Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - The cause for the beatification of Jesuit missionary and Servant of God Fr. Mateo Ricci will be re-launched on Sunday evening after a Mass at the Cathedral of San Giuliano in the diocese of Diocese of Macerata-Tolentino.
The first session of the Diocesan Tribunal for his cause of beatification will be held after the Mass. According to Fides, the ecclesiastical court will hear a number of witnesses to ascertain the missionary’s current fame and reputation for holiness.
An historical commission has also been established to collect all the writings and documents attributed to Fr. Ricci, as well as those documents referring to him.
The commission will conclude with a critical study of his writings and will deliver a judgment on the authenticity and value of the documents relating to him.
Also on Jan. 24, Father Matteo Ricci Hall at the Palazo Sarnari will be inaugurated and blessed. The hall will be used for the celebrations planned for 2010.
Fr. Ricci was born in 1552 in the Marche town of Macerata. He became a Jesuit priest and a scholar of mathematics and astronomy before leaving for the Far East at the age of 26.
Ricci spent four years in Goa on the west coast of India before traveling to China. There, he settled in Zhao Qing in the southernmost Guangdong Province and began studying Chinese. During his time there he produced his global Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries, which revolutionized the Chinese understanding of the rest of the world.
A copy of the map recently went on display at the Library of Congress in the United States.
In 1589 the Jesuit moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematics discoveries with Chinese scholars. He became known as “Li Madou” and was renowned for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. He eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.
In 1601 he was allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office has released the details of the latest meeting of African bishops since the closing of their Special Assembly in October. A meeting of the Special Council for Africa was held on Jan. 19 - 20 at the Vatican to discuss continuing issues in the African Church.
The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, hosted the council's second meeting in which all members, representing 12 African nations, were present.
As he introduced the agenda items for the meeting, Archbishop Eterovic reflected on the major themes addressed in October's assembly, which focused on achieving justice, peace and reconciliation in Africa. Finding reconciliation, the archbishop stated, must happen through the Sacrament of Penance and the ability to forgive. He also touched on the importance of avoiding the transformation of theology into politics and the protection of creation.
Each of the members reported on the positive effects of the Special Assembly and the current social and ecclesial climates in their countries and dioceses.
According to the press office statement, discussion was primarily dedicated to the fact that Churches in Africa often find themselves playing a role in defending the people from injustices. "The lack of peace leads the Church to a strong commitment to mediation and reception of those who suffer the consequences of internal wars," the bishops said.
The communique from the council also observed that "reconciliation continues to be a challenge for the Church in Africa, which must be reconciled in herself to become credible in her preaching and her social action."
The members of the special council also spoke of their wish to "establish relations of mutual understanding and collaboration" with other religions on the continent. They underscored that, above all, they must seek dialogue with the Islamic community, of whom they expressed their thought that "fundamentalist groups are always more repudiated and marginalized by official representatives of Islam."
The group wrapped up its meeting by organizing the proposals from October's Synod into a workable outline for the creation of a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Pope Benedict will craft the Apostolic Exhortation.
The council members hope the document will take “into account not only the real and concrete difficulties, but also many positive and promising situations of the African continent.” “In any case," they said, "the final text should maintain a fair equilibrium between a theological-spiritual perspective and an adaptation to the pastoral and social reality."
The special council will meet again from April 27 - 28.
Valencia, Spain, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia called on the faithful last week to follow the example of St. Vincent the Martyr by defending “the fundamental precepts of the faith.”
During the archbishop's homily for the solemnity Mass of St. Vincent the Martyr at the Cathedral of Valencia last Friday, he noted that while martyrdom might not come to today's Catholics in the same way that it did to St. Vincent, “we must also bear witness with our lives, our words and our works of Jesus Christ, presenting him amidst this world without allowing ourselves to be emptied of the fundamental precepts of the faith that our Lord gives us.”
St. Vincent, whose feast was celebrated on January 22, was born in Saragossa, Spain and was martyred under Diocletian in 304. During his life, he was ordained a deacon and was commissioned to preach within his diocese.
Later, by the orders of the governor, Vincent and his bishop were arrested and put imprisoned. The bishop was later banished, but Vincent remained subjected to many cruel methods of persecution before his death.
St. Vincent is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Valencia.
In his homily, the archbishop also urged the faithful to defend “the human person, human rights, human dignity, justice, truth and the love of others above all other things.”
