Bishops respond to "gay marriage" push
During the Plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, held from 22 to 26 November in Sydney, the bishops discussed at length issues relating to marriage and same-sex relationships and their recognition in law, in response to recent moves by governments to change these laws.
The bishops' discussion touched on a number of important areas, including the motion in the Federal Parliament moved by the Greens MP, Adam Bandt, on 15 November that local members should consult their constituents on same-sex marriage.
In response to this the bishops agreed on the wording of a petition to be used in churches in order to make parishioners' views known to their local members.
"As a parishioner of ... (within your electorate) [I ask you to] please consider my position on the meaning of marriage.
"Given the variety of domestic arrangements available in Australia, I request that you protect the unique institution of marriage as traditionally understood and actually lived as the complementary love between a man and a woman."
Ireland's crisis of faith
On 20 November Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin spoke frankly about the crisis of faith in Ireland. He was addressing members of the Legion of Mary at a Mass marking the 30th anniversary of its founder Frank Duff's death.
Archbishop Martin acknowledged that many church leaders had failed profoundly in their pastoral duties. More than this, he said, they had demonstrated "arrogance and power seeking," acting in a way that alienated many believers and contradicted the message of the gospel.
These failures and abuses, he said, caused the Church to lose its remaining social influence and much of its credibility. The blows came at a time when many Irish Catholics were already drifting away from the Church to "live as if God did not exist."
He also highlighted the "crisis of vocations to the priesthood," noting that he recently presided at a Mass in memory of 20 priests who had died within the past 12 months. "A further dozen or so priests retired from active ministry during the same period," he said. "And yet, in the past year I ordained just one new priest for the diocese [of Dublin]."
While in no way minimising either the abuse scandals or the priest shortage, Archbishop Martin referred to a deeper crisis, one that concerned "the very nature of faith in Jesus Christ," and the question of Jesus' identity and mission.
He proposed that the Church could only address its more obvious problems by returning to what he called "the fundamental question" of "Who is Jesus Christ?"
"Can we be happy to celebrate first communion services which put people into debt for thousands of Euro," he asked, "while neither the children nor their parents have been led to a true understanding of the Eucharist and the Church? Can we be satisfied when confirmation is looked on by many as a graduation out of Church life?"
Archbishop Martin pointed to the example of Frank Duff and the Legion of Mary as an indication of what was needed to call Irish Catholics - clergy and laity - back to the essence of their faith.
Catholic News Agency
Christians are the world's most persecuted
Christians are the world's most persecuted religious group, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, told a summit of international leaders meeting in Kazakhstan on 1 December.
During a two-day meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Cardinal Bertone urged member nations to fight anti-Christian discrimination in the same way that it fights discrimination against other religious groups.
The 56 member countries of the organisation include the United States and Canada, as well as European nations, former Soviet bloc countries, and Turkey, among others. Cardinal Bertone said that that worldwide more than 200 million Christians "live in difficult conditions" because of legal and cultural restrictions on worship and religious freedom. "It is well documented that Christians are the most discriminated and persecuted religious group."
English Anglican bishops join Catholic Church
In January, five English Anglican bishops, who announced in November that they were leaving the Church of England, were the first to join a new "personal ordinariate" established by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
The Catholic bishops unveiled their plans for the new ordinariate, or jurisdiction, in a statement on 19 November which said that Pope Benedict XVI would formally establish the ordinariate and name a bishop to lead it in early January 2011.
In their announcement, the English and Welsh bishops said the new procedures for accepting Anglican converts had been worked out over the past year in cooperation with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Under the timetable they laid out, the three former Anglican bishops who are not retired would be ordained to serve as priests in the new ordinariate. The other two bishops, who are retired, would be ordained by Lent 2011.
"This will enable them, together with the ordinary and the other former Anglican Bishops, to assist with the preparation and reception of former Anglican clergy and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church during Holy Week," the bishops said.
In addition, the statement envisaged that Anglican clergy who decided to convert would begin "a period of intense formation for ordination as Catholic priests."
Former Anglican Bishop John Broadhurst, one of the five who announced his resignation from the Church of England on 7 November, said he was pleased with the plans announced by the English and Welsh bishops.
Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, another of the five, laid his mitre and crozier at Our Lady's feet in his last sermon as a bishop of the Church of England.
"Jesus prays for the gift of Unity," he preached. "It is that gift of Unity, I believe, which is offered to us, and through us eventually to all separated Christians, in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. It is because it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, abiding in his Church, that I believe I must accept it and invite others to come with me on the journey."
Catholic World News