Benedict XVI replaces liturgical advisers
On 24 September Benedict XVI completely replaced the roster of his liturgical advisers.
A note from the Vatican's Press office announced the appointment of new consultants for the office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. The new consultants all share Benedict's thinking on liturgical reform and include Monsignor Nicola Bux, professor at the Theological Faculty of Puglia (Southern Italy) and author of several books on liturgy, especially on the Eucharist. Msgr Bux recently finished a new book Pope Benedict's Reform scheduled for release in December.
Other consultants include Fr Mauro Gagliardi, an expert in dogmatic theology and professor at the Legionaries of Christ's Pontifical Athenaeum 'Regina Apostolorum'; Opus Dei Spanish priest Juan José Silvestre Valor, professor at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome; and Fr Uwe Michael Lang, CO, an official of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and author of the book Turning Towards the Lord which argues the historical basis for Mass celebrated 'ad orientem' (with priest and congregation facing in the same direction during the Liturgy of the Eucharist).
All former papal consultants, appointed when Archbishop Piero Marini led the office of Liturgical Celebrations under Pope John Paul II, have not had their appointments renewed.
Catholic News Agency
Former US abortionist urges vote for life
Pro-life activists in South Dakota have launched a television ad featuring Dr Bernard Nathanson, one of the founding members of NARAL (a national pro-abortion organisation), who calls on South Dakotans to vote to ban the use of 'abortion as birth control.'
In a TV ad supporting Measure 11 in South Dakota, Dr Nathanson explains that he and his colleagues who founded NARAL created it to 'export our pro-abortion mentality across the land.' He also reveals that, 'one of our strategies was to deny what we knew to be true, that an abortion destroys the life of an existing human being.'
He described this as 'the greatest mistake of my life É and the greatest mistake in our nation's history.' Dr Nathanson had been responsible for 75,000 abortions and for- merly ran America's largest abortion clinic.
The new ad is part of an effort by VoteYesForLife.com to convince voters to pass a bill that would ban abortion in South Dakota, with exceptions being made for rape and incest, and to preserve the life and health of the mother.
The campaign was required to gather around 18,000 signatures to place Measure 11 on the 4 November ballot, and they succeeded in securing 58,000 signatures, according to VoteYesForLife.com.
'It's clear that Measure 11 is what the people of South Dakota have been asking for. It is going to take a huge coordinated effort to mobilise a state-wide grass-roots effort, but we are already seeing it happen,' said Brandi Gruis from VoteYesForLife.com. 'Measure 11 is the reasonable law South Dakota asked for.'
Catholic News Agency
Vatican conference on evolution scheduled
A congress, 'Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A Critical Appraisal 150 years after The Origin of Species', is scheduled for 3-7 March 2009 in Rome and is being sponsored by the University of Notre Dame (USA) and the Pontifical Gregorian University.
The conference, which is a Vatican initiative to promote dialogue between scientists and theologians, has been jointly organised by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the University of Notre Dame in the United States, under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
At a press conference on 16 September to announce the project, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said, 'Evolutionary theory is not incompatible a priori with the teaching of the Catholic Church, with the message of the Bible and theology, and in actual fact it was never condemned.'
He said that the theologians, philosophers and scientists attending the conference would not necessarily be doing so for the purpose of coming to an agreement, but rather hoping to confirm 'the possibility of dialogue and a common desire to interpret reality, albeit from different points of view.'
While the Catholic Church has said Darwin's theory of natural selection is the most probable cause of biological development, Catholic teach- ing has also emphasised God's role in creation.
In this regard, in September 2007 Benedict XVI criticised interpretations of evolutionary theory which claim the universe to be 'the random result of evolution and therefore, at bottom, something unreasonable.'
Vatican Information Service
Benedict XVI: saintly bishops needed
Benedict XVI says the Church needs saintly bishops more than ever. He made this point in addresses to groups of recently consecrated bishops in September.
He urged the new bishops to seek sanctity, offering the example of St Paul, as the Church marks the Pauline Jubilee Year: 'The example of the great apostle calls bishops to grow each day in a holy life, so as to have the same sentiments as Christ. The first apostolic and spiritual commitment of a bishop should be to progress in the life of evangelical perfection.'
Benedict exhorted the bishops 'to trust each day in the word of God, so as to be teachers of the faith and authentic educators of your faithful' and so be 'faithful to the promises you have pronounced before God and the Church on the day of your episcopal consecration.'
He concluded: 'Progressing along the path of sanctity, you will manifest that indispensable moral authority and prudent wisdom that is demanded of one who is at the head of the family of God. This authority is today more necessary than ever. Your ministry will be pastorally fruitful if it is supported on your sanctity of life.'
