Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prayers For The Deceased

Our Father….
Hail Mary….
Glory Be….
Eternal light shine upon them, and may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us (x3)
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us (x3)

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel: 
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into Hell, Satan and all the Evil Spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


Advent Meditations - 1st Week

First Week of Advent
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!...You do not know when the Master of the house is coming.'" Mark. 13:33

O Jesus, your voice sounds through the house of my world: Be on your guard! Stay awake!
Yet I hardly hear you. Busy with so much, I go about the things I do like a servant trapped in household routine, hardly giving a thought to what my life is about. My spirit within has grown tired and you, my God, seem far away. How can I hear your voice today?
Speak to my heart during this season of grace, as you spoke to your prophets and saints. Remind me again of the journey you call me to make and the work you would have me do. I am your servant, O Lord. Speak to me in this holy season and turn my eyes to watch for your coming.
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
desire of every nation, Savior of all peoples,
come and dwell among us.

Possible miracle for Cardinal Van Thuan

An American seminarian, in a coma for 32 days and twice declared dead by doctors, believes he owes his life to the intercession of the late Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.

Cardinal Van Thuan, who spent many years in a communist prison, died in 2002 in exile in Rome.

Joseph Nguyen, the son of immigrants from Vietnam whose family was a friend of the Cardinal, was in a coma for 32 days in 2009. 

At a certain point doctors even filled out his death certificate.

The doctors said that Joseph was dead. 

His heart rate had fallen to beyond any possible recovery, and all brain activity was gone. But as they wrote the death certificate, his parents began praying to the dead hero of the Vietnamese people.

Since then he has recovered and returned to the seminary.

In the weeks when he was hovering between life and death, Joseph said he twice encountered Cardinal Van Thuan. 

The prelate was cited in Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi for his exemplary Christian witness in 13 years of prison, and in October of this year his cause of beatification began.


An archbishop argues for married priests

Heading a southern Lebanese diocese that goes from the sea then east two-thirds of the way along the border with Israel, the one problem Melkite Archbishop George Bakhouni of Tyre says he doesn't have is finding priests.

In fact, the archbishop said, he's surprised bishops and other leaders of the Latin-rite Church aren't more interested in the Eastern Catholic Churches' experience with ordaining married men.

''Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,'' the bishop said. Because they are married with families and homes, they tend to stay even when conflicts and hardship send many celibate priests fleeing to safety.

The archbishop met at the weekend with a small group of Catholic journalists visiting Lebanon with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a North American agency supporting Christians in the region.

For the archdiocese's 10 parishes, ''I have 12 priests. Eight of them are married and four are single, but two of the singles are serving in Italy,'' the archbishop said.

''We always propose this to the Latin Church because you are Catholic and we are Catholic, but we always feel a lot of reticence when we mention this issue to the Roman Catholic Church. I don't know, but I think it could be helpful to allow a married person to be a priest.''


The celibacy rule for priests in the Latin-rite Church has always been defined as a Church discipline, not a theologically or scripturally based dogma that is unchangeable.

The archbishop knows all the arguments against relaxing the celibacy requirement in the Latin Church, but in his experience, ordaining married men is the most naturally pastoral response to every Catholic's need for regular access to the sacraments.

In little villages where there may be only 20 or 30 families, he said, it would be hard to find a single, celibate priest who would be happy to live and minister there. And that handful of families would not be able to support him.

The Eastern tradition, he said, is ''to choose someone who has his own work in the particular village, a good man, a faithful man, a Christian man. He will study a little bit, some theology and philosophy, and he will be ordained''.

The archbishop said it doesn't matter that it's impractical to send a married man to the seminary for six years.

''We don't want all of them to be doctors or theologians,'' but witnesses. Priests don't all have to be well spoken orators; they could even be fishermen, like the Apostles, he said.

The important thing, he said, is that they live exemplary lives among their fellow villagers, know a bit of theology and the Bible and that they are available to celebrate the sacraments.


Economist calls for a week of prayer

Ireland needs a national week of prayer culminating on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8, a leading economist has said.

Writing in The Irish Catholic, Prof. Ray Kinsella of UCD called for the week of prayer, saying it should be all-encompassing.

''It should embrace all faith groups and those of goodwill. It should embrace contemplative communities whose calling is to prayer. It should embrace parish and other communities.

''It should embrace the Judaic faith who understand the faithfulness of God; it should embrace our Islamic communities for whom prayer is a way of life.''

Professor Kinsella said Ireland was in fateful days.

