Archive of February 16, 2010

Canon lawyer hopes SSPX discussions will lead to full communion

New York City, N.Y., Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Fr. Gerald Murray, a canon lawyer and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in New York City explained to CNA this week that the current discussions between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) “hold great promise for progress.”

In the latest submission to CNA’s video commentary project, Fr. Murray addressed the origins of the traditionalist society, which was founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in opposition to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  Then, in 1988, the archbishop ordained four bishops without the requisite permission of the Holy Father.

Following the ordinations, the bishops were excommunicated by then-Pope John Paul II.    However, in January 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the SSPX bishops in a decision he hoped would lead to “real and final unity.” “As you know,” noted Fr. Murray, “the Pope remitted the penalty of excommunication which the four ordained bishops had received by automatic censure penalty...which had been declared by the Holy See at the time they were ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988.”

“Pope Benedict XVI, in his goodness, decided to remit those penalties,” the canon lawyer observed, “but the bishops were not restored to full communion with the Holy See.” This is because, “to receive ordination without the requisite permission is a canonical offense, and the penalty is suspension,” said Fr. Murray. Thus, the bishops, who are no longer excommunicated, are still under the penalty of suspension.

Now that the excommunications have been lifted, the current point of doctrinal contention is the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council and its teachings, which members of the SSPX do not accept.

The discussions currently underway, with meetings in Rome every two months, are attempting to resolve the canonical status of the priests and bishops, as well as of the lay faithful, who are a part of the society. Though they do not accept the legitimacy of the council, Fr. Murray stated, “The Lefebrvite faithful, by their own admission, recognize Pope Benedict XVI as a legitimate pastor of the church, but in practice, the failure to submit to the Pope and the bishops in communion is an obstacle to them being at full visible communion with the church.”

Though the SSPX’s bishop Richard Williamson has called the consultations a “dialogue of the deaf,” Fr. Murray said that he thinks “these discussions hold great promise for progress.” He also noted that, though there is no official word of progress yet, the participants on both sides “have referred to the cordial and friendly nature of these discussions.”

Fr. Murray added that Pope Benedict has “widened the availability of the traditional Mass and sacraments celebrated in the traditional formula” but that “the faithful are not encouraged to attend the sacraments in the chapels of the SSPX because the canonical situation of the priests is irregular.”

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Archdiocese of Mexico City accuses lawmakers of attempting to silence the Church

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City issued a press release last week condemning a bill created to amend the country's constitution to include the word “secular.” The archdiocesan spokesman explained that the measure is “irrationally anti-religious,” and is “intended to regulate and subjugate the Church in matters relating to her evangelistic and social mission.”

The vote in favor of including the word “secular” in Article 40 of the Mexican constitution was approved with 363 out of 372 votes. The archdiocese responded saying that the measure, which still must be approved by the Senate, was a slap against the Catholic Church, which constantly speaks out in favor of life and the family, and in opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption.

Before the vote, the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, warned that it was becoming evident that the true intention of lawmakers from the Democratic Revolution Party was to silence the Church and Christian leaders.

“It is unfortunate that this reform has not included the recognition of full respect for religious freedom, a commitment called for the InterAmerican Convention on Human Rights which Mexico has yet to fulfill,” he said.

The archdiocese also lamented that lawmakers from some parties, such as the National Action Party, have abandoned their historic defense of the freedoms that all men enjoy by supporting “this negative concept of a secular state, which will undoubtedly promote religious intolerance and a cold shoulder to freedom, to the detriment of the human rights of believers and clergy members.”

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Around the clock Confession to take place in New York City

New York City, N.Y., Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - A young adults group in the Archdiocese of New York has recently announced a 24-hour confession event which will take place in March during the 2010 Lenten season.

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Adults (CSPYA) group is holding their second annual “24 Hours of Confession” project March 5 -6 at 51 parishes throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, Duchess, Staten Island, as well as Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties.

“Catholics need to know that confession is all about God's forgiveness and love and that the priest is there for them,” said the young adult group's director Mario Bruschi. “That is why our goal for this project will be focused on reminding people about the importance of the priesthood and that confession can restore us when we sin.”

