Vatican City, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - Hours after a series of terrorist attacks rocked London’s transit system during this morning’s rush hour commute, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster deploring the inhumane acts as “barbaric.”
The Holy Father’s message was sent by way of Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano. The attacks are believed to coincide with this week’s G8 Summit, in which the leaders of the world’s 8 most powerful industrialized nations are meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.
"Deeply saddened by the news of the terrorist attacks in central London”, the message to Cardinal O’Connor said, “the Holy Father offers fervent prayers for the victims and for all those who mourn. While he deplores these barbaric acts against humanity he asks you to convey to the families of the injured his spiritual closeness at this time of grief. Upon the people of Great Britain he invokes the consolation that only God can give in such circumstances."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reportedly left the G8 Summit to deal with the situation back in London.
London, England, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - Hours after a series of rush hour attacks which rocked London's transit system leaving about 40 dead, Catholic leaders from around the Britain have begun expressing their dismay and consolations over what is the Pope called a "barbaric act."
Upon hearing the news, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, said that "My heart goes out to everyone caught up in these outrageous attacks in London today. I offer my prayers for all those who have been killed and my condolences to their families and friends.
I also pray for all those who have been the injured.
He added that, "For many years, a Bishop in North London, I too traveled every day on these tubes and share the deep sense of shock and revulsion of what has happened.May God give strength, determination and consolation, to all of us at this time."
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and Archbishop of Liverpool, said today that, "As this news is breaking, and contact with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in Rome has not been possible, I know I speak with him as I say that I am stunned and saddened by these terrible events only twenty-four hours after London and the country rejoiced [over the successful Olympic bid]."
"May those who have died", he added, "know the welcome of God into life beyond all terror and pain. May the injured and those who mourn find comfort and healing and may God sustain the emergency services."
He also announced that he would be celebrating a special Mass this evening at 7.30 pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, "at which all will be welcome."
Canon Robert Corrigan, Dean of Clifton Cathedral, in Bristol, said that, "In the face of such barbarity it is essential that people of faith and good will come together to pray for the dead, the injured and all those affected in any way, but also to pray with hope that one day the hatred that leads to such violence will have no place on earth ."
Likewise, Rt. Rev Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, issued a statement from Lourdes, where he is on pilgrimage saying, "I offer my prayers for all those caught up in this appalling tragedy in London and to the friends and relatives of those who have been killed."
"As someone who worked as a bishop in London," he added, "I know of the character and resilience of Londoners. This was an indiscriminate and cowardly act against ordinary people.
"At a time when the leaders of the world are meeting to plan ways to bring help to those, who are less fortunate, it is hard to understand the minds of people who can commit such an outrage. I pray to God that our belief in fairness and justice in this country will overcome such evil."
Bishop Pat O'Donoghue too, sent a letter today to the priests of the Diocese of Lancaster saying that, "In view of the horrific attack on innocent people in London on Thursday, I ask you to offer special prayers for them at all Sunday Masses. It may be an opportune time for us all to commit ourselves to some act of penance asking for God's mercy and guidance in response to such an evil act."
"Our prayers", he added, "must be for peace, justice and renewed understanding of the gift of life."
London, England, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - Across the U.K., special Masses and prayer vigils are being offered for victims and loved ones of today’s rush hour terrorist attacks on London’s transit system.
According to reports, vigils are to be held by churches across Shropshire and surrounding areas today for the victims of the terrorist bombings in London.
Likewise, Rev. Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, announced that he would be offering a special Mass tonight at 7:30 at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool.
In light of his own shock at this morning’s events, the Bishop of Lichfield today announced that a number of special church services would be held around that diocese throughout the day and evening.
Washington D.C., Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - In a recent letter, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President, Bishop William Skylstad urged President George Bush to consider key moral issues and qualities as he chooses a nominee to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Head of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington, Bishop Skylstad outlined a number of the Catholic Church’s moral and social teachings, based on natural law, and stressed the importance of a Supreme Court nominee who supports them.
While noting that it is not the place of the USCCB to endorse or oppose “specific nominees,” he said that “Our concern is for principles and policies rather than for personalities…we will maintain that position with regard to this Supreme Court appointment and to those that will come in the future.”
Bishop Skylstad noted in his letter to Bush, “the Supreme Court’s ability to affect both principles and policies,” and asked that he consider “qualified jurists who, pre-eminently, support the protection of human life from conception to natural death, especially of those who are unborn, disabled, or terminally ill.”
