Archive of May 31, 2014

Freiburg archdiocese given new bishop, from among its priests

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, May 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Stephan Burger, a priest of the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, was appointed archbishop of the same local Church, vacant since September, by Pope Francis on Friday.

“We are grateful to Pope Francis and are all glad that the time of waiting for a new archbishop is finally over,” Bishop Bernd Uhl, an auxiliary of Freiburg, said May 30. “We are able to choose Stephan Burger as a competent Pastor, one who knows our Freiburg archdiocese and its challenges very well.”

Fr. Burger, 52, is a native of Freiburg, and was ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1990. He studied theology at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, and received a licentiate in canon law from the University of Munster.

He served at several parishes, and in the tribunal, or canon law office, of the Archdiocese of Freiburg. From 2002 to 2006 he served as defender of the bond, and since 2006 he has been judicial vicar.

In these capacities at the diocesan tribunal, he has dealt with cases of couples seeking recognition of nullity in their marriages. He has said that in these cases he worked “to offer an opportunity for conversation to people in difficult situations after a failed relationship, in addition to the legal aspects. These people belong to our Church!”

He has also been canon of the cathedral chapter since September.

Fr. Burger’s brother, Tutilo, is a Benedictine monk and is abbot at the order’s abbey in Beuron.

Fr. Burger will be consecrated a bishop June 29 at the cathedral of Freiburg.

The Freiburg archdiocese is home to nearly 2 million Catholics, some 41 percent of the total population. As its archbishop, Fr. Burger will be assisted in his governance of the local Church by two auxiliaries, Bishops Michael Gerber and Bernd Uhl.

The archdiocese had been vacant since Sept. 17, when the resignation of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch was accepted, shortly after his 75th birthday.

During the vacancy, the archdiocese drew criticism for a draft document, concerning marriage, released Oct. 7 by its office of pastoral care.

The text of the document suggested that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion if they can show their first marriage cannot be reentered, if they repent of their fault in a divorce and if they enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.

The document also suggested priests might offer “prayer services” for divorced faithful entering into a new civil marriage.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, responded by writing a letter on the matter to Archbishop Zollitsch, instructing that the document be “withdrawn and revised” such that “no pastoral directions are sanctioned” which oppose the teaching of the Church.

Archbishop Müller also published a lengthy essay in L'Osservatore Romano rebuking the archdiocese's document.  

Also on May 30, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Jonas Okoye an auxiliary of the Diocese of Awka, in Nigeria; and Msgr. Paolo Giulietti an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, in Italy.

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Proposed Nicea ecumenical meeting 'nice' idea, Vatican spokesman says

Vatican City, May 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to media reports that Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I will meet for an ecumenical gathering in Nicea in 2025, the Vatican's spokesman said that such a meeting would be a positive encounter.

Father Federico Lombardi told CNA that a meeting between the two leaders “is a nice proposal from Bartholomew, just as his proposal for an encounter on the 50th anniversary meeting between Paul VI and Athenagoras I was.”

Fr. Lombardi said that there are no further details at this time, but if Bartholemew I says the two have spoken about it, then “it’s something they’ve just spoken about amongst themselves at this point.”

“I wish good things for ecumenism,” Fr. Lombardi added.

Such a meeting would mark the significance of the Council of Nicea of A.D. 325, where the first ecumenical council was held and the Nicene Creed was established.

Discussion about the upcoming meeting began after Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I met at the Holy Sepulchre during their visit to the Holy Land last week.


(Correction made June 2, 2014 at 9:35 MST. Article incorrectly stated that Nicea was the last council accepted by both churches.)

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Husband of condemned Sudanese woman reiterates commitment

Khartoum, Sudan, May 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The husband of Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly abandoning Islam, says his wife is standing by her faith despite possible execution.

“I know my wife. She's committed,” Daniel Wani told CNN May 30. “Even last week, they brought in Sheikhs and she told them: ‘I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change my mind’.”

Ibrahim, 27, gave birth to a baby girl in prison May 27 with heavy chains on her legs, Wani told BBC News. She and the baby are reportedly doing well.

She and her husband continue to hope for a successful legal appeal.

Ibrahim was imprisoned after a May 15 court ruling convicted her of apostasy from Islam and of adultery.

She is recognized as Muslim under Sudanese law because her father was Muslim. However, she was raised as a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother after her father abandoned the family.

Ibrahim and Wani married in 2011 in a Christian church. However, she was convicted of adultery because the law does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and Christian men.

The two were first arrested for adultery in September 2013, but released on bail.

Ibrahim faces 100 lashes for the adultery sentence, which will be carried out when she has recovered from the birth. Islamic law allows her up to two years to nurse the baby before the death sentence is carried out, the BBC reports.

The couple’s 20-month-old son is also living with his mother in the prison. His personality has changed “a lot,” said Wani, a U.S. citizen originally from what is now South Sudan.

