Benedict XVI addresses Italian Bishops
On 24 May, in the Vatican's Synod Hall, Benedict XVI met with participants at the 57th general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
In his address he noted 'the difficulties and snares' which 'can grow with the passage of time and of the generations' and warned against 'a culture marked by moral relativism, poor in certainties and rich in demands, at times unjustified demands.'
A constant commitment was needed 'to place God always at the centre of the lives of our communities, giving primacy to prayer, to personal friendship with Jesus and, hence, to the call to sanctity. In particular, great concern must be shown for vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life.'
What is important, he said, is 'to announce and bear witness to Jesus Christ,' to 'those peoples who are opening to the faith for the first time, to the children of the peoples who now live and work in Italy, and to our own people who at times have abandoned the faith and who are anyway subject to the pressure of the secularising tendencies that seek to dominate the society and culture of this country.'
While 'esteem and respect towards other religions and cultures, with the seeds of truth and goodness they contain', were 'especially necessary in our own times ... there must be no reduction in our awareness of the originality, fullness and unicity of the revelation of the true God Who in Christ was definitively given us, and nor can the Church's missionary vocation be diminished or weakened.'
Vatican Information Service
China and the Pope's power to name bishops
During an interview in Japan in May, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, who served for three years as the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, said that the Church would not open diplomatic relations with China until the Beijing Government recognises the Pope's authority to name bishops.
The Vatican is anxious to establish ties with China, the Archbishop said, noting that there are between eight and 18 million Catholics in the country. 'Given such a multitude of faithful, the Pope wishes to have his representatives there in order to take care of their pastoral needs,' he said.
However, progress toward diplomatic ties has stalled because Beijing will not acknowledge the Pope's authority to appoint bishops. The Vatican will not consider full diplomatic ties until Beijing drops its claim of a right to name bishops, while the Chinese Government will not accept any form of ties short of full diplomatic relations, the Archbishop continued. The Vatican sees the Pope's right to name bishops as a crucial test of religious freedom.
Archbishop Lajolo, who since 2006 has been head of the Vatican city-state government, said that he was confident that diplomatic ties could be established quickly if the Beijing Government yielded on that crucial point.
Catholic World News
Czech Government takes Prague cathedral
Since 1992, there has been continuing strife between the Catholic Church and the Czech Government. This has come to a head with the decision of the Supreme Court that St Veit's Cathedral of Prague belongs to the State and the Church must vacate it and restore it to the State.
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, in an interview with Vienna's leading newspaper Presse, said that this act was a glaring injustice and that, although communism had fallen, the leaders are still Communists and the Ministry of Culture is full of rabid anti-clerical Communists who do what they want manipulating constitutional law. 'What an absurdity it is for a State that claims to be ruled by the right of law', said the Cardinal.
The St Veit's Cathedral of Prague was begun in 1344 and was the possession of the Church for centuries until 1953 when the Communist Government declared it to be the property of the State. When communism fell, the Archdiocese of Prague requested that the cathedral be restored to the Church.
Since 1992, Church and State have been involved in a bitter law suit as to who is the real owner. Three times the Court has decreed that the Cathedral standing on the land of the Castle of Prague belongs to the Church.
Now through massive pressure by the State, the Supreme Court has ruled that it belongs to the State.
Although the Czech State is part of the European Union, it is still ruled as if it were still Communist. The Church will now appeal to the European Court at Strasbourg.
Catholic politician's abortion stance condemned
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, recently gave reasons for turning down an invitation from Rudy Giuliani to attend a fundraising dinner for his presidential campaign.
According to the diocesan newspaper, the Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Tobin said he 'would never support a candidate who supports legalised abortion' and called Giuliani's explanations for his position on abortion 'pathetic, confusing' and 'hypocritical.'
Giuliani had previously stated he had two pillars of belief. 'One is, I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong ... The second pillar that guides my thinking ... where [people of good faith] come to different conclusions about this, about something so very, very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint.'
Bishop Tobin described this explanation as 'a classic expression of the position on abortion we've heard from weak-kneed politicians so frequently in recent years: 'I'm personally opposed to but don't want to impose my views on other people'.'
