Archive of January 22, 2011

New exhibit to highlight role of Pope and Jews

Richmond, Va., Jan 22, 2011 (CNA) - An exhibit which depicts the role Pope John Paul II played in promoting tolerance toward the Jews will open at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond on Monday, Jan. 24.

The Blessing Exhibit, as it is called, derives its title from John Paul’s appeal on the 50th anniversary of the uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

“As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world,” Pope John Paul said. “This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”

The exhibit is an attempt to show how Pope John Paul II used his papacy to promote understanding, respect and dialogue among people of differing cultures and faiths.

The exhibit is comprised of over 2,000 feet of interactive display. It includes flat screen monitors showing historical film footage and recent interviews prepared for the exhibit, replicas of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Warsaw Ghetto gate, as well as artifacts, images, and texts.

Visitors will be able to view the documentary beginning with John Paul’s childhood in Poland through his achievements as Pope.

Visitors become part of the documentary, walking through a multi-sensory experience: backdrops of enlarged photos and period postcards with artifacts set against soundscapes.

The first section of the exhibit shows Wadowice, Poland where the future Pope, Karol Wojtyla, grew up in an apartment owned by a Jewish family and had many Jewish friends. Visitors view the Pope’s baptismal certificate and school records and see the world as it looked from his bedroom window.

The exhibit has already appeared in Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston. It was created through the collaboration of Xavier University of Cincinnati, Hillel Jewish Student Center in Cincinnati and the Shtetl Foundation.

The Virginia Holocaust Museum, located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom area, will host the exhibit from January through June. It most recently was on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond has given $5,000 toward the exhibit.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Virginian, newspaper for the Diocese of Richmond, Va.

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US bishops, Catholic college presidents to review use of papal document on campuses

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops and Catholic university presidents across the U.S. are set to begin talks this year as a first step in the 10-year review process for implementing Pope John Paul II's document on Catholic colleges, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

"Ex Corde Ecclesiae" (From the Heart of the Church) was issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to emphasize the importance of the relationship between bishops and Catholic colleges and universities.

The papal document called for “close personal and pastoral relationships…between university and Church authorities, characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation and continuing dialogue.”

The U.S. bishops approved The Application of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" for the United States in 2001. The 10-year review process in the upcoming year will consist of dialogue between the local bishop and each university president within his diocese to discuss how effectively the document is being implemented.

Discussion points will include: Catholic identity, mission, service rendered by the university, and continued cooperation between the bishop and school president.

Bishops will report their findings later this year at the annual bishops' assembly in November.

Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops' conference, announced the beginning of the review on Jan. 20.

“This review will help us appreciate the positive developments and remaining challenges in the collaborative efforts of bishops and presidents to ensure the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States,” he said.

Bishop Curry added that collaboration between bishops and university presidents is “essential to the spirit” of Pope John Paul II's document, “which is why a working group of bishops and university presidents created the review process together.”

During his papal visit to the U.S. in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI addressed Catholic teachers gathered at the Catholic University of America, emphasizing that Catholic education should lead to an encounter with Jesus, who teaches us the truth. Any failure to do so leads Catholic institutions to fall short of their Catholic identity, he said. 

The pontiff also underscored that Catholic institutions must fulfill their duty and privilege of ensuring that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice.

“This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, …both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual,” he said during his 2008 speech.

Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, president of DePaul University and chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, welcomed the news of the review on Jan. 20.

He noted that the Church and “the larger society are served well when the leadership of both the Church and higher education institutions work closely together.”

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Exorcist praises new movie 'The Rite' for showing power of faith

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 22, 2011 (CNA) -

Father Gary Thomas, whose real life experience as an exorcist-in-training is chronicled in the highly anticipated movie “The Rite,” praised the film for its positive portrayal of the Church and for its witness to the power of faith.

The movie, starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Colin O’Donoghue, is loosely based on Fr. Thomas' experience traveling to Rome and studying under an Italian exorcist in 2005.

Set to hit screens on Jan 28., “The Rite” follows skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts. Anthony Hopkins plays a character by the name of Fr. Lucas – an Italian priest and veteran exorcist – who befriends Michael and helps open his eyes to reality of demon possession and the need for rite in the modern world.

The movie is based off of journalist Matt Baglio's 2009 book, “The Rite: The making of a modern exorcist.” Baglio befriended Fr. Gary Thomas while in Rome and chronicled the priest's studies at the Pontifical North American College and his eventual apprenticeship with a local exorcist.

