Benedict XVI on his role as St Peter's successor
Benedict XVI has said that his mission as the successor of St Peter is ensuring that the Church never identifies itself with just one nation or culture. He made this point after he prayed the midday Angelus on 24 August with crowds gathered at the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.
Referring to the Gospel reading of that day's Mass, he reflected on the mission of St Peter, who received from Christ 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven.'
Benedict noted that in his dialogue with Peter, Christ mentions the Church for the first time, 'whose mission is the actuation of the great design of God to gather the whole of humanity into one family in Christ.'
He added: 'The mission of Peter, and of his successors, is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God made up of pagans and Jews; his indispensable ministry is to make sure that the Church never identifies herself with any particular nation or culture, but that she be the Church of all peoples, to make present among men - who are marked by countless divisions and contrasts - the peace of God, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Christ: This is the unique mission of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter.'
Zenit News Agency
Sexual orientation laws and religious freedom
The California Supreme Court's unanimous decision in August against two doctors who declined to artificially inseminate a lesbian could have wider implications for religious freedom.
Critics have attacked the decision, which said religious freedom and free speech guarantees do not exempt doctors from complying with anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation.
Drs Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton had claimed the First Amendment's protections of freedom of religion and free speech shielded them from a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian who had asked them to provide artificial insemination services.
The two doctors told Benitez they were not comfortable providing the service and advised her to find another doctor.
Benitez then claimed the doctors refused service because she is a lesbian while the physicians, who are Christians, deny the allegation. They claim they don't inseminate any unmarried women.
Speaking for the California Supreme Court, Justice Joyce Kennard wrote: 'Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic's physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act's prohibition against discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation? Our answer is no.'
Dr David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, assailed the decision as 'discrimination against healthcare professionals on the basis of their sincerely held ethical standards.'
He also warned of the decision's lasting consequences: 'This decision reaches beyond the medical profession. Taking away the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals puts at risk the rights of every working American.'
Catholic News Agency
Chinese bishop arrested as Olympics close
China's most prominent 'underground' Catholic bishop was arrested on 24 August, the day that also saw the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was taken into custody by several police officers at Wuqiu Cathedral. No immediate reason was given for his arrest, and authorities have not disclosed where the bishop is being held.
The 73-year-old Bishop Jia, who heads an active diocese of over 100,000 Catholics, spent 15 years in prison, from 1963 to 1978. Since his release he has been re-arrested at least 12 times; ordinarily he has been detained for a few days of interrogation each time. He has been living under house arrest since 1989.
During the Olympic Games, Chinese Christians had been warned not to organise public worship. However, about 1,000 Catholics in Zhengding defied those orders and joined Bishop Jia for a Mass celebrating the feast of the Assumption at Wuqiu Cathedral on 15 August.
Chinese officials - particularly in the Hebei diocese, where the underground Catholic Church is strong - have a history of arresting Christian leaders just before and after major public events such as Communist Party Congresses.
The Olympic Games brought a series of warnings against 'unauthorised' religious activity, and some members of the underground Church had predicted a crackdown immediately after the Olympics, when media attention decreased.
Catholic World News
Indian Christians and the caste system
In an interview with Vatican Radio in September, the Archbishop of Ranchi, Cardinal Telesforo Placidus Toppo, said that the Catholic Church's defence of the sacredness of the human person and its opposition to the caste system are what has fuelled recent violence against Christian minorities.
'In the caste system, equality doesn't exist. That is why the Church's commitment to overcome the caste system is not accepted. For us the person is sacred,' Cardinal Toppo said.
After acknowledging that 'it is not easy to understand India,' the cardinal said: 'There are socio- economic-political factors at play, factors that are at the root of these incidents, of the burning of Christian- owned properties. Another factor is the law against conversions. We have clarified that we do not convert people by force'.
In the face of such attacks, he continued, the response of the Church 'is that of Jesus, Christians have not responded to the aggressions. I think we will be given help by the central government and by the State.'
He commended the government's many 'good initiatives', while emphasising that 'equality among all is a threat for the fundamentalists.'
Catholic News Agency
Pro-abortion Catholics and Communion
The recently appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signature, Archbishop Raymond Burke, said in August that pro-abortion Catholics, especially politicians who publicly defend abortion, should not receive Communion, and that ministers of Communion should be responsibly charitable in denying it to them if they ask for it, 'until they have reformed their lives.'
