The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Benedict XVI: catechesis of the Eucharist needed

Addressing participants at the convention for the Diocese of Rome in the Basilica of St John Lateran on 16 June, Benedict XVI said that the Eucharist was not sufficiently understood by many Catholics, hence a "more profound knowledge of the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord" was needed.

He first explained the Eucharistic mystery, considering Christ's sacrifice on Calvary and how it is memorialised, acknowledging that "sacrifice" is no longer a popular word. "However, properly understood, " he said, sacrifice "is and remains fundamental, because it reveals to us with what love God loves us in Christ."

Benedict XVI affirmed that the Mass itself, when "celebrated in the respect of the liturgical norms and with a fitting appreciation of the richness of the signs and gestures," can foster and promote Eucharistic faith. In other words, the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, well celebrated.

"In the Eucharistic celebration, " he said, "we do not invent something, but we enter into a reality that precedes us, more than that, which embraces heaven and earth and, hence, also the past, the future and the present. "

It is because of this that liturgical prescriptions are not mere "external things" but "express concretely this reality of the revelation of the body and blood of Christ. "

Zenit News Agency

US bishop on central location of tabernacle

In a pastoral letter for Holy Thursday, 2010, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Illinois, emphasised the need for Eucharistic reverence, which was linked with the location of the tabernacle. The Mass, he said, is "the very source and summit of all we do as a Church" hence a "profound reverence for the Reserved Sacrament is also intrinsically related to the Eucharistic liturgy ...

"There is a kind of bundle of rituals in our Catholic tradition with which we surround the tabernacle. As we enter or leave the church, we bless ourselves with holy water, we genuflect towards the tabernacle, we prepare for Mass or give thanks after Mass, consciously in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament."

He continued: "These core Catholic convictions and their architectural ramifications have recently been reaffirmed by many bishops in the United States. As bishop of this Diocese, I am also convinced that where we place the tabernacle - and how we ritually reverence the Reserved Sacrament - is as important for the continuing Eucharistic catechesis as is all our preaching and teaching.

"With Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at the physical centre of our places of worship, how can He not also more firmly become the centre of our spiritual lives as well?

"After consultation with my Presbyteral Council, I am therefore asking that those few parish churches and chapels where the tabernacle is not in the direct centre at the back of the sanctuary, that these spaces be redesigned in such a way that the Reserved Sacrament would be placed at the centre ...

"It is my conviction that Eucharistic Liturgy and Eucharistic devotion are never in competition but rather inform and strengthen our shared worship and reverence. May all in our Diocese grow in greater love and appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist."

Diocese of Peoria

Greek bishops defend crucifix

In a communique on 11 June, 2010, the holy synod of the Catholic hierarchy of Greece declared that banning the crucifix from public places is not an aid to peaceful coexistence in Europe.

This was prior to a 30 June public hearing concerning the European Court of Human Rights' November 2009 decision to ban the crucifix.

The court decision regarded a case originating in Italy and since then ten member states have joined Italy in appealing the decision.

The Greek bishops pointed to the ruling as another move in a series of actions, to refuse to "recognise in the [European] Constitution the Christian roots of our Old Continent." They added that "mutual respect of religious traditions is necessary in a society that is increasingly becoming more multi-cultural.

They said this respect assured the peaceful coexistence of all creeds and traditions, while they condemned all forms of "religious fundamentalism", which, they said, "has only caused pain to humanity."

The bishops concluded that "the public exhibition of Christian religious symbols must not be prohibited in societies that have centuries of Christian tradition." Such a prohibition, they said, "would be a contradiction and the denial of the spiritual and cultural patrimony of a country, whose roots form part of the future."

Zenit News Agency

Heroic Polish priest beatified

Twenty-six years have passed since the brutal murder on 19 October 1984 of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a young priest from the Warsaw parish of St Stanislaw Kostka.

In June, the workers' priest martyred by the communist secret service was beatified in the central square of Warsaw, the city where Father Popieluszko carried out his mission. It was a moment the Polish people had been waiting for since the heroic priest's murder. Some 200,000 people were present, including Marianna Popieluszko, the Polish martyr's mother.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, celebrated Mass while also present were Cardinals William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Adam Maida from Detroit, and numerous other bishops.

At the beginning of his homily, Archbishop Amato mentioned his moving visits to the museum dedicated to the blessed martyr, where one can see the photograph of his face horribly disfigured by his murderers.

"Why was Father Popieluszko massacred this way? Was he a criminal, a murderer, a terrorist?" was the Archbishop's question, to which he replied: "Not at all. He was just a priest who defended his dignity as a minister of Christ and of the Church, and the freedom of all those who were oppressed and humiliated like him. But the Gospel, religion, freedom, human dignity were not in tune with Marxist ideology. That is why he roused the murderous fury of the great liar, God's enemy and oppressor of mankind, the one who hates truth and spreads falsehood."

