Washington D.C., Jan 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has chosen a former Episcopal bishop to lead the new U.S. ordinariate for Anglican communities wishing to enter the Catholic Church.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was officially erected on Jan. 1, 2012, will be led by Fr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, who is a married, former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, who had served as the Vatican’s delegate for the establishment of an ordinariate in the United States, said that he welcomed Fr. Steenson’s appointment “with great joy.”
The cardinal said that the creation of the ordinariate is the “fulfillment of the hopes of many Anglicans in the United States who have longed and prayed for reconciliation with the Catholic Church.”
Ordained a Catholic priest in 2009, Fr. Steenson played an important role in designing the formation program for Anglican priests who enter the Catholic Church and seek ordination under the new ordinariate.
The 59-year-old priest has a doctorate in patristics, the study of the Early Church Fathers. He teaches theology at the University of St. Thomas and at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.
Because he is married, Fr. Steenson cannot be ordained a bishop, but will instead serve as the “ordinary.” Although he will not be able to ordain priests, he will have the authority of a bishop in other respects.
The creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church was authorized by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus.”
The newly-established U.S. ordinariate, which will be based in Houston, will be similar to a diocese but national in scope. It will allow entire communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices.
Two Anglican communities – one in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the other in the Archdiocese of Washington – were received into the Catholic Church in 2011 in anticipation of the establishment of the U.S. ordinariate.
Fr. Steenson’s appointment to lead the new ordinariate is effective immediately.
Raised on a farm in North Dakota, Fr. Steenson studied at Harvard Divinity School and the University of Oxford.
He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1980 and was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande in 2004.
After he and his wife entered the Catholic Church in 2007, Fr. Steenson was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009.
He and his wife Debra have three grown children and one grandchild.
Cardinal Wuerl said that Fr. Steenson brings with him “great pastoral and administrative experience,” as well as “gifts as a theologian.”
Under Fr. Steenson’s leadership, said the cardinal, the new ordinariate “will both flourish and be a rich blessing to the Catholic Church in the United States.”
Vatican City, Jan 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI marked 2012's Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God with a proclamation of the peace that is found in her son Jesus Christ.
“As Saint Paul says, 'He is our peace,' and at the same time the 'way' by which individuals and peoples can reach this goal to which we all aspire,” the Pope said in his homily on the Jan. 1 feast day, which coincided with the Church's 45th annual World Day of Peace.
The Pope welcomed pilgrims, Church leaders, and international dignitaries to St. Peter's Basilica for the year's first public Papal Mass. He told them that peace, “in the highest and fullest sense, is the sum and synthesis of all blessings” given by God.
“The Church too, on the first day of the year, invokes this supreme good in a special way,” he explained. “She does so, like the Virgin Mary, by revealing Jesus to all.”
“Jesus is a way that can be traveled, open to everyone,” the Pope said. “He is the path of peace. Today the Virgin Mary points him out to us, she shows us the way. Let us walk in it!”
Jan. 1 also saw the official release of the Pope's statement for the World Day of Peace, on the theme of “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.”
In his homily, he called this education “a task for every generation,” and said humanity “has shown increasing awareness of it” in light of the 20th century's tragic events.
From the Church's perspective, an education in peace is also “part of the mission received from Christ … because the Gospel of Christ is also the Gospel of justice and peace.”
But he warned against a “technological mentality” and a “culture of relativism” that can obscure the need for virtue and truth in the educational process.
The Pope highlighted the role of families and religious communities, in helping young people to “learn the importance and the art of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, dialogue and understanding.”
These goals, he said, are closely tied to the work of religious instruction.
“Every pathway of authentic religious formation guides the person, from the most tender age, to know God, to love him and to do his will,” the Pope observed. “God is love, he is just and peaceable, and anyone wishing to honor him must first of all act like a child following his father’s example.”
In his Angelus address after the Jan. 1 Mass, Pope Benedict offered further thoughts on the peace offered to humanity in Christ.
The “face of God” was “revealed in Jesus,” he told pilgrims gathered outside the window of his study for Sunday's midday prayer.
“Thus do we begin the new year 2012 with our gaze fixed on the face of God, revealed in the child of Bethlehem,” he said, “and on his mother Mary, who with humble submission accepted the divine plan.”
Through Mary's acceptance of God's will, “the true light which enlightens everyone came into the world, and the path of peace was reopened.”
Pope Benedict invited all people “to have the patience and constancy to seek out justice and peace, to cultivate a taste for what is just and true.”
He noted that peace was “never a quality that can be fully achieved, but a goal to which we must all aspire and for which we must all work.”
“Let us pray that the leaders of nations may renew their willingness and commitment to accept and support this irrepressible desire of humanity,” he urged, entrusting this hope to Mary as “the mother of the 'King of Peace.'”
Feast of the Holy Family
Two days before the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the Church observed another feast of the Christmas season as it honored the Holy Family on Dec. 30.
In his Dec. 28 general audience, Pope Benedict continued his series on prayer with a reflection on the prayer life of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph.
Through their example, he said, “we learn to contemplate the mystery of God’s presence and to grow as faithful disciples of Christ.”
He noted that the Gospels “present Mary as the supreme model of prayerful meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life,”which the Church continues to practice through the Rosary.
Joseph, meanwhile, taught Jesus his own “quiet fidelity to work, prayer and observance of the precepts of the law.”
