London, England, Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - After a three day retreat, which concluded on Sunday afternoon, 650 Anglican bishops officially opened the 14th Lambeth Conference at the Cathedral of Canterbury. The liturgy which opened the conference included a sermon by the Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, in which he said that the boycott by around 200 bishops of the summit is a sign that “all was not well.”
The conference was convoked by the celebration of the Eucharist, which was presided over by Archbishop Rowan Williams, with the sermon being delivered by Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“We are a wounded community,” the bishop said in his sermon as he described the absence of more than 200 bishops who are boycotting the conference over the ordination of the actively homosexual Gene Robinson and the adherence of the Communion to Scripture.
“Some of us are not here, and this shows everything is not fine. The crisis is certainly a complex one. It’s not a crisis that can be quickly solved. A long, daring journey awaits us, a journey that will require our prayer, faithfulness and mutual confidence, and above all confidence in God who makes reconciliation possible,” said the bishop.
In his homily, the Anglican leader also focused on the “challenge of unity in diversity” and the call to be “an inclusive community in which there’s space for each and everyone.”
Following the opening liturgy, the Anglican bishops held their first plenary session of the conference.
The Lambeth Conference will consist of two weeks of discussions about numerous issues, including sexuality and female bishops.
In spite of the boycott by a quarter of the Anglican Communion’s bishops, Archbishop Williams maintained that the Church isn’t headed for schism, saying, “If this is the end of the Anglican Communion I don't think anyone has told most of the people here.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - With the announcement that Madrid has been chosen as the host city for the next World Youth Day in 2011, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco of Madrid and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain will become the first bishop to host a World Youth Day twice.
Cardinal Rouco was Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela in Spain when World Youth Day was held there in 1989. The northwestern Spanish city is the site of one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations in Europe and is visited each year by millions.
In 1998 Cardinal Rouco was named Archbishop of Madrid by Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Rouco is now 71.
Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - The presumptive presidential nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, respectively, will make a joint appearance on August 16 at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion at Saddleback Church. The 22,000-member mega church, pastored by Dr. Rick Warren, is located in Orange County, California.
Dr. Warren made the announcement on Monday, saying in a statement:
“We're honored that the candidates chose The Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion for their first joint appearance, an unprecedented opportunity for America to hear both men back-to-back on the same platform. This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart - without interruption - in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan 'gotcha' questions that typically produce heat instead of light.”
The presidential primaries proved that Americans “care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues,” Warren said.
Warren, who will moderate the candidates’ joint event, pledged to be “frank, but fair,” in asking questions “beyond what political reporters typically ask.” These questions will reportedly concern poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate issues and human rights.
The event will last from 5 to 7 pm on August 16. Each candidate will converse separately with Warren for approximately one hour. A coin toss has determined that Sen. Obama will speak first.
Warren emphasized that the event will be held in a non-debate format.
“While debates typically focus primarily on the candidates' positions and only secondarily on how they'd lead and make decisions, this Saddleback Civil Forum will reverse that ratio," he explained. "Since the oath of the President is a commitment to protect the Constitution, it's critical to know how each candidate interprets the nature of its principles. Leadership involves far more than promoting programs and making speeches, and since no one can predict what crises will happen over the next four years, it is vital to know the decision capacity and process of each man.”
An interfaith meeting will be held at Saddleback Church in conjunction with the candidates’ event. Warren will also deliver a “special sermon” on August 17 concerning the election.
According to a press release, the Saddleback Civil Forum was established “to promote civil discourse and the common good of all.” Warren said that the civil forums, “in addition to my primary calling to proclaim the Gospel Truth of salvation in Jesus Christ,” further the life goals of improving individual responsibility, improving the credibility of the Church, and encouraging society to “return to civility.”
The first Saddleback Civil Forum, held during Passover Week of 2008, featured five Jewish Holocaust survivors. A September forum event will feature former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - The archbishop of Valencia in Spain, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, said this week that man has an innate desire to live in freedom, but he also warned of the promises of ideological utopias, which end up destroying man’s dignity and society itself.
In his recent pastoral letter on freedom and dignity, the cardinal recalled that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights warns that ignorance of or scorn for these rights “has resulted in acts of barbarism offensive to the conscience of humanity.”
He pointed out that despite the devastating experience of totalitarianism, mankind is always “exposed to the danger of abandoning his intelligence and his moral sense, and to being carried away by the attractiveness of a collective force that promises ideological utopias,” which end up destroying the person. “When politics seeks to take the place of God it leads to monstrous social practices that destroy human dignity,” he said.
The cardinal went on to note that the human being finds his freedom in God. The Church’s social teaching, he said, firmly proclaims that, faced with totalitarian seductions, “man can move towards what is good only in the freedom that God has given him as an evident sign of his image.”
