New appointment to top Vatican liturgical post
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain, to become the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Cardinal Canizares replaces Cardinal Francis Arinze, whose retirement was announced on 9 December 2008.
Cardinal Canizares is regarded as a strong supporter of the Pope's plans for the liturgy and holds similar views to those of Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who has been an outspoken advocate of authentic liturgical renewal.
Archbishop Ranjith is likely to be appointed as the new Archbishop of Columbo in his native Sri Lanka in early 2009.
Cardinal Canizares, who is 63, has been a strong voice for Catholic social teaching during a period when the Spanish hierarchy has clashed frequently with the Socialist political leadership. He denounced the government's moves to liberalise abortion law and said that legal recognition of same-sex unions 'goes against nature, family, and a healthy society.'
More recently he encouraged Catholic parents to 'use all legitimate means in your power to defend your right to determine the moral education of your children.'
Catholic World News
Spain's abortion rate doubles in a decade
Surgical abortions in Spain have increased in all age groups, especially among young unmarried women, its health ministry reported in December 2008.
The number of abortions in Spain has grown more than in any other European country over the past five years (by 60%).
Abortions numbered 112,138 in Spain last year, an increase of 10% from 2006 and double that of 1998 (53,847). One out of every five pregnancies now ends in abortion. According to the data, 97% of abortions were sought due to 'risk for the physical or psychological health of the mother.'
This news came just when the Spanish government is debating the reform of the present abortion law to give greater protection to women who want abortions and the doctors who perform them.
At the same time, in Spain there is no form of public assistance for those women who decide to go ahead with their pregnancy.
Esperanza Puente of the MotherNetwork in giving testimony before the sub-commission studying a reform of the abortion law said that women should be offered an alternative to abortion.
'Experience demonstrates', she said, 'that a pregnant woman who is informed, supported and given different alternatives to abortion decides to go ahead with the pregnancy. And no one has regretted having had the child.'
Zenit News Agency
Former Muslim tells story behind Papal baptism
The high-profile baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam at an Easter Vigil ceremony presided over by Benedict XVI has a story behind it. According to Allam himself, his conversion journey was possible because of great Christian witnesses.
He spoke about his conversion and the experiences that led to it when he met with university students of Rome in November 2008 to tell the story of his path to Catholicism.
From the age of four, he attended Italian Catholic schools in Egypt run by the Comboni religious missionaries, and later, by the Salesians.
'I thus received an education that transmitted to me healthy values and I appreciated the beauty, truth, goodness and rationality of the Christian faith,' in which 'the person is not a means, but a starting point and an arriving point.'
'Thanks to Christianity,' he said, 'I understood that truth is the other side of liberty: They are an indissoluble binomial. The phrase, 'The truth will make you free' is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished.'
Allam affirmed that Benedict XV's 2006 speech in Regensburg - which caused uproar within the Muslim community - was for him a reason to reflect.
Responding to a question about a possible compatibility between faith and reason in Islam, Allam contended that 'unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man,' Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, 'being one with God, is not interpretable.'
He continued: 'The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values.'
Zenit News Agency
South Brisbane defies Archbishop's ultimatum
Following expiry of the 1 December deadline given by Archbishop Bathersby, the rebel parish of St Mary's has given a defiant response in the form of a seven-page document which claims that despite its dissenting practices it remains in full communion with the Catholic Church.
The document makes clear that St Mary's will not stop what it is doing setting the stage for a further confrontation with the Archbishop and ultimately the Holy See.
Fr Peter Kennedy, the St Mary's Administrator, told the ABC he believed the Vatican was pressuring Archbishop Bathersby to act and that 'over the years he has in many ways, supported us' but 'Rome is so controlling, and I think you know, the Archbishop is sort of between a rock and a hard place.'
St Mary's, he claimed, 'over the last 20-odd years' had 'tried to be a Vatican II community, and we tried to, in a sense, hand the church over to the people and the priest take a back step and to encourage the laity to take control of the church, and they do. And the problem with today is that under the present pope, they're very concerned about returning to this idea of church as a priest-centred church ...'.
In the event of Archbishop Bathersby proceeding with excommunication, Fr Kennedy said, 'We will try and stay at St Mary's'. It had 'happened overseas in Boston' where 'people didn't leave the church, they slept there. If we have to, we will do that'.
