Vatican City, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) -
Reports about plans of imminent reunification of the Anglican and Catholic Churches under the Pope are largely exaggerated, said the two chairmen of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
Archbishop John Bathersby, Catholic co-chair of IARCCUM, and Bishop David Beetge, Anglican co-chair, released a statement yesterday in response to an article in The London Times, which reported that the two communions would likely reunite very soon. The Times report was based on a leaked IARCCUM document.
“While it is encouraging that a document of this kind can be produced and that practical day-to-day cooperation between Catholics and Anglicans can be strengthened, talk of plans to reunite the two communions is, sadly, much exaggerated,” the two bishops said in their statement.
The leaked document in question, titled "Growing Together in Unity and Mission," is being published as an agreed statement of IARCCUM. It is not as an official statement of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, the bishops clarified.
“It is being put forward to foster discussion and reflection, as the statement clearly states,” they said.
The 42-page statement was recently completed by IARCCUM, and is scheduled to be published by the commission as soon as a Catholic commentary to accompany the document has been completed; an Anglican commentary has already been prepared for publication.
The bishops expressed their regret that the document’s contents were prematurely reported “in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions.”
The document identifies the level of agreement which has been reached by Anglican and Catholic dialogue in the last 35 years, “but is also very clear in identifying ongoing areas of disagreement, and in raising questions which still need to be addressed in dialogue,” the bishops wrote.
As such, the proposal to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope needs to be put in the “proper perspective,” the bishops stated.
The second part of the document sets forward proposals for concrete initiatives, identifying aspects of common mission, common study, common prayer which are for the most part already permitted according to authoritative sources of the Catholic Church and the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
The Times article also speculates about the Catholic Church's response to a possible schism within the Anglican Communion.
The two bishops responded: “The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith.”
They drew from a 2004 statement, issued by the pontifical council, which reads: "It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree."
“We hope that when published, ‘Growing Together in Unity and Mission’ invites a good deal of discussion, and that it will be a helpful instrument on the long journey towards full communion which has been the stated goal of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations for the past 40 years,” the bishops concluded.
Rome, Italy, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - Made public this morning from the Vatican, was the translation of a question and answer session Pope Benedict XVI held with the seminarians at Rome’s Major Pontifical Seminary. The Holy Father visited the seminary on Saturday evening to celebrate the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust. During the meeting, the Pope responded to six questions addressed to him by seminarians from various dioceses of Italy.
Gregorpaolo Stano of the Diocese of Oria, Italy asked how seminarians should discern the voice of God speaking within them, "among the thousands of interior voices."
"God speaks," Pope Benedict replied, "through other people, through friends, through our parents, ... through the priests who guide you," above all He speaks "in Sacred Scripture" which must be read "not as the word of a man or a document from the past, ... but as the Word of God which is always valid and speaks to me."
"It is important to remain attentive to the other voices of the Lord, to let ourselves be guided also by people who have, so to say, experience with God and help us along this path. ... In this way our discernment grows, our personal friendship with God grows, [as does] the capacity to perceive, in the thousands of voices we hear today, the voice of God, which is always present and always speaks to us."
Claudio Fabbri from the Diocese of Rome wanted to know about the Holy Father's life during his own period of training for the priesthood at the seminary of Freising, Germany.
"I believe that our life in the seminary of Freising was structured very much like your own. ... I can say that Sacred Scripture was at the heart of our theological studies: we truly lived with Sacred Scripture and learned to love it, to communicate with it." Another "vital area for us was liturgical formation." The Pope also mentioned his interest in literature and his "great love for music."
Gianpiero Savino of the Diocese of Taranto, Italy asked how, bearing in mind human weakness, it is possible to respond to a vocation "as demanding as that of being pastors of God's people."
"It is good to recognize one's own weakness," said the Pope, "because thus we know that we have need of the Lord's grace. ... I [also] believe it is important to recognize that we are in need of a permanent conversion." This is a journey with no lack of "joy and light from the Lord, but also no lack of dark valleys where we must walk with trust seeking support in the Lord's goodness. ... And therefore the Sacrament of Penance is also important... to convert us to a new beginning and thus grow and mature in the Lord, in our communion with Him."
The Holy Father also dwelt upon the necessity of not "isolating ourselves, not believing we can progress alone. We need the help of priest friends and lay friends to accompany and help us. ... The gift of perseverance brings us joy, it gives us the certainty that we are loved by the Lord, and this love sustains us, it helps us and does not abandon us in our weaknesses."
A Bulgarian seminarian, Dimov Koicio from the Diocese of Nicopoli, asked a question concerning "corruption in the Church" to which the then Cardinal Ratzinger had alluded during the 2005 Way of the Cross, and the dangers of "seeking to advance one's career through the Church."
"The Lord knows," the Pope replied, "and knew from the beginning that sin also exists in the Church. And by our humility it is important to recognize this - not to see sin only in others, in institutions and in high office, but also in ourselves - so as, in this way, to be more humble and to learn that ecclesial standing does not count before the Lord, what counts is to remain in His love."
Francesco Annesi of the Diocese of Rome wanted to know how "a priest can bear witness to the Christian meaning of suffering, and how he must behave before those who suffer without the risk of seeming rhetorical or pathetic."
"We must recognize that it is right to do everything possible to alleviate the afflictions of humanity, and help those who suffer ... to discover a life that is worthwhile and free from the evils which we ourselves provoke: hunger, epidemics, etc.," said the Holy Father in his reply. "But at the same time, recognizing this duty to combat the sufferings we have caused, we must also recognize and understand that suffering is an essential factor for our maturation. ... It is true that it is always problematic, if one is more or less in good health, to console someone else affected by a serious illness. ... Faced with these ills, which we all know and recognize, it is almost inevitable that everything seems rhetorical and pathetic. But if people feel ... that we want to carry the cross with them ... helping them in every way we can, they will believe in us."
Marco Ceccarelli, a Deacon of Rome, soon to be ordained a priest asked the Holy Father's advice on how to approach the first years of priestly ministry.
In his reply, the Holy Father highlighted "the need to be with the Lord in the Eucharist every day, not as a professional obligation but as a true interior duty," and "to dedicate time to the Liturgy of the Hours" because "it helps us to be more open and to remain in profound contact with the Lord." It is also important "not to lose communion with other priests, your companions on the journey, or to lose personal contact with the Word of God, meditation."
"Never lose," he concluded, "friendship with priests, listening to the voice of the living Church, or, of course, a readiness toward the people entrusted to us because from them, with their sufferings, their experiences of faith, their doubts and difficulties, we too can learn, and seek and find God."
Madrid, Spain, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic Action conference next month in Madrid will consider the future of Europe and of Christianity on the “old continent.”
The 4th Europe-Mediterranean Meeting of the Catholic Action International Forum will be held March 1-4. The theme is “Where is Europe Heading? Christians, value and hope for the future.”
The aim of the forum — in keeping with the guidelines offered in the apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europe — is to identify what needs to be done in view of the evangelization in Europe at the beginning of the third Christian millennium, highlighting Christian values as a constitutive and constituent part of European culture for a more human future, reported Fides.
The purpose of the meeting is to:
• sensitize national and diocesan Catholic Action groups to collect and share existing experiences in their respective realities
• to foster reflection on formation of consciences and witness of lay Christian citizens of Europe
• to promote and sustain the participation of young people
• to underline the value of the Catholic Action for the life of the Church and of society.
Participants will come from western and eastern Europe. The work of discussion, reflection and prayer will lead to the drafting of a final document.
The meeting will include a pilgrimage to Avila at the school of Saint Teresa, great mystic, founder, reformer and pilgrim.
Norfolk, Va., Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Richmond has distributed tamper-proof money bags to parishes to ensure that the money donated during Sunday collections goes where it is intended.
