Turkey refuses Pope's Tarsus request
Turkey's Government has refused a personal request from Pope Benedict and from other Christian leaders for the reopening of the only church in Tarsus, the city of St Paul's birth.
The Church of St Paul, built as a Catholic church in the 1800s and confiscated by the government in 1943, was used throughout the 2008- 2009 year of St Paul for prayer services by Christian pilgrims.
After the end of the year-long celebration commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of St Paul's birth, the Turkish Government decided the building could not be used exclusively for worship.
Bishop Luigi Padovese, the Apostolic Vicar for Anatolia and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Turkey, told L'Osservatore Romano on 1 August that the Government had decided to return to the practice of allowing Christians to pray in the church as long as they made reservations three days in advance and bought an admission ticket.
Bishop Padovese saidthat in addition to asking Christians to pay to enter the church, Turkish authorities had placed a time limit on Masses and other prayer services so they do not disrupt the normal operation of the museum.
Vandals target World Congress of Families
The Amsterdam offices of an organiser for the upcoming World Congress of Families were defaced with paint and vandalised with obscenities and anti-Christian slogans on 30 July, prompting the pro-family conference's leaders to pledge they would not be intimidated.
The World Congress of Families took place in Amsterdam on 10- 12 August. The Congress represents the world's largest gathering of pro- family leaders and grass-roots activists.
The Dutch Congress Chairman, Simon Polinder, described the vandalism as "outrageous."
Commenting in a press release, he said: "We are organising an international family congress, with which we intend to bring attention to the positive value of the family. This group evidently disagrees with that goal. Apparently they are not able to enter into a civilised conversation with us."
One Dutch group, Autonomous Feminist Action, had held organising meetings against the Congress, which it attacked as a group of "fundamentalistic" Christians who will "plead for going back to the Christian traditions of traditional relationship between man and woman (sic)."
While the vandals used anti- Christian slogans, the Congress is inter-religious in nature and includes scholars and leaders from Catholic, Orthodox, Islamic, Protestant and secular backgrounds. The Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands is scheduled to speak at the event.
Catholic News Agency
Melbourne Bishop: no AFL football on Good Friday
In a media release on 27 July, Melbourne's Vicar General, Bishop Les Tomlinson, said the Catholic Church does not want AFL games to be played on Good Friday. He was responding to recent pressures to schedule future matches on this day.
Bishop Tomlinson reiterated the constant message of Archbishop Denis Hart that Good Friday is a public holiday because it is a sacred day for Christians.
"Easter and the Easter holidays are a season of the spirit and the spiritual for Christians," he said. "It's not just about the three o'clock ceremony. It is about the day. From our awakening to the end of the day, it is the day Christians remember that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us so that we might know and enjoy the love of God for all eternity."
Bishop Tomlinson said that the AFL had shown "exemplary and courageous leadership" by resisting pressures to schedule a game for Good Friday in the past.
"I think any proposal to play games on Good Friday fails to properly consider the spiritual needs of people in our community," he said. "Good Friday in Melbourne is part of our local culture, part of our local identity. I urge the AFL to continue to show leadership in this matter, as it has done so effectively in other aspects of sporting culture."
US Episcopal Church: more "gay bishops'?
In 2003 the Episcopal Church was nearly torn in two by the nomination of the openly homosexual V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. After a recent vote at the church's general convention to lift a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops, two dioceses have selected nominees who will test the vote.
The Diocese of Los Angeles announced on 2 August that it had narrowed its search for two assistant bishops down to six candidates. The slate of potential bishops includes a lesbian and a homosexual.
The final decision on who will be selected as an assistant bishop will take place at the Diocesan Convention in Riverside, California on 4- 5 December.
The Diocese of Minnesota includes a lesbian candidate in its slate of three nominees to serve as the ninth Bishop of Minnesota. The next bishop will be chosen on 31 October.
The decision to include practising homosexuals in the lists of candidates could put Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' proposition for a "two track" Church to a test if any of the gay candidates is selected as a bishop.
Catholic News Agency
New Sale Diocese Bishop: challenges facing Church
During his inaugural homily at the Solemn Mass and liturgical reception on 15 July 2009, Bishop Christopher Prowse, the new Bishop of Sale, Victoria, referred to the challenges facing the Church from outside and inside.
Regarding the internal challenges, Bishop Prowse said, "We find too many Catholics absenting themselves from the practice of their faith or even becoming non-believers ...
