Possibility of Synod on the Eucharist in 2004
John Paul II wants to "purify worship of deformations"
At his regular weekly public audience on 26 February, Pope John Paul II focused on the need for reverence and beauty in the liturgy. He said that Catholics should undertake an "examination of conscience" regarding the liturgy.
The Pope continued: "We must pray to God not only with theologically precise words, but also with beauty and dignity ... It is necessary to purify worship of deformations, of careless forms of expression, of ill-prepared music and texts, which are not very suited to the grandeur of the act being celebrated."
The Pope's growing concern about liturgical abuses has led to the organisation of a Synod of Bishops devoted to the Eucharist; that meeting is likely to be held in October 2004. The Holy Father will also publish an encyclical on the Eucharist on 17 April, with a Vatican "doctrinal note" to accompany the encyclical.
In announcing that the next ordinary meeting of the Synod would focus on the Eucharist, the Vatican pointed to the "grave concern of the Pope and the Roman Curia" regarding doctrinal and liturgical abuses centring on the Eucharist, which is "the central focus of the Catholic faith." The next meeting of the Synod of Bishops will be the seventh ordinary general assembly called by Pope John Paul II.
Each meeting of the Synod is followed by the publication of an apostolic exhortation in which the Pope summarises the conclusions of the assembled prelates. The apostolic exhortation concluding the work of the 2001 Synod, on the role of bishops, is expected later this year.
Vocations urgent in Latin America
Holy See's statistics highlight problem
Vocations are the priority of the Catholic Church in Latin America, the Holy See says.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Bishop Cipriano Calderon, president and vice president, respectively, of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, highlighted this priority in a letter sent on the occasion of the Day of Spanish-speaking America. The event was observed on 2 March in the dioceses of Spain.
"John Paul II has indicated as a priority for Latin America 'the fomenting and care of vocations,' given that that continent 'still needs many more priests,'" the message sent by the commission states.
Many villages in Latin America only have Mass once a month because of the shortage of priests. According to the Church's Statistical Yearbook, there are 20,874 baptised Catholics per priest in Cuba, 14,035 in Honduras and 10,809 in Nicaragua. By comparison, in Ireland there are 870 Catholics per priest, in the United States 1,312, in Spain 1,362, and in Italy 1,017.
Zenit News Service
Pope meets Romanian bishops
Work with Orthodox to restore Christian Europe
In a meeting with the bishops of Romania, who were making their ad limina visit to Rome in March, Pope John Paul II has said that Catholics of both Eastern and Western rites should work together with the Orthodox faithful in building a new European society.
The Holy Father also urged the Romanian bishops to be on guard against the dangers of modern society, including egotism, consumerism and forms of moral licence that undermine family life. Pointing towards Romania's candidacy for a place in the European Union - a step that is scheduled to be taken in 2007 - he said that the people of Romania should help to preserve the Christian patrimony of the continent.
John Paul II's emphasis on Europe's spiritual patrimony was a familiar theme - one that he has raised repeatedly in recent months. As the young European Union works to draft its constitution, the Pope and the Vatican have lobbied heavily in favour of an explicit recognition of the role that the Christian faith has played in the formation of European society, and the rights that religious bodies should have in the new European Union.
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French President who now heads a committee drafting the European constitution, has assured the Holy Father that the document will recognise the role of faith.
In his discussion of the dangers posed by modern society, the Pope again mentioned a familiar list of problems: divorce, abortion and the decline of family life. These problems can only be resolved, he said, through a new evangelisation, igniting the fervour of the country's Christian population.
He also noted the tensions that have persisted between Catholics - especially those of the Byzantine-rite Romanian Catholic Church - and the Orthodox faithful of Romania. He urged Catholic leaders to redouble their efforts towards a rediscovery of Christian unity, so that Romania could be a "spiritual laboratory, where the riches of undivided Christianity can show all their glory."
Eastern-rite Catholics account for about five percent of the population of Romania, while the Romanian Orthodox Church claims nearly 85 percent. The Romanian Catholic Church was brutally suppressed by the Communist regime, and parish properties confiscated by the state and handed over to Orthodox clerics. Relations between the two bodies have been strained, since the fall of the Communist regime, by disputes over the ownership of these properties today.
Catholic World News
TMC Autumn School for Adelaide
Archbishop Wilson to speak on vocations
Following the success of a similar event in 2002, the Thomas More Centre will conduct its Autumn School in Adelaide in April.
"The Hope That is in You" will develop the themes of the Holy Father's address to youth at the beginning of International Youth Year in 1985. Speakers will include Archbishop Philip Wilson on vocations, well-known Melbourne educator, Anna Krohn, on "Love and Responsibility", and National Vice-President of the TMC, Pat Byrne, on the lay apostolate. Other topics covered will focus on prayer, Christian service and political and social responsibility.