Archbishop Osoro also referred to St. Vincent the Martyr as “the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies and bears much fruit.” “The fruit St. Vincent bore is seen reflected today in this assembly, in all of you,” he added.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Antonio Angel Algora Hernando of Ciudad Real in Spain praised the Children's Missionary Outreach last week saying that their focus on solidarity and an encounter with Christ “does our children much more good” than the message proposed by television.
According to the Spanish daily, “La Razon,” the bishop made his comments in a pastoral letter saying that the “sentiments that spring forth in our children” who participate in the Children’s Missionary Outreach “are distinct from the examples given on television which are rooted in selfishness, violence and hatred.”
“They have no right to manipulate our children with high-quality sitcoms that hook parents and kids, teaching them the worst sentiments: anger, vengeance, or premature love,” the bishop said.
For this reason, the bishop expressed his hope that many children would participate in the Children’s Missionary Outreach that was held on January 24. A special collection was also taken up to help children in poor countries, thus giving Spanish children the chance to cheerfully share with others.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Nine bishops from England and Wales met with the Holy Father on Monday morning. The “ad limina” visit between the English and Welsh Catholic Bishops and Pope Benedict XVI is the first one since he took office.
Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster led eight other bishops from England and Wales to the Apostolic Palace for their encounter with the Holy Father. The bishop-delegates will continue to meet with Vatican congregations and councils until Feb. 4 as part of the periodic visit. Each of the individuals will have the opportunity for a private audience with the Pope over this period.
An "ad limina" visit, which means “to the threshold” of the Apostles Peter and Paul, is not only a pilgrimage to the apostle's tombs but is also time when each bishop gives the Pope an account of his diocese. The visit also indicates the acceptance of St. Peter's Successor—the Pope—as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church.
Normally, the delegates of a bishops' conference pay a visit to the Pope every five years, but in the case of England and Wales more than six years have passed since their last encounter.
In preparation for the visit, the bishops send a report to the Vatican, based on answers to a questionnaire issued by the Holy See, on which the Pope and the appropriate congregations and councils are briefed.
Bishop Kieran Conry told the British Catholic weekly The Tablet about the report this year from England and Wales, explaining, "we made clear that we are facing challenges that the Church in the West is generally facing. These include a more strident secularism and atheism alongside a declining number of priests, which is having an effect on parish life."
The British Catholic Herald also reported Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam as saying that "a shortage of priests would be a key issue during the visit" and expressing his wish to consult with the Pope on the matter, considering that many priests in his diocese will be retiring in the next decade.
Bishop Rawsthorne added that other issues on the agenda for the visit would be the new provision for Anglican communion, tackling the issue of legally-assisted suicide, addressing second marriages among Catholics and adjusting to the impact of immigration on the Catholic Church of England.
Oakland, Calif., Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Last Friday, 23-year-old Grant Desme, a minor league baseball player and top prospect for the Oakland A's, announced he was retiring from the sport to pursue the higher calling of the priesthood. According to the Norbertine Fathers' vocations director, Desme chose the order because of its religious life and its educational and liturgical orthodoxy.
The A's noted recruit plans to begin his seminary studies at St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado, Calif. this coming Fall. Speaking to CNA on Monday, Nobertine Fathers' Vocations Director Fr. Ambrose Criste said that he and the community are “just very grateful to God for blessing us with new vocations.”
Desme announced his decision to leave minor league baseball on Friday and told reporters in a news conference that he is “doing well in baseball,” however, “I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball was a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more.”
“It took awhile to trust that and open up to it and aim full steam toward Him … I love the game, but I'm going to aspire to higher things.”
Desme was ranked as the Oakland A's eighth-best prospect by Baseball America after hitting a .288 batting average with 39 home runs and 89 RBI's. He was also just named MVP of the Arizona Fall League.
Desme told reporters in the news conference that he had been considering the call to the priesthood for some time, since in 2008, he dislocated his shoulder and spent time recuperating and thinking more deeply about his life goals.
“My injuries, I would say, would be the biggest blessing God's ever given me,” he said on Friday. “For my entire life, baseball's been my life. I define myself as a baseball player, and when it was taken away from me, it was an eye opener. God blessed me.
“I had a really strong feeling of a calling and a real strong desire to follow it, (but) I just fought it.”
