The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


"Defend and promote doctrinal unity"

Pope John Paul II addresses 1,500 bishops

On 8 October, in St Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II presided at a Eucharistic celebration for the first ever Jubilee of Bishops. Eighty cardinals and 1,500 bishops - more than one-third of the world's total - concelebrated with the Holy Father. At the end of Mass, together with the bishops, he recited the Act of Entrustment to Mary, before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

In his homily, the John Paul II pointed out that "the bishop, successor to the Apostles, is one for whom Christ is everything," and this is what he "must bear witness to in all his behavior." He recalled the numerous bishops who, over two millennia, "have offered Christ the supreme witness of martyrdom."

The Holy Father indicated that "the challenge of new evangelisation further highlights the episcopal ministry. The pastor is the primary leader and animator of the ecclesial community, both in the necessity for communion and in missionary drive. In the face of the relativism and subjectivism that pollute so much of modern culture, bishops are called to defend and promote doctrinal unity."

Emphasising that every pastoral activity of the bishop has as its ultimate objective the sanctification of the faithful, John Paul II said that it is necessary to rediscover what Vatican II teaches specifically on the universal vocation to sanctity.


Jubilee for Families celebration in Rome

"Children, the springtime of the family and for society"

The Jubilee for Families celebration in Rome on 14-15 October drew about 200,000 people from around the world. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the Colombian-born prelate who is president of the Pontifical Council for Families, said this celebration was "an opportunity to send a message that involves the human family, not only Catholics."

The theme for the observance - "Children, the springtime of the family and for society" - was a direct response to what organisers saw as a "wintry" attitude toward human life, as evidenced particularly by abortion, contraception and fetal experimentation. Vatican organisers also spoke of a "demographic winter," caused by the fact that in many countries - especially European countries - "coffins are more numerous than cradles."

The Jubilee for Families followed earlier worldwide encounters organised at the request of Pope John Paul II - in Rome (1994) and Rio de Janeiro (1997). It began with a "theological-pastoral" meeting, on 11-13 October, with about 6,000 bishops, priests, and others active in working with families participating, hearing talks from 50 experts on family pastoral work.

On Saturday, 14 October, thousands of families arrived in Rome for the two-day celebration of the Jubilee itself. They separated into different groups, according to language, for penitential services in the basilicas of Rome and then gathered together in St Peter's Square to be greeted by Pope John Paul II.

The Jubilee concluded with Mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday, with Pope John Paul presiding. That ceremony included the celebration of twelve marriages.


St Thomas More to become politicians' patron

Former Italian President calls him "a shining example"

The English martyr St Thomas More, executed in 1535 for defying King Henry VIII, is to become the patron saint of politicians. On 4-5 November, at a global gathering of about 5,000 politicians who will celebrate their special Jubilee in Rome, More will be proposed by Pope John Paul II as "a model and intercessor for all those who consider their political commitment as a choice of life."

The campaign for his patronage was led by Francesco Cossiga, Italian President from 1985 to 1992, who described More as a "shining example" and a "great English statesman." The campaign has been backed in England by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord David Alton, who has no doubts that St Thomas More is an appropriate role model. He told The Daily Telegraph: "Sometimes we don't recognise the treasures that we have." Former Tory minister, John Gummer, who converted to Catholicism in 1994, also welcomed More as a patron saint for politicians: "I can't think of any section of the community that needs one more."

A highly cultured man with a fine sense of humour, More was a friend of Erasmus and close companion of King Henry VIII. However, together with Bishop John Fisher of York, he opposed Henry VIII on the question of annulment of his marriage. Unable to take the Oath of Supremacy, which made the king head of the Church in England, Thomas More resigned his office. He was later imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Despite pressure from his friends to take the oath, More insisted he could not reconcile such a decision with his conscience. When his wife urged him to take the oath for the good of their household, More replied: "How many years do you think I could live at home?" "At least 20, because you are not old," she answered. "Very bad business, because you want me to exchange 20 years for all eternity," he said to her.


Vatican bans all heroin injecting trials

"Co-operation with grave evil"

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a decree that no Catholic organisation should participate in the trial of a legal heroin-injecting room, ruling this would involve cooperation with "grave evil." The document implies that Rome also strongly opposes any Catholic involvement in existing harm-minimisation programs such as needle exchanges.

The document states that "the good intention and the hoped-for benefits are not sufficient to outweigh the fact of its constituting an extremely proximate material cooperation in the grave evil of drug abuse and its foreseeable bad side effects."

