Monday, March 31, 2008

Holy Orders: a problem

Valle Adurni has an interesting post about Holy Orders, the relationship between bishop and priest and the incompatability, or difficulty, in reconciling Trent and Vatican II. At the seminary I was told, simply, Trent was wrong!
In these more intellectually enlightened days this is an issue which should be discussed more widely

Zimbabwe: Churches prepare for possible post-election refugee crisis

Say a prayer
The Catholic Church in Southern Africa is readying itself for a possible refugee crisis should violence erupt in Zimbabwe after the elections on Saturday, which analysts predicted would be flawed.

The Refugee Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, the Catholic Relief Services, the Jesuit Refugee Service and other church charities have been meeting over the past few months to consider the Church,s response to a possible new refugee influx from Zimbabwe.

From Sunday March 16 to Tuesday March 18, a church delegation visited the north of Limpopo Province of South Africa, on the border with Zimbabwe to inspect some facilities which could be used as reception centres in the event of an influx.

The Catholic Healthcare Association (CATHCA) was asked to try to find medical personnel who could be released for three to five days in an emergency.

The International Crisis Group warned in its latest report that a flawed election in Zimbabwe could spark a violent crisis. President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only ruler since independence 28 years ago, is fighting his keenest challenge as he seeks another term at the age of 84.

On Wednesday, the global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, said that the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly are being unnecessarily restricted ahead of the poll.

"Although opposition parties appear to be enjoying a greater degree of access to previously no go areas, in rural areas compared with previous elections, we continue to receive reports of intimidation, harassment and violence against perceived supporters of opposition candidates with many in rural regions fearful that there will be retribution after the elections, said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty's Zimbabwe researcher.

Papal Skateboard

Curt Jestor
NEW YORK - One of the many gifts Pope Benedict will receive when he arrives in New York City next month will be a skateboard designed by a local child.The Archdiocese of New York is holding a contest this spring to see who could design the best "Official Papal Skateboard" for the 80-year-old pontiff.About 70 children entered the competition. A winner has yet to be picked.The idea for the contest came from a youth skateboarding club at St. Elizabeth's Church in Manhattan.

A bit silly? Only in the US? But CJ has the pictures, as well as skateboarding friars.

Social networking site for young Catholics around the world

A social networking site for young Catholics is being launched today. will offer religious-themed blogs, videos, music and competitions, complete with discussion forums on everything "from climate change to sexuality".
Its Australian founders say the aim is to establish a 'virtual parish' that will connect the young faithful across the world.
Groups and individuals will be able to have their own pages on the site, although word filters will be employed to weed out inappropriate content.
The site has been produced by Church Resources, the telecommunications arm of the Australian Catholic Church.
It is being launched to coincide with Catholic Schools Week and ahead of World Youth Day in July.
Faithtrip spokeswoman Catherine Smibert said: "It is a one-stop point for all the Catholic communities of the world.
"It has been constructed to support both the individual and community in a high-functioning, safe and trustworthy environment."
The project was started after the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference decided it wanted to harness modern technology to spread the religious message around the world.
To visit the site see:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sacred Music: Palestrina and the Popes

Something good from the BBC

Simon Russell Beale explores Western sacred music. He uncovers links between the papal intrigues of Renaissance Rome and the work of composer Palestrina.
(Available for 5 more days)
click here

Doubt no longer but believe

The chiaroscuro of of this Caravaggio highlights the movement of Thomas's movement from dark to light, the gaping wound of Christ's body heals the wounded belief of Thomas's heart.
Here is an act of communion with Christ's body, Thomas inserts his finger in order for to prepare him to insert his mind, his heart, his whole being into the Eucharist and the Church.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I had an aunt whose motto for everyone was, "Pull yourself together, and get on with it", I entirely agree with Jeff Smith, I can hear Aunt Rose's sentiments ringing through his words but then I am also a soft wet liberal...

The yapping continues about the substantial number of former Catholics. Oddly, very few of the yappers seem to have noticed the most likely explanations, in their rush to blame 1. poor catechesis 2. Vatican II 3. bishops 4. priests 5. the vast left-wing conspiracy, for all I know. The blame seems to be placed everywhere, admittedly with some slight justification, except where the lion's share belongs.
The ones who should be bearing the blame are the individual skedaddlers, themselves. Three important points should be kept in mind. First, take a look at the Old Testament. God bent over backwards to give them undeniable evidence of His Presence. What? Twenty million miraculous interventions weren't enough? Yet, they still went "whoring after other gods" at the drop of a hat. It's the same today. You can catechize till the cows come home and surround a substantial portion of the population with saints, beauty, fellowship, free literature, coffee and donuts after Mass, and the Real Presence of the Lord God of Hosts and plenty of them still won't believe. Why? Well, "boredom" ( The American disease ), wounded feelings, unrealistic expectations, and general persnicketiness, for starters. The list is endless.
Second, since the 50's, the social pressure to "worship at the church or synagogue of your choice", as they used to say on television, has pretty much disappeared. The average self-deifying American just doesn't want to be bothered, and to use their favorite phrase "you can't make me." Case closed.
Third, try taking a look at the average
Evangelical/Fundamentalist/pie-in-the-sky-megachurch/prosperity gospel doors they tend to darken and you'll see what may be the main reason. Being a faithful, or even semi-faithful Catholic is hard work. Elsewhere, it's just "me and my best buddy Jesus". All you have to do is watch the dog and pony show every Sunday ( Unless you feel like skipping a week, here and there. ), read your Bible ( Unless you're too busy ), and talk to your best bud ( Good ol' Jesus ), who's more doting and lax in the discipline department than any baby-boomer grandparent. Could the real reason be old fashioned, spoiled brat laziness and willfulness?

President of Columbia Attributes Avoidance of War to Intercession of Virgin Mary

BOGATA, Columbia (CNA) - The Colombian daily “El Tiempo” revealed on Holy Saturday that a crisis that could have ended in an open conflict between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela was averted by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe confiding the situation to the intercession of Mary under the three different titles by which she is the country’s patroness.

The crisis between Colombia and its southern (Ecuador) and northeastern (Venezuela) neighbors started On March 1, when Uribe ordered a military raid into Ecuador's territory against a rebel camp used by Marxist guerrillas to launch terrorist strikes. The raid targeted and killed the No. 2 FARC rebel leader, Raul Reyes.