In response to this event, Bishop Dominick Lagonegro of Orange County also announced recently that 25 parishes in his diocese will be holding additional confession times from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. on March 5.

“In this Year of the Priest, the priests of the Archdiocese of New York is making a tremendous sacrifice to hear people's confessions, to counsel them, and to give them comfort,”added Bruschi. “They are living the great example of St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio, by bringing people back to Jesus Christ through the sacrament.”

More information can be found at

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Traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated at National Shrine on Pope's anniversary

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - To mark the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, a traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The Pontifical Solemn High Mass will be celebrated on April 24 at 1 p.m. by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of Colombia. The cardinal is the President Emeritus of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which facilitates the use of the Mass in the “Extraordinary Form.”

According to the Paulus Institute, the Tridentine Mass will be the first such Mass said at the Shrine’s High Altar in nearly 45 years.

The Mass is sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Paulus Institute for “the unity of the entire Catholic community.”

“We are honored that His Eminence Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos will be celebrating this Mass at our invitation, especially on the anniversary of Pope Benedict’s inauguration and at the High Altar of the National Shrine,” said Institute President Paul King. “It is a privilege to recognize the Pope on this auspicious occasion and assist his call to give due honor to the 1500-year old Mass for its ‘venerable and ancient usage.’”

The Institute has invited all Catholics to attend, including those unfamiliar with the Mass.

In July 2007 Pope Benedict issued the apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” in which he confirmed the permissibility of celebrations of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

The Tridentine Missal was last changed in 1962 under Bl. Pope John XXIII. The present “ordinary” form of the Mass was introduced with the Missal of Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Pope Benedict has noted that the Latin liturgy of the Church has been “a spur to the spiritual life of many saints and reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and [facilitated] their piety.”

“What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred for us too,” he has said, adding that the Mass “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage.”

More information on the Pontifical Mass at the National Basilica is available at

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Former Olympic speed skater has ‘no regrets’ about new life as Franciscan sister

Leeds, United Kingdom, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - A former U.S. Olympic speed skater is now a Franciscan sister and says she has “no regrets” about her decision to commit to a life of service to God and the poor.

Kirstin Holum at the age of 17 placed sixth in the 3,000 meters speed skating event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Observers predicted a great future for Holum, whose mother was a 1972 gold medalist in speed skating.

But despite loving the sport, she told Yahoo Sports, “I had this incredibly strong calling that it was time to move on and take a different path in life.”

She decided on her calling while on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

Holum is now known as Sister Catherine and is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, whose mission is to work with the poor and the homeless and to evangelize.

“It is funny now to think of how different my life is now,” she told Yahoo Sports. “I had the wonderful privilege of being able to compete as an Olympian, and now I am blessed to able to serve God and help those less fortunate.”

She was first based in New York where she and her fellow sisters worked in the Bronx with poor children in gang areas. In the fall of 2009, Sr. Catherine was sent with three other sisters to Leeds, England, where she now serves as a missionary to the people in the surrounding area.

Sister Lucille, who heads the Bronx chapter of the Sisters of the Renewal, said that Sr. Catherine has the “compassion of an angel.”

“It is wonderful to see people’s faces light up when Sister Catherine shares her experiences of her time in speed skating,” Sister Lucille said. “She never boasts about it but she has come to realize that we are incredibly proud of her and are lucky to have her as part of our religious family. The sisters and the people we try to reach love hearing about what she accomplished.”

Sr. Catherine told Yahoo Sports she wishes “the very best” to this Olympics’ competitors in speed skating, many of whom she once skated with.

“It is strange for me to think that things could have been different for me and I could have been at the Olympics again, but it wasn’t the Lord’s path for me and I have no regrets.”

To learn more about the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, visit:

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Students of snow-damaged Maryland Catholic school to resume classes

Hollywood, Md., Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Classes will resume for students of a Maryland Catholic school at a new location after their school’s roof collapsed in the Feb. 6 snowstorm.

The students of St. John School in Hollywood, Maryland, will attend classes in the former Holy Angels-Sacred Heart School in Avenue, Md. for the rest of the school year, the Archdiocese of Washington reported. Classes will resume on Monday.

