Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new edition of the Old Testament in both English and Traditional Chinese is a valuable tool for Chinese Catholics and represents a new possibility for evangelization, say leaders in the community.
Carolyn Ng, director of religious education for the Our Lady of China Pastoral Mission in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA on Sept. 24 that she is “overjoyed” about the new translation, and is “very happy there is such a tool for Evangelization as well as use among Catholics.”
She stated that the complete parallel translation will help baptized Catholics be able to participate more fully in the Chinese Catholic community, whether English or Chinese is their first language.
“If they share the Bible together with the elders, I think it will help everybody,” Ng said, explaining that she thought the Bible would promote an “intergenerational type of use.”
Ng also noted that the parallel translation “will be a wonderful, wonderful tool” for evangelizing Chinese atheists and agnostics “who are eager to learn English and who are curious about Christianity, especially the Catholic faith.”
Bishop Randolph R. Calvo of Reno, who chairs the U.S. bishops' committee on Asian and Pacific island affairs has called the new Bible a sign of “the continued growth and strengthening of the faith among Chinese Americans.”
The new parallel translation “helps the Church around the world to understand the history and struggles of the Catholic Church in China,” Bishop Calvo said in a Sept. 13 statement.
“In the Year of Faith, our hope is to see a greater number of Chinese Catholics growing in their faith, teaching their children about Jesus and spreading the word of God.”
With the advent of the side-by-side translation of the Old Testament, a full Bible in both English and Chinese is now available to Catholics who are Chinese-American. A parallel translation of the New Testament in Traditional Chinese and English has been available since 2009, with a Simplified Chinese edition released in 2011.
Simplified Chinese characters were introduced to the People's Republic of China in the mid-20th century, and are the primary written form of Chinese in mainland China and Singapore, while Traditional Chinese characters are primarily used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.
All editions of the parallel translation have used the New American Bible, Revised Edition, and the Chinese translations are those of Blessed Gabriele M. Allegra, a “determined” Italian priest who produced the first Chinese Bible translation in 1968 after a 40-year collaboration with scholars and translators.
There are an estimated 340,860 Chinese Catholics living in the United States – a minority of the largest Asian-American ethnic group in the United States. Ng estimated that there are about 40 Chinese Catholic communities “celebrating the Mass in Chinese on a regular basis,” with many more Bible studies and prayer groups at parishes across the country.
Bombay, India, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - To promote a revival of beautiful Christian art in India, the Archdiocese of Bombay has held a seminar on stained glass windows in local parishes, called “Windows of Faith.”
“Stained glass brings in an ambiance of prayerful atmosphere, fostering sacred meditative reflections, and recalling a memory of the spiritual history of the Church,” said Father Warner D'Souza, director of the Bombay Archdiocesan Heritage Museum.
Fr. D’Souza spoke with CNA ahead of the seminar, which was held Sept. 22 at St. Peter's parish in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai.
“We thought of training priests and our community of lay people,” he explained, “leading them to an awareness and a cognitive revival of Christian art in India.”
The seminar, which featured a talk by Swati Chandgadkar, an Indian expert on the restoration of stained glass, highlighted the Catholic Church's role in being a patron of art and the historical and cultural patrimony of mankind.
Stained glass was brought to India by Portuguese missionaries, and Chandgadkar is involved in restoring the windows of one missionary parish, Our Lady of Glory, in Mumbai's Byculla neighborhood.
Fr. D'Souza said that it is currently of paramount pastoral importance to protect the historical Catholic parishes, monumental churches which today are “bafflingly exchanged” for churches with cheap, shiny fiber or glass-colored art, which are chosen for their brightness and economical value.
This exchange, he said, is a “threat to sacred art” and is “destroying our cultural patrimony and heritage.”
The seminar, he said, was to make “our priests and laity aware of the importance of stained glass art,” because although “there are many Indo-Portuguese churches, we lack experts in this field in India.”
It is hoped that the seminar will help to reverse a trend of renovating parishes without regard for the heritage, historical value, and beauty of the original structure and art.
In 2011, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, opened a Museum of Christian Art, containing artifacts from the Christian history of the area, dating back to the first century. Fr. D'Souza related that Cardinal Paul Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Culture, had visited the museum and was impressed by the history of the Church in India.
