Vatican City, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - Just as the Year for Priests is about to begin on June 19, the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome is being handed over to the Bishops' Conference of France. Pope Benedict XVI took time on Saturday to speak with the seminarians and faculty about the importance of properly forming future priests.
The Pontifical French Seminary will be undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transition as the Holy Ghost Fathers bring their 150-year tenure as the formators and administrators to a close. The French Bishops' Conference will now take over the running of the seminary.
Pope Benedict gave thanks to God in his address to the rector, staff and students for the "work accomplished by this institution, founded in 1853, where some 5,000 seminarians have been prepared for their future vocations."
The task of forming priests, the Pope noted, "is a delicate mission. ... Future priests require many aptitudes: human maturity, spiritual qualities, apostolic zeal and intellectual rigor."
"Those whose duty it is to discern and form [seminarians] must remember that the hope they place in others is, first and foremost, a duty they themselves must shoulder."
Benedict XVI also pointed out that the administrative change "coincides with the beginning of the Year for Priests," due to be inaugurated on June 19. "This," he said, "is a grace for the new team of priest formators from the Conference of Bishops of France."
In closing his remarks, the Pope expressed his hope that "during the period they spend in Rome, the seminarians may familiarize themselves with the history of the Church, discovering the true dimensions of her catholicity and her living unity around Peter's Successor, and always maintaining love for the Church alive in their hearts."
Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Monsignor Timothy C. Senior, 49, as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, announced the appointment at a news conference Monday morning in the Archdiocesan Office Center.
Msgr. Senior has served as Vicar for Clergy of the archdiocese for the past five years. Prior to that, he had served for seven years as Deputy Secretary and Secretary of Catholic Human Services for the archdiocese.
Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Senior is the youngest of three children. He was ordained a priest in 1985 and earned a Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA in 1988.
Senior went on to earn a Masters in Social Work and Masters in Business Administration from Boston College in 1992.
In 1998, Senior was named Chaplain to His Holiness, with the title “Reverend Monsignor.”
As an auxiliary bishop, Senior will join Philadelphia’s four active auxiliary bishops in shepherding over 1,400,000 Catholics, which is about 38% of the population.
Msgr. Senior will be consecrated a bishop on July 31 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
Hong Kong, China, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - The new Bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong, said the recent publication of the Compendium of Pope Benedict XVI 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics could help the Chinese to work through their differences and be united with a Pope who is intent upon speaking to them despite the continuous efforts of the regime to silence his voice.
In a special report sent to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Tong said the concern the Holy See has for the Chinese has astounded them, and that the Compendium is an answer to the attempts of Communist officials to block the circulation of the Pope’s 2007 letter.
The Communist regime has prohibited Chinese from have access to the letter via the Internet. “In almost any other part of the world, Catholics can openly meet to study a papal document, but in China this continues to be difficult.”
Referring to the Compendium, which uses a question-answer format, Bishop Tong explained that it can “help to better understand the general contents (of the 2007 letter). This format has been used for a long time in China to systematically present Catholic catechesis.”
Bishop Tong, who was part of a special commission that helped draft proposals for the Compendium, said the document “reflects the spirit and essence” of the 2007 letter, which was intended to foster greater unity among Chinese Catholics.
Lahore, Pakistan, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - Father Mario Rodriguez, director of the Pontifical Missionary Works in Pakistan, reported this week a group of Pakistani Christians will be going on pilgrimage to the main European shines to pray for peace in their country.
Speaking to the Fides news agency, Father Rodriguez said the delegation would be made up of priests, religious and lay people. The pilgrims plan to visit Rome, Venice, Padua, Assisi, Lourdes and Fatima.
“During the pilgrimage we will have the people of Swat and Malanakd, who are suffering from violence, in our hearts and in our minds. We will commend our country to the prayers of the Holy Father, and when we visit the Marian shrines our prayers will [represent] ... the millions of refugees who are suffering today in Pakistan,” he said.
Fides reported that in addition to the continual battle between the Taliban and the government, there are episodes of discrimination and violence against the non-Muslim minorities in the northeastern part of the country.
It also said that Christian communities are being forced to pay an Islamic tax. “The completely arbitrary imposition is the decision of local Muslim leaders, in open violation of the Pakistani state legal system, which does not allow for it,” Fides said.
Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - A report that Israel’s Chief Tax Collector had seized the funds of Catholic institutions in Israel was quickly countered on Monday when the apostolic nuncio to Israel said that the alarming claims of financial seizures resulted from a misinterpretation of a common government reminder.
The news outlet AsiaNews had reported that Yehezkhel Abrahamoff, the Chief Tax Collector at Israel’s Finance Ministry, had told Catholic institutions in Israel that he had seized their funds to force their submission to taxation.
