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Archive for December 22nd, 2009

Morning Catholic must-reads

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Bart Stupak promises to make a last stand against abortion funding in healthcare reform.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has issued his Christmas message.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has urged people to recover the true spirit of Christmas.

The funeral of murdered Irish missionary Fr Jeremiah Roche has taken place.

Rocco Palmo says Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has made himself deeply unpopular among senior Irish clergy.

The new coadjutor Bishop of Shrewsbury gives his first interview.

An American bishop has ordered congregations to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Atheists are suing the Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn.

The Vatican’s spokesman reflects on Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land.

Mehmet Ali Agca is likely to be released from prison next month.

An archbishop of the beleaguered Pakistani Catholic Church meditates on Christmas (audio).

Hundreds of people are gathering in a Cairo suburb to witness “apparitions” of the Virgin Mary.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has joined critics of the decision to move Pius XII’s Cause forward.

Americans have become less Christian but more mystical, suggests Ross Douthat.

Chuck Norris wonders whether Jesus would have been born under Obamacare.

The Diocese of Westminster issues its 2010 liturgical calendar.

A South Carolina priest has won $100,000 for his parish in a poker tournament.

And a scientist claims that angels can’t fly.


The Pope’s address to the Curia: official summary

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Photo: Pope Benedict XVI addresses prelates for Christmas wishes in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican on Monday (AP Photo/Tony Gentile, Pool)

The Pope’s address to the Roman Curia is one of the highlights of the Vatican year. In it, the Pontiff reflects on the previous 12 months and tries to draw out key themes.

Benedict XVI delivered this year’s address yesterday. Frustratingly, the full English translation does not appear to be available yet. So for the moment we must make do with the Vatican’s official summary:

Today in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father held his traditional meeting with the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and members of the Roman Curia and of the Governorate of Vatican City State, in order to exchange Christmas greetings.

Opening his address, the Pope recalled two events that marked the year 2009 – the conclusion of the Pauline Year and the beginning of the Year for Priests – affirming that both St Paul and the saintly Curé of Ars demonstrate “the broad scope of priestly ministry”.

‘The year now drawing to a close passed largely under the sign of Africa,’ said the Holy Father. In this context he mentioned his apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola where, ‘in the meeting with the Pope, the universal Church became manifest, a community that embraces the world and that is brought together by God through Christ, a community that is not founded on human interests but that arises from God’s loving attention towards us’.

In Africa ‘the celebrations of the Eucharist were authentic feasts of faith’ characterised by ‘a sense of holiness, by the presence of the mystery of the loving God moulding … each individual gesture,’ said Benedict XVI. He also recalled his meeting with African bishops in Cameroon and the inauguration of the Synod for Africa with his consignment to them of the Instrumentum laboris.

His visit to Africa likewise ‘revealed the theological and pastoral force of pontifical primacy as a point of convergence for the unity of the Family of God’. And, when the Synod itself was celebrated in Rome in October, ‘the importance of the collegiality – of the unity – of the bishops emerged even more powerfully’, he said.

‘The Vatican Council II renewal of the liturgy took exemplary form’ in the liturgies in Africa while, ‘in the communion of the Synod, we had a practical experience of the ecclesiology of the Council’.

Referring then to the theme of the 2009 Synod – ‘The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace’ – the Pope described it as ‘a theological and, above all, a pastoral theme of vital relevance. Yet’, he said, ‘it could also be misunderstood as a political theme. The task of the bishops was to transform theology into pastoral activity; in other words, into a concrete pastoral ministry in which the great visions of Holy Scripture and Tradition are applied to the activities of bishops and priests in a specific time and place’.

The problem of ‘a positive secularism, correctly practised and interpreted’, which was the focus of the African bishops’ concerns, was ‘also a fundamental theme of my Encyclical Caritas in veritate’, published in June. That document ‘returned to and further developed the question concerning the theological role – and the concrete application – of Church social doctrine’.

On the subject of reconciliation, which ‘the Synod attempted to examine profoundly … as a task facing the Church today’, the Pope noted that ‘if man is not reconciled with God, he is also in disharmony with the creation. … Another aspect of reconciliation is the capacity to recognise guilt and to ask forgiveness, of God and of neighbour’, he said.

