Archive of July 5, 2008

Missionary who wore disguises to evangelize Indian state dies

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jul 5, 2008 (CNA) - Brother Prem Bhai, a Benedictine missionary who endured repeated arrest, imprisonment, beatings and wore disguises to evangelize in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, died on June 28 in Colombo, Sri Lanka after suffering a heart attack the previous day.

For almost 25 years Brother Prem’s missionary work in Arunachal Pradesh continued despite government laws that subjected those caught to fines of 10,000 rupees and two years imprisonment.

“Police always used to follow me. I was arrested eight times and imprisoned five times for preaching. I never stayed in jail for more than a day though – the Christian people always managed to get me released,” Brother Prem said in a 2006 interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). ACN supported Brother Prem’s work by building a prayer center.

On three occasions the missionary was beaten by locals for preaching and baptizing.

He and his fellow missionaries would sometimes disguise themselves to enter Arunachal Pradesh.

“We would enter the province dressed as a carpenter, a farmer, a butcher. Often we would walk more than 100 kilometers to a village, through the mountains and the snow. We gathered the people in the villages at night. We would preach to them and then quickly move on,” he told ACN.

The work of Brother Prem and other missionaries bore such fruit that Christians now make up more than 55 percent of the people in Arunachal Pradesh, with many being doctors, lawyers, engineers, or members of the local government. Fifty priests in the state serve about 210,000 faithful, who are very active in the Church.

The state law prohibiting the preaching of Christianity still exists, but the spread of Christianity has rendered it obsolete.

Many have eulogized the Benedictine brother.

A priest in India, Father Ivan Vas, SVD, said Brother Prem was a “great missionary.”

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, Aid to the Church in Need’s India projects co-coordinator said: “He was a very special person. All his life was dedicated to spreading the Gospel in Arunachal Pradesh.”

The missionary’s Requiem Mass was planned to be celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, while Bishop Michael Akasius of Tezpur was to say the final rites over Brother Prem’s remains.

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Churchgoing married couples happier, study says

Charlottesville, Va., Jul 5, 2008 (CNA) - A new analysis of three major national surveys claims that married couples who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services and are also less likely to divorce.

University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, using data from the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), found that married churchgoing Americans, regardless of race or religious denomination, were more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” – more so than non-churchgoing married couples, Cybercast News Service reports.

Professor Wilcox also found that couples who regularly attend church together are less likely to divorce.

"Attending church only seems to help couples when they attend together," Wilcox told Cybercast News Service. "But when they do, they are significantly happier in their marriages, and they are much less likely to divorce, compared to couples who do not attend church. I would say that church attendance is a beneficial component of marriage when it is done together."

Wilcox said that churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity and forgiveness while also offering family-friendly social networks to support couples through high and low points of their marriages.

Churches, he said, provide “a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives--from unemployment to illness--that can harm their marriages.”

"So, in a word, the couple that prays together stays together," said Wilcox.

Critics of Wilcox’s study say other factors may be at work.

"Some studies have reported a correlation between church attendance and successful marriages," Tom Flynn, editor of the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry said to Cybercast News Service. "That may reflect the fact that males who are settled in their lives and are highly socialized are both more likely to succeed in their marriages and more likely to attend church."

Flynn said other studies suggesting a link between church membership and better health or a longer life could also mask other factors.

“Once again, it may mean that folks who have their lives together tend to avoid substance abuse, practice good health habits, and go to church," he said.

A 2001 Barna Research Poll showed that individuals who describe themselves as “born again” were just as, if not more, likely to divorce than other Christians and non-Christians.

"A few studies have shown that seculars who do marry have a better track record at staying married than members of Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations," Flynn said. "Those seculars who bother to marry may be marrying more successful than very traditional, male-authoritarian Christians."

Wilcox responded by claiming that men and women with an active church life “do look different in the marital realm.”