"We find Catholics in public life or the scientific world confused or ignorant about Catholic teachings on ethics or conscience ...
"This new situation demands that Catholics today are to be well formed in their Catholic faith and well informed of the world around us. It is not the time to be 'dumbing down' Catholic identity. Quite the opposite is called for ...
"Pope Benedict XVI encourages us in these challenges of our times to look both to St Paul and St John Vianney. As the Year of St Paul now gives way to the Year for the Priest, the Pope in recent weeks (28 June 2009) has proposed both these great saints as model priests."
Martin Luther King's niece attacks abortion
The niece of Dr Martin Luther King Jr took a stand on 27 July with other African American pro-life leaders in Washington to demand that abortion be barred from any health care legislation.
"Our message is clear - abortion is neither health care nor a benefit. It's genocide," said Dr Alveda King in a press release.
"Give us procreative reproductive rights. Repair our communities with life-affirming programs. My fellow civil rights workers and I will be on Capitol Hill to say that if President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, or anyone else truly wants to reduce the number of abortions, they will not coerce Americans to pay for them and they will not subsidise Planned Parenthood, the billion-dollar business that has killed more black children than the Ku Klux Klan".
Catholic News Agency
Christian witness in Europe's universities
On 11 July Benedict XVI received 1,100 participants in the first European meeting of university students promoted by the Catechesis-School- University Commission of the Council of European Episcopal Confer- ences (CCEE). The theme of the meeting was: "New disciples of Emmaus. In university as Christians".
During his address, the Pope said, "Your missionary efforts in the university environment consist in bearing witness to your own personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Truth Who illuminates the path of all mankind. ... Only in this way can we become the ferment and leaven of a society enlivened by evangelical love ...
"The Christian presence in universities is becoming ever more demanding, yet at the same time fascinating, because faith is called, as it was in centuries past, to offer its indispensable service to knowledge, which is the true motor of development in modern society. From knowledge, enriched with the contribution of faith, depends the capacity of a people to look to the future with hope, overcoming the temptation of a purely materialist vision of life and of history.
"You are the future of Europe. The new amalgamated culture which is currently being forged in Europe and in the globalised world needs the contribution of intellectuals capable of bringing discussion of God back into the classroom; or rather, of reviving mankind's desire to seek God. ... The Church in Europe places great trust in the generous apostolic commitment of all of you, aware of the challenges and difficulties but also of the great potential of pastoral work in the uni- versity environment".
Vatican Information Service
Vatican visitation of US women religious
Mother M. Clare Millea, the sister in charge of the Vatican visitation of US women's religious orders, sent a working document, known as an Instrumentum Laboris, to hundreds of religious superiors on 28 July, along with a letter of explanation.
The Instrumentum Laboris contains an introduction on the nature and purpose of the visitation, the four phases of the process, and references to key Vatican documents.
The document also presents "reflection topics" for all members of religious orders to consider in order to prepare for the visitation. Topics include the religious identity of the respondent's order, its governance and financial administration, and its spiritual and common life.
Questions are also presented concerning vocation promotion, admission and formation policies.
The reflections ask respondents about their concerns for the future of their religious order and how sisters in their order understand and express the "vows and virtues" of poverty, chastity and obedience. They inquire about whether daily Mass and frequent confession are a "priority" for sisters and how an order expresses the Eucharist as the source of their spiritual and communal life.
Liturgical norms are also one topic of inquiry, as is the practice of the Liturgy of the Hours and the manner of an order's dress.
"Is your institute moving toward a new form of religious life? If so, how is this new form specifically related to the Church's understanding of religious life?", one reflection asks.
Such questions recall concerns voiced by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning the "tenor and content" of addresses at the annual assemblies of the 1,500-member Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
In the keynote address of LCWR's 2007 assembly, Dominican Sister Laurie Brink spoke with apparent approval about religious congregations "moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus." Saying some congregations have "grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion," she described them as "post-Christian" in most respects.
The LCWR is undergoing a separate inquiry being led by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio.
The Instrumentum Laboris reflections also inquire about the process for responding to sisters who dissent publicly or privately from "the authoritative teaching of the Church."
They ask respondents whether their order's formation program offers the foundations of Catholic faith and doctrine through the study of Vatican II documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and post-conciliar documents.
Mother M. Clare Millea's letter indicated that the questionnaire for phase two of the visitation is being prepared and will be sent shortly to major superiors.
Catholic News Agency