The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

World's oldest Bible available online

The world's oldest Bible, the 1600-year-old Codex Sinaiticus, has been digitised online after being housed in four separate locations for over 150 years.

The surviving sections have been pieced together and were unified online on 6 July, creating a unique opportunity for scholars to learn more about the ancient manuscript (see picture page 11).

As part of a four-year joint project, the Codex Sinaiticus has been digitised for the first time, reuniting sections held by the British Library in London, the Monastery of St Catherine in the Sinai Desert, Egypt, the National Library of Russia, and Leipzig Univer-sity Library in Germany.

The Codex Sinaiticus was hand-written in Greek by four scribes in the mid-fourth century, around the time of Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who embraced Christianity.

The Codex, originally around 1,400 pages long, is now a collection of 800 pages and fragments.

The text was written on vellum, a type of animal hide, and the pages that have survived include the entire New Testament and the earliest surviving copy of the Gospels, written after Christ's death by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Half of a copy of the Old Testament is also among the pages that remain. The rest has been lost.

The collection will also include previously unpublished pages of the Codex, which were found in a blocked-off room in 1975 at St Catherine's Monastery.

The Bible can be viewed online for free at The collection includes modern Greek translations, in addition to certain sections which have been translated into English.


Science backs authenticity of St Paul's tomb

The tomb of St Paul may well contain his remains, Benedict XVI affirmed in his homily at the closing of the Year of St Paul.

The Pope presided at first Vespers on 28 June for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, which marked the conclusion of the Pauline Year. The celebration took place at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, where it has traditionally been believed St Paul was buried.

'An authentic scientific analysis' conducted on the sarcophagus conserved in the basilica, Benedict said, 'seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.

'A tiny hole was drilled into the sarcophagus - which over many centuries had never been opened - in order to insert a special probe, which revealed traces of costly purple coloured linen fabric, laminated with pure gold and a blue fabric with linen filaments.

'Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also discovered. There were also tiny bone fragments, which were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts who were unaware of their origin. These were discovered to belong to a person who had lived between the first and second centuries.'

During the reconstruction of the Basilica, destroyed by a fire in 1823, two marble plaques dating from the time of Pope Leo the Great (440-461), containing the barely visible inscription 'Paolo Apostolo Mart' ('Paul the Apostle Martyr'), were discovered beneath the 'confessio' altar.

During 2006 excavations were carried out that brought to light a marble sarcophagus 2.5 metres long and about 1.2 metres wide, which rested on a layer of clay floor dating from 390, the time during which the Constantinian basilica was expanded.

Zenit News Agency

Vatican recognises Newman miracle

The Holy See has recognised the miracle necessary for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributing the cure of Jack Sullivan, a permanent deacon from the Archdiocese of Boston, to the intercession of Cardinal Newman. Sullivan, 70, works in both parish and prison ministry, and had suffered from 'extremely severe spinal problems.'

Sullivan told The Times Online that he began praying to Cardinal Newman after learning of the favourable recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

'If it wasn't for Cardinal Newman's intercession ... it would have been virtually impossible to complete my diaconate formation and be ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston,' said Sullivan. 'Nor would I have been able to continue in my chosen profession as a magistrate in our court system to support my family.'

Sullivan says that he has experienced 'a very deep sense of the reality of God's love for each one of us, especially during times of immense difficulties and suffering.' He added, 'I have developed a very real relationship with Cardinal Newman in frequent prayer and I try to pass on what marvellous gifts I have received to those I meet.'

Five doctors appointed to a medical commission by the Congregation voted unanimously in April 2009 that Sullivan's cure had no medical explanation, the spokesman for the order founded by Cardinal Newman reports.

The Congregation is now working on a document about the life of Newman to be presented to Pope Benedict who alone can sign the promulgation of the decree authorising the miracle.

Once beatified, Newman will need one more miracle to be canonised a saint.

Catholic News Agency

New Divine Worship Congregation Secretary

Benedict XVI has appointed Dominican Father Joseph Di Noia as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, elevating him at the same time to the rank of archbishop.

The Vatican press office announced the appointment on 16 June of the New York-born archbishop- designate, who is currently serving as the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He succeeds Archbishop Ranjith, who was named as the new head of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Fr Di Noia was born in New York in 1943, and ordained a priest in 1970. He has worked as editor of the magazine Thomist and was the founding director of the intercultural forum at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC.

