Vatican upholds Call to Action excommunication
The Vatican has confirmed an American bishop's decision to excommunicate members of the dissident group Call to Action.
Call to Action is "causing damage to the Church of Christ," wrote Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in a letter to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.
In March 1996, Bishop Bruskewitz had announced the excommunication of all Catholics in his diocese who were members of Call to Action or several other dissident groups which he described as "totally incompatible with the Catholic faith."
The Nebraska chapter of Call to Action subsequently appealed to Rome against the bishop's decision. However, in his 24 November letter to Bishop Bruskewitz, Cardinal Re reported the Vatican's finding that the disciplinary action was "properly taken."
The Vatican, he said, had determined that "the activities of 'Call to Action' in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint ... Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith."
While the excommunication order applied only within the Lincoln Diocese, the Vatican's judgment against Call to Action raised clear questions about the status of the group's members in other dioceses.
Catholic World News
St Paul's tomb uncovered
An Italian archeologist has uncovered the tomb of St Paul, underneath the altar of the Roman basilica of St Paul- outside-the-Walls.
Archeologist Giorgio Filippi confirmed in December that his team had completed excavations around the altar of the ancient basilica, discovering the sarcophagus located there.
St Paul-outside-the-Walls was built in 390, on the site of St Paul's tomb. The sarcophagus was visible until the 19th century, when the basilica was destroyed by fire and rebuilt, with the new altar on top of the site where the old crypt was located. In 2002, the Vatican authorised an archeological dig to recover the tomb of St Paul and make it available to the public for veneration.
The Vatican press office held a news conference on 11 December to discuss the renovations at the basilica. The archeologist Filippi briefed reporters, along with Cardinal Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the archpriest of the basilica.
Cardinal clarifies celibacy comments
On 4 December, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, clarified his comments on priestly celibacy that were reported in a Brazilian newspaper. His comments appeared to suggest some relaxation of the Church's approach to celibacy.
"On the subject of the echoes provoked by my words as reported by the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo," he said, "I would like to specify the following:o
"In the Church it has always been clear that priests' obligation to celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary norm. Indeed, it is valid for the Latin Church but not for the oriental rites where, even in communities united to the Catholic Church, it is normal for there to be married priests.
"Yet it is also clear that the norm prescribing celibacy for priests in the Latin Church is very ancient and is founded upon consolidated tradition and upon strong motivations, both theological-spiritual and practical-pastoral, as reiterated also by Popes.
"Even during the recent Synod on priests, the most widespread opinion among the fathers was that a relaxation of the rule of celibacy would not be a solution even to the problem of the lack of vocations, which is, rather, to be linked to other causes, in the first place the modern culture of secularisation. This is clear also from the experience of other Christian confessions that have married priests and pastors.
"This question is not, then, currently on the order of the day for the ecclesial authorities, as was recently reiterated following the latest meeting of heads of dicastery with the Holy Father."
Vatican Information Service
Liturgy ruling: translate pro multis as "for many"
In November, the Vatican ruled that the Latin phrase pro multis should be rendered as "for many" in all new translations of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Although "for many" is the literal translation of the Latin, the translations currently in use render the phrase as "for all." Equivalent translations (für alle; por todos; per tutti) are in use in several other languages.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, wrote to the heads of world's episcopal conferences, informing them of the Vatican decision. For the countries where a change in translation will be required, the cardinal's letter directs the bishops to prepare for the introduction of a new translation of the phrase in approved liturgical texts "in the next one or two years."
The translation of pro multis has been the subject of considerable debate because of the serious theological issues involved. The phrase occurs when the priest consecrates the wine, saying (in the current translation), "... it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven".
The Latin version of the Missal, which sets the norm for the Roman liturgy, says, "... qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum".
Critics of the current translation have argued, since it first appeared, that rendering pro multis as "for all" not only distorts the meaning of the Latin original, but also conveys the impression that all men are saved, regardless of their relationship with Christ and his Church. The more natural translation, "for many," more accurately suggests that while Christ's redemptive suffering makes salvation available to all, it does not follow that all men are saved.
Cardinal Arinze, in his letter to the presidents of episcopal conferences, explained the reasons for the Vatican's decision:
* The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24) make specific reference to "many" for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this wording has been emphasised by some biblical scholars in connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah (53, 11-12). It would have been entirely possible in the Gospel texts to have said "for all" (for example, cf. Luke 12,41); instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is "for many", and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern biblical versions.
* The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis and never pro omnibus (meaning "for all") in the consecration of the chalice.
* The anaphoras of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, the Slavic languages, etc, contain the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.
* "For many" is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas "for all" is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.
* The expression "for many", while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the "many" to whom the text refers.
* In line with the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, effort should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.
Catholic World News
Priest shortage in Toowoomba Diocese
In an Advent Pastoral Letter for 2006, Bishop William Morris set out for the Toowoomba Diocese the severe shortage of priests to be expected over the years leading up to 2014.
"We do face an uncertain future with regard to the number of active priests in our diocese", said Bishop Morris. The estimated numbers of priests in "parish-based ministry in 2014" would be six aged 65 and younger (three in the 61-65 year group) and eight aged 66-70, with a further five in "diocesan ministry" including the Bishop himself.
This numbers crisis is due to the almost total lack of vocations for the diocese.
Bishop Morris offered some possible solutions in his Letter.
"Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of the Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed internationally, nationally and locally:
* ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community;
* welcoming former priests, married or single, back to active ministry;
* ordaining women, married or single;
* recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders.
"While we continue to reflect carefully on these options, we remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas ...
"As a pilgrim people who journey in hope we need to remain open to the Spirit so that we can be agents of change and respond wisely to the needs of all members of the local Church of Toowoomba".
French poll shows support Latin Mass choice
Although the French Catholic bishops have said that the faithful would oppose wider use of the Tridentine rite, a poll of French Catholics last November found that nearly two-thirds would like to have the choice of attending a traditional Latin Mass.
When asked whether Catholics should have a choice between the Novus Ordo Mass and a traditional liturgy, 65 percent of French Catholics answered that they should, while another 22 percent said they did not care; only 13 percent opposed the idea.
Among the 1,000 people surveyed, 60 percent said that they would attend a Mass celebrated in Latin with Gregorian chant, at least occasionally. On the other hand, in an apparently contradictory response, 51 percent of the respondents said that they would either "rarely" or "never" attend a Mass celebrated in the traditional rite.
The survey was conducted by the CSA Institute, an established French polling firm, on behalf of the Catholic group Paix Liturgique.
Catholic World News
Ark of the Covenant discovery
Archaeologists claim to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, reported the London Daily Telegraph.
The site, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly colored mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ. The church dates to the late fourth century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship, said the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch.
The site contains an unusual inscription that refers to itself as Shiloh. Aharonovitch says this shows early Christians treated the site as an ancient, holy place.
According to the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was kept by the Israelites at Shiloh for several hundred years.
It was eventually moved to the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple that the Bible says King Solomon built around 1000 BC. When the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians 400 years later, the Ark was lost, prompting theories about whether it was hidden or destroyed.
The team at Shiloh is considering whether to dig under the mosaics that they have uncovered, in order to seek traces of the Ark.
Catholic News Agency