Vatican City, Apr 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - You don’t have to go far in Rome to know that a Polish invasion is underway.
You can hear Slavic accents on every street corner. There are red and white Polish national flags fluttering in the sun. People are wearing t-shirts and hats emblazoned with image of the country’s most famous son, Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified in St Peter’s Square this weekend.
“I think there will be about 100,000 Polish people here. We know at least 40,000 are arriving with organized groups but there are also lots making their own way here,” Polish radio journalist Dorota Piotrawska tells me in St. Peter’s Square.
“Yesterday I met three men, two of them in their 60s, who’ve walked all the way from Poland just to be here to give thanks for our Pope and for all he gave us. Similarly, I met a young man who’s walked from the town of Bialystok in eastern Poland. That’s over 1600 kilometers (990 miles). When I listen to the stories of Polish pilgrims here in Rome and what they’ve given up just to be here, well, I get very emotional.”
One such pilgrim is Kataryna Katarzyna, a 33-year-old student from the Polish city of Lodz, “I’m of the Pope John II generation. I was born the year he was elected Pope. I came to Rome when he died. So when we heard he was going to be a saint both I and my parents said, ‘we must be there!’”
Pilgrims such as Kataryna will be joined for Sunday’s beatification ceremony by the Polish president, Bronislaw Komorowski. Also present will be former president Lech Walesa.
The country’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has opted to spend the day in John Paul’s hometown of Wadowice in southern Poland. There about 20,000 people will pack into the town’s main square to watch events live from the Vatican.
Lagos, Nigeria, Apr 28, 2011 (CNA) - A Nigerian bishop said corrupt leaders play a significant part in the violence that has killed at least 500 people in the last week.
“The mindless violence, killing and destruction in some states of Northern Nigeria, is a tragedy almost definitely instigated and fueled by people and forces who are bent on keeping Nigeria in the dark ages of corruption and fraud and are powerful enough to do so,” said Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo of Oyo.
Civil strife broke out across the predominantly Muslim north when the results from the April 16 presidential election showed President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, had won.
Many in the north believe someone from their region should be in power because the elected Muslim president died last year before he could finish his term.
Elections for state governors were held across Nigeria on April 26 but were postponed until April 28 in Kaduna and Bauchi states, the two northern areas hardest hit by violence. An estimated 40,000 people fled those areas because of the violence and it's uncertain whether many would return in time to vote.
In commentary provided by Vatican-based Fides news, Bishop Badejo rejected the idea that the crisis is merely a clash between Christians and Muslims, calling into question the role of local politicians.
“We must no longer deceive ourselves that this is merely the work of miscreants, uneducated people and misguided elements,” he said.
“As the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria and other Nigerians have repeatedly said just before the elections, if the powerful men and the forces behind these criminal and destructive acts are not prosecuted for such acts, we give them free field to operate, kill, maim and destroy in Nigeria.”
“It is not possible to hold free fair and credible elections where bullets fly overhead and machetes and torches are carried around for the main purpose of causing death and destruction.”
The bishop of Oyo called for increased accountability for corrupt leaders who are perpetuating the country's conflict.
“We must act firmly and fast,” he said. “Politicians are not from another planet. They are among us and can be forensically monitored and investigated if necessary. At times like this, what a leader needs most is courage. And our country needs many of such leaders.”
“All those who act with violence should remember that, throughout history, those who came before them suffered the same miserable fate,” Bishop Badejo warned.
Vatican City, Apr 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - An exhibit chronicling the life of John Paul II will open in St. Peter's Square in honor of the late Pope's upcoming beatification.
The Vatican announced that the “John Paul II: Homage of Benedict XVI for the Beatification” will open on April 29 in the Charlemagne Wing of Bernini's colonnades around St. Peter's Square.
The exhibition, which will remain open until July 24, is divided into 15 sections illustrating the life and pontificate of Karol Wojtyla. Scenes and details from his life will document his infancy and childhood in Wadowice all the way to his funeral in Rome on April 8 in 2005.
The initiative was organized by the Governorate of the Vatican City State along with the Polish Embassy to the Holy See and the Polish Culture and Heritage Ministry.