‘We must learn the ability to do penance, to allow ourselves to be transformed, to go out to meet others and to allow God to grant us the courage and strength for such renewal. In this world of ours today we must rediscover the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation’. In this context, the Holy Father described the fact that people are confessing less than they used to as ‘a symptom of a loss of veracity towards ourselves and towards God; a loss that endangers our humanity and diminishes our capacity for peace’.

‘If the power of reconciliation is not created in people’s hearts, political commitment lacks the interior precondition necessary for peace. During the Synod, the pastors of the Church worked for this interior purification of man, which is the essential preliminarily requirement for creating justice and peace. But such interior purification and maturity … cannot exist without God.’

The Holy Father then turned his attention to the pilgrimage he made in May to Jordan and the Holy Land. In this respect, he thanked the king of Jordan for ‘the exemplary manner in which he works for peaceful coexistence among Christians and Muslims, for respect towards the religion of others and for responsible collaboration before God’.

The Pope also thanked the Israeli government ‘for all it did to ensure my visit could take place peacefully and securely’, and for having enabled him ‘to celebrate two great public liturgies: in Jerusalem and in Nazareth’. He likewise expressed his thanks to the Palestinian Authority for its ‘great cordiality’ and for having given him the opportunity to celebrate a ‘public liturgy in Bethlehem and to perceive the suffering and the hopes present in their territory’.

‘The visit to Yad Vashem represented a disturbing encounter with human cruelty, with the hatred of a blind ideology which, with no justification, consigned millions of human beings to death and which, in the final analysis, also sought to drive God from the world: the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the God of Jesus Christ.’ Thus the museum is, ‘first and foremost, a commemorative monument against hatred, a heartfelt call to purification, forgiveness and love’.

The Holy Father also mentioned his September trip to the Czech Republic where, ‘I was always told, agnostics and atheists are in the majority and Christians now represent only a minority’. In this context he noted how ‘people who describe themselves as agnostics or atheist must also be close to our hearts, as believers. When we speak of a new evangelisation these people may perhaps feel afraid. … Yet the critical question about God also exists for them. … We must take care that man does not shelve the question of God, the essential question of his existence’.

In closing his address, the Holy Father again mentioned the current Year for Priests. ‘As priests,’ he said, ‘we are here to serve everyone. … We must recognise God ever and anew, and seek Him continually in order to become His true friends’.

‘This is my hope for Christmas,’ he concluded, ‘that we become ever greater friends of Christ, and therefore friends of God, and that in this way we may become salt of the earth and light of the world.’

Written by Luke Coppen

December 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm

SSPX and Holy See talks: new details emerge

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The excellent New Liturgical Movement has a fascinating post on the ground rules for the discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX. What jumped out at me were that both parties are taping and filming each session. This is presumably a precaution in case the talks end in acrimony.

Here’s the full list of conditions:

1) The outcome of the first meeting has been good.

2) Primarily the agenda and the method of discussion were established.

3) The issues to be discussed are of a doctrinal nature to the express exclusion of any canonical question regarding the situation of the SSPX.

4) The common doctrinal reference point will be the Magisterium prior to the Council.

5) The talks follow a rigorous method: an issue is raised, and the party raising it sends a paper substantiating its doubts. The Holy See responds in writing, after prior email exchanges among the technical advisers. At the meeting, the issue is discussed.

6) All meetings are taped by both parties and filmed.

7) The conclusions of each topic will be submitted to the Holy Father and the Superior General of the SSPX.

The timing of these meetings depends on whether the topic is new or is already being discussed. In the first case, it will be approximately every three months. In the second, every two. The next meeting is planned for mid January.

9) The theological representatives of the Holy See “are people you can talk with”, they speak “the same (theological) language as we”. (meaning presumably they are Thomists).

10) Some of the topics mentioned by the bishop in his homily, not exhaustively, are:

a) The Magisterium of the Council and after the Council.

b) The conciliar liturgical reform.

c) Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

e) Papal authority and collegiality.

f) Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, secularism and the social reign of Jesus Christ.

g) Human rights and human dignity according to the Council’s teaching.

Written by Luke Coppen

December 22, 2009 at 11:45 am