Liturgy needs a "profound sense of the sacred"
John Paul II addresses Congregation for Divine Worship
The liturgy of the Catholic Church must never be reduced to a merely aesthetic exercise, nor should liturgical ceremonies be seen as "instruments toward pedagogical or ecumenical ends," Pope John Paul II told the members of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who met in Rome in September.
The Holy Father reminded Congregation members that "the celebration of the sacred mysteries is above all else an act of praise to the sovereign majesty of God" and for that reason, the first characteristic of any liturgy must be "a profound sense of the sacred."
John Paul II also encouraged the Congregation - which in May 2001 published the instruction on liturgical translation, Liturgicam Authenticam - to ensure the prayers of the liturgy reflect the depth of the Christian traditions of piety. He cited as examples the "magnificent prayers" found in the rites of the Eastern churches, and in the Roman Missal of St Pius V.
Catholic World News
No grounds for female deacons, says Vatican
Papally-approved notification sets out reasons
Made public on 17 September was the following Notification by the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments and for Clergy, signed by the respective prefects, Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez and Dario Castrillon Hoyos. The Notification was approved by the Pope on 14 September:
"1. Our offices have received from several countries signs of courses that are being planned or underway, directly or indirectly aimed at the diaconal ordination of women. Thus are born hopes which are lacking a solid doctrinal foundation and which can generate pastoral disorientation.
"2. Since ecclesial ordination does not foresee such an ordination, it is not licit to enact initiatives which, in some way, aim to prepare candidates for diaconal ordination.
"3. The authentic promotion of women in the Church, in conformity with the constant ecclesial Magisterium, with special reference to His Holiness John Paul II, opens other ample prospectives of service and collaboration.
"4. The undersigned Congregations - within the sphere of their proper authority - thus turn to the individual ordinaries, asking them to explain (this) to their own faithful and to diligently apply the above-mentioned directives."
Vatican Information Service
South Africa's Bishops reject 'gay' adoption
High Court ruling not in interests of child
A South African High Court ruling that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt children has been denounced by several religious bodies, including the Catholic Church in South Africa.
The ruling marked the first time that a judge had ruled in favour of gay adoptions. The court ruling was based on the post-apartheid constitution of 1996. That constitution has given rise to liberalisation on other social issues such as abortion.
Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, as spokesman for the South African Bishops' Conference, told Catholic World News in October that the Church supported the rights and duties of a one-parent family, and even the right of an individual to adopt. "But it is God's plan that a man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family," Bishop Cawcutt said.
"A growing child has so many problems and difficulties to face. For an adoptive baby to be placed in a same-sex situation - with all its contradictions and questions - would, to my mind, only complicate that child's growth in maturity." Thus the Church could never approve of the court ruling, he said.
Catholic World News
Vatican Internet educational broadcast
A resource for priestly formation
After successfully testing an educational video-conference that was broadcast worldwide through the Internet, the Congregation for the Clergy is now prepared to offer similar programs of formation for priests on a regular basis. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said he was pleased with the initial program broadcast on 29 September, in which 29 different theologians had offered reflections on developments in Christology since Vatican II.
The 90-minute program, including presentations by theologians scattered around the globe, encountered no serious technical difficulties. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos said that the high-tech presentation was a response to a challenge from Pope John Paul II, who had urged Vatican officials to make effective use of the means of modern communications.
The Cardinal noted a regular monthly series of similar presentations would help inform priests who might otherwise not have access to such resources. He reported that Pope John Paul had written to congratulate the Congregation on its initial Internet broadcast, and expressed his regrets he had not been able to take an active role in the conference. The Pope is expected to be a participant in a coming monthly presentation.
Catholic World News
Synod of Oceania final document
John Paul II to promulgate his apostolic exhortation from Vatican
Pope John Paul II will promulgate his apostolic exhortation on Oceania from the Vatican on 22 November, rather than flying to the Pacific region, according to a Catholic World News report.
The apostolic exhortation will mark the completion of the work of the Oceania Synod, which was held in Rome in 1998. The Pope's document will summarise the conclusions reached by the bishops, and the challenges facing the Catholic Church in that region.
In the past, after each synod of bishops from a particular region, Pope John Paul has travelled to that region to promulgate his apostolic exhortation.
Because of the Pope's physical frailty, and the difficulties now involved in overseas travel, there has been considerable speculation around the Vatican as to whether the Holy Father would continue his ordinary practice.
