Several Jewish leaders have paid tribute to Blessed John Paul II following his beatification.
"The memory of Karol Wojtyla remains indelibly impressed in the collective memory of the Jewish people," said Rabbi Elio Toaff, the 96-year-old former chief rabbi of Rome. "In the afflicted history of relations between Roman Pontiffs and the Jewish people, in the shadow of the ghetto in which they were reclused for over three centuries in humiliating and depressing conditions, the figure of John Paul II emerges luminous in all of its exceptionality."
Yossi Peled, a senior Israeli defence official, commented: "There is only one reason for my visit today [to the beatification]". It was "to pay homage to the figure of John Paul II. From the moment I arrived in Israel at the age of nine, it is the first time I have agreed to be away from my country on this day which commemorates the Shoah. I have done so to be here in Rome, amidst this crowd and to say thank you in the name of the entire Jewish people."
Catholic World News
Scottish bishops welcome new Missal translation
Scotland's bishops have become the latest to give their backing to the new English translation of the Roman Missal. The bishops said the new translation would gradually be introduced, beginning on 4 September.
"[W]e welcome the opportunity this affords to renew our faith in the Eucharist and in all aspects of its celebration," Bishop Joseph Toal of Argyll & the Isles, head of the bishops' liturgy commission, said in a statement to Scottish priests.
"Ours is a strong and very real faith in what happens at Mass and it is appropriate that the robust words used in Latin to express the human reality and our need for the Lord's redeeming mercy are translated accordingly in English.
"This is particularly the case with regard to the words which encourage us never to lose sight of the unity between Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist, in which the Lord's self-offering is made present for us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood."
The Church in Scotland plans to deploy resources to priests, including DVDs and websites, to help them adapt to the changes.
The new translation will be introduced in its full form to American and British parishes on 27 November.
Catholic News Agency
Benedict XVI calls for more religious freedom
On 4 May, the Pope released a message to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the members of that institution at the closure of their 17th plenary assembly held in Rome on the theme: "Universal Rights in a World of Diversity: The Case of Religious Freedom".
Benedict warned that the freedom of religion and of worship that suffered the "systematic denial by atheistic regimes of the 20th century ... are again under threat from attitudes and ideologies which would impede free religious expression. Consequently, the challenge to defend and promote the right to freedom of religion and freedom of worship must be taken up once more in our days ...
"The Holy See continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states, and calls on them to respect, and if need be protect, religious minorities who, though bound by a different faith from the majority around them, aspire to live with their fellow citizens peacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation, to the benefit of all."
Vatican Information Service
Modern church music: "ecclesical Karaoke"
A Grammy winning music director has commented critically on modern Church music. Joseph Cullen, choral director at the London Symphony Orchestra, says that since the 1960s there has been a "glaring lack of sympathy" for "worthy sacred music."
Writing in the 9 April edition of the English weekly The Tablet, he praised the music used during last year's papal visit to the United Kingdom. But he added: "Sadly such excellence is untypical of the vast majority of our Catholic churches. There is a glaring lack of sympathy for the heritage which should be the bedrock of worthy sacred music in today's Church."
In recent years Joseph Cullen has risen to prominence due to his close collaboration with some of the world's leading conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev and Sir Colin Davies, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 2006 for a recording of Verdi's Falstaff.
In his analysis, Cullen says the rush to find new musical settings for the Novus Ordo Mass in the 1960s led to little artistic scrutiny being applied to the process. As a result, he says, most parish Masses now have poorly composed hymns being used inappropriately as mere "filler" throughout the sacred liturgy.
He writes, "Low-quality material in both inspiration and facility is commonplace. Hymns are set to popular music ... with little regard to the inappropriateness of the original and well-known words." He also criticised the practice of a lone cantor leading the singing in parishes. "The misuse of one booming voice behind a microphone, an ecclesiastical karaoke, seems to have killed off unified congregational singing."
Cullen calls for a greater adherence to the Church's documents on sacred music and increased training for parishes by those schooled in the choral traditions of the Church.
