UK Bishops to screen "Catholic" societies
Commitment to Catholic teaching and practice required
The bishops of England and Wales announced in February a stricter process for organisations claiming to be Catholic and therefore entitled to a listing in the official National Catholic Directory.
Future editions of the directory - which has been published annually since 1970 - will include only those Catholic societies which the bishops judge to be loyal to the Church.
Two years ago, the late Cardinal Basil Hume banned the inclusion of the gay Catholic support group Quest after the organisation was unable to confirm that its constitution was intended to remain within Catholic teaching.
Starting in April, all 113 societies currently listed will have to apply in writing to a three-man panel chaired by Bishop Vincent Malone, a Liverpool auxiliary. They will have to prove they are "fundamentally committed to Catholic teaching and practice."
In their statement, the bishops said they were "tolerant of some variety of emphasis in expression and operation, but not of deviation from ultimate loyalty to the Church, nationally or internationally."
US dioceses refuse funds for education convention
Criticisms expressed on "objectionable speakers"
Officials of the US dioceses of Peoria, Illinois, and Pittsburgh, have refused to allocate funds to pay for teachers wishing to attend the National Catholic Educational Association convention in Milwaukee in April.
Peoria's Bishop John Myers indicated that he objected to the scheduling of Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister as a keynote speaker. Sister Chittister is well-known for her writings and lectures critical of Church teachings on such topics as the ordination of women�and homosexuality.
The Education Secretary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh stated that "several objectionable speakers" were scheduled for the education convention, "most notably Sister Joan Chittister." He sent a memo to school and catechetical staffs advising that diocesan staff would not be attending.
Msgr Steven Rolfs, Peoria's Vicar General, commented: "Unfortunately, this year we are not assured that authentic Catholic teaching will be presented throughout the programs of the convention."
Martyrs of Spanish Civil War recognised
Beatification in St Peter's
Pope John Paul II presided at beatification ceremonies for 233 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War in St Peter's Square on 11 March.
The beatification was the largest single recognition of martyrs from the conflict, which divided Spain from 1936-1939 and entailed a violent persecution of the Catholic Church. About 15,000 people attended the ceremonies in Rome.
The 233 martyrs, who died at different times and places, have been recognised by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 16 separate investigations (or "causes"), grouped according to their religious congregations or particular circumstances in which they died.
Vacant See of Sandhurst filled
Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop appointed
Pope John Paul II has appointed the Most Rev Joseph Angelo Grech, till now an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, to fill the vacancy created in the Victorian Diocese of Sandhurst by the ill-health of Bishop Noel Daly.
The Maltese-born Bishop Grech was formerly Chaplain to Italian Charismatic Renewal in the Melbourne Archdiocese and speaks fluent Maltese, Italian and English.
Nigerian Catholic women's anti-abortion petition
Legalisation planned under revised constitution
A Catholic women's group in Nigeria has officially registered its opposition to the proposed legalisation of abortion as part of the review of the African country's constitution.
The Owerri Provincial Council of Catholic Women has sent a petition to the National Constitution Review Committee protesting plans to legalise abortion in a new constitution. "Abortion should not be legalised in Nigeria," the group said in the letter, since the practice "kills and dehumanises womanhood." They added, "The right of the unborn child should be protected and abortion goes contrary to the fifth commandment of God, 'Thou shalt not kill'."
The one-page petition, dated 1 February and signed by Julie Anyanwu and Clara Okorie, president and secretary respectively, as well as by four other members, was received and read on the floor of the Abia House of Assembly by the Deputy Speaker, Chief Emeka Stanley.
The women's group was joined in the protest by the Christian Association of Nigeria's youth division. In a letter entitled, "A Statement on the Stand of the Christian Association of Nigeria Youth Wing on Legalisation of Abortion in Nigeria," the group said: "The inalienable rights of the person must be recognised and respected by civil society and political authorities, and such fundamental rights include the right to life from the moment of conception until death."
American priest monitors theology faculties
New Internet site on acceptance level of US bishops' 'mandatum'
Fr John J. Stryjewski, a priest of the Mobile Diocese, Alabama, has set up a Web page at www.mandata.org that provides information about the faculty members at US Catholic colleges and universities who have agreed to request certification, known as a mandatum, as teachers of the Catholic faith. He plans to assign a "mandatum quotient" to each university or college listed on his Web page - found by dividing the number of faculty members who have received a mandatum by the number of faculty eligible to receive one.
The move has sent a tremor of apprehension and outrage among some academics, who warn of a witch-hunt on the horizon for those academics who decline to request a mandatum. Sr Theresa Moser, an assistant dean at the University of San Francisco, told the National Catholic Reporter: "They are opening the floodgates to the harassment of theologians and universities by the self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy. This can only undermine the enterprise of Catholic higher education in this country."
