The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


Pope signs encyclical on Eucharist

Document "recalls the intrinsic value and importance of the sacrament"

By the time this edition of AD2000 becomes available, the new papal encyclical on the Eucharist will have been promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 17 April. A more in-depth examination of the document will be included in the June issue.

During meditations prior to reciting the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square on Sunday, 30 March, the Holy Father referred to his forthcoming encyclical which "on the occasion of Holy Thursday, God willing, I will sign during the Mass of the Lord's Supper."

He said he would "symbolically turn this [encyclical] over to priests in place of the Letter that I usually write to them and, through them, to the People of God, on that occasion."

He added that he was entrusting "this important document to Mary from this moment, a document that recalls the intrinsic value and importance for the Church of the Sacrament left to us by Jesus as a living memorial of His death and resurrection."

Vatican Information Service


Kenyan Christian leaders unite on AIDS approach

Sexual abstinence outside marriage should be encouraged

Catholic and Anglican church leaders in Kenya have united against the use of condoms in the war against AIDS.

In separate talks with government leaders in late March, Catholic and Anglican leaders called for programs which encourage sexual abstinence outside marriage, and fidelity among married couples, as the best means of fighting AIDS. The Christian leaders made their case to the Government's health minister, Charity Ngulu, who is seeking advice on how the Government should combat the disease which is currently killing about 700 Kenyans every day.

Meeting with the health minister on 24 March, the Catholic Bishops of Kenya observed that the Church is preaching a moral code that stops the spread of AIDS. Bishop Cornelius Korir, a military chaplain, said that he had been successful in encouraging chastity among soldiers, and government programs could be equally successful with the general public. "Why can't we take a bold step and say, 'No condom talk'?", he asked.

In his own meeting with the Minister on 25 March, Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi presented a similar argument - that the Government's anti-AIDS program should "build strong family foundations."

Catholic World News


New Vatican "lexicon" on family and human life

Designed to clarify public discussion of controversial topics

The Vatican will soon publish a lexicon of terminology on human life and the family - a project that has already provoked heated polemical exchanges in the Italian press.

The Pontifical Council for the Family has prepared a 900-page work, intended to clarify "ambiguous terms and concepts frequently used regarding the family, life, and ethical questions." The volume was prepared by a committee of 78 scholars, and has been approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has indicated that the lexicon is designed to clarify public discussion of some controversial topics. "There are many expressions, used in legislatures and world organisations, that can hide their real content and their real meaning," he observed.

Even before its appearance, the lexicon's treatment of homosexuality has come under heavy fire in Italy. Father Tony Anatrella, a French psychoanalyst, edited that section of the lexicon. Since Father Anatrella has taught clearly that homosexuality is a psychological disorder, and has criticised efforts to label resistance to homosexuality as "homophobia," his contribution has been a primary focus of media editorial criticism.

Another point of contention is the document's treatment of "safe sex" campaigns. Father Jacques Suaudeau, a staff member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has observed that such campaigns often emphasise the use of condoms - an approach which "presupposes a great deal of confidence in their effectiveness." The lexicon makes the argument that the only true "safe sex" is found in a faithful marital relationship.

Other controversial themes explored in the lexicon include the concept of "gender," which feminists see as a social construct; the "termination of pregnancy," divorce and separation; and assisted procreation in its various forms.

Catholic World News


More Holy See and Greek Orthodox dialogue

Member of Vatican delegation optimistic about future progress

Father Johan Bonny, a member of the Vatican delegation that visited the Greek Orthodox Church from 10-14 February 2003, is optimistic about ties with the East.

In an interview with Zenit News Service, he anticipated ever-greater co-operation at the cultural, social, ecological and academic level. He saw the "openness" of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece as a major factor in improving Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

It was, this "openness" which enabled the Pope's visit to Greece to take place in May 2001, the first visit by any Pontiff. This historic event was followed by the visit of a Greek Orthodox delegation to the Vatican in March 2002.

Father Bonny said the exchanges would continue on "cultural, social, economic and environmental challenges" as well as between Catholic and Greek Orthodox students. There was also a desire to increase co-operation on bioethical issues.

A "dialogue of truth" has been entrusted to the international commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole, while a "dialogue of charity" will allow initiatives with specific Orthodox Churches, e.g., Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Serbia.

Father Bonny said that Archbishop Christodoulos was "a prudent and courageous archbishop who must seek a middle way between those who are very attached to tradition or are wounded by some historical events, and those who are open to the ecumenical movement or to the Catholic Church."

He added that the Archbishop was "not the only one who is open to dialogue; he is not alone: Many faithful, also of the monastic world, are by his side, as well as many members of the Holy Synod."

