Missal translation: Vatican letter to US bishops
In a letter dated 2 May 2006 to the President of the US bishops' conference, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, strongly underlined the importance of proper translations for liturgical texts.
He said his office could not approve new translations unless they conformed to the principles set forth in Liturgiam Authenticam, the Vatican instruction of March 2001. Existing texts also had to conform, and the US bishops would not receive permission to continue using any defective texts.
In light of serious divisions among the US bishops and the prospect of a tense debate on the proposed new texts at their June 2006 meeting, Cardinal Arinze's letter reminded them that Liturgiam Authenticam sets forth the authoritative principles of translation which "both this Congregation and the bishops' conferences are bound to follow."
In defence of existing translations, US liturgists had suggested any changes could prove unsettling for Catholics long accustomed to the current liturgical texts. Cardinal Arinze's letter, however, rejected that argument, responding that it was "not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past thirty or forty years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes."
Cardinal Arinze emphasised that the Vatican had found "good and strong reasons for a change" in the translations of the Roman Missal and other liturgical texts.
Catholic World News
African and Asian vocations increase
The Vatican press office has released the newest edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, covering the years 1978-2004, prepared by the Central Office of Church Statistics, and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Over this period, the number of priests worldwide has decreased from 421,000 to less than 406,000. In Africa, however, the number increased from 16,926 to 31,259, and in Asia from 27,700 to 48,222.
While the number of priests in the Americas remained stable at around 120,000, the numbers decreased in Europe from 250,000 to less than 200,000, and in Oceania from 5,500 to 4,800.
The number of candidates to the priesthood, however, has grown constantly worldwide, from 64,000 to 113,000, between 1978 and 2004.
In Africa the number grew from 5,636 to 22,791, in the Americas from 22,011 to 26,681, and in Asia from 11,536 to 29,220.
The Vatican has compared the number of seminarians to the number of faithful in each continent.
In Asia, there are 257 seminarians for every one million Catholics, in Africa, 153, in the Americas, 67, and in Europe, 84.
During the span of the report, the number of seminarians for every 100 priests has increased from 15 to 23, "thanks essentially to the contribution of Asia and Africa," the press office said.
Zenit News Agency
Cardinal Zen comments on new Chinese bishops
The Chinese Government has instructed the Catholic Patriotic Association to stop ordaining bishops without Vatican approval, according to Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen said that the Beijing regime had even threatened to withdraw support from the Patriotic Association, the AsiaNews service reports.
Cardinal Zen was in Rome to take possession of his titular church, the parish of Santa Maria del Redentore, to which he was assigned when he was elevated to the College of Cardinals. Speaking to reporters there on 31 May he said that the Patriotic Association has been "fomenting discord between the Chinese Government and the Vatican."
The Government had "clearly told the vice-president of the Patriotic Association, Liu Bainian, that he must put a stop to these ordinations," the Cardinal told the French Catholic daily, La Croix. Government leaders recognise that if the unauthorised ordinations continue, the Vatican will break off talks with Beijing, he said.
Earlier this year, the Vatican and Beijing seemed to have reached a tacit agreement, under which the Government would insist on the right to appoint Catholic bishops, but would choose only prelates approved by the Vatican. That understanding was broken on 30 April, and again on 2 May, when the Patriotic Association arranged the ordination of bishops who had close ties with the Government, and were not approved by the Holy See.
Catholic World News
Canadian bishops' ad limina visit to Rome
At the beginning of his address to Canadian bishops during their ad limina visit to Rome in May, Benedict XVI noted how "Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism. One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate."
Referring to the importance of Catholic education, the Pope called on the bishops "to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church's Magisterium, individuals' faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted. Only in this way can we hope to overcome the debilitating split between the Gospel and culture."
Teaching the faith, he said, "cannot be reduced to a mere transmission of 'things' or words or even a body of abstract truths. The Church's Tradition is alive!"
He called on "the young adults of your dioceses to take up the rewarding challenge of catechetical service and share in the satisfaction of handing on the faith. Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals."
Benedict identified "the pastoral promotion of sanctity" as a priority to be achieved by "an authentic education in prayer, a knowledge of the lives of the saints and of the multiple forms of spirituality that beautify and stimulate Church life, assiduous participation in the Sacrament of Penance, and a convincing catechesis of Sunday as 'day of the faith'."
Catholic News Agency
Benedict XVI calls for reform in religious life
In a strongly worded statement in May to about 1,500 leaders of religious orders, Benedict XVI called for strong leadership initiatives to help men and women religious survive in "uneasy times characterised by multiple snares".