The damaged school serves 184 students in grades kindergarten through eight. Holy Angels-Sacred Heart was closed in June 2009 because of financial challenges and low enrollment.

Fr. Bill Gurnee, pastor of Holy Angels parish, said the parish was “Very happy to be able to help.”

“Many of our parishioners called me right after the accident to ask if we could invite St. John’s School to use our building. We look forward to having the kids and faculty here.”

Pat Suit, the principal of St. John School, said “so many people reached out to us after the roof collapse.”

“We are very grateful for their support and for their offers of space,” she added. “Holy Angels was a wonderful fit and has the space that will allow our school community to stay together, which was a priority for us.”

The damage to the St. John School’s building was so severe that the 1953 section of the building had to be taken down. According to the Archdiocese of Washington, over 95 percent of furniture and computers were salvaged from the damaged section.

The original 1924 section of the building was not damaged and insurance will cover the replacement cost of rebuilding.

Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl toured the collapsed St. John's School building Friday afternoon. He said the initial shock of the damage brought on sadness.

According to Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, he told the pastor and principal to look forward to a resurrection that will lift people's spirits.

“They’re not going to miss a beat,” the archbishop said of the students and their relocation. “This makes good sense.”

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Archbishop Nichols calls for culture that encourages spiritual preparation for death

Westminster, England, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking in his homily at a Mass for the Sick at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflected on death and suffering in health care. He advocated a culture of “true compassion and healing” that does not fear death but prepares for it with prayer, the sacraments, and “daily abandonment to God.”

Attendees at the Mass included people with various medical conditions, their caregivers, hospital chaplains and health care workers.

The Archbishop of Westminster began by thanking God for “the gifts of life and faith.”

Noting that the Mass honored Our Lady of Lourdes, he said pilgrimages to Lourdes and elsewhere are occasions when faith is strengthened and the sense of the true value of life is enhanced.

He praised the “splendid sentiments” of the January 2009 Constitution of the National Health Service, which said the organization “respond[s] with humanity and kindness to each person’s pain, distress, anxiety or need” and searches for ways to give comfort and to relieve suffering.

Archbishop Nichols said these aims are often fulfilled in NHS hospitals. However, at times they are not because of individual attitudes and the “prevailing culture” of institutions that impairs proper care.

“A culture of true compassion and healing fosters a deep respect and attentive care of the whole person, it promotes genuine care characterized by a sense of humility, a profound respect for others, and a refusal to see them as no more than a medical or behavioral problem to be tackled and resolved. To care in this way is a gift of oneself to another. And, as with all true giving, the giver also receives.”

Rejoicing in Christian faith, the archbishop said, makes clear the “very fundamental truth” that each person has a God-given dignity and “a quality of life in relationship to God that can never be reduced to its external human behaviors.

“From the outside a life might seem restricted, reduced or burdensome,” the archbishop noted. “But from within, where the love and comfort of God is experienced, that same life might well be rich in both experience and promise.”

Archbishop Nichols spoke of Christ’s miracle at the Wedding of Cana and his words at the Last Supper: “I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.” (Mt 26:29)

The archbishop described this as the promise of life after death and the fullness of life which “flows from the death of Christ.”

It is from this perspective that death must be viewed, he commented, noting controversies over assisted suicide; fears of unrelieved suffering and loss of control; fears of overly aggressive medical treatment; and fears of under-treatment or neglect.

“We do not know how to deal with death. But fear cannot be our guide,” Archbishop Nichols stated.

He cited the Bishops of England and Wales’ recent document which said that respecting life and accepting death must be priorities in end-of-life care.

“We should never try to bring about death,” they wrote, but accepting death means that we should prepare properly and not “flee from the inevitable.”

“A religious person will see both life and death as coming from God,” the bishops added, describing each human being as “more than a bundle of genes and actions.”

The bishops said a “reductionist” mode of operating health care is a “hidden violence” in the system, stressing that death cannot be reduced to a “clinical event.”

Instead, Archbishop Nichols added, the “spiritual being of every person” must be central to health care, especially at the time of death.