The response came more than a year after the Vatican's order that the Sisters of Charity in Sydney abandon their pledge to help the New South Wales Government conduct an 18-month trial of the nation's first medically supervised injecting service in Kings Cross.

The document concedes that the supervised injecting service is not a case of "explicit or implicit" formal cooperation in evil, but insists that it is "beyond question" that it does involve "some degree of material cooperation in the evil of drug abuse."


US bishops welcome Dominus Iesus

Summarises and clarifies Church teaching

In a statement in September welcoming the presentation of Dominus Iesus, the recent document made public by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, President of the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the document was "a valuable service in summarising and clarifying the teaching of the Church".

He pointed out: "The Church of Christ uniquely contains the means of continuing Christ's saving mission. The Church of Christ is one, and subsists, or is found, in the Catholic Church, where the fullness of the means of grace and salvation are present."

Meanwhile, in response to questions regarding the document, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said he was "grateful" for this declaration, stressing that it "opposes religious relativism, which bases truth in personal experience rather than in God's self revelation in history." The Cardinal recalled that "theories of a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Jesus Christ and without reference to his Body the Church are, however, inconsistent with the Catholic faith."

Similarly, as the Arlington Catholic Herald reported, Bishop Paul S. Loverde said he "welcomes the publication of this Declaration." Over the last thirty years, he commented, "a number of Catholics have often, through no fault of their own, acquired an understanding of the Church (Ecclesiology) and of Christ (Christology) that is inaccurate and therefore misleading ...".


Perth choir sings at St Peter's

First time for an Australian choir

The Cathedral Choir of Perth joined the Sistine Chapel Choir and an American choir to sing during the morning Mass for the canonisation of Chinese, Spanish, American and Sudanese saints. The choir of 23 boys, ranging in age from 8 to 18, and seven men made the long journey from Western Australia to Europe as a Holy Year pilgrimage. They were the first Australian choir ever to sing at a public Vatican ceremony.

While in Rome, the choir sang at the Basilica of St Mary Major, the St Callistus catacombs and the pontifical parish of St Anne in the Vatican. Father Timothy E. Deeter, an American and the choir's director, said: "I wanted to bring the choir to Europe during the Holy Year to help the members grow in their faith, as well as to challenge them musically. We asked permission to sing during one of the weekday evening Masses celebrated in St Peter's Basilica. After securing a date, we were informed that the office in charge of visiting choirs had 'double-booked,' and there were no other dates available. So we 'pulled a few strings,' and Australian Cardinal [Edward Idris] Cassidy's secretary was good enough to persuade the office to find some way for our boys and men to sing."

Before arriving in Rome, the choir visited several famous choirs in England - including Westminster Cathedral's - and after leaving Rome, went to Assisi for the feast of St Francis, ending its tour with a visit to the Vienna Boys' Choir.


Cardinal Martini seeks greater collegiality

More time for "urgent questions"

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan has revived a longstanding debate on the subject of episcopal collegiality, by suggesting regular meetings at which bishops discuss "the most urgent questions" facing the Church.

In an interview published by the Jesuit monthly Jesu, Cardinal Martini explained that he was not calling for a new general council of the Church. Instead, he recommended a series of meetings "in which the diversity of experiences, of situations, and of languages present in the Church today can be confronted."

The meetings the Cardinal suggested seemed similar to the synods which have been organised to bring together geographical groupings of bishops. But he argued that synods, which last only for about one month, do not allow enough time for thorough discussion, and "it is difficult to reach common conclusions on delicate and disputed questions" within that time frame.

Among urgent topics that could be discussed at such meetings, Cardinal Martini listed the need for diversity in liturgy and pastoral approaches, the shortage of priests, and the quest for ecumenical progress.


Vatican Cardinal reaffirms support for Latin Mass

Delegation meets with President of 'Ecclesia Dei' Commission

On 4 September, reports Michael Davies, a delegation of members of the International Una Voce Federation and Pro Missa Tridentina were granted an audience with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

On behalf of the delegation, Michael Davies said they had received great encouragement from the Cardinal's interview with the Austrian journal Profil in which he had stated: "Is it a problem to permit today again the Latin Mass which was for so long a time the standard? I believe these people are concerned for the holy, the Mystery of the Mass and respect for customs. Why can't we give thus the liberty to celebrate the Mass in such a way?"

In response to a number of points made during the audience, the Cardinal said he considered the traditional Latin Mass to be a great treasure of the Church. He believed it attracted young people, not primarily for its use of the Latin language, but for the sense of mystery it imparts. He indicated he would contact bishops who declined to permit Mass according to the 1962 Missal. In his view, the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei put a serious responsibility upon bishops to implement it.

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