Vatican lobbies on European constitution
Concern at lack of recognition of Christian heritage
As European leaders gathered in October to renew their discussion of a proposed constitution for the European Union, Vatican officials continued to lobby for an explicit recognition of the continent's Christian heritage.
The "intergovernment conference" that opened in Rome on 4 October was charged with producing a final draft of the constitution, to be ratified by the member states. For months the Vatican has been urging European leaders to amend the existing draft, in order to recognise the Christian faith.
In July and August, Pope John Paul II made a point of emphasising Europe's Christian heritage during every Sunday audience insisting that the political leaders of the European Union must "safeguard an essential part of the spiritual and cultural patrimony." And during his recent visits to European countries he has emphasised the same line of thought.
The Holy Father has warned that if the European Union is based on nothing more than shared economic interests, it will be a severely weakened body. In his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, the Pope sketched a grim picture of a European society that "rejects God," and "has lost the memory of its Christian heritage."
The latest draft version of the European constitution, in its preamble, offers only a vague reference to "the cultural, religious, and humanist heritage of Europe." The Christian faith is not specifically mentioned.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls has suggested that the phrase could be altered simply by adding that this heritage is "primarily Christian." He has said at least eleven European nations have indicated they would approve such an amendment.
Zenit News Service
New Scottish Cardinal queries Church teachings
Makes public statement one day after being named a cardinal
Archbishop Keith O'Brien of Aberdeen, Scotland, who was named by Pope John Paul II to become a cardinal, used a Mass of thanksgiving as an occasion to question Church teaching and discipline regarding contraception, homosexuality, and clerical celibacy.
Archbishop O'Brien, who is to become only the third Scottish cardinal since the Reformation, suggested the Church should re-examine her teaching on contraception. He said he assumed many Catholic priests are homosexual but was not troubled by that fact as long as they maintained their vows of celibacy.
He also questioned whether the discipline of priestly celibacy was necessary, pointing out that "throughout the world there are married priests and in England there are a number of converts from Anglicanism who are married and who became Roman Catholic priests."
The Archbishop's public statements - delivered just one day after the announcement that he would soon receive a cardinal's red hat - stood in sharp contrast to the stands taken by the late Cardinal Thomas Winning, Scotland's most recent representative in the College of Cardinals.
Catholic World News
Expel US, Canadian Anglicans says Dr Jensen
Archbishop of Canterbury's "moral authority on the line"
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has recently suggested as one of a number of options that the US branch of the Church be expelled.
In an article published in October, Archbishop Jensen commented that time was running out for the Archbishop of Canterbury to act on the homosexual issues dividing the worldwide Anglican Church.
He suggested as one of several possibilities that the Church should expel the Anglican province of the United States, which recently elected an active homosexual as bishop, and the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, which blesses same-sex unions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, he said, had "misjudged the present situation and his peaceable approach has run out of time". He added: "There is a limit to Communion. It comes when souls are put at risk by sustained institutional disobedience to the word of God."
The article, published in the influential English Christian magazine New Directions, appeared just before the Church's 38 leaders met in London to discuss the issue. It was also a response to an article by Archbishop Williams in the same magazine just before the national convention of the American Church.
If he were to expel the US and New Westminster from the Communion, said Dr Jensen, this could force many liberals out of the Church, but it would send a powerful moral and spiritual message to the Church in the West. In his view, it would be difficult for Dr Williams not to act for "his moral authority is on the line."
European Parliament rules on male-only Mount Athos
Greek Orthodox monks told to admit women to island sanctuary
For a thousand years, the Greek Orthodox monks of Mount Athos have been praying in quiet and seclusion, unmolested by the outside world. But their peace may be coming to an end in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination. A plenary session of the European Parliament has passed a proposal/report demanding that the Greek Government rescind the special protection the monks have enjoyed for a millennium.
Mount Athos (or "Hagion Oros," i.e., Holy Mountain) has constituted the heart of the Orthodox ascetic life for more than one thousand years. Over this period, no women have been allowed to visit the island. Now the tolerance and anti- discrimination movement centred in the European Parliament is set to forcibly impose its views on the monks.
"It's simply unbelievable," said Hilary White, spokesman for Campaign Life Catholic. "Is no-one ever to be left alone by these busybodies? As a Catholic woman, I can truly say that I have always been grateful that the monks of Athos have been there praising, worshipping, and interceding with God on my behalf and I have never felt the slightest desire to go there and disturb their peace. Who will liberate us from these tyrants of secularist tolerance when they have eliminated all traces of religious freedom from every corner of the world?"