“This moment is central to our pilgrim journey. We practice for it, day by day, rehearsing our final act of trust with smaller daily acts of abandonment to God, in prayer, in kindness towards others, and in our sacramental life.”

In the face of illness, he said, we are confident that the prayer of the Church is “the prayer of Christ himself who carries to the ear of his attentive Father the sincere prayers of each one of us today.”

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Witness of priests and religious key to increasing vocations, Pope asserts

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict released his message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Tuesday. The message, written on the theme "Witness Awakens Vocations," speaks of the great importance of the witness of priests and religious for encouraging future vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Granting that success in the promotion of vocations depends in large part on the free action of God, the Holy Father notes in his message that, in addition, "the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord’s call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life" also helps to bear fruits, "for their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ’s call."

The Holy Father cites the examples of the Prophets of the Old Testament dedicating their entire existence to bearing witness to God. Jesus, he says, is the "supreme Witness to God and to his concern for the salvation of all." He further highlights the roles of John the Baptist, Andrew and Philip who in bearing witness to God made disciples of others including Andrew's brother Peter and Bartholomew.

"God’s free and gracious initiative encounters and challenges the human responsibility of all those who accept his invitation to become, through their own witness, the instruments of his divine call," explains Pope Benedict in his message.

This continues to be true in the contemporary Church, writes the Holy Father, as "the Lord makes use of the witness of priests who are faithful to their mission in order to awaken new priestly and religious vocations for the service of the People of God."

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations message includes the Holy Father's perspective on the three aspects of priestly and religious life that he considers "essential for an effective priestly witness."

The first aspect that characterizes this life is friendship with Christ, through which a "man of God" leads others to know and love Him, the Pope says.

Secondly, a priest or consecrated religious makes “a complete gift oneself to God,” which the Holy Father says, "is the source of his ability to give himself in turn to those whom Providence entrusts to him in his pastoral ministry with complete, constant and faithful devotion... enabling them too to become open to meeting Christ, so that his Word may become a light to their footsteps.”

"The story of every vocation is almost always intertwined with the testimony of a priest who joyfully lives the gift of himself to his brothers and sisters for the sake of the Kingdom of God," Pope Benedict points out.

The final aspect, the Pope teaches, is a life of communion by which the priest or consecrated person is "open to all, capable of gathering into one the pilgrim flock which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to him, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts, to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and to forgive offenses."

He must be an example to youth, notes the Holy Father, of "a communion of life which can reveal to them the beauty of being a priest," so that they will say, "Yes, this could be my future; I can live like this."

Pope Benedict cites the words of Venerable John Paul II, who summed up these aspects when he said that "the very life of priests... their fraternal unity and zeal for the evangelization of the world are the first and most convincing factor in the growth of vocations"

This is also true for the consecrated men and women who by their very life proclaim "the love of Christ whenever they follow him in complete fidelity to the Gospel and joyfully make their own its criteria for judgment and conduct," the Pope writes.

In this way, he adds, by their example they offer themselves as 'signs of contradiction' in society by offering an alternative to the materialism, self-centeredness and individualism present in world.

"By letting themselves be won over by God through self-renunciation, their fidelity and the power of their witness constantly awaken in the hearts of many young people the desire to follow Christ in their turn, in a way that is generous and complete."

Benedict XVI concludes his message for the Day of Prayer for Vocations by observing that "in order to foster vocations to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life, and to be more effective in promoting the discernment of vocations, we cannot do without the example of those who have already said "yes" to God and to his plan for the life of each individual."

"Personal witness," he specifies, "in the form of concrete existential choices, will encourage young people for their part to make demanding decisions affecting their future."

The official date for the observation of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be Good Shepherd Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which falls on April 25 this year.

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Reservations to view Shroud of Turin reach one million

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - One million people have already reserved tickets to view the Shroud of Turin, which will be on display April 10 – May 23 at the Turin Cathedral in Italy.

According to Vatican Radio, “The one millionth reservation was made on Saturday, February 13,” exactly “70 days after” the new site, debuted.

“Apart from the incredible flow of reservations,” the report continued, is the prevalent use of the internet.  “Ten years ago, for the exhibition for the Jubilee Year of 2000, there were 200,000 reservations.”  Then, only 20 percent were made online.

