Denver, Colo., Oct 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On October 25, the Catholic Church honors the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, who died resisting the royal takeover that gave rise to the modern-day “Church of England” in the 16th and 17th centuries.
When Pope Paul VI canonized the 40 saints in 1970, he looked forward to “the day when, God willing, the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored” in the once-Catholic nations, with due respect for “the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church.”
Contrary to some popular understandings, King Henry VIII did not strictly intend either to form a separate Protestant church, or to obtain a divorce. Rather, on account of his desire for an annulment of a marriage judged valid by the Pope, Henry declared himself “supreme head” of the English Church.
It was only gradually, under the influence of the renegade archbishop Thomas Cranmer that Henry's “Anglicans Ecclesia” took on its distinctly Protestant character – losing, in the process, most of the seven sacraments that the disgraced king had once defended against Martin Luther's attacks.
Henry VIII's “Act of Supremacy,” however, effectively defined supporters of papal authority as criminals guilty of treason against the crown. Under the subsequent reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, the same sentence fell on those who defended the Mass, the priesthood, and many of the sacraments.
The resulting decades of persecution, between 1535 and 1679, represented one of the most brutal persecutions of the Church since its first centuries under the Roman Emperors. Convicted Catholics typically died by hanging, after suffering torture meant to make them betray “accomplices” in the faith.
Priests, however, often received the penalty of “drawing and quartering.” This involved being dragged to the site of execution, and hanged by a noose for a duration that typically caused torture but not death. This was followed by mutilation, disembowelment, beheading, and cutting of the body into four parts.
The martyrs honored on Oct. 25 represent a fraction of the dead, who number at least in the hundreds. Out of the 40, 13 were diocesan priests, and 20 more belonged to religious orders including the Augustinians, Benedictines, Brigittines, Franciscans and Jesuits.
Seven of the 40 martyrs were laypersons, including three mothers of children. Jesuits – whose strict orthodoxy and evangelistic zeal particularly threatened the Anglican establishment – account for one-quarter of the 40 martyrs.
Of the 40 martyrs celebrated on Oct. 25, the best-known may be the Jesuit priest St. Edmund Campion, who left Anglicanism and spent time in Ireland before making his way back to England with the intention of bringing his countrymen back to their traditional faith.
Both Campion’s life and his gruesome death prompted some Anglicans to embrace the truth for which he sacrificed himself. St. Henry Walpole, for instance, not only witnessed Campion’s death, but had his own clothing stained with the martyr’s blood in a moment that led him toward conversion.
Laypersons who gave aid and shelter to priests and religious were also subject to death, under a 1583 law. St. Margaret Clitherow, a laywoman who is among the 40 canonized martyrs, had Masses secretly offered at her home. For this “crime,” she died by being crushed to death with an 800-pound weight.
At present, the Catholic Church in England celebrates the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales on a different day than the rest of the Roman Catholic Church, May 4, having combined their feast day with that of 240 other English martyrs beatified by Bl. John Paul II.
Even this great “cloud of witnesses,” however, does not represent the full extent of the persecution that occurred during the English Reformation.
As a note on the English liturgical calendar explains, “the number of those who died on the scaffold, perished in prison, or suffered harsh persecution for their faith in the course of a century and a half cannot now be reckoned.”
Providence, R.I., Oct 23, 2011 (CNA) - A new advisory committee has been formed to continue evangelization efforts throughout the Diocese of Providence, R.I. and strengthen the faith of active Catholics by providing increased opportunities for faith formation and spirituality.
The committee will build upon the “New Evangelization” popularized by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI challenging Catholics to “proclaim Christ to all people.”
The Diocesan Evangelization Committee, led by Msgr. Jacques L. Plante, director for Evangelization and Pastoral Planning, was established to build upon the accomplishments of the Diocesan Year of Evangelization Preparatory Committee, which conducted the “Catholics Come Home” program with faith formation classes, parish evangelization initiatives and other events held throughout the diocese
“We have so many Catholics who don’t know their faith,” said Msgr. Plante, adding that for those who live in Western countries, “religion has become something somewhat private” and faith is seldom shared or discussed in public.
“In the United States, it’s just about forbidden,” he added. “The goal of this committee is to help parishes and Catholics see that evangelization is the work of the entire church.”
Emphasizing that “society no longer supports our faith,” Msgr. Plante said many children only attend religious education classes to receive first Communion and confirmation, and do not attend Mass at other times.
“Kids do not learn about Jesus Christ in public schools,” he said. “They learn about Roger Williams but not that he was moved by faith.”
Msgr. Plante said the committee will be discussing ways to strengthen parish religious education programs for younger students, developing new opportunities for adult education and individuals who have completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults as they continue their faith journey. The committee will also assist parishes in conducting Day of Evangelization programs, similar to those that have already been conducted in several diocesan parishes.
“We want to incultrate a sense of Catholic life,” Msgr. Plante emphasized, adding that Catholics should integrate their faith into every aspect of their lives and just not be attentive to God for an hour a week at Mass.
Noting that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “new evangelization” as the theme for the 2012 Synod of Bishops that will take place on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Msgr. Plante emphasized the importance of the new diocesan committee.
“The world would like us to be quiet about our faith,” he said. “The reality is that we have something good to share.”
Dr. Aurelie Hagstrom, chair of the theology department at Providence College and a member of the Diocesan Evangelization Committee, said that one of the committee’s objectives is to help Catholics become aware that evangelization is everyone’s mission and just not the responsibility of the church hierarchy.