Speaking to MLB.com, Desme added, "I want to give my life completely to God out of love because of everything He's done for me. Something like this is even very little compared to what He's done for me."
According to Fr. Criste, he first met the baseball player last Fall and Desme applied to the seminary just before Christmas of last year.
St. Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers is an autonomous seminary Orange County, Calif. When asked why Desme chose their monastic community, Fr. Criste said that Desme was attracted to “the religious life that we live here” as well as “the orthodoxy of both of our education and of our liturgical life.”
“We're keeping very low key about this,” Fr. Criste added. “It's no different from our perspective whether he comes from professional baseball or whether he comes from a university or whether he comes from a simple working life, he's going to be living the same life as all of the other young men who come here.”
“He's really quite overwhelmed right now,” Fr. Criste said lightheartedly, and commented that Desme is “doing a very good job of navigating this media hype at the moment.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic bishop in Argentina has joined local evangelical leaders in opposition to same-sex “marriage.” The two groups have released a statement stressing that Christians in Tierra del Fuego, located in the southern part of Argentina, believe in “the value of every family constituted by one man and one woman.”
In their statement entitled “The United Declaration,” Bishop Juan Carlos Romanin of Rio Gallegos and the leaders of the Evangelical Church of Tierra del Fuego said that, as Christian leaders of different creeds grounded in the Word of God, they oppose “the attempt to make same-sex unions equal to marriage.”
The statement stressed that the group's intention was not simply to oppose the local government, since the “political identity of government” often changes, but rather to work and watch out “for the values that sustain a healthy society.”
Nevertheless, “the truth is clear and we shall preach it,” they said, noting that they will not shrink from “denouncing sin.”
The statement also expressed that the truth of marriage, understood as the union between one man and one woman, is non-negotiable because it is a truth that has existed “since the beginning of life on earth.”
The coalition warned that violating the laws given by God will only result in “debauchery and chaos” for society. It is “for this reason that we continue to underscore the value of every family constituted by one man and one woman, open to life, as a school of peace, love and fraternity,” the religious leaders concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - The coalition, “Spain Educates in Freedom” has demanded that Spain’s socialist government remove the “so-called educational aspects” from the country's new abortion law, saying they violate the right of parents to choose the kind of formation they want for their children.
The coalition recently released a statement claiming that the “supposed educational development” in the law “constitutes another step forward” for the “ideological and cultural project” the Spanish government is attempting to carry out. This project was undertaken with many legislated requirements, one of which is the “Education for the Citizenry” courses currently mandated in Spain’s schools. This course, the coalition states, violates “the right of parents to have their children receive the religious and moral formation that conforms to their own convictions.”
The statement also said the government has the duty to be “ideologically neutral.” It noted that the right of parents to choose the kind of moral formation they want for their children is “protected by the Constitution and by numerous international texts and treaties.”
Parents have said that “sexual education is an intimately personal matter” which carries moral implications and must therefore be free of government intrusion.
The coalition asserted that the new abortion law and its intrusion into this topic must be rejected because basic education on human sexuality is already part of the school curriculum. Therefore, there is no need to introduce so-called sexual and reproductive health education into the current school environment.
“If such teaching is introduced into the curriculum,” the coalition warned, “we will act using every legitimate means within our reach to defend the rights and freedoms that belong to us, simply by virtue of being parents, without excluding recourse to appropriate legal action and to conscientious objection.”
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Despite its good showing at the box office, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” has failed to impress the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, which echoed the disappointment of some reviewers who found the sleuth to be too "modernized." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's protagonist is difficult to recognize "between one fistfight and another," the paper said.
The character Sherlock Holmes has captured the imaginations of adults and children since his creation in 1886 by Arthur Conan Doyle. In the new film, his character is played by Robert Downey, Jr.
The Vatican newspaper dedicated an article to the film last week, saying that although the story was "amusing" and held "a hundred surprises" in every scene, the way the character of Sherlock Holmes was "deconstructed" to become a member of “the underground" was perplexing.
The article expressed a general disillusionment with the character who "boxes in the most sordid circles of London, makes himself easily unpleasant to most (especially to Watson), offends gentile, enamored damsels and leaves lords and prime ministers with their mouths wide open.” According to L'Osservatore, the Ritchie's characterization of Sherlock Holmes can be summarized as “(he) jumps, flees and fights."
