Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta will appear on a U.S. postal stamp in 2010, the postal service announced last week. “With this stamp,” notes the press release, “the U.S. Postal Service recognizes Mother Teresa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work.”
“Noted for her compassion toward the poor and suffering, Mother Teresa, a diminutive Roman Catholic nun and honorary U.S. citizen, served the sick and destitute of India and the world for nearly 50 years. Her humility and compassion, as well as her respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind, inspired people of all ages and backgrounds to work on behalf of the world's poorest populations,” the statement adds.
The U.S. Postal Service also recalls that President Ronald Reagan presented Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, the same year she began work on behalf of AIDS sufferers in the U.S. and other countries. In 1997, Congress awarded Mother Teresa the Congressional Gold Medal for her “outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities.”
In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress awarded Mother Teresa honorary U.S. citizenship, an honor bestowed only on five others: British Prime minister Winston Churchill; Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved hundreds of Jews from the holocaust; British William Penn and Hannah Callowhill Penn, founders and administrators of the province of Pennsylvania; and the Marquis de Lafayette in 2002. With the exception of Hannah Callowhill Penn, each of these figures also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp.
The stamp features a portrait of Mother Teresa painted by award-winning artist Thomas Blackshear II of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Santa Paula, Calif., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - The Dan Murphy Foundation of Los Angeles has approved a grant of $2 million to Thomas Aquinas College in honor of the school’s late president, Dr. Thomas E. Dillon, who was killed in an automobile accident last April.
In a press release, President-elect Dr. Michael F. McLean explained that “this magnificent grant is being made as a lead gift to the college’s new capital campaign, the goal of which is to complete all of the funding for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. That was a project dear to Tom’s heart, and we are so grateful the Dan Murphy Foundation has chosen to honor him in this way.”
“The Trustees of the Dan Murphy Foundation are pleased to make this contribution in memory of Dr. Dillon, in recognition of his great achievements on behalf of Thomas Aquinas College,” said Richard A. Grant, President of the Dan Murphy Foundation.
“It is hoped the Foundation’s grant will be an impetus to complete the College's capital campaign as a tribute to Dr. Dillon's tireless efforts in building the Thomas Aquinas campus. This beautiful chapel exemplifies Tom Dillon's devotion to the Roman Catholic Church and Thomas Aquinas College,” Grant added.
Thomas Aquinas' $7 million capital campaign will conclude on June 30, 2011.
Vatican City, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - The Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed in a press communiqué on Sunday that over the holidays Benedict XVI sent his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, to the woman who caused him to fall on Christmas Eve.
Little detail was provided in the message, but Fr. Lombardi did say that Msgr. Gaenswein paid a visit to Susanna Maiolo to show her “the interest the Holy Father has for her situation.” The communiqué was released in response to reports from various news outlets on the existence of such an event.
The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero also reported on Sunday that on Dec. 31 Msgr. Gaenswein went to the town of Subiaco, less than fifty miles from Rome, where Maiolo was recovering in the Angelucci Hospital. During his visit, the Papal secretary reportedly offered Maiolo a rosary, the Pontiff’s wishes for a blessed New Year and a “pardon” from the Holy Father, who, it was reported in the article, “is convinced of the good intentions of the girl.”
Il Giornale also reported that Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the elderly French cardinal who sustained a broken femur in the incident, had also forgiven Maiolo.
As for the Vatican judicial proceedings now under way against the Swiss-Italian Maiolo, Fr. Lombardi reported that “they will run their course until their fulfilment.”
Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic Congresswoman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) hinted last week that she will support the abortion language of the health care Senate bill once it goes back to the House.
The representative has been asked by the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate to help find a compromise on abortion between the two chambers.
In an interview last week with the Huffington Post, the Catholic pro-abortion Democrat said she would support the Senate's version of the bill and its abortion-related language. She also asked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to join the “compromise” about which “no one is happy.”
Referring to the Hyde amendment, put in place in 1976 to bar federal funds from paying for abortion, DeLauro “acknowledged a certain misery in being forced to favorably champion existing law,” reported the Huffington Post. “‘Who on the pro-choice side is excited about saying the Hyde language ought to prevail?’ she asked.”
But according to DeLauro, “legislation, especially health care reform, is defined by finding middle ground.”
“It's maybe a compromise where no one is that happy. It would appear that you've got the Catholic Bishops who aren't happy. But [Sen. Ben] Nelson (D-Neb.) found his way there as did Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and the pro-choice side said, ‘We don't like this as much as we would like to not deal with this language.’ But, you know, we're not going to defeat health care.”
