Cardinal Pell: strong leadership needed
In his homily at the Episcopal Ordination for Bishop Peter Comensoli as a new auxiliary bishop for Sydney on 8 June, Cardinal George Pell said that if bishops dodge confrontation, we should not be too surprised when others "go missing", too. He said bishops needed to be courageous "because Christian truths do not always win majority approval".
"But every stand for truth, justice and charity, for life and for goodness, will strengthen your brothers and sisters in faith, and often in the wider society, and inspire them to stand firm and make sacrifices, too."
Bishop Comensoli, who is from the diocese of Wollongong, and formerly its Chancellor, is at 47 the youngest bishop in Australia.
Cardinal Pell said of Bishop Comensoli that "through the wisdom of a succession of bishops and through your own hard work you are unusually well qualified academically, as well as pastorally, to provide leadership in the struggle between good and evil, between the light of faith and the gathering darkness ...
"Your task will be to teach and explain that Jesus is the Son of God as well as Son of Mary, possessing a divine as well as a human nature, which enables him to redeem us. No mere man could do this.
"Surveys show that even some priests, and certainly more people, Catholics, too, are unsure about the bodily resurrection of Jesus and even of the Virgin birth, of Christ's divine fatherhood.
"This must mean that their faith in the divinity of Christ is under extreme pressure and this means that their faith in the redemption too is pressured."
Cardinal Pell said he knew Bishop Comonsoli would "rise to these challenges."
Catholic Weekly (Sydney)
Catholic religious identity endangered
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, Colorado, warned Catholic social workers against the danger of Church institutions losing their religious identity amidst increasing hostility from the government and society.
"The more that Catholic universities or hospitals mute their religious identity; the more that Catholic social ministries weaken their religious character ... the less useful to the Gospel they become," he said.
On 21 June, during an address to the Catholic Social Workers National Convention in Denver, he said that civil society consists "not just of autonomous individuals" but communities as well.
"Those communities also have rights. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief. The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching."
Archbishop Chaput's remarks were made against the backdrop of Catholic Charities in several dioceses across the US shutting down adoption and foster care services after their local states enacted civil union laws.
Despite these setbacks, however, he said that Catholic ministries "have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues. And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying, then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services.
"Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ. If it doesn't, it isn't Catholic. And if our social work isn't deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word 'Catholic.' It's that simple."
Archbishop Chaput warned that "a new kind of America" is emerging in the 21st century, one that is likely to be "much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation's past."
Persecution in Pakistan: Vatican call for action
Speaking on 15 June, a leading Vatican diplomat said that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should intervene in the case of Farah Hatim, a Christian girl in Pakistan whose family said she was kidnapped and forced to marry and convert to Islam.
Freedom of religion is "a test for the respect of all human rights," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the head of the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Yet at least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam every year, Fides reports.
Archbishop Tomasi called the alleged crime against Farah "a violation of human rights, freedom of conscience and religion, and abuse of personal freedom, freedom to choose how to live one's life."
He suggested a mechanism be created for these situations to allow the family and state officials to investigate and determine the truth.
Archbishop Tomasi recommended that the UN Council for Human Rights create such a body. Some UN-accredited Catholic NGOs are receiving direct information from Pakistan and are collecting data to present a report to the council.
International mechanisms to protect persecuted people should be used and the "indifference" of Western media should be "shaken" because "they often do not report the discrimination that millions of believers suffer."
The blasphemy law is also a problem. It is considered unjust by many people, including Muslims, and changing it is "a top priority" for Pakistan's Christian communities, who are often victims of false claims under the law.
The archbishop expressed hope that the changes underway in North Africa and the Middle East would lead to greater openness and ensure "a more dignified and free life for everyone," including the Christians of Pakistan.
Catholic News Agency
US Bishops' second pro-marriage video
With the issue of marriage at the forefront of the culture war, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues its effort to help the faithful strengthen their marriages.
The bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage has released the second of five videos for the promotion and protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Made for Life features actual married couples reflecting on topics related to the gift of children, the indispensable place of fathers and mothers, and sexual difference.
"Our culture is one that often forgets the sacred gift of the child, and in so doing it also fails to recognise the vital importance of a mother and a father together for the life and upbringing of that child," said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, chairman of the committee.