Zenit News Agency
Conscience rights of US health care workers
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking in public comments to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has praised proposed regulations protecting the conscience rights of health care professionals and institutions. Charging that some organisations are showing 'undisguised hostility' to the rights of conscience, the USCCB encouraged the government to proceed with the proposals.
'We strongly commend the Secretary for publishing these proposed regulations,' the USCCB wrote. 'For over three decades É Congress has sought to ensure that health care institutions and professionals will not have to choose between abandoning medicine and violating their conscience.'
The bishops' conference said such regulations were especially needed in light of state and local government pressure on health care professionals and institutions to perform abortions, as well as 'growing hostility on the part of some professional organisations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care.'
The USCCB's 12 September letter cited several such incidents of advocate groups' pressure, character- ising them as showing 'undisguised hostility to conscience rights.'
Asking the HHS to make conscience protection regulations as robust as possible, the USCCB sugg- ested that the definition of abortion include 'any drug, procedure, or other act that the objector reasonably believes may take the life of a human being in utero at any time between conception (fertilisation) and natural birth.'
Catholic News Agency
The Pope and French bishops at loggerheads
During his visit to France in September, Benedict XVI issued a series of provocative messages to residents of a country marked by severe religious apathy. Today only about 5% of Catholics attend Mass each week and church weddings and baptisms continue to decline.
The country once known as the 'eldest daughter of the Church' has slipped into religious indifference.
In contrast pockets of traditional Catholicism have been flourishing but with complaints about the hierarchy's opposition to a widened use of the old Latin liturgy.
Last year, when Benedict released his motu proprio encouraging full acceptance of the traditional Latin Mass, French bishops made no effort to conceal their dismay. Before the release of Summorum Pontificum the French hierarchy had lobbied openly against the papal initiative.
During an exchange with reporters on board his flight from Rome to Paris on 12 September, Benedict addressed the fears among French bishops about the consequences of his motu proprio. Those fears were groundless, he said, because Summorum Pontificum 'is simply an act of tolerance.'
Suggesting that only a relatively few Catholics would prefer the extraordinary form of the liturgy, the Pope said: 'But it seems to me a normal requirement of faith and pastoral practice for a bishop of our Church to have love and forbearance for these people and allow them to live with this liturgy.'
Later, during his address to members of the French hierarchy, Benedict noted that a year had passed since Summorum Pontificum was issued and that he recognised the tensions within the Church in France.
'I am aware of your difficulties, but I do not doubt that, within a reasonable time, you can find solutions satisfactory for all, lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn,' said Benedict. 'Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected.'
However, the newspaper La Croix described the bishops' reception of Benedict's talk as 'lukewarm', with Cardinal André Vingt- Trois of Paris, speaking in his capacity as president of the French episcopal conference, telling a press conference that the bishops did not have a 'servile' attitude towards the Pope and in effect would not be making the Pope's wishes a priority.
Catholic World News
Padre Pio's stigmata: new findings released
A volume detailing the report of a Vatican investigator into Padre Pio gives new information on the wounds of Christ's Passion (the stigmata) that Padre Pio suffered.
Recently, at Benedict XVI's request, the Holy Office archives up to 1939 were opened. These contain information on revelations to Padre Pio that were not previously published.
They have now been released in a book titled Padre Pio Under Investigation: The 'Secret Autobiography'.
Previously, many had assumed that Padre Pio, perhaps out of modesty, believing himself unworthy of the charisms he had received, had never disclosed to anyone what happened on the day he received the stigmata.
In fact, on 15 June 1921, and in answer to a question posed by Bishop Rossi, the apostolic visitor, Padre Pio had said: 'On 20 September 1918, I was in the choir of the church after celebrating Mass, making the thanksgiving when I was suddenly overtaken by powerful trembling and then there came calm and I saw Our Lord in his crucified form.
'He was lamenting the ingratitude of men, especially those consecrated to him and favoured by him ... He invited me to let his pains enter into me and to meditate on them and at the same time concern myself with the salvation of others. Following this, I felt full of compassion for the Lord's pains and I asked him what I could do.
'I heard this voice: 'I will unite you with my Passion.' And after this the vision disappeared, I came back to myself, my reason returned and I saw these signs here from which blood flowed. Before this I did not have these.'
In his report the apostolic visitor says that there was no festering in Padre Pio's wounds, they did not close and did not heal. They remained inexplicably open and bloody, despite the fact that the friar had tried to stop the bleeding by treating them with iodine.
Contrary to what certain doctors have said, Bishop Rossi concluded that the wounds did not appear to be externally inflicted.
Zenit News Agency