Vatican City, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to his fellow prelates, Bishop of Wurzburg, Germany Friedhelm Hofmann, remarked that art is a medium that can be used to draw people closer to Christ, especially those not attending church.
In his speech on Saturday, during the 11th General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, the German bishop stressed the urgency to explain the revelation of God, whose greatest revelation is Jesus Christ. “The Word of God has been incultured in the most diverse cultures. It has an impact on art. In Europe, we see an impressive cultural Christian history, of almost 2000 years. Extraordinary architecture, works of figurative art, music and literature, all have been born of faith and embraced the witness of faith.”
He continued by stating that “now is the time that we must make this faith speak anew.” Bishop Hofmann pointed to the Middle Ages’ “Biblia pauperum” or poor man’s Bible, which was used to visually explain parts of the history of salvation to those who could not read, as an example of a way that new expression was given to the faith.
“Today,” Bishop Hofmann explained, “Christian culture must be explained because many persons no longer understand this language and no longer dedicate themselves directly to the Holy Scripture.”
Finally, he explained, “in contemporary culture, one must search for the traces of faith and bring them back to their use as a bridge. If it is true that artists are the seismographers of their time, then it would be good to take advantage of this and involve them in the proclamation of the Word of God."
Vatican City, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - At Monday morning’s assembly of bishops on the Word of God, Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko both spoke about ways to reach the modern world with the Scriptures.
Cardinal Pell, who recently hosted World Youth Day in his diocese this past July, described five ways that bishops can "clear the way for the Spirit to work effectively when the Word of God encounters individuals and communities."
The first idea offered by the Australian cardinal was the formation of young adult lay teams to witness to Christ in youth groups, parishes, schools, and universities.
Secondly, he proposed "the development of contemporary equivalents of the medieval Mystery Plays" to help people engage the Word of God. As examples he cited the World Youth Day Way of the Cross, Oberammergau and 'The Passion of the Christ' film.
Cardinal Pell also pointed to the use of the internet-based social networking sites to expose people to the Scriptures.
The Bible should also be promoted by developing "a central Institute for Bible Translation so the Bible can be translated more quickly and accurately into local languages in Asia, Africa and Oceania," the cardinal suggested.
Finally, Pell offered the idea of requesting that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produce "guidelines on inerrancy in Scripture."
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, also addressed the assembly. Since Vatican Council II, the cardinal noted that the Word of God has taken on a greater prominence in the lives of the laity.
"For many lay people," Cardinal Rylko observed, "movements and communities have become true 'laboratories of the Word of God' in which to acquire familiarity with Sacred Scripture, to learn to appreciate the Word of God and to live it in the ordinary conditions of lay life at the heart of the world."
"Another great sign of hope comes from the younger generations," said the cardinal pointing out that the "World Youth Days have given and continue to give a notable contribution to the spread of the knowledge of the Word of God among the young."
Rome, Italy, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Paolo Mieli, said last week Pope Pius XII was a Pontiff “in line with the history of the Catholic Church of the 20th century,” who during the Nazi persecution did not doubt in extending a hand to the Jews hiding in churches, convents, seminaries, and therefore the black legend surrounding him does not have any historic basis.
“Since 1963 the focus has been on Pius XII in search of evidence of his culpability, but nothing has been found,” Mieli told L’Osservatore Romano. “Moreover, studies have brought to light abundant documentation that testifies to how the Church provided Jews with fundamental assistance.”
According to Vatican watcher Sandro Magister, the interview was carried out by Maurizio Fontana and by the director of the L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian.
In the extensive interview, Mieli, who is from a Jewish family and whose relatives died in a Nazi concentration camp, underscored the heroic role played by the Church during the Nazi occupation of Rome.
“The Church put herself completely at their disposition: all of the basilicas, all of the churches, all of the seminaries and all of the convents hosted and extended a hand to the Jews. So much so that in Rome, where two thousand Jews were deported, 18,000 were able to be saved,” Mieli said. While the “Church of Pius XII” can’t claim to have saved all 18,000, she can say that she “contributed to saving most of them,” Mieli wrote.
He underscored the witness of Rome’s chief Rabbi in 1944, Isaac Herzog, who said at the time, “The people of Israel will never forget what Pius XII and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion that constitute the basis of an authentic civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history. It is a living sign of divine providence in this world.”
