Pope on wider acceptance of Petrine ministry
Feast of Sts Peter and Paul celebrated with Greek Orthodox representatives
On 29 June, as he celebrated the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, along with representatives from the Greek Orthodox Church, Pope John Paul II issued a plea for all Christians to recognise the importance of the papal ministry as "a service of unity to the people of God."
Speaking to the pilgrims who had assembled in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father saluted the delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, saying that their participation in the annual celebration was "a gesture which encourages us to take hope, and to persevere without ever becoming discouraged on the road of ecumenical dialogue."
The Pope went on to pray that "the Christians of the East and West can be able to experience, as soon as possible, the joy and grace of full unity and communion in the faith and in apostolic work." He said that the desire for such unity should be "particularly close to our heart" as the third Christian millennium begins. Such unity, he added, would also allow new vigour for "the new evangelisation" that the world needs.
"May St Peter intercede for us, so that the ministry of his successor will be recognised and accepted by all as a service of unity to the people of God," the Pope prayed. He also asked for the intercession of St Paul on behalf of "the missionary activity of the Church, especially toward those who have not yet heard the Good news of Christ."
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Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion
US Catholic bishops attack decision
Several US bishops expressed their disappointment and rejection of the Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the State of Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion. "Today's Supreme Court decision is a victory for barbarism. It pits the Court and the Constitution itself against the legal protection of children who are not wanted," said Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, in a public statement on 28 June.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said "this is not a moment for sanitised or 'diplomatic' language. What the Court has done is open the gates to a uniquely savage and repugnant form of violence against the young. This is a disastrous ruling. It will have far-reaching and unintended consequences - consequences we will look back on and bitterly regret." He called on "believers ... to use every moral and legal means at our disposal to bring our country back to its senses and restore the sanctity of human life."
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, commented that the Supreme Court had "taken the outrage of abortion itself one step further by opening the door to an even graver crime, the destruction of children literally inches and seconds from birth." He added that the decision would affect similar pro- life laws in nearly 30 States.
Cardinal Bevilacqua added that the Catholic Church would "continue its relentless opposition to all forms of abortion, especially this heinous crime against those who cannot protect themselves. We will be their voice and work with all people of good will to affirm life for all our citizens. We will oppose this and all other efforts that would destroy life, from the moment of conception to natural death, or that would attack the dignity of the human person."
International Eucharistic Congress in Rome
Addresses by Archbishop Van Thuan and Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger spoke to hundreds of pilgrims who had gathered on 22 June in the Basilica of St John Lateran during the recent International Eucharistic Congress.
Archbishop Thuan said that he had "celebrated the most beautiful Mass of my life while I was in prison." The Vietnamese prelate, who was jailed from 1975 to 1988, told how he had celebrated Mass each day in his prison cell, using tiny portions of bread and wine that were smuggled into the jail by his friends. He also related how he had distributed the Eucharist to other prisoners, concealing the consecrated Hosts in cigarette packages.
The Archbishop - who is now President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace - said that the power of the Eucharist was evident in the Vietnamese prison. Many prisoners, he said, had not practised their faith before their prison term. But they became "very fervent, courageous, and joyful" behind bars. "They became true catechists for the other prisoners," he said, saying that many prisoners were baptised while others returned to active practice of the faith.
Cardinal Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris, said that a culture "nourished by the Eucharistic mystery" can be "a reflection of God's love." He observed that Western culture grew up around the Catholic faith, and was oriented toward the Eucharistic sacrifice. For that reason, he said, "the Christian faith made Europe fruitful," and enabled the continent to develop a rich human civilisation respectful of "humanity, beauty, and truth."
Europe has never been completely faithful to her Christian roots, the French Cardinal conceded; nor is Christianity a product of European culture. Nevertheless, he insisted that the best of European civilisation can be traced to the faith, and to the concept of life centred on the Eucharist.
Catholic World News
British Catholic Church statistics
Most students and teachers ignore Catholic teachings
An increasing number of teachers and pupils in Catholic schools do not share the basic beliefs of Britain's Catholic community, according to a report published in late June.
The 50-page document is the result of five months research in Hallam Diocese and reveals that religious education teachers face classes where 80 percent of pupils almost never attend Sunday Mass.
"Teaching RE to a class with a dwindling number of practising Catholic children is not an easy task and it is becoming increasingly more difficult," says the report. "It is even more challenging when there are many people who come to school with a shallow and unreflective attitude to life. And if this becomes a powerful influence in the RE classroom then the teacher, the pupil and the subject are compromised."
The report stresses that Catholic education is more than just specialist RE lessons and should offer "a distinctive and alternative form of schooling, concerned with the whole person, body, mind and spirit."
Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam told the Catholic Times: "Recent years have seen significant changes in all schools, including our own schools, which have affected relationships with local parish communities and with the diocese. It seemed a good time to review those relationships, including the way in which the diocese serves the schools, and to see how Catholic schools can still be that vitally important element of the mission of the Church."
Statistics published in Britain last year show that nationally 92 percent of Catholic young people stop practising their religion when they leave school.
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