The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Benedict's new encyclical to focus on social teaching

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, has confirmed reports that Benedict XVI will soon release an encyclical on Catholic social teaching.

Cardinal Bertone said that the Pope's third encyclical would deal with 'international social problems, with special focus on developing nations.'

The cardinal indicated that the papal encyclical would appear soon, but did not provide a date.

Benedict's first two encyclicals on love and hope were dedicated to the theological virtues and reflected his own background as an academic theologian. In a report released in February the French daily La Croix suggested that the third encyclical would be different, reflecting the 'collective labour' of several different departments of the Vatican.

Catholic World News

Russian Orthodox Bishop: liberal churches will die

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Moscow Patriarchate's delegate for international relationships, said on 15 February that liberal Christianity is on its way to extinction.

'Liberal Christianity will not survive long and political correctness within the Christian environment is destined to die,' he said during a conference addressing the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Geneva.

He also criticised the words of the Anglican primate, Rowan Williams, regarding the 'inevitability' of introducing the 'sharia' (Muslim Law) in England.

'I would like to warn you about the perils of liberal Christianity,' a trend, he said, that has sharply divided the Christian community in the last decades.

'Today we can't talk about Christian morality because the standards of 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are dramatically different and the abyss between these two branches of Christianity is growing'.

The bishop continued: 'We are hearing from some Christian leaders that marriage between a woman and a man is not the only possible option for the creation of a Christian family, that there can be other types of couples and that the Church should be 'inclusive' by recognising such lifestyles and grant them a solemn blessing'.

He added, 'we have heard that human life is a negotiable value, to the point that it can be aborted in the mother's womb. What has happened with Christianity? In a confused and disoriented world, where is the prophetic voice of Christians?'

Bishop Hilarion concluded, 'It is not our duty to defend sharia, promote alternative lifestyles or secularised values. Our mission is to announce what Christ himself announced'.

Catholic News Agency

Jesuit leaders' final meeting with Benedict XVI

Meeting with the Jesuit leaders as they concluded their General Congregation on 21 February - at which they had elected a new superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolas - Benedict XVI stressed that the Jesuit order today should act 'in full fidelity to the original charism.'

That original charism, he said, is marked by devotion and obedience to the Church and the Pope. He reminded the Jesuit leaders of St Ignatius' demand that his followers should always work 'with the Church and in the Church.'

Preserving harmony with the Church, Benedict continued, is a particularly important task today, when there is a 'confusion of messages' in society on many fundamental issues. He exhorted the Jesuits to seek 'that harmony with the magisterium that avoids causing confusion and uncertainty among the People of God.' All Jesuits, he said, should 'adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the magisterium's charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety.'

He added, 'I well understand that this is a particularly delicate and troublesome issue for you and for many of your colleagues'. Nevertheless the Jesuit order must tackle the challenge and 'regain a fuller understanding of your distinctive 'fourth vow' of obedience to the Successor of Peter.'

During their General Congregation, Benedict noted, the Jesuits had discussed some of the most critical debates of the day, 'such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family.' On these issues, the Church needs the intellectual support of the Jesuit order, to protect Catholic teaching on points that are 'increasingly under attack from secular culture.'

The Pope encouraged the Jesuits to continue their work among the poor, but cautioned that this work should not be politicised. He pointed out that 'the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel.'

Catholic World News

Sister Lucia's beatification process to begin

Benedict XVI announced he will dispense with the five-year waiting period established by Canon Law to open the cause of beatification of Sister Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries.

The news was announced on 14 February in the cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal, by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, on the third anniversary of the Carmelite's death.

Benedict dispensed with the established waiting period once before for the cause of John Paul II. Benedict made that announcement on 13 May, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, some 42 days after John Paul II's death in 2005.

A communiqué of the Vatican press office states: 'Benedict XVI, taking into account the petition presented by Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, and supported by numerous bishops and faithful from all parts of the world, has revoked the five-year waiting period established by the canonical norms (cf. Article 9 of the Normae Servandae), and he has allowed for the diocesan phase of the Carmelite's cause of beatification to begin three years after her death.'

Sister Lucia's mortal remains were moved in 2006 to the Shrine of Fatima. The body of the nun, who died at age 97, is buried next to Jacinta while Francisco is buried in the same basilica.

Zenit News Agency

English schools too Catholic? Parliamentary committee to investigate

A report in the The Independent (23 February 2008) by Education Editor Richard Garner reveals that a House of Commons Select Committee is to investigate evidence that the Catholic Church is pursuing 'a more fundamentalist approach towards religion in its schools'.