In response, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa cut all diplomatic relationships with Colombia. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Correa’s political ally, ordered a massive military surge to the Colombian border as well.

Quoting Fr. Julio Solórzano, Chaplain of Colombia’s Presidential Palace, El Tiempo revealed that on March 5, when the rhetoric and blames between the presidents was increasing tensions, President Uribe called for a Rosary to pray for the end of tensions.

The Rosary, prayed at the Presidential Palace’s chapel, was dedicated, upon Uribe’s request, to the Marian to Our Lady of Chiquinquira, Our Lady of Coromoto and Our Lady of Mercy, respectively the patronesses of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Uribe invited all officials at the Presidential palace to the Rosary, as well as the minister of Defense and the Interior.

“For believers –El Tiempo wrote- the prayer was more than effective, since only two days after the presidents of the three countries shook hands during the Group of Rio summit, and for many the crisis was over.”

In fact, on April 7, at the Dominican Republic summit, the three presidents vented their differences, but agreed to stand down after Colombia apologized for the raid.

“The President is a man of faith, he always carries with him a wooden Cross and a Rosary. I have heard him pray several times in the motorcade or on the presidential airplane.” “He always tries to be coherent with his faith in his work, pleasing God with what he does,” Fr. Solórzano was quoted by the “El Tiempo.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Essence of the Priestly Ministry

Don Marco has a very interesting commentary on the Holy Father's Chrism Mass sermon.

At the same time, Holy Thursday is for us an opportunity to ask ourselves again: To what did we say "yes"? What is this "being a priest of Jesus Christ"? Canon II of our missal, which was probably composed in Rome before the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words that, in the book of Deuteronomy (18:5,7), described the essence of the Old Testament priesthood: astare coram te et tibi ministrare.
Pope Benedict XVI goes to the heart of the question. What is the essence of the priestly ministry? He answers it with words drawn from the Sacred Liturgy itself: "astare coram te et tibi ministrare" — to stand before Thee and worship in Thy presence. The priest is one who faces God and waits upon Him. The priest is the eyes of the world fixed upon God, and the hands of the world lifted up in worship before Him. The priest lives his priesthood most intensely when standing before the altar.
Standing Before the Lord
Two functions, therefore, define the essence of the ministerial priesthood: in the first place, "standing before the Lord." In the book of Deuteronomy, this should be interpreted in the context of the previous dispensation, according to which the priests did not receive any portion of the Holy Land – they lived by God, and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary for sustaining daily life. Their profession was "to stand before the Lord" – looking to Him, living for Him. Thus, all told, the word indicated a life lived in the presence of God, and thus also a ministry in representation of others.
The priest lives by God, and for God. A young disciple of Blessed Abbot Marmion, Dom Pie de Hemptinne, O.S.B., said something similar; reflecting on his own priesthood, the young Benedictine said that would live "by the altar, and for the altar." Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the mediatorship of the priest. The priest lives in the presence of God as the representative of all his brothers; he serves in the sanctuary on behalf of all who, in some sense, stand behind him.
To Keep the World Open to God
Just as the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze turned to Him. If these words are now found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entry of the Lord among the assembly gathered in prayer, then they indicate for us the standing before the Lord who is present; it indicates, that is, the Eucharist as the center of the priestly life.
This is brilliant. The priest is a man who "keeps the world open to God." The priest lives "with his gaze turned to God." Underlying these observations is the Holy Father's desire to see restored the traditional position of the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer. The "closed circle" of "versus populum" celebrations is, I think, directly linked to the current crisis in priestly spirituality. When the priest, standing at the altar, faces the crucifix, he offers his own body to "keep the world open to God." By not looking at the people during the Holy Mysteries, the priest exemplifies for them that, "being risen with Christ," they are called to "lift their thoughts above, where Christ now seats at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1).
One Who Watches
But even here its impact goes further. In the hymn of the liturgy of the hours that, during Lent, introduces the office of readings – the office that the monks used to pray during the hour of the nocturnal vigil before God, and for the sake of men – one of the tasks of Lent is described in the imperative: arctius perstemus in custodia – let us be watchful with greater intensity. In the tradition of Syriac monasticism, the monks were described as "those who stand on their feet"; standing on one's feet was an expression of vigilance. What was here considered as the task of the monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission, and as a correct interpretation of the words of Deuteronomy: the priest must be one who watches.
Pope Benedict XVI understands that there is no opposition between the monastic vocation and the priestly one. He goes so far as to say that "what was here considered as the task of monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission." "The priest," he says, "must be one who watches." How can we not recall the vigils of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney before the altar of the parish church of Ars, the prolonged adorations of Saint Peter Julian Eymard before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, and the passion of Saint Gaetano Catanoso (photo above) for keeping watch before the Eucharistic Face of Christ?
Last October 16th, for the feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, I had the privilege of being in Paray-le-Monial. While there I encountered a brother priest who shared with me something of his own experience of keeping watch in prayer during the night. This priest found in nocturnal adoration a spiritual refreshment and an intimacy with Christ that he found at no other time. The priest, like the monk, is a watchman, for the sake of the people entrusted to his care.
Standing Upright
He must stand guard before the relentless powers of evil. He must keep the world awake to God. He must be one who stands on his feet: upright in the face of the currents of the time. Upright in the truth. Upright in his commitment to goodness. Standing before the Lord must always be, in its inmost depths, also a lifting up of men to the Lord, who, in turn, lifts all of us up to the Father. And it must be a lifting up of Him, of Christ, of his word, of his truth, of his love. The priest must be upright, unwavering and ready even to suffer outrage for the sake of the Lord, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles: they "[rejoiced] that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" (5:41).
The Holy Father is lucid when it comes to the reality of spiritual combat with the powers of darkness. I find the suppression of the Short Lesson at the beginning of Compline in the reformed Liturgy of the Hours most unfortunate. It is a text that every priest needs to repeat and hear nightly: "Brethren, be sober, and watch well; the devil, who is your enemy, goes about roaring like a lion, to find his prey, but you, grounded in the faith, must face him boldly" (1 P 5:8-9).
Pope Benedict XVI dares to close the gap between the so called "monastic" and "priestly" spiritualities. The "monastic" dimension of the diocesan priesthood becomes apparent to all who take the Holy Father's teaching to heart. It was, I think, precisely the evacuation of "monastic" values from priestly spirituality that contributed in no small measure to the present crisis in priestly life and in vocations. "Listen, you that have ears, to the message the Spirit has for the churches" (Ap 2:7).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heralds of the Gospel

NLM have a number of pictures of the Heralds of the Gospels, the video is of the consecration of their mother Church.
They are one of the "new communities", I have the English group, Fr Jules and Brother Anton coming to Brighton in the summer.
Their charism seems to be to attract people to Christ through spectacle, and then to get them to take the Gospel into their hearts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


We had a rather tedious school governors meeting last night, it rung hung around the question of what a practicing Catholic actually is. Priests are asked by our schools to sign a form to say that they support an application for a child to attend a Catholic school. In the centre of the city, where there are less than 50% of baptised children in our school, I will sign anything, and because our school is good it is not unusual to find parents beginning to practice.