“The human person appreciates freedom and passionately seeks it,” he said, but the exercise of freedom “implies a reference to a natural moral law, of a universal nature, that precedes and unites all rights and duties.”
Natural law is the light of intelligence that God has infused into man to enable him to know “what he should do and what he should shun.” This law, the cardinal continued, “expresses the dignity of the person and forms the basis for his fundamental rights and his duties.” Human history “shows us that freedom can be enslaved by personal or collective selfishness,” he added.
Cardinal Garcia-Gasco encouraged Catholics to seek out Christ, who “liberates man from the disordered love of self,” which is the source of scorn for neighbor “and of relations characterized by domination over others.” The contemplation of Christ in the Eucharist, he said, “strengthens a culture of human rights based on freedom and the truth.”
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Kaliningrad is enjoying “more and more” growth as the area continues to recover from decades of communist rule, Monsignor Jerzy Steckiewicz has told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). However, the severely weakened state of the region’s families is a particular concern for the Church.
During the communist era all parishes were banned in Kaliningrad, the Russian territorial enclave situated between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea. The first Orthodox parish was established there in 1985, while one Catholic as well as one Protestant parish were established in 1991. At present there are 23 parishes within the Kaliningrad territory, where Catholics make up 5 percent of the population.
When Monsignor Jerzy was asked to give the exact number of Catholics in the region, he replied: “I can give you a precise answer to that -- there are more and more of them!”
Monsignor Jerzy, the vicar general of Kaliningrad, told ACN that the number of baptisms and marriages is increasing in the region. He said faith is reawakened in many individuals who attend the baptisms, marriages, or funerals of friends and relatives. The monsignor said he tries to conduct every such liturgy in a beautiful and dignified manner to convey the “beauty of the Faith.”
Young people who receive baptism also act as apostles among friends and family, while religious instruction for children helps bring their parents back to church.
The monsignor said that the Church is responding to the extremely high divorce rate by emphasizing sound preparation for marriage. The Church maintains a Family Help Center in Kaliningrad to provide expert instruction and courses on childrearing, family planning, the marriage apostolate, and other relevant subjects.
The Catholic Church had also started several programs in response to the 2008 “Year of the Family” initiative launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We need happy families who can bear witness," Monsignor Jerzy explained.
According to Monsignor Jerzy, Kaliningrad Catholics’ relations with the Russian Orthodox Church are very positive, though he said the Orthodox still have too few churches.
The monsignor said both Churches enjoy a unifying element in their shared Christian motivation to fulfill their social and charitable responsibilities.
Both Churches are committed to encouraging respect for life. While under communism abortion was almost a normal means of family planning, today there is growing awareness that it is something “bad and harmful,” he said.
Amid the positive signs, the lack of local vocations stands out as a negative. Monsignor Jerzy told ACN that most of the priests are still from abroad. At present there are only three native priests, three native seminarians, and three religious sisters. The Church is counting on the family to promote new vocations.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 21, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Sydney and coordinator of World Youth Day 2008, said Pope Benedict XVI’s “heartfelt” apology for sexually abusive clerics in Australia is a “challenge” to the Catholic Church that will add impetus to the Church’s efforts to improve.
On Saturday Pope Benedict said he was “deeply sorry” for the pain and suffering victims of clerical sexual abuse had endured, the Australian Associated Press reports.
“These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation,” the Pope said at the consecration of the altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral. More than 3,400 people, including Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, bishops, seminarians, and religious and school groups, attended the consecration.
“Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people,” he continued.
On Sunday Bishop Fisher commented on the Pope’s “heartfelt” words.
“That call to bring justice against the perpetrators and to bring healing, reconciliation and justice to the victims and to ensure prevention of this sort of thing in the future, to the extent that anyone can, that call to us is a challenge to the Church,” he said.
We're certainly committed to the process. This added impetus the Holy Father gives us means we will certainly as a Church in Australia be looking to how we can do this better in the future.”
“The Holy Father wants every victim to know that Christ's loving compassionate heart is there for them and the Church is there for them, deeply ashamed of where it's hurt them and wanting them back,” he continued, the AAP reports.
Bishop Fisher also apologized for his comments about World Youth Day critics “dwelling crankily” on “old wounds.” He said he meant “a few people in the media,” not sexual abuse victims.
“I certainly wasn't intending in any way to make remarks about the victims themselves. Sexual abuse has absolutely no place in the life of the Church. If anything I've said or anyone else has said has exacerbated that situation or hurt them in any way all I can offer again is my deepest apology,” he said. “It's not my place or anyone else's to tell them to stop grieving or to stop hurting: our job is to help them heal and that's what I want to do and that's what the Church wants to do.”