''We will need these prayers in these most fateful days in the history of modern Ireland so that our parliamentary democracy is seen to act with calmness and courage and belief in resilience of the people they are privileged to represent.

''The great Dom Vonier, second Abbot of Buckfast Abbey, once wrote 'It is a law of the universe that some things are granted only through prayer'.''

Prof. Kinsella's call comes on foot of a call by a Government minister and a well-known Wexford priest for people to pray for divine help in the country's economic turmoil.

Professor Kinsella, a leading economist, also advocates that the Dáil rejects the four-year plan and the EU-IMF bailout.


Faith gets me through - Rose Callaly

The mother of murdered Rachel O'Reilly has spoken of the capacity of her faith to help her cope with the tragic death of her two daughters.

Speaking on the RTÉ programme, Spirit Levels, Rose Callaly explained how she dealt with the loss of her daughter Ann to cancer, just six years after her other daughter Rachel was murdered by her husband Joe O'Reilly.

''For months and months when I realised how serious it was, I prayed non-stop and fervently. I prayed night and day for Ann to be saved. I would have given my life for her and I promised everything that God would ask of me if he would just save Anne but it wasn't to be.''

''In the beginning I was very angry and I kept saying to God if you had to take Ann, why did she have to suffer so much? I found that hard but with the grace of God I never blamed him.''

Ms Callaly, who admitted that her ability to forgive was still ''a work in progress'', added her belief that Ann and Rachel were now together gives her ''great consolation''.

''I've always felt there has to be a bigger picture; since Rachel died I felt there has to be a reason. I think if I didn't feel like that I wouldn't have got through and that all comes back to having faith and trust in God.''


Calls for crisis prayers

A Co. Wexford priest and a cabinet minister have both called for prayers for a positive outcome to the economic crisis this week.

Fr John Carroll, a curate in Barntown parish, asked the congregation at 11am Mass on Sunday to pray for Ireland as it journeys through the current economic downturn.

The prayer, which has been posted on the parish's Facebook page, asked God to ''continue to make your presence felt among us at this moment in history'' and ''steady our nerve in these days and point out to us the shortcomings of panic and fear alone''.

Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív said in a radio interview that prayers were needed because ''not everything is in the control of the Government''.

''Prayer is very powerful because at the end of the day we have to keep at it until we get to stable waters,'' he said.


Tyrone prepares for Congress

Parishioners in Tyrone are stepping up preparations for the 2012 Eucharistic Congress. 

The event, which will be held in Dublin, is expected to attract pilgrims from every corner of Ireland as well as internationally.

County Down-native Francis Campbell, currently Britain's Ambassador to the Vatican, will address a gathering on 'Faith in today's world' in Christ the King Church, Omagh on Monday November 29, 2010.

Other speakers include Marie Lindsey, Principal of St Mary's College in Derry; Richard Moore founder of the Children in Crossfire Charity and personal friend of the Dalai Lama; Fr Paschal McDonnell a Franciscan friar, who is a native of Strabane based in Rossnowlagh and Breige O'Hare, a mother and spiritual writer originally from Omagh.

Each speaker will be addressing a 'Novena of Preparation' for the Eucharistic Congress from Saturday November 27 until Sunday December 5 in Christ the King Church, Strathroy, Omagh. 

The Novena will focus on the theme of 'Gathering together in Christ'.

While the weekday liturgy at 7.30pm is talking place in Cappagh, parishioners from the neighbouring parishes of Drumragh, Gortin, Greencastle, Newtownstewart, Drumquin and Dregish (Castlederg) will lead the liturgies and prayer on different nights.

For more information see: www.eucharist2012.com


Education head rejects `threats' to faith schools

A senior figure in Catholic education in the North has condemned what he describes as ''veiled threats'' against Catholic schools.

Donal Flanagan, head of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) hit out at ''some people in leadership roles in our society'' issuing veiled threats about the funding of Catholic schools.

His comments come just weeks after First Minister Peter Robinson insisted that he was not in favour of faith-based schools receiving state funding.

''It surprises me that at a time when we are seeking to promote respect and understanding we are issued with veiled threats about the future funding of Catholic schools.

''Arising from these recent controversial remarks I have sought to brief myself on how others in leadership roles view the contribution of Catholic schools.

''Not surprisingly, I didn't have to travel too far because in Scotland the First Minister Alex Salmond has taken a very different stance on faith-based education,'' Mr Flanagan said.

Speaking during the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland and England Mr Salmond said the Church contributed immensely to Scotland through ''its flourishing Catholic schools''.

