Canonisation of Mary MacKillop set for October
Benedict XVI announced in February that Blessed Mary MacKillop will be proclaimed as Australia's first saint on 17 October.
Cardinal George Pell welcomed the news in a press statement:
'Mary MacKillop stands at the heart of the Catholic tradition. She had great ability to forgive and showed immense loyalty not only to her fellow sisters but to the Church leadership which did not always treat her well.
'Yet Mary was a very normal person and a great role model for all Australians. Mary MacKillop is a very worthy saint for Australia, an important first for all of us'.
Pope John Paul II beatified Mary MacKillop in 1995, saying she embodied the best of Australia and its people. He noted her 'genuine openness to others, hospitality to strangers, generosity to the needy, justice to those unfairly treated, perseverance in the face of adversity, kindness and support to the suffering.'
The Archdiocese of Sydney revealed that Harvest Pilgrimages has been appointed the Official Canonisation Tour Operator by the Sisters of St Joseph, the Sydney Archdiocese and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and is responsible for managing the movement of pilgrims to Rome.
As the Canonisation Travel Office, Harvest is also responsible for the coordination of canonisation tickets for Australian pilgrims into a specially partitioned area in St Peter's Square.
Zenit News Agency
Scottish Cardinal on UK's anti-family policies
On 23 February, Cardinal O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, accused the British Government of a 'systematic and unrelenting attack on family values.' He said that he had personally voiced this charge to Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a 2008 meeting. However, he added, 'I have seen no evidence since then to suggest anything has changed'.
He said the objections of the Church and other faiths were ignored in legislation to permit experimentation on and destruction of human embryos and also when civil partnerships and adoption by same-sex couples were permitted. The refusal to tackle the 'soaring toll' of abortions also ignored religious concerns.
In a reference to the controversy over proposed restrictive provisions of the Equality Bill, his remarks concluded: 'Most recently in advancing legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom this Government has taken no note whatsoever of the concerns of people of faith.'
Catholic News Agency
European Court opposed over crucifix ban
During meetings in Switzerland in February, 47 countries represented in the Council of Europe adopted a declaration regarding the scope of jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France. The new policy limits the court's decisions concerning traditions and national culture in member countries, which had been extended to the prohibition of crucifixes in Italian public institutions.
Discussion during the meetings turned to the topic of crucifixes at the behest of Lithuanian and Maltese representatives. Carmelo Mifsu Bonnici, Justice Minister of Malta, proposed that the court 'is not sufficiently sensitive' to the 'cultural characteristics' of the 'national identities' of member states, to which he provided the example of the situation regarding crucifixes in Italy.
The Lithuanian Minister of the Exterior, Maris Riekstins, declared that the court must work to provide 'clear, precise, unambiguous and comprehensible' rulings for everyone, something she said did not happen in their decision in November 2009 against crucifixes in schools.
Vatican officials denounced the ruling upon its release, saying it was not in the court's hands to rule on a matter of Italian tradition.
The new declaration of policy from the Council of Europe 'invites' the court 'to apply in a uniform and rigorous manner the criteria concerning admissibility and jurisdiction ...'.
These measures, however, do not immediately overturn November's decision, and an appeal against it, citing the longstanding tradition of the crucifix in public places in Italy, was expected to be processed by March.
Catholic News Agency
African Cardinal laments loss of faith in West
In an interview published in the 24 February edition of L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the new President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, denounced 'toxic elements of foreign cultures such as relativism and atheistic secularism' that are plaguing Africa.
Cardinal Turkson, who is from Ghana, added that the Church in Africa laments the loss of faith in Europe and North America, from which missionaries had once left to preach the Gospel. Feeling 'filial mercy' towards their 'ancestors in the faith,' African bishops believe they 'must support the Church in the lands of origin of the missionaries' and send priests to prevent parish closings in the West.
Catholic World News
Same-sex adoption in Washington, DC
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, announced on 20 February that it will shut down its foster care and public adoption program. The District of Columbia had said the charity would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider because of the new law recognising same-sex 'marriage' and adoption.
The Catholic Charities affiliate had transitioned its foster and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) on 1 February. This coincided with the expiration of the current contract between Catholic Charities and the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).
The DC City Council's law recognising same-sex 'marriage' required religious entities which serve the general public to provide services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated their religious beliefs. Exemptions were allowed only for performing marriages or for entities which do not serve the public.
Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, condemned the law.