Cardinal Gracias' decision to open the museum was inspired in part by a 1997 message of Blessed John Paul II, who said that “from archeological sites to the most modern expressions of Christian art, contemporary man must be able to re-read the Church's history, and thus be helped to recognize the mysterious fascination of God's saving plan.”
The late Roman Pontiff had himself established a group in 1989 to help make both clergy and laity more aware of the importance and the necessity of preserving the Church’s vast historic resources, entitled the Commission for the Preservation of the Artistic and Historical Patrimony of the Church.
Vatican City, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a letter to Italian mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who is an atheist, the former Pope, Benedict XVI, affirmed the professor's desire for open and honest dialogue as the path to truth.
“Frankness is a part of dialogue; only in this way can knowledge increase,” the emeritus Pope reflected in his 11-page letter, portions of which were published Sept. 24 in Italian daily “la Repubblica.”
Odifreddi received the letter Sept. 3, and publicized portions of it with Benedict's permission. He explained that the letter is an engagement with his 2011 work, “Dear Pope, I'm writing to you.” The book, which is an introduction to atheism and a refutation of Benedict's 1968 work “Introduction to Christianity,” was given to Benedict by a mutual friend of Odifreddi and Archbishop Georg Ganswein.
“But that he could respond, and also comment on it profoundly, was beyond reasonable hope,” Odifreddi said in his blog post introducing Benedict's letter. He described receiving the former Pope's letter as surprising and quite emotional for him, particularly since “atheism regards reason, while personalities and symbols of power act on feelings.”
He described Benedict XVI as having taken seriously his arguments and not ignoring them, for which he is thankful. He read Benedict's “Introduction to Christianity” and realized that his “faith and teaching … in contrast to those of others, were sufficiently cohesive” to engage with serious dialogue.
Odifreddi said his book was “obviously, not meant 'to convert the Pope,' but to honestly explain the perplexities” he has regarding faith. He noted that the result has been “a dialogue between faith and reason” that has “allowed both to frankly confront” the other, as Benedict had called for in his 2009 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, when he called for dialogue with “those to whom religion is something foreign … who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown.”
The atheist mathematician noted that while he and Benedict are “divided on nearly everything,” they are “united at least on one objective: the search for Truth, with a capital T.”
Benedict began his letter by thanking Odifreddi for his sincere and just engagement with “Introduction to Christianity” and with his faith, which he said was “precisely and in great part what I had intended” by his 2009 Christmas address to his curia.
The emeritus Pope's own frankness was displayed by his “mixed” opinion of Odifreddi's book, which he called at points enjoyable and profitable, but also at times “aggressive” and “reckless.”
Benedict took issue with Odifreddi's characterization of theology as “science fiction.” He defended theology as a field of genuine knowledge and truth by noting that different fields have different criteria of knowledge, and that mathematics cannot be the standard for other sciences; that theology has produced lasting results; and that science itself has had its own strains of “science fiction.”
He also pointed out that an important function of theology is “to maintain a link between religion and reason” and vice versa. “Both functions are of essential importance for humanity,” he noted, because “there exist pathologies of religion and – no less perilous – pathologies of reason. Each needs the other, and to keep them continually connected is an importance competence of theology.”
Benedict also took issue with Odifreddi's “ostentatious” presentation of clerical sex abuse as “a filth peculiar to Catholicism.” Agreeing that the scandal is of “deep concern” and that it is a “suffering … that the power of evil should penetrate to such an extent in the inner world of faith,” he pointed out that such abuse is not specific to priests.
He added that while there are gravely immoral acts committed by Church members, the “great shining path of goodness and purity” also found in the Church cannot be forgotten. He pointed out the examples of Saints Benedict, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Vincent de Paul, and Mother Teresa, saying that “it is true today also that the faith leads many persons to selfless love, at the service of others, to sincerity and to justice.”
Next, Benedict defended the historicity of Jesus Christ, and added that while the historical-critical method of exegesis can be abused, as was stressed by 19th century Russian theologian Vladimir Soloviev, it is “necessary for a faith which does not propose myths by using historical images, but calls for a true history and therefore must present the historical reality of its claims in a scientific way.”
The former Pope then found more common ground with Odifreddi in their treatment of the prologue to John's Gospel – while still finding shortcomings in the atheist's interpretations.
“In your religion of mathematics,” Benedict wrote, “three fundamental themes of human existence are not considered: freedom, love, and evil.”