In an interview with the magazine, Radici Christiane, Archbishop Burke pointed out that there is often a lack of reverence at Mass when receiving Communion. 'Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily is a sacrilege,' he warned. 'If it is done deliberately in mortal sin it is a sacrilege.'
To illustrate his point, he referred to 'public officials who, with knowledge and consent, uphold actions that are against the Divine and Eternal moral law. This is the case if they support abortion, which entails the taking of innocent and defenceless human lives. A person who commits sin in this way should be publicly admonished in such a way as to not receive Communion until he or she has reformed his or her life.
'If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him. Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege.
'We must avoid giving people the impression that one can be in a state of mortal sin and receive the Eucharist.
'Secondly, there could be another form of scandal, consisting of leading people to think that the public act that this person is doing, which until now everyone believed was a serious sin, is really not that serious - if the Church allows him or her to receive Communion.'
'If we have a public figure who is openly and deliberately upholding abortion rights and receiving the Eucharist, what will the average person think? He or she could come to believe that it up to a certain point it is okay to do away with an innocent life in the mother's womb.'
Catholic News Agency
A Christian approach to creation: Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI has said that initiatives to save the planet are only effective if they are based on the awareness that creation begins with God.
He made this point on 6 August when he met with priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone.
The director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and the Preservation of Creation, Father Karl Golser, had asked Benedict how to increase a sense of responsibility for creation among Christian communities, and how to view creation and redemption as more closely united.
Benedict affirmed that he thinks the 'indissoluble bond' between creation and redemption 'should be given new prominence.'
He recalled that more than two decades ago, an accusation against Christians was floated, which said that those truly responsible for the destruction of creation are those who adhere to Genesis and God's command to 'subdue the earth.'
In fact, he said, the opposite was true: 'As long as the earth was seen as God's creation, the task of 'subduing' it was never intended as an order to enslave it, but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and developing its gifts; of actively collaborating in God's work ourselves, in the evolution that he ordered in the world so that the gifts of creation might be appreciated rather than trampled upon and destroyed ...
'I think, therefore, that true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of creation can be implemented and developed, understood and lived, only where creation is considered as beginning with God.'
Zenit News Agency
UK Bishop calls for strong Church leadership
In a recent document titled 'Fit for Mission? Church', Bishop Patrick O'Donohue of Lancaster criticises his fellow bishops of England and Wales for their weak responses to modern crises, especially those produced by issues like secularism and homosexual adoption.
Arguing that efforts to achieve consensus often result in the loss of the 'scandal' and 'folly' of the Gospel, he says consensus building can result in Christians no longer being the 'salt' and 'leaven' needed for the world. Instead, he says, bishops' conference statements must be 'passionate and courageous' and dare to 'speak the full truth in love.'
He argues that 'confident, courageous and prophetic bishops [are] vital for the well-being of the Church during this time of increasingly aggressive secularism' and expresses 'disappointment' that the bishops' conference could not agree on a collegial response to government legislation on same-sex adoption.
Bishop Donohue also charges some Catholic agencies with failing to uphold the 'fullness of the Church's teaching' in their collaboration with secular agencies, adding that staffers at Catholic agencies dedicated to education or development are in a position to witness to the truth of the Church's teaching.
A controversy last year over British government requirements to adopt children to homosexual couples revealed that many Catholic agencies had a policy of allowing children to be adopted to single homosexuals, sometimes with the tacit blessing of the local bishop.
Bishop O'Donohue argues that Catholic social service agencies should refuse adoption to anyone not in a legal marriage. 'There must be', he said, 'no back peddling on these issues just because certain truths are unwelcome in the corridors of power.
'We have talked too much and done too little. We have witnessed over the past forty years a growing crisis in the Catholic understanding or self-identity of the Church ... Have we forgotten what it is to be Catholic?'
Noting what he calls a 'lack of confidence and knowledge of the Catholic faith' during his preparatory consultations for the document, he also urges a revival of apologetics.
Referring to his fellow bishops, Bishop O'Donohue calls for them to 're-exercise their individual teaching charism' adding that 'the passion to serve the Lord is noticeably absent in many cases,' with 'at times a tiredness and reticence to preach the gospel.'
Catholic News Agency