He made his remarks in the Synod Hall at the Vatican to participants in a conference marking the 10th anniversary of Vita Consecrata, the apostolic exhortation by John Paul II that concluded the work of the bishops' Synod on consecrated life.
In an "ever more disoriented and confused world," the Pope warned, religious are vulnerable and "a secularised culture has penetrated the hearts and minds" of too many religious. Moreover, many religious had fallen into "the trap of mediocrity and of consumer mentality."
To correct these problems, Benedict exhorted religious superiors to make "courageous decisions," renewing dedication and discipline within their communities. The core of consecrated life, he said, must always be found in prayer and particularly in daily devotion to the Eucharist.
Consecrated life entailed a commitment to celibacy; it also required a "sober and humble way of life". He called attention to the distinctive clothing that religious men and women should wear, bearing testimony to their simple and reserved way of life.
Catholic World News
Russian Orthodox leader meets with Pope
Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the second ranking figure in the Moscow Patriarchate, reported his satisfaction after a meeting on 18 May with Benedict XVI. The Russian prelate underlined the commitment of Moscow and Rome to work together in defence of "Christian moral values in Europe".
Metropolitan Kirill spoke at a press conference at the Russian embassy in Rome about his meeting with Benedict as well as the inauguration of Rome's first Russian Orthodox parish church. He reported that the Pope had given a "very profound and important discourse" on the need for Christian collaboration in defence of the European spiritual patrimony."
Metropolitan Kirill said he had conveyed the greetings of Patriarch Alexei II and added that on the issues they discussed, the Pope's positions were "exactly the same as those of the Patriarch of Moscow".
This was especially true of the two Christian leaders' shared determination to promote moral principles in today's Europe. "The historical moment in which Europe decides to refuse to recognise its Christian roots," he said, "is the moment when the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church must work together to defend the values of Christian life in Europe."
Important points of mutual interest for Catholic and Orthodox leaders were the defence of family life and "bioethical questions". On all these issues, he said, the Pope and the Moscow Patriarch were completely in accord.
Catholic World News
The Church and militant homosexuality
In the US, gay-rights activists from the Rainbow Sash movement announced plans to provoke a showdown with Catholic bishops in major cities on Pentecost Sunday by attending Mass and presenting themselves for Communion while wearing their distinctive sashes.
The activists wore rainbow sashes, the group said, to protest against "homophobia" within the Catholic Church. These protests have become annual events at cathedrals in several US cities.
On Pentecost Sunday 2005, Rainbow Sash demonstrators were refused Communion by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Archbishop Harry Flynn of St Paul, but welcomed by Cardinal Roger Mahony in Los Angeles. In 2004 Archbishop Flynn had allowed the Rainbow Sash protesters to receive Communion, but he reversed his policy after receiving direct orders from the Congregation for Divine Worship, indicating the demonstrators were "showing their opposition to Church teaching on a major issue of natural law and so disqualify themselves from being given Holy Communion."
Meanwhile, the Bishops' Conference of Italy joined the Spanish and Polish bishops in condemning a resolution of the EU Parliament on "homophobia in Europe", which included a call for recognition of same-sex marriage. The bishops of Spain issued a statement condemning the resolution at their gathering in Madrid on 11 May.
During the opening address at the Italian bishops' meeting in Rome in May, Conference president Cardinal Camillo Ruini said, "The European Parliament continues to issue statements that do not respect the principle of subsidiarity, the culture and traditions proper to the different member states, and that seriously contrast with fundamental anthropological truths."
Catholic News Agency
Lay movements and Church authority
In a message dated 22 May to 300 leaders of new lay movements gathered outside Rome for the 2nd World Meeting of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Benedict XVI urged the movements to act as "schools of communion," building up the Body of Christ and encouraging unity among the faithful.
Above all, he said, they should spread the Word of God, carrying "the light of Christ into all the social and cultural environments in which you live" and illuminating "the darkness of a world confused by the contradictory messages of ideologies".
Benedict also stressed their place in "the living structure of the Church", reminding them that Catholics were obligated to follow with "ready obedience" the leadership not only of the Pope, "but also of bishops in the various local churches who, together with the Pope, are the custodians of truth and charity in unity". He appealed for the new groups to maintain "a spirit of profound communion" with the Church and "adherence to legitimate pastors".
Representatives of about 100 different groups participated, including Focolare, the Neocatechumenate, Communion and Liberation, Regnum Christi, San Egidio, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Chemin Neuf, Emmanuel, L'Arche, and the Christian Life communities.
Catholic World News