“At least in the marriage arena, faith alone doesn't work,” Wilcox said. “You've got to combine faith and works to enjoy a happy and stable marriage. You need the consistent message, the accountability, and the support a church community can provide to really benefit from religious faith.”

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Pope guarantees the authentic faith that comes from above, Spanish cardinal says

Toledo, Spain, Jul 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, said this week that the authentic faith Catholics should live out “comes from on high solely through divine revelation” and is “guaranteed by the successor of Peter.”


During his homily for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the cardinal explained that the faith of Catholics should not be based on the “doctrines, teachings or theories that people in the world have, including some theologians.”


The faith, he said, “comes from on high solely through divine revelation and is guaranteed by the successor of Peter, so that we can live more deeply the mystery of unity” and fearlessly “proclaim hope for all mankind.”


He said his prayers were that Catholics would be “strengthened by the faith, that faith that can only be lived out with Peter, in unbreakable unity with the successors of Peter and the Apostles.”


The cardinal also encouraged Catholics to live the Pauline Year centered in Christ and proclaim the Gospel “to all people,” to revive the “missionary sense and the sense of the Church.”


The Pauline Year should be one of “prayer for the Holy Father, that his intentions and desires may be fulfilled, which are always of mercy, grace, peace and reconciliation for the whole world, in order to show that God, who is love, is with us, and that we have discovered Him in his human face, which is that of His Son Jesus Christ, come in the flesh through the work of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.”

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Neocatechumenal Way’s new statutes are a ‘landmark,’ spokesman says

Denver, Colo., Jul 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Neocatechumenal Way has reached a new milestone in the history of their community with the recent approval of their statutes. Despite some changes to the statutes that were submitted to the Vatican in 2002, Giuseppe Gennarini, the group’s U.S. spokesman, told CNA that the new guidelines are important because they guarantee the permanence of the movement within the Church and recognize the spiritual good that comes from the Way.

The new statutes were delivered to the founders of the international movement by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko on June 13 along with a decree of approval.

Speaking with CNA via telephone, Gennarini called the new rules a “landmark” for the Way because they involve “full recognition by the Church” and show that “the Church wants to guarantee the permanence of the movement” within the Church. He also added that the Neocatechumenal Way is “happy to offer this instrument [the movement] for the new evangelization and to the new generations.”

There are, nevertheless, differences between the statutes that the Way submitted to the Vatican in 2002 and the ones that were finally approved in mid-June. The majority of these changes occur in the 13th chapter of the regulations and are concerned with liturgical matters.

Under the old rubrics, members of the Neocatechumenal Way celebrated the Eucharist gathered around large square tables and receive Communion while seated. The new regulations are quite different, with the community celebrating Mass with a separation between the congregation and the altar and communicants receiving the Eucharist standing in their places.

According to Giuseppe Gennarini, this way of receiving Communion sprang from a private meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Kiko Arguello on May 26, 2007. The Holy Father liked the idea of the priest coming to each person with the Eucharist because it shows that Christ comes to you in the person of the priest, Gennarini said. 

Another change that can be found in the new statutes is the incorporation of the Neocatechumenal Way’s liturgies into the larger parish community.  Prior to the new rules, the Way celebrated its liturgies on Saturday evenings separate from the rest of the parish, so as to preserve the integrity of the process of conversion that all of its members undertake. However, the Way’s Masses must now be "part of the Sunday liturgical service of the parish," and "open to other members of the faithful as well."

Gennarini explained the change as “adding another Mass for the parish,” and as similar to having “a Mass for children or one in Spanish.”  He emphasized that this step is very important because there is now “full liturgical recognition of the Way.”

Two final liturgical adaptations allowed for under the new statues are the moving of the rite of peace to after the universal intercessions and the reception of Communion under both species.

The Neo-Catechumenal Way, which began in Spain in 1964, has now spread to more than 100 countries world-wide, including some mission territories. Those who are a part of the Way undergo a process that is meant to lead to the rediscovery of the sacrament of Baptism. This takes place through an itinerary of catechesis and conversion that is life-long.

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