Other priests in the leafier parts of the city, where schools are over suscribed by Catholics, insist on Sunday and Holy Day practice and refuse to sign any form from someone who does less than that.
I'll be interestested in your comments on what is practicing Catholic. Often here where people are employed in the retail and catering industries and are quite poor, they are forced to work in order to keep their families. Two or three people tell me they come to Mass two or three times during the week but can't get to Mass on Sunday.

Liturgical Norms

The Sacred Liturgy isn't just about what happens in Church, it should touch every aspect of our lives, it has always been so. Fasting and feasting are an important part of the liturgy, I feel quite smug that at the end of Lent my belt needs to be tightened an extra two notches, but now is the time of feasting!

Yesterday I had a splendid cote de beouf, with a delicious bottle of Chinon, with a seminarian and later shared a bottle of rather nice bottle of prosecco with a couple of the younger clergy of the diocese, in the evening there was a school governors meeting, just to get over, gently, the fact it was still Easter I took over some fizzy wine I had been given. The rest of the week seems to be about partying too.

Most of priestly conversation seems to touch on liturgy, I prefer that to diocesan gossip, we had all been to the Chrism Mass last Wednesday, it might just be my friends, but we were all a bit surprised by how retro the liturgy was this year; odd introductions, apparently from the States were still in the renewal of priestly promises, which are not in the Roman Rite. Music by people like Inwood, Dean, Ward and Haugen, which most parishes, I had assumed, had moved away from, where still there, hardly music that merited to continue in use for any length of time. All those superfluous Hosannas and needless repititions, and changes of texts! It was a bit of time warp, a move back twenty years. Even the congregation, seemed to be the same people who would have been there two decades ago but now are bit more stooped and greyer. Maybe that is because I am older and greyer.

It is very easy to for any priest to live in a little world of his own to assume that what is happening in his parish is happening elsewhere. A friend of mine was a little irked when his new head teacher expressed surprise that he didn't allow the staff at his school to pass the Body and Blood of Christ from one member of staff to another during Mass, "... but Bishop X always does that whenever he celebrates mass with teachers," she said. Most dioceses actually have autodidacts as their "expert" liturgists, possibly they picked up some diploma in pastoral liturgy at some American university twenty years ago, and have continued to demonstrate their liturgy is an excercise in nostalgia, not looking back to The Tradition, but to their own youths, 20/30 years ago, it is becoming increasingly off putting.

The problem most of us have is, what should be the liturgical norm?

Most priests pick up notions of liturgy from rather selective reading, from what they see other priests doing, peer pressure amongst priests is as powerful as it is amongst adolescents. There are pretty clear guidelines in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Ceremonies of Bishops, Sacramentum Caritatis and other documents, but who really bothers to to read them? Who apart from me, who uses a communion plate? (SC, says it should be retained), how many female feet were washed on Holy Thursday, how many three sin or less penitential services took place during Lent?

One of the good things is seeing what happens in Rome at Papal liturgies, through the net or EWTN we can see what the Pope is doing. I am pleased to say I know what happened in St Peter's on Good Friday in much more detail than I know what happened in our own Cathedral.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shroud of Turin

Fr John Boyle says

If you haven't yet seen the BBC's programme on this, you have five days to view it. Go here to watch it on the BBC's iplayer. It's compelling. And once again I think the BBC do these things better than anyone! When they do something, they do it well.

Holy week pictures

At times we need a bigger church: last Easter the Polish community who were unable to get into Church blocked the traffic in the street.

From the beginning of Passiontide we have been covering the altar, the legs are really ugly and the stencilling on the mensa is just meaningless. My tiny garden garden this year produced a crop of olive branches and palms for the Processsional Cross. I am not sure what should really happen with it on Palm Sunday, there is something odd about have a bag on a staff, though we veil everything else.

The legs and stencils came back for Good Friday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Green Shoes?

The Pope re-introduced the white papal mozetta, dropped by JP II. It is worn only during the Easter Octave, replacing the red one. The raditional red shoes are I understand also replaced by ...errrr, green ones.
Any sightings?


The Former Papal Ceromoniere re-introduced of the Surrexit Rite, which replaces the homily at the Pope's Easter morning Mass, Rocco Palmo has the text.

