraph has a wide-ranging interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols today, in which he notes a growing “undercurrent” of interest in the Catholic faith.

Written by Luke Coppen

November 28, 2009 at 10:20 am

Learning the lessons of the Dublin report

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My colleague, Quentin de la Bédoyère, is blogging on the Dublin report into clerical sex abuse. Join him here for a discussion of what Catholics must learn from the report.

Written by Luke Coppen

November 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

In the paper this week

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This week’s issue is something of a first for us: for the first time in our history we’ve produced a magazine-sized supplement. This 20-page addition to the paper contains articles for Advent by Pastor Iuventus, Fr Rupert McHardy, Fr Tim Gardner, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith and Alan Bancroft (who translated the poems of St Thérèse of Lisieux into English). The magazine isn’t available online, so if you live in Britain or Ireland you may like to pick up a copy at the back of your local Catholic church or subscribe to the paper.

Meanwhile, the rest of the paper is teeming with news, features and comment. We report on the latest developments in the plans for Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain, on a searing speech on contemporary arts by Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow and the clash over assisted suicide between the Bishops of England and Wales and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Freddy Gray profiles the liberal American nuns who have convoked “Vatican III”. The novelist Rachel Billington explains why she’s following in the footsteps of her father, the prison reformer Lord Longford. Gerard Carruthers shows that the poet Robert Burns was friendly towards Catholics. Sophie Caledcott explains why girls around the world are swooning over Edward Cullen, the chaste hero of the Twilight series. Andrew McKie applauds Vatican astronomers for discussing the possibility of alien life and Jonathan Wright gives a B+ to a new study of St Thomas Aquinas.

This is just a taster. For the full experience, visit your local church or click here.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 27, 2009 at 9:01 am

Mass attendance up in England and Wales, latest figures show

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Next year’s Catholic Directory for England and Wales arrived in the office today. I eagerly flipped to the section called “Recapitulation of Statistics”. Beneath that rather dull heading are the latest figures for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

These numbers are interesting and important because the Church in this country isn’t good at gathering statistical information. Outside these pages, with their bland rows of numbers, it is hard to find trustworthy data on the Catholics of England and Wales.

So what do this year’s figures (actually gathered in 2008) tell us? One or two interesting things.

First, there are more than 100 diocesan priests than in the previous year (3,614 compared to 3,506), but 300 fewer religious priests (1,069 to 1,312).

Second, the overall Catholic population is smaller than in the previous year (4,148,783 to 4,156,544), but weekly Mass attendance is higher (918,844 to 915,556).

Third, baptisms and receptions are up (63,533 to 58,991 and 4,378 to 4,239 respectively). But the number of marriages is slightly down (9,932 to 9,950).

All in all, this is pretty encouraging news.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Pope Benedict: Follow the example of the Trinity

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At yesterday’s general audience Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the theologies of the 12th-century monks Hugh of St Victor and Richard of St Victor.

He said:

Dear friends, authors such as Hugh and Richard of St Victor raise our soul to the contemplation of divine realities. At the same time, the immense joy we get from thought, admiration and praise of the Most Holy Trinity, establishes and sustains the concrete commitment to inspire us in that perfect model of communion and love to build our everyday human relations.

The Trinity is truly perfect communion! How the world would change if in families, in parishes and in all other communities relationships were lived following always the example of the three Divine Persons, where each one lives not only with the other, but for the other and in the other!

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Paul VI is Pope Benedict’s surprising guiding light

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Photo: A statue of Pope Paul VI greets Pope Benedict XVI at a museum in Concesio on November 8
(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

I’ve been trying to absorb the Pope’s speech to artists in the Sistine Chapel last Saturday. Benedict XVI is famous for the clarity of his teaching, but I have to admit I’m finding the loftier parts of the address a bit of a struggle.

The speech displays the Pope’s deep knowledge of European culture. He refers to Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Plato, Dostoevsky, Braque, Cyprian Norwid, von Balthasar, Simone Weil and Hermann Hesse. But the guiding light is undoubtedly Paul VI, whom Beneduct XVI mentions no fewer than five times.

It’s become increasingly clear that Pope Benedict feels a deep affinity for Paul VI, in spite of their differences in personality and policy.

This may surprise those on the liberal and conservative wings of the Church who tend to contrast the two popes, presenting Paul VI as a bold (or naive) post-conciliar reformer and Benedict XVI as a traditionalist with a preference for the pre-conciliar forms of the Church. But while this stark contrast holds true for the liturgy on many other topics Benedict and Paul VI are of one mind.

The truth is that Paul VI was more of a “traditionalist” and Benedict XVI is more “modern” than these reductive interpretations allow.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm