, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - China Aid Association has learned that members of a House Church in Yunan Province were severely beaten by police officials on the morning of January 23. The incident occurred after two church members walked into the Xishan District's Public Security Bureau office to request an account of the items, including Bibles, that were taken from the church and burned by police officials in early December of 2007.
After ignoring the members’ request, officials proceeded to violently remove them from the office. One female church member, 54-year-old Ms. Liang Guihua, was thrown into a wall and rendered unconscious for more than 10 minutes.
Later that day, one of the Church’s members returned to the police station later that afternoon to request an account of the morning's incident. The official on duty told the member that he would not testify to the incident even though he had witnessed the account first-hand.
The series of events originated on December 5, 2007, when policemen and members of the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs disrupted the house church meeting in Kunming, and detained several members. After searching the building, police seized several hundred Christian books including Bibles and note-pads, and proceeded to burn them outside of the residence. Police also destroyed the identification cards of three of the church members and instructed the landlord of the building to cease rental agreements with the congregation.
Chinese law requires officials to issue certificates documenting items taken during seizures. The church members have requested documentation of the items on several occasions, but have been turned away by police officials every time.
We urge the international community to demand an accounting of these officials for the egregious acts committed against the house church members in Yunan Province, the China Aid Association said.
London, England, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - Prominent Catholic figures believe a monk at a Scottish abbey is a leading candidate to become the next Archbishop of Westminster, the highest office of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Scotland on Sunday newspaper reports.
Abbot Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., heads Pluscarden Abbey in the Moray council area town of Eglin. His orthodoxy and leadership have reportedly impressed important churchmen, though the final decision for the Archbishop of Westminster’s successor remains with Pope Benedict XVI.
The abbot, 55, is known as a traditionalist and has presided over an expansion of his Benedictine abbey and the founding of two offshoots in America and Africa. A convert to Catholicism, Abbot Hugh became a monk in 1974 and was elected abbot at Pluscarden Abbey in 1992.
According to the Scotland on Sunday, one senior Catholic acknowledged Abbot Hugh was a candidate for the major archbishopric. "He is a quiet, scholarly monk who would probably accept the appointment out of obedience to the church."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is the current Archbishop of Westminster. He was set to retire when he turned 75 in 2007 but was asked to remain in office.
Other clergy believed to be likely choices for the see of Westminster include: Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols, a supporter of the Pope’s liturgical renewal movement; Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith, who has been prominent in pro-life issues; and Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roche, who is responsible for revising the text of the Mass.
Mombasa, Kenya, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - In a diocesan newsletter, Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa, Kenya suggested that Catholics known to have participated in the on-going political violence should refrain, or be barred, from Holy Communion until they seek forgiveness.
He continued by stating that they should realize that their actions were sinful and contradictory to God’s will, the commandments and against brotherly and sisterly love.
The archbishop also emphasized that even those who “openly and publicly insulted others should do likewise.”
“They should seek penance, reconcile and do some restitution,” he said.
He appealed “to the conscience of those with whom we share the Catholic faith and [who] were involved in looting, destruction of property, raping women, girls and killings, to ask for forgiveness.”
Reiterating the recent call of the bishops of Kenya to embrace healing and reconciliation, the archbishop added that each person should preach love and peace among the different ethnic groups by encouraging dialogue and offering a listening ear. “Make an effort to console each other and with all humility in the pain and difficulties and avoid blame.”
Archbishop Lele urged the faithful to be good neighbors and to strengthen the section- or village-based xmall Christian communities as a haven for all ethnic groups and cultural diversity.
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - The new archbishop of Military Services, Timothy P. Broglio, pledged to address the alarming shortage of Catholic chaplains during his installation Mass last weekend.
In a press conference after the Mass, the new archbishop said his primary goal is to get more chaplains, saying they are “desperately needed.”
According to the Army News Service, Lt. Col. Gary Studniewski, a priest and the vocations and retention officer at the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains, said that the Army currently has 92 active-duty Catholic chaplains, and he expects to have 100 by the end of the summer. This small increase continues the upward trend of the past couple of years, but isn’t enough as the Army needs at least a couple hundred.
He explained that only 25 priests, both active duty and reserve component, are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, so some soldiers may go weeks or even months without Mass or Sacraments.
“We have a very robust recruiting effort,” Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver, the Army’s chief of chaplains, said. “We visit the bishops, we visit Catholic seminaries and schools and communities so we can make them aware…of the need to provide for the spiritual needs of the Catholic men and women who maybe don’t have the opportunity to find a church nearby or drive somewhere.
“I think the most valuable thing we can do is tell the story of the great need and the opportunities to provide ministry in the military…We have a Consider the Call weekend in October, in which we challenge our military congregations, especially the Catholic congregations, about number one: ‘Are there some of you in the ranks who, you obviously know the military and how important it is, maybe God’s calling you to be a chaplain?
"Then we get them more information and let them see the chaplaincy up close," said Carver, "...Some of our Catholic leadership – senior noncommissioned officers and senior leadership – volunteer to go out to their particular dioceses, bishops or congregations to share the importance of faith and having a priest in the context of the military. So we’re working it hard.”
Studniewski said the efforts of Recruiting Command, the renewed interest of the chief of chaplains and the commitment of Archbishop Broglio are bringing him hope, and he believes the Army is turning a corner when it comes to recruiting Catholic priests.