“Whatever neurobiology may say or not say about freedom, in the real drama of our history it is present as a determining reality and must be taken into consideration. Yet your mathematical religion knows nothing about evil.”
“A religion that ignores these fundamental questions remains hollow.”
Benedict concluded by saying his criticism of Odifreddi's book was “tough in part,” but went on to say that only this frank attitude to dialogue can lead to a mutual discovery of Truth.
“In any case, however, I value very highly the fact that you, through your engagement with my 'Introduction to Christianity', have sought such an open dialogue with the faith of the Catholic Church and that, notwithstanding all the contrasts, at the central part, there is no lack of convergences.”
Vatican City, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Pontifical Council for the Laity is slated to hold a study seminar on one of Blessed John Paul II's documents discussing the dignity of women and their role in modern society.
Held from Oct. 10-11, the theme of the event is “God entrusts the human being to the Woman,” and is drawn from the late Pope's apostolic letter “Mulieris dignitatem.”
The seminar is organized by the Council’s Women’s Section and coincides with the 25th anniversary of the document’s publication.
John Paul II wrote “Mulieris Dignitatum” in 1988 in response to the desire of the Synod of Bishops surrounding the participation of the laity in the life of the Church, and in order to study the question of the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in society.
“The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way,” the document reads.
“Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation.”
The seminar will focus on the above quote taken from the papal letter, and will use it to explore the presence and participation of women in social, economic, cultural and political life, which has been steadily increasing all over the world.
Attendees will reflect on how the perception of women throughout history has changed, asking if these changes have led women to renounce their role, and will also look at the many aspects which have arisen as a result of the present cultural crisis.
Lastly, the seminar will look at the role of women in building a civilization of love – a term coined by the Bl. John Paul II – and will seek to identify some principles which are needed in order to safeguard the human person.
Proposals will be made for a new civilization of love, and ample time will be given throughout the seminar for discussion and the exchange of ideas amongst the participants.
Organizers of the conference hope that it will respond to the invitation Pope Francis made at the beginning of his pontificate, calling all men and women to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
Vatican City, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the nature of what it means to be a Christian, saying that an authentic follower of Christ is able to endure difficulties with a positive attitude.
The Pope imparted his message to those gathered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse for his daily Mass on Sept. 27.
Stressing the need and importance of sacrifice in the Christian’s life of faith, the Pope began his homily by reflecting on the Gospel reading from St. Luke where Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is.
Pope Francis recounted how it was after this question that Peter replies with his declaration that Jesus is the Christ, but that once Jesus warns of his upcoming passion and death, “Peter was frightened and scandalized.”
This attitude, said the pontiff, is “just like many Christians” who declare that “this will never happen to you, I will follow you up to this point.”
“This is the temptation of a spiritual wellbeing.”
Just like the rich young man from the gospel, “who wanted to follow Jesus but only up to a certain point,” the Pope explained that “the scandal of the Cross continues to block many Christians” who complain about the wrongdoings and insults they suffer, rather than following the way of the cross.
“The proof if somebody is a true Christian is his or her ability to endure humiliations with joy and patience.”
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father emphasized that it is our own choice “whether to be a Christian of well-being or a Christian close to Jesus,” who walks with him along the path of the cross.
Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Philadelphia archdiocese drew praise for its swift reporting of an inactive priest to authorities after a young man said that he had been abused during his time as an altar boy between 1998 and 2001.
“A serial predator is now behind bars, thanks to the brave actions of this young man,” Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams announced at a Sept. 26 press conference.
“It takes tremendous courage for any sexual assault victim, especially young boys, to come forward and report the horrors they endured, particularly if it happened over the course of several years.”
“The archdiocese is also to be commended for immediately reporting this case to our office,” he added.
Father Robert L. Brennan, who is currently undergoing the canonical process of laicization and was removed from ministry in 2005, has been charged with several sexual offenses against a boy who served at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in northeast Philadelphia.
The alleged abuse started when the boy was 11 and continued until he was 14. When the abuse reportedly began, Fr. Brennan was a 60-year-old assistant priest at the parish.
The young man reported the alleged abuse in January 2013. The Philadelphia district attorney praised the swift response of the archdiocese.
“The archdiocese … immediately – and by immediately I mean that same day – contacted the district attorney’s office of Philadelphia to share with us this report,” Williams said.