Here are Archbishop Marini's Notes from the Vatican website, I am sure the Archbishop used to have the original icon brought from the Sancta Sanctorum:
Historical and Liturgical Notes
1. In the twelfth century, the Bishop of Rome, following an ancient tradition, would pause in prayer at the Oratory of Saint Lawrence in the Lateran, nowadays the Shrine of the Holy Stairs, before setting out in procession from Saint John Lateran to Saint Mary Major, where he would chant the Solemn Mass of Easter Morning. The Oratory, still known as the Sancta Sanctorum, was considered one of the most sacred places in Rome. A celebrated relic of the Holy Cross was venerated there and then, as now, the Shrine housed the Acheiropita (not painted by human hands) icon of the Saviour.
2. The icon, probably brought to Rome from the East, was already mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis under the entry for Pope Stephen III (752-757). A full representation of the enthroned Saviour, it was painted on cloth applied to a wooden tablet measuring approximately 1.52 m. by 70 cm. The icon has been frequently restored, most recently in 1995-1996. The only part presently visible is the Face of the Lord painted on a silken cloth superimposed upon the original. The rest of the icon is covered by a sheet of silver.
3. The cult of the icon of the Most Holy Saviour, unlike that of the Veronica veil kept in the Vatican Basilica or other ancient Roman icons, was the only one to become part of the official celebrations of the Roman Liturgy. This is evident from the Liber Politicus (Ordo Romanus XI), a ceremonial book written between 1143-1144, and the Liber Censuum Romanae Ecclesiae (Ordo Romanus XII), compiled about 1192 by Cencius Camerarius, the future Pope Honorius III.
These ceremonial books not only show that a procession with the Acheiropita took place on the night of the Assumption, but also that the icon was venerated during Holy Week.
4. On Easter morning, the Pope, vested in pontificals, entered the Sancta Sanctorum, opened the small silver doors covering the feet of the icon (the doors are still sealed) and kissed the feet three times. He then chanted the versicle: Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro, alleluia, to which the assembly responded: Qui pro nobis pependit in ligno, alleluia. The Cross, which had bee removed on Good Friday, was then placed on the altar for the Pope’s veneration.
After the Pope, the members of the papal entourage venerated the icon and the Cross and then approached the Supreme Pontiff for the kiss of peace. The Pope gave the sign of peace reciting the versicle: Surrexit Dominus vere, to which each person responded: Et apparuit Simoni. Meanwhile the choir chanted a series of antiphons. Following these rites the papal procession was formed along the Via Merulana while the Pope was informed by a notary of the Baptisms which had been celebrated the previous night.
When the Apostolic See moved to Avignon, the rite of the Resurrexit fell into disuse. With the return of the Popes to Rome, the Easter statio was transferred to the Basilica of Saint Peter.
5. The basis and the authentic significance of these ritual sequences can be found in the words of the Gospel of Luke which describe Peter’s amazement at seeing the empty tomb and the testimony of the Eleven that the Lord was truly risen and had appeared to Simon (cf. Lk 24:12,34; Jn 20:3-10). The appearance of the Risen Lord to Peter and to the other witnesses is the theological foundation of the Church’s Easter faith (cf. Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 15:3-6).
The Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, likewise meets the Risen Lord in the icon of the Most Holy Saviour and, after the solemn Easter proclamation of the previous night’s Vigil, he becomes on Easter Day the «first» witness to all the Church of the Gospel of the Lord’s Resurrection.
6. As the Church celebrates Easter during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, she rejoices and gives thanks for the two thousand years which have passed since the Incarnation of the Word and for the Redemption accomplished by Christ through his Death and Resurrection (cf. Incarnationis Mysterium, 6) and she is confirmed in her faith in the Risen Lord by the Successor of Peter. The Bishop of Rome, having proclaimed the Lord’s Resurrection at the Easter Vigil, now bears authoritative witness to it Urbi et Orbi, before the City and before the world.
In the spirit of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council, it seemed fitting that the ancient rite of the Pope’s witness before the icon of the Most Holy Saviour should be restored and inserted, with appropriate adaptions, in the introductory rites of the festive liturgy of Easter Day.
Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluiaEt apparuit Simoni, alleluia

+ Piero Marini Titular Bishop of Martirano Master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who is Magdi Allam?

From John Allen:
One of the best-known Muslims in Italy, a journalist who in some ways is the heir to Oriana Fallaci as the country’s most prominent critic of Islamic radicalism, is to be baptized this evening by Pope Benedict XVI and received into the Catholic church.
Magdi Allam, a columnist and vice-director of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper, is among seven new Catholics from five countries to be personally baptized by the pope during the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Particularly in the wake of recent charges by terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden that Benedict XVI is leading a “new crusade” against Islam, the reception of such a high-profile Muslim convert, on the holiest day of the Christian year, could further inflame Catholic/Muslim tensions.
Allam, 56, was born in Cairo, Egypt. His family later immigrated to Italy, where he became a prominent journalist, known for his fierce criticism of Islamic fundamentalism. Allam has also repeatedly criticized what he regard as an anemic response from Western governments, Italy in particular, to the threat posed by the radicals.
Though Allam has typically described himself as a “secular Muslim,” he is no stranger to the Catholic church. Over the years, he has been close to the Communion and Liberation movement in Italy, becoming one of the star attractions at the annual “Meeting” sponsored by the movement at the Italian seaside resort of Rimini. That event typically draws in excess of 700,000 people, including the cream of Italy’s political class.
During those sessions, Allam has typically voiced deep appreciation for Catholic social doctrine and, more generally, for the strong defense of a link between reason and faith offered by both John Paul II and now Benedict XVI.
Allam enthusiastically embraced Benedict’s call to resist a “dictatorship of relativism,” connecting it to the struggle against Islamic extremism.
“We must put together a coalition of values among those who believe that all life is sacred, to fight a kind of ideological nihilism that sees life’s value as merely relative,” he said recently. “Only in this way can we remove the roots that nourish the terrorists’ wars.”
Perhaps fearing that Allam’s conversion could spark a new round of Catholic/Muslim controversy, the Vatican issued a statement this evening playing down its significance.
“For the Catholic church, every person who asks to receive Baptism after a deep personal search, who makes a completely free choice following adequate preparation, has the right to receive it,” said Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson.
“For his part, the Holy Father administers Baptism in the course of the Easter liturgies to the candidates who are presented to him, without making distinctions among them, considering them all equally important before the love of God and the welcome of the community of the church.”