He served as secretary of the doctrinal commission for the US Bishops' Conference and later as a member of the International Theological Commission while it was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The archbishop-designate has written The Diversity of Religions and co-authored The Love That Never Ends: A Key to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Benedict XVI's appointment of a native English speaker will prove to be valuable as the Congregation prepares to approve and introduce a new English translation of the Roman Missal.

Archbishop-elect Di Noia will be working under Cardinal Antonio CaƱizares Llovera, who was appointed by the Pope last December.

Zenit News Agency

Hindu persecution of Indian Christians

Last June Archbishop Rafael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar deplored the fact that two years after the widespread attacks on Christians in India no one has been detained or charged for the grave damage to property and lives that resulted.

The Archbishop said that, 'Christians were attacked above all because of fundamentalist Hindu ideology, which challenges the way in which a Hindu nation should be founded. So the fundamentalists looked for an opportunity to do this. The main reason for the attack on Kandhamal is because it was an area where a large number of conversions have taken place over the last ten years'.

In addition, 'the Dalit, the so- called untouchables, were considered outsiders, with no right to speak, and uneducated. Now, however, they are developing socially and economically and making great progress.

'Hindus don't want people who were once their slaves to achieve more respectable positions in society, with good jobs and better positions. The advancement of the Dalit and of the tribes challenges the upper classes: Hindus do not want this to happen, and for this reason they want to stop it.'

Asked later about the state of the faith of Christians, the Archbishop said, 'While at the beginning the situation was very sad and hopeless, I have seen much faith in the people. They are full of hope, their faith is very strong and they express it in many ways. We will be able to rebuild on the foundation of the people's faith.'

Catholic News Agency

Pope Pius XII and Jews: new evidence

A foundation that promotes interreligious dialogue announced in June that it has more than 2,300 pages of original documents illustrating Pope Pius XII's efforts to help Jews in the face of Nazism. The foundation will offer these documents for worldwide historical study on its Web site.

Gary Krupp, president of the New York-based Pave the Way Foundation, said that the documents from the years 1940-1945 will be made available to the public for research.

The president, himself a Jew, reported that these papers, found through the organisation's private research, give 'strong support to the argument that Pope Pius XII - Eugenio Pacelli - worked diligently to save Jews from Nazi tyranny.'

Krupp commented: 'A personal disappointment resulting from our research was the realisation that we all have been let down by many who represent themselves as historians.

'These individuals, with private agendas, have simply failed to research the evidence of this era properly and have remained silent when the absurd fanatics manipulate the truth.

'If our foundation as amateur fact-finders can uncover so much information, how is it that the so-called historians and academic institutions have allowed the 46-year-old assessment of Pius XII [Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play The Deputy] to continue unchallenged, impacting the opinions and relationships of over one billion people?'

The foundation also reported its findings from research on some of the Vatican Secret Archives documents noting the discovery of 'many examples of the direct actions and of the pastoral ministry of Eugenio Pacelli to save Jews from Nazi tyranny' as well as 'documented proof' of his 'direct intercession to protect the Jews of Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and his encouraging the idea of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1925.'

Pave the Way concluded: 'Quite possibly he saved more Jews than all of the world's religious and political leaders combined. Moreover, in the true spirit of heroism, he did all this with the direct threat of German rifles levelled 200 yards beneath his very windows.'

Zenit News Agency

UN Sex education plan's 'hedonistic values'

American pro-life leader Fr Thomas J. Euteneur has criticised a UN proposal for early childhood 'comprehensive sexuality education' as an imposition of 'hedonistic values' and a violation of the rights of parents.

In June, the UN Economic and Social Council issued a resolution at a Jamaica meeting calling for 'comprehensive sexuality education starting in early childhood.' The resolution said that scientific evidence shows that 'comprehensive sexuality education' does not accelerate 'sexual debut' and does not increase the frequency of sexual relations.

Commenting in a press release, Fr Euteneur, the Human Life International president, said the claim was 'absolute nonsense,' since 'almost every study on the topic' shows the exact opposite.

'Condom promotion has not stopped HIV in the developing world. And propagandising young children about a value-neutral approach to sex, and telling them that they'll be safe if they use condoms is exactly how you get them to start practising sex before marriage.

Fr Euteneur noted that a 1995 Vatican document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, had condemned this type of sex education.

Catholic News Agency

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