The security measure follows accusations that a retired priest in central Virginia embezzled more than $600,000 from two parishes. A parish secretary was also recently arrested in Richmond after being shown on video allegedly slipping Sunday offerings into her purse, reported The Associated Press.
John Barrett, the diocesan finance director, told the AP that he recommended the safeguards for all parishes following those two incidents.
Barrett explained that collections should be counted by teams that include at least two unrelated people. Then, after the money is banked, a bookkeeper should compare the deposit slip with the total tallied by the counters, he said.
He said these measures also protect volunteers who handle parish money from false accusations of theft.
Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said he thought it was a “very good” idea to request a waiver of the five year waiting period before the process of beatification of Sister Lucia could begin, but that this would be decided by Pope Benedict XVI.
In order to initiate the process of beatification, normally a period of five years must pass after the death of the candidate. However, the Pope has the ability to waive the requirement - as happened with the case of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Servant of God John Paul II.
“Sister Lucia certainly would deserve (the dispensation) because she was a great saint,” the Cardinal told the Portuguese agency Ecclesia, emphasizing that the decision would fall to Benedict XVI.
“I had much contact” with Sister Lucia, the Cardinal said, adding that he always had the impression that “she was living in another world.”
Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra said that during Cardinal Saraiva’s visit to Portugal the issue would probably be discussed, but also noted that the process for Beatification is not yet in his hands.
The beatification process, the bishop said, “will take many years.” However, he stated that the request for the dispensation could possibly be made “before the summer.”
Bishop Cleto said the promoter of the cause would be the Carmel of St. Teresa in Coimbra, and that therefore the necessary consultations must be made both with the Shrine of Fatima and the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference. “I suppose Benedict XVI will accept the request, but I don’t know what his answer will be,” he added.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta in the early 1900’s. Lucia outlived her cousins by several years and eventually entered the Carmelites.
Both Francisco, who died in 1919, and Jacinta, who died in 1920, were declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Sister Lucia died in February of 2005.
Cairo, Egypt, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See announced today that Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and the leading Muslim official in Egypt, has accepted Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to visit the Vatican.
According to a communiqué released today, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was received in Cairo, Egypt, today by Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
The Cardinal was, “welcomed in an atmosphere of great cordiality.” After relaying Pope Benedict’s greetings, Poupard extended the Holy Father’s invitation to meet in Rome, “an invitation that was accepted with satisfaction.”
The Vatican press release says that the meeting of the two men provided an opportunity to evaluate the work of the 'Joint Dialogue Commission' comprised of members of the 'Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions' and of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The commission meets on February 24 every year - alternately in Cairo and Rome - in memory of Pope John Paul II's visit to al-Azhar on February 24, 2000. The two also discussed other aspects of relations between Christians and Muslims.
Following his meeting with the Grand Imam, Cardinal Poupard is also to meet Hamdi Zaqzuq, the government minister for religion.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain is preparing a “great ceremony of beatification” for more than 200 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, which could take place throughout 2009, when the 70th anniversary of the end of the conflict is observed.
According to the Spanish daily “ABC,” officials said the plan is part of the bishops’ pastoral plan for 2006-2010, in which they pledged to organize “at least one great ceremony of beatification of numerous martyrs of the religious persecution in Spain (1936-1939), accompanied by a thorough and opportune pastoral action promoting the holiness of Christian life and the testimony of faith.”
According to “ABC,” “the intention of the bishops is to combine into one celebration the different processes that are currently open, as well as others that are about to be initiated, in order to celebrate one great ceremony in our country throughout 2009. It is hoped that by that time, the Holy See will have raised to the altar of the Blessed more than 200 martyrs.”
The report said another dozen bishops are preparing to open new causes, which could put the number of those to be beatified well above 200.
Barcelona, Spain, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - At the same time that he acknowledged “very encouraging progress” in the area of ecumenism- especially in dialogue with the Orthodox Churches - the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, said this week in Barcelona that “dialogue has stalled in some way,” as “we have now arrived at the firm core of our ecclesiological differences.”
