Ten Commandments and a just society
At his regular weekly audience on 25 January, Pope Benedict XVI said that God's law offered a blueprint for "peace and harmony in the world."
Speaking to 7,500 people in the Paul VI auditorium, the Pope called attention to the publication of his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, and the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Pope's address was a meditation on Psalm 143 (144), "the king's prayer", which, said Benedict, provided a vision of a time "when the voice of evil will finally be silent," with the complete victory of God's people. The text depicted an ideal society, marked by contented families, abundant crops, and "the entire civil community finally enjoying the precious gift of peace and of public order."
This vision could be realised, he said, only through "the work of the Messiah and his people" and could be reached only by making a clear choice to "take the side of God, of love and of justice." The psalmist says that he will play on a 10-stringed harp, and Benedict - following St Augustine, whose commentary he cited - interpreted that image as a reference to the Ten Commandments.
Psalm 143, the Pope concluded, calls believers to "sing a new song with the 10-stringed harp, to sing with the sentiments of Christ, to live the Ten Commandments in the dimension of love, and thus to contribute to a world of peace and harmony."
Catholic World News
Anglican group seeks full communion with Rome
The Traditional Anglican Communion, 400,000 laity and clergy separate from the Anglican Church, has drawn up detailed plans on how to come into full communion with the Holy See, according to a report in the US National Catholic Register on 24 December.
After 12 years of consultations, both internally and informally with the Vatican, the group - with the help of a Catholic layman - is preparing a "Pastoral Plan" asking the Vatican for an "Anglican Rite Church" that would preserve their Anglican heritage while allowing them to be "visibly united" with Rome.
The Traditional Anglican Communion's worldwide Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, hoped the group's College of Bishops would approve the plan at a possible Synod in Rome.
The church's members are so far reportedly unanimous in their desire for full communion. If formally agreed, the proposal would then be presented to Vatican officials.
If Rome approves, the Traditional Anglican Communion, a worldwide ecclesial body based in Australia, could become the largest Anglican assembly to return to the Church since the Reformation.
In a statement released in 2005, Archbishop Hepworth, a former Catholic priest, said the denomination had "no doctrinal differences with Rome" that impeded full communion. "My broad vision is to see the end of the Reformation of the 16th century," he said.
Secular fundamentalism in Western countries
The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz, warned in Madrid in February against "ideological totalitarian tendencies" that can manifest themselves in democratic countries.
During a gathering marking the 40th anniversary of Vatican II's document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, the Cardinal warned against "the danger of agnostic totalitarianism or secular fundamentalism" which is evident in some governments that "pass laws or make statements that are harmful to religious freedom."
Cardinal Herranz noted with alarm the situation in "some democratic states that declare themselves non-sectarian but where there is a danger that secular fundamentalism might become a sort of state religion, a militant atheism that is undeclared but nevertheless real."
He said that such trends manifested themselves in the "progressive ethical impoverishment of civil laws and political agendas," resulting in the legalisation of abortion, euthanasia and drug use, as well as contempt for the indissolubility of marriage and the traditional family. Society is regressing because of this, he continued, as truth and error are placed on the same level, thus contributing to the establishing of "the dictatorship of relativism."
Catholic News Agency
European Union seeks to enforce same-sex marriage
The European Union (EU) Justice Affairs commissioner Franco Frattini announced in January at the EU Parliament in Strasburg that member states not eliminating all forms of "discrimination" against homosexuals, including the refusal to approve "marriage" and unions between same-sex couples, would face sanctions and eventual expulsion from the EU.
According to a report by the Archdiocese of Madrid's news service, Analisis Digital, the commissioner's statements came as the governments of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland ruled against legalising same-sex marriages.
"Homophobia is a violation of human rights and we are watching member states on this issue and reporting on cases in which our efforts have been unsuccessful," Frattini said. In this way "the Commission and the European Parliament seek to make any refusal to grant homosexual couples the same rights as a married couple a crime of 'homophobia'," the report warned.
Nevertheless, Analisis Digital reports that these proposals have been contested by Polish EU representative Jan Tadeusz Masiel, who called the adoption of children by homosexual couples "repulsive" and "shocking." Likewise, her fellow Polish EU representative, Barbara Kurdycka, said the EU Parliament had no business telling people what they should think about homosexuality.
Catholic News Agency
Compendium of the Catechism available soon
The new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a 200-page synthesis of the 1992 Catechism, will be available starting 31 March from the publishing office of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
USCCB Publishing will launch the compendium in English and Spanish at the 2006 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. The annual congress gathers more than 30,000 parish and diocesan leaders in faith education, liturgy and youth ministry.