Members of the Children, Schools and Families Committee plan to call senior bishops to give evidence in an inquiry into the approach schools are adopting towards a range of issues - including abortion, sex education and PSHE (personal and social health education) classes.

The move follows a 66-page circular from Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster, which instructed Catholic schools in the North-west to stop 'safe sex' education and place crucifixes in every classroom.

In his document, Fit for Mission, Bishop O'Donoghue wrote: 'The secular view on sex outside marriage, artificial contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and Aids, and abortion, may not be presented as neutral information.'

Schools were also told not to support charities that promote or fund pro-choice policies, singling out Amnesty International - which is in favour of abortion for women who have been raped in war zones. Barry Sheerman, the Labour Chairman of the Committee, said there was evidence from other areas of the country of Catholic schools being told to adopt a more 'fundamentalist line'.

Mr Sheerman said the official spokesmen for the Catholic Church often peddled a softer line - but that was at odds with what was happening on the ground.

'A lot of taxpayers' money is going into church schools and I think we should tease out what is happening here,' he added. 'We seem to have a shift in emphasis on the ground despite what the reasonable voices of the leadership are saying.

'Two years ago, it was possible to set up an inter-faith academy in Liverpool (jointly run by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England),' he said. However, an attempt to set up a similar school in the Huddersfield area - where he is a constituency MP - had been scuppered when a letter was read out in all parishes prior to a meeting to discuss criticism of politicians for trying to dilute Catholic education.

It seems Bishop O'Donoghue's problem is that he wishes to be a Catholic bishop in more than name only.

Vatican Yearbook shows growing Church

The Vatican has released the 2008 edition of the Church's statistical yearbook, showing a 1.4% rise in the world's Catholic population.

Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone presented a copy of the new Annuario Pontificio to Benedict XVI on 29 February. The yearbook shows that the world's Catholic population rose from 1.115 billion to 1.131 billion between 2005 and 2006, the last year for which accurate figures are available.

The statistics also show modest increases in the number of priests (0.21%) and seminarians (an overall rise of 0.9%). There were 407,242 Catholic priests in the world at the close of 2006, and 115,480 seminarians while the year saw the appointment of 169 bishops.

Catholic World News

Pro-marriage Hispanics to pressure Democrats

Key Latino leaders will rally at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver later this year in support of a national marriage amendment and marriage-friendly policy.

The event, organised by the Alliance for Marriage, will take place near the Colorado Convention Center where the Democrats will hold their Convention. The Alliance for Marriage will also conduct a public relations campaign, including paid advertisements, to publicise the issue and the event.

Organisers claim that the Colorado political landscape has been transformed from 'the very heart of America's pro-marriage and pro- family movement' into a 'home front for radical activists.' As an example of this upheaval the Latino leaders singled out Colorado billionaire and former software magnate Tim Gill, who has funded homosexual causes.

The Alliance for Marriage plans to mobilise the Hispanic vote to bring about renewal 'within both national political parties, but especially the Democrat party'. Citing the influence of millionaire activists, the organisers see Latino support for the family as the 'only chance of pushing back the forces of Gill and others.'

Fr Sam Rodriguez Jr, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Advisory Board Member of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation, said, 'As our numbers grow, our influence is growing, and it is time for leaders of both parties to put protecting marriage and strong family values at the centre of their agenda. Candidates like to tout 'family values' on the stump, but then toss our values aside when they get to Washington. We're not going to tolerate that any more.'

Catholic News Agency

Archbishop: Iraqi Christians not losing hope

The fact that three kidnapped Christians in Iraq were ready to die for their faith before converting to Islam shows the faithful there aren't losing hope, said the Archbishop of Kirkuk.

Archbishop Louis Sako told the SIR news agency of the Italian bishops on 12 February of the recent case of 40 students who were travelling on a road to Baghdad the previous week and were kidnapped by terrorists.

He said the group included three Christians 'who were ordered to be converted to Islam. The three students strongly refused, saying they were prepared to die for their faith.'

The group of 40 was eventually released, but the Archbishop said the courage of the three Christians means, 'despite so many difficulties, our devotees are not losing faith or hope, they are actually strengthening them.'

Commenting on the process of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, Archbishop Sako said, 'Even during Lent, our Islamic brothers come to see us, but it takes time to promote initiatives and we have to learn.'

Zenit News Agency

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