Benedict XVI: Liturgy is God's action not ours
Benedict XVI has reminded Catholics that the liturgy belongs to Jesus Christ and his Church, and should not be changed according to individual whims. "It is not the individual - priest or layman - or the group that celebrates the liturgy, but it is primarily God's action through the Church, which has its own history, its rich tradition and creativity," the Pope said during his 3 October general audience.
"This universality and fundamental openness, which is characteristic of the entire liturgy, is one of the reasons why it cannot be created or amended by the individual community or by experts, but must be faithful to the forms of the universal Church," he cautioned.
Benedict explained how the Church is made most visible in the liturgy where "God enters into our reality and we can meet him, we can touch him." The liturgy is where "he comes to us, and we are enlightened by him."
The primary importance of Jesus Christ within the liturgy has been a constant theme of Pope Benedict's teaching during his seven-year pontificate. He has often expressed concern that bad teaching can lead some Catholics to view the liturgy "horizontally" as the creation of a parish or group in which the community celebrates itself. "The liturgy is not a kind of 'self-manifestation' of a community."
The liturgy is God's work and he is the subject, the Pope said, adding that this means when it comes to the liturgy we must "open ourselves to him and be guided by him and his body which is the Church."
"If the centrality of Christ does not emerge in the celebration, then it is not a Christian liturgy, totally dependent on the Lord and sustained by his creative presence. God acts through Christ, and we can only act through him and in him."
Catholic News Agency
Cardinal Newman and relativism in universities
Bishop James Conley, recently appointed to lead the Lincoln Diocese (Nebraska) spoke at the Harvard Catholic Center about Blessed John Henry Newman, truth, and post-relativism in universities.
"It is my contention that the philosophy of relativism is not intellectually compelling nor personally satisfying for some of today's brightest students," he said.
Bishop Conley traced the problem of relativism to a mistaken notion of conscience, identified by Cardinal Newman in the 19th century.
He said that if a right understanding of conscience is promoted on campuses, it will help university students be open to truth and the meaning of life.
Cardinal Newman's view was that conscience is rooted in moral law which is based outside the individual person, and thus it has both rights and responsibilities. Freedom of thought is ordered to help the person assent to what is true. Newman's account of conscience laid the foundation for Vatican II's teaching on religious freedom in its declaration Dignitatis humanae (The Dignity of Man).
Bishop Conley distinguished between the two notions of toleration that flow from the two understandings of conscience. The legitimate sense of toleration, taught by Vatican II, is a duty owed by those who know the truth to those who do not.
"Christian tolerance is fundamentally an orientation of love toward those in error ... I am called to imitate God's patience and mercy."
The tolerance advocated by relativism is one of indifference, towards both truth and persons.
Bishop Conley stated that many university students are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the relativist culture in which they are immersed, and that Catholics can help to orient them toward the pursuit of truth with Newman's understanding of conscience.
Irish bishops oppose abortion "reform"
The bishops of Ireland concluded their autumn general meeting in September, having focused on the issue of change to the present law regarding abortion. They said there had been "widespread misinformation" about the implications of the December 2010 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, recalling that the Irish government is under no obligation to legislate for abortion because of the court's ruling.
Regarding the abortion issue, the bishops have organised a Day for Life in Ireland along with a month of prayer. Parishes will be praying a "Prayer for the Child in the Womb" during Masses throughout the month of prayer, which will end on the 6 November feast of All the Saints of Ireland.
Zenit News Agency
Vatican II archives to be further investigated
A three-day conference in October has given international participants a look at the Second Vatican Council in light of the archives from the Council Fathers.
The event was hosted by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences in collaboration with the Vatican Council II Centre for Research and Study of the Pontifical Lateran University.
Father Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, explained how a global project has been organised in view of the 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II, involving an examination of the personal archives of the Council Fathers.
Fr Ardura said, "We have begun researching the private archives of the Council Fathers, in order to identify and catalogue the documents they produced: diaries, notes on the various meetings of commissions, ... and all the documents that may help us to understand how the Council Fathers experienced the great event, how they viewed it and how they reacted to the various opinions expressed."
Zenit News Agency
Religious freedom under increasing threat
Restrictions on religious freedom are becoming more commonplace around the world, according to a new study by the Pew Forum.