Hagstrom emphasized the vital role that the laity plays in the church.
“It’s one of the best kept secrets in the church that the laity has both a vocation and a mission,” she noted, adding that the work of the committee will help renew the call for lay participation and evangelization.
“This is not a one year campaign,” Hagstrom continued. She said while Catholics Come Home and other programs conducted during the Year of Evangelization “were a way to reignite the flame,” evangelization is an ongoing process that never ends.
David Gillis, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church, Providence, where he co-chairs the parish’s evangelization program, said that he was “incredibly honored and excited to serve” on the new diocesan committee.
Gillis added that especially in our troubled and secular world, Catholics need to “quietly and practically “ live their faith and live according to the Gospel message.
“This is something that we have to do,” Gillis stated. “This world needs God and we as Catholics need to show that … and that he can turn people’s lives around.”
Printed with permission from the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence.
New York City, N.Y., Oct 23, 2011 (CNA) -
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran has spoken out against the death sentence given to Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and numerous other alleged human rights violations carried out by regime.
“In some cases, elements of Iran’s penal code and legal practices amount to contravention of those international laws it acceded to,” said Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights in Iran.
In an Oct. 19 report to the General Assembly’s third committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs, Shaheed noted that Iran’s policies “lack substantive cooperation with the UN human rights system.”
He said that he was “particularly disturbed” by the recent death sentence given to Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who has been ordered to renounce his beliefs or face execution by hanging.
The U.N. official urged Iranian officials to consider releasing Nadarkhani, along with other individuals who have reportedly been arrested and prosecuted by the regime.
Shaheed also said that he had been informed that Iran has arrested and prosecuted at least 42 lawyers for trying to provide legal counsel to accused individuals. Charges brought against these lawyers include insulting the Supreme Leader, acting against national security and spreading propaganda.
Nadarkhani’s attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, told the American Center for Law and Justice that he has received a nine-year prison sentence for representing cases such as Nadarkhani’s.
Dadkhah plans to appeal the sentence, but the process could take months and Iranian authorities could decide to enforce the sentence at any time.
According to an Oct. 14 statement from the Center for Law and Justice, Dadkhah also said that the Iranian regime was threatening him for embarrassing the country and judicial system and that he “may no longer be able to speak freely to the American press.”
Iranian officials dismissed Shaheed’s report to the U.N.
“Its content is absolutely unjustified, unwarranted and unacceptable for my country,” said Iran's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Eshaq Al-e-Habib.
He called report “unacceptable and invalid” and said that it consisted of “poorly-sourced, exaggerated and outdated allegations.”
Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's Supreme Council for Human Rights, also denied the charges brought up in the report.
He told Fars News Agency that the report was “completely based on the West's political motives” and said that it “calls into question the reputation of the Human Rights Committee.”
Vatican City, Oct 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI canonized three new saints at an Oct. 23 ceremony in St. Peter’s Square. He described the heavenly triumvirate as “a model for all believers.”
“Let us be attracted by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings, so that our whole existence becomes a witness of authentic love for God and neighbor,” the Pope Benedict said to tens of thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims Oct. 23.
The three new saints are Sister Bonifacia Rodriguez y Castro, Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti and Father Luigi Guanella.
Sr. Bonifacia was born in the Spanish city of Salamanca in 1837. She dedicated her life to the welfare of poor female workers. In 1874 she co-founded the Servants of St. Joseph, who offered work to poor unemployed women.
Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti was born near Parma in Italy in 1865. As a young man he dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary but his poor health caused various religious orders to turn him away. His solution was to found his own missionary order, the Xaverian Missionaries, in 1895. He also served as bishop of Ravenna and later of Parma.
Fr. Luigi Guanella was born in the Italian province of Como in 1842. He dedicated his life to the care of the poor and needy. He founded the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in 1881 and Servants of Charity in 1908.
Drawing upon today’s Gospel in which Christ tells a Pharisee the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the Pope said that “the visible sign that the Christian can show the world to witness to the love of God is the love of their brethren.”
“How providential is then the fact that today the Church should indicate to all members three new saints who allowed themselves to be transformed by divine love, which marked their entire existence,” said the Pope, explaining that “in different situations and with different charisms, they loved the Lord with all their heart and their neighbor as themselves so as to become a model for all believers.”
Present among the pilgrims today was 30-year-old William Glisson from Springfield, Pa. His miraculous recovery in 2002 from serious head injuries sustained while rollerblading was attributed to the heavenly intercession of Fr. Guanella. It was that miracle which led to today’s canonization.
“It’s truly amazing and it’s extremely humbling that this could be happening,” Glisson told CNA. He is still grateful to all those who prayed to Fr. Guanella on his behalf.
“Their prayers were answered and I was healed because of that and that he became a saint is just amazing. And the fact that I'm even here, this place is amazing. It’s just hard to even describe, to put into words.”
A minor disruption of today’s ceremony happened when a man, thought to be Romanian, climbed onto the colonnade that surrounds St. Peter’s Square and proceeded to burn a Bible.
“Pope, where is Christ?” he shouted in English before throwing the charred Bible to the ground below. The man was talked out of further actions by, among others, the Pope’s chief bodyguard Domenico Giani.
The Pope himself seemed totally unfazed by the incident and simply carried on with the celebration of Mass.