Boston, Mass., Feb 4, 2011 (CNA) - On Feb. 2, the Archdiocese of Boston announced plans for a reorganization that could change how many parishes operate. The changes are aimed at allowing the Church to cope with declining Mass attendance and a shortage of priests, without forcing parishes to close.
“The Archdiocese has been operating under a model decades old that was built for a time when 70 percent of Catholics attended Mass regularly,” archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon told CNA. “Today less than 20 percent attend weekly Mass in the Archdiocese.”
These numbers call for what Donilon described as a “total rebuild of the archdiocese,” likely to include mergers between several parish communities.
The newly-formed Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission hopes it can avoid some of the more drastic measures it has resorted to in the past. Vicar General Fr. Richard M. Erikson told the Boston Globe that the archdiocese did not plan to initiate another round of church closings, as it did in the wake of the 2002 sex-abuse scandals and resulting lawsuits.
Instead, the planning commission will consider how to combine a number of church communities – which currently function as independent parishes – into single parishes that would continue to worship in separate spaces.
The combined communities would keep their buildings, while merging into one single parish for administrative, financial, and pastoral purposes. This plan could eliminate inefficient aspects of the current system, in which one priest often already serves as the pastor of multiple parishes simultaneously, due to the priest shortage.
Although the archdiocese is already taking steps to recruit more priests and boost Mass attendance,
these longer-term strategies cannot address some of the immediate challenges posed by stark demographic realities.
Statistics from the archdiocese indicate that 40 percent of its parishes are barely meeting their financial needs or operating at a loss, while the number of active diocesan priests is expected to diminish by nearly half – from around 400, to only 180 – by 2021. Mass attendance in Boston dropped by 23 percent between 2000 and 2009.
“We approach our work cognizant of the challenges and opportunities facing the Archdiocese of Boston and inspired by the grace of God’s presence throughout,” said Msgr. William Fay, a Brighton-based pastor who will co-chair the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission.
The commission has begun discussing a draft plan for reorganization, although it has not yet set a timetable for making its recommendations to Boston's Cardinal Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley.
“The Cardinal has authorized us to shape a plan that will provide the local Church with a roadmap for the future,” Msgr. Fay said. He anticipated the development and implementation of “a plan that supports the good work of our priests and which invigorates parish life.”
South Bend, Ind., Feb 4, 2011 (CNA) - Developers of a new “confession helper” iPhone application say they found inspiration in Pope Benedict XVI’s call for more youth involvement in social communication.
“Confession: A Roman Catholic App” is the first iPhone, iPad and iPod touch application from the South Bend, Indiana-based publisher Little iApps, LLC.
Patrick Leinen, developer and co-founder of Little iApps, spoke about the program in a Feb. 3 interview with CNA.
He said the app is uniquely designed for cradle Catholics who go to Confession and attend church. It gives a “step-by-step” guide to Confession and a “personalized examination of conscience” based on the user’s age, vocation and sex.
“A priest won't have the same examination as a teen girl or a married man. You will get something unique to you,” he explained.
Users who have not been to Confession in some time have reported that using the app takes away the “intimidation factor” of going to confess their sins.
Leinen added that he and his fellow developers wanted to respond to Pope Benedict’s 2010 World Communications Address, which encouraged using new media to serve God’s Word.
After debating what this meant, the developers decided to make applications that are “in communion with the Church” and “in support of our lifestyle” as Catholics.
Two priests collaborated in the app’s development: Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, and Fr. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.
The developers asked their local bishop for two forms of church approval known as an imprimatur and a nihil obstat. This unique process involved submitting all variations of the app’s text in written form to Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
“All the possible options were sent in,” Leinen explained. “We wanted to make sure that we were really in line with the Church in what we were doing.”
The developers plan to update the program for the Droid phone operating system. They are considering what Catholic applications to do next.
“We really appreciate the response that we've gotten from everyone in the community, lay and religious. We're continuing to look forward to creating these apps, as needed, and we appreciate any suggestions anyone has.”
The app is available through the iTunes store at a price of $1.99.
Washington D.C., Feb 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in an interview that the Catholic Church has sent out questionnaires to learn more about U.S. Anglicans who have expressed an interest in becoming Catholic. A sufficiently large response would mean the creation of an Anglican ordinariate in the U.S.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has named Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, as its delegate to assist Anglican groups who want to become Catholic through the ordinariate, a special church structure similar to a diocese.
“We’re hearing from those Anglican communities and those Anglicans who wish to explore more fully what the ordinariate will mean and who wish to be a part of it,” the cardinal told CNA in a Jan. 31 interview.
The first step is to respond to all U.S. Anglicans who have indicated an interest in the ordinariate and to learn more about them.
“Questionnaires have gone out asking them to identify more clearly who they are and what the nature is of their current community,” Cardinal Wuerl explained. “The goal is to determine whether there is a response substantial enough to warrant the establishment of an ordinariate here in the U.S.”
“We’ve already seen how the Holy See, at the request of Pope Benedict, has established an ordinariate in England, Our Lady of Walsingham. And that would probably be a model for what we would do here in the U.S.”
