John Paul II meets with Brazilian bishops
Importance of sound seminary formation
On 5 September, Pope John Paul II received a group of prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of the Eastern Region of Brazil who had just completed their ad limina visit.
John Paul II proposed some ideas regarding the formation of future priests in the seminaries. "The secret to obtaining good results lies in the strength of God and in human work, fulfilled with wisdom," he said. "Wisdom is to strengthen the centres of formation" and "to take care with the quality of the formation."
"It is not enough to strengthen the centres of formation," he continued, "but you must persevere to obtain the ecclesial spirit which must govern a seminary, as well as quality in instruction."
The Pope recalled that "many new, valid experiences exist, such as vocation days, vocational discernment, [and] accompanying possible candidates before entering the seminary."
After emphasising that "a solid formation is fundamental for prayer life and liturgy," he said: "In this sense, faithfulness to doctrine on priestly celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven must be considered 'with great esteem for the Church, especially priestly life,' when it comes to discerning the call to unconditional and full surrender in candidates for the priesthood. It is necessary to remind them that celibacy is not an extrinsic and useless element - a superstructure - to their priesthood, but an intimate convenience in order to participate in the dignity of Christ and in the service of the new humanity."
"It would be regrettable," he said, "that for mistaken tolerance, immature young men, or those with obvious signs of deviations, were ordained, which, as it is sadly known, can cause serious anomalies in the consciences of the faithful, producing clear damage to the whole Church."
The Holy Father concluded by exhorting bishops to pay attention "so that the theology classrooms are not reduced to a human vision of the Church in the midst of men. ... Adequate formation in the seminaries will be of great benefit for the Church, for evangelisation as well as for true human promotion."
Vatican Information Service
Installation of new Archbishop of Milwaukee
EWTN provides live coverage
EWTN Global Catholic Network provided a live coverage of the Installation Mass of the Most Rev Timothy M. Dolan as the new Archbishop of Milwaukee on 28 August. The Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist.
Archbishop Dolan, 52, had been an auxiliary bishop of the St Louis Archdiocese before Pope John Paul II named him to replace Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who had announced his retirement on 24 May.
The new Archbishop served five years as secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC and from 1994-2001 served as rector of the Pontifical North American College, an elite seminary in Rome. He left that post upon his appointment to St Louis, where he had been overseeing claims of sexual abuse for the St Louis Archdiocese.
British Cardinal condemns liberal attacks on Church
Catholicism a "potent force" against secularism
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, has denounced liberal critics of the Church as ridiculous, feeble, and shameful.
Speaking on 3 September to the National Conference of Priests, the cardinal said the Church was under repeated assault because it remained a potent force against secular culture.
He also warned the priests gathered in London that if their teachings were seriously undermined, they were in danger of being reduced to social workers or political advocates.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said liberalism was much easier to believe than the Church's doctrines but its claims were "feeble" and it advocated "ridiculous, indeed sometimes highly shameful programs" for social and moral living.
He said, "We should not be surprised if the attack on the Church today is a subtle one. And we are not to be too discouraged by our weaknesses, our shame, or the changes which the media think are obvious for the Church of the future."
He added, "For Catholicism and the witness it displays, at its heart, is the force that confronts contemporary liberalism."
Catholic World News
Catholic Biblical Federation meeting
Pope's message: make the Word of God accessible to all
Observing that a world in search of the truth needs the Bible, John Paul II last September urged the Catholic Biblical Federation meeting in Beirut to "make the Scriptures accessible to all peoples."
The Pope expressed this conviction in a message sent to Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia, on the occasion of the sixth plenary assembly of the Federation. The Italian prelate is President of the Federation, which met in Beirut, Lebanon.
"Trusting in the force and power of the Word of God," the Pope said in the text, "the Catholic Biblical Federation is given the great responsibility - one belonging to the whole Church - of making the Divine Word accessible to people in all parts of the world, so that it can take root and thrive in their hearts."
From this follows the "commitment to bringing about a renewed listening to the Word of God, which is a necessary element of the new evangelisation." This effort "also reinforces the bonds of unity that already exist among all Christians," he said.
The Pope urged that the assembly be "a fruitful opportunity to evaluate what has been achieved so far and to determine what needs yet to be done to proclaim the Word of God in a world longing for truth."
Zenit News Agency
Presbyterian opposition to embryo stem-cell research
General Assembly's resolutions support "Do No Harm" campaign
The 2002 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in NSW resolved concerning stem cell research that it:
(1) Commend the parties within the Federal Parliament for declaring the deliberations concerning the proposed legislation governing future stem-cell research and human embryo experimentation/utilisation to be an issue of conscience.