Mr Flanagan invited Mr Robinson ''to recognise and celebrate the contribution which Catholic schools make to the raising of standards and the promotion of the common good in our society.

''Furthermore, I would ask that he engages in this debate in an atmosphere of respect where people don't feel diminished or threatened,'' Mr Flanagan said.

After the First Minister's speech last month, his comments provoked criticism and anger from Church leaders and nationalist politicians.

The North's Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has insisted that faith-schools will continue to be supported. She has said that rather than a problem, pluralism in education in the North is recognised as one of the strengths of the sector.


Advent prayer launch

All parishes in the Diocese of Meath have received specially designed prayer cards containing the Pope's Prayer for Ireland with and invitation for parishioners and families to say the prayer regularly during Advent and throughout the coming year. 

In a message to the faithful of the diocese, Bishop Michael Smith said: ''I ask you to take one of these cards and regularly recite this prayer. The prayer should be recited at all public Masses on the first Sunday of each month, as well as at Masses on every Friday over the coming year.'' 

The diocese hopes that from the first Sunday of Advent, November 28, all faithful in Ireland will join in its prayer for ''the healing of wounds'' and a ''rebirth of the Church''.


Bishops issue Mass cards guidelines

The Irish Bishops' Conference has issued a set of guidelines dealing with the Church's official stance on Mass offerings in a further step to raise awareness of the prevalence of bogus Mass cards.

The bishops discussed the regulation of the sale of Mass cards in their October meeting and agreed to publish support information on the issue. 

The new seven-point guidelines stipulate that the Mass must never be an occasion for ''buying and selling'' or ''making money'', nor should there be even the slightest appearance of making a profit from Mass offerings.

The guidelines state that ''signed or stamped Mass Cards for sale to the public in shops and other commercial outlets is a practice that is not approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Major Religious Superiors or the Superiors of Missionary Societies''. 

The bishops say this practice undermines a ''correct Eucharistic Theology'', is ''unacceptable'' and they ask that it be discontinued.

The sale of pre-signed Mass cards without the permission of a bishop or religious superior is illegal in Ireland under the Charities Act (2009), and the bishops point out that the Church's norms and regulations about Mass offerings were already clearly set out in the 1983 Code of Canon Law and in the 1991 Decree Mos Iugiter.

A spokesperson for the Irish Bishops' Conference has confirmed that the bishops have undertaken to write to several Episcopal conferences overseas in order to ''enlist their support to prevent the sale of pre-signed Mass cards'' in Irish shops.

It is also understood that the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group (ICTRG), which lobbies on legislation on behalf of charity groups, are drafting guidelines on fundraising under the Charities Act, which will give advice to retailers being offered Mass cards for sale and also for members of the public who wish to buy such cards.


McVerry signals Church revolution

Jesuit priest, Fr Peter McVerry has said the child sexual abuse scandals has ''initiated a revolution in the Irish Church''.

Speaking at the launch of The Dublin/Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism? edited by John Littleton and Eamon Maher, Fr McVerry was highly critical of the manner in which Rome, by controlling how people think, blunted their capacity for independent critical judgement, therefore creating the climate in which the abuse of children could go unpunished and undetected.

''The revolution is that many lay people now will no longer believe what Rome, or their bishops, says, just because Rome or the bishop says it.

''They are no longer prepared to do what they are told by their Church to do. And they will no longer be silent, they will question it publicly and with boldness.''

However, Fr McVerry said priests ''will be drawn, breathless and late'' into the revolution and questioned whether it will ever be possible for the bishops to join because they, just like Jesus, would be ''crucified'' for ''abandoning and betraying'' the traditions of their faith.

''Those who have power never give up power voluntarily. And that is why the bishops probably cannot join this revolution; if they do, they will be removed by Rome, or transferred to some desk job in Rome, where they can do no harm.

''And that is the revolution which will make our Church a more human, and therefore a more divine, institution.''


Pope did not legitimize condom use, affirms Spanish bishop

The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference recently remarked that the Pope's comments in the newly-released book, “Light of the World,” do not legitimize the use of condoms.

Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino noted on Nov. 26, at the conclusion of the Spanish bishops' 96th plenary assembly, that the use of condoms “always” takes place “within a context of immorality.” 

Thus, he continued, it “can never be recommended.”

He said the Pope’s comments did not represent anything new in Church teaching and therefore the Spanish bishops did not address the issue during their meeting.

“There is no cause for alarm” for Catholics, he said, as they know that the Church’s teachings “are not learned from news headlines” but rather from “catechesis, religion classes and confession.” 

