John Paul II affirms permanence of marriage
Addresses Roman Rota
Pope John Paul II met with judges of the Roman Rota on 1 February, and in his address told them marriage should be understood as a natural reality, not just a "proprietary" institution of the Christian faith.
The tribunal of the Roman Rota handles canonical cases that have been settled by lower ecclesial courts and sent to Rome on appeal. The most common cases involve marriages and annulments.
Each year, as the Roman Rota begins a new judicial term, the members of the tribunal are received in an audience with the Pope, who offers some general guidance on how they should approach their work.
"When the Church teaches that marriage is a natural reality, she proposes a truth that is evident to reason," he told the Rota members. The Church "confirms" this reality through the sacrament of matrimony, but -- unlike the other sacraments of the Church -- this sacrament builds on "a reality that already exists."
This understanding is important, because the "many equivocations" regarding the nature of marriage today have led to "deviations" such as acceptance of de facto unions and same-sex partnerships. These errors, he said, stem from an understanding of marriage as a "specifically cultural" institution, founded on social conventions rather than on unchanging laws of human nature. The "profound inclination of man and woman" that leads toward marriage is not "the fruit of their own invention," rather, the union is "a tie prefigured in their nature."
The marital bond is by nature a permanent one, he continued. Marriage should not be based merely on mutual attraction, nor even on fond sentiments, since these things can change. This permanence is based on "the power of the will, which already exists in nature."
The Pope's affirmation of the indissolubility of marriage comes at a time when requests for annulments coming before the Roman Rota are increasing every year. At the close of the year 2000, there were over 1,000 cases pending.
"Philadelphia Priest Call"
New program to promote vocations
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia announced recently that the Archdiocese will dedicate the year 2001 to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. During a news conference the Cardinal announced an initiative, that will be known as "Philadelphia Priest Call".
In an effort to reach as many men as possible, the Archdiocese will air television and radio messages that promote priestly vocations and will publish advertisements in major Philadelphia area newspapers as well as college publications. Billboards throughout the five-county area of the Archdiocese are in place and there is also an emphasis on the internet.
"We have always been blessed with a good number of vocations in our archdiocese", said Cardinal Bevilacqua during a news conference. "Yet, our needs are always great É The world offers so many vocational choices nowadays. Young men today may not even consider a priestly vocation. Philadelphia Priest Call will try to change that."
The Cardinal added: "Many people think that identifying prospective vocations is solely the job of the priest. This is simply not true. We are asking teachers, parents, parishioners, co-workers, and family members to look at a young man they know and ask the question, 'Would he make a good priest?'"
Criteria for sacred music
Pope addresses members of Pontifical Institute
What criteria should be used in choosing and rendering liturgical music?
John Paul II answered the question last January when he received 200 members of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music - founded by Pope Pius X in 1910: "The criteria that should inspire every composition and rendition of songs and sacred music is that of beauty, which inspires prayer. When singing and music are signs of the presence of the action of the Holy Spirit, in a certain sense, they favour communion with the Trinity."
In particular, the Holy Father reminded the gathering that the Second Vatican Council singled out "Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, and the organ" as privileged environments and instruments for liturgical music compositions.
"Sacred music," he emphasised, "is a treasure of inestimable value, which is distinguished from other artistic expressions primarily because sacred singing, joined to words, is a necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy."
Church in China: Taiwan's role
A "bridge" to evangelising mainland China says Cardinal Schotte
The Catholic Church in Taiwan is committing herself to be a bridge for the evangelisation of mainland China, according to Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. During his trip to Taiwan in January, Cardinal Schotte said the Church in that country "welcomed the mandate issued by Pope John Paul II in 1984. It is giving serious attention to his call to be a bridge between the universal Church and the Church in mainland China, today a martyr Church."
The Cardinal stressed that this is being achieved "not so much through great projects and programs in China, but rather through 'normal' contact with Chinese Catholics." This included "contact between families, between priests, or religious, whose acquaintance was made either before the separation or after; also through exchanges of teachers and religious who go to mainland China to give formation courses or updating conferences."
This approach, he added, "makes use of every opportunity to demonstrate genuine concern for the Church in mainland China. This sort of approach can step over the limits set by Beijing's 'official' attitude towards the Church and the Holy See."
