Russian Orthodox gift to Pope Benedict
The Christian roots of Europe can "inspire a new humanism," said Benedict XVI on 20 May at a concert given as a gift to him by the Orthodox Church of Russia.
The concert took place in the Vatican, and included works from 19th and 20th century Russian composers as well as a piece called "Song of the Ascension" written by Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox representative present at the concert.
The event was a gift from Patriarch Kirill I to Benedict XVI for his 83rd birthday and fifth anniversary as Pope.
Benedict expressed his "pro-found gratitude" for the patriarch's gift and said that music "anticipates and in some way creates encounter, dialogue and synergy between East and West, between tradition and modernity."
John Paul II had an analogous vision of harmony and unity, Benedict said, recalling his image of the "two lungs" of Europe.
Looking at the situation today, the Pope observed that contemporary culture, particularly in Europe, now "runs the risk of amnesia," of abandoning its "extraordinary heritage" which was "aroused and inspired" by the Christian faith which is its framework.
These Christian roots, he said, "can in fact inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress in order to respond effectively to the numerous and sometimes crucial challenges that our Christian communities and societies have to face: first among them that of secularism."
In a message to the Pope, Patriarch Kirill I called it "an event of great importance in the history of cultural exchanges between our Churches," adding that music "gives us the possibility to communicate with our hearts."
Law professors call for repeal of crucifix ban
Thirty-seven law professors from countries around the globe have written to the European Court of Human Rights, urging them to overturn a ruling that banned crucifixes from Italian classrooms.
In their comments to the court, professors from 11 countries cautioned that failing to overturn the ruling could incite a hostile relationship between the government and religion in Europe and even threaten to unravel the "tapestry of European civilisation", according to the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.
In November 2009, the court ruled in favour of local mother Soile Lautsi's case to remove religious symbols, including crucifixes, from public schools in Italy to ensure her children's right to a secular education.
On 2 March 2010, the European Court accepted an appeal from the Italian Government, thereby temporarily allowing crucifixes to remain in class-rooms throughout the country while the appeal is pending. The Grand Chamber of the Court, located in Strasbourg, France, was due to hold a hearing in the case on 30 June.
The professors stressed that the "attempt to exile religious symbols and ideas from the public square would be foolhardy, because religious symbols and religious ideas are an integral part of the tapestry of European civilisation. Pull out that thread, and the entire tapestry unravels."
Eric Rassbach, national litigation director at the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, who helped draft the submissions to the court, said on 25 May that a "ban on religious symbols that offend someone, somewhere, is a ban on all religious symbols."
Catholic News Agency
US survey shows pro-life majority
A Gallup poll of Americans' views on abortion again reports that slightly more Americans self-identify as pro-life instead of pro-choice. Conducted on 3-6 May the poll showed 47 percent of Americans say they are pro-life while 45 percent say they are pro-choice.
Particularly large increases in pro-life sympathies are apparent among young adults and those aged 50 to 64 years.
In 2009, 56 percent of Gallup respondents said abortion was morally wrong, a number which declined to 50 percent this year. Gallup said in light of this fact it was "not entirely clear" why Americans are more likely to embrace the pro-life view.
Since 2003, Republicans have been more likely to call themselves pro-life, as 68 percent now do so. Republican-leaning independents have been trending pro-life since 2005 and 61 percent say they self-identify as such now.
Self-identified pro-life Democrats have declined in number from 37 percent in 2003 to 31 percent in 2010.
Gallup suggested that without evidence showing Americans are growing more wary about the morality of abortion, "increased political polarisation" may be a factor in Republicans' preference for the pro-life label.
"Whatever the cause, the effect is that the pro-life label has become increasingly dominant among Republicans and to a lesser degree among independents, while the pro-choice label has become more dominant among Democrats," its analysis concluded.
UK Bishops condemn TV abortion ads
The Catholic Bishops' Conference in England and Wales has condemned TV ads promoting abortion services that recently aired throughout the United Kingdom, charging that the "exploitative promotion" of abortion is not "in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women."
Marie Stopes International, a self-described non-profit organisation for sexual and reproductive health, has run TV ads for abortion services throughout the UK as part of their "Are you late?" campaign which aired until 4 June.
A spokesman for the bishops condemned the ads, stating that "services which offer or refer for abortion — whether commercial or not-for-profit organisations — should not be allowed to advertise on broadcast media. Abortion is not a consumer service. To present it as such erodes respect for life and is highly misleading and damaging to women, who may feel pressured into making a quick decision, which can never be revoked.