For the 2010 Exposition of the Shroud, 93 percent of the reservations have been made through the internet.  The remaining spots were reserved via telephone.

More information can be found at:

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Spanish laity condemn offensive use of crucifix

Madrid, Spain, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - The Laity Committee of the Diocese of Almeria, Spain issued a strong statement last weekend condemning the use of a crucifix by a local group during Carnival celebrations.  The group chose to use the image of Christ on the cross to parody the economic crisis the country is experiencing.

The faithful of Almeria expressed “profound disgust and sorrow that some individuals had no qualms about using the image of Christ crucified to parody our social situation, thus gravely wounding the religious sentiments of Christians.” 

The committee then criticized the local group for defending their actions by “appealing to freedom of expression, as if this right had no limits.”

“Freedom of expression ends when the fundamental rights of persons and social groups are attacked, which include the fundamental right to religious freedom.  All basic rights must harmoniously refer to each other, as the only safe way to protect them. Just as not everything can be allowed, not everything is licit. The dignity of the human person demands such, and is protected by the Constitution and the legal system in our country.”

For this reason, the laity expressed their utter rejection of the “crude and offensive” use of the cross of Jesus Christ, which is an unequivocal sign of the Christian faith.

In response to claims by the group that the use of the cross was only meant to be humorous and would have only upset those who are “intolerant,” the laity committee said, “We cannot accept the accusation of 'intolerance' by those who cannot even acknowledge the possibility that they have gravely offended the religious sentiments of Christians.”

The committee said the Stations of the Cross would be prayed on Ash Wednesday at the cathedral as an act of reparation for the incident.


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Salesian leader looks to future of Haiti with hope

Port au Prince, Haiti, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - During a visit to Haiti last week, the Superior General of the Salesian Order, Father Pascual Chavez, encouraged Salesian workers and volunteers to bring “hope to the people,” before “thinking about rebuilding" the country.

According to a press release, Fr. Chavez arrived by helicopter to the Haitian capital on February 11 to visit the Salesian homes devastated by the recent earthquake.  He also spent time at the school, Ecole Nationale des Arts et Métiers, where he “paused in silence and prayer before the mountain of rubble beneath which the bodies of 150 seminarians still lie.”

In a meeting with young people, Fr. Chavez urged them to “look to the future.  Your task now is to give hope to Haiti.”  He then visited the Salesian school of Petionville, where Fr. Sylvain Ducange, who was recently named Salesian Superior of Haiti, said in his welcoming address:   “As children of Don Bosco, we are characterized by joy, moved by optimism, and we believe in the rebirth of the Haitian people and in the re-founding of the Salesian charism in our country.”

During his tour through the devastated city of Port-au-Prince, Fr. Chavez encouraged Salesians and their volunteers to focus their attention on helping the victims of the earthquake and beginning the reconstruction of schools, homes for children on the street, and formation houses.

Fr. Chavez extended his stay in Haiti to accompany the Salesian community as it recovers from the tragedy.

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Spanish bishop reaffirms that science and faith are complementary

Burgos, Spain, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Cecilio Raul Berzosa Martinez of Oviedo, Spain remarked this week that science and faith, “when they are authentic,” are not enemies and cannot ignore each other.  He added that “they must be complementary, as they are traveling companions in the mystery of life.”

During a conference on evolution and creation in Burgos, the bishop recalled that “during the 70s and 80s there indeed was a great struggle between religion and the dominant ideology, which was materialism.”  Today, he explained, “the opposite is occurring.  Science opens doors and windows to the mystery and the Church offers a reflection based on theology.”

Referring to human fossils found in Atapuerca, an archeological site located east of Burgos in Spain where some believe the oldest human remains in Europe have been found, Bishop Berzosa said these discoveries are “just another episode in the mystery of evolution, which began not one million, but 15 billion years ago.”

“Scientists want to uncover what happened during all this time but questions remain that cannot be answered at Atapuerca or at any other site.”

“Who wrote the script (of evolution)?  Why and how?” he asked.

For people of faith, the answers to those questions can be found in God, who is the creator and author of life.  Scientist “simply remain on the threshold.”