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Wuerl: bishops must teach the faith
Citing a prevalent lack of catechesis since the 1970s, Cardinal Donald Wuerl says that a bishop's role as teacher is particularly essential today, as there is a whole generation with "little solid intellectual formation in their faith."
The cardinal, who is chairman of the US episcopal conference's doctrine committee, made this affirmation in a resource he provided in April for the nation's bishops. The resource, called "Bishops as Teachers," explains the rationale behind a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops critique of a book last March.
The book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers of the Theology of God, by Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a Sister of St Joseph of Brentwood, New York, and professor at Fordham University, is used as a college textbook.
The Doctrine Committee asserted in late March that Quest for the Living God as a work of Catholic theology "does not take the faith of the Church as its starting point." Yet it was being used at the college undergraduate level.
Cardinal Wuerl likened the bishop to a referee in a sports match, and emphasised that it is his responsibility to step in, particularly when peer review - "the most effective check on fruitless investigation" - is lacking. "It is the responsibility of the bishop to make the call and to declare, if necessary, certain notions out of bounds, the bounds of Christian revelation."
He added: "The background against which the bishops must exercise their teaching responsibility today is the generally recognised catechetical deficiencies of past decades beginning with the 1970s. The result is a generation or more of Catholics, including young adults today, who have little solid intellectual formation in their faith. It is in this context that books used in religious studies/theology courses at Catholic colleges and universities must be seen as de facto catechetical and formational texts. While the content of a book may be highly speculative and of interest for trained theologians, when it is used in a classroom with students often ill-prepared to deal with speculative theology the results can be spiritually harmful."
In light of this, Cardinal Wuerl called for "special attention" to be given "as to how to address theological works that are aimed at students and yet do not meet criteria for authentic Catholic teaching."
Zenit News Agency
Indian victims of anti-Christian attacks
Over 20,000 Indian Christians took part in a Good Friday silent march in Mumbai to remember the victims of increasing numbers of anti-Christian attacks.
The Good Friday pilgrimage began at Mumbai's Sacred Heart Church and ended at the Convent of St Charles, almost ten kilometres away. Christians of all denominations participated.
"The community of believers has recognised the need to dedicate Good Friday, the day in which we reflect and pray about Christ's crucifixion, to all the 'crucified' faithful today in India and around the world," said Joseph Dias, a Catholic layman who directs the Catholic Secular Forum, which is sponsoring the event.
Attacks by Hindu extremist groups are on the rise, Dias told Fides news agency: "Christians are easy victims because they do not respond with violence, nor with revenge, but through prayer and forgiveness," Dias said. Often false accusations of proselytism and forced conversions trigger the attacks. The real issue was the Hindu extremists' intolerance for the social commitment of Christians in schools and hospitals.
He noted Christians' "valuable work" in promoting the economic and social situation of Dalits and tribals. Dias said these groups are "down-trodden and discriminated against in society on the basis of caste, and as a result they often ask to embrace the Christian faith."
On 21 February, tens of thousands of Christians rallied in Mangalore against a government report on violence which they called "distorted" and "anti-Christian." And a silent fast at St Mark University of Bangalore on 18 February involved 18 Catholic bishops.
In 2008, violence against Christians affected 13 districts in Orissa state and caused over 100 deaths. In Kandhamal district alone, 6,600 houses were destroyed and 56,000 people became internally displaced, according to news reports.
Catholic News Agency
Thousands join Church at Easter in US
Tens of thousands of new Catholics joined the Church at Easter, including a former Planned Parenthood director and seven members of the same family.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the statistics based on participation in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, a step in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that takes place at the beginning of Lent.
Among those who entered the Church was Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and author of Unplanned.
In an interview with ZENIT in March, Johnson explained, "The day I left Planned Parenthood, I was embraced by the loving arms of the people who had prayed for me for years, most of whom are Catholic. After attending some various Catholic parishes, I fell in love with the liturgy and found myself wanting to learn more and more each day.
"I found myself in awe of the devotion that my Catholic friends had that I didn't, and I knew I wanted that same devotion myself. Doug and I decided we want to be a part of what the Catholic Church stands for and we have found such purpose through the Church."
The bishops' conference is now featuring conversion stories from around the country on its media blog page.
Zenit News Agency