In the Vatican paper's opinion, it will be difficult for this "adrenaline-filled operation," modified to modernize the main character, to be approved by readers, who will be "trying to recognize their literary hero between one fistfight and another."
Warner Bros. reported that the movie grossed a record $24.9 million on its Christmas Day debut.
St. Petersburg, Fla., Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Nearly five years after the death of Terri Schiavo, the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation has announced its first annual benefit concert this upcoming April, featuring country music stars Randy Travis and Colin Raye.
The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Concert will take place on April 11 at the Murat Theater in Indianapolis and seeks to raise funds for the foundation that was established by Terri's family.
Terri Schiavo died in March of 2005 when a Florida judge ordered the removal of her feeding tube, a move that was requested by her husband, Michael Schiavo who had custody of her. The case made international headlines and was the subject of a public feud on right to life issues. Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler had fought for two years to try and prevent their daughter's death.
Concert performers Randy Travis and Colin Raye have both sold millions of albums during their music careers and each have had numerous number one hits. Raye's participation in the fundraiser is motivated by his granddaughter Hailey, who has a rare degenerative brain disorder.
“Terri and her legacy continue to touch and change lives every day thanks to the work of Terri's Foundation,” said the organization in a statement Monday, which continued to explain that the foundation was “established to educate and assist families – enabling them to better protect the rights and lives of their cognitively disabled loved ones.”
“Funds raised through ticket sales and sponsorships for this event will allow Terri's Foundation to honor her legacy in many ways. Most importantly, it will allow the foundation to continue protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by serving as a resource for families whose loved ones are in jeopardy of having their deaths hastened.”
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - Following Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) statement that she didn’t think it's possible to pass the Senate version of the health care bill in the House, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said that the pro-abortion language in the bill played a “critical role” in its demise.
During an interview with Cybercast News at last Friday’s March for Life in Washington D.C., Rep. Pence credited “the pro-life Republicans and Democrats who took a stand in the House of Representatives on the traditional language that was encompassed first in the Hyde Amendment and then in the Stupak-Pitts Amendment,” noting that their work contributed immensely to the current situation of health care reform.
Unlike the House version of the health care bill, which included Hyde amendment restrictions on the federal funding of abortion in the Stupak-Pitts amendment, the Senate version mandated all federally funded health insurance policies to have one option that included abortion.
The Senate bill also included what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called an “accounting procedure” that earmarked a portion of every premium in the health care exchange for a fund that would pay for abortions.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) negotiated an opt-out for states that did not want to participate in the Senate bill's mandate, but he received criticism from pro-life groups for compromising on the abortion issue.
Pro-lifers noted that taxpayer subsidies not used to cover abortions in one state could fund abortions in another state. House Minority Leader John Boehner echoed their concern in a Dec. 21 statement, calling the opt-out “a sham because it does nothing to prevent one state’s tax dollars from paying for elective abortions in other states.” Rep. Boehner added, "Health reform should be an opportunity to protect human life – not end it."
In Rep. Pence's view, “the recent election in Massachusetts, the clarion call by the American people to return this nation to common sense and common values, has played a role in bringing that version of health care reform to an end.”
Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan 25, 2010 (CNA) - The suffering of persecuted Christians across the world will be documented in a new website. The site features documentaries, statistics, and interviews with those who live in areas of persecution.
The website Where God Weeps, located at http://www.WhereGodWeeps.org, is produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
It complements CRTN’s television and radio series on persecuted Christians, also called Where God Weeps, which are broadcast by the Eternal Word Television Network.
Drawing on resources such as ACN’s report on the persecution of Christians, “Persecuted and Forgotten,” the website also interviews cardinals, bishops, priests, missionaries and lay experts.
The site features a monthly focus on particular countries where Christians endure persecution, an ACN press release reports. The monthly feature will show a 12-minute documentary, key statistics, political and social facts, and an interview with a leading Church figure in the country.
Additionally, the website includes a breaking news page and a “how to help” section featuring ACN-supported projects.
“The media platform provides an important opportunity for people wanting to find out more about the suffering Church and how they get involved,” explained Mark Riedemann, director of CRTN.
Riedemann noted that the Jan. 25 launch date, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, points to the “essence” of the website’s aims. St. Paul was a persecutor of Christians but converted and became a champion of their faith.
He added that the website aims to reflect evidence that the persecution of Christians has increased. In some countries persecution threatens the survival of the Church.