Regarding the reality of the Church in Taiwan, Cardinal Schotte noted that the island has "one of the most developed societies in the Far East. Progress means ever higher standards of living and here lies the challenge to the Church in Taiwan: pastoral work must be adapted to meet the changing times." This entailed "new pastoral activity in towns and parishes to help people discover the religious dimension of life, and not to be content with reaching only material wellbeing."
Christians should be more active politically
Archbishop Hickey's Australia Day address
Speaking in Perth's St Mary's Cathedral on Australia Day, Archbishop Barry Hickey urged committed Christians to enter the political processes in greater numbers for the sake of the country.
"The role of committed Christians," he said, "is to make the world a better place and to create a society that respects God's laws. Only so would true social justice, equality and proper moral standards be achieved. Politicians have a most vital role to play at State and Federal levels in giving Australia good laws and social policies that respect human dignity."
The Archbishop urged "Christians and people of other religions who share the same beliefs about the dignity of the human person and the importance of family life, to be more involved in the political life of the country and to consider standing as candidates in elections so as to serve as policians." He pointed out that "anti-life and anti-family policies" are put in place where they "are not resisted by people of strong convictions that come from their faith."
President Bush's pro-life measures draw praise
L'Osservatore Romano comments on the new US President
The decision of newly elected US President, George W. Bush, to block the public funding of US abortions abroad has drawn praise from the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the semiofficial Vatican newspaper, which said that the measure was "a clear censure of the eight-year Democratic administration led by Bill Clinton."
The paper noted that "Bush's decision has coincided with the 28th anniversary of the so-called Roe vs Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision legalising abortion," with the news announced when thousands of protesters were in Washington, DC, for a march against abortion and the RU-486 abortion pill.
The new President sent a letter to the protesters, stressing his determination "to build a culture of life that respects and protects the person at all times and in all the facets of his/her life ... The promises contained in our Declaration of Independence are not only addressed to the powerful. They affect everyone, including unborn children."
L'Osservatore Romano pointed out that Bush's measure directly opposed Clinton's first official act as president in 1993, when he released funds for abortion abroad, which had been frozen by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The paper also quoted the nominee for Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, who expressed grave doubts over the safety of the abortion pill recently introduced in the US.
Archbishop Chaput addresses pro-life rally
Calls on Catholics to be pro-life witnesses
Speaking to participants at the Colorado Right to Life March and Rally in January, from the west steps of Colorado's State Capitol Building, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver told the gathering: "We can't simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights, while voting for people and policies that attack the weakest among us. Nor can we practice a commitment to the sanctity of human life only as a private piety. People of religious faith must live their pro-life witness courageously, as a matter of public record and civic responsibility - or we'll lose it even as a matter of private principle."
During the event, which highlighted the consequences of the Roe vs Wade ruling, Archbishop Chaput pointed out that "bad laws and bad court decisions poison the roots of the way we live. They degrade the way we think - and that in turn results in more bad laws, more bad court decisions, more bad political behavior ... and gradually we lose the ability to see what's right, and to do what's good."
The Archbishop urged participants to pray for "humble hearts, because humility is the beginning of sanity." He recalled that "justice and mercy are the food for brotherhood and real community - and that's the world God intended for us."
St Thomas More Conference due in France
A wide range of topics to be covered later this year
The Amici Thomae Mori (Friends of Thomas More) plan to hold their international conference in France in July 2001 at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud in the Loire Valley. The conference is held every three years; the last took place in Ireland at Maynooth in August 1998.
The conference will run for a week, from 5-12 July, with speakers covering the wide range of subjects raised by a study of More's life and works: Renaissance and Reformation history, Utopia and attempts at ideal commonwealths, comparative studies with the works of Erasmus, Tyndale, Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Becket, Dante, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Margaret More Roper and many others.
In the Abbey of Fontevraud lie four Plantagenet tombs, including those of the legendary Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and her husband Henry II. The first talk, by the founder of the Amici, Father Germain Marc'hadour, will trace the links between this corner of France and England.
One day of the conference will be spent in Angers, where the Thomas More Centre is housed in the Catholic University of Western France. A guided visit will be made to the tapestries of the Apocalypse, the medieval masterpiece held in the castle of Angers. Another day will be spent at Tours, hosted by the Centre for Renaissance studies at the University Frangois Rabelais of Tours.
Scholars and other international observers are expected to attend from England and Ireland, the United States and Canada, Australia, Argentina, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The conference organisers can be contacted at Moreanum B.P. 808, 49008 Angers Cedex 01, France, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org