French bishops' ad limina visit to Rome
Pope's blunt message on vocations decline
In the latest in a series of blunt messages to visiting bishops from France, Pope John Paul II spoke of the "alarming" decline in the number of priests serving the Church in that country.
With the French bishops making their ad limina visits to Rome in groups arranged by ecclesiastical province, the Holy Father has delivered unusually strong and candid addresses about the health of the Church there. He met with bishops from the provinces of Toulouse and Montpellier on 25 January.
Examining the decline in priestly vocations, he acknowledged that many young men look upon the discipline of celibacy as a major impediment. But he insisted that celibacy is an "essential dimension of the priestly life", urging the bishops to help their priests - and young men who might be interested in the priesthood - understand celibacy as an affirmation of their vocation in service to the Church.
The Pontiff went on to say that priests should be on guard against "the seductions of the world," and strive constantly to increase their fidelity to their vocation, "which conforms them to Christ, chaste and totally dedicated to the Father." Any attitude that runs against that dedication, he said, is "a counter-witness for the Christian community and for the entire world."
John Paul II told the bishops that he could "readily understand how you might feel demoralised" because of the problems facing the Church in France. He reminded them that the current difficulties are attributable to "social changes, new forms of behaviour, the decline of moral and religious principles, and widespread consumerism."
Because of that situation, the most important challenge for the Church in France is the re-evangelisation of the people. But the bishops would face a formidable challenge in preaching the Gospel to people who do not understand Church teachings, and have "lost even the memory of the cultural influence of Christianity."
Catholic World News
Apostolic Nuncio speaks to Australian Bishops
Points to areas of concern for the Church
Archbishop Francesco Canalini, the Apostolic Nuncio, addressed Australia's bishops at the opening of their conference on 26 November 2003, identifying a number of areas of concern that required episcopal action.
Among his wide-ranging comments on the state of the Church and the role of bishops, he said clear emphasis needed to be placed on strengthening "unity around the essentials" of the faith.
He noted that some diocesan bookshops continued to stock titles propagating "New Age ideas, not remotely in line with Catholic doctrine", adding that the "trustful majority of people who go to a diocesan bookshop go there with the intention of finding suitable books for their Catholic formation and personality."
Elsewhere, there was "liturgical innovation, when precise norms are ignored". He quoted Cardinal Arinze's words that "the primary direction of liturgical worship is vertical ... We come to Mass É to adore God, praise Him and thank Him, not to entertain one another."
In reference "to the delicate question of vocations", Archbishop Canalini said: "Here and there, shortage of priests is felt and new arrangements in parishes are envisaged. At times, it seems that the rush to restructure the parishes by the assignment of responsible people other than priests is given emphasis more than a heartfelt and practical preoccupation with priestly vocations."
He concluded: "The identity of a priest, lived, known, admired and loved, is the necessary point of reference for facing the problem of vocations ... In case of temporary necessity, eventual help of priests coming from other lands could be considered and not be excluded a priori."
Boston Archbishop's Red Mass address
Urges legal profession to defend sacredness of life and marriage
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston urged members of the legal profession in Massachusetts to have the courage of St Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, who "lost his life defending the sacredness of marriage."
Speaking at the annual Red Mass in Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross - a liturgy that invokes blessings on the legal community - the Archbishop called on the congregation to "witness to the truth about marriage" and defend traditional marriage.
"We live in such an age ... where our courts have undermined the value of life itself and now attempt to dilute the meaning of marriage," he declared. "In diluting the meaning of marriage, we risk diminishing our own humanity."
Archbishop O'Malley went on to say that "part of our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ must be to defend the sacredness of life and the sacredness of marriage."
Citing the "great influence" that the legal profession has on the development of laws and public policy, he invited Catholic members of the legal profession to "stand with us in defending the institution of marriage."
By watering down the definition of marriage, he said, the courts risk creating "some new kind of marriage" in which the only criterion is to be "household-sharing domiciles - something akin to carpooling."
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush has promised to spend at least one billion dollars (US) in a bid to promote marriage, especially among the poor. Under the "healthy marriages" plan, the US Government would act as marriage guidance counsellors. Federal money could pay for training to help couples survive rocky patches and stay married.
'The Irish Catholic'
Archbishop Hickey's letter to his priests
Observe official instructions for Mass
Archbishop Barry Hickey has asked all the priests in the Archdiocese of Perth to follow the official instructions for the Mass as laid down in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.