He rejected any talk of leaving the Church, comparing his 'community' to Mary McKillop and complaining that the Church was 'stuck in its orthodoxy ... its doctrines and dogmas and doesn't seem to be able to get out of that.'
Sign of Peace may be moved
The now retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, said in November that the Pope may consider moving the sign of peace to before the offertory.
In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Cardinal Arinze explained that 'a different placement of the sign of peace' is under consideration. 'Often the full significance of this gesture is not understood. It is seen as an occasion to shake the hands of our friends, when in reality it is a way of saying to the one next to us that the peace of Christ, truly present on the altar, is also for all mankind.
'In order to create a more meditative atmosphere as we prepare for Communion, moving the sign of peace to the Offertory is being considered. The Pope has consulted the bishops, and later he will decide.'
Cardinal Arinze later explained that his Congregation 'is not a sort of 'ecclesiastical' police or 'intervener' for every problem. The dicastery was created first of all to promote divine worship,' although 'we certainly cannot close our eyes to objectively problematic situations.'
He said that Redemptoris Sacramentum 'points out that many of the liturgical abuses are not due to ill will but rather ignorance. Some just don't know, but they also don't know they are ignoring something. They don't know, for example, that words and gestures have roots in the tradition of the Church. Thus they think they are being more original and creative by changing these texts and gestures. In response to this situation, it is necessary to reaffirm that the liturgy is sacred and is the public prayer of the Church.'
Catholic News Agency
Bishops' new pamphlets on Catholic doctrine
The Australian Bishops Commission for Doctrine and Morals is preparing to publish a series of easy-to-read pamphlets on key areas of doctrine.
It is proposed that six pamphlets will be prepared by the members of the Commission, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Bishop Christopher Prowse, Bishop Anthony Fisher. Bishop Peter Elliott will also prepare one of the pamphlets.
These will be released to coincide with the feasts of Easter, Pentecost, the Assumption, Exaltation of the Cross, Christ the King and Christmas.
The pamphlets will examine the subjects of Christology, Truth in the Church, Christian understanding of the Body, Moral Truths, Eschatology and Salvation.
The Bishops Commission for Doctrine and Morals has also commissioned Dr Anne Hunt to develop a booklet on the Trinity. This booklet is also directed to a general audience, including secondary students and is expected to be ready for publication during 2009.
The abortion issue: US bishop speaks out
Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton, Pennsylvania, continually emphasised the importance of abortion in Catholic voters' decisions prior to the US presidential election.
At a faith and politics forum in October, Bishop Martino warned against erroneous interpretations of politics-related documents from the US bishops and emphasised his own authority as bishop, pointing out 'there is one teacher in this diocese.'
The president of the American Life League, Judie Brown, has called the bishop 'one of our heroes'. As she put it: 'His clear opposition to abortion, his clear teaching that a Catholic cannot vote for a pro- abortion candidate, sent ripples across the country. Never before have we seen such outspoken, direct opposition to abortion from the bishops.
'Every bishop in the United States should be shouting from the rooftops the sanctity of life.'
Bishop Martino is one of a significant minority of American bishops who teach that abortion is the only voting issue that matters. It is estimated that about 45 percent of the bishops teach this position, while others teach that abortion should be considered in the context of social justice and 'life' issues.
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Avery Dulles R.I.P.
On 12 December, one of the Catholic Church's foremost theologians Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ died at the age of 90 at Murray-Weigel Hall, located at Fordham University in New York.
Cardinal Dulles was born on 24 August 1918 in New York, the son of US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He was raised as a Protestant but converted to Catholicism while studying at Harvard.
Avery Dulles was ordained on 16 June 1956 and went on to teach at Woodstock College and the Catholic University of America. He authored 21 books, wrote over 650 articles and was named President of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society.
Catholic News Agency
Persecution of Christians in India continues
Archbishop Rafael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar said in December, 'The persecution of Christians in Orissa,' a state of India where hundreds have been attacked by Hindu extremists in recent months, 'continues amidst the indifference of authorities.'
Archbishop Cheenath said, 'At least 11,000 Christians are still in camps in the districts of Kandhamal, and thousands are in other districts, not counting those who have fled to other states in India, or to the homes of friends or relatives. Everyone fears new acts of violence if they were to return to their cities.'
The Archbishop continued: 'Our persecutors have announced there will be new attacks against us by Christmas ... The message is that only conversion to Hinduism will save them.'
Catholic News Agency