Bishop Martinez underscored that the media has been filled with “inaccurate headlines” about the Pope’s comments on condoms. 

He added that the book, “Light of the World,” by German journalist Peter Seewald, is “an excellent introduction to what it means to be Christian.” 

It conveys “the perfect compatibility of the Christian faith with the positive aspect of modernity” and it reveals “the heart and mind of the Pope in order to interpret his actions and decisions properly.”


Professor: Catholic Church’s attack on bigotry is historic

Peter Kearney’s attack on bigotry is nothing short of a historic moment for Scotland, one of the country’s leading historians has claimed. 

Professor Tom Devine, of Edinburgh University, said the statement on the nation’s “deep, wide and vicious” sectarianism was the most public condemnation yet issued by the Catholic Church in this country, and reflected a sea change in the mindset of the Scottish Catholic community. 

“Whether one accepts it or not, it is historically significant,” he said, adding that “this is the first time that an official spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland has come out to say this with such vehemence”. 

Mr Devine, who has written extensively on the history of sectarianism and the Catholic experience in Scotland, said the days of discrimination in the job market are long gone. 

Catholics under the age of 55 now sit equally alongside the rest of the population according to a range of socioeconomic measures, he said. 

However, a secondary type of sectarianism, expressed through “nasty and unpleasant” bigoted attitudes, is “alive and well”, he argues. 

He said: “This is a reflection of the fact that people of a Roman Catholic background, overwhelmingly from an Irish ethnic tradition, have a renewed self-confidence in Scottish society. 

“Until the 1970s, the whole attitude – and I’m a Roman Catholic, so I know this – was ‘Don’t disturb things’. 

The Kearney intervention is a very dramatic reversal of that, and this is the great irony: the reason why it has occurred is in large part because of the new confidence of Catholic people in Scotland.

“The fact that labour market discrimination is no longer able to hold them back [means] many of them are now in professional, academic, business occupations. The Kearney intervention is a symbol of this new collective self-consciousness; that they’re able to stand up and be counted.” 

Sectarianism rose to the forefront of political debate in 2002, when then first minister Jack McConnell spoke out against “Scotland’s secret shame”, in allusion to a speech by the Catholic composer James MacMillan at the Edinburgh Festival in 1999. 

At the time of a 2001 census, there were 803,700 Catholics in Scotland, compared to slightly more than two million Church of Scotland adherents. 

In 2002 Holyrood unveiled a 12-point, cross-party plan to stamp out sectarianism. 

The police and the Commission for Racial Equality were consulted and, in 2005, Mr McConnell stated his belief that bigotry could be eliminated within a generation. 

However, he criticised his successors, the SNP, saying they had failed to pursue the anti-sectarian forums he had initiated.

In 2006 a campaign was launched to twin faith schools in a bid to assimilate children but, three years later, an investigation by The Herald found that fewer than half of local authorities had put the plan in action. 

Debate was re-ignited earlier this year when Benedict XVI visited Scotland at the height of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. 

Many people, as Mr Kearney also points out, felt that the vilification of the priesthood for this was unjustified; less than one in 200 Scottish priests over the past 25 years has been convicted of sexual abuse, but all have been tarred by the scandal. 

Chillingly, according to Mr Kearney, a current of anti-Catholic violence has reared its head, with attacks on priests and churches, terrifying the clergy. 

The crimes he describes have not been brought to light, and eyes will now be on the Scottish Government’s response to this apparent threat.

“If this is to be taken further, and taken seriously, then systematic evidence has got to be provided so that authorities can respond in an appropriate way,” Professor Devine said. 

“What we need ... is for the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland to come clean on this.”


Pope: Filipino Church right to say no to abortion and the death penalty

The Church must be free to make its voice heard, to proclaim the Gospel and also to raise awareness of her social doctrine that protects primarily the poorest and weakest. 

In this context, Benedict XVI praised the commitment of the Church of the Philippines in defence of life from its beginning to natural end and "appreciates" what it is doing in favour of abolishing the death penalty.

The Church's commitment in the social sphere, as well as in the fundamental mission of proclaiming the Gospel, was the focus of the pope’s address today to the bishops of the Philippines, for their five-yearly visit "ad Limina".

To be "leaven" of the culture of society, said Benedict XVI, the Church must always make its voice heard, first of all with the proclamation of the Gospel. " 

This voice expresses itself in the moral and spiritual witness of the lives of believers. It also expresses itself in the public witness offered by the Bishops, as the Church’s primary teachers, and by all who have a role in teaching the faith to others".