"Moreover, to allow the broadcast advertising of abortion-referral services is, in effect, to allow the exploitative promotion of these services and is not in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women."
John Smeaton, director for the UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), likewise condemned the ad campaign:
"Allowing abortion to be advertised on TV will lead to more unborn babies being killed and to more women and girls suffering the after-effects of abortion. Abortion ads will trivialise abortion. It is an insult to the hundreds of women hurt by abortion every day. Such ads are offensive and will mislead viewers about the reality of abortion."
The ads have already been banned in Northern Ireland, where the United Kingdom's Abortion Act of 1967 does not apply.
Catholic News Agency
Catholic higher education identity "confused" in US
Catholic higher education in the US needs more guidance because of "confusion" about Catholic identity, the outgoing president of Catholic University of America, Msgr David O'Connell, has commented.
Msgr O'Connell had a 70-minute audience with Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. O'Connell told the Washington Times he wanted to converse with the cardinal about Catholic identity, Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the Land O'Lakes statement.
Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a 1990 Vatican document, outlines the requirements for the governance and structuring of Catholic universities.
The Land O'Lakes statement, which claimed autonomy from the Church in the name of academic freedom, was signed in Wisconsin in 1967 by 26 Catholic university presidents and other officials. Msgr O'Connell said this statement had introduced "confusion" into the Church.
However, Vatican officials informed him Catholic education is a local matter that should be taken up by the US bishops and does not require Vatican intervention.
Marie A. Powell, executive director of the US bishops' conference's Office of Catholic Education said the relation of Catholic higher education to the Catholic faith and the bishops is "pretty well spelled out" in Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the US bishops' document outlining its application. Powell said Ex Corde Ecclesiae is an effort to "set out guidelines and a vision for how Catholic higher education should relate to the Church."
The documents call for a "close association" between a Catholic college or university and the diocese it is in. There should be a "supportive" and "collaborative" relationship between the educational institutions and the bishops.
Professors who are teaching in the theological disciplines are supposed to have a "mandatum" and permission from the local diocese to teach Catholic subjects, she explained.
Referring to a recent Boston College study, Powell said that over the past decade more than half of the over 220 Catholic colleges and universities in the US have set up a "mission unit" on Catholic identity.
"That probably means that they are taking their Catholicity quite seriously and are figuring out ways of putting it into practice."
Asked whether more guidance is necessary, she reported that the application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the US is supposed to be reviewed in upcoming years. "There will be some dialogue among bishops and Catholic university presidents to see if there needs to be more detail in the application."
Catholic News Agency
Quebec Cardinal's pro- life comments attacked
Cardinal Marc Ouellet expressed astonishment at the reaction to his statement in May that abortion is a moral crime that cannot be justified even in the case of rape. In response, a newspaper columnist said he hoped the cardinal would die a slow and painful death, while the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously expressed its support for free access to abortion.
"When it comes to a religious figure or the imposition of a religious doctrine in Quebec, people are going to speak out," said Ainsley Jenicek of the Quebec Federation of Birth Planning.
The Cardinal responded: "For the unborn, there is not justice. He is the weakest human being [yet] nobody is protecting him. I am aware that in Canada, in Quebec in particular, you will not reform society at the moral level by teaching morals first. It will be through a new evangelisation".
Catholic World News
George Weigel: Time feature on Church "nonsense"
Noted Catholic author and commentator George Weigel has described Time Magazine's recent 10-page spread on the Catholic Church as "nonsense".
In a National Review Online article, Weigel addressed Time's 7 June cover story titled, "Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry", identifying numerous inaccurate claims in the feature story.
Weigel said Time had encapsulated, within ten pages, many of the things the world media continue to get wrong about the Catholic Church.
He then explained that "while it is true that the Pope enjoys the fullness of executive, legislative, and judicial authority in the Church, his exercise of that authority is not only bound by the truths of Catholic faith it is also circumscribed by the authority and prerogatives of local bishops."
Weigel added: "According to the teaching of Vatican II, bishops are not simply branch managers of Catholic Church, Inc. Rather, they are the heads of local churches with both the authority and the responsibility to govern them. Far more damage has been done to the Catholic Church in recent decades by irresponsible local bishops than by allegedly autocratic popes."
On the claim that the recently surfaced clerical abuse scandals have been responsible for emptying Churches in Western Europe, Weigel remarked that "Irish, German, and Austrian churches were empty long before Scandal Time II exploded several months ago; indeed, those churches had been emptying for decades."
Catholic News Agency