“I think it must be recognized that this is a sea change over previous protocol and practices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I spoke with Archbishop (Charles) Chaput this morning, thanking him for the internal reforms that this case demonstrates.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia responded to the arrest in a Sept. 26 statement, saying that “since arriving in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput has reinforced the archdiocese’s strong commitment to work with law enforcement in ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault,” adding that it reports all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to authorities.
Fr. Brennan was arrested in Maryland and will undergo an extradition hearing. He has been the subject of numerous sexual abuse allegations, detailed in a 2005 grand jury report, but his previous alleged victims had come forward after the statute of limitations on the charges had expired.
“He has not been permitted to function as a priest anywhere since that time,” the archdiocese noted.
The grand jury report criticized former Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other archdiocesan authorities for their handling of abuse cases.
Monsignor William J. Lynn, the former secretary of clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua, was convicted in 2012 on one count of child endangerment for failing to protect children from abusive priests.
Williams said that the latest alleged victim implicates the monsignor. He said Msgr. Lynn ignored reports of Brennan’s previous abuse and recommended the priest be assigned to Resurrection of Our Lord Parish despite doctors’ warnings that the priest “exhibited signs of pedophilia” and that this pattern presented future risk.
Williams said that Pennsylvania’s child endangerment statute would have applied to Msgr. Lynn and to other archdiocesan officials in this case, except that the alleged victim's age was three months past the legal statute of limitations.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia encouraged those with information about Fr. Brennan to report it to the district attorney. The archdiocese offers support for sex abuse victims through its Victim Assistance Office.
Milan, Italy, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA) - The discomfort among some Catholics caused by Pope Francis' frank comments in his recent interview with Jesuit publications should become a source of personal reflection, according to a prominent Italian sociologist.
“It is always useful to try to understand, to transform even the discomfort into cultural and political reflection, rather than keeping it in and later spitting it out as poison, as is the case with so many angry comments that now proliferate on the Internet,” Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist of religion, wrote in a letter to the editor of Il Foglio, an Italian daily.
In addition to being a noted sociologist and author, Introvigne is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, a group of scholars from around the globe who study new religious movements. He is the main author of the Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy and has worked with both the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on matters of religious liberty and persecution.
He is also a leading member of Alleanza Cattolica, a movement which aims to study and to diffuse the Church's social doctrine. His letter can be read in an English translation at CNA in full here.
In his letter, Introvigne highlighted the great continuity between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, explaining that when reading an interview of a Pope, one must remember that the medium itself – interviews – can be easily misunderstood.
“The way of expressing oneself in an interview is not the same as in an encyclical. It is much easier to find sentences susceptible to being pulled out of context and thrown maliciously onto the front page,” he wrote.
The scholar observed that two main subjects which have caused irritation among the faithful are Pope Francis' comments on the extraordinary form, or Traditional Latin Mass; and his insistence that the Church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”
Regarding the Traditional Latin Mass, Introvigne noted that while Benedict XVI did want to present the riches of this rite to the entire Latin Church and Pope Francis’ comments seem to portray this effort as an attempt to reach small, marginal groups, the current and former Roman Pontiffs are agreed in believing that the Traditional Latin Mass must not be exploited as the center of ideological rejection of the Second Vatican Council.
Introvigne noted that with respect to “life issues,” Pope Francis realizes that “in a world very far from the faith,” he must “begin again from the first announcement” of the Gospel.
“It isn’t that the moral proclamation isn’t part of the Christian message, nor that Francis is thinking about changing doctrine,” the sociologist said. “But moral teaching for the Pope comes after the proclamation of salvation through the mercy of God.”
Rather than accepting the battle ground of morals chosen by secularizing forces, he said, Pope Francis “announces compassion and mercy.”
“Others, who are also uncomfortable about their strategies and priorities, may also permit themselves to be enthused by the heart of the Magisterium of Pope Bergoglio, the invitation to 'go out' and proclaim the faith to those who don’t go to church,” Introvigne wrote.
“That the world needs so many things, but that without the faith one cannot survive, was – after all – also the greatest teaching of Benedict XVI.”
Damascus, Syria, Sep 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Syrian priest has urged the West to remember the Christians in his country, many of whom are fleeing due to fear of the violence and shortages brought about by the ongoing civil war.
“I appeal to our fellow Christians in Europe and the U.S. not to forget us,” Father Ziad Hilal, S.J., told Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity that assists persecuted Christians around the world.