The compendium consists of 598 questions and answers, a format similar to the very popular Baltimore Catechism, which was a standard text in many Catholic parishes and schools from 1885 to the 1960s.
Msgr Daniel Kutys, USCCB deputy secretary for catechesis, said the compendium was initially developed for the purpose of catechising teens and young adults. However, "the bishops on the Catechism Committee have recommended the text be used as a standard reference companion to which teachers and catechists refer their students in much the same way that they use Bibles for instruction," he said.
The compendium is structured in four parts, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The text has some direct quotes from the Catechism used as sidebars, but the questions and answers are original text.
In addition to the questions and answers, the compendium also includes two appendices. The first is a list of Catholic prayers. The second appendix contains "Formulas of Catholic Doctrine," including the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, theological and cardinal virtues, and spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Fourteen masterpieces of Christian art are also reproduced in the text.
Catholic News Agency
Eucharistic faith on display in Brisbane
The Brisbane Courier-Mail of 23 January carried the following report by senior journalist Tess Livingstone (biographer of Cardinal Pell) on what had happened on a Saturday night in Brisbane under the headline: "Faithful turn City Hall into giant church". (Brisbane is the only city in Australia to use the American expression City Hall for their Town Hall).
"Brisbane has never seen anything like it. For the past four days, City Hall has been transformed into a giant Catholic cathedral, complete with masses, confessions, statues and incense as hundreds of young people from around Australia gathered for Adore 2006, a congress of prayer and traditional devotion.
"Yesterday they were joined by hundreds of local churchgoers for Mass in the City Hall. On Saturday night, about 2,000 people walked 3.5km in a candelelit procession, singing hymns along Adelaide, Edward, Mary, George and Elizabeth Streets. The procession was led by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, who carried the Blessed Sacrament ...
"The attendance stunned even the organisers themselves, as it far exceeded the numbers at similar events in Sydney and Melbourne in recent years. Fr Gregory Jordan SJ, national chaplain of the Australian Catholic Students Association, said the event was a 'striking demonstration of young people's faith' and 'the first time in many years that the young people of Brisbane have shown their faith in such a dramatic way as this.'
"Their witness was, said Fr Jordan, 'clean contrary to the usual view of the loss of faith amongst the young.' A message of support from Pope Benedict XVI was read out at the congress by Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman."
Benedict XVI comments on seminary formation
On 20 January, Pope Benedict XVI received the rector and students of the diocesan seminary of Rome, the "Almo Collegio Capranica," which forms students to the priesthood for Rome, other Italian dioceses and the rest of the world.
The Pope called on the seminarians to use their formative years to take advantage "of every opportunity to bear effective witness to the Gospel among the men and women of our time."
He continued: "In order to respond to the expectations of modern society, and to co-operate in the immense evangelical activity that involves all Christians, there is need for well-trained and courageous priests who, without ambition or fear but convinced of gospel truth, make the announcement of Christ their first concern and, in His name, are ready to reach out to human suffering, bringing the comfort of God's love and the warmth of the ecclesial family to everyone, especially the poor and those undergoing difficulties."
Benedict then highlighted how this requires, "together with human maturity and close adherence to revealed truth, which the Magisterium of the Church faithfully reflects, a serious commitment to personal sanctity and the exercise of virtue, especially humility and charity. It is also necessary to nurture communion with the various elements of the People of God, so that everyone may have a growing awareness of belonging to the one Body of Christ."
The Pope concluded by calling on those present to follow the example of committed priests, former seminarians of the Almo Collegio, who "have produced abundant fruits of knowledge and goodness in the Lord's vineyard."
Vatican Information Service
Archbishop: why many think Church is irrelevant
Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Valladolid, Spain, said in January that Catholics do not know what the Church is and that it was "sad" many consider it to be an "old and irrelevant structure."
In his weekly pastoral letter, the Archbishop lamented that Catholics did not see the Church "as Mother, as the bosom that has given them life in Baptism and Confirmation and where they encounter the Eucharistic Christ." The Church "is the one that saves them from relativism and confusion."
Referring to Benedict XVI's recent theological contribution to the analysis of Vatican II, Archbishop Rodriguez said it was "interesting, clarifying and of great service to the present-day Church". Everything depended on "the correct interpretation of the Council, the correct key to reading it," since "two contrary interpretations have squared off: that of a rupture, on the one hand, and that of a renewal in the continuity of the only Church given by the Lord, on the other."
In conclusion, he expressed concern at the effect interpretations of the Council as a rupture with the past have had on the faithful, saying they did not lead to communion or evangelisation.
Catholic News Agency