“We’re a little ways off yet,” he said.
Anglicans entering the Catholic Church will need faith formation, and the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, prepared by the U.S. bishops, will be “at the heart” of that process, Cardinal Wuerl reported.
“That much we can say. We already have the tools.
“Our next step now is to have the Holy See determine whether there are sufficient numbers and sufficient response to establish an ordinariate.”
In recent decades the Anglican Communion has suffered division over theological and moral issues, including the ordination of women as priests and bishops and sexual ethics.
In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” which allowed the creation of ordinariates for Anglicans who want to become Catholic while retaining aspects of their heritage and liturgy.
The ordinariates are similar to dioceses but can be led by either a bishop or a priest. Members of an ordinariate are under the jurisdiction of its leader, the “ordinary,” even if they reside in another bishop’s canonical territory.
The Vatican established the first Anglican ordinariate in England and Wales on Jan. 15. The Catholic bishops of Canada, under the leadership of Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, are currently reaching out to Anglicans in their country.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican department in charge supporting Catholic health care workers has announced that it will soon release updated guidelines on bioethics issues.
The guidelines offered in the "Charter for Health Care Workers" provide a point of reference on Church teaching for medical professionals. It is being updated to provide current teaching on complex topics in the health care field like stem-cell research, reproductive issues, euthanasia and abortion.
Representatives from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers spoke to journalists about the theme on Feb. 3 after presenting the Pope's message for the 19th World Day for the Sick.
Bishop Jose L. Redrado, secretary of the council, said Catholic facilities are battling a "culture of death."
In Phoenix, Ariz., one such clash involved doctors at a Catholic hospital choosing to abort the child of a mother with severe pulmonary hypertension. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix reacted to the news of the abortion by ordering an investigation and, after attempting to reconcile differences with the hospital staff, stripped the facility of its Catholic identity.
These types of cases demonstrate that there is a need to translate Church teaching into terms that are understandable in "modern society," Redrado said.
"The language should be clear," he added, "explaining what the church says, where the frontiers are, where there is a risk of crossing the line."
Under-secretary of the council, Msgr. Jean-Marie Mpendawatu, suggested that the revised document could serve to reduce the "mystification" attached to bioethical themes and offer health workers the truth of Catholic Church teaching in the area.
The monsignor lamented the way that "invasive ideologies" often bury authentic Catholic Church teaching on issues of bioethics. He referred specifically to reproductive issues and the use of adult stem-cell research and treatment.
"Many say that the Church on stem cells is behind the times, it doesn't want to do anything, it's not interested." But the Church has centers for developing and promoting ethical treatments using non-embryonic stem cells, "centers also of research and treatment using (adult) stem cells." he said.
The council, led by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, is in contact with Catholic institutions to pair their knowledge with Vatican-approved doctrine. Bioethics centers and bishops' conferences throughout the world are contributing.
Msgr. Mpendawatu said that it could be "very important" for the formation of health care workers who are often not trained specifically in bioethics.
During the press conference, the council also announced a May 2011 conference in which participants will examine HIV/AIDS prevention issues. International experts and Vatican officials will be taking part.
Condom use will be discussed, but the conference will take a broader approach to AIDS-related themes, said Msgr. Mpendawatu.
The conference is especially interesting following Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condom use in the 2010 book-interview "Light of the World." He said that condoms were not the solution to AIDS prevention, but that they could show a first sign of moral responsibility if used with the intention of reducing the risk of transmitting disease.
The words were widely seen as a change in Church teaching against condom use, but as the Vatican's doctrine department clarified on Dec. 21, they represented no such change.
The council announced that it will release guidelines to Church teaching on AIDS care and prevention which will provide a Vatican-approved point of reference for Catholic professionals in the field.
As a "pastoral" document, it will approach the many difficult issues such as care for elderly left without children and protection of children whose parents have died from AIDS.
Rome, Italy, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA) - Coptic Catholic Bishop Youhannes Ezzat Zakaria Badir of Luxor-Tebe in Egypt said that since the outbreak of massive protests in the country, his flock has been praying that “violence gives way to dialogue and that the civil war does not break out in the country.”
Bishop Zakaria spoke on Feb. 3 with the Italian news agency SIR about the protests that have engulfed Egypt after people were inspired by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia to try and topple their president, Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 30 years.
Protestors of the Mubarak regime are upset over high unemployment, soaring food costs and rampant corruption within the ruling class. Demonstrations have been centered in the Egyptian capital of Cairo but are also going on in Alexandria and other parts of the country.
“What is happening in Egypt is the result of the misguided policies of world leaders who have not made choices in the best interest of the future, life, dignity and freedom of mankind,” Bishop Zakaria said.
So many young people have risen up in protest, he said, because “for so many years nobody has thought about them, about their needs and dreams. The protests are a desperate act to make their voices heard.”
“The time has come for political leaders to make an examination of conscience and set aside their personal interests,” the bishop said. “Politics must again be at the service of our country.”