He stressed the need for a peaceful political solution to the war.
“I’m very much afraid that the exodus will continue,” he said. “The Christians are an integral part of this country, its culture and history. But if there is not a major change in the situation, it will soon look here like in Iran or Turkey.”
He explained that these countries once had “flourishing” Christian communities which have nearly vanished.
“May God spare Syrian Christians the same fate,” Fr. Hilal said.
Over 110,000 people have died in the conflict between Syrian rebels, both secularists and Islamists, and the government which began in March 2011. Over two million Syrians have become refugees because of the civil war, and another 4.25 million are internally displaced.
The conflict has had religious repercussions, with some Islamist extremists among the rebels targeting Christian churches and individuals for destruction and murder.
Fr. Hilal heads a social center in a government-controlled area of the Syrian city of Homs. The center supports about 6,000 families. About 6,000 of Homs’ 120,000 Christians have fled to other parts of Syria or to neighboring countries. The city’s historic center is rebel-controlled and is almost completely abandoned.
The priest has permission from his superior to leave the city, but has chosen to remain with his flock.
“If we go, who will then serve the people?” he asked.
Fr. Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit, wrote that conditions in Homs now include food shortages, as no food has entered his area in over 15 months. Heating for survival and for cooking is a major concern as winter nears, with fuel sources dwindling. Running water is unavailable.
What little remains will soon be gone, he fears, and the lack of certainty in the conflict allows little ability to plan. The people are weak and fatigued for lack of food, while disease is spreading.
However, those who remain are still caring for each other.
“There is an atmosphere of love, openness and interaction and those of us who remain feel that we are one group,” Fr. van der Lugt said in a letter translated by Aid to the Church in Need.
“It’s hard to live in painful circumstances alone, and it is possible that these conditions become harder and harder. Each one of us needs to do more and more to help each other. A person has to pay much attention to the needs of another, to the point of forgetting one’s own needs.”
He said that the situation in Homs “does not produce optimism,” but he nonetheless encouraged others to “help each other to cross this difficult stage, living out solidarity and interdependence in our search for new horizons.”
In neighboring Lebanon, the Syrian civil war is having a “disastrous effect,” Caritas Lebanon president Fr. Simon Faddoul told Aid to the Church in Need.
There are an estimated 1.4 million Syrians in Lebanon, with most having come since the start of the Syrian civil war two years ago. The conflict is causing social and security problems. Economic losses in Lebanon will total $7.4 billion by the end of next year, the World Bank has said.
“The future is somber,” said Fr. Faddoul, a Maronite priest. He said any decisive battle over the Syrian capital of Damascus would cause “a refugee disaster.”
Fr. Faddoul said that U.S. threats to attack Syria had boosted the number of refugees entering Lebanon, but the absence of these military strikes has somewhat diminished refugee numbers.
Caritas Lebanon has cared for 125,000 refugees, mostly Muslim, though about 10,000 are Christian.
The approaching winter means there is great need for blankets, heating oil, clothing, food, hygiene products, and money for housing.
“Our resources are never enough. But we are doing our best with what we can get.”
Lebanon has no refugee receiving camps, meaning the homeless families are spread across the country.
Sister Georgette Tannoury, a Frenchwoman from the Community of the Good Shepherd, runs a walk-in clinic in Beirut that serves more than 150 Syrians daily, mostly women and children.
“Children fill the streets and run between the cars begging,” she said. “We’ve never experienced so many robberies and other crimes in the country as in the present year.”
She reported “increasing frustration” in Lebanon about the refugees, citing one woman who says she is afraid to send her daughter out shopping.
The refugees often live in garages or in rooms with 15 other people. Their children, who lived in large houses at home, rebel against the cramped conditions and prefer to live on the streets.
Sr. Tannoury said that the hardships make refugees desperate.
“One woman told me that her husband had forced her into prostitution to feed the family. Another father had sold his 13-year-old daughter to a 60-year-old man to get money. May God take pity on his people.”
Fr. Hilal stressed the need for a peaceful, political solution to the Syrian conflict.
“The use of weapons will not stop the bloodshed in Syria. In this I disagree with America and France,” he said, calling for an international peace conference to be convened.
“In Syria itself the government and opposition must start a dialogue. The arms deliveries must also be stopped, as must the infiltration of Syria by jihadists from all over world.”