The Pope's Easter Vigil homily

via Vatican Radio

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his farewell discourse, Jesus announced his imminent death and resurrection to his disciples with these mysterious words: “I go away, and I will come to you”, he said (Jn 14:28). Dying is a “going away”. Even if the body of the deceased remains behind, he himself has gone away into the unknown, and we cannot follow him (cf. Jn 13:36). Yet in Jesus’s case, there is something utterly new, which changes the world. In the case of our own death, the “going away” is definitive, there is no return. Jesus, on the other hand, says of his death: “I go away, and I will come to you.” It is by going away that he comes. His going ushers in a completely new and greater way of being present. By dying he enters into the love of the Father. His dying is an act of love. Love, however, is immortal. Therefore, his going away is transformed into a new coming, into a form of presence which reaches deeper and does not come to an end. During his earthly life, Jesus, like all of us, was tied to the external conditions of bodily existence: to a determined place and a determined time. Bodiliness places limits on our existence. We cannot be simultaneously in two different places. Our time is destined to come to an end. And between the “I” and the “you” there is a wall of otherness. To be sure, through love we can somehow enter the other’s existence. Nevertheless, the insurmountable barrier of being different remains in place. Yet Jesus, who is now totally transformed through the act of love, is free from such barriers and limits. He is able not only to pass through closed doors in the outside world, as the Gospels recount (cf. Jn 20:19). He can pass through the interior door separating the “I” from the “you”, the closed door between yesterday and today, between the past and the future. On the day of his solemn entry into Jerusalem, when some Greeks asked to see him, Jesus replied with the parable of the grain of wheat which has to pass through death in order to bear much fruit. In this way he foretold his own destiny: these words were not addressed simply to one or two Greeks in the space of a few minutes. Through his Cross, through his going away, through his dying like the grain of wheat, he would truly arrive among the Greeks, in such a way that they could see him and touch him through faith. His going away is transformed into a coming, in the Risen Lord’s universal manner of presence, in which he is there yesterday, today and for ever, in which he embraces all times and all places. Now he can even surmount the wall of otherness that separates the “I” from the “you”. This happened with Paul, who describes the process of his conversion and his Baptism in these words: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Through the coming of the Risen One, Paul obtained a new identity. His closed “I” was opened. Now he lives in communion with Jesus Christ, in the great “I” of believers who have become – as he puts it – “one in Christ” (Gal 3:28).

So, dear friends, it is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more. In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passes through all these doors. This is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more you live the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words. Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from one another. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences, however great they may be, become secondary. Believers are never totally cut off from one another. We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (cf. Eph 2:13).

The Church expresses the inner reality of Baptism as the gift of a new identity through the tangible elements used in the administration of the sacrament. The fundamental element in Baptism is water; next, in second place, is light, which is used to great effect in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Let us take a brief look at these two elements. In the final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, there is a statement about Christ which does not speak directly of water, but the Old Testament allusions nevertheless point clearly to the mystery of water and its symbolic meaning. Here we read: “The God of peace … brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (13:20). In this sentence, there is an echo of the prophecy of Isaiah, in which Moses is described as the shepherd whom the Lord brought up from the water, from the sea (cf. 63:11). Jesus appears as the new, definitive Shepherd who brings to fulfilment what Moses had done: he leads us out of the deadly waters of the sea, out of the waters of death. In this context we may recall that Moses’ mother placed him in a basket in the Nile. Then, through God’s providence, he was taken out of the water, carried from death to life, and thus – having himself been saved from the waters of death – he was able to lead others through the sea of death. Jesus descended for us into the dark waters of death. But through his blood, so the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was brought back from death: his love united itself to the Father’s love, and thus from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life. This is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us through the often murky sea of history, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. Let us grasp his hand firmly! Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life.

In the second place, there is the symbol of light and fire. Gregory of Tours recounts a practice that in some places was preserved for a long time, of lighting the new fire for the celebration of the Easter Vigil directly from the sun, using a crystal. Light and fire, so to speak, were received anew from heaven, so that all the lights and fires of the year could be kindled from them. This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. Through his radical love for us, in which the heart of God and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truth and the fire of love that transform man’s being. He brought the light, and now we know who God is and what God is like. Thus we also know what our own situation is: what we are, and for what purpose we exist. When we are baptized, the fire of this light is brought down deep within ourselves. Thus, in the early Church, Baptism was also called the Sacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light. We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves. Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light. In our baptismal promises, we rekindle this light, so to speak, year by year. Yes, I believe that the world and my life are not the product of chance, but of eternal Reason and eternal Love, they are created by Almighty God. Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his Cross and resurrection, the face of God has been revealed; that in him, God is present in our midst, he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towards eternal Love. Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and enlightens our hearts; I believe that in the communion of the Church we all become one Body with the Lord, and thus we encounter his resurrection and eternal life. The Lord has granted us the light of truth. This light is also fire, a powerful force coming from God, a force that does not destroy, but seeks to transform our hearts, so that we truly become men of God, and so that his peace can become active in this world.

In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: “Conversi ad Dominum” – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: “Sursum corda” – “Lift up your hearts”, high above the tangled web of our concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – “Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!” In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism: Conversi ad Dominum – we must distance ourselves ever anew from taking false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions. We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must allow our hearts to be withdrawn from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards. Let us pray to him in these words: Yes, Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love. Amen.
Pope Benedict baptised Allam, a Muslim-born convert who is one of Italy's most famous and controversial

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Apart from the things in the missal I am supposed to talk about I am going to preach about vestments tonight. To be precise the stole, the symbol of priestly power and authority, and to shock the more liberal of my parishioners, the maniple.

Why the maniple? Because the maniple is the descendant of the Roman nappa, a ceremonial towel, it is a symbol of service and hospitality. It is the waiter's napkin, the slave's towel. It is the vestment of the foot washer, Maundy Thursday's vestment.

Yes, I am going to wear one too.
Why has this symbol of the servant been quietly dropped from the list of vestments the priest should wear?
More worrying why do some priests just wear the stole the sign of authority and power?

Priest arrested

Zelda Jeffers and Fr Martin Newell of the London Catholic Worker community were sentenced to days in prison yesterday, at Stratford Magistrates Court, after pouring fake blood onto the gangway entrance to the DSEi (Defence System Equipment International) Arms Fair at Custom House DLR station in east London in September.
The entrance to one of the world’s largest arms fairs was closed for at least 4 hours as a result.
The were found guilty of “criminal damage” at their trial at the same Court in February and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £700. However, as they refused to pay these, the Magistrate ordered them to serve a custodial sentence. The two admitted pouring fake blood, but denied that it was criminal damage.
Fr Newell had poured out five litres of red paint on the gangway, saying 'rivers of blood that start here at the DSEi Arms Fair’. Having done this, he then knelt down to pray. He was dragged away and arrested.
Ms Jeffers had held up a banner saying "Get the Guns Out of London" and then poured fake blood on herself before being arrested.
Martin Newell said in court today, “To pay this fine would be to co-operate with a system that is fuelling murder and mayhem around the world by promoting and protecting the arms trade. We withdrew our co-operation at the DSEi arms fair last September. We continue that refusal to go along quietly with manifest evil.
"In Holy Week, Christians and others remember the price Jesus paid on the cross for standing up for truth, life and freedom, when he was arrested for his act of civil disobedience when he cleansed the Temple of traders and bankers. It is a great privilege to be able to follow, in a small way, Jesus’ example of suffering for love and righteousness sake.”
At the trial in February, Zelda Jeffers said, “"I am a mother, have held my babies, know the love and care and concern a mother anywhere has for her children. They have a right to physical integrity that is, not to be blown up shot or burnt. I worked as a midwife which is a respected profession, I helped babies be born, I hoped for them to grow up. The week before the arms fair Ryan was shot in Liverpool, with a gun that was manufactured and traded, then ended a young life, this is wrong, it should be stopped. I worked in Nicaragua during and after the war there. I saw the results of these arms not only in maiming and killing but in poverty, ignorance and hunger. How can I not try to stop this going on? The blood coloured paint and dye was not damage but a statement of truth. The action was not criminal but my duty as a human being."
Both Ms Jeffers and Fr Newell cp live and work at the London Catholic Worker community house of hospitality in Hackney, east London. The house provides accommodation for asylum seekers, and members run a community cafe and soup kitchen in Hackney.
The London Catholic Worker is part of the international Catholic Worker movement, started in 1933 in New York to "explode the dynamite of Catholic Social Teaching". The movement is committed to radical social, political and economic change. TheLondon CW organises and campaigns for peace and justice and publishes a quarterly newsletter as well as a website.
You can read a profile of Fr Martin Newell in the Times newspaper here:
H/t Ekklesia

Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian

Mikhail Gorbachev has just publicly revealed his Christian faith. And how interesting it is, that he chose to do so by going as a pilgrim to a Catholic shrine -- the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. (Mr. Gorbachev was baptized Russian Orthodox as an infant)

From the Telegraph:
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.
Accompanied by his daughter Irina, Mr Gorbachev spent half an hour on his knees in silent prayer at the tomb.
His arrival in Assisi was described as "spiritual perestroika" by La Stampa, the Italian newspaper.
"St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ," said Mr Gorbachev. "His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life," he added.
Mr Gorbachev's surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light. Mr Gorbachev, 77, was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Churchand his parents were Christians. In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their home.
Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a "closet believer".
Mr Reagan held deep religious convictions himself. However, until now Mr Gorbachev has allowed himself to express only pantheistic views, saying in one interview "nature is my god". After his prayers, Mr. Gorbachev toured the Basilica of St Francis and asked in particular to be shown an icon of St Francis portraying his "dream at Spoleto".
St Francis, who lived in the 12th century, was a troubadour and a poet before the spiritual vision caused him to return to Assisi and contemplate a religious life.
Even in his early days, St Francis helped the poor, once giving all of his money to a beggar. As well as spending time in the wilderness, he also nursed lepers and eventually became a priest. "It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visithis tomb," said Mr Gorbachev.
"I feel very emotional to be here at such an important place not only for the Catholic faith, but for all humanity."
He also asked the monks for theological books to help him understand St Francis's life. Father Miroslavo Anuskevic, who accompanied the former Soviet leader, said: "He was not recognised by any of the worshippers inthe church, and silently meditated at the tomb for a while. He seemed a man deeply inspired by charity, and told me that he was involved in a project to help children with cancer.
"He talked a lot about Russia and said that even though the transition to democracy had been very important for the world, it was very painful for Russia. He said it was a country which has a great history, and also a great spirituality."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Abbot of Quarr retires

© Independent Catholic News 2008

Dom Cuthbert Johnson OSB has retired from the Office of Abbot of Quarr Abbey, situated near Ryde in the Isle of Wight, after leading the community of Benedictine monks for the past 12 years.
Abbot Johnson worked in the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship from 1983 until his election in August 1996. Under his leadership Quarr Abbey has developed in many new ways and has also taken a much more active role in the life of the local community in Fishbourne.
Abbot Johnson said this week: "Quarr Abbey is now ready to pass through a new stage and to enter into a transitional period. After due reflection and prudent counsel the present moment seems an appropriate one in the history of the monastery to provide for new leadership. Therefore, I have decided to retire from the office of Abbot in which it has been my privilege to serve the monastic community of Quarr."
The Abbot, who also served as Chairman of the Fishbourne Parish Council for two years, added: "I now plan to have a sabbatical period in order to pursue my liturgical and monastic studies."
I spent a very happy and blessed few months living with the community at Quarr and I have a great personal fondness for the community and Dom Cuthbert, who has always shown me great kindness, keep them both in your prayers. Change is difficult for monks and monastic communities.
Apparently a prior and small group of monks is to be sent from Solemnes.

Pope today: Tibet

(AsiaNews) - The pope is following "with great trepidation" what is taking place in Tibet, and feels "sadness and sorrow in the face of so much suffering", issuing an appeal to recall that "violence never resolves problems, but only worsens them", and asking that "God may illuminate the minds of all and give each one the courage to choose the path of dialogue and tolerance". These words for the tormented Asian region today concluded the last general audience before Easter, at which Benedict XVI had already issued an appeal to include in prayer "the dramatic events and situations that in these days are weighing upon our brothers in so many parts of the world", and pointed to the "great hope" of the days of Holy Week. "We know", he said to the 15,000 faithful present at the general audience, "that hatred, division, and violence never have the last word in the events of history. These days renew within us the great hope that the crucified and risen Christ has overcome the world: love is stronger than hatred, he has conquered". We must "work in communion with Christ, for a world founded upon peace, justice, and love. This is a task that involves all of us".
Again today, the audience was divided between the Paul VI audience hall and the basilica of St. Peter's, because of the great numbers of the crowds, and Benedict XVI dedicated it to illustrating the days in which the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus are commemorated. "The next three days", he said, "make us relive the central events of our redemption", the "essential nucleus of the Christian faith". They are "days that we can consider as a single day, the heart and fulcrum of the liturgical year and of the Church's life".
Benedict XVI, greeted with choruses of good wishes for his name day, then indicated the main characteristics of the days of the Triduum: tomorrow, Holy Thursday, the Church "remembers the last supper, during which the Lord instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist and of the ministerial priesthood". "That same night, he left the new commandment, of fraternal love". Before entering into the commemoration of the last days of Jesus, "in every Christian community the bishop and priests renew their promises", and the oil of the catechumens, of the sick, and the sacred chrism are blessed. It is "a very important moment for every diocesan community gathered around its pastor".
On Good Friday, "the liturgy does not provide for the celebration of Mass, but the assembly gathers to meditate on the great mystery of sin and evil". As "the last moment for meditation", Christian tradition has given rise to various manifestations of popular piety: outstanding among these is the Stations of the Cross, "a pious exercise that in the course of time has been enriched with many spiritual and artistic manifestations".
Holy Saturday "is marked by a profound silence; the churches are bare, and no special liturgies are provided". Believers "wait together with Mary, meditating and praying". On this day, the pope said, great importance is attached to the sacrament of reconciliation, an irreplaceable means for purification. The day ends with the Easter vigil, "which flows into the most important Sunday of history, that of the resurrection of Christ", "the definitive liberation from the ancient slavery to sin and death".
In these days, Benedict XVI added, "let us decisively orient our lives toward generous and steadfast adherence to the plans of the heavenly Father. Let us orient our lives toward the 'yes', as Jesus did upon the Cross"; these are days, he concluded, that "offer us the opportunity to deepen the meaning and profundity of our Christian vocation".

