Pope's Letter to Artists
Catholic Faith's "themes for inspiration"
In a letter to artists, released by the Vatican on 23 April, Pope John Paul II writes that creative work should give rise to awe and enthusiasm for life, adding that these are qualities which "the men of today and tomorrow will need to confront and overcome the crucial challenges that loom on the horizon."
The Pope's 20-page document, which he officially dated and signed on 4 April - Easter Sunday - says that artists can act as the voice of "the universal longing for redemption." That can be true, he observes, even when the artist's work explores "the most obscure depths of the soul or the most distressing aspects of evil."
The arts have historically had a fruitful alliance with the Gospel, the Pope notes. He traces the history of Christian art, concluding that although many modern artists and thinkers are indifferent to faith, "religious art has never lost its vitality." In fact, he observes, contemporary art is often characterised by "the absence of God and often by opposition to him." But the highest forms of art show the "profound affinity" between the creative world and the world of religious faith.
The Church needs art, the Pope said; and art needs the Church. The faith offers artists "a world particularly rich in themes for inspiration," while works of art help the Church to transmit the message of the Gospels. He issued an appeal to artists - especially, but not exclusively, to Christian artists - to rediscover "the depth of the spiritual and religious dimensions" of human life.
EWTN News Brief
Catholic teachers reminded of priorities
Be witnesses to Christ says Bishop Manning
In March, Bishop Kevin Manning of Parramatta celebrated the annual Catholic education Mass at St Patrick's Church, Blacktown, addressing more than 1,400 teachers. He told them that "as teachers we are all called to live out Christ's example in our lives" and that if teachers are listened to, it is because they are "witnesses."
Bishop Manning referred to Pope John Paul's reminder "that the unique mission of every Catholic school is ... most especially to introduce students, by our own lives, to the person of Jesus Christ." Teachers, he said, should "bring the law [of Christ] to perfection in the hearts of children and young people."
He reminded teachers of "our priorities":
* To hand on untouched the deposit of faith revealed to us by Christ and taught by the Church through the ages.
* To teach and live in appreciation of the Eucharistic mystery around which our parish communities are built.
* To protect the sanctity of the family and to build up family life.
* To ensure for students an integrated education embracing life and faith where they see their mentors living the law of Christ and gladly imparting it to them.
Catholic Outlook (Parramatta)
Georgetown University students' protest
In defence of religious orthodoxy on campus
Students at the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington DC held a rally on 30 April to protest the firing of a popular Jesuit chaplain, all of the Protestant chaplains, and the only African-American chaplain. They also protested the appearance on campus of the pornographer, Larry Flynt.
The university's administration said the firings were due to budgetary constraints, but student groups said the dismissals were really an attempt to curtail traditional religious devotion. "We're not going to take it any more," said student Brian Sayers, who earlier this year led a protest to force the university's freshmen sex orientation program to include greater emphasis on Catholic values. "The university's administration has shown time and again its bias against devotion and religious practice and hostility to devout Christians, in particular."
Among the chaplains dismissed by University Chaplain Father Adam Bunnell SJ was Father John Kelly SJ, whom the newspaper The Georgetown Academy called, along with another chaplain dismissed last year, Father Bill Watson, instrumental in the resurgence of Catholic identity and devotion among students. The university was rocked last year by a debate on crucifixes missing from classrooms, and the current move was seen by some as "payback" for supporting the Crucifix Movement.
Catholic World News
Fatima children to be proclaimed blessed
Vatican accepts authenticity of miracle
Jacinta and Francisco Martos, the two Portuguese shepherds who, together with Lucia, received revelations in Fatima, will soon be declared "blessed" by the Church. The last steps are being taken for their beatification, with the approval of a miracle attributed to their intercession. They will become the youngest "blessed" of the Church - one 11 and the other 9 years old - a "title" which, until now, belonged to Domenico Savio, who died just before his 15th birthday.
The two shepherds, brother and sister, and the third visionary, Lucia, slightly older, said they saw the Virgin for the first time on 13 May 1917. The series of apparitions, which attracted multitudes of believers, concluded with the inexplicable phen- omenon of the dancing sun on 13 October, seen by thousands of those present, both believers and non- believers alike.
The two children to be beatified died two years after the apparitions, Lucia, the third, entered a convent to consecrate her life to prayer, far from the curiosity and fame which the apparitions caused. Today, she is over ninety years old.
In statements to Italian radio and television, Father Paolo Molinari, postulator of Jacinta's and Francisco's beatification cause, revealed that the Vatican has acknowledged the authenticity of a miracle attributed to the intercession of the young shepherds. Maria Emilia Santos, a Portuguese woman, was cured of paralysis after invoking the two children. The authenticity of the cure has been certified by the Vatican commission presided by professor Raffaello Cortesini.