The Greek Socialist members of the European Parliament refused to vote in favour of the proposal. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said such a demand "would be in direct confrontation with fundamental, 1,000-year-old traditions, our faith, and the monastic spirit of the Mountain."
Catholic World News
Holy See addresses UN on HIV/AIDS
"A serious crisis of values"
On 22 September in New York, Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, addressed a United Nations meeting on HIV/AIDS. He heads the Holy See delegation to the high level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly devoted to the follow-up of the outcome of the 26th special session: Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
In his speech the Cardinal stated that "HIV/AIDS has been and remains one of the major tragedies of our time. It is not only a health problem of enormous magnitude; it is a social, economic and political concern as well ... It is also a moral question, as the causes of the epidemic clearly reflect a serious crisis of values .... sparing no geographic segment of the human family."
Cardinal Hummes remarked that "the Holy See and Catholic institutions have not shrunk from the global fight against HIV/AIDS," pointing out that "12 percent of care providers for HIV/AIDS patients are agencies of the Catholic Church and 13 percent of the global relief for those affected by the epidemic comes from Catholic non-governmental organisations. The Holy See, thanks to its institutions worldwide, provides 25 percent of the total care given to HIV/AIDS victims."
He said, in closing, that "in order to coordinate better its activities, the Holy See has established an Ad Hoc Committee on the fight against HIV/AIDS ... [which] intends to express particular solicitude for sub- Saharan Africa" and "to pay special attention to the problems of stigma and discrimination accompanying the disease, to access to treatment and care, to education on responsible sexual behavior, including abstinence and marital fidelity, and to the care of HIV/AIDS orphans."
Vatican Information Service
US women who regret abortions speak out
Campaign to raise awareness of harm abortion causes women
After 30 years of America's abortion debate, the voices of women who have experienced abortion's devastating effects are being heard more loudly and in greater numbers. In September, some of these voices were heard in front of the US Supreme Court, as participants in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign conducted one of numerous similar events taking place across the country.
The Campaign, a joint project of NOEL (National Organisation of Episcopalians for Life) and Priests for Life, seeks to raise awareness about the harm abortion does to women and their families, and about the many healing programs available.
Actress, model and author Jennifer O'Neill is the national celebrity spokesman for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. O'Neill spoke at the Supreme Court along with others who are no longer silent about their abortion. She joined the campaign because she was forced to have an abortion and understands the pain it brings.
According to Georgette Forney, who had an abortion at age 16 and is now National Director of NOEL and co-founder of the Campaign, "Hearing woman after woman speak about the problems created by abortion really puts this issue in perspective. Despite the sadness of each woman's story we are also able to share the help we've found to deal with the pain, which gives those still hurting hope."
Catholic World News
Archbishop Fulton Sheen cause for canonisation
The cause for canonisation of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, now known as Servant of God, has proceeded to the point where Dr Ambrosi, the Roman Postulator for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, conducted interviews with witnesses in Peoria, Illinois, on 29 September 2003. So far. 100 testimonies have been reviewed and a further 300 are anticipated.
Meanwhile, Karen Fulte, a founder of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Communications Room in El Paso, Illinois, birthplace of the great churchman, will give a series of talks in Brisbane and Perth in late November and early December on her operations in America and future events which she believes will occur with pilgrims visiting El Paso.
She will be accompanied by Martin Tobin, Co-founder of the Fulton J. Sheen Society of Perth Western Australia Inc, who will talk on - among other things - the latest republications of Archbishop Sheen's addresses given on NBC Radio.
For information on Karen Fulte's itinerary, contact Vince McHugh, tel (07) 3267 0265, (mob) 0401 598 423, or Daniel Tobin, (08) 9291 8224.
Archbishop of Canterbury barred from UK parishes
His support for women priests means "impaired communion"
The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has been barred from conducting communion services in 350 Church of England parishes because of his support for women priests.
The "no-go" churches include nine in Archbishop Williams's own diocese of Canterbury, including the church next to his palace in the city.
The move by these churches means they will not allow women - or any bishop who has ordained women priests - to celebrate holy communion before their congregations.
The Rev Michael Morris, rector of Harbledown, near the Old Palace in Canterbury, Williams's official residence, told the Sunday Times: "This is impaired communion. I'm not in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury."
The Rev Richard Seabrook, vicar of Hockley in Essex, told the newspaper: "If bishops have decided unilaterally to go against 2,000 years of Christian tradition of an all-male priesthood by ordaining women, we have to put some clear blue water between us."
He continued: "I haven't done anything to change the Church of England; it's those who decided they could take unilateral action who have changed my mother church."
Catholic World News