Pope Francis: guard against relativism
Meeting on 14 February 2014 with the bishops of the Czech Republic, Pope Francis encouraged them to provide sound preparation for the sacraments and to maintain "a vigilant and courageous openness to new impulses from the Holy Spirit".
Noting that their country had long been "oppressed by regimes based on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom", the Pope told the Czech bishops - who were completing their ad limina visits - that "today you must face other more insidious difficulties, such as secularism and relativism". He asked them to use every available opportunity for evangelisation, to persevere in prayer, and to be especially mindful of the welfare of the family.
Pope Francis devoted a portion of his message to the material goods of the Church, reminding the Czech bishops that they are "destined exclusively for the spiritual mission of the Church". He directed them to be careful that "ecclesiastical assets are administered with caution and transparency, so that they are protected and preserved, also with the help of trusted and competent lay faithful".
Catholic World News
Archbishop Fulton Sheen miracle approved
The Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, has welcomed a Vatican medical panel's unanimous approval of a reported miracle attributed to the famous TV personality and evangelist, Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen. "There are many more steps ahead and more prayers are needed. But today is a good reason to rejoice," Bishop Daniel R. Jenky said on 6 March.
"Today is a significant step in the Cause for the Beatification and Canonisation of our beloved Fulton Sheen, a priest of Peoria and a Son of the Heartland who went on to change the world."
The approval came from a seven-member board of medical experts advising the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The reputed miracle involved the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. He showed no signs of life as medical professionals tried to revive him. The child's mother and father prayed to Archbishop Sheen to heal their son.
Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems.
The Vatican's medical advisory panel ruled that there is no medical explanation for the healing of the baby. The ruling means that a board of theologians will now review the case. If they approve the case, its consideration could pass to the cardinals and bishops who advise Pope Francis on beatifications.
If the case reaches Pope Francis, his approval would recognise Archbishop Sheen as "blessed", the final stage before possible canonisation.
Bishop Jenky opened Archbishop Sheen's cause for sainthood in 2002 and in June 2012 Pope Benedict XVI recognised Archbishop Sheen as having heroic virtues.
Catholic News Agency
Russian concern over Belgian adoptions
Russian parliamentarians have asked Russia's foreign ministry to study the recently passed law allowing child euthanasia in Belgium to decide if its citizens should be legally banned from adopting Russian minors.
The initiative came from Deputy Roman Khudyakov, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. "Before we continue cooperation with Belgium, allowing our children to be adopted by their citizens, we should understand on what grounds a child can be killed in this country and if there is a danger for our kids to lose their lives in a foreign country," he said.
Khudyakov added that the majority of Russian children's rights groups organisations would support the ban on adoption of Russian children by Belgians.
The European Institute for Bioethics, which reported on the Russian concerns, said this was "an immediate consequence" of the vote in the lower house of the Belgian parliament to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children.
The controversy over the Belgian child euthanasia law spread to Russia where euthanasia is illegal.
Zenit News Agency
Visionary new UK Catholic College
A co-founder of Benedictus College has expressed her hope that their education style, inspired by the writings of Bl. John Henry Newman, will help to change the face of higher education in Europe.
"No one's tried to do anything like this in the UK before," Dr Clare Hornsby told CNA in a 17 February interview.
Benedictus is a university-college that Dr Hornsby co-founded in 2010, and is modelled on the Catholic liberal arts colleges in the US, giving special emphasis to the learning of philosophy and theology with the aid of the fine arts.
The integrated courses, Hornsby observed, will "bring together the text approach" as well as first hand experience, so that rather than just reading a book about art, the students will be able to "go out and look at art", which brings together an "intellectual and cultural heritage".
Hornsby, who graduated from St Thomas Aquinas College in California, explained that the idea to begin the college came about through conversations she had with her colleagues, recalling how they wanted to link the study of the philosophical traditions of Plato and Aristotle to the study of culture and history.
Recalling the visit of Benedict XVI to England in 2010 for the beatification of the now-blessed John Henry Newman, Dr Hornsby revealed that the occasion was a key inspiration for starting the initiative. In his work The Idea of a University, Newman envisaged exactly this style of an "education that educates the whole person".
Referring to the current environment of higher education in the UK, Hornsby said that it was "in a state of flux", but that it is "much more open" than it was in the past. "This is the time for small institutions to move ahead ... a lot of people want a broad approach, and we can be part of it".