The Orthodox Church in Greece, he said, was as concerned as Catholics about the neglect of the Christian heritage, at this point, in the drafts of the European Constitution. It also had to address "the same challenges at the level of the sacramental life, of catechesis, and of pastoral care."

Zenit News Service


Catholic Studies programs spread in US universities

A response to 'Ex Corde Ecclesiae'

Catholic colleges and universities, particularly in the United States, continue to struggle with the question of their identity, especially since the publication of the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

The University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota, began the first "Catholic Studies" program in 1992 to offer students a comprehensive Catholic education shaped by the broad Catholic intellectual tradition.

Now a department with undergraduate and graduate programs, Catholic Studies enrolls 160 undergraduate majors and 30 minors. The experiment has inspired dozens of other programs around the country.

During a recent visit to Rome, Don Briel, founder and director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at St Thomas, spoke with Zenit News Service about the rise of such programs.

He said the idea emerged in the early 1990s "out of a concern that undergraduates at Catholic universities seemed to lack access to a comprehensive study of a rich and complex Catholic intellectual tradition."

He added: "We found a new generation of Catholics who had begun to realise that they had been deprived of a rich and noble intellectual tradition. We had also been struck by the variety and depth of their intellectual interests. We confronted a generation of students suspicious of narrow specialisation ."

This generation of students, he said, "is less cynical about life and ... clearly committed to a reflection on the meaning of their lives and the wider societies in which they live and work. They are no longer satisfied with an accumulation of information but rather understand their studies in the context of a search for wisdom ... I must say that they represent a remarkable promise for the future of Catholicism in the United States."

The Catholic Studies programs, according to Briel, have been influenced by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, in which "John Paul II stressed the importance of recovering the Catholic university's traditional emphasis on the unity of knowledge and on the ultimate complementarity of faith and reason."

Zenit News Service


Pope speaks on Sacrament of Penance

How confessors should handle "this delicate ministry"

The pro-penitentiary major and the prelates and officials of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the penitential priests of Rome's major basilicas, as well as many young priests and seminarians, were welcomed on 28 March by the Holy Father in the traditional audience he holds with them as they participate in the annual course on the internal forum.

The internal forum is that sphere of ecclesiastical authority exercised in regard to matters dealing with the private spiritual good of individuals, the sphere in which the Sacrament of Penance is administered.

John Paul II said that "the priest who hears confession must welcome the penitent, be thoughtful, warm and caring in his demeanor" and "not be avaricious with his time." He must also use charity and justice "in referring, without ideological variations ... to the genuine teachings of the Church."

This applied especially to "the duty to adhere to the Magisterium of the Church concerning the complex problems that occur in the bioethical sphere and concerning the moral and canonical norms in the sphere of marriage."

He then reiterated a point he made in his 2002 Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday: "It can happen that in the face of complex contemporary ethical problems the faithful leave the confessional with somewhat confused ideas, especially if they find that confessors are not consistent in their judgments. The truth is that those who fulfill this delicate ministry in the name of God and of the Church have a specific duty not to promote and, even more so, not to express in the confessional, personal opinions that do not correspond to what the Church teaches and professes. Likewise, a failure to speak the truth because of a misconceived sense of compassion should not be taken for love."

Vatican Information Service


Latest from Rockhampton Diocese

New Eucharistic Prayer and "Windmill" Lenten program

A new "Eucharistic Prayer of Healing" was recited at a Mass for the priests' in-service conference for the Diocese of Rockhampton in February. The principal celebrant was Bishop Brian Heenan.

The prayer reads in part: "We bless you because your love for us is not hidden but revealed in all your works: in cool water that quenches our thirst, in gentle rain that nourishes our parched earth, in unexpected clouds that shade us from the heat of the noonday sun, in refreshing breezes and evening winds, in sunrises and the hopes they bring ...

"We thank you that Jesus took upon himself our sickness and confusion. He made us whole and gave our lives direction. He healed us of our emptiness by giving us a meal. Send us your Spirit with her power to heal ...".

During Lent, the Catholics of Rockhampton have become "Windmill People", as this attribute relates to the Church's Year of the Outback. In the Cathedral, a two-metre high windmill was set up in the sanctuary accompanied by a three-metre tree, minus its foliage.

In this context, the windmill was seen as supplying the water that nourishes the tree that grows leaves during Lent. The leaves were to be found in a box beside the tree and the faithful were invited to tie leaves onto the tree during Lent - each leaf containing an inspirational message.

Handouts for Rockhampton's 2003 Lenten Program - Becoming Windmill People - were made available in each parish church. They were titled for each week of Lent: "Life in Drought", "Hope in Drought", "Breaking the Drought", "Into New Life" and "Fertile Land". Each contained appropriate "stories" submitted by various Catholics in the Diocese, including the Bishop.

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