“He used to be a happy boy. When I went there, he just looked at me. No smile,” he added. “Every time when I went there, he just wants to come home with me.”

Wani told CNN that his wife is “in a bad mood” and “frustrated.”

The case has caused international outcry, drawing condemnation from Members of Congress. The U.S. State Department said May 15 it is “deeply disturbed” by the death sentence and urged Sudan’s government to “respect the right to religious freedom.”

Wani, who uses a wheelchair, said the U.S. consul had a “very negative position” towards his wife’s situation. The consul was “very high handed” and “very, very rude,” he said, according to CNN.

He said the consul told him she didn’t have time for the case. He also voiced concern that Sudan’s law doesn’t recognize his children as his own, because he is Christian.

The situation has drawn strong criticism from those who say the U.S. should do more to put pressure on Sudan and offer a safe haven to Ibrahim and the two children.

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a co-chair of the U.S. Congress’ International Religious Freedom Caucus, called on the State Department to express to the Sudanese government that such a human rights violation “will be taken extremely seriously” and that Sudan must follow its obligations under international treaties.

Princeton professor Robert P. George, who heads the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has said that “(i)nternational attention to this case is critical to holding the Sudanese government accountable for its constitutional provisions and international commitments.”

Almost 300,000 people have signed a petition hosted by the Be Heard Project demanding Ibrahim’s release.

Despite the dire circumstances, Wani stressed his support for his wife.

“I’m standing by her to (the) end. Whatever she wants, I’ll stand by her,” he told CNN.


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'You can make a better world,' Pope tells disadvantaged children

Vatican City, May 31, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - This morning the “Ode to Joy” rang out from a teenaged orchestra as Pope Francis entered a room packed with 400 Italian school children from disadvantaged homes. They waved and cheered as the Pope spoke to them in simple terms about the importance of light and love in a dark world.

Today’s meeting was the second of its kind, a collaboration between the Pontifical Council for Culture’s “Court of the Gentiles” and Trenitalia, the Italian train company which sponsored the children’s ride from Naples to Rome.

Pope Francis’ encounter with the school children, who came from Naples as well as outlying areas of Rome, was marked by a joyful informality as he continued his simple question and answer style.

“Is it possible to make a better world?” he asked the children gathered in the atrium of the Paul VI hall on May 31, as they shouted “yes!” in reply.

“Yes! And better than the world I live in?” Pope Francis continued, as his young audience again shouted, “yes!”

“Yes. And to make a better world, how do we do it? With hate? Do we make it with hate?”

Some children stood up out of their chairs to shout, “no!”

“Good, say it, say it louder,” he encouraged the, explaining that the task is done “with love. With love. Everyone together, as brothers, struggling alongside the other for love. And for this, I will tell you something: when the Apostle John, who was a very close friend of Jesus - a very close friend - wanted to say who God is, do you know what he said? ‘God is love.’ It’s beautiful.”

One little boy presented him with the gift of a clay pot containing dirt from the catacombs in Naples; a young girl brought him a plant.

The Pope used these objects as a theme for his simple catechesis, noting that the earth came from a place of darkness, but the plant grows in the light.

“The darkness is for the light,” he explained. “When it is is nighttime, it’s completely dark. But we wait for the first (time of) morning, when the light begins. What is more important - this is the question - the darkness, or the light?”

“The light!” his young audience replied enthusiastically.

“The light. Inside of ourselves, always. Because the light gives us joy, gives us hope. And do all of us have that possibility to find the light?”

When the children replied, “yes!” he explained, “because in the light there are good things, and in the light you can do what you told me when you have given me the plant: the fruits help us to make a  world that is…”

“Better!” the children finished for him.

In addition to the plant and dirt from the catacombs, the children and their teachers had prepared a special song for Pope Francis: the traditional Italian ballad, “O Solo Mio,” with an added verse of “O Papa Mio.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told CNA that the “Court of the Gentiles” program was established as an opportunity for “dialogue between believers and nonbelievers,” but he does not want it to remain “only at a high intellectual (or) social level.”

He hopes that they will also be willing to confront “the mess, the knots, the obscure things” of life.

Vincenzo Soprano, CEO of Trenitalia, told CNA that he was touched by how hard these children’s lives had been, living in the inner-city like atmosphere of Naples. When he asked one child what his favorite part of the trip was, “he answered, ‘the landscape along the trip.’ Because they have only lived in a small part of Naples.”

“It’s not for nothing that (today’s) symbol was the excavation of the light,” Cardinal Ravasi noted, since the small boy who brought up the jar filled with dirt from the catacombs comes from a home with parents involved in drugs, living in terribly impoverished circumstances. His presentation of that gift “profoundly signifies for the children what it is to conserve the interior light.”

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