“That same year,” Mieli added, “Sergeant Joseph Vancover wrote: ‘I wish to speak of the Jewish Rome, of the great miracle that thousands of Jews have found. The churches, the convents, the friars and the monks, and above all, the Pontiff, have stepped up to help and save the Jews, snatching them from the claws of the Nazis and their Italian fascist collaborators’.”
Therefore, he rejected claims that the Pope was silent and an accomplice of the Nazi crimes. “Anyone who does not have a prejudiced attitude and makes an effort to get to know Pacelli through the documents cannot help but be surprised by this black legend that has no meaning. Pius XII was a great Pope,” Mieli said.
“If we look at it as a historical event, the black legend is crazy. But I think that, apart from any controversy, every historian worthy of the name—including the case of people like me who are not Catholic—will work to reestablish the truth,” he said.
Mieli said Pius XII paid the price for his anti-Communism, but he “was a Pope in line with the history of the Catholic Church of the 20th century. If you read what he wrote or listen to his recorded speeches you realize how he also criticized liberalism,” he added.
“Be aware,” he said, “I think this black legend’s days are numbered,” because “historians will do justice to Pius XII.”
Tenerife, Spain, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - Cristobal Jose and his twin brother Diego Jesus Rodriguez were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Bernardo Alvarez of Tenerife on Saturday at the parish of the Immaculate Conception.
The ordination was attended by Bishop Emeritus Felipe Fernandez and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.
Cristobal and Diego are both 24 years old and hail from the island of Tenerife. Cristobal described his decision to consider the priesthood, saying, “When you consider as a young person saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord forever, you do it from knowing that you have discovered Christ who gives reason to your existence and gives hope to your life.”
“When I decided to embark upon this priestly journey, I began twelve years ago motivated perhaps by the attractive lives of a priest and a nun. Their example, the way they carried out their ministries etc., everything spoke to me of Christ. Thanks to these people, I fell in love with the Gospel to the point of surrendering my life totally to Christ. When I think of my work as a priest, I am excited about the day to day task of contributing to the work for fraternity, justice and love,” he said.
For his part, Diego said that when he was little, he was always asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He always answered: “a priest.” “It was precisely the priest in my town who invited me to see the seminary and little by little my enthusiasm grew. I entered the diocesan seminary at the age of 11 and I have spent twelve years in formation, like my brother. During all this time I have experienced it all: doubts, uncertainties, but also joy and conviction for living out the vocation.”
Albany, N.Y., Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - A new Zogby poll claims that the presidential race between Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama is again narrowing, with Monday results showing Obama leading McCain 47.9 percent to 43.6 percent. Obama enjoys a slightly greater lead among Catholics.
Among self-described Catholics, Obama leads by 49.5 percent to 44.3 percent, Stephanie DeVries, Zogby assistant director of communications, told CNA in a Monday e-mail.
According to Zogby, McCain gained eight-tenths of a point among all likely voters, while Obama lost one full point.
The Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby three-day tracking poll of 1,206 likely voters was conducted over a three-day period, with about 400 respondents interviewed each day. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.
Vatican City, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, warned this week that many priests dedicated to teaching forget or abandon ordinary ministry, in which the Word of God should be at the center.
During his intervention at the Synod of Bishops, the cardinal pointed out that while “there are numerous institutes of study today, especially for the laity and consecrated persons, at the same time religious ignorance seems to be increasing.”
The recent research, he continued, “carried out by the Catholic Biblical Federation in ten European countries has demonstrated an ignorance of basic facts about the Bible such as, ‘Are the gospels part of the Bible?’ ‘Did Jesus write the Bible?’, ‘Who was a person from the Old Testament between the time of Moses and Paul’, and others.”
“We do a lot,” the cardinal said, “but perhaps we do not distribute our efforts reasonably in the different tasks and levels of teaching. The increase in institutes is often accompanied by less widespread teaching in ordinary ministry. The number of priests diminishes but the number of priests who feel called to be professors and leave behind ordinary pastoral care grows,” he said.
In order to be able to proclaim the Word of God, Cardinal Grocholewski, continued, it must be made available to the faithful and given its due importance, “because it determines our Christian life, our relationship with the Lord, our Christian joy.”
He also stressed that in order to adequately make known the Word of God, “it must be interpreted and taught, with prayer, attentiveness, faith and the docility of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand the true theological-spiritual meaning of the Word of God.”
