The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


Pope Francis on religious sisters vocation

Pope Francis recently told leaders of women's religious orders that their vocations can only be recognised within the Church.

"Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church's journey and it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church," he told 800 female superiors-general in Rome.

Present were more than 150 American sisters, some of whom belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since it was required in 2012 to undergo reform due to "serious doctrinal problems."

A four-year-long review expressed concern over "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" that were in some presentations sponsored by LCWR.

One address discussed sisters "moving beyond the Church" and beyond Jesus, while letters from LCWR officers suggested "corporate dissent" from teachings such as the sacramental male priesthood and on homosexuality.

Pope Francis seemed to address this when speaking to the sisters about the "'feeling' of being with the Church," given to them through baptism.

It is a "feeling," he said, "that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the pastors and Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, visible sign of that unity.

"It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church."

Catholic News Agency/EWTN


World Catholic statistics

The world's Catholic population rose 1.5% in 2011 – the last year for which accurate figures are available – according to the Vatican's latest statistics.

Statistics show the world's Catholic population rising from 1196 million in 2010 to 1214 million in 2011. The Catholic proportion of the world's population remained steady at 17.5%.

The Catholic population grew fastest in Africa, which saw a 2.3% increase in the number of baptised Catholics. In Europe and the Americas, the Catholic population grew at only 0.3%, matching the slow rate of overall population growth.

By 2011, the Americas accounted for 48.8% of the world's Catholic population, followed by Europe with 23.5%, Africa with 16%, Asia with 10.9% and Oceania with 0.8%.

The number of priests world-wide continued to grow slowly. At the end of 2011 there were 413,418 priests, up slightly from the 412,236 figure in 2010. The number in Africa and Asia soared – 39% and 32% respectively – while in the Americas the figure remained steady, and Europe saw a drop of more than 9%.

The number of seminarians grew by a healthy 7.5%, again with large increases in Africa and Asia masking declines in Europe and the Americas.

The number of women religious declined sharply, from 782,000 to 713,000. Figures showed growth in Africa (28%) and Asia (18%), over-shadowed by steep losses in the Americas (-17%) and Europe (-22%). The number of male religious climbed slightly, showing the same geographical pattern.

Catholic World News


New confessional attracts penitents

A Connecticut priest says a new confessional installed at his parish stands as a visible sign of God's grace, and has increased churchgoers' reception of the sacrament.

"A confessional is a sign of the sacrament, and I wanted to have such a sign in the church," said Father Janusz Kukulka. When interviewed, Fr Kukulka said that more parishioners have been seeking out the sacrament, "especially people who have not been to confession in many years."

Although new to his church, the oak confessional has a rich history. Built in 1878, it was located until recently in an Iowa church. That parish was closed as the population shifted from farming to urban environments. The church was sold to a Lutheran community, which in turn sold the confessional on eBay for $1100.

Fr Kukulka's church, St Mary's, was "reconstructed" in the 1970s, when its two confessionals and communion rail were ripped out and the altar moved. The confessionals were replaced by an unmarked "reconciliation room."

The parish, in the Hartford Archdiocese, now has a rejuvenation committee, one of the tasks of which was finding a traditional confessional for the church.

The Hartford Archdiocese offered extended hours for confession at all its parishes, so the new confessional was put to good use. Fr Kukulka said that "the chancery is amazed that we made this progress in a very short time, so the Archbishop twice complimented us."

Catholic News Agency


Pope at March for Life in Rome

Pope Francis has given strong support to a March for Life in Rome, and also to a campaign to end destructive research on human embryos.

At a Sunday audience, the Pope acknowledged participants in the March for Life, which wound its way across Rome. The Pope even mingled with marchers, estimated by police to be 10,000 strong, while organisers claimed 30,000. Participants included Rome's Mayor and Cardinal Raymond Burke.

"I greet all the participants in the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and urge everybody to maintain keen attention on such an importance theme as the respect for human life from the moment of conception," the Pope said during his audience. He then endorsed the Uno di noi (One of Us) petition drive, being organised in many Italian parishes, collecting signatures for a continental drive across Europe, aimed to end European Union funding for destructive embryonic research.

Catholic World News


Pope Francis meets Coptic Pope Tawadros II

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, has met with Pope Francis in an historic meeting at the Apostolic Palace. This is the first such meeting since 1973's meeting between Shenouda III met with Paul VI. Tawadros declared the meeting "an unforgettable occasion."

"Both Churches, Catholic and Coptic, have always worked together, in the Middle East and in the Western World, to make peace prevail. The most important aim for both is the promotion of ecumenical dialogue in order to get to the most pursued goal: unity," the Coptic pope said.