With “regard to the Catholic Bishops, they now have an opportunity to not hold health care hostage in the way that they did and tried to do in the Senate,” DeLauro added.
Vatican City, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI delivered a stirring message from the window of his apartment in the Vatican Palace above a packed St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. Before reciting the Angelus, he welcomed the New Year with an invitation to hope and a reminder that the faithful have a responsibility to collaborate with God.
The Pope began by saying that despite problems in the Church, the world and our family lives, we can always trust in God to be our hope, a hope that does not rely on “improbable prognostications” or “economic forecasts.” This is also not a hope in a “generic religiosity, or in a fatalism feigned as faith.”
“We trust in the God that revealed completely and definitively in Jesus Christ His will to be with man, to share his story, to guide us all to His kingdom of love and life,” continued the Holy Father.
The Pontiff referred to the three biblical readings from Sunday’s Eucharistic liturgy as being “of extraordinary wealth” in illuminating this revelation. “These texts,” he explained, “affirm that God is not only creator of the universe – an aspect also in common to other religions – but that He is the Father… .”
Through these readings, Benedict XVI said, we know that God chose us as His adopted children, first among creation, and even made himself man to live among us, thus, making “all of the fullness of divinity” bodily present.
The true reason for us to have hope, continued the Pope, is “the meaning given to history because it is 'inhabited' by the Wisdom of God.”
However, he noted, this “divine design” does not come about on its own, but is a “project of love,” which generates and asks for freedom.
“Each man and woman is responsible for taking Him in to their own lives, day by day.”
Thus, said the Pope, the value of the year 2010 for us is contingent on our ability to “collaborate with the grace of God,” according to our individual responsibilities.
The Pontiff concluded by using the example of the Virgin Mary as a spiritual model, because when she gave her consent the Son of God was conceived.
“Each time the Lord wants to take a step ahead, together with us, towards the 'promised land,' he calls first to our hearts, (and) waits for … our ‘yes’, in the big and the small choices.”
After the Angelus, the Benedict XVI greeted all the English-speakers in the crowd, calling them to be “witnesses to the light that enlightens the whole of creation” like John the Baptist in Sunday’s Gospel.
CNA STAFF, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Cell phone and mobile device users who have benefited from CNA’s mobile services during the past year can now access an updated and complete version of CNA’s website by connecting to http://m.catholicnewsagency.com
The new version allows users access to all information provided each day by Catholic News Agency, thanks to a new format designed especially for access via mobile devices and personal wireless internet connections.
CNA STAFF, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) -
Catholic News Agency’s Youtube.com channel, CNA TV, has been redesigned for 2010 to allow users the ability to easily search and view the hundreds of videos available on the channel.
The new design features more than 300 videos and has 1,300 subscribers. Videos are organized into playlists by subject, with themes such as catechesis, Catholic issues, events, Benedict XVI, devotions, conversions, controversies, Liturgical Calendar, saints, marriage & family, motivational, the Virgin Mary and pro-life issues.
The videos can be embedded into other websites and can be downloaded in other formats for the work of the new evangelization.
The channel can be accessed at: www.youtube.com/catholicnewsagency
Armagh, Ireland, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Cahal Brendan Daly, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh, Ireland died on December 31 at 92 years-old. In recent days he has been remembered by Pope Benedict XVI and many leaders within Ireland as a man of great faith and a tireless desire for peace.
Daly had been a cardinal since June of 1991 and also served as the Primate of the Irish Catholic Church from 1990 to 1996. He was a highly regarded theologian and philosopher.
In a telegram sent to Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Sean Brady, Benedict XVI recognized the Cardinal Daly's many years of pastoral service and his efforts to achieve justice and peace in Northern Ireland.
Illustrating his strong presence in Irish society, the Irish Times reported that news of his death was met with words of condolence, respect and reverence from Irish Catholic Church officials, leaders of other Christian denominations within Ireland, the President of Ireland and the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland.
Being from Northern Ireland himself, Daly was able to understand and help improve relations between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.
Cardinal Brady, Primate of the Catholic Church in Ireland, remarked on the late cardinal’s legacy in a statement, saying, “At a critical and troubled time in Irish history, he was prophetic in his conviction that lasting peace can only be built on justice, mutual understanding and respect for the traditions and aspirations of others.”
Cardinal Daly will be buried on Tuesday on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh.
Helena, Mont., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - In its final decision of 2009, the Supreme Court of Montana denied victory to pro-euthanasia group “Compassion & Choices” on its quest for a right to “aid in dying” based on the Montana State Constitution.
In a split decision issued on December 31, the Supreme Court rejected the existence of a right to physician-assisted suicide and focused on issues of statutory construction to determine that Montana state law has no public policy against “aid in dying” because the final death causing act lies in the patient's hands, explained the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
In reaction, the EPC said in their statement that “the bright spot in the decision is that it does not give physicians the ‘right’ to prescribe a lethal dose, but only suggests that circumstances may exist to give them a defense to prosecution for homicide.”
Nevertheless, according to EPC, the decision “ignores the practical realities of ensuring patient safety from over-eager heirs, new ‘best friends’ and others who might benefit from the patient's death. For example, physicians who malpractice and who want to hide their mistakes can now say: ‘It was what the patient wanted.’ The evidence against the physician dies with the patient. If the patient has no family or other advocate, who will know?”
Eileen Geller, hospice RN and president of True Compassion Advocates, stated in a press release that “in practice, this means that while assisted suicide is still not legal in Montana, the Court has nevertheless stripped vulnerable patients of important legal protections. The ruling is a recipe for elder abuse and for the victimization of ill people.”
According to Geller, “the Montana Supreme Court expressly declined to hold that a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide exists under the Montana constitution. The Montana legislature must now step up to the plate, re-affirm over a hundred years of Montana public policy, and protect elderly, ill, and Montanans with disabilities.”
Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) -
In his greeting to Spanish-speakers after yesterday’s Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the recent opening of the Holy Year of St. James at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The Pontiff urged the faithful to remain open to being “illuminated by Christ” as throngs of pilgrims have sought to do on The Way of St. James pilgrimage for centuries.
The Holy Door was opened on December 31 to begin the Holy Year of the Apostle St. James at the supposed site of his burial in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
The Door is re-opened at the beginning of every year in which the feast day of St. James, July 25, falls on a Sunday. The last time this took place was in 2004, and the next time will be in 2021.
In a letter sent to the Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela for the inauguration of the Holy Year, Benedict XVI wrote that theme for the Year, “On a pilgrimage towards the light,” should serve “as a call to evangelization for the men and women of today, recalling the essentially pilgrim nature of the Church and of Christians of this world.”
The letter included a special call to clergy, “whose spirit of welcome and commitment to the faithful and to pilgrims has to be particularly generous” during this Holy Year. The Pope implored them to pay special attention to administering the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, because “the most sought-after, valuable and characteristic element of the Holy Year is forgiveness and the encounter with the living Christ.”
The Holy Father closed his letter with a word for the individual pilgrims who might have the opportunity to walk The Way this year, asking them not to forget to pray for those unable to accompany them. He also counseled them “to treasure the profound experiences of faith, charity and fraternity they encounter on their journey, and to seek especially to live the Way as an interior experience, responding to the call that the Lord makes to each one of them."
According to the website of the British Confraternity of St. James, plenary or full indulgences will be granted during the Holy Year, those who visit the Cathedral and the Apostle’s tomb, and additionally make a confession, attend Mass, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and undertake some charitable work, which can include a charitable donation, are granted a plenary indulgence.
Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - In a little-publicized interview given with the Feminist blog, “BlogHer.com,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the language in the Senate version of the health care bill because it upholds publicly-funded abortion coverage.
In the interview with BlogHer’s Political Director Morra Aarons-Mele, Sebelius stated that the Senate bill takes “a big step forward from where the House left it with the Stupak amendment.” Sebelius went on to note that she thinks it does “a good job making sure there are choices for women, making sure there are going to be some plan options, and making sure that, while public funds aren’t used, we are not isolating, discriminating against, or invading the privacy rights of women.”
According to Sebelius, Harry Reid’s version of the health care bill would establish “an accounting procedure,” but “everybody in the exchange would do the same thing, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re 75 or 25.” That procedure “would all set aside a portion of your premium that would go into a fund, and it would not be earmarked for anything, it would be a separate account that everyone in the exchange would pay.”
When Aarons-Mele observes during the interview that the explanation is “a bit confusing,” the HHS Secretary explains, “it is a bit confusing, but it’s really an accounting measure that would apply across the board and not
Vatican City, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, Archbishop Emeritus of Tokyo, died at the age of 81 on December 30. The Japanese cardinal was remembered by the Pope for his “unfailing commitment to the spread of the Gospel in Japan.”
Cardinal Shirayanagi was ordained a priest in 1954, made bishop in 1966 and was appointed as titular archbishop in 1970. He was created and made a cardinal in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.