Although the Roman news agency I Media has been able to ascertain that the Pope will deliver his statement from Rome, no details have been made available regarding the form of the ceremony at which the document is made public. It is possible the Pope will send a special envoy to Oceania to introduce the apostolic exhortation there.
After the African Synod of 1994, Pope John Paul made public his exhortation Ecclesia in Africa during his trip to Cameroon in 1995. After the 1997 American Synod (bringing together the bishops of both North and South America), the Holy Father launched Ecclesia in America during his trip to Mexico in 1999. And after the Asian Synod of 1998, he travelled to New Delhi in 1999 for the formal promulgation of Ecclesia in Asia.
The Oceania Synod, which included the bishops of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands, met in Rome in November and December 1998. In fact the opening day of that Synod coincides with the date selected for the publication of the papal exhortation: 22 November.
One last regional synod - the European Synod - concluded its meetings in Rome in October 1999. The Pope has not yet delivered his document to conclude that synod.
Chinese keen to deflect criticism of its human-rights record
The Far Eastern Economic Review reported in October on the latest diplomacy between the Vatican and Communist China aimed at ending the impasse over the role of the Catholic Church in China. As part of the deal, the Vatican would have to break relations with Taiwan.
"In the event of mutual diplomatic recognition, the Vatican would be obliged to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan," said the journal. "It would also weaken the stance of half a dozen predominantly Catholic countries in Central America that maintain ties with Taiwan."
Meanwhile, on 14 October, Catholic scholars from around the world gathered in Beijing for a conference to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci's mission to China in 1601.
Among the problems to be resolved by the change in relations is the status of the Catholic Church in China. The Communist Chinese Government requires Christians to worship only in state-controlled associations, including the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which avoids any connections to the Vatican or the Pope. Many Catholics worship in churches that, while openly loyal to the government association, secretly pledge allegiance to the Pope, forming a de facto underground Church.
The Far Eastern Economic Review said the process was designed to be well under way by 20 October when US President George W. Bush was due to begin a two-day visit. "This would allow Beijing to deflect US criticism of its human rights record."
Catholic World News
Church in Central Asia
John Paul II praises seminary development
Last September, Pope John Paul II met with the eight bishops and apostolic administrators of Central Asia - four from Kazakhstan and four from the republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - during his visit to the region.
The Holy Father exhorted the bishops to "pay close attention to the formation of candidates to the priesthood and religious life," expressing his "great pleasure at the completion of the seminary in Karaganda," which, "as the seminary of all of Central Asia", would be "a sign of effective co-operation between your Churches."
Vatican Information Service
Polish bishops' pro-life stance during elections
But pro-abortion "ex-Communist" party gains power
One week before the Polish general elections last September, the nation's bishops had a letter read in every parish urging Catholics - some 93 percent of Poles - not to vote for the country's "ex-Communist" Social Democrats because of their support for abortion.
Despite the bishops' request, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and its small party ally, the Labor Union, won an outright majority in the parliament.
Without naming the party directly, the bishops had warned the faithful against voting for a "party that has an ideological continuity with the Communist party" and had "announced ... the intention of re-enacting a law authorising for social reasons the killing of an unborn baby."
SLD leader, Leszek Miller, widely speculated to become Poland's next Prime Minister, did not repudiate the bishops' message directly saying only, "I believe in the wisdom of the Polish electorate." The SLD has indicated it would repeal a 1997 law, passed by the previous Solidarity Government, which restricted abortions to cases of rape or incest, where the unborn child is deformed, or where the mother's life is in danger.
Vatican Information Service
We Are Church ends its "shadow synod"
Tries to deliver its list of demands to Synod of Bishops Secretary-General
A "shadow synod" of dissident Catholics concluded in Rome on 8 October, with the participants seeking unsuccessfully to deliver their demands to the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops.
After four days of discussions, a group of radical Catholics, organised by the European group We Are Church, approved a statement calling for decentralised administration of the Church, the popular election of bishops, and the promotion of women in ecclesial governance. The group also called for the resignation of papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, complaining about his public statement that the US might have a moral right to use force in responding to terrorist attacks.
Representatives of the "shadow synod" attempted to deliver their final statement to the apartment of Cardinal Jan Peter Schotte, the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. However, police blocked their way. After leaving a message in the cardina's mailbox, the "shadow synod" leaders departed, saying that they would expect a reply.