Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2012 (CNA) -
The head of the U.S. bishops' catechesis and evangelization committee has called upon Catholics to draw closer to Christ by deepening their understanding of the sacraments during the Year of Faith.
“The Seven Sacraments continue the saving work of Jesus until he comes again and form the center of the celebration of the Christian mystery,” said Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay.
He explained that through the Church’s ministry, “all are invited to hear the Good News, follow Christ and share in these saving mysteries.”
Sacramental participation, particularly in the Eucharist, is “foundational to sustain the faithful in union with the very life of the Trinity and to strengthen them for the rigors of living their faith as committed disciples," he said.
In a letter to his brother bishops on Oct. 4, Bishop Ricken suggested the use of a resource developed by the committee, “Sacramental Catechesis: An Online Resource for Dioceses and Eparchies.”
The document is intended for use by bishops and diocesan leaders in “developing or enhancing programs for sacramental catechesis.”
It offers ideas on confronting modern challenges in teaching about the sacraments ahead of the Year of Faith, which begins on Oct. 11 as an opportunity for Catholics around the world to deepen their faith.
“Full participation in the sacramental life of the Church is essential to sustain the faithful in pursuit of a life of committed discipleship,” the document says.
It emphasizes the importance of the sacraments, through which the faithful encounter Christ and receive grace.
Through Baptism, we enter into the Church, an ecclesial communion that “finds its greatest expression within the Eucharist,” it says, explaining that the sacraments offer a “privileged moment of encounter with God,” which, when “accepted in faith, has a tremendous transformative power to it.”
The resource notes that there are “encouraging signs of vitality” in the U.S. Church today, but also “signs for concern,” including skepticism of religious leaders and institutions, low levels of sacramental participation and inadequate faith formation.
Among the contemporary challenges to sacramental catechesis are the forces of secularism, relativism and a “faulty” anthropology that leads to mistaken ideas about the human person, it explains.
In addition, it acknowledges, a “weakened sacramental worldview” is common among believers, and many Catholics are leaving the Church.
To address these challenges, dispel confusion and promote a full sacramental life in the Church, “a vibrant and doctrinally sound sacramental catechesis is needed,” the document says.
The resource offers “specific guidance for doctrinally and pastorally sound catechesis for each of the sacraments.”
It also discusses special opportunities for sacramental catechesis, including outreach to the sick, homebound and disabled, families, diverse cultural groups and marriages in which one individual is not Catholic.
“Sacramental catechesis is both preparatory and a lifelong process,” the document says, acknowledging the importance of gearing such catechesis “in content and method to meet the unique learning needs of individuals.”
In addition, it encourages the use of social media to reach out to those who might not otherwise hear the Church’s message.
As part of the New Evangelization, it explains, the faithful are called not only to proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it, but also to re-propose the Good News “to those who are baptized members of the Church but who have lost a living sense of the faith.”
Atlanta, Ga., Oct 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archdiocese of Atlanta recently sent a memo to its parishes announcing they are to end support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure over the organization's ties with Planned Parenthood.
“The Archdiocese of Atlanta is concerned about the protection of human life, especially the precious unborn lives of babies,” archdiocesan communications director, Pat Chivers, told CNA Oct. 8.
“It's our opportunity to teach about the dignity of all human beings, and the protection for unborn babies, and this is the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
The memo was issued to all archdiocesan entities Oct. 1 in response to requests from parishes.
As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Komen is using the upcoming weeks to raise its profile and to fundraise. As part of its local efforts, the organization will have a “Worship in Pink Weekend” in Atlanta, asking churches to have their parishioners wear pink to honor survivors and to promote early detection.
In an Oct. 8 interview, Chivers said that the memo was released to meet the needs of local parishes, as many “were asking 'Can we go ahead with this Worship in Pink Weekend?'”
In response to the archdiocesan statement, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast argued that the timing of the memo “feels mean-spirited.”
However, Chivers said that instead participating in the weekend, Atlanta parishes are going to promote their own “breast cancer awareness activities,” which include garnering support for two organizations titled the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.
The decision fosters Catholic identity, Chivers said, “because we're actually having an opportunity to speak out in support of human life and that we are encouraging parishes and individuals to participate in breast cancer awareness activities, but not with Komen, because they support Planned Parenthood.”
While the memo acknowledged Komen's beneficial work with regard to breast cancer education, it took issue with it's support for “the nation's largest provider and promoter of abortion.”
“Until recently, donations to the greater Atlanta affiliate of the Komen fund did not constitute a direct cooperation with evil, because none of the money they raised went to Planned Parenthood.”
However, the memo stated, the local Komen branch “was involved in recent events which had the Komen fund initially ceasing all assistance to Planned Parenthood and then reversing itself.”
“According to news reports and Facebook postings by Komen Atlanta, they worked behind the scenes to encourage the national Komen office to resume funding for Planned Parenthood,” which “is an occasion for scandal.”