'Archbishop Donald Wuerl [of Washington, DC] is a man of principle and prudence: he did not want to end the foster-care program, but he was left with no realistic option. District law makers could have granted the kind of religious exemptions that would have ensured a continuation of services, but instead they sought to create a Catch-22 situation for the archdiocese.
'Surely they knew that Archbishop Wuerl was not going to negotiate Catholic Church teachings on marriage, yet that hardly mattered to them. The real losers are the children who were served by the Catholic Church.'
Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to close its adoption services in 2006 because it would no longer place children with homosexual couples, as required by state law. Laws have also forced Catholic adoption societies in Britain either to close or to disaffiliate from the Church.
Catholic News Agency
Catholic Church worldwide statistics
On 20 February, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni presented Benedict XVI with the 2010 edition of the Annuario Pontificio or Pontifical Yearbook.
The number of Catholics world- wide increased from around 1,147 million in 2007 to 1,166 million in 2008, or a growth of 1.7 percent.
The number of bishops grew between 2007 and 2008 from 4,946 to 5,002, while the number of priests, both religious and diocesan, increased from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, although their distribution differs considerably from continent to continent.
While numbers of priestly vocations are growing in Africa, Asia and America, and remain stationary in Oceania, in Europe they have dropped from 51.5 percent to 47.1 percent of the total.
In 2000 female religious numbered 801,185 but this figure fell to 739,067 in 2008. They are most heavily represented in Europe and America (respectively, 40.9 percent and 27.5 percent of the total), and the greatest losses were on those continents and in Oceania, while in Africa and Asia their numbers grew by 21.2 percent and 16.4 percent respectively.
The number of candidates to the priesthood has also grown slightly, from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. Here too the different continents show a different evolution: Africa, Asia and Oceania grew by, respectively, 3.6 percent, 4.4 percent and 6.5 percent; Europe registered a fall of some 4.3 percent; while the situation in America remained unchanged.
Vatican Information Service
Vatican archives on Pius XII to go online
In cooperation with the Vatican, the Pave the Way Foundation will soon publish online twelve volumes of World War II documents from the Holy See during the time of Pope Pius XII. The documents have been 'almost completely ignored' until now, the organisation's founder said.
The Pave the Way Foundation is a non-profit group founded by Gary Krupp, which seeks to promote inter- religious dialogue and reduce religious conflict. A major focus is to vindicate Pope Pius XII from false accusations surrounding his papacy.
Speaking on the significance of the documents, Krupp, who is Jewish, explained how the accusations against Pope Pius XII surfaced. In 1963 a play called The Deputy, by Rolf Hochhuth, debuted in Europe which denounced Pope Pius XII and claimed that he had failed to take any action in speaking out against the Holocaust.
Although 'everybody condemned' the play at the time, including Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world, it nevertheless 'caught on and started changing the entire impression of Pope Pius XII,' said Krupp.
Krupp added that 'in an effort to correct some of this misinformation, Pope Paul VI ordered three Jesuits to study, to go into the papacy of Pius XII, into those archives, and to pull out every significant document they could find.' The Jesuits described the documents, copied them and eventually published them in a series of twelve books.
'The twelve books, called the Acts of the Holy See during the Second World War, were published in 1981 and have been almost completely ignored internationally. In fact, there were only a few hundred that were ever printed.
'By digitising the entire collection, we are enabling it to be spread all over the world so people ... can look at it and come to their own conclusions.'
Catholic News Service
Anthony Fisher OP: new Bishop of Parramatta
Around 2,000 people gathered at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta, on 4 March for the installation of the new Bishop, Anthony Fisher OP.
Bishop Fisher was the principal celebrant at the installation Mass, with concelebrants Cardinal George Pell, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the diocese's Apostolic Administrator Bishop Kevin Manning, the bishops of Australia, and priests of the Dioceses of Parramatta, Broken Bay, Sydney and beyond.
Bishop Fisher, who has served as auxiliary bishop of Sydney for seven years and organised World Youth Day 2008, is Australia's youngest Catholic bishop.
According to a report in The Australian, he is an avid reader, a skilled cook and an internationally respected academic. Prior to studying for the priesthood, he studied and practised law.
He has since completed a doctorate in bioethics at Oxford, lectured at the Australian Catholic University and was the inaugural director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Melbourne.
Catholics comprise a third of the Parramatta Diocese's population, making it the most Catholic area in Australia. Parramatta has 80 priests and 12 seminarians, who assisted at the installation Mass.
Regarding the seminarians, Bishop Fisher told The Australian, 'It's a good number but far fewer than Sydney's total. I'd like to see the numbers increase, give Cardinal Pell a little friendly rivalry.'