New Australian bishops appointed
Wagga Wagga and Brisbane vacancies filled
Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of Bishop William of Wagga Wagga, following a long illness, and appointed Monsignor Gerard Hanna as the new Bishop. The news was made official in Rome on 5 February.
Until then, Msgr Hanna was the Vicar General of the Diocese of Armidale, NSW.
A week earlier, on 31 January, it was announced that Fr Brian Finnigan, who had been Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference since 1998, was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Father Finnigan was ordained in 1970 for the Ballarat Diocese and prior to 1998 held positions of parish priest, Bishop's Secretary, Director of the Marriage Tribunal, Cathedral Administrator and Vicar General.
John Paul II meets with Taiwan's bishops
Urges them to foster reconciliation with China
John Paul II on 29 January urged the bishops of Taiwan to become heralds of reconciliation between Beijing and Taipei.
The island's bishops were in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit. The Holy Father referred to the bishops' efforts "aimed at promoting mutual understanding, reconciliation and fraternal love among all the Catholics of the great Chinese family."
"I am confident," he said, "that these efforts, carried out in communion with other particular Churches and the See of Peter, will help to overcome the difficulties of the past, so that ever-new opportunities for dialogue and reciprocal human and spiritual enrichment may arise."
Meanwhile, a Taiwanese bishop, who participated in the Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, said the 24 January event offered an important lesson for Catholics in China: only forgiveness will bring reconciliation: "If there is no forgiveness, there will be no unity between the Church in China, the patriotic association and the underground [Church] faithful to the Pope."
Zenit News Service
Brazil's "Lefebvre Catholics" reconciled
Ceremony takes place in Sao Salvador Cathedral
On Friday 18 January, the only schism in the Church on the most Catholic of continents, Latin America, was over. Brazilian Catholics who had followed the line of the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre are being welcomed back to the bosom of the Church after 20 years of separation.
The "Traditionalists", as the group is called, led by Bishop Licinio Rangel and 26 priests, are mostly in the state of Rio de Janeiro. They have decided to return to full communion with the universal Catholic Church.
The decision was strongly opposed by Mgr Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of Saint Pius X, who even travelled to Brazil to try to persuade the group not to make the step of reconciliation with Rome.
The official ceremony, with the reading of the statement of welcome written by Pope John Paul II, took place in Campos, at Sao Salvador Cathedral. The Holy Father was represented by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.
The reconciliation process began in 2000, during the Great Jubilee, when the group made a pilgrimage to Rome and was welcomed by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos with a lunch and dialogue. Not long afterwards the group sent a letter with a request for reintegration which was granted by John Paul II in a document read during the ceremony.
The document indicates that from now on they recognise: the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ and Shepherd of the Church; the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council; and the validity of the Mass approved by Pope Paul VI. The Traditionalists have permission to celebrate Mass in Latin (St Pius V Rite ), using the Pope John XXIII Missal.
The Traditionalist priests will form the Apostolic Administration of St Jean Marie Vianney, a body depending directly on the Pope. Bishop Licinio Rangel, now officially recognised as Apostolic Administrator, says he and his priests will travel to Rome to thank the Pope personally.
Fides News Service
Female altar servers
Vatican document clarifies their status
In an English-language document, the Vatican has said bishops cannot require their priests to use female altar servers.
While upholding bishops' authority to permit use of female servers in their dioceses, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said the use of male servers should be especially encouraged, in part because altar boys are a potential source of priestly vocations.
The document, a 27 July 2001 letter responding to a query from an unidentified bishop, was published in late December in the congregation's Notitiae, a periodical that frequently contains liturgical rulings.
The bishop, who was considering whether to authorise the use of female altar servers in his diocese, had asked whether a bishop "would be able to oblige his priests to admit women and girls to service at the altar."
The congregation responded: "Such an authorisation may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from the service of the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers."
It said it considered its letter "normative," meaning that ruling would apply in all such cases.
Quoting the 1994 Vatican document that first permitted female altar servers, the congregation said it continued to be "very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar."
"Indeed, the obligation to support groups of altar boys will always remain, not least of all due to the well-known assistance that such programs have provided since time immemorial in encouraging future priestly vocations," it said.