For this reason, Bishop Berzosa noted, “The Christian faith allows for the idea of evolution, although not an evolution that is closed and blind, such as the exclusive result of chance or happenstance.  God has created the world through a form of evolution.”

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Cardinal Brady: Irish bishops should restore credibility by repentance in Lent

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - Five members of the Irish Bishops' Conference, led by their president and Primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon following two days of what they called "intense" discussions with Pope Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia. Cardinal Brady said in his remarks that the bishops should spend the penitential season of Lent doing penance to promote “a change of heart.”

Over "a very productive two days," 24 Irish bishops met with the Holy Father and Vatican officials on the topic of sexual abuse in the Irish Church over the last 40 years. Every bishop had a handful of minutes to speak individually during the meetings.

Present at the Tuesday afternoon press conference were Bishops Michael Smith, Joseph Duffy, Denis Brennan and Brendan Kelly and Cardinal Brady, who relayed some of the exchange between the bishops and the Pope, since the meeting was closed to the press.

Cardinal Brady said he used his time with Pope Benedict to speak of "the amount of support we got after the report from members of other churches" and "the impact this report had on people." He also stressed that the bishops of Ireland need to listen better and should do this by further implementing the structures that already exist in the Church, referring specifically to parish/pastor councils and diocesan councils.

"These are structures which could be used more fully and more meaningfully to involve lay people in a more direct way in the running of our Church," Cardinal Brady said.

Bishop Brennan from the Diocese of Ferns spoke "about the culture that has emerged between the bishops, church leadership and Irish society" and the pain and concern he feels for the current situation of the Church, since "it came about because of a breach of trust between us and the people."

He elaborated on how the issue has affected the Church, saying, "people trusted us to do a better job in this area and many of them are disillusioned that we haven't … .”

"This is a long-term process and every day is a step along that road and what we are determined to do, and more determined after this, is to regain that trust of the Irish people," Bishop Brennan added.

Bishop Smith described the meeting as a very "clear, frank and open discussion," and said that each bishop was "listened to and... responded to."

"The Pope himself was there for all of the meetings, and there was tremendous engagement."

Cardinal Brady added that survivors were the "main concern" throughout the meetings, which he said also served "to help the Holy Father put the final touches to his letter, which will address victims... and address them appropriately.

"At the center of it all was concern about how to help victims heal completely," the cardinal stressed.

He called these meetings "one of many steps that will have to be taken" and said that Pastoral Letter from Benedict XVI will provide the Church in Ireland with a "message of encouragement to deal with this problem honestly and courageously," but that "then it will be up to us to continue this work.”

"It is a great problem, and at the center of it all must be the welfare of victims," the cardinal stated.

Speaking about the draft of the pastoral letter from Pope Benedict to the Irish Church, Cardinal Brady said that "generally, the pastoral letter was pleasing," although the Irish bishops did express some "reservations" to certain points which "were listened to very respectfully."

According to a statement released by the Press Office of the Holy See at the conclusion of the meetings the pastoral letter will be finished and presented during the Lenten season.

The Vatican statement also included the Pope's concern over a "more general crisis of faith" in the country, which he indicated as a contributing factor to the phenomenon of abuse, along with a lack of respect for the human person.

Cardinal Brady said that Pope Benedict had told them in the discussions that "at the heart of this is a renewal of faith because faith ultimately is the real and true protector of human dignity and that is the dignity of every human being, who is made in the image and likeness of God."

"That dignity," he continued, "has been wounded by sin and then there is the reality of Jesus who came into the world to heal the wound brought be sin and our job is to go back and continue to bring and preach and live the love of Jesus Christ in our own lives and to express that, especially to those who have suffered so previously as a result of these hideous crimes."

The Holy Father had emphasized the necessity of "a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed," according to the Vatican statement.

Bishop Smith specified that Holy Father had told them that the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, "Gaudium et Spes," had been "totally misrepresented in some of the moral teaching and attitudes that came into theology."

He said the Pope called on them "to 'refind' the deep vision of humanity and the human person as contained in that particular document."