The task of proclaiming the Gospel touches " touches upon issues relevant to the political sphere. This is not surprising, since the political community and the Church, while rightly distinct, are nevertheless both at the service of the integral development of every human being and of society as a whole. For her part, the Church contributes most toward the building of a just and charitable social order".

"At the same time, the Church’s prophetic office demands that she be free “to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine ... and also to pass moral judgments in those matters which regard public order whenever the fundamental human rights of a person or the salvation of souls requires it” (ibid.). In the light of this prophetic task, I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defence of the integrity of marriage and the family. In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will. I also note with appreciation the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty in your country."

The Pope also highlighted some other aspects of life of the Church of the Philippines, starting from the commitment to be present in the field of social communications "a unified and positive voice needs to be presented to the public in forms of media both old and new, so that the Gospel message may have an ever more powerful impact on the people of the nation."

Another aspect of the mission of the Church in the Philippines highlighted by Benedict XVI is " in her commitment to economic and social concerns, in particular with respect to the poorest and the weakest in society. At the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the Church in your nation took a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor." 

The Pope also pointed to the "just concern" of the bishops in the" on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land. "


Church's dealing with abuse was 'catastrophic'

A YEAR after publication of the Murphy report, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said the church in Ireland had become self-centred and had let itself reach a position “beyond what is legitimate”.

“I see more clearly that the catastrophic manner in which the abuse was dealt with was a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Irish church,” Dr Martin said.

“The church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate. It acted as a world apart. It became self-centred. It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children.”

He made the comments in a lengthy statement posted on the Dublin archdiocesan website, dublindiocese.ie, to mark the first anniversary of the Murphy report, published on November 26th, 2009.

He said the church had “also deluded itself about the faith of Irish people. It failed to recognise what radical evangelisation of its structures and of its people actually meant. It spoke of renewal but really did not change. It failed adequately to recognise that renewal demands conversion.”

Looking to the future, he said “we need to sustain our robust child safeguarding norms and practices. They will, however, only work in the context of a renewed church.”

That church was “not just an elite of the perfect. Many people with little education have a deeper insight into the message of Jesus Christ than some learned theologians or bishops,” he said.

One year on, he said: “I unequivocally repeat what I said on publication of the report: ‘the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to [survivors] when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence. For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient’.”

He added: “The diocese failed not just in its responses to victims and their families. It failed itself and it failed society by trying to keep the evidence within its own structures.

“I repeat again what I said one year ago: ‘The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. The investigation of crime within society is the competence of An Garda Síochána’.”

He noted that “many survivors hoped the publication of the Murphy report would bring them finally to some sort of closure regarding their horrific experience. For many this has sadly not been so.

“The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse can last a lifetime. That hurt can very quickly erupt again as further stories of abuse emerge or through insensitive comments or actions by church authorities.”

For his own part, he said that “in my encounters with survivors I have encountered insight into faith which leaves me humbled. But perhaps humility is not the worst starting point for renewal of the church and recognition of past wrongs.”


Religion in schools 'a breach of children's human rights'

THE central role of religion in the overwhelming majority of Irish schools may be a breach of the human rights of some children.

And allowing pupils from minority faiths or none to opt out of religious instruction may not be enough to rectify the situation because the Catholic Church's ethos permeates the day-to-day life of most schools, a discussion paper has said.

The Government has been told it is time to address what place, if any, religion has in the classroom.

Ireland's record on religion in schools will come under scrutiny next year during a review by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHCR) issued a discussion paper over the weekend, posing a number of questions as to whether the law and practice in Ireland fully meets human rights standards.

"To put it somewhat baldly, the core issue to be discussed concerns whether religion has a place in the classroom and, if so, what role should it play," IHCR president Maurice Manning said.

He said the Irish position faced challenges under the European Convention on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The questions raised by the discussion paper included the rights of children in a rural setting who have no option but to attend a religious-ethos school.

At primary level, Catholic schools are required to devote two-and-a-half hours per week to religious instruction, while it is two hours per week at secondary level.

In the multi-denominational Educate Together schools, the issue of religious instruction is regarded as a matter for parents and, where it takes place, it is done outside of school hours.

Pupils may take Religious Education as a subject in Junior and Leaving Cert exams, but that involves a general study of world religions and beliefs and does not involve an assessment of a student's personal faith or commitment.


The IHCR paper notes that provision is made for the right of parents to withdraw their children from any instruction that conflicts with their own convictions.

However, because of the way that religion might informally permeate the school day in denominational schools, this right would not necessarily insulate such pupils from receiving religious education informally, it stated.