Citing documentation and testimony from affected institutions that did not wish to be named “for fear of reprisals on the part of the Tax Authority,” AsiaNews said it was not yet clear whether the move reflected the actions of a single functionary or signaled a radical change of policy.
The fiscal status of the Church is presently being negotiated between the Holy See and Israel.
Responding to the report of the seizures, apostolic nuncio to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco said the information was based on a notification that was “nothing exceptional” but only a regular reminder.
Speaking to SIR, the Italian bishops’ news service, Archbishop Franco said:
“There is nothing to be worried about, from which to draw conclusions.
“It is only a normal procedure: almost every year a tax-payment reminder is sent to our institutions. We send it back, as an agreement on the fiscal statute of the Church in Israel has not been reached yet. We are still working on it. Nothing is finalized and nothing has changed compared to the general Agreement. Sometimes the media report news that may sound worrying for those who do not know them. What has happened is simply nothing new.”
The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See also confirmed that funds were not being seized. “The seizure of funds allocated by the ministry of education to some educational institutions belonging to the Catholic Church in Israel will not take place and the situation will remain unchanged,” the embassy said in a statement.
Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, also spoke to SIR, saying everything has been clarified.
“This has already happened in the past without any fuss,” he said. “Maybe it was just the act of a single functionary. This act has promptly been blocked.”
In May Fr. Pizzaballa reported that a fiscal agreement between the Holy See and Israel could be finished by year’s end.
“A good portion of the points have been resolved,” he said.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - An editorial in the Catholic weekly “Camino” has slammed abortion supporters in the Dominican Republic for using disrespectful language to refer to the Church.
“There are those who speak of the Church with a language that borders on disrespect for the social norms of civilized peaceful coexistence, and we also have lawmakers who voted against article 30 and now do not want the community to know their names,” the editorial stated.
It went on to question the posture of those lawmakers who after having voted in support of life, are now trying to remain anonymous in order to gain favor with everyone.
Most Dominicans are against abortion and thus lawmakers would “commit betrayal if they were to vote for a measure rejected by their constituents, since their power comes not from themselves but from the people,” the editorial explained.
Lawmakers who oppose article 30 of the Constitution “should understand clearly that the Church is not pressuring anyone, but rather is guiding the faithful about the actions taken by their representatives.”
“This shouldn’t be any cause of fear,” the paper stated. “Each person should respond to the dictates of their own principles and conscience, but we cannot have ambivalent positions, because we cannot play around with life.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico began celebrations for the Year of Priests this week and said the vocation to the priestly life is not based on feelings or emotions, but on “divine plans.”
The archbishop presided at a ceremony with 400 priests at the Cubilete Cristo Rey monument, which is located on a mountaintop outside the city of Leon.
In his message, the archbishop said, “It is not easy to appreciate the true meaning of the priesthood in a cultural context that only exalts whatever is based on feelings or emotions, that tells us to do only what we like and not what we should, that exalts what is fleeting and not what is eternal.”
“How much we need this year of priestly grace in a time in which we are experiencing the brunt of a culture that has no sensibility or appreciation for what is definitive, for what appeals to the truths that are founded upon divine plans,” he exclaimed.
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Saudi Arabian minister for foreign affairs paid a visit to the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue last Friday to discuss the best way to follow up on a recent gathering of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian leaders.
According to a Vatican press release, His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabian minister for foreign affairs, along with his delegation, visited representatives from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue on Friday.
During their meeting, they exchanged ideas regarding the best way to follow up on the Madrid Conference, which took place July 16-18, 2008 at the request of King Abdallah bin Abulaziz Al Saud. The meeting gathered together religious leaders from around the world urging them to find common ground and peacefully reconcile with each other.
Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2009 (CNA) - As the 200th anniversary of St. John Bosco approaches, the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is underscoring the educational work with the youth accomplished by the order founded by the Italian saint.
“The spirit of Don Bosco has taken on flesh in thousands of his sons and daughters who have decided to care for children through the different branches of the Salesian family,” the cardinal said during a Mass at the Catacombs of St. Callisto, which are under the custodianship of the Salesians. The pilgrim relics of the John Bosco were also on display at the Mass.
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Bertone, who is a Salesian himself, underscored the order’s dedication to young people and that John Bosco, moved by the Holy Spirit, opened his doors in an extraordinary way to welcome the most abandoned and threatened youths.
“The urn of Don Bosco is visiting this place to confirm the dedication and sacrifice of all those who throughout the years have passed through here, to renew in all, young and old, their youthful enthusiasm, to encourage the untiring commitment to the education of young people and to drive us ever more to care for today’s society,” the cardinal said.
The relics of the Salesian founder begin their worldwide tour in Rome and then will be taken to various cities around the world.