Bishop Zakaria also said he was optimistic about the future of Egypt. The violence of recent days, he added, “is because many under Mubarak who have enjoyed privileges are sending out armed groups against the young people gathered in Tahrir Square.”
“We hope that calm will soon prevail,” he said.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Franc Kramberger of Maribor, Slovenia under circumstances that have not yet been clarified. News reports and an archdiocesan official suggest that bad investments have left the Church in disastrous debt.
The 74-year old Archbishop Kramberger's resignation was accepted by the Pope Feb. 3 even though he was still a year shy of retirement age. Under Church law bishops resign before reaching their 75th birthdays in cases of health problems or other grave causes that impede him from carrying out the task.
For Archbishop Kramberger, the serious cause appears to be the enormous debt incurred by the archdiocese during his time there.
Archdiocesan chief financial officer, Lojze Cvikl, told STA news agency that the Maribor Archdiocese has a debt of more than $23 million.
Italy's L'Espresso weekly magazine reported on Jan. 21 that the archdiocese was in dire financial straits after a series of poor investments. Their estimation of the debt was at a much higher level, to the tune of nearly $1.1 billion.
Cvikl explained that the archdiocese had established a business to more easily fund Church-based activities and education. As that business grew, “it started investing... and that proved to be a dangerous activity.”
L'Espresso described in detail a number of investments - from telecommunications and chemicals to building supplies - that had gone awry and left the archdiocese in a heap of trouble. The Vatican, they said, only found out about the problems in 2007.
Archbishop Kramberger had served as Bishop of Maribor from 1980 until 2006 when he was made archbishop. L'Espresso reported that the investments began in the 1990s.
It was only after being tipped off to potential problems raised by a pair of multi-million dollar loans less than four years ago that the Vatican begin its inquiries, according to L'Espresso. The Holy See then sent a special representative in early 2010 to check the conditions of the books on-site. After the representative's report last October, changes in archdiocesan staff and hierarchy began to take place.
The archbishop's successor, Bishop Marjan Turnsek, was named to replace him on Feb. 3. He will be leading efforts to examine how to restructure the archdiocese's holdings to minimize the damage.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - This year's week-long Vatican retreat to begin the Lenten season will focus in part on Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor.
The March 13-19 talks in the Apostolic Palace will center on "The Light of Christ in the Heart of the Church - John Paul II and the Theology of the Saints," the Vatican announced on Feb. 4.
In addition to deepening the intense spiritual season of Lent, the theme of the meditations will also prepare attendees for the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II.
The annual series of spiritual exercises for the Pope, members of the Roman Curia and other Church officials will be given by a Frenchman, the Discalced Carmelite Fr. Francois-Marie Lethel.
Fr. Lethel serves as the secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. He is also a professor of theology and spirituality at the Pontifical Teresianum University.
He is a prolific author, writing often on the lives of saints. One of his major works examines the theology of saints to explain God's boundless love. His course load at the Teresianum this year includes a class on the love of Christ in the teaching of John Paul II.
By leading the Pope's spiritual exercises, he carries on a Vatican tradition started in 1929.
Normally, the exercises take place in the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel. Cardinals, bishops, superior generals and members of the Roman Curia and Papal Household join the Pope for the series. Meditations generally do not last more than a half hour and can also include praying the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharistic adoration.
Salesian Fr. Enrico dal Covolo gave 17 short talks on "Lessons from God and the Church on the Priestly Vocation" during last year's meditations. He and Fr. Lethel are contemporaries at the Vatican's academy for theologians.
At the conclusion of the week of exercises, the Pope address the gathering.
CNA STAFF, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency has launched a new initiative on Facebook to share the words, thoughts and teachings of Pope Benedict XVI through a fan page, "Pope Benedictions."
“Pope Benedictions” provides daily posts from the writings, homilies and speeches of the Holy Father.
Facebook users can now read the daily updates on their News Feed when they "like" the fan page. Readers can also share the post with family and friends on Facebook by liking and commenting on the individual updates.
“If you use Facebook like a lot of Catholics do, you'll love to have this kind of resource," said Ursula Murúa, CNA's Administrator for “Pope Benedictions.”
The new fan page is a natural outgrowth of the agency's efforts to join in Pope John Paul II's call for a new evangelization.
"This page is really just a natural extension of the mission and purpose of Catholic News Agency," explained Peter Zelasko, Multimedia Specialist for CNA. "The Holy Father's personal witness is a daily reminder of our faith, even when we're browsing the Internet or interacting with others on Facebook."
You can find "Pope Benedictions" online at: http://www.facebook.com/PopeBenedictions.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2011 (CNA) - At the conclusion of Evening Prayer in Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI offered a special prayer that those in the consecrated life would edify the entire Church with their holiness of life.
“My thoughts turn affectionately to all consecrated men and women everywhere, who I entrust to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” the Pope said.
“Oh Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust consecrated life to you
That you may obtain for it the fullness of divine light.
May it remain attentive to the Word of God,
Humble in the following of Jesus your son and our Lord,
Open to the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church might be edified by the holiness of life
Of these your sons and daughters
In the commandment of love.