Father Stryjewski says he is not rating Catholic institutions but merely responding to requests from parents who have accessed his main site, www.alapadre.net, to ask him questions about which places he recommends: "I get about 300,000 hits a month on it, and I get commensurate e-mail so that's how that started."
The US bishops are scheduled to vote on implementation of the mandatum in June 2001 and Vatican approval is required before the procedure takes full effect. A discussion of the mandatum and its implementation will be part of the agenda when the Catholic Theological Society meets in Milwaukee in June.
New revelations on Jews saved by Pius XII
Testimonies from Founders of Israel
As early as 1939, Pius XII organised special operations to help Jews persecuted by Nazism, according to a new book on the Vatican's prewar and wartime activity.
In The Jews Saved by Pius XII, just published in Italy, journalist Antonio Gaspari gathers numerous testimonies in favour of Pius XII and the Catholic Church expressed by founders of the state of Israel, leaders of Jewish associations, and survivors of concentration camps. The new book is published by Logos (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The volume contradicts American Susan Zucotti's thesis in her book Under His Very Windows - The Vatican and The Holocaust in Italy (Yale University Press) which contends that, although the Church saved many Jews, this was the isolated action of priests and religious. The Vatican and the Pope, Zucotti claims, never gave any sign of help.
"This is a thesis that is impossible to defend," Gaspari argues. "Few know that as early as 1939, Pius XII had created a special department for the Jews in the German section of the Vatican Information Office. Some 36,877 papers were processed in favour of the Jews. This work is referred to in Jewish publications like the Canadian Jewish Chronicle."
Among the new documents published by Gaspari is a letter of Pius XII sent to Sister Ferdinanda (Maria Corsetti), awarded by the Israeli Government with the title "Righteous Among the Nations," in which Jews are referred to as "beloved children."
Pius XII intervened on several occasions in a personal capacity, through the Vatican State Secretariat or its intermediaries, to save the Jews. In the case of 1,000 German Jews who wanted to emigrate to Brazil, the Pontiff paid out of his own pocket the US$800 each needed for the trip.
New Indian Cardinal's declaration
Call for evangelisation of Asia
"It is time to get ready for the big moment of grace, the time for the Gospel to spread all over Asia", said Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay, one of the two Cardinals from India created by John Paul II in the last consistory.
The new Cardinal highlighted the Pope's call to evangelise all Asia, while lamenting the presence of a "small group of fundamentalists" that attack the Church in India. However, such attacks and persecution, he suggested, could be "all for the good of the Church," noting that throughout the Church's history "persecutions have always preceded a Church that was flourishing," as in Rome almost 2,000 years ago and in Korea 200 years ago, where some 10,000 Christians were martyred.
"Today," he said, "there are conversions in many parts of India," and from various sectors of society. But, "we can only spread the Good News and the Gospel values." God is "the one who changes the heart."
Consecrated Archbishop in 1982, Cardinal Dias was made pro-nuncio to Ghana, Togo and Benin. Five years later he became pro-nuncio to South Korea and was appointed Bombay's Archbishop in January 1997, while serving as nuncio to Albania. Earlier, after serving in the Holy See's diplomatic missions in Europe, Indonesia and Africa during 1965-1973, he worked in the Vatican's Secretariat of State from 1973 to 1982.
Cuba's vocations increase
Archbishop of Havana cites statistics
Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are increasing in Cuba, despite economic and social difficulties.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, told L'Osservatore Romano: "There are about 80 seminarians in Cuba, including those who belong to some religious orders, whereas five years ago, there were 25." He added that this increase "does not mean that the quality has diminished."
The most striking growth has been in the vocations of women to the religious life. "Fifteen years ago, there were around 200 or at most, 250," he said. "Today there are close to 600."
The Cardinal mentioned the case of a young woman, whom he himself baptised in the cathedral, who has taken religious vows as a Carmelite contemplative.
Cardinal Arinze defends Dominus Iesus
Not a problem for non-Christian cooperation
The Vatican official who coordinates interreligious dialogue, Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, said Dominus Iesus simply spelled out basic Catholic beliefs. Dialogue with other faiths should continue, but could bring "great risk" if Catholics were not sure about their own identity, he said.
The document's statement that the Church of Christ exists fully only in the Catholic Church, and rejection of the idea that "one religion is as good as another", did not represent a break in interreligious dialogue, said the Cardinal: "I was one of the cardinal-members of the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith who saw and revised the document, so I am one of those responsible for it."
In affirming the basics of Catholics' faith identity, he said, the document helped prepare them for dialogue with other Christians and non-Christians. What Dominus Iesus pointed out was the Church's belief that, even for non-Christians, salvation ultimately comes from the grace of Jesus Christ - "This is something that is very comforting and also very demanding for all of us."