Dr Manning said the place of religion in the classroom was an issue with which all countries were grappling, but Ireland was somewhat unique internationally because religious orders had played a very prominent role in Irish education.

Ireland has a system of almost entirely denominational primary education, predominantly controlled by the Catholic Church, which runs about 92pc of primary schools. 

There are no non-denominational schools, and just over 2pc of schools are inter-denominational or multi-denominational.

While most people in Ireland define themselves as belonging to the Roman Catholic Church or Church of Ireland, a significant number now define themselves as being of no belief or of Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or other belief.

The paper was launched at a conference held in association with the School of Law at Trinity College Dublin, which kick-started a national consultation process.

Dr Manning said after the consultation process was complete, at the end of January, they would make recommendations to the Government on the measures required for the State to meet its human rights obligations in this area.


Holocaust-denying bishop to drop lawyer with neo-Nazi ties

A British bishop appealing a German conviction for Holocaust denial has agreed to drop his lawyer with reported links to far-right groups, the breakaway Catholic fraternity he belongs to said Friday.

"There was a discussion internally and he said that he would do so (drop the lawyer Wolfram Nahrath)," Saint Pius X Society spokesman Andreas Steiner said. "But as far as I know this has not happened yet."

The ultra-conservative group had threatened to expel Richard Williamson unless he did so and stopped "letting himself become an instrument of political theories with absolutely nothing to do with his duties as a Catholic bishop."

Nahrath has defended neo-Nazis charged with violent crimes and has had links with banned Hitler Youth-style groups including Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, or "German youth true to the homeland," according to anti-fascist campaigners.

Williamson was found guilty of inciting racial hatred in April and fined €10,000, reduced from an earlier fine of €12,000 he had refused to pay.

The 70-year-old had questioned key historical facts about the Holocaust - a crime in Germany - in an interview with Swedish television recorded in Regensburg and aired in January 2009.

"I believe that the historical evidence, the historical evidence, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler," Williamson said in the interview.

"I believe there were no gas chambers ... I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by a gas chamber."

Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a deluge of criticism last year for reversing the excommunication of Williamson and three other Saint Pius X Society bishops in a bid to bridge a rift with the fraternity.

In a series of interviews published in a book this week, Benedict says that he would not have reversed Williamson's excommunication if he had known about his views on the Holocaust.

According to news magazine Der Spiegel, the society has also asked Williamson to abandon his appeal, which is due to be heard in a court in Regensburg, southern Germany, in February or March, the court said this week.


Patriarch's meeting with Pope getting nearer - Metropolitan Hilarion

The meeting between the Moscow Patriarch and the Pope is getting nearer each day, the Russian Orthodox Church said.

"Each day brings us closer to this meeting between the Pope and Patriarch," head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told journalists in Moscow.

"Right now we are not prepared to make known the date, nor are we engaged in any concrete preparations for the meeting, but we are certainly getting closer to it. It is a calendar and astronomical fact," he said.

The work carried out by the Russian Church with the Catholic Church is aimed "improving the general climate and achieving a higher level of mutual understanding," he added.


Coptic Pope Shenouda III decries bishop’s apology for Omraniya clashes

Coptic Pope Shenouda III has categorically rejected an apology issued by a Giza bishop for last week's sectarian clashes, according to a papal source. 

Thousands of Coptic Christians clashed with security forces last Wednesday in the Cairo district of Omraniya after construction work on a local church was halted by authorities. 

On Sunday, Shenouda asserted that the church did not need to apologize for the incident, noting that two Copts had been killed in the melee and 157 others arrested, while church property suffered significant material damage. 

The papal source noted that, while the pope was keen to preserve social harmony, he would not countenance apologies by the church since Copts had not started the incident.

Egyptian Union for Human Rights Director Naguib Gabriel, for his part, also decried the bishop’s apology, which he described as “humiliating.” 


Pope’s visit made Britain more open to spiritual life

The papal visit made Britain more open to the spiritual life, the Archbishop of Westminster has said.

Speaking in an interview with the news agency Zenit, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said that the Pope’s visit to Britain led to “a more ready recognition of the spiritual dimension to human life”.

The archbishop said that Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain in September gave British Catholics a renewed sense of identity and also allowed British society as a whole to recognise the value of relationships and communities.

He said: “I think what people saw was that despite the apparent anonymity of so much of British society, here was a community that expressed itself strongly with bonds of friendship and acceptance, and that has awakened in people the desire to work a little bit more on their families, on their quality of relationship.”