Likewise, he added, “I would ask you to consider jurists who are also cognizant of the rights of minorities, immigrants, and those in need; respect the role of religion and of religious institutions in our society and the protections afforded them by the First Amendment; recognize the value of parental choice in education; and favor restraining and ending the use of the death penalty.”
Copenhagen, Denmark, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - On his way to this week’s G8 summit in Scotland yesterday, and facing a heated battle back in Washington over retiring Sandra Day O’Connor’s vacant Supreme Court seat, President George Bush said that he would not base his decision on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
While visiting Denmark to thank that nation for troops and support sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush asked Senators to act “in a dignified way” over potential nominees to fill the seat.
Speaking on potential candidates to replace O’Connor, who announced her retirement last week, the president said that he has no “litmus test” which would limit nominees who support issues like abortion and gay marriage.
"I'll try to assess their character [and] their interests," he said, adding, "I'll pick people who, one, can do the job, and people who are honest, people who are bright and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from."
Many Catholics and Christians are hoping for a pro-life justice to fill a seat which has long been seen as a swing vote on life-related and religious issues.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - In a meeting this morning with 30 members of the Italian group, Circolo San Pietro, Pope Benedict received the traditional “Peter’s Pence” collection and thanked the group for their “service…faithfulness and acquiescence” to Peter’s successor.
Founded in the 19th century, Circolo San Pietro gives voluntary help in papal ceremonies and cares for people in need in the Italian capital. According to the Vatican, The Circolo also enjoys the ancient privilege of collecting the fund known as Peter's Pence, which is given to the Holy Father as a means of cooperating in his ministry to the Universal Church.
In his meeting today, the Pope noted that although, "this is the first time I have met you since God called me to undertake the Petrine ministry in the Church…I have long known of your service, animated by convinced faithfulness and acquiescence to Peter's Successor."
"The mission you carry out with such admirable commitment is vital,” he said. “Apart from liturgical service, you concern yourselves with going out to meet the poor and with bringing relief to the sick and suffering. In so doing you imitate the Good Samaritan and provide concrete witness of the missionary zeal and evangelical love that should distinguish all true disciples of Christ.”
“You have come here today,” he told the gathering, “as you do every year, to present the Peter's Pence fund to the Pope; this is a further sign of your generous openness to your brethren in difficulty. At the same time, it represents a significant participation in the efforts of the Holy See to respond to the growing needs of the Church, especially in the poorest countries."
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, secretary general, Archbishop Nikola Eterovicand, and under-secretary Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, of the Synod of Bishops presented the long awaited “Instrumentum laboris” for the upcoming Eucharistic Synod of Bishops, and outlined many changes which will be implemented this year.
In his opening statement, Archbishop Eterovicand recalled remarks made by just-elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 20, who called October's 11th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “a high point of the Year of the Eucharist inaugurated by John Paul II on October 17, 2004."
The secretary general also noted that the Pope had changed the dates of the assembly, which will now "last not four but three weeks, from October 2 to 23rd,” adding that Benedict had “modified the program of the synodal assembly in order to concentrate its activities and further encourage its collegial and synodal aspects."
Archbishop Eterovicand also noted several new innovations of the synod saying that, "Each of the synod father's contribution in the synod hall is to last six minutes, not eight as was the previous practice. ... The principal reason for this cutback is the introduction of an hour's free discussion, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the end of each day's general congregation."
He said that this system, "through an open exchange of views and experiences, will facilitate a more profound examination of current issues connected with the mystery of the Eucharist."
Despite these changes however, the number of participants will remain at around 250.
The archbishop also noted that the time dedicated to the working groups will also be reduced. "As is customary,” he said, “there will be 12 working groups, divided according to the five languages of the Synod."
He said that the Assembly would also be attended by a "considerable number of auditors, both men and women," and by "a group of experts whose expertise on the questions studied will help the synod fathers in their work."
The number of fraternal delegates from other Churches and ecclesial communities has nearly doubled that of previous Synods to include 12 representatives from the Orthodox Churches, from the Ancient Churches of the East and from post-Reformation communities.
"It may be said”, noted the archbishop, “that this is one of the concrete gestures of ecumenism, as anticipated by Benedict XVI at the start of his pontificate."
In addition, Pope Benedict has accepted a proposal to dedicate one of the sessions to commemorating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops, which coincides with October's assembly.
Turning to the presentation of the Instrumentum laboris, Msgr. Fortunato Frezza highlighted the fact that the working document summarizes "an enormous quantity of information from all over the earth. Indeed, it is by no means common to find another organization with a document bringing together a similar amount of data from all over the world."
