John Paul II on necessity of individual confession
Priests should be "generous ministers of the Sacrament of Penance"
During his annual meeting with members of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the penitentiary fathers of the patriarchal basilicas of the city, and the participants in the annual course on the internal forum, John Paul II emphasised that "Jesus is the sole and necessary mediator of eternal salvation" and deriving from this was "the necessity, with regard to eternal salvation, of those means of grace, instituted by Jesus, which are the Sacraments."
Referring to the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, the Holy Father confirmed that it "is always an act of the Church," from which it follows that "both for the validity and the licitness of the sacrament itself, the priest and the penitent must faithfully keep to what the Church teaches and prescribes."
He pointed out that "individual and complete confession and absolution are the only ordinary way that the member of the faithful aware of grave sin can reconcile himself with God and with the Church. For this reason collective absolution, without prior individual confession of sins, must be rigorously kept within the compulsory canonical norms."
A priest, he said, was obligated "to offer his time and understanding patience to the faithful with full availability." He exhorted the priests of the entire world to "be generous ministers of the Sacrament of Penance in order that the wave of divine mercy may reach every soul in need of purification and comfort."
Vatican Information Service
New Indian Cardinal's address
Unity with the universal Church all important
Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, gathered with a great number of Catholics in India after returning from Rome where he was created cardinal by Pope John Paul II. During the Mass at which he presided, the first after his return, the new Cardinal asked the faithful to remember their tradition of faith and their responsibilities to the universal Church.
Cardinal Dias stated as well that the rings the Pope gave the new cardinals "mean that the cardinals must take care of the universal Church, and its concerns must be their concerns." He added that his "basic responsibility" would be to reinforce the unity of the local Church with the Apostolic See. It was therefore "better to talk about the 'Church in India' than about the 'Indian Church'." Cardinal Dias is the third Archbishop of Bombay to be created a cardinal.
Zenit News Service
Poland and Spain lead Europe with seminarians
Highest per capita rates
Among European countries, Spain is surpassed only by Poland in the proportion of seminarians it has, the Spanish bishops' conference says.
Poland has 108 seminarians for every 1 million Catholics, while Spain has 76. France is the lowest, with 32 per million.
The number of seminarians in Spain has remained stable over the past decade, the bishops' conference reveals in the study, carried out for the "Day of the Seminary," on 19 March.
Over the past decade, the number of major seminarians has been stable: 393 entered in 1990 and, for the period 2000-2001, major seminaries received 360 new candidates. The total number of seminarians in Spanish dioceses is now 1,797. Two hundred and thirty-eight new priests were ordained in Spain in 2000.
Zenit News Service
Catholic Church in South Korea
Adult baptisms lead world
South Korea is Asia's third most Catholic country, after the Philippines and India, and has the highest annual adult baptism rate in the world with some 150,000 adults received into the Church every year.
There was a boom of new Catholics, following John Paul II's first visit in 1984, and Catholics now comprise 3.95 million, or 8.3 percent, of the country«s 46 million people.
This local Church has a strong missionary spirit, and sends missionaries to the former Soviet republics, other Asian countries (including China), Africa and South America. There are even Korean priests manning parishes in France.
The Church in South Korea has been a catalyst in reconciliation with North Korea. President Kim Dae-jung, one of last year's Nobel Peace Prize recipients, and a noted defender of democracy in the country, is the first Catholic to hold this office. He is responsible for the first peace talks with Kim Jong Il, leader of the Communist regime, which took place in Pyong- yang last June.
Evangelisation began in Korea at the end of the 18th century when, after reading Christian writings brought by Catholics from Beijing, Confucian scholars decided to follow Christ. Pope Gregory XVI created the Apostolic Vicariate of Korea in 1831. Catholics were granted freedom of worship in 1884, after a period of intense persecution during which half the Catholics were killed.
The Church in South Korea has 2,927 priests, 1,715 major seminarians, 1,170 religious brothers, 8,551 religious sisters, 1,092 parishes, 12,243 catechists, and 420 foreign missionaries.
Zenit News Service
John Paul II to follow in St Paul's footsteps
Trip to Athens, Syria and Malta in May
The Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced on 26 March that "the Holy Father, in fitting continuity with the pilgrimages made during the Great Jubilee, will also go on pilgrimage in the footsteps of the apostle Paul to Athens (Greece), Damascus (Syria) and Malta, from 4-9 May 2001." It will be the first time a modern pope has visited either Greece or Syria.
St Paul converted to Christianity in Syria, stopped in Athens, during his second missionary journey, and was shipwrecked in Malta on his way to Rome.
In Athens, John Paul II is expected to visit the Areopagus, a hillside where St Paul first evangelised in the ancient city. The overnight stop in Athens was arranged only after bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece unanimously voted not to oppose the Pope's pilgrimage.