In an interview with CNA on Jan. 19, Fr. Thomas – who currently serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California –  explained that he served as a consultant for the film,  particularly the scenes featuring exorcisms.

For a week in June last year, he said he was on the movie set working with cast members and producers. The priest added that “to their credit,” the directors and producers wanted the exorcism scenes to be as accurate at possible.

“The environment of that movie set was very reverential towards the Church,” Fr. Thomas said. “The producer and the director and the cast whom I worked with at the time were very open.”

Fr. Thomas said he recently saw a screening of the film alongside Anthony Hopkins at a New Line Cinema studio in Los Angeles. In his words, the movie has a “loose” basis in Baglio's book.

One discrepancy Fr. Thomas pointed out was that he went to Rome as a 50-year-old seasoned priest with a desire to learn more about the rite of exorcism  – hardly a cynical seminarian in the midst of a faith crisis.

Despite the differences, however, he called the film “very good.”

“The human side of the priesthood is very well developed,” he said, adding that the portrayal of “the institutional Church comes out very positively.”

Fr. Thomas said that given the reality of the subject matter, the experience was very powerful and even frightening for many involved in the movie.

He said that Hopkins, a professed Christian, and O'Donoghue – a practicing Catholic who serves as a lector at his parish in Dublin – “very much” believe in the existence of evil and feared possible demonic attacks as a result of working on the film.

“The producer and the two key actors all asked me privately if they could be attacked by doing this movie,” he said. “I said, I can't absolutely say yes or no – which lead me to say  'possibly.'” 

“I do think that a person can get attacked, and I don't know if they did but they were afraid,” he said. “I just tried to reassure them.”

Fr. Thomas also said that the intensely eery trailers for the film are “deceptive” in the sense that they make it look like a “horror movie,” which he says is inaccurate.

“There's some very riveting scenes – I wouldn't say they're scary, but they're a little startling.”

Ultimately, however, “this is a movie about faith,” said Fr. Thomas. “People are going to be very surprised.”

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Archbishop-designate seeks improved Vatican relations with his native China

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The new "number two" at the Vatican's Evangelization office – who will be ordained an archbishop by Pope Benedict next month  – said on Jan. 21 that he hopes to be "an instrument in building bridges” with China, his native country.

Fr. Savio Hon Tai-Fai's remarks came in his presentation to the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He was appointed as secretary of the department on Dec. 23 and arrived in the office on Jan. 21 for his first day. 

The congregation's own Fides news agency spoke with him during the presentations. Fr. Hon Tai-Fai first thanked Pope Benedict XVI for choosing him and "especially for the attention and the love he shows towards Asia and China in particular."

He also expressed his gratitude to the head of the department, Cardinal Ivan Dias, for his warm reception, remarking on the positive atmosphere within the congregation. He said he looks forward to working with so many experts in international missions.

In fulfilling his "new and delicate role," Fr. Hon Tai-Fai said he "would like to be an instrument in building bridges with China."

This prospect is a welcome one for the Church, which hit a wall in relations with the Chinese government last November when government officials went forward with the ordination of a bishop without the Pope's approval.

Further blows came when the government convened a meeting of the state-founded and run bishops' conference, in some cases forcing bishops to attend. Bishops who have been approved by the Vatican and others who have not were appointed during the meeting to oversee the state-run Catholic Patriotic Association and its government-appointed bishops' conference. Neither is officially recognized by the Holy See, although some affiliated bishops are in good standing with Rome.

With relations at an impasse, the Vatican made a surprise decision in selecting Fr. Hon Tai-Fai for the position in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Hong Kong priest brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with the Church in China and the world to Rome.

Fr. Hon Tai-Fai is a member of the religious order called the Salesians of St. John Bosco. After completing studies in London and Rome, he served in various leadership capacities in the order in Asia including as provincial superior.

He has also worked extensively as a professor of theology at the Holy Spirit College Seminary in Hong Kong and as visiting professor in other Chinese seminaries. He has been a member of the International Theological Commission since 2004 and of the Pontifical Academy of Theology since 1999.

The priest was also responsible for the translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into Chinese. The expert in theology has produced a number of academic papers and written for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

Now he will be putting all of that experience to work at the Vatican's congregation in charge of the transmission and dissemination of the faith and the coordination missionary activities in the entire world.

He told Fides on Jan. 21, "at the beginning of this task I am very excited and I am also aware of the responsibility of this role which covers such a broad field: taking care of the pastoral life of over 1,000 ecclesiastical areas.”

He hoped to bring "fresh impetus" to the congregation's work in the world, especially in "countries of ancient traditions and cultures, such as China and India.”

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