The Pew study found that 75% of the world's people live in countries where their religious freedom is curtailed either by government action or by popular hostility. The study also showed an upward trend in violations of religious freedom.
While only 37% of the world's countries showed serious restrictions on religious freedom in a 2010 study, the Pew Forum reports that number is substantially up from the 31% in 2009. Moreover, the countries with the most serious restrictions were also among the most populous.
The Pew survey found few nations moving towards greater freedom of religion, rather many were imposing new restrictions.
Catholic World News
Bishop warns of growing Islamisation in Tanzania
Bernadin Mfumbusa, Bishop of Kondoa Diocese, warned in an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need of an increasing Islamisation of Tanzania. It could be seen that more and more itinerant preachers from Saudi Arabia and the Sudan were entering this East African country and that Muslims were increasingly making political demands.
"In many parts of the country more veiled women than in the past can be seen, among them small girls. Verbal attacks are also on the increase," he said. Furthermore the number of Koran schools was growing, and in these the pupils were being influenced negatively with respect to attendance at regular schools, which is compulsory in Tanzania.
But to date there had been no violent attacks in Kondoa Diocese. "In the church schools, which are also attended by Muslim children, we must be very sensitive and cautious to avoid any undesirable incidents," Bishop Mfumbusa explained.
In the semi-autonomous sub-state of Zanzibar, whose population is almost completely Muslim, the sharia was already in force, unlike in other parts of Tanzania. Efforts were also being made to not only apply it in civil law, as in matters of marriage and inheritance, but to extend it to cover criminal law.
In addition it is being demanded that sharia not only be restricted to Muslims, but that Islamic law should be applied to every inhabitant. Otherwise Muslims could avoid the law by claiming not to be Muslim.
"In recent times there has been a constant demand to introduce sharia into other parts of Tanzania which do not have a majority of Muslims," the Bishop reported.
Of Tanzania's 45 million inhabitants just over 12 million are Catholics while Christians overall make up more than half the population. Just under 31 per cent are Muslims.
Aid to the Church in Need
US Episcopal Bishop attacks natural marriage
Bishop Marc Andrus, head of the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of California which covers the greater San Francisco Bay area, has written a letter to his diocese in which he describes Catholic Church teaching on marriage as "oppression." The letter, dated 1 October, concerned the installation of Salvatore Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco on 4 October.
The letter focused on Archbishop Cordileone's upholding of Catholic teaching on marriage and for California's Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Bishop Andrus claimed that Episcopalian teaching on lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered persons was the "proclamation of God's inclusion" and that Catholic teaching on sexuality was an attempt to "suppress the rights of others who, too, have been created in God's image."
He added: "The recognition of the dignity and rights, within civil society and the Church of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people, and of women, are as core to our proclamation of the Gospel as our solidarity with the poor, with victims of violence and political oppression, and with the Earth."
Bishop Andrus invited Catholics "less at home" with their new bishop to "come to the Episcopal Church."
This was optimistic since the US Episcopal Church, long the most liberal on sexual issues, has been in steady decline for several decades.
Catholic News Agency
Mercy Sister: safeguard nature's "personhood"
Sister Kathleen Glennon RSM is a member of the Mercy International Association (MIA) working group on Cosmology and Eco-Justice which is based in Ireland. Its views on environmental issues reflect those of some religious men and women in Australia.
Sister Glennon, writing on the MIA website, welcomed "a recent landmark decision granting the Whanganui River, the third largest in New Zealand, the status of legal 'personhood'."
Addressing a river in terms of personhood, she said, reflects the "spirituality of indigenous peoples".
Those, she claimed, who follow in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi "have no difficulty in recognising the personhood of a river." Further, "Our Celtic ancestors, too, lived out of a similar spirituality. They knew that the earth is a living organism pulsating with the divine."
Defenders of the "rights of nature", she said, are advocating that infringement of these rights be treated as the crime of "ecocide" whereby lawyers on behalf of the land, the rocks, the water would sue a "fracking" company. "We can take heart", she concluded, that "progress in safeguarding the rights of nature is underway: Ecuador has embodied the rights of nature into its constitution and Bolivia is in the process of doing likewise."