During the exhibit's inaugural ceremony – which will be attended by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone among others – the official stamps issued jointly by the Vatican City State and Poczta Polska (Polish Post) will be presented.
The tribute to the late pontiff comes as 2 million people are expected to flood the streets of Rome in the upcoming days to celebrate John Paul II's May 1 beatification.
Rome, Italy, Apr 28, 2011 (CNA) - A Catholic adoption charity in England is facing closure after losing its appeal against a law forcing them to place children with homosexual couples.
Catholic Care, run by the Diocese of Leeds, argued it would have to give up its adoption service if it was not made exempt from the law. However their case has now been rejected by England’s Charity Tribunal.
“It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years,” said Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in response to the April 26 decision.
The diocese had told the tribunal that homosexual couples could get adoption services from local authorities and other voluntary agencies and said failure to secure the exemption would hit the voluntary donations which keep it afloat. They also argued that the law should respect Catholic belief in the same way that churches aren’t currently compelled to bless homosexual civil partnerships in England.
These arguments, though, were rejected by the tribunal. It admitted that it would be “a loss to society” if the charity stopped its adoption service but added it had to balance that risk against the "detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed.”
Catholic Care had been seeking an exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations Act. It was introduced by the U.K. government in 2007 and requires all adoption agencies to consider homosexual couples as prospective parents. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said there was “no place” for discrimination in British society. Since then some Catholic agencies have closed while others have severed their links with the Church in order to stay open.
Catholic Care will now consider whether or not to continue its legal fight. The charity has been in existence for over 100 years.
Denver, Colo., Apr 28, 2011 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James D. Conley praised the new translation of the Roman Missal, calling it the Church's “gift to our generation.”
“In order for the Church to realize the full potential of this gift, it is vital that we understand why we need this new translation,” he pointed out.
“The changes are not superficial ritualism,” Bishop Conley said in an April 25 address to the Midwest Theological Forum in Indiana. “There is a deep liturgical and theological aesthetic at work.”
The U.S. bishops have announced that parishes will begin using the new translation in Advent of 2011. While the essentials of the Mass have not changed, the bishops say the new translation offers a richer way to explain and proclaim the Catholic faith.
Bishop Conley clarified in his remarks on Monday that he is committed to the new order of Mass that emerged from the Second Vatican Council's liturgical reforms.
“I was ordained a priest and a bishop in the Novus Ordo,” he said. “I have spent my entire priesthood praying this Mass with deep reverence.”
The Novus Ordo “has helped the Church to rediscover the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives” he said. It has also “nourished and sanctified the spiritual lives of countless souls over the past 40 plus years,” including “two great figures of our generation – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II.”
However, Bishop Conley explained that the subsequent translation of that Mass into English has been problematic.
“Something has been lost,” he said. “Something of the beauty and grandeur of the liturgy. Something of the reverence, the mystery, the sense of the transcendent. This has been a persistent criticism since the Council – and not only from so-called traditionalists.”
The “problem is not the Novus Ordo – but the license that people sometimes take in celebrating it.”
“There is a banal, pedestrian quality to much of the language in our current liturgy,” he said. “The weakness in the language gets in the way and prevents us from experiencing the sublime spiritual and doctrinal ideas woven into the fabric of the liturgy.”
Bishop Conley also said that the use of “abstract terms” in the current translation affects how “we speak of God” and presents the danger of “undermining our faith in the Incarnation.”
He praised the new translation of the Mass instead, saying that it “restores this sense of the liturgy as transcendent and transformative” and “restores the sacramentality to our liturgical language.”
He gave an example from the new translation of the Communion Rite, which says, “Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
“For the last 40 years we have erased this heavenly reference in the Communion Rite with our bland translation: Happy are those who are called to his Supper,” he said.
“The Mass is truly a partaking in the worship that St. John saw around the throne and the altar of God,” Bishop Conley noted. “This is not a beautiful idea, but a sacred reality.”
He went on to emphasize that the “essential matter” of the Eucharist is its participation in the liturgy of heaven. “In other words, that’s what the Eucharist is all about. The Eucharist we celebrate on earth has its source in the heavenly liturgy.”
“Yet how many of our people in the pews – how many of our priests at the altar – feel that they are being lifted up to partake in the heavenly liturgy?” he asked. “This is why this new translation is so important.”