Many initiatives were carried out under his direction within the institutions of the Catholic Church of Japan. Among the most noteworthy achievements were his involvement in promoting unity between Japanese Catholics and Catholics in other Asian states and his efforts to promote global peace and disarmament.
Cardinal Shirayanagi was a pioneer in reaching out to other Catholics in Asia. In 1989, he led a landmark delegation of Japanese Catholics to meet with their Chinese counterparts on equal terms to seek forgiveness for sins committed by the Japanese Imperial Army against the Chinese, to promote solidarity among all Catholics and help rebuild Catholic structures within the country.
As Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Activities in the 1970’s, he was able to create active evangelization policies, including those that addressed the problems of refugees, foreign aid and discriminatory legislation.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke warmly of the cardinal in a telegram addressed to Archbishop of Tokyo, Most Rev. Peter Takeo Okada. In the letter, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the loss of Cardinal Shirayanagi but also his gratitude for the prelate’s “unfailing commitment to the spread of the Gospel in Japan in his many years as priest and bishop, his work for the promotion of justice and peace, and his tireless efforts on behalf of refugees.”
Funeral rites for Cardinal Shirayanagi will be held on Tuesday in the Cathedral of Tokyo.
Washington D.C., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops have said that the proposed health care bill is “deficient” and needs “essential changes” because it lacks longstanding federal restrictions on abortion funding, hinders immigrants’ access to health care, and falls short of total coverage.
Congress and the Obama Administration should create legislation that “truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all,” wrote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy and Bishop of Salt Lake City John Wester in a Dec. 22 letter to members of the Senate.
Writing before the Senate’s Christmas Eve vote that approved the proposed legislation, the bishops lamented that the Senate version of the bill lacks the U.S. House version’s restrictions on abortion funding and Hyde Amendment restrictions found in other federal bills.
In the Senate health care legislation, the bishops said, federal funds will “help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortion.”
“All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion. There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions,” they added.
The letter cited a Dec. 22 Quinnipiac University survey which reported that 72 percent of Americans oppose public funding of abortion in health care legislation.
According to the bishops, the Senate bill “continues to fall short” of the House bill’s protections for health care providers that decline involvement in abortion and also lacks conscience protections allowing institutions to provide and purchase health coverage “consistent with their moral and religious convictions.”
The bishops also urged the lifting of the five-year ban on legal immigrants’ access to federal health benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They endorsed an amendment by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would allow individual states to lift the ban.
Further, they said immigrants should be allowed to purchase a health insurance plan with their own money. Otherwise, they could be forced to rely on emergency room care. This would cause harm to immigrants and their families and the general public health and would also result in higher financial burdens, the prelates contended.
The bishops said that regardless of the Senate’s action they would work “vigorously” to incorporate their priorities.
“We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine reform,” their letter concluded.
Milwaukee, Wis., Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jerome Listecki was installed on January 4 as the 11th Archbishop of Milwaukee at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, filling the seat left vacant by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was appointed to New York. In his first homily, the new archbishop called on his flock to “sacrifice for the truth.”
“There are many bishops and priests more intelligent, more talented and more deserving of this position than me,” said Archbishop Listecki lightheartedly on Monday. “I say this not with a false sense of humility but merely as fact.” The prelate continued to say however, that Pope Benedict XVI, “has made his selection and I accept his decision as God's will. Please note that I will use every ounce of my being to serve this great Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”
Drawing on the Gospel reading from John during his homily, the prelate recalled the story of Christ's “dramatic confrontation with St. Peter,” where He asks St. Peter three times if he loves Him. The archbishop continued to explain that followers of Christ are asked the same question along with St. Peter and are given a similar calling to present the truth in love.
“The Church presents the truth in charity,” said the prelate. “It is the truth of the (Church's) teaching that maintains our right relationship with Jesus.”
“Our teaching on the dignity of the human person embraces life from the moment of conception to natural death. It reflects the love of life entrusted to us. This sacredness which reflects the imago dei – the very image of God – it is this very life for which Christ came into the world to suffer, die and rise. Our social principles, our care for the poor, is mandated out of a love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God,” he explained.
The prelate also reminded his new flock of its responsibility to defend marriage and the family, saying that “in our protection of marriage and family life, an environment is created for the responsible transmission of the faith.”
“Adherence to the Church's teaching is not always easy,” remarked the archbishop. “However, one must sacrifice for the truth.”