In February Komen has announced it would cease support for Planned Parenthood; the abortion provider attacked the organization, and within two days its decision was reversed.
The story of Komen's decisions was highlighted by Karen Handel, former Vice President of Public Policy for the group. She left in light of the controversy, and wrote a book released Sept. 11 titled “Planned Bullyhood: The Truth about the Funding Battle with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A procession of over 400 bishops from around the world will form a key part of the ceremony to open the Church’s Year of Faith on Oct. 11, a day that will also mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.
“When you look at the television images of Vatican II from 50 years ago, first of all you see a big procession with all the bishops. We will repeat the same” procession, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told CNA Oct. 9.
“It should be a moment of prayer, a moment of spirituality, and also a moment when we can take into serious consideration the teachings of Vatican II,” he said.
At an Oct. 9 Vatican press conference, Archbishop Fisichella unveiled the details of Thursday’s opening ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, promising it will be “deeply impregnated” with symbols of the Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962-65.
“Extracts from the four conciliar constitutions will be read out as expressions of the Council’s work and of renewal in the life of the Church,” he explained.
This opening part of the ceremony will be followed by the grand procession of bishops. They will then concelebrate an open-air Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. Among their ranks will be 14 of the 70 surviving bishops who participated in the Second Vatican Council.
“In fact,” Archbishop Fisichella revealed, “on Friday the Holy Father will give an audience to this small group of bishops in order to remember the beautiful days of the Council.”
Following the episcopal procession, the Sacred Scriptures will be enthroned, just as they were before the solemn sessions of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica. This was done to “remind everyone that they were at the service of the Word of God, which lies at the heart of the Church’s activities,” the archbishop explained.
He also disclosed that the same lectern and copy of the Sacred Scriptures that were used 50 years ago will be used in this week’s ceremony.
After the Mass, Pope Benedict XVI will re-enact his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 by issuing a series of “Messages to the People of God,” which will include words for rulers, scientists, artists, women, workers and the young.
The 2012 version feature people like the American journalist Kathryn Lopez of the National Review Online receive the message to women, while the Scottish composer James MacMillan will be entrusted with the message to artists.
This ceremony, said Archbishop Fisichella, will “indicate that the teachings of the Council retain all their validity and deserve to be better known and studied.”
As well as the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Year of Faith also recalls the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
To mark this event, Pope Benedict will conclude Thursday’s ceremony by presenting a special edition of the Catechism to two representatives of catechists, one of whom will be Caroline Fairey of the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told the synod of bishops gathered at the Vatican that “the primary sacrament of the New Evangelization is the sacrament of penance.”
“Yes the sacraments of initiation – baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist – change, challenge and equip the agents of evangelization, but the sacrament of reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus who calls us to conversion of heart and inspires (us) to answer his invitation to repentance,” Cardinal Dolan said on Oct. 9, the third day of the synod.
Cardinal Dolan is one of seven U.S. bishops present at the synod, which runs October 7-28 and was convened by Pope Benedict to discuss the theme of “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
Speaking in the presence of the Pope, Cardinal Dolan proposed that for a new evangelization to happen “the very agents of evangelization must first be evangelized themselves,” and that begins with sacramental confession.
With only 48 hours to go before the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s opening, he lamented the fact that while the council “called for a renewal of the sacrament of penance,” what emerged “sadly, in many places, was the disappearance of the sacrament.”
Instead, he recalled, the conclusion of Vatican II in 1965 saw a series of demands for the “reform of structures, systems, institutions and people other than ourselves.”
But the answer to the question “what is wrong with the world?” proved was not external factors like “politics, the economy, secularism, pollution or global warming,” he noted.
“No, as G.K. Chesterton wrote, the answer to the question what is wrong with the world is two words: ‘I am.’”
Cardinal Dolan stated in his remarks to his 250 fellow bishops that paving the way for a personal “conversion of heart and repentance,” which is the “core of the Gospel invitation,” requires a recognition of personal sin.
“This happens in the sacrament of penance. This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization,” he said to warm applause from the assembled Synod Fathers, experts and observers.
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Arab Christians are reacting positively to the decision to include Arabic as one of the official languages used at the Pope’s weekly general audience.
“In this way, in the wake of his recent trip to Lebanon and the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,’ the Holy Father intends to express his perpetual concern and support for Christians in the Middle East, and to remind everyone of their duty to pray and work for peace in the region,” said a Oct. 9 statement from the Vatican Press Office.
The Pope’s general audience is held every Wednesday. It allows him to meet with pilgrims to Rome and teach them on a particular area of Church teaching or spirituality. The audience also affords him an opportunity to comment on contemporary issues around the globe.
Beginning Oct. 10, an Arabic speaker will join the other people who provide a summary of the Pope’s catechesis in various different languages following his main address.