The Mass is “not only about praying beautiful words,” Bishop Conley said. “In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God.”
“They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.”
“As Pope Benedict has said, our Eucharistic mystagogy must inspire 'an awareness that one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated,'” Bishop Conley said.
“That is the great promise of this new translation and new edition of the Missal. The promise of a people nourished and transformed by the sacred mysteries they celebrate.”
Kingston, Jamaica, Apr 28, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Donald J. Reece of Kingston criticized Jamaica’s leading newspaper for publishing a front-page photo of a 10-foot sculpture depicting Christ's naked body and exposed genitalia.
He said the photos and accompanying article was in “poor taste for the commemoration of the holiest day for Christians, Easter.”
“For the life of me I cannot begin to fathom the Observer's rationale for a full three-page exposition of Christ's naked body with reference to the sacrosanct belief of the Eucharist,” the Jamaican archbishop wrote in an April 25 letter to the editor of the Jamaican Observer.
Laura Facey, the sculptor, told the Observer she was pleased with the controversy. “If you don't create a stir, then what's the point of doing the work?” she said.
Archbishop Reece said her work reflected society's growing lack of respect for the sacred.
“In western society, nothing seems to be sacred anymore: sex is no longer sacred, it's now a commodity; religious beliefs or objects are no longer held sacred; and the human body is forever being trivialized, and considered disposable.”
The archbishop suggested there was a double standard at work in portraying Christian symbols disrespectfully: “I wonder if an artist had caricatured the prophet Muhammad or some aspects of the Koran, if you would have featured it so readily and prominently in your newspaper.”
He concluded: “The mystery of life is slowly being eroded. Then we wonder about the mores of our society … We adults have opened the sluice gate of relativism, inappropriateness, and indecency; the result is far-reaching. Sanctity of life linked to a sense of mystery is fast disappearing. Do the media have a role to play in this sorry pass?”
Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2011 (CNA) -
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast that his conversion to Catholicism helped him discover the “transforming power of faith” in the face of the “increasingly aggressive secularization” of the United States.
“People ask me when I decided to become Catholic,” he told those gathered at Washington D.C.’s Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on the morning of April 27. “It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me.”
“The depth of faith and history contained in the life of the Catholic Church were increasingly apparent to me,” he added. “Slowly, over a decade, the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass became more and more obvious to me.”
Gingrich, who entered the Church in 2009, is widely mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate.
His wife Callista’s long involvement with the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception brought him to Mass every Sunday, he recounted. He often spoke with Basilica rector Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, especially during a 2005 trip to Rome.
Gingrich said he thought George Weigel’s book “The Cube and the Cathedral” captured the “crisis” of European civilization as “militant, government-imposed secularism undermines and weakens Christianity.”
“As Monsignor Rossi and I discussed the crisis of secularism in Europe and the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity, a terrible parallel grew in my mind between what had been happening in Europe for the last century and what is now happening in the United States,” he said.
“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media, and judicial class in America.”
Criticizing U.S. courts as “especially powerful engines of coerced secularization,” he said the 1962 Supreme Court decision that barred prayer from schools marked the beginning of “a decisive break with the essentially religious nature of historic American civilization.”
Gingrich continued to explore his own beliefs and he reconsidered his own tolerance for aggressive secularization.
“Callista and I have two grandchildren,” he said. “The more I thought about the culture they are surrounded by and the direction of that culture’s evolution, the more troubled I became.”
His “moment of confirmation” about the Catholic faith came during Solemn Vespers with Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff’s April 2008 visit to the U.S. The Pope’s “joyful and radiating presence” helped Gingrich confirm many of his thoughts and experiences.
“Pope Benedict’s message of ‘Christ our Hope’ was exactly right,” he told the prayer breakfast. “It captured in three words the heart of the salvation Christianity offers.”
The same “transforming power” of faith also had an impact in Poland during Pope John Paul II’s “extraordinary” nine-day visit in June 1979, which Gingrich and his wife have chronicled in his documentary “Nine Days that Changed the World.”
“Amidst a Communist dictatorship, Pope John Paul II reminded the Polish people that freedom and human potential could only be achieved through a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Gingrich explained.