Arinze:on inculturalisation

Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Church’s head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments recently made a speech in Kenya in which he criticized liturgical abuses and protested Masses where the recklessly innovative priests act as “Reverend Showman”.

The Nigerian-born Cardinal Arinze, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship , was in Kenya to conduct a workshop and a retreat on liturgy for the bishops, according to CISA. While he was at the Catholic University of East Africa, the cardinal delivered a public lecture in which he discussed the importance of following liturgical rubrics and the proper place of inculturation in the liturgy.
The cardinal discussed sentiments that cause errors in worship, such as

regarding everyone as an expert in liturgy,

extolling spontaneity and creativity to the detriment of approved rites and prayers,

seeking immediate popular applause or enjoyment,

ignoring approved liturgical texts.

He said that liturgical abuses were often due to an ignorance that rejects elements of worship whose deeper meaning is not understood or whose antiquity is not recognized.
Cardinal Arinze clarified the nature of the reforms of Vatican II, saying they must be seen as continuous with the past rather than as a dramatic break. “The Catholic Church is the same before and after Vatican II. It isn’t another Church,” he said.
Some aspects of liturgical rites can be modified according to pastoral needs. “The Church does not live in the Vatican Museum,” the cardinal said. However, he said that incorporating local traditions into the practice of the faith, which is known as inculturation, should be compatible with the Christian message and in communion with the universal Church.
Inculturation, he said, “should make people part of a Church which is universal but also local.”
Cardinal Arinze attacked distortions of inculturation, saying, “It is a caricature of inculturation to understand it as the invention of the fertile imagination of some enthusiastic priest, who concocts an idea on Saturday night and tries it on the innocent congregation the following morning. He may have good will, but good will is not enough.”
The cardinal also condemned individualistic experimentation, saying, “the person who of his own authority adds or subtracts from the laid down liturgical rites is doing harm to the Church.”
Proper inculturation, the cardinal said, required bishops to guide the introduction of new elements into worship. Innovations should take place only after careful consideration, after bishops have set up a multi-disciplinary group of experts to study a cultural element to be included in the liturgy.
The group of experts should then make their recommendation to their bishops’ conference. If both the bishops’ conference and the Holy See approve the innovation, after limited experiment and “due preparation” of the clergy and the people, the new element may be incorporated. “Otherwise it is wild liturgy,” said Cardinal Arinze.
Cardinal Arinze characterized a successful celebration of the Mass as one that “manifests the Catholic faith powerfully, encourages those who have the faith already, shakes up those who are slumbering and those who are at the edge, and makes curious those who are not Catholics at all.”
The Mass must send Catholics home “full of joy, ready to come back again, ready to live it and to share it.”
The cardinal encouraged future priests’ proper formation in liturgy and the ongoing liturgical formation of both clergy and lay people.

spero news

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Campaign to make Scottish factory girl a saint

Daily Telegraphy
The Pope would consider beatifying a Scots biscuit maker if it can be proved that she performed a miracle, the country's most senior cardinal has revealed.
Devout Catholic Margaret Sinclair has been credited with making a blind woman see, helping an arthritic patient walk, and saving the life of former disc jockey Jimmy Savile when he was two.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said he had met Pope Benedict XVI to discuss Miss Sinclair being made a saint.
Speaking in a BBC Radio Scotland documentary to be broadcast this month, the cardinal said Sinclair, who worked in the McVitie factory in Edinburgh, now needed only to have a miracle ratified by the Church.
Cardinal O'Brien said: "Margaret led a very holy life and consequently the Church can ask her intercession with regard to a miraculous cure. On one of my visits to Rome to see the Pope, I asked about the possibility of Margaret Sinclair being eventually beatified and canonised.
"The Pope said to me, get your people to pray for a miracle. That is what we are asking people to do." Sir Jimmy Savile was born in 1926, the year after Miss Sinclair died, but tells the programme she saved his life after he had a bad fall as a child.

"The Pope said to me, get your people to pray for a miracle. That is what we are asking people to do." Sir Jimmy Savile was born in 1926, the year after Miss Sinclair died, but tells the programme she saved his life after he had a bad fall as a child. His mother found a prayer card to her in Liverpool Cathedral and begged her to intercede on Sir Jimmy's behalf.
He said: "The doctor had been around that day to see me and had actually written out the death certificate. I decided not to die at the precise time that my mother was actually interceding with Margaret Sinclair. I have absolutely no doubt at all she should be made a saint."

Sinclair was declared Venerable - meaning she lived a wholly virtuous life - in 1978.
Cardinal O'Brien said: "If she were canonised, I think it would give ordinary people a very great boost, particularly those who are finding it hard in their lives.
"If an ordinary person was beatified and canonised in Scotland it would mean a very great deal to our people here in this country."
Miss Sinclair was brought up in poverty in a two-room Edinburgh basement. One of nine children, she left school at 14 to start an apprenticeship as a French polisher, but left to work in McVitie's on the outbreak of the First World War when polishing materials became scarce.
At 23 she became a nun in London. She became known as Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, spent her days in prayer, meditation and devotions.
She died of TB only two years later, in 1925, and calls for her to be made a saint began almost immediately.
In 2003 her remains were moved from Mount Vernon Cemetery in Edinburgh to a shrine at St Patrick's, just off the Royal Mile.
Fr Ed Hone, priest in charge at St Patrick's, said: "Her reputation for holiness goes way back to her being an ordinary girl, spending hours in prayer."