“We are really happy that finally the words of the Pope are to be issued directly from the Holy See in Arabic. The Arab world needs to have access to the wealth of wisdom that Pope Benedict offers,” the Rome-based Lebanese journalist and translator Tony Assaf told CNA Oct. 9.
“I think this is a great opportunity for Christians in the Middle East and Arab-speaking Christians around the world to be in direct contact with the Pope and the Church of Rome in their own language,” Assaf said.
With the falling of several Arab dictatorships in recent years, Pope Benedict has regularly expressed his hope that the so-called “Arab Spring” will give way to a culture of co-existence between religions rather than aid the rise of extremism.
During his visit to Lebanon last month, he challenged young Christians and Muslims in the Middle East to reject the path of violence and hate and, instead, to unleash a “revolution of love.”
“It is vital,” the Pope said to young Arabs at a Sept. 15 meeting in Lebaono, that when the Middle East looks at you it sees “that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society.”
Tony Assaf believes today’s announcement of Arabic being included in the general audience will prove “a big step forward” in Catholicism’s relationship with Islam.
“Average Muslims will now be able to connect directly with what the Pope is saying,” he said.
“People who have doubt, or are misled by certain media that twist the Holy Father’s words, will now be able to hear the truth directly in their own language.”
Vatican City, Oct 9, 2012 (CNA) -
On Oct. 9, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernadez of Iquique, Chile, who has been under investigation by the Vatican since April for alleged sexual abuse.
The Holy See's Press Office said the bishop resigned in conformity with a specific code in canon law, which allows for resignation “because of ill health or some other grave cause.”
The Apostolic Nunciature in Chile also announced that Archbishop Pablo Lizama Riquelme of Antofagasta has been named Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Iquique.
On Oct. 2, the Nunciature confirmed that the Vatican was investigating Bishop Ordenes.
“Since the outset of this case, the Nunciature has sought to offer psychological help and care to those affected and has been in contact with Bishop Ordenes, who is on medical leave,” it said.
The Diocese of Iquique announced that same day that the 47-year-old bishop's kidney ailment had taken a turn for the worse and that doctors prescribed a period of rest. After spending a number of days in Peru, Bishop Ordenes is now back in Chile.
The Communications Department of the Diocese of Iquique called “on the community to intensify its prayer, strengthen the bonds of unity and pray to the Lord for speedy clarification of these facts.”
Washington D.C., Oct 9, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A new survey shows that more Americans than ever are religiously unaffiliated, and as a group they are not seeking religion.
Just under 20 percent of U.S. adults are now unaffiliated, an increase from 15 percent in 2007, says a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Among those aged 18-29, 32 percent have no religious affiliation.
The research center nicknamed this population “nones.”
Although the Catholic population remains statistically unchanged at 22 percent, a one percent decrease from 2007, Pew credits this steadiness in part to immigration from Latin America.
The decline is mainly among both evangelical and mainline white Protestants. For the first time in U.S. history, its Protestant population has dropped below 50 percent.
Pew included in the “nones” atheists and agnostics, who respectively make up about 2.4 percent and 3.3. percent of the population.
About 74 percent of “nones” were raised with a religious affiliation. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans said they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them, while only ten percent said they are.
“In terms of their religious beliefs and practices, the unaffiliated are a diverse group, and far from uniformly secular,” the research center said.
Thirty percent said their belief in God or a universal spirit is “absolutely certain,” while 38 percent said they are less certain. Only 27 percent said they do not believe. Twenty-one percent said they pray daily and another 20 percent said they pray weekly or monthly.
Eighteen percent think of themselves as a religious person, while 37 percent say they are spiritual but not religious. Forty-nine percent of “nones” said they seldom or never attend religious services, an increase of 11 percent from 2007.
Analysis also found that those polled are no more inclined towards New Age beliefs than the general public.
The survey shows a decline in religious affiliation among both college graduates and those without college degrees.
Pew said that generational replacement is an important factor in the increase in the religiously unaffiliated. Only five percent of the World War II generation is unaffiliated while nine percent of the Silent Generation are. However, Baby Boomers and members of Generation X have become less likely to affiliate with a religion.
The “nones” have mixed views of religion.
Around 70 percent of respondents said churches and religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too involved with politics, and focus too much on rules. Only half said that churches protect and strengthen morality.
However, over 75 percent said churches bring people together, strengthen the community, and play an important role in helping the poor and the needy.
The “nones” tend to take positions in favor of abortion and “gay marriage,” with 72 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 73 percent favoring redefining marriage.
They are predominantly Democrat, with 75 percent favoring President Obama in 2008. The religiously unaffiliated make up 24 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning registered voters, more than any Christian subgroup in the party.
The rise of “nones” in U.S. society may have consequences for the November election.
In March Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic polls for Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate,” suggested that President Obama’s reelection strategy may be willing to sacrifice winning the majority of Catholic voters in order to strengthen support among non-Christian and non-religious voters.