Arlington's new bishop leads by example
A participant in pro-life demonstrations
Bishop Paul Loverde, recently appointed to the US Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, following the untimely death of Bishop Keating, joined with Catholics in an invocation for life against the culture of death on Holy Saturday at several abortion facilities in northern Virginia. The prayer services for life were sponsored by the Arlington Diocese Office for Family Life and gathered more than 1,200 people from 30 parishes.
At Manassas, more than 400 people gathered to pray the rosary. Many members of the clergy, deacons and priests as well as seminarians, were in attendance. According to the Office for Family Life, it was the largest event of its kind to be held in the diocese.
In a recent statement concerning abortion, Bishop Loverde expressed his admiration for Cardinal John O'Connor of New York and his firm stand against abortion: "I've seen him a number of times stand up and say 'Let every woman in this country know the Archdiocese of New York will not let someone be forced into aborting her child because she doesn't have help. Come to us and we'll get her the help.' I think all of us should try to do that in some way."
More Papal overseas trips planned for 1999-2000
Poland, Armenia and Brazil scheduled
Despite his obvious frailty, Pope John Paul II gives no sign of easing up on his strenuous overseas travel schedule. His eighth trip to Poland is already planned for 5-17 June, where he is due to visit nineteen locations and speak on twenty-nine occasions. This will be his 87th trip outside of Italy.
Among the events planned for this papal trip are the beatification of 108 martyrs from the Second World War, the canonisation of Blessed Cunegunda, a Poor Clare Sister, and a visit, on the last day, to the graves of his family members.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has not yet officially confirmed plans for a papal visit to Armenia in July, but informed sources say that the trip - announced in April by the Armenian government - is set for 2-4 July.
The Armenian Apostolic Church announced on 20 April that Pope John Paul had accepted an invitation to visit the country. The Armenian ambassador to the Holy See has said that full details have not yet been arranged.
Pope John Paul gave a clear indication of his desire to visit Armenia, when he met with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin I, and the country's President Robert Kacharian, in March.
Finally, the secretary general of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB), Bishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis, announced in April that Pope John II has accepted "in principle" an invitation to visit Brazil in the year 2000, to head up celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of Brazil's evangelisation.
The main ceremony for the 500th anniversary of the evangelisation of Brazil will be held on 25 April 2000 at Santa Cruz Cabralia, in the state of Bahia, the closest city to Porto Seguro, where Father Henrique de Coimbra celebrated the first Mass on the land that would later be known as Brazil.
The Pope has visited Brazil three times. During his first two trips - in 1980 and 1991 - he visited a total of 12 Brazilian cities. In October 1997, he traveled to Rio de Janeiro to head the Second Worldwide Encounter for Families.
Catholic World News
Vietnam's new decrees on religion
Religious freedom still limited says UN envoy
Vietnam's Communist Government has issued a new decree regulating the practice of religion in the country.
The decree, which went into effect on 4 May, also said that property and lands once belonging to religious groups and now held by the Government remain the property of the state, according to the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA). The Communist Government seized control of property belonging to Buddhist, Catholic, and other groups between 1954 and 1975, as it seized control of North and then South Vietnam.
The new statement also affirmed some religious rights, including a right to non-discrimination, freedom to worship, and the right to change religion. But it explicitly warned against subversive acts. "Any acts conducted under the pretext of worship and religion to oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ... shall be punished in accordance with the law," VNA said.
The UN special envoy for religious affairs Abdelfattah Amor, who visited Vietnam last October, said the country continued to limit religious freedoms, despite its assurances otherwise. Vietnam countered that Amor lacked objectivity and said that visits from human rights or religion investigators would no longer be welcome.
Catholic World News
Oceania's Ukrainian Catholic Church
50th anniversary celebrations in Melbourne
On Ukrainian Easter Sunday, 11 April, Bishop Peter Stasiuk, Eparch for Ukrainian Catholics in Australia and New Zealand, announced the beginning of a year long celebration of the birth of the Ukrainian Church in Oceania.
Celebrations are to be held in Melbourne on the weekend of 10-11 July. On the 10th, the Eparchy will launch its own Caritas office, its Centacare Program and its Religious Education Centre at 11.00am. At the same time, a two month exhibition of Ukrainian religious art and artifacts will be launched, in co-operation with the North Melbourne Ukrainian Museum.
Many senior churchmen and women from Catholic and non- Catholic Churches throughout Australia, as well as government and other dignitaries, will attend the 11.00am commemorative Liturgy on 11 July at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.