The congregation underscored the bishop's freedom to decide whether he would allow female altar servers in his diocese.
Catholic News Service
New Glasgow Archbishop appointed
Expresses concerns about loss of faith
The new Archbishop of Glasgow has described his predecessor, Cardinal Thomas Winning, as "a hard act to follow." Bishop Mario Joseph Conti of Aberdeen, 67, was named simultaneously in Rome and Glasgow on 17 January as the Archbishop-elect of Scotland's largest Catholic diocese.
Bishop Conti said his first priority would be to meet the priests of the diocese to "find out their concerns," and expressed the hope he would "not lack courage to say what needs to be said when people expect it to be said."
Bishop Conti expressed concern that people appeared to be losing their faith, and of his hopes for increased Mass attendances. He added: "Our western society is increasingly secularised and faith seems to be marginalised. It's not so in other parts of the world; we only need to look with a telescope to other continents to see the faith is very vibrant."
Catholic World News
Catholic Church in Vietnam
Growth continues despite restrictions
The Catholic Church is growing in Vietnam, despite the severe restrictions imposed by that country's government, the Fides news service reported last January.
With the Vietnamese bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, Fides cited reports showing a 14.4 percent growth in the Catholic Church there over the past five years. (Over the same period, the overall population of Vietnam has grown by a relatively modest 5.3 percent.) There has been a corresponding rise in the numbers of priests, seminarians, and religious.
Official government figures put the number of Catholics in Vietnam at 5.3 million - about seven percent of the total population. But Church officials say that the real numbers are considerably higher, perhaps 7 million, or ten percent of the country's people.
This growth has occurred despite the tight government controls maintained on the Church by the Communist regime. The Vietnamese Government insists on veto power over the appointment of bishops, the selection of young men to enter the seminary and the appointment of parish priests.
The Government also limits the contacts that Church officials have with the outside world. However - in what appears as a sign of some easing in those restrictions - the Vietnamese Government allowed all of the bishops to travel to Rome for this year's ad limina visit
Catholic World News
New US National Directory for Catechesis
Based on 1997 Vatican General Directory
The first draft of a new National Directory for Catechesis was sent to all US bishops on 4 January. It will be a basic statement of what should be done in religious education in the United States. The national consultation process on the draft text is due to conclude on 15 April.
It adapts and applies to the US situation the Church's General Directory for Catechesis, which Pope John Paul II approved in 1997. It also draws extensively from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
When completed, the National Directory for Catechesis will replace the National Catechetical Directory approved by the bishops in 1977 and published in 1979 under the title Sharing the Light of Faith.
Like the earlier directory, the new one will serve as a guide for all those who have catechetical responsibilities in US dioceses and parishes, especially those responsible for organising and supervising diocesan and parish catechetical programs.
A committee under Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans will review responses to the draft Directory in June, with a final draft brought to the bishops for debate and vote in time for their meeting in November 2002. Once the bishops approve it, it must be sent to the Holy See for final review.
Catholic News Service
The Catholic Church in Britain
'Telegraph' interview with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor
During an interview published in the London Telegraph on 26 December, Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor said that one of his New Year projects would be to transform the way the Church evangelises. He wants people to get out of their "cozy" parishes and spread the Gospel. A dose of "joy and hope," he believes, would solve the Church's big worries, such as falling Mass attendance and the lack of priests in training.
"The answer," he suggested, "is not a big campaign to recruit priests. There needs to be a renewal of the whole Catholic community. We could abolish celibacy tomorrow and I do not think it would make any difference to the number of vocations."
Under his leadership, a young public-relations professional has been imported to manage media relations. It is the first time that a layman has done the job. He has also abolished the five areas of Westminster Diocese and centralised its management. A diocese-wide computer system, which connects every priest to an Internet site, is on its way.
This year he will close one or more of the seven seminaries and review their curriculum. The cardinal has set up a national office for child protection in Birmingham and police checks on all Church workers and priests are now in place. He said: "I want the Roman Catholic Church to be a model for child protection. I am confident that from now on any negligence in the past will never be repeated."
Zenit News Service