King Abdullah extends hand of friendship to Catholic Church

The Vatican is believed to be holding talks with Saudi authorities over opening the first Roman Catholic church in the Islamic kingdom, where Christian worship is banned and even to possess a Bible, rosary or crucifix is an offence.
The disclosure came the day after the first Catholic church in Qatar was inaugurated in a service attended by 15,000 people and conducted by a senior Vatican official.
The Vatican and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations. However, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the Papal Nuncio to Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Yemen and Bahrain, who attended the Doha inauguration, said that moves towards diplomatic ties were under way after an unprecedented visit to the Vatican last November by King Abdullah. This would involve negotiations for the “authorisation of the building of Catholic churches” in Saudi Arabia, he said.
The move would amount to a potential revolution in Christian-Muslim relations, since Saudi Arabia adheres to a hardline Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and is home to Mecca and Medina, the most holy sites of the religion. No faith other than Islam may be practised.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that he could not confirm that the two sides were in negotiations. However, he added: “If, as we hope, we reach an agreement authorising the construction of the first church in Saudi Arabia, it will be a step of historic importance.”
Saudi religious police search the homes of Christians regularly; even private prayer services are forbidden in practice. Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter.
La Stampa, the Italian daily, said that the talks would have been “unthinkable” until recently. The way was paved by King Abdullah's talks with the Pope and by the recent setting up of a permanent Catholic-Muslim forum to repair relations between the two faiths after the Pope's controversial remarks on Islam at the University of Regensburg in 2006.
The Pope said that his apparent reference to Islam as inherently violent had been misunderstood and he made amends by praying at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul soon afterwards.
Of the Saudi Arabian population, 94 per cent are Muslim and less than 4 per cent - nearly a million people - Christian, nearly all of them foreign workers. The last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985.
Qtar, which hopes to bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016, has approved five churches for other Christian denominations, including the Anglican Communion.
Land of one faith
— Saudi laws do not recognise or protect freedom of religion. Non- nationals are severely restricted in practising different faiths
— Missionaries are banned and face imprisonment if caught. Sunni Muslims face severe repercussions from the Mutawwain, or religious police, for breaking Muslim law
— The official policy of allowing non-Muslims to worship freely at home is not reliably enforced
— In the courts, once fault is determined, a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined, a Jew or Christian half, and all others a sixteenth

Monday, March 17, 2008

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Of all the words of the Passion, for me the most poignant are the words "Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me?", St Matthew gives us the actual words, "Eli, Eli lama sabacthani?", presumable to emphasise their importance in the passion narrative.

I have heard some pretty eminent scholars suggest that they are a great cry of despair by Jesus. others suggest they are a final act of hope and point to their origin in the Ps 21/22, which is a movement from misery to consolation and eventual triumph.

For me they give a profound insight into the relationship of the Jesus with his Father.

First, Jesus is praying to the Father, and yet he feels forsaken or abandoned. The whole point of crucifixion was to degrade, to dehumanise, to cut the victim off, Jesus experiences this even in his relationship with his Father. Throughout the Gospel, his relationship with God seems to be one of knowledge rather than faith, he feels, he experiences absolute intimacy with his Father. On the Cross, here, as he dies, the experience, the feelings are numb, only faith exists. It is the faith that most of us know, where we are not "strangely moved", or feel we can call on good with absolute certainty, the type faith depends on past experiences , on intuition, "when taste and touch deceiving" and we rely on "trusty hearing". In a way this pure faith, pure trust, stripped of everything, this is the type of faith most of us experience most of the time. These words identify Jesus preeminently as the man of faith.

If this is so, then perhaps here is an insight into so much else about Jesus, his understanding of himself as God, for example, or his own resurrection, these spring from his faith. In this, because "he is a man like us in all things but sin", "truly God and truly, without co-mixture", he shares with us the way all human beings relate to God, through faith. I do not think it is blasphemous to say that Jesus knew he was the "Son by nature" in the same way that I know I am a "son by adoption". Similarly he knows about his resurrection in the same way we know we will rise again, it is by faith. For human beings, Jesus included, faith is the only cord that unites us to God.

Kiss of Peace

Philip Blosser has a very interesting piece of the Kiss of Peace, unfortunatey there is not direct link, so scroll down to Wednesday, March 05, 2008.
I have always felt that the contemporary handshake, offered without much thought or any committment, was a very poor substitute for the embrace of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Blosser reminds us that the embrace itself was a substitute for the mouth to mouth kiss.

... the Tridentine pax preserved an already centuries-old tradition of ordered administration. In the 1962 Missal the priest kisses the altar near the Host (earlier rubrics have him kissing the Host itself) and then "kisses" the deacon who in turn "kisses" the subdeacon and so on. No one can give the peace who has not received it from someone else, including the priest, who has received it from Christ Himself.

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The symbolism is both beautiful and clear. All true peace comes from Christ through the ministration of His Church. Grace cascades from the Eucharist through Christ's ministers to His people, forming what one author has called a "chain of love" that both binds and elevates.


the new rubrics do not presuppose a causal relationship between the two. No longer is there expected a hierarchical cascading of peace from the embty tomb that is the high altar; rather, in insctucting the congregation to offer the peace to each other, there is a more or less spontaneous eruption of peace in the pews.


Further complicating the new pax is the decision to let its gesture be determined by local custom.[13] In many respects this is not unreasonable, for there are several places that associate public kisses with lewdness.[14] Yet as we have already seen, what became the Roman form of the kiss can hardly be considered lascivious by even the most prudish culture, since not even the cheeks of the participants touch.

In America, the form that quickly came to dominate is the handshake. Again, prima facie this is not an unreasonable choice: as an indication that one is unarmed, the handshake is certainly as sign of peace. Unfortunately, though, it is a better sign of the peace that comes from the city of man rather than from the city of God. Handshaking signifies a truce or deal, the kind of agreement one makes in politics and business. It is not primarily a sign of love or intimacy. Indeed, unlike the kiss and every other sacred gesture, it has undergone no modification that would mark it as distinctive from the "profane" handshakes outside the liturgy, and thus it essentially retains its wordly resonance.

Moreover, a handshake is not a kiss in any form, and hence its liturgical use marks a break not only from a previously unbroken apostolic custom but from the rich cluster of meanings that came with it. It is for these reasons that a more pugnacious commentator than I might be tempted to conclude that regrettably, the current Roman kiss of peace is neither Roman nor a kiss nor about Christian peace.

via Curt Jester

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