In Damascus, the Pope is expected to visit the mosque of Ommayad, becoming the first modern pope to enter a Muslim place of worship, and to meet with Syria's top Muslim authority. In Malta he will celebrate a beatification Mass for a Maltese diocesan priest who founded a religious institute in the mid-twentieth century.
'Carnivale Christi' at Sydney University
Festival of spiritual arts
The Society of St Peter and Life Theatre are presenting a 3-week festival of spiritual drama, music, poetry and art at Sydney University's Seymour Centre. Opened on 23 April by poet Les Murray, and including the Campion Drama Competition for schools, Carnivale Christi features Byzantine and Coptic art exhibitions, choral and organ recitals, and poetry and drama performances.
A centrepiece of the program is Henri Gheon's play about the life of Roman actor and Christian martyr, St Genesius, entitled The Comedian, at 7:30pm on May 3, 4, 5, 11 and 12.
Archbishop George Pell, whose inauguration as Archbishop of Sydney is on 10 May at St Mary's Cathedral, will be officially welcomed at the Festival Finale in the Great Hall of Sydney University on Sunday, 13 May at 2pm. More details at http://www.carnivalechristi.f2s.com or call Next Generation on (02) 8200 4623.
Nigerian bishops criticise their Government
Basic economic needs of people overlooked
Nigeria's Catholic bishops have issued a statement critical of President Olusegun Obasanjo's Government for failing to live up to expectations for democracy after the end of a military dictatorship two years ago.
"It is sad to say that the Government is not living up to our hopes and expectations," the bishops said. "We see many members of the political class, at federal, state, and local government levels, looking not to the needs - even the most basic needs - of the people, but spending time and money looking only to how they can be re-elected two years from now."
"We see government at all levels dissipating scarce resources on expensive projects that do not directly improve the lives of the people," the bishops said. "It is surely a sign of a democracy which is deficient."
Obasanjo's Government has incurred increasing criticism for its failure to alleviate either the economic doldrums or social problems, including religious tensions over attempts to impose the Islamic legal code Sharia in northern Nigeria. However, criticism from the bishops may be the most damaging since their influential voice helped encourage pro-democracy activists in their ouster of the former dictatorship.
Catholic World News
Vatican contacts with Society of St Pius X
Cardinal Ratzinger cautious about progress
Speaking to reporters in Milan in April, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger indicated that the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X are probably not close to an agreement despite the recent round of talks.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was in Milan for the publication of his latest book. During a press conference there, when questioned about the talks with the traditionalist group, he replied, "I wish, I hope, and I pray that this wound will be healed. But we still have a long way to go."
The Italian daily Avvenire also quoted Cardinal Ratzinger as noting a "hardening" on the part of the Society of St Pius X. The German prelate observed that the traditionalist group was "closing in on itself," and that this attitude "complicates the process of reconciliation."
Nevertheless, Cardinal Ratzinger continued, the Church is doing everything possible to serve the pastoral needs of all the faithful, including those who are attached to the traditional liturgy. He said that the Holy See is willing to accept "diverse rituals" for the celebration of the Mass. In return, he said, the Society of St Pius X must make it clear that its members accept the Novus Ordo Mass as valid. As he put it, the traditionalist group "must understand that the post- conciliar liturgy is not that of another Church."
The Holy Father, it is generally understood, is anxious to bring the division caused by the late Archbishop Lefèbvre's ordinations of four bishops in 1988 to an end as soon as possible. He has asked Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos - in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission - to make the efforts to reconcile the Society of St Pius X a top priority.
On 29 December 2000, at a meeting with Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Bishop Bernard Fellay - the Superior of the Society of St Pius X - said that his group sought three concessions from the Vatican: a lifting of the ban of excommunication, a regularisation of the status of the bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefèbvre (and a fifth bishop ordained by them), and the establishment of the Society as an order of pontifical right.
From the perspective of the Holy See, the difficulty with the Society of St Pius X involves more than merely the use of the Tridentine-rite liturgy. The traditionalist movement has raised serious questions about whether the Novus Ordo Mass is valid, and has also questioned the authority of some Vatican II documents. Thus the question of accepting the traditional Mass is bound up with larger questions about the Society's acceptance of Church authority and Catholic teachings.
Catholic World News
Commission for Australian Catholic Women
Requirements for a successful Executive Officer applicant
A media release dated 16 March from the General Secretariat of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference lists requirements for a successful applicant for the position of Executive Officer for the Commission for Australian Catholic Women.
* A "strong commitment" is necessary "to the implementation of the initiatives arising from" the Australian bishops' "Response to the Report on the Participation of Women in the Catholic Church in Australia, Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus."
* A "commitment" is required "to the principle of subsidiarity."
* A "strong knowledge and understanding" is called for in the case of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Arguably, an agnostic or atheist should therefore not be excluded from consideration, since "commitment" to Catholic teachings is not listed as a requirement.