Vatican City, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, explained during his intervention at the Synod of Bishops that priests need good theology and a safe exegetical method in order to make the Word of God known better.
In his speech published by L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Hummes recalled an anecdote about one of his colleagues, a professor and doctor in theology, who “was confused about what he had read about the resurrection of Christ in some theological and exegetical books, which cast doubt on some aspects of this fundamental dogma of our faith and disturbingly emptied it of its true content.”
Cardinal Hummes continued, “He told me about this confusion. It was the Easter Vigil. So he asked me, ‘Tomorrow is Easter. What should I tell the people in the church about the resurrection?’ and I quickly responded: ‘You should proclaim that Jesus rose from the dead and lives! Period.’ And he said to me: ‘How true that is!’ And he left happy.”
This episode, the cardinal said, “makes us think of the urgent need to give our priests and deacons good theology and a safe exegetical method. Regarding an exegetical method, Pope Benedict XVI lays out a direction in the prologue of his book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.”
Regarding priests and deacons, he continued, “May the Word of God be nourishment for them for personal discipleship. The Word of God is before all else the very person of Jesus Christ.” “The encounter with Christ will provide the strength necessary to bearing witness to the proclamation of the Word,” he said.
Lima, Peru, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - Father Fernando Samaniego Orellana, chancellor and press director for the Prelature of Juli in the Andean region of southern Peru, has strongly rejected the “campaign of unjust criticisms and disparagement” launched against Bishop Jose Maria Ortega Trinidad for not renewing an agreement allowing the Maryknoll Missionary Society to continue working in the prelature.
Recently, Bishop Ortega Trinidad announced that he had decided not to renew the agreement that permitted the Maryknoll missionaries to work in the region because the American missionaries had fallen under the influence of Marxist liberation theology. He also charged that the extraordinary ministry carried out by their predecessors had been transformed into social activism and serious pastoral neglect of the inhabitants of the region.
Upon hearing of the bishop’s decision, several left-wing Peruvian organizations and publications launched a campaign against the bishop. Father Samaniego Orellana explained that the smear campaign “began from the moment the naming of Bishop Jose Maria Ortega Trinidad as the new Prelate of Juli at the beginning of 2006.” The bishop has since received death threats, despite being warmly received by local residents.
Bishop Ortega has also been criticized for joining the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is linked to Opus Dei. Since becoming the bishop of the Andean region, he has carried out an extensive reform of priestly life, seminary formation, and of catechetical training, which was previously under the control of Maryknoll missionaries, who hired catechists sympathetic to Marxists views.
Although catechists in the Peruvian Andes are volunteers, those who work in Juli are paid with American dollars and have threatened to bring a lawsuit against the Prelature.
Mosul, Iraq, Oct 13, 2008 (CNA) - Following planned murders, violence, and threats targeting Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has decided to deploy 1,000 policemen to protect the religious minority. The prime minister also opened an investigation into the attacks.
On Sunday, the day of the announcement, a Christian businessman was killed and his nephew wounded in a drive-by shooting in Mosul. The attacks against Christians continued to take place in Mosul on Monday as the owner of a Christian music store was killed, adding to a three week long string of attacks, which has claimed the lives of thirteen Christians.
According to SIR, the prime minister’s office has stated: “two brigades of the national police have been deployed in Mosul, which is considered by the USA and the Iraqi government to be Al Qaeda’s last stronghold in the country.”
Provincial governor Duraid Kashmula reported this past Saturday that the spike in violence has led to an exodus of about 3,000 Christian families from Mosul, which he said was the worst since the outbreak of war in 2003.
Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako responded to the attacks by charging that Christians are met with an “unacceptable silence” at the global level. The archbishop said many Christians in Mosul no longer go to school or work for fear of harassment by Islamic radicals.
Some employers are telling Christians to stay home because they cannot guarantee their safety.
“At the end of the day, these assassins are damaging the image of Islam,” Archbishop Sako told the Italian daily Avvenire, adding that Iraqi imams have the duty to condemn the persecution in Mosul.
The archbishop believed that Christian pastors had also “missed the mark,” claiming there was a lack of “clear and unified ecclesiastical discourse.”
On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal for Christians who are persecuted all over the world, specially referencing India and Iraq.