Drawing attention to the "secular atmosphere in higher education in the UK", she added that "we have a big debt to pay to the US" for the "accessibility" of this type of education, because "if it weren't for that model Benedictus wouldn't exist".
Benedictus is also offering a research forum in Florence on 4 July, hosted by the British Institute in Florence, during which professor John Haldane will be the keynote speaker.
Catholic News Agency
Virginia judge overturns marriage defence
A federal district court judge has ruled that Virginia's marriage amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Voters had approved the measure by a 57%-43% margin in a 2006 referendum.
"The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry," said Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, whom President Barack Obama had appointed to the bench.
"Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favouring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country's cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family," she added.
In recent weeks, the state's bishops have deplored the decision of Virginia's new attorney general not to defend the marriage amendment in court.
Catholic World News
New Pakistan Archbishop: religious harmony needed
The new Archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan, has asked people to pray that he has "courage and faith," stressing the need for justice and respect between religions. "There is not much peace in Pakistan," Archbishop Sebastian Shaw told Aid to the Church in Need.
He voiced his commitment to have more meetings with other faith leaders and to increase training programs for teachers, catechists, parents and women to help them learn about their rights and responsibilities.
"There is an urgent need for greater equality and social justice and for peace. The Church should be a visible sign of our commitment to this and we can only move forward by lives of service."
The Archdiocese of Lahore has 600,000 Catholics, about half of all Catholics in Pakistan. Christians and other religious minorities, including Shiite Muslims and Ahmadiyya Muslims, suffer persecution, violence and discrimination in the country.
Archbishop Shaw said that interfaith cooperation, ecumenical dialogue and outreach through television are important in developing social harmony. He plans to launch a cable channel initiative called "Catholic TV Lahore" to broadcast 12 or more hours each day.
He said that people must "feel the need for peace ... What we need is to learn to respect one another - to realise that we are all Pakistanis, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Hindus."
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has said that Pakistan should be classified as a Tier 1 "country of particular concern," the worst category of offender against religious liberty. The commission's 2013 report cited "chronic" sectarian and religiously motivated violence in the country, as well as the Pakistan government perpetrating and tolerating "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief."
Nigerian prelate warns on Western secularism
Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, told a group of Catholic health workers in February that the Church "must not be swallowed up by the tyrannical imposition of some governments or international non-governmental organisations who wish to dictate the moral trend of the world based on their secular values."
Archbishop Kaigama, who is president of the Nigerian Bishops' Conference, said criticism of the Church's positions on issues related to the defence of life and sexual morality derived from prejudice caused by lack of knowledge of Catholic teaching.
"The Catholic Church is often judged by people who do not care to know what we really believe," he told a workshop of Catholic doctors and nurses and other health workers in Jos. "Prejudices inherited from one generation to another have blinded critics of the Catholic Church so much that they cannot be objective about Catholic beliefs and traditions."
Archbishop Kaigama added that in Africa, "whether it is about population control, use of condoms, homosexuality, et cetera, sometimes the views of the West are forced down the throats of Africans through financial inducement. Africans must not be copy cats, believing that whatever comes from the West is ideal.
"Without cultural or intellectual discernment we run the risk of losing our values and becoming neither Africans nor Westerners. We must be faithful to our religious heritage even at a time when some of the people who introduced Christianity to us have become its ardent critics and some of them nurture a pathological hatred for Church directives or moral judgments."
Zenit News Agency
Missionaries of God's Love: progress continues
On 8 February, the Missionaries of God's Love (MGL) priests and brothers were inaugurated as a religious institute of diocesan rite.
Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra-Goulburn presided over the inauguration.
Founded in 1986 by Father Ken Barker, the MGL priests and brothers are one of the few religious congregations established in Australia by Australians to be formally recognised by Rome.
While vocations have decreased elsewhere, the MGLs continue to expand with more than 60 members, including 19 ordained priests, two ordained deacons, a consecrated brother, 18 men near the end of their priestly studies, as well as 15 novitates and pre-noviates in initial formation.
The MGL priests and brothers are paralleled by the MGL sisters. Fr Barker's address included thanks to the MGL sisters congregation: "We are also keen to thank our MGL sisters who journey with us, and look forward to their continued growth. In the not too distant future we hope they will be here for the same sort of ceremony. We trust and pray."
(A full report will appear in the next AD2000).
Catholic Communications Sydney