Bishop Smith also recalled that Pope Benedict has "spoken of it many times: that there is a poverty to the teaching of moral values and moral theology... in the Church.

Summing up the situation and the next step, Cardinal Brady affirmed, "Yes, there have been failures, of course, in our leadership," and "the only way that we will regain that credibility would be through our humiliation. Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. It is a time of penance and we must begin with ourselves."

"Real penance," he said. "A change of heart."

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Pope finds weak faith at source of Irish clerical sex abuse

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - At the conclusion of meetings between Pope Benedict XVI, 24 Irish bishops and senior members of the Roman Curia, the Vatican released a general statement describing the nature of the discussions. The Holy Father cited a lack of respect for the human person and a weakening of faith within the Irish Church as significantly contributing to the sexual abuse of minors.

The meetings, which took place on Monday and Tuesday, addressed the "serious situation" in the Irish Catholic Church revealed by the Ryan and Murphy reports. The reports documented sexual abuse of minors by clergy and the efforts to cover up the abuse by some of the Church's hierarchy.

The failure of Church authorities to act effectively in dealing with the situation was examined in the meetings, and participants in the discussions unanimously agreed that "this grave crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the Church’s leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching."

Each of the 24 bishops was given the floor to express his individual concerns and hear feedback from the Holy Father and the members of the Roman Curia. Bishops said in a press conference later that this gave the discussions a "synod-like” feel.

The Vatican communique report that the bishops voiced "the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused" and a "similar sense of outrage reflected by laity, priests and religious in this regard."

Pope Benedict was quoted in the Vatican statement as saying that child sexual abuse is a "heinous" crime, and moreover, "a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image."

The statement also presented the Holy Father's observation that a "weakening of faith" significantly contributed to the phenomenon of pedophilia in the country and affirmed that there was a "more general crisis of faith affecting the Church." These crises, the Pope said, are rooted in a “lack of respect for the human person."

Pope Benedict urged the Irish bishops to commit to further theological reflection on this lack of respect and called for better all-around preparation for candidates to the priesthood and religious life and existing clergy and religious.

For now, the Holy Father urged the bishops to confront problems of the past with determination and resolve and to be honest and courageous in addressing the present crisis.

He voiced his hope that this week's meetings would lead them to be unified in establishing concrete steps meant to heal the abused, encourage a renewal of faith and restore the Church's spiritual and moral credibility.

The content of a Pastoral Letter from Pope Benedict to the Irish faithful was discussed in the meetings and can be expected during the Lenten season.

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Webcast to launch 40 Days for Life spring campaign

Jackson, Miss., Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - A live webcast from Jackson, Mississippi will launch the spring 2010 session of the 40 Days for Life campaign. The campaign is dedicated to encouraging pro-life community outreach, fasting and prayer vigils outside abortion clinics.

The webcast will feature 40 Days for Life national director David Bereit, campaign director Shawn Carney, and former Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson.

Johnson experienced a change of heart on abortion after assisting in an ultrasound-guided abortion and left her job during the last 40 Days for Life campaign.

“I wish every city with an abortion facility will one day be able to participate in the 40 Days for Life campaign," commented Bereit. "But for one night at least, we will be able to give people all over the world an opportunity to see firsthand what this unique pro-life outreach is all about.”

The campaign claims continued growth since its start in fall 2007. It says more than 300,000 people in 280 cities have taken part in past efforts.

Five abortion centers have closed following 40 Days for Life prayer vigils and 27 abortion industry employees have quit their jobs.

"And most incredibly," Bereit said, "we are aware of 2,168 children -- and their mothers -- who were spared from the tragedy of abortion. And those are just the ones we know about."

Speaking about the webcast, he added:

“We want to use tonight's webcast to make sure that everyone can be a part of the excitement from the very start of this 40 Days for Life campaign -- and hopefully to encourage communities who have not yet participated in the campaign to join us in the future.”

The webcast begins at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 and can be seen at

A list of communities participating in the campaign is available at

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Open letter reignites debate within Legionaries of Christ

Paris, France, Feb 16, 2010 (CNA) - An emotional “open letter” from Father Julien Durodie of the Legionaries of Christ in Paris to his brother priests of the movement has reopened debate within the order over how to proceed in the immediate future. The Legionaries are currently undergoing an apostolic visitation by order of the Holy See. 