In his regular letter to all priests in December 2003, the Archbishop said many people rightly complained that some priests disregard these provisions and make them more liberal or more restrictive than they are:
"For the good of the faithful, and for good order and the dignity of the celebration, I ask all priests to follow what is officially laid down.
"We are not free to make arbitrary changes simply because we think they are better than what has been mandated.
"Certain freedoms and options are already indicated in the General Introduction. We may use these but should not introduce idiosyncratic changes."
The Archbishop said the new English translation of the Roman Missal and a new Introduction could be available in as little as two years, although it was likely to be longer.
Mass media should support family says Pope
World Day for Communications
The mass media should serve the needs of the family, Pope John Paul II argued in his message for the 38th World Day for Communications.
The World Day for Communications is to be observed on 23 May, but according to his regular practice, the Pope released his message in January on the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of journalists. The Pope's message is titled, "The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness."
In his message, John Paul II urged public officials to ensure that the media do not undermine the health of family life, arguing that today family life is often "represented in an inappropriate fashion," with presentations that depict sexual behaviour outside marriage in a neutral or even favourable light, "while positive support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality." Such presentations are harmful to the family and thus damaging to society as a whole.
While acknowledging the powerful influence of commercial pressures, the Pope urged public leaders to resist those pressures and uphold the good of society by imposing restraints on the negative aspects of the media.
He also reminded parents to regulate use of the mass media within their own families, so that their children are preserved from harmful programming and develop a healthy attitude regarding the prudent use of modern communications.
Zenit News Service
Scottish Bishops set out Church's moral teachings
Sanctity of marriage and immorality of contraception reaffirmed
In a statement dated 28 January, the Scottish Bishops' Conference has given a clear and unflinching exposition of the Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage, of its indissolubility, and of the sinfulness of any sexual activity outside the marriage bond. It left no room for equivocation on the teaching on artificial contraception or so-called "gay" marriage.
A quarter million leaflets containing the Bishops' statement have been distributed to Catholic schools and parishes.
The statement made clear that sexuality is seen as a sacred gift from God: "In the Apostolic Tradition any use of the sexual faculty outside marriage is sinful and dishonest, for of its nature it can only find true expression within the covenant of marriage."
Calling marriage, "a sign of the love between Christ and the Church," the statement made clear the truth of the indissolubility of marriage, saying that it exists only between a man and a woman, and that the "union cannot be dissolved by any purely human authority."
Condemning not only the use of contraception but the intention behind it, the statement said: "The contraceptive mentality prevents the gift of love between husband and wife from being true and complete by deliberately seeking to exclude conception." Cardinal O'Brien added: "I hope you will use this material as the focal point of debate, discussion and initiatives in your homes, parishes, schools, and workplaces, aimed at supporting marriage and the family and building a Culture of Life."
Catholic World News
President Bush promotes abstinence message
New US report underlines unreliability of condoms
Following a newly-released Centres for Disease Control (CDC) report on human papilloma virus (HPV), which revealed that condoms are not reliable in preventing the spread of this infection, President George W. Bush announced a doubling of funding for the abstinence message.
The CDC report revealed that HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection (STI) in America; 20,000,000 Americans currently have the infection, and new infections occur at the rate of 5.5 million infections per year. The report revealed that by age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection which is responsible for 12,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer and 4,000 deaths per year.
"HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom," the report said. "The available scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend condoms as a primary prevention strategy ... The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases ... is to refrain from genital contact."
In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush announced a doubling of budget allocation - from $135 million to $270 million - on programs which encourage teens to abstain from sex.
Vatican Information Service
New Anglican Archbishop installed in Uganda
US Episcopalians not welcome
A new Anglican archbishop was installed in Uganda on 25 January, after organisers told American Episcopalians that they would not be welcome at the event.
Archbishop Henry Orombi became the seventh Anglican Archbishop of Uganda in a colourful ceremony in Kampala. The installation came at the height of debate within the worldwide Anglican community over homosexuality, and specifically the installation of an openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire.
After Bishop Gene Robinson was installed in New Hampshire, the Uganda province became the first Anglican body to take concrete action against the American diocese. Anglican officials broke off ties with the New Hampshire province, and rescinded invitations for those American officials to attend the ceremony.
"Even if they come, they will not get seats," said one spokesman for the Anglicans of Uganda. "They are not welcome for the enthronement."
Catholic World News