He concluded saying that the event went beyond the frontiers of Poland: "Today the fame of Father Popieluszko's beatification spreads like the perfume of incense from Poland to the Church and all over the world. Today, at the end of the Year for Priests, the Holy Church proposes not only an exemplary priest, but also a heroic witness to the beauty and truth of Jesus' Gospel."

Inside the Vatican

The duties of a bishop

Addressing a group of Brazilian bishops at the Vatican for their ad limina visit in June, Benedict XVI reminded them of their duties as bishops.

"As teachers and doctors of the faith," he said, "you have the mission to teach with audacity the truth that must be believed and lived, presenting it in an authentic way."

He continued: "To believe consists above all in abandoning oneself to this God who knows and loves us personally, accepting the truth that he revealed in Jesus Christ with the attitude that leads us to trust in grace.

"Be able to infuse this trust in your people, so that the faith is always protected, defended and transmitted in its purity and integrity."

Benedict XVI said that bishops are the "administrators of the supreme priesthood," and that they "must truly make the liturgy an epiphany of the mystery, that is, expression of the genuine nature of the Church, which actively offers worship to God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

"You must create places and occasions where, in silence, in listening to God, in personal and community prayer, man can find and have a living experience of Jesus Christ who reveals the authentic face of the Father. It is necessary that parishes and shrines, realms of education and suffering, families, become places of communion with the Lord."

In virtue of the task of governance, he said, the bishop is "also called to judge and discipline the life of the people of God entrusted to his pastoral care, through laws, directives and suggestions, as established in the universal discipline of the Church."

This "right and duty" is very important, "so that the diocesan community will remain united in its interior and walk in sincere communion of faith, love and discipline with the Bishop of Rome and with the whole Church."

Zenit News Agency

Oldest known paintings of Jesus' apostles

Archaeologists and art restorers using new laser technology have discovered what they believe are the oldest paintings of the faces of Jesus Christ's apostles.

The images in a branch of the catacombs of Saint Tecla near Saint Paul's Basilica, just outside the walls of ancient Rome, were painted at the end of the 4th century or the start of the 5th century.

Archaeologists believe these images may have been among those that most influenced later artists' depictions of the apostles' faces.

"These are the first images that we know of the faces of these four apostles," said Professor Fabrizio Bisconti, the head of archaeology for Rome's numerous catacombs, which are owned and maintained by the Vatican.

The frescoes were known but their details came to light during a restoration project that started two years ago and whose results were announced in June.

The full-face icons include visages of Saints Peter, Andrew, John and Paul. The paintings have the same characteristics as later images, such as Saint Paul's rugged, wrinkled and elongated forehead, balding head and pointy beard, indicating they may have been the ones which set the standard.

The frescoes were covered with a thick patina of powdery calcium carbonate caused by extreme humidity and no air circulation.

"We took our time to do extensive analysis before deciding what technique to use," said Barbara Mazzei, who headed the project. She explained how she used a laser as an "optical scalpel" to make the calcium carbonate fall off without damaging the paint.

"The laser created a sort of a mini explosion of steam when it interacted with the calcium carbonate to make it detach from the surface," she said.

The result was stunning clarity in the images that were previously blurry and opaque. The wrinkles on St Paul's forehead, for example, are clear and the whiteness of St Peter's beard has reemerged.

"As far as paintings inside catacombs go, we are used to very faint paintings, usually white, with few colours. In the case of the Saint Tecla catacombs, the great surprise was the extraordinary colours. The more we went forward, the more surprises we found," Mazzei said.


Anglicans going green

Elements in the Anglican Church have been actively promoting Green policies to combat climate change. Last year, several British Anglican bishops urged Christians to reduce their carbon footprint for Lent.

More recently, according to a report by Jane Still in The Melbourne Anglican (June 2010) the Anglican Church has joined the population debate with its national Public Affairs Commission urging governments to abandon the pursuit of population increase to maintain economic growth.

In a discussion paper that is yet to be put before the General Synod, the Commission has urged Christians to become more keenly aware of the issues that surround population, and to be prepared "to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all Creation".

Citing the projected growth in Australia's population to 35 million by 2050, the paper said: "These population increases will be taking place in a finite world that has not yet been able to agree on reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid potentially catastrophic temperature increase and climate change."

Unchecked, it warned that the consequences for Australia would include further degradation of coastal areas, water scarcity, pollution, urban congestion and deaforestation.

The 1998 Lambeth Conference of the world's Anglican bishops, in its resolution on the environment, declared that unsustainable over-population was at the top of the list of catastrophic pressures on the environment.

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