He also said that the document outlines the theme of the forthcoming Synod within the context of traditional doctrine and Magisterium, and added that, "the Eucharist strongly asserts the idea of a gift as a fulfilling response to the most profound questions of individuals and peoples."
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican today, released a synopsis of the working document of the "Instrumentum laboris" for the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will explore the theme, “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."
The upcoming Synod is scheduled to be held in the Vatican from October 2 to 23, 2005. Secretary General, Archbishop Nikola Eterovicand, and under-secretary Msgr. Fortunato Frezza, of the Synod of Bishops presented the document in the Holy See Press office this morning.
A Vatican press release explained that the Instrumentum laboris is made up of a preface, an introduction, four sections each divided into two chapters, and a conclusion. It was compiled based on responses to the "Lineamenta" sent by the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to episcopal conferences, Eastern Catholic Churches, dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General.
The preface of the new document states that, "The question of great pastoral concern, episcopal responsibility and prophetic vision is to see how (the) rich patrimony of faith can be implemented in the Catholic Church ... in the initial years of the third millennium of Christianity and beyond."
It continues: "This document then is principally concentrated on the positive aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist which bring the faithful together and make them a community."
The first part of the document, entitled, "the Eucharist and today's world," explores the historical context in which the Synod is to take place, calling it "a period marked by strong contrasting forces within the human family."
The problem of hunger in the world, is specifically addressed in this section saying, "This dramatic situation is an inescapable reality in the discussion of the synod fathers, who, like every Christian at various times during the day, pray to the Lord: 'give us this day our daily bread'."
I then turns to the situation of the Church around the world, noting that attendance at Sunday Mass "is high in various particular Churches in the countries of Africa and also in some Asian countries. The opposite is the case in the majority of countries in Europe, America and Oceania."
In part two, called, "the faith of the Church in the mystery of the Eucharist," centers largely on the faithful’s perception of the Eucharistic mystery and highlights the nuances of such perception according to cultural context: "In those countries enjoying a general climate of peace and prosperity - primarily western countries - many perceive the Eucharistic mystery as simply the fulfillment of a Sunday obligation and a meal of fellowship. Instead, in those countries experiencing wars and other difficulties, many understand the Eucharistic mystery more fully, that is, including its sacrificial aspect."
The document also looks at problems in the celebration the Eucharist which, it says, "challenge a sense of the sacred." Included examples are incorrect liturgical vestments, participants wearing unbefitting clothing, or the scant architectural and artistic quality of church buildings.
“All these negative realities,” it notes however, “occurring more often in the Latin liturgy than the liturgies of the Eastern Churches, should not lead to great alarm, since they seem to be limited."
Part three is called "the Eucharist in the life of the Church," and details the correct celebration of the Mass, addressing everything from the opening rites to the conclusion and the significance of liturgical norms, described as "guides for entering into mystery."
In the final part of the Instrumentum laboris, "the Eucharist in the mission of the Church," the writers emphasize the importance of the Eucharist as the "font of Christian morality.”
It states that this "has always empowered the choices and the ethical and moral behavior of believers." Here, the document discusses the Eucharist's association with peace, unity and ecumenism in addition to addressing questions like inculturation and intercommunion.
, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan recently notified deacons across the archdiocese that they should no longer run for public office saying that he wants to avoid “any possibility of confusion or even the appearance of scandal."
In light of the growing number of the archdiocese’ roughly 240 deacons, currently taking on larger and larger roles in parish life, the cardinal says he wants to avoid any scandal down the road by deacons whose political stance may be in conflict with Church teaching.
Canon Law already states that priests cannot run for public office, and it is the decision of each individual bishop to decide whether or not to extend that rule to deacons.
Pope John Paul II established the priestly prohibition in 1983’s revised Code of Canon Law after certain priest-politicians outraged church leaders with sometimes outspoken support of issues like abortion.
Although the Archdiocese of New York said they have not experienced problems in the past, many bishops have been struggling against politicians who confuse faithful by publicly proclaiming their Catholic faith and acting in ways which contradict it. The recent presidential election brought many of these fights to the public spotlight.
John Maloney, a Clarkstown Town Board member may be one of the only deacons in the archdiocese to be effected by the new rule, but a letter from Egan said that the 32 year board member could be grandfathered in.
"It would be a tough decision to make," Maloney, a retired social worker for Catholic Charities told the Journal News. "I have an obligation to the people in this town. But I love being a deacon, having the opportunity to serve the people of God in so many ways."
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI was presented with commemorative stamps from Israeli and German leaders as well as an invitation on behalf of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to visit the Holy Land.