Despite the fact that Fr. Durodie told CNA, “I do not intend to open a debate, as if I did not feel free to speak with my superiors and brother Legionaries in a constructive conversation outside email exchanges,” his open letter has reached a vast number of current and former members of the Legion.

The priest went on to explain that by sending the open letter, he was not going against the directives of the movement's Superior General Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, who explicitly requested on January 24 that all email debates among members of the Legion come to an end.

“I believe the exchange of opinions through emails between numerous groups of priests, as has taken place recently, is a display of trust and the love we have for each other. But I think that it will never end if we continue like this and we may even cause misunderstandings and opposing positions,” Fr. Corcuera wrote.
Fr. Durodie added in his email to CNA that his “open letter is only intended to console the souls entrusted to me in Paris (for this reason it is in French, and I never asked nor wanted it to be translated into Spanish or English).” Nevertheless, his letter has been widely circulated among members of the Legion and Regnum Christi in several languages.

In his letter, Fr. Durodie said he wanted to “do justice since, in the name of the truth, I have heard various negative things about the Legionary vocation.”

“I have been a Legionary of Christ since 1989, when I entered the novitiate,” the priest wrote.  “I was 20 years old. I was seeking the way to respond to the call God had given me three years earlier at a Benedictine abbey: the call to become a priest.  I was seeking community life that was full of charity, and I found it.  I intended to give my life to the Lord without counting the cost, and I found it.  I was seeking a youthful Christ, passionate for his mission, in love with souls, and I found him.  I was seeking fidelity to a Church that was being divided, I was seeking authentic love for the Pope as the representative of Christ on earth, and I found it.  I was seeking Mary, my Mother, and I found her. I was seeking to join a dynamic community capable of being a part of the new evangelization, and I found it. And for all of this, I give thanks to God.”

“After 12 years of formation,” Fr. Durodie continued, “I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ in the Legion of Christ. I felt free, I accepted the conditions for friendship with the Lord manifested in our holy Rule, approved by the Church and marked with the seal of Peter.  My religious vows until today have been a path to sanctity in poverty, obedience and chastity.”

“Yes, my mail is checked.  So what?  Yes, the apostolic work is intense and tiring. So what? Yes, I get up early, I pray three hours a day, I live a disciplined life. So what?  Yes, I am under obedience, that is, I freely renounce my own ability to make decisions in submission to my superior.  So what? Yes, I am poor amidst the modern technological resources I use for the apostolate. So what? Yes, I am chaste and I am careful not to have preferences or special friendships. So what? Either I take this on, or I leave. Nobody is forcing me.”

“I see the Legion as a work made by human hands and therefore needs to be purified and perfected. It has made mistakes, yes, and it will continue to do so.  Any organization facing such a situation is entitled to differences and hesitations. Benevolent exterior criticism is also normal and understandable.  All of this is now clearer than ever. And although I may be wrong, I have no fear, because I know how to tell the difference between God and his works.”

“I also believed, especially after living with Fr. Maciel for three years at the headquarters, that he was holy. Why not?”

“But,” the French priest explained, “I never put my supernatural trust in him as a human person. My faith is not affected by his disordered life, but on the contrary, it is purified.  Of course I am affected by the scandal, and the cries of the victims fill me with sorrow. But all of this does not call into question God’s call.”

Fr. Durodie added, “I do not judge those Legionaries who have left to join the diocesan clergy. I give thanks to all of the others who have given me the testimony of their freedom."

“It is easier to leave the boat passing through the storm than it is to stay on board. It is easier to live a peaceful life or to journey down a long and tranquil river. But i know in the depths of my heart that God called me to the Legion."

“I wanted to share with you some sentiments that encourage me on this day marking the anniversary of the Legion’s 'Decretum Laudis' decreed by the Church,” the priest wrote.  “I offer heartfelt thanks to all those who understand this, who have accompanied us as members of one family.”

“I also thank all those who have doubted and those who have walked away from us at least for the moment: they teach me humility and the joy of living for God,” he concluded.

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