Archbishop Nichols said that Pope Benedict had also laid the framework for a dialogue between society and “faith communities”.

The Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Government’s role was to create “a culture of greater social responsibility and that the faith communities were the architects of that culture”, the archbishop said.

He said “I think there is in Britain today a new openness to the role that communities of faith can make to the common good.”

Pope Benedict, he said, shared a love for the Church and the search for truth with Blessed John Henry Newman. He said both Blessed John Henry and the Pope had a “similar openess of mind towards how to approach other people and speak to them”.

Asked how Blessed John Henry could be a model for British Catholics today, the archbishop quoted Pope Benedict speaking about Blessed John Henry on the papal plane, saying that two of the Pope’s phrases had stayed in his mind.

He said: “He said, first of all, Newman is a man of modernity. Now by that he means Newman is a man who lived within sight of the circumstances in which atheism would be a real possibility and in which agnosticism had begun to be experienced. So Newman is a man who struggled with a setting for Christianity which we are all very familiar with. He foresaw it and struggled with it in his time.”

Archbishop Nichols also said that Blessed John Henry was “a man for whom the formulas of the past were not sufficient”. 

He said Blessed John Henry did not represent a return to the past but an exploration “in utter fidelity to the past, an expression and an experience of faith which is attractive and open to the minds of today”.


Pope urges respect for embryos

Pope Benedict XVI has called for politicians and other world leaders to show more respect for human life at its earliest stages by saying embryos are dynamic, autonomous individuals.

Benedict made the comments during a vespers service Saturday to mark the beginning of Advent. 

This year, the Vatican urged bishops around the world to make the service a vigil for "nascent life."

The service comes amid continued fallout from the pope's remarks about condoms and HIV contained in a book-length interview published this week. 

While reaffirming condoms aren't a real or moral solution, Benedict said people who use them are taking a moral step forward because they are aiming to protect their partners from HIV -- even when conception is at stake.


Pope, in book, says homosexuality incompatible with priesthood

In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI strongly reaffirmed church teaching that homosexual acts are "disordered" and said homosexuality itself is "incompatible" with the priesthood.

The pope's comments came in his new book-interview, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which was published Nov. 23.

The interviewer, German journalist Peter Seewald, asked the pope whether the church's teaching that homosexuals deserve respect isn't contradicted by its position that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."

The pope answered: "No. It is one thing to say that they are human beings with their problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against because of it."

"At the same time, though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual," he said. "The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future."

The pope said the church needs to hold firm on this point, "even if it is not pleasing to our age."

He said it was still an open question whether homosexual inclinations are innate or arise early in life. In any case, he said, if these are strong inclinations, it represents "a great trial" for the homosexual.

"But this does not mean that homosexuality thereby becomes morally right. Rather, it remains contrary to the essence of what God originally willed," he said.

When Seewald said that homosexuality exists in monasteries and among the clergy, even if not acted out, the pope responded: "Well, that is just one of the miseries of the church. And the persons who are affected must at least try not to express this inclination actively."

"Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don't want to get married anyway," the pope said.

The pope cited a 2005 Vatican document that drew a sharp line against priestly ordination of homosexuals. He said the document emphasized that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation interferes with "the proper sense of paternity" that belongs to the priesthood.

The pope said it was important to select priestly candidates very carefully, "to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to homosexuality."


Growth, ethnic conflict plagued Hoban's time as head of diocese

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9, 1921, more than a thousand Catholics packed St. Peter's Cathedral to celebrate the Jubilee anniversary of Bishop Michael J. Hoban, who presided over the Diocese of Scranton. 

It was a well-deserved honor.

Hoban's tenure was marked by both tremendous growth and ethnic conflict. 

The Diocese of Scranton, founded in 1868 when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was officially divided, comprised the 11 counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania and represented Catholics from nearly every country in Eastern and Western Europe.

While Hoban presided over the dramatic growth of parishes and the quality of parochial education in the diocese, he was also subject to a series of lawsuits brought against him by dissident parishioners in both Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. 

These conflicts resulted in the creation of the Polish National Catholic Church, but without Hoban's wisdom, mediation and humility, the schism would have reached even greater proportions.

Michael John Hoban was born on June 6, 1853, at Waterloo, N.J., to Patrick and Bridget Hannigan Hoban, both of whom were Irish immigrants. 

Shortly after, Patrick, a contractor for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, relocated his family to Hawley.

Michael received his early education in private schools. At age 14, he entered St. Francis Xavier School in New York City and, a year later, matriculated to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. 