“In this sacrifice we demonstrate our love.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Archbishop Listecki attended school locally and eventually began his graduate studies at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1975. A few years later, he attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, earning a doctoral degree in Canon Law.
Fr. Listecki was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of La Crosse by the late Pope John Paul II in 2000 and was ordained a bishop in 2001. Before being appointed to lead the Church in Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki served as the Bishop of LaCrosse, Wis., beginning in 2005.
Medjugorje, Bosnia, Jan 4, 2010 (CNA) - Most Rev. Ratko Perić, the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno in Bosnia-Herzegovina, released a statement in which he criticizes Vienna, Austria’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn for making a highly publicized “personal visit” to the region where Mary is said to have been appearing since 1981.
In his statement, released on January 2, Bishop Perić noted that it was his “duty, as diocesan bishop, to provide information to the faithful” regarding the nature of the apparitions, the divide they have caused in his diocese and the official position of the Church on the anomaly.
The apparitions have not been officially recognized by the Church.
Perić’s statement explained that due to the ongoing apparitions and the ensuing debate, his diocese now unwillingly hosts a number of “new communities and associations of the faithful who, in disobedience, live at Medjugorje.” These communities, he said, “may become encouraged in their ecclesial disobedience because of the cardinal’s visit.”
The statement also called into question a November 13, 2009 statement from Vienna’s Kath.net claiming that during Schönborn’s visit, “there will also be a meeting with the local bishop and the critics of Medjugorje.” However, the bishop stated, as of the release of the his Jan.2 remarks, the Diocese of Mostar had received no official communication from Schönborn’s office of the cardinal’s intent to visit the parish. This absence of notification, Perić said, displays the lack of a “certain ecclesial courtesy” among prelates who are want to inform their brother bishops when one is about to visit the other’s diocese.
The bishop concluded that Schönborn’s visit, especially his actions and statements, “have added to the current suffering of the local church.”
Bishop Perić’s complete statement is as follows:
On the occasion of the visit of Cardinal Schönborn to Medjugorje
Since the media have announced, and been present during the visit and the public presence of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, to Medjugorje, which has thus sparked a wrong impression that the Cardinal, by his presence, has recognized the authenticity of the “apparitions” of Medjugorje, I regard it to be my duty, as diocesan bishop, to provide some information to the faithful, noting that I have already sent a personal letter of similar content to the cardinal.
1. Before we begin, some media have propagated the news story that, on Sept. 15, 2009, at the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna a meeting took place, at which his eminence Cardinal Schönborn was present and during which Marija Pavlovíc-Lunetti, the daily “visionary” who has allegedly witnessed the daily “apparitions” of June 1981, spoke of how the “apparitions had influenced the changing of her life. On that occasion, the Cardinal, responded in a speech: “ It is a great gift that the Mother of God wants to be so close to her children! She has demonstrated this in so many places in the world. And she has been demonstrating this in a very special manner at Medjugorje for years and years.”
2. Then, on Nov. 13, 2009, Kath.net of Vienna announced: “The Archbishop of Vienna will visit the well-known Marian shrine at the end of the year, including the parish and the Cenacle Community. There will also be a meeting with the local bishop and the critics of Medjugorje.” The curia of this diocese was not informed by the office of the archbishop nor by the Medjugorje parish office of the Cardinal’s visit.
3. On Nov 16, 2009,the Catholic News Agency published the news story: “Cardinal Christoph Schönborn will visit Medjugorje, the small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six young people have allegedly been witnesses of apparitions from the Virgin Mary. But according to the Archdiocese of Vienna, the trip is 'completely private' and does not imply a statement from the cardinal on the veracity of the apparitions. It was supposed to be a completely private visit, it was not supposed to go out to the Internet,' said Fr. Johannes Fürnkranz, personal secretary to the Archbishop of Vienna.”
4. On December 29, 2009, Cardinal Schönborn arrived in Medjugorje. The media accompanied him the next day and on others as well. According to the news, he delivered a speech at the church of St. James the Apostle that highlighted the mercy of God the Father. In that speech, he said: “Who could put these things in motion? Who could invent them? A man? No, this is not the work of a human being.”
On December 31, 2009, journalists transmitted: “While some were expecting that the Cardinal’s visit to Medjugorje would be private, he has nevertheless surprised the locals by being very visible. He has spent time celebrating Mass at the Church of St. James the Apostle, walking up the hill where the apparitions occur with the visionary Marija Lunetti, praying in the silence of Adoration, and perhaps the most significant thing, delivering a speech at the parish church in the company of the Franciscans.”