In the face of “continuous anti-religious war” imposed by the Soviet Union, John Paul II’s biblical exhortation “Be Not afraid” gave courage to Catholics and caused fear in Moscow.
“For nine days the Holy Father crisscrossed Poland evangelizing and teaching. For nine days the people of Poland watched, listened and participated,” Gingrich said. “By the end of his pilgrimage something decisive had changed.”
He credited the papal visit for the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gingrich and his wife believe their documentary is a movie with “universal meaning” that is “directly relevant” to contemporary America and to “our crisis of culture and civilization.”
He prayed that the soon-to-be beatified John Paul II will intercede for us so that “we too will be a positive, evangelizing influence in today’s world.”
The Seventh National Catholic Prayer Breakfast brought Catholics to Washington, D.C. for an April 26 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and for a breakfast the next morning.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. delivered the keynote address for the morning event. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and pro-life investigative reporter Lila Rose also spoke.
Chicago, Ill., Apr 28, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Controversial Chicago priest Father Michael Pfleger was suspended by the archdiocese on April 27 after making public statements threatening to leave the Church if he were reassigned from his current parish.
“If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish,” Cardinal Francis George wrote in a letter Wednesday suspending Fr. Pfleger's priestly faculties.
“A Catholic priest’s inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop,” emphasized the cardinal. “Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church.”
Fr. Pfleger's recent comments added to his controversial stance in the Church, given his public support for President Obama's presidential campaign as well as for mocking remarks against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her run for office in 2008.
In April of last year, he made waves for speaking in favor of women and married priests during a Divine Mercy Sunday homily.
Fr. Pfleger recently told media outlets that he would leave the Catholic Church if the Chicago archdiocese “removed” him from his role of pastor of St. Sabina's Parish to serve as president of the nearby Leo High School.
The priest has led the parish since 1983.
Cardinal George said in his April 27 letter that the priest's comments grossly misrepresented the facts, given Fr. Pfleger's initial openness to working at the school.
“Several times in recent years you have told me that you do not want to remain as Pastor of Saint Sabina Parish for the length of your priestly ministry in the Church,” the cardinal wrote. “Each time we discussed the subject, it was clear that there was no other assignment that would make equally good use of your talents in ministry.”
“Some months ago, however, an opening at Leo High School for the presidency of a fine school very important for the mission of the Church gave us the possibility of offering you a transfer that would keep you in the neighborhood and among the people to whom you have dedicated much of your life.”
“As you know, this was an honest offer, not driven by pressure from any group but by a pastoral need in the Archdiocese. You promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it.”
However, Cardinal George added, even “as these conversations began or were being planned, our private conversation was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to 'remove' you from Saint Sabina’s.”
“You know that priests in the Archdiocese are 'removed' only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor child or are guilty of financial malfeasance,” he said. “In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another.”
The cardinal wrote that he “deeply” regretted Fr. Pfleger's public remarks that have “brought you to a moment of crisis that I pray will quickly pass.”
“This conflict is not between you and me,” he clarified, “it’s between you and the Church that ordained you a priest, between you and the faith that introduced you to Christ and gives you the right to preach and pastor in his name.”
Although “I have consistently supported your work for social justice and admired your passion for ministry,” Cardinal George wrote, “I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.”
“With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.”
The cardinal then named the Rev. Thulani Magwaza, the associate pastor at St. Sabina, as administrator during the suspension and the Rev. Andrew Smith, a priest at St. Ailbe Parish, as his assistant.
Fr. Pfleger did not react publicly the suspension, but one leader of the parish expressed anger at the decision.
“He was ambushed,” said Kimberly Lymore, who is listed as “associate minister” on the church's website directory. Lymore told the Chicago Sun-Times on April 28 that Fr. Pfleger has “given his life to this community” and is “upset,” and “in shock, just as we all were.”
Cardinal George emphasized in his letter to the priest that if “you now formally leave the Catholic Church and her priesthood, it’s your choice and no one else’s.”
“You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements,” he said. “To avoid misrepresentation and manipulation on anyone’s part, this letter will be released to the parish, which is to publish it in its entirety, and to the media after it has been delivered to you.”
“You remain in my prayers, and I hope I remain in yours.”