The Autumn School will run from Friday evening, 11 April, and conclude on Saturday the 12th with a casual dinner and the film Witness to Hope - on the life of Pope John Paul II.
Attendance is by donation. All young people from Year 11 age upward are encouraged to attend. Bookings are essential and can be made by phoning Paul Russell on 8379 0246 or 0413 702 854
Pope approves new Penny Catechism
To include essential Church teachings
In a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dated 2 February and published on 7 March, Pope John Paul II approved a request to prepare a compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He asked the Cardinal to set up and chair a Special Commission to prepare this synthesis, and also to establish an editorial committee.
This resulted from a request by participants at the 8-11 October 2002 meeting in Rome of an International Catechetical Congress, called to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Many participants agreed with the proposal to prepare a compendium, which would contain only the essential and basic elements of Catholic faith and morals, formulated in a brief and clear manner.
In his letter, Pope John Paul said that what emerged from the October congress was "the urgency to have available a brief Catechism for all the faithful" which would allow "people, believers and non-believers, to embrace, in a glance together, the entire panorama of the Catholic faith."
Vatican Information Service
Ugandan Cardinal's outspoken stance
Calls on women to fight "false doctrines"
In February, Ugandan Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala challenged his country's women to stand up on behalf of the Church's moral teachings. He urged them to engage in the battle for life noting that God has entrusted women with the future of humanity.
"Life is being threatened by false doctrines. One front is through contraceptives, abortions and euthanasia, under the cover of scientific development and economic progress," he said. "The second area is the family where divorce and separation are being sung under the guise of women's emancipation. The third front is through the Church. Christ founded one Church and not many but we have torn the Church into tatters and we are responsible for this state of affairs. This is a challenge to you women since the responsibility of saving humanity was entrusted to you by God."
Catholic World News
Cardinal Stafford to visit Australia in April
To give major addresses in Melbourne and Sydney
Cardinal James Francis Stafford, head of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, will visit Australia during April and be involved in several public events in Melbourne and Sydney.
He will be in Melbourne from 25-26 April. On the 25th he will celebrate Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral for the Laity of the Archdiocese at 6:00pm and at 7:30pm officially launch the World Youth Day 2002 video in the Cardinal Knox Centre.
On 26 April, the Cardinal will be keynote speaker at a gathering of university students on "Christ and the University" at the Thomas Carr Centre, beginning with Mass at 9:00am, to be concelebrated by the Cardinal and Archbishop Hart. Cardinal Stafford will then deliver his keynote address at 10:00am.
Cardinal Stafford will be in Sydney from 27 April-5 May, celebrating Mass at St Mary's Cathedral at 10.30am on Sunday, 27 April, opening Carnivale Christi on Friday, 2 May, and addressing a university forum on Saturday, 2 May.
For further information on the Melbourne events contact Catholic Youth Ministry on (03) 9926-5742; for Sydney events contact Carmel Taffa on (02) 9518 6415.
"Equality" laws in Britain
Potential to undermine religious freedom
Britain's Christian schools and charities could face legal action if they refuse to employ atheists or practising homosexuals under proposed laws. These, based on a European Union directive, would ban discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of religion, belief, or sexual orientation.
A report from the Christian Institute says the laws, due to be implemented by December, will restrict the freedom of religious organisations to employ practising believers.
The report says, "While the Vegetarian Society can refuse to employ meat-eaters and the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) can sack an executive who is found to have invested in the fur trade, churches which employ Christians could now face legal action for doing so."
Professor Ian Leigh of Durham University, a human rights lawyer, told the Daily Telegraph, "The Government regulations have all the potential seriously to undermine freedom of association for religious people. They place the modern concept of 'equality' over and above religious liberty."
Catholic World News
Melbourne CEO Director interviewed
What makes Catholic schools unique?
Dr Susan Pascoe, appointed the new Director of the Melbourne Catholic Education Office last year, was interviewed by journalist Paul Gray in the 9 February 2003 issue of Kairos.
During the interview, she said she had ordered a review of all services the CEO delivers: "What are we doing well and where are the gaps?"
Asked what makes Catholic schools unique, she said: "Primarily they are based around a set of shared core beliefs. They're really a faith community. There's no ambiguity about the fact that they will be transmitting and enabling that set of beliefs and values and implied behaviours."
Unlike in other systems, Catholic beliefs were "set in canon law" and "in many places." Central to this was the role of the bishop: "In canonical terms, the bishop of a diocese, in our case an archbishop, has the authority to set the standard for the schools, and oversees them - particularly the religious education program." She added: "We know that in the Office, and the schools know that. He is the principal teacher in the diocese, and you know that you work in that system."