The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

Vatican concern at UN abuse of power

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations, in the course of his address to the General Assembly on 29 September, warned against the UN's abuse of power.

He said the UN needed to do to live up to its charter, particularly its affirmation regarding "fundamental human rights" and "the dignity and worth of the human person".

He noted that "in some parts of the world today, development aid seems to be tied rather to the recipient countries' willingness to adopt programs which discourage demographic growth of certain populations by methods and practices disrespectful of human dignity and rights.

"In this regard, it is both cynical and unfortunate that frequent attempts continue to be made to export such a mentality to developing countries as if it were a form of cultural progress or advancement.

"Yet such a practice is by its nature not one of reciprocity but imposition, and to predicate the decision to give development aid on the acceptance of such policies constitutes an abuse of power ...

"Often in the activity of international organisms is reflected an inconsistency already widespread in the more developed societies. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognised and promoted by public entities, while, on the other hand, fundamental and basic rights, already explicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world."

Zenit News Agency

New US guide to Catholic universities and colleges

The Cardinal Newman Society has published a second edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, a free online resource for parents and students seeking a faithful Catholic higher education. Fr Benedict Groeschel CFR has written the Guide's foreword.

The Guide recommends 21 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States and eight in other countries based on an evaluation of the strength of their Catholic identity. The individual evaluations were the result of four years of research and hundreds of interviews.

Each institution or program is profiled on its academics, governance, spiritual life, student activities and residence life.

The Guide also includes several essays to help families better understand their search for a strong Catholic tertiary institution. Essay subjects include the state of Catholic higher education, how to find God on a Catholic campus, and how to afford a Catholic education.

More than 8,000 copies of the first edition, published on All Saints Day in 2007, were distributed to Catholic leaders and families.

Catholic News Agency

Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations improving

Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev said there are so many reasons for Catholics and Orthodox to cooperate in our de-Christianised world that it is time to move past divisions and competition and co-exist in solidarity and mutual love.

The Archbishop was speaking after Vatican meetings in September with Benedict XVI and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cardinal Kasper had invited the Archbishop, who since March has been the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Archbishop Alfeyev was already well-known at the Vatican, having previously been the Russian Orthodox Church's representative to the European Institutions in Brussels. He is also an accomplished composer, using his music to bring East and West together. His interpretation of St Matthew's account of the Passion was performed at the Vatican before Easter in 2007; his Christmas oratorio premiered that year at a Catholic Church in Washington, DC.

He said he hoped Benedict and Patriarch Kirill would meet soon. "We support the Pope in his commitment to the defence of Christian values. We also support him when his courageous declarations arouse negative reactions on the part of politicians or public figures or they are criticised and sometimes misrepresented by some in the mass media."

He emphasised that there are enormous possibilities for cooperation between the two Churches.

"Together we can propose to the world the spiritual and moral values of the Christian faith. Together we can offer our Christian vision of the family [and] affirm our concept of social justice, of a commitment to protect the environment [and] to defend human life and its dignity."

The International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole was due to meet in October for its 11th plenary session. The commission has been considering the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium - before the Great Schism of 1054.

Zenit News Agency

Benedict XVI: a priest's role is irreplaceable

On 17 September Benedict XVI met a group of bishops from Brazil who had just completed their ad limina visit. During his address he highlighted the distinctive role of priests in the Church.

He said "the particular identity of priests and laity must be seen in the light of the essential difference between priestly ministry and the 'common priesthood' of the baptised. Hence it is important to avoid the secularisation of clergy and the 'clericalisation' of the laity".

Lay people needed to give expression to "the Christian view of anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church". Priests, on the other hand, "must distance themselves from politics in order to favour the unity and communion of all the faithful, thus becoming a point of reference for everyone".

A shortage of priests did not "justify a more active and abundant participation of the laity" since "the greater the faithful's awareness of their own responsibilities within the Church, the clearer becomes the specific identity and inimitable role of the priest as pastor of the entire community, witness to the authenticity of the faith, and dispenser of the mysteries of salvation in the name of Christ the Head.

"The function of the clergy is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. ... For this reason it is vital to ask the Lord to send workers for His harvest; and it is necessary that priests express joy in their faithfulness to their identity".

Vatican Information Service

Vatican-St Pius X Society talks imminent

Three Vatican representatives were due to hold talks with the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) in late October, according to Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, director of the Vatican press office.

The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had earlier commented that the SSPX would be "told very clearly what is not negotiable for the Holy See". This included Vatican II's fundamental positions "on Judaism, other non- Christian religions, other Christian churches and on religious freedom as a basic human right."

In July, Benedict XVI had restructured the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, uniting it more closely to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The commission was formed in 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of St Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Successor of Peter.

In March, Benedict lifted the excommunications of four Lefebvrite bishops who were excommunicated in 1988 when they received episcopal ordination illicitly at the hands of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who ordained them without papal permission.

In a letter to the world's bishops, explaining why he had lifted the excommunications, Benedict announced his intention to place the commission under the guidance of the doctrinal congregation.

He said it "will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the popes."

Zenit News Agency

Pope meets new US ambassador

Pope Benedict XVI praised the traditions of American democratic pluralism as he welcomed a new US ambassador, Miguel Diaz, to the Vatican.

The Pope described the US as "a cohesive yet pluralistic society." He recalled that during his visit to America last year he had paid tribute to "a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being."

To protect that healthy democracy, the Pope said, America must faithfully recognise the immutable truths of natural law. "In a word," he said, "fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development." The Church, he said, serves American society by promoting recognition of that fundamental truth.

Although the Pope's address generally avoided current disputes, his remarks could be taken as comments on the American political scene.

For example, Benedict reminded the US envoy of "the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death."

Clearly he was speaking about abortion, and perhaps specifically the coverage of abortion in President Obama's health-care reform plan. That meaning came through clearly when the Pope continued with a plea for "the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens."

Catholic World News

Astrophysical discoveries support belief in God

Contemporary astrophysics holds the scientific key to prove the existence of God, but unfortunately very few know the scientific facts, said Fr Robert J. Spitzer SJ during a conference in September at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, Colorado.

Fr Spitzer is the past president of Gonzaga University and a well- known philosopher and physicist who is involved in bringing science and theology together.

He is currently engaged in an ambitious project to explain the metaphysical consequences of the latest astrophysical discoveries, mainly, the existence of a Creator.

He explained that, since science is based on a empirical model, it can change at any time. Nevertheless, as science develops and the so-called "Big Bang" theory of the origin and existence of the universe becomes more refined, "it becomes less and less possible for other explanations [of the universe] to be scientifically viable."

The theory, developed by the Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lema”tre, proposes that the Universe has expanded from a primordial dense initial condition at some time in the past (currently estimated to have been approximately 13.7 billion years ago), and continues to expand to this day.

The model, according to Fr Spitzer, has been revised, refined and scientifically established to a point that any other theory of the origin and existence of the universe has become harder and harder to defend.

He then explained the complexity of the universe, saying it is based on "an incredibly delicate balance of 17 cosmological constants. If any of them would be off by one part of a tenth at a forty potency, we would be dead and the universe would not be what it is.

"Every single Big Bang model shows the existence of what scientists call a 'singularity,' and the existence of each singularity demands the existence of an external 'element' to the universe", namely God.

Catholic News Agency

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