The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Ballarat Cathedral

High altar to remain in place

An AD2000 report last September drew attention to a proposal by Ballarat's diocesan authorities to dismantle the beautiful marble high altar in St Patrick's Cathedral, using its base as a replacement for the existing forwardly-placed altar table, while relocating its tabernacle to a side chapel.

A good deal of publicity ensued in the local Ballarat media and Bishop Peter Connors subsequently called for public meetings to determine the views of Catholics on the matter. It was clear that many were upset at the prospect of the old altar being removed, along with its tabernacle, as the focal point of Eucharistic devotion.

According to a recent report in The Courier (4 February), Bishop Connors has announced that since the old high altar has a great deal of heritage value attached to it, it would not be moved or altered: "It will remain where it is so people can appreciate it for what it is, but it will not be used as the centre of the Cathedral."

The Bishop said that after Easter, as part of general renovations to the Cathedral's interior due for completion by next Christmas, a new marble structure would replace the present temporary altar table, originally put in place in the 1970s.

However, in a statement in the Cathedral weekend Mass bulletin (6-7 February), Bishop Connors made clear that the Blessed Sacrament would in future be reserved in a refurbished Blessed Sacrament Chapel, "rather than in a tabernacle on the former main altar of the Cathedral."

The Bishop said that it had been his predecessors' intention to use the Chapel for that purpose, as it had been originally designed for that, and that post-Vatican II documents "strongly recommend" this approach. He added that having a separate chapel for Eucharistic reservation and devotion is already the case in "the overwhelming majority of Cathedrals in Australia" and "in the four major Basilicas in Rome" and that such a chapel would "encourage and enhance private prayer," whereas "the principal liturgical space which centres on the altar is a public space for communal prayer."

This chapel could well serve as a focal point for the fostering of Eucharistic adoration in the Ballarat Diocese in line with Pope Pius XII's famous encyclical, Mediator Dei (129-133).

US Catholic women pledge fidelity to Church

Affirmation statement presented to Cardinal Ratzinger

The names of more than 2,000 Catholic women (about 10 percent of them religious women) who have recently signed a statement of fidelity (or Affirmation) to the Catholic Church were presented on 20 January to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by Helen Hull Hitchcock, director of Women for Faith & Family (WFF). Cardinal Ratzinger received the list on behalf of the Holy See at the Vatican, along with a copy of a Family Sourcebook on Lent and Easter published by WFF.

The presentation to Cardinal Ratzinger was the third occasion that the Affirmation signatures have been given in Rome. In June 1985, 10,000 signatures were received by Pope John Paul II, and in October 1994, a list of 40,000 names from women in the US, Canada, Australia, England, Holland and other countries were given to the Holy Father.

"What we have in common is the Catholic faith - and a sense of responsibility for it," said Mrs Hitchcock. "Many attacks on Church teaching are committed in the name of 'justice' to women, and since we are women who love Jesus Christ and his Church, we think it is essential that we continue our efforts to witness publicly to the Catholic faith ... Church leaders need to know of this strong support from women," she said.

Irish youth are the most religious in Europe

Results of recent surveys

According to a recent report in The Irish Catholic, Irish young people are the most religious in Western Europe. Over 48 percent of Irish aged between 15 and 24 both believe in God and practise their faith. The next highest was Italy with 41 percent. This compares with 8.6 percent in France.

The same surveys also found that Irish young people are the least approving of homosexual 'marriages' (36.1 percent), premarital sex (74.9 percent) and extramarital sex (14.8 percent). Dutch youth were the most approving of homosexual 'marriage' with 80.2 percent being in favour. Spanish youth were next with 76.3 percent.

Irish young people were also the least intolerant of immigrants among Europeans, with only 6.6 percent saying there were too many foreigners in their country. Belgian youth were the most intolerant, with 41 percent believing there were too many foreigners in their country, followed by Germany with 39.6 percent.

Pope warns against priests in politics

Political action the domain of the laity

Immediately after referring to the overall "obligation to participate in political action according to the Gospel," John Paul II's exhortation Ecclesia in America (see page 3) points out that, nevertheless, "it will be necessary to keep in mind that activity in the political realm is part of the vocation and action of the lay faithful" (n. 27). It requests that a clear distinction be made between the actions of the faithful carried out either as individuals or in associations, and as individual citizens, according to their Christian conscience, or in the name of the Church, in communion with her pastors.

Reiterating the teaching of Vatican II, the Pope said, "In keeping with her mission and competence, the Church in no way is to be confused with the political community or linked to any political system; she is, at one and the same time, a sign and guarantee of the transcendent dimension of the human person."

In speaking about priests, the Pontiff combines the proposals of 49 of the Synod Fathers to remind them "that their vocation demands they be a sign of unity. Therefore, they must avoid all party politics which would divide the community" (n.39).

It is the responsibility of the laity to carry the Gospel to the structures of the world and, in particular, to evangelise political life. It is important to train the Christian laity to assume political responsibilities.

The indiscriminate intervention of priests in party politics and the politisation or socialisation of the Christian message can do harm to the cause of evangelisation and is one of the reasons Catholics join sects, "where they finally hear talk about God." The Pope asks "if a pastoral program directed almost exclusively to the material needs of the recipients has ended by cheating their hunger for God, they have been left vulnerable to any passing spiritual offer" (n.73).

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