The cardinal made his comments during the inauguration of an ecumenical celebration organized by the Archdiocese of Barcelona and Opus Dei, as part of the preparations for the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly which will take place in Romania in September.
Cardinal Kasper stressed that during the last four decades, “ecumenical dialogue has made great strides” and has allowed for “substantial coming together on various issues, and in some cases, the reaching of a consensus.” He cited as recent examples Pope Benedict XVI’s visit with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and the visit to Rome by the Archbishop of Athens.
“Despite this encouraging progress,” he said, “we cannot deny that, beyond the unique and normal difficulties that are a part of life, dialogue has in some way become stalled, although talks and meetings, visits and correspondence have not ceased.”
In referring to the causes of this situation, Cardinal Kasper said, “After having overcome many misunderstandings and having reached a fundamental consensus,” now “we have now arrived at the hard core of our ecclesiological differences.”
The primary purpose of ecumenical dialogue, he went on, “is not to induce others to convert to our Church, but rather the conversion of all to Christ,” and therefore, “the transition has been made from arguing to dialogue.”
Cardinal Kasper encouraged the seeking of not only an “institutional” but a “spiritual” ecumenism, centered not on theological dialogues but on “common ecumenical prayer, personal conversion and institutional reform, penance and the striving for personal sanctification.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, said Lent reminds Christians in the Holy Land that military occupation, the limitation of freedom, the lack of security, and violation of the laws can be turned into an opportunity for new life.
“With Jesus, we go in the desert of Jericho – a city that is a prison, like all the Palestinian cities, the symbol of the conflict that has become our living environment – we fast to make our peace with God, with our friends and enemies; we fast to renew the acceptance of our faith. True faith drives fear away and enables the believer to build the common good,” said the patriarch in his Lenten message.
Christians are called to be “leaven in the land of Jesus,” he continued. They are asked to remain in these holy places and “experience the commandment of love, to forgive by claiming our lost rights and to share the goods and the sacrifices with everyone” with no difference of religion or nationality.”
He denounced the occupation of Palestine, the limitation of freedom, the wall, “the Israeli servicemen entering the Palestinian cities at any time, killing, taking prisoners, uprooting trees and pulling down houses.”
He said the lack of vision within Palestinian society has been exploited by some to breach laws and oppress people. He remarked that the international community has not responded to “the many voices of peace that rise from the region”.
He reminded Christians of the importance of fasting and invited them to take part in this Lenten practice, looking “for God’s will in the true ordeals” and to “see sense in these events and find a way to convert them into mutual love.”
“Not to demolish or bear a grudge against the opponent, but to put an end to occupation, oppression and live a new life,” he encouraged.
London, England, Feb 20, 2007 (CNA) -
Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, meeting this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, have issued an ultimatum to the Episcopal Church of the United States, demanding an end to the appointment of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex couples.
According to the BBC, the document calls for the U.S. Episcopal bishops to "make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions."
It also orders the U.S. Episcopal Church not to ordain any other priests who are active homosexuals, requiring the bishops to agree that "a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent - unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion."
The Anglican Communion statement warns that if the above assurances can not be given by September 30th, the Episcopal Church could be removed from the worldwide Communion.
"If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given,” the bishops write, “the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best…And this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said the document provided "a challenge to the Episcopal Church to clarify its position,” and “a challenge also to those who have intervened from elsewhere to see if they can negotiate their way towards an acceptable, equitable, settlement."
He admitted the communique would "certainly fall very short of resolving all the disputes", but said it would "provide a way of moving forward with dignity".
Archbishop Williams called the Tanzania meeting due to growing unrest over the issue. Following the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, many parishes, dioceses, and faithful in the U.S. began calling for a split of the U.S. church, and sought to unite themselves with dioceses abroad.
To address this growing unrest, the document also announced the setting up of a pastoral council to represent the international church leaders in the US.
Anglicans who do not agree with the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality will be able to worship separately to the others, under the auspices of the council.
The body will be made of up five members - three of whom will be appointed by non-US clergy.