(2) Declare its opposition to the creation of human embryos - whether by the donation of sperm and eggs or in any way whatsoever - for the purpose of research/experimentation.
(3) Affirm its support for the "do no harm" campaign's approach to the progressing of stem-cell research i.e., encouraging maximum utilisation of stem-cells both from adults and umbilical-cord blood.
(4) Express its grave misgivings about the utilisation of so-called "surplus" embryos from IVF programs in the cause of expanding stem-cell research.
(5) Encourage members of congregations to become involved in the "do no harm" campaign's lobbying of local representatives, irrespective of party affiliation, urging them to promote stem-cell research using adult cells and those from umbilical-cord blood.
Resurgence of Catholicism in Cuba
Impact of Pope's 1998 visit still felt
The Catholic Church in Cuba has shifted from being an institution "on the defensive" to one in "a state of mission and growth" after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit, according to Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Havana.
Msgr de Cespedes made this observation on 3 September during a conference on Church relations with Cuban society which was part of a summer program of the Complutense University.
The speaker asked how it was possible for Cuban society to change from "militant atheism" during the first years of Fidel Castro's regime, to a nation where 86 percent of the people are believers, as researchers found in 1994 and 1996.
The answer, he said, was the "lack of responsibility" shown by key sectors of Cuban society which led to "inconsistency in religious, cultural and political matters." Also, Cubans were neither as religious as it was thought prior to Castro's rise to power, nor have they been as atheist after.
Cubans who proclaimed their Catholic faith in the 1950s, almost immediately afterwards "had no scruples in signing a statement of the Communist Party affirming that they were atheists."
However, Msgr de Cespedes cautioned that the Church's revival came at a time when fundamentalist Pentecostal and syncretist sects were also growing. Both currents were "a reality that is far from being a religion in the genuine sense of the term."
Zenit News Service
Catholic bishop expelled from Siberian diocese
Russia's Putin rejects papal appeal for reinstatement
Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected a request from Pope John Paul II for help in restoring a Catholic bishop to the Siberian diocese from which he was expelled earlier this year.
In a letter to Pope John Paul made public in September, the Russian leader turned down the Pope's request for help, and failed to offer any plausible explanation for the bishop's expulsion.
Bishop Jerzy Mazur, the Polish native who had been appointed in February to head one of four newly-established Catholic dioceses in Russia, was taken into custody at Moscow's Sheremyetevo airport on 19 April, informed that his visa had been revoked, and forced to return to Warsaw. Since that time, the Diocese of St Joseph in Irkutsk, in Siberia, has been without a leader - although Bishop Mazur reports that he has been in regular contact with chancery officials by phone, fax, and internet connections.
Despite formal diplomatic protests by Church officials, the Russian Government failed to provide any explanation for the bishop's expulsion. So on 9 May, Pope John Paul wrote to Putin, asking for an explanation and for help in solving the impasse.
In June, Vatican officials expressed public annoyance that the Pontiff had not received any response from Putin.
Eventually, Putin did reply to the Pope in writing. The exact date of the Russian leader's letter is unclear. But on 28 August, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow told Associated Press reporters that Putin had replied a month earlier, and added: "The answer did not satisfy us."
Putin reportedly told the Pontiff that he was sympathetic toward the needs of the Catholic diocese in Irkutsk, but he could not intervene because Bishop Mazur had violated Russian law.
Specifically, one Vatican official informed CWN, Bishop Mazur was expelled because in establishing the new diocese in Irkutsk, the Vatican had used a formal title that included a reference to the region of "Karafuto" - the Japanese name for a region that Russia now knows as southern Sakhalin. Russian officials said the use of a Japanese geographical title was an affront to Russian sovereignty, since it implied that Japan, which controlled the region from 1905 to 1945, might still claim title to the territory.
So Bishop Mazur remains barred from his diocese, and the dismissive letter from President Putin suggests that the Russian Government is not ready to reconsider the bishop's status.
Keston News Service/CWN
Cause for Fulton Sheen's sainthood opened
Fulton J. Sheen Society of Perth Western Australia Inc involved in process
The newly appointed Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, the Most Rev Daniel Jenky CSC, has given permission for The Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation to declare the cause for Fulton Sheen's sainthood officially open.
This is a procedural process by which a bishop may petition the Cause for the Congregation of Saints in Rome after he feels the candidate is competent and has met the preliminary qualifications for submission.
This process began in 1999 under the provisional permission of the late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York. It temporarily ceased after his death in May 2000.
The Fulton J. Sheen Society of Perth Western Australia Inc has been involved as a cooperating body in obtaining material from people who may have had spiritual or physical favours obtained through private intercession. Since the beginnings of this Society some three-and-a-half years ago one of its aims has been to promote the cause of the canonisation of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.