5. In all of this, I have to admit that, as diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno, I have remained very surprised. I understand that a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church enjoys the faculty to confess and preach the gospel in all the Catholic Church. But when it comes to public appearances outside of his own diocese, there is, among us bishops, a certain ecclesial courtesy: the bishop or the cardinal who is planning on coming to another diocese and appearing publicly, announces himself to the local bishop first, something suggested by ecclesial prudence. I believe that such ecclesial prudence, and such a rule, deserved to be applied especially in this case.
6. I am surprised that the office of Cardinal Schönborn has not, to the day of the publication of this statement, contacted us. I suppose that the Cardinal is aware of the Church’s position regarding Medjugorje, a position based on the investigations and conclusions according to which it is not possible to say, “The apparitions or revelations are supernatural.” His visit to the Cenacle Community, that is to say, to Sister Elvira, who obiter dicendo, as a religious does not have the permission to live or work in this diocesan territory, could be interpreted as a support for her. It can not only be interpreted as support to her, but also to the conspicuous number of new communities and associations of the faithful who live in Medjugorje in disobedience, and may read an encouragement to their ecclesial disobedience into the Cardinal’s visit.
7. As bishop of the diocese, I will highlight and repeat some painful facts:
· First of all, I highlight the painful “Herzegonvinian case” of the parishes which are linked to the “Medjugorje phenomenon:” from the beginning, some Franciscans, who were then in disobedience, have decisively taken the side of the figure of Medjugorje, accusing the then-diocesan bishop of causing the local crisis. One of them has since left the order and the priesthood.
· In the territory of the diocese, we now have nine ex-Franciscans who were dismissed by the superiors of the Order of Friars Minor. The Holy See has confirmed such their dismissal. Despite being suspended a divinis, they operate in the usurped parishes as legal priests. While the alleged figure of Medjugorje responds to the most frivolous questions of the curious, we have never heard a word against the grave abuses that are damaging the unity of this local church.
· We have had a tragic experience in 2001: A few Franciscans, some of whom had already been dismissed by their order, and some others who had not yet been dismissed, invited an “old-Catholic” (a small European schismatic community) deacon who introduced himself as an “archbishop” who “confirmed” more than 700 young people in the usurped parishes. All of this occurred invalidly and sacrilegiously. He also celebrated the Mass invalidly as a deacon in some parishes. The apparition of Medjugorje doesn’t even mention this abuse of the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Eucharist!
· We have also had another sad episode: Two of these priests have gone to an “old-Catholic” bishop in Switzerland requesting to be ordained bishops and to separate themselves from Mostar and from Rome in order to create a formal schism. This is something the “old-Catholic” bishop has declined to do.
· We also have had problems with the presence of two particularly charismatic promoters of the “Medjugorje phenomenon.” One of who is the profoundly disobedient Tomislav Vlašić, who was dismissed from the Franciscans last year, and who the Holy See has relieved, upon his own request, from any priestly duty or responsibility. The other is Brother Jozo Zovko, who has been deprived from any priestly duty in the territory of this diocese since 2004, and who, according to news stories, has been pulled out of the territory of Herzegovina by his religious superiors and has been forbade from any contact with Medjugorje.
8. The Cardinal remained enthusiastic about the many confessions heard at Medjugorje where the Father’s mercy was expressed. We believe that the mercy of the Heavenly Father is equally expressed in Medjugorje as in any other parish of our diocese, before or after the Medjugorje phenomenon. Just take a look at the long lines of faithful in front of the confessionals in all of our parishes, especially before Christmas, Easter, liturgical feasts, or confirmations. Many claim that the confessions at Medjugorje are a strong proof that our Lady “appears.” According to such conclusions regarding to the numerous confessions, our Lady would appear in all of our parishes, and not only to those three persons to which she appears once a year at Medjugorje and the other three to whom she appears every day, both inside and outside of Medjugorje, and even at the Vienna cathedral, as they say. In total, up to now, some 40,000 “apparitions!” Moreover, we have the impression that some of the “visionaries” decide where and when Our Lady will “appear,” since she appears where and when they want. Isn’t this an unacceptable manipulation of Our Lady, and of the sacred in general?
As diocesan bishop, I wish to inform the faithful with this statement that the visit of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn does not imply any recognition of the “apparitions” related to Medjugorje, I am saddened by the fact that the Cardinal, with his visit, presence, and statements, has contributed to the current suffering of the local church, and even added to it, which does not contribute to the much needed peace and unity.
Ratko Perić, bishop