At the center of the Holy Family was “Jesus' unique relationship with his heavenly Father,” a mystery that “stands at the heart of all Christian prayer.”
“May the example of the Holy Family inspire all Christian families to be schools of prayer,” the Pope said, as he urged parents and children to “come to know that closeness to God which we joyfully celebrate in these days of Christmas.”
Jos, Nigeria, Jan 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fallout from the deadly Christmas bombings in Nigeria continues, as some Catholic leaders say they believe the violence is intended to ignite sectarian conflict.
“We continue to ask Christians to be vigilant and aware of the issue of safety when they go to church and even in their own homes,” Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, the vice-president of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference, said in response to the attacks.
“We have appealed that there be no retaliation and we continue to preach peace, hoping that all of us in Nigeria, Muslims and Christians, we will be able to work and live happily together. This is our position: no violence, no retaliation. We want to live in peace,” he said in a Jan. 2 interview with Vatican Radio.
The attack killed at least 37 and wounded at least 57 Catholics on Christmas Day at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalia, outside the capital of Abuja. The perpetrators attacked from a moving car, throwing improvised explosive devices at worshippers who were leaving the church.
Some of the wounded ran toward a priest for final blessings, while some burned in their cars as they tried to leave, Agence France Presse reports.
Another church was targeted in Jos and a policeman was killed in a resulting shootout. A suicide bomber also hit a military convoy in the northeastern city of Damaturu.
About 30 Christian shops were burned in the city of Potiskum, while a supermarket and the home of a local Christian leader were also set on fire.
The attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church was attributed to Boko Haram, an Islamist group blamed for scores of attacks. The group is believed to have ties with outside extremist groups, including Al Qaeda’s northern Africa affiliates.
Abul Qaqa, a purported spokesman for the group, gave a three-day ultimatum for Christians to leave the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria and he has called for Muslims living in the mainly Christian south to move north.
Qaqa also criticized Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for visiting St. Theresa Church on Dec. 31, charging that he had never visited any areas where Muslims were massacred in post-election riots in April.
Some Nigerians worried the attacks could set off retaliation from Christians and cause sectarian clashes in their country.
“We continue to appeal to reason, for dialogue. It is possible for Muslims and Christians to reason together,” Archbishop Kaigama said. “We know that there are other forces behind the so-called Boko Haram, we do not even know who the Boko Haram really are, what they want, where they get their arms from.
“What is certain is that there are some forces behind them, either in Nigeria or abroad, who want to profit from instability in our country, but we will not give in to terrorism, we will not allow these fundamentalists to ruin our country.”
American Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, responded to the church attack in a Dec. 27 letter to Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abjua.
“In union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we reject these senseless acts of violence. We pray for all those who have been killed or injured, as well as their families,” the bishop said.
He supported the archbishop’s demand that the government of Nigeria identify and eliminate the terrorist groups.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Church in Nigeria at this time of loss and sorrow. We pray that the New Year will bring peace to your beloved country,” Bishop Pates said.
Vatican City, Jan 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary for his March 2012 visit to Mexico and Cuba was released Jan. 2 through Vatican Radio.
He will leave Rome on March 23 and arrive in the city of Leon, Mexico where President Felipe Calderon, Archbishop José Martín of Leon and representatives of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference will officially receive him.
The Pope will stay at the residence of the Sisters of Miraflores College in Leon, according to Vatican Radio’s unofficial translation of press releases from the bishops’ conferences of Mexico and Cuba.
On March 24 the pontiff will have an official meeting with President Calderon and his delegation at the Conde Rul House, the seat of the Guanajuato state government—the state that Leon is located in. He will then greet and bless children and the faithful who are gathered in La Paz square.
On Sunday, March 25, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass at the municipality of Silao’s Bicentennial Park, at the foot of Cubilete Hill. The monument to Christ the King stands atop the hill.
He will then celebrate vespers at Leon’s cathedral and deliver a message to the bishops of Mexico and other representatives of the bishops’ conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean.
On the morning of March 26, high-ranking Mexican civil and religious authorities will say farewell to the Pope at Leon airport, as he leaves for Cuba.
Pope Benedict will arrive in Cuba’s city of Santiago, where he will be officially received by President Raul Castro, Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez of Santiago, and members of Cuba’s Catholic bishops’ conference.
The Pope will celebrate a sunset Mass in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square to mark the Solemnity of the Annunciation. After Mass he will go to El Cobre, where he will stay at a priests’ residence.
On March 27, Pope Benedict will make a private visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, where he will pray for a few minutes before the image of the Virgin.
He will then travel to Havana’s José Martí Airport, where he will be welcomed at noon by Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops, and other religious and civil authorities.
In the afternoon he will visit President Castro for an official meeting, and at dusk he will meet with all the Catholic bishops of Cuba at the papal nunciature.
On the morning of March 28 he will preside at Mass in José Martí Revolution Square before returning to the nunciature. The Pope’s visit to Cuba will end with an official farewell ceremony at José Martí Airport.
Pope Benedict confirmed that he would visit the two countries on Dec. 12 , saying, “With this strong desire, and supported by the aid of divine providence … I have the intention to undertake an apostolic journey before holy Easter to Mexico and Cuba to proclaim the word of Christ.”
He said his planned trip was based on his conviction that the present is “a precious time to evangelize” in Latin America and the Caribbean.