“The most positive thing in all this, I think, is Archbishop Broglio,” he said. “He can be agent with his fellow bishops to engender their support. I believe there are priests ready, willing and able to serve if they had permission from their bishops.”
Broglio will begin his ministry this week at the Fort Carson, Colo., and the Air Force Academy. He plans to conduct Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 6 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The Archdiocese of the Military Services serves 375,000 military Catholics worldwide. It relies on local bishops to lend priests to serve with the military, but the shortage of Catholic priests nationwide has resulted in an even-more-critical gap in the military.
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - During today’s Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope called for a "definitive end" to "human suffering" generated from the kidnappings in Colombia.
The Holy Father, speaking in Spanish, emphasized the importance of raising “fervent prayers to God for Colombia, where, for a long time, many sons and daughters of this beloved country have suffered from extortion, kidnapping and violent loss of their loved ones.”
"I ask the Lord to see an end to this inhuman suffering, and to keep open paths of reconciliation, mutual respect and sincere harmony…which are the solid foundation for achieving justice and building peaceful stability," encouraged the Pontiff.
The Pope also invited Catholics to “join our brothers and sisters in Kenya - some of who are present here in St. Peter's Square - in a prayer for reconciliation, justice and peace in their country.”
Pope Benedict hopes that the mediation efforts will lead to “a quick solution to the conflict, which has already claimed many victims.”
Manila, Philippines, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - As the Philippine government plans a replacement for its ambassador to the Holy See, Catholic bishops in the region reminded officials of the need to make a quality choice, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
Cristina Ponce-Enrile, the wife of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, is the candidate planned to replace Ambassador Leonida Vera, who recently resigned.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Oscar V. Cruz said, “As a general criterion, the envoy should be acceptable to the Vatican because of professional qualities and more importantly, because of moral qualities.”
The Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro Antonio Ledesma, a former vice president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, said the envoy to the Vatican would establish the country’s relationship with the Holy See. Therefore, the appointee should be chosen with discretion and should be qualified as a representative of both the country and the Philippine Catholic Church.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines did not yet have an official stand on Enrile’s appointment because the conference had not yet been informed of the choice.
The bishops contacted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said they did not know enough about Enrile to offer a “qualified opinion.” Archbishop Cruz said he only knew that Enrile had received an award from the Pope.
The government has not announced its official choice. However, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has announced that Enrile was “earmarked” for the post.
London, England, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will modify the Good Friday prayers used in the Tridentine Mass that generated protests from Jewish leaders who found the prayers offensive, the Jerusalem Post reports.
In July Pope Benedict widened the use of the 1962 Latin Tridentine missal in a “Motu Proprio” edict. This missal included Latin prayers for Good Friday that asked Catholics to "pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ," asking God not to "refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."
After the Pope permitted the wide use of the Tridentine Missal, Abraham H. Foxman, United States director of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized the prayers. In July he said he was “extremely disappointed and deeply offended” by the use of what he called “insulting anti-Jewish language” that would "now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words." According to the Jerusalem Post, Foxman said the reintroduction of the Latin prayers was a “theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations.”
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel also wrote the Pope expressing concern.
In a July interview with the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Archbishop Angelo Amato denied the Good Friday prayers were anti-Jewish. The archbishop said Catholics pray first for their own conversion “And then we pray for the conversion of all Christians and of all non-Christians. The Gospel is for all."
On January 18 the Milan newspaper Il Giornale reported that the new text of the prayers would drop all references to the “blindness” of the Jews. The Pope has reportedly drafted a new prayer that will be released in time for Holy Week in March.
Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, told the Jerusalem Post that the removal of references to the “darkness” and the “blindness” of the Jews for refusing to recognize Jesus as the messiah was a sign Pope Benedict was "deeply committed to advancing the relationship with the Jewish Community."
Rabbi Rosen said the July Motu Proprio had nothing to do with Jews, saying there was confusion about the concept of conversion. “Used in the sense that Archbishop Amato uses it, it does not mean the acceptance of the Christian Faith by a non-Christian," he said, according to the Jerusalem Post. Rosen said that his Vatican sources indicated that the new text does not call for Jews to accept the Christian faith. Like a common 1970 prayer used by the Church, he said it “prays for the physical and spiritual well being of the Jews.”
The Vatican would not confirm the Il Giornale report.
Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb 3, 2008 (CNA) - The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference on Friday condemned the actions of the South African Police Service in its raid on a Johannesburg Methodist church that was sheltering hundreds of immigrants, News24.com reports.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier criticized the Wednesday night raid as a “manifestation of xenophobia,” saying, "We join Bishop Paul Verryn of the Methodist Church in decrying the violation of the status of the church as a place of sanctuary."
"By providing shelter to the homeless, the stranger and the refugee the church was carrying out the injunction of Jesus Christ," he continued.
Cardinal Napier said the Zimbabweans detained in the raid should be regarded as refugees because they had left their homes because of “events seriously disturbing public order,” a reason that would protect them under the Refugee Convention of the Organization of African Unity.
"Police action was entirely inappropriate, uncalled for and an unwelcome manifestation of xenophobia. It is not how refugees should be treated.
"Indeed, it is not how any human being should be treated by officials of a state committed to upholding human dignity," Cardinal Napier said, according to News24.com.