Tawadros also conveyed his hope that Pope Francis might visit Egypt. "The entire Coptic Church, the religious communities and the Egyptian people express their utmost joy and delight to Your Holiness," Tawadros said.

"We are glad to confirm today what our illustrious predecessors solemnly declared, we are glad to recognise that we are united by one Baptism ... and we long for the day when, in fulfilment of the Lord's desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice," said Pope Francis.

Francis applauded Tawadros' efforts at dialogue among Christians, saying that his care for the future of Egypt and its Christian communities "finds a deep echo in the heart of the Successor of Peter and of the entire Catholic community."

Zenit News Agency


Imprisoned Chinese bishop encourages pilgrimage

Imprisoned Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai used social media to lead the faithful in prayer as Chinese Catholics observed the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan.

Auxiliary Bishop Ma, under house arrest in Shanghai, was denounced by the Beijing Government on announcing his resignation from the government's Patriotic Association at his 2012 consecration. But he has continued to post items on social-media outlets, encouraging Catholics to pray, especially for Church unity.

Benedict XVI established 24 May as day of prayer for the Church in China, coinciding with an annual pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Sheshan, near Shanghai. Pope Francis has asked for continued prayers for the Church in China.

Catholic World News


Edict of Milan commemorated

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in conjunction with the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe, commemorated the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan by hosting a conference in Istanbul devoted to religious freedom.

The edict, issued by Constantine, granted "Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred."

"1700 years after the Edict of Milan, Christians are still dying in the world for their adherence to Christ, while in Europe the acts of intolerance and discrimination against Christians are on the increase," said Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel.

"So we thought it appropriate to recall the anniversary of this important edict for the history of Europe with a seminar which will enable us to take stock of religious freedom in Europe and the world, in the knowledge that Christianity is a gift for those societies which have welcomed it."

Catholic World News


The 800 Martyrs of Otranto

The Church has 802 new Saints, after the first canonisation of the new papacy. They are the 800 martyrs of Otranto – killed savagely by the Ottomans in 1480, as well as two Latin American nuns who worked their whole lives at the service of the poorest and invalids: Mother Laura Montoya (1874-1949), and Mother Lupita (1878-1963).

Antonio Pezzulla, called Primaldo, is the only name recorded of 800 fishermen, artisans, shepherds and farmers of the small Italian city of Otranto, whose blood was shed by the Ottoman army.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the siege of Belgrade in 1456, Sultan Mehmed tried in vain to conquer the island of Rhodes in 1479. He then went to the end of the Italian coast, closest to the ports of Albania, already under his dominion.

The Turks approached Otranto with 150 ships and more than 15,000 men. As the 15-day siege began, the 6000 inhabitants were ordered to surrender, renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. When the inhabitants refused, the city was bombed and fell to the invaders, who killed the populace mercilessly.

At the cathedral, where many had sought refuge, the Ottomans knocked down the door and surrounded Archbishop Stefano Pendinelli, who was celebrating Mass and distributing Communion, and quartered him on the spot. Other faithful present were also killed.

The survivors, some 800 men, were taken to the Turkish camp and threatened with death unless they apostacised. Primaldo answered firmly on behalf of all. He said they "regarded Jesus Christ as Son of God, their true Lord and God, and preferred to die a thousand times rather than deny him."

Youths, adults, the elderly were led with ropes around their necks and hands tied behind their backs to the outskirts of the city. Before they were martyred, they comforted one another. Primaldo, the first to suffer decapitation, stood up miraculously and stayed that way until the end of the killings. The miracle so impressed one of the executioners that he flung his scimitar, confessed himself a Christian and was then impaled.

The bodies were left in the open for a year, found incorrupt by troops sent to liberate Otranto. Their remains were then interred in the cathedral, since then the object of pilgrimages.

Zenit News Agency


Pope counsels bishops: avoid careerism

The litmus test of pastoral ministry is the willingness give one's life entirely to God, Pope Francis told the Italian bishops, gathered in Rome for their 65th assembly.

The Pope led the Italian bishops' conference in a profession of faith. In his remarks to the group, he warned against temptations toward distraction, laziness, and careerism, which can transform a pastor into a "functionary, a cleric more worried about self, about organisation and structures than the true good of the People of God."

Being shepherds, the Pope said, "means being ready to walk amidst the flock: capable of hearing the silent story of those who suffer and of sustaining the steps of those who are afraid of not making it careful to lift up, to reassure, and to inspire hope."

Catholic World News

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