Israeli Communications Minister Dalia Itzik, and Government Secretary Israel Maimon gave the Pope a stamp which depicted John Paul II’s visit to the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem in which he left a letter of apology for atrocities committed by Christians against Jews.
Likewise, he extended the invitation to the Holy Land, to which Benedict was quoted as responding, "I have already a long list of commitments to visit foreign countries, but Israel has a priority."
Germany’s Finance Minister Hans Eichel also presented the Pope with a stamp celebrating next month’s World Youth Day in Cologne, which the Holy Father will attend from August 18th through the 21st.
Pope Benedict said that "The stamps with the cross and globe will bring the sign of Christ to the people."
Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Jakarta is celebrating 200 years of Christian life in Indonesia with celebrations scheduled to run all the way through 2007.
The theme, “The more faithful we are to Jesus, the more useful we will be to society and the nation”, will permeate the festivities which include reflections on key elements of the faith, a look at the history of Christianity in Indonesia and discussions on Christian-Muslim relations yesterday and today.
400,000 Catholics currently dwell in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, part of a population of 11 million, who are mostly Muslim.
According to a report from Fides news service, the local church in Jakarta said that the celebrations “present an opportunity to make the faithful more aware of the History of Salvation which the Lord has worked in Jakarta…Commitment in social service - Catholics in Jakarta say - is how we can show God’s love for all humanity.”
The church in Jakarta was born in 1807 with Fr Jacobus Nellissenn’s appointment as Apostolic prefect of then Batavia, in Indonesia.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - The leader of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, said this week the approval of homosexual “marriage” and no-fault divorce in Spain are not “civil conquests” but rather the triumph of secularism and the identity crisis that plagues Europe.
Speaking at a summer university program in Navacerrada, the Italian senator said that in Spain the very idea of marriage suffered a double pronged and well thought-out attack: “on the one hand quick divorce, and on the other homosexual marriage.” In this sense, he noted, “a beautiful portion of our identity has disappeared.”
According to Pera, “This is not about ‘civil conquests’ or measures ‘against discrimination’ or the ‘expanding of equality.’ Rather, it’s about the triumph of a secularism that seeks to transform desires, and sometimes even whims, into fundamental human rights.”
Secularism, he continued, is about experiments in social engineering, and in Spain secularism has made homosexual marriage its bull’s eye. Europe is experiencing a “progressive loss” of its identity due to the prevailing “cultural relativism” whose language is that which is “politically correct” and which has today become a “neo-language.”
Pera maintained that the West “believes that if it were to affirm its own principles and values and show the force of its own identity, it would be an arrogant and contemptible West.” “And since the West on the contrary claims to be open and in dialogue with everyone instead of defending itself, it is weakened and hides its own identity,” he added.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico issued a statement this week warning that the power vacuums created by the corruption and impunity that shields drug trafficking threaten to make the country ungovernable.
The statement, which was released by the bishops at the conclusion of their general assembly, states, “Mexico is a great country,” but the “growing spiral of violence and social unraveling generated by organized crime” is threatening to destroy young men and women and is creating “a culture of terror and of death.”
The bishops call on authorities to intensify the fight against delinquency by beefing up the police force and purging it of officers “corrupted by the power of money.”
They also called on lawmakers to approve more effective laws and on judges to reduce impunity by handing down tougher sentences aimed at preventing the spread of crime. The bishops called on the executive branch to stop passing the buck and to centralize the fight against crime in one sole department.
At the same time, they expressed the need to strengthen the family “as the nucleus of social cohesion” because through the family, cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values are communicated.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 7, 2005 (CNA) - After throwing its full support behind the new law allowing homosexual “marriage” and no-fault divorce, the radical left-wing party in Spain, Izquierda Unida (United Left), has asked the government to immediately approve a new law that would allow Social Security funds to be used to pay for sex change operations.
As part of its offensive, United Left Congresswoman Isaura Navarra has made an official request to the Executive branch for information about its timetable for sending the proposal to the legislature.
Navarra also requested information about plans to include sex change operations in government healthcare services.
After calling the approval of homosexual unions an “historical advance,” Navarra said there was “still much to be done in the fight against homophobia, through sex education and the Law on Gender Identity which will respond to the needs of the transsexual community.”
“There are still new challenges for bringing hope to millions of people in order to transform society,” the text reads, echoing the theme of a homosexual march last Saturday in Madrid: “Let’s move forward! Now, transsexuals.”
Navarra’s actions follow a meeting between United Left leader Gaspar Llamazares and the State Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, after which Llamazares pledged his support to fight for passage of the law.