The Bishop added, 'As I've asked previously, would we let any politician get away with the same pathetic cop-out on other issues: 'I'm personally opposed to ... racial discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, polygamy, incest ... but don't want to impose my beliefs on others'?'
Bishop Tobin also addressed the issue of how politicians' decisions in the public sphere affect their relationship with the Church.
'Rudy's preposterous position is compounded by the fact that he professes to be a Catholic. As Catholics, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life, to cherish and protect human life as a precious gift of God from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. As a leader, as a public official, Rudy Giuliani has a special obligation in that regard,' said Bishop Tobin.
Catholic News Agency
US survey on overturning Roe v. Wade
According to the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Con- firmation Network, a survey shows that when voters are educated on how Roe v. Wade really affects the availability of abortion, there is a substantial change in their opinions.
Armed with this new understanding of where the country's mind is on abortion, the two pro-family networks plan to launch a campaign to educate the public.
In their statement, the networks said, 'We believe this is the perfect moment in the wake of the Gonzales v. Carhart partial-birth abortion decision, and while the abortion issue is centre stage in the presidential campaign to implement a comprehensive national education campaign about Roe.'
'The aim of the survey was to determine if further education on the implications of Roe v. Wade would change people's minds.
'The survey first asked participants whether they would like the Supreme Court to overturn its Roe v. Wade ruling. It then asked them whether they believed that abortion should be legal or illegal in each of twelve circumstances.
'The surveyor then briefly informed the participants (1) that Roe prohibits states from restricting abortion during the first six months of pregnancy in any of those circumstances, and (2) that if Roe were overturned states could make abortion policies that would permit abortion for some reasons and bar it for others. Participants were then asked again whether they would like the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.'
Some substantial changes were also noted when those being surveyed were informed about how Roe functions in practice. 'With even this brief education about what Roe really means, public opinion on overturning Roe swung ... from 55 to 34 percent against overturning Roe to 48 to 43 percent against. In the face of more than three decades of media misrepresentation about what Roe means and what overturning it would mean, this swing is very striking.'
Other notable changes included, 'Republicans initially favoured the overturning of Roe by 60 to 32 percent. By the end of the survey, that already whopping margin had increased to 67 to 29 percent. The swing among Democratic voters was especially marked: 26 points in the direction of favouring a reversal of Roe.'
Catholic News Agency
John Paul II and revival of UK vocations
The Catholic Church of England and Wales has seen an increase in the number of men entering seminaries to study for the priesthood since the death of John Paul II in 2005.
Fr Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocations of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, explained in an interview that the death of John Paul II generated a lot of interest in the Catholic Church.
'The young saw the fidelity that the Pope had for his vocation and were attracted by his faith,' he said. The number of vocations was higher now than it was three years ago, he added.
'In 2003 the low point was reached with only 24 new entrants into seminaries. Last year, by contrast, there were 44, an increase that is a strong sign of hope,' said Fr Embery.
Still, the number of candidates remains very low compared with the 1950s and 1960s, and there are fewer priests ordained each year than the number who die or retire.
'In a typical diocese, two to three priests retire or die each year and only one new one is ordained,' he said. 'Last year, 20 priests were ordained in England and Wales, a number insufficient to replace those who died.'
Fr Embery said there was currently one priest for every 800 faithful in the country which was a 'very generous ratio for these times' compared with the ratio in other European or Latin American countries. 'In Latin America,' he said, 'there is only one priest for every 9,000 inhabitants.'
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Bertone's strong defence of Pius XII
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, offered an extended defence of Pius XII on 5 June at a conference announcing the publication of a new biography by Andrea Tornielli titled Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli: A Man on the Throne of Peter.
Cardinal Bertone praised the author saying he had produced a balanced and lively portrait of a great Church leader.
He then remarked that Pius XII had become the victim of a 'black legend,' which had 'become so firmly established that even to scratch it is an arduous task.'
Pius XII, he said, had been 'falsely portrayed as indulgent toward Nazism and insensitive to the fate of victims' of the Hitler regime. That portrait endures in spite of 'documentation and witnesses that have abundantly proven it is nonsense.'
Catholic World News