"In contemporary debates about the meaning of marriage, the rights and dignity of the child should be at the forefront"
The video Made for Life builds on the first video Made for Each Other and invites a renewed appreciation for the child, for mothers and fathers, and for the bond between love and life in marriage - a bond only possible through the sexual difference of husband and wife.
Zenit News Agency
Attacks on churches in Indonesia
Two hundred churches have been attacked in Indonesia since 2006, according to a report submitted to Aid to the Church in Need, with 14 attacked in the first five months of 2011.
"President Yudhoyono sleeps if there is an attack on Christian churches," said Theophilus Bela, President of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum. "If the president sleeps, so do the police."
"We Christians are not afraid, because we are also citizens of this country like other groups of our society," Bela added. "The Christians go to their churches regularly, and our churches are always full."
3% of the nation's 228.5 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics. 6% are Protestant, and 86% are Muslim.
Catholic World News
Vatican official confirms rights of laity
The laity have a right to appeal to the Vatican via the Nuncio if there are insoluble problems in their dioceses, according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's promoter of justice.
At a news conference on 18 June devoted to an upcoming conference on the clerical abuse scandal, Msgr Charles Scicluna was asked, "And when the bishops are not good shepherds, what can be done?" He replied:
"Each [member of the] faithful has the right to express his concern about the diocese directly to the Holy See, through the nuncio. My work has made me appreciate very much the activity of the nuncios, who represent to the local community, not only to the governments, the closeness of the Holy Father.
"People must know that they can turn to the nuncio when there are issues that have repercussions in the pastoral ministry of bishops, not to denounce them, but to say: 'We have confidence in the ministry of Peter, which the nuncio represents; we have a concern, and we have the duty, not just the right, to present it to Peter.' This possibility also forms part of the education of the ecclesial community."
Catholic World News
"Same-sex marriage" in New York
Reflecting on the recent passage of same-sex marriage in New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan offered "thanks to those courageous millions who valiantly fought this unfortunate project of social engineering ... My brother bishops of New York were particularly prophetic."
"We have been bloodied, and bruised, and, yes, for the moment, we have been defeated," he added. "But, we're used to that. So was the Founder of our Church."
Archbishop Dolan continued:
"We do worry indeed about this freedom of religion. Editorials already call for the removal of guarantees of religious liberty, with crusaders calling for people of faith to be coerced to acceptance of this redefinition. If the experience of those few other states and countries where this is already law is any indication, the churches, and believers, will soon be harassed, threatened, and hauled into court for their conviction that marriage is between one man, one woman, forever, bringing children into the world ...
"The real forces of 'intolerance' were unmasked here. The caricature, of course, is that those defending traditional marriage were the right-wing bigots and bullies ... As one respected columnist has observed, the problem is not homophobia but theophobia - a hatred by some of God, faith, religion, and the Church ...
"The Church has always stood up for marriage - one man and one woman, united in lifelong and faithful love, leading to new life in children - whenever and wherever it was in danger. Veterans my age and over can remember sixty years ago when we fought widespread, no-fault divorce, convinced it would lead to a cheapening of the marriage bond and harm our kids (as, of course, scholarly studies now report has, indeed, happened).
"Recall how the Church resisted the 'contraceptive mentality,' fearing it would rupture the sacred bond between love and the procreation of children. Then, remember how the Church sounded the alarm over rising rates of promiscuity, adultery, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation prior to or instead of marriage. And now we ring the steeple bell again at this latest dilution of the authentic understanding of marriage, worried that the next step will be another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity."
Catholic World News
Church working for unity in Sri Lanka
Although Christians form only 8% of Sri Lanka's population, the Church can play a crucial role in promoting unity in a nation ravaged by civil war, according to Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo.
"We have to be a witness, not so much through words but through actions - the way we live with one another. So, since we are Christians, even though we may be Sinhalese and Tamils, it is essential that ... we try to build fraternity as much as possible - and understanding - and then this is the way we would tell others [that] Christians have no problems with race and language."
The common devotion of Sihalese and Tamil Catholics to Our Lady of Madhu could serve "as a catalyst, as an example [that] people can live together in our faith," he added.
Catholic World News