When his father died in 1871, Hoban cut short his undergraduate education to care for his widowed mother and younger siblings. Returning to college at Fordham, the young scholar felt called to the priesthood and, in 1874, enrolled at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. 

The following year, he was sent to further his studies at the Pontifical North American College at Rome. On May 22, 1880, Hoban was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta. 

Upon his return to Northeastern Pennsylvania in July 1880, his career progressed with astonishing speed. After serving two years as a curate in Towanda, Hoban was transferred to St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston, where he assisted the Rev. John Finnen. 

Four years later, in 1885, he received his first pastorate, being appointed to St. John's Church at Troy in Beadford County.
In 1887, Hoban was named pastor of St. Leo's Church in Ashley. Over the next decade, he would establish a church and rectory, taking pride that his parish was, as he said, "begun in simplicity and poverty but laid on a foundation of hope."

Hoban's keen intellect and compassion for the working class and poor were recognized by the diocese and, on March 22, 1896, he was appointed coadjutor to Bishop O'Hara, the same day of his ordination as bishop.

For the next three years, Hoban assisted aging O'Hara in ordaining priests, administering the sacrament of confirmation, dedicating churches and conducting the annual conference of the clergy. 

He was also responsible for one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the young Diocese, a decision that led to the establishment of the Polish National Catholic Church.

At the turn of the 20th century there were nearly 200 Polish parishes scattered throughout the United States. 

The Catholic Church simply could not meet the demand for creating new Polish churches. 

Because there were no Polish bishops and the parishioners were forced to accept the pastor that was appointed by the bishop, many Polish Catholics felt as if the Irish-German hierarchy had little concern for their welfare and viewed themselves second-class members of the Church.

When these Poles tried to establish their own churches, those places of worship were declared to be the sole possession of the bishops of the various dioceses. 

They were also ordered to give up teaching the Polish language and culture in their parish schools. 

Outraged, they expressed their discontent through mass upheavals in several Polish communities throughout the country.

One of the trouble spots was the Scranton Diocese, which boasted a membership of 200,000 Catholics. 

In the autumn of 1896, a delegation of Polish anthracite miners who made up the congregation of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, requested lay representation in parish affairs. 

They were refused. 

A group then tried to block entrance of the priest, Father Aust, into the church. 

Bishop O'Hara called the police and a riot developed. 

Some 20 persons were arrested. 

Within weeks, some 780 of the alienated parishioners organized a new parish called St. Stanislaus, and a few months later purchased land for a new church. 

They invited a young Polish-born priest, Father Francis Hodur, to become their pastor.

Hodur, then pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke, had endeared himself to working-class parishioners by participating in social work and publishing one of the first parish newspapers, "The Guard." 

Hodur felt "called" to defend the interests of the Polish dissidents and accepted the invitation to become the pastor of the new Polish church.

On March 21, 1897, Hodur celebrated Mass in the unfinished structure that was to become St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church. 

Two hundred and fifty families claimed membership in the new parish. 

Soon the movement spread beyond Scranton into the Wyoming Valley, with like-minded parishes in Duryea (St. Mary's), Wilkes-Barre (Holy Cross) and Nanticoke (Holy Trinity). 

Collectively, these parishes would unite to become the Polish National Catholic Church and the Rev. Hodur accepted responsibility as their leader.

Bishop Hoban, who was carefully monitoring these activities, suggested that Bishop O'Hara take a hard line with the renegade priest. 

But O'Hara was hesitant to do so and the situation worsened. 

In April, Hodur began to use his newspaper as a vehicle to give advice and encouragement, but also to criticize the existing church hierarchy. 

Acting on Hoban's advice, Bishop O'Hara met with Hodur and warned him of the possibility of excommunication. 

The message had little impact.

In February 1898, Hodur went to Rome to seek recognition of American-Polish problems; something the American hierarchy refused to do. 

Rome denied recognition and though the incident strained relations with the Scranton Diocese, O'Hara still refused to act. 

Hodur's newspaper editorials became more vitriolic. 

He made Irish Catholics the scapegoats for almost every injustice Polish Catholics faced. 

He also called for ownership by Polish parishes of property built by their members, parish-wide elections of administrators of such property, and no appointment by bishops of non-Polish priests to such parishes without the consent of the parishioners.

Finally on Sept. 29, 1898, Hodur was excommunicated for clerical disobedience. 

Though Bishop O'Hara handed down the decision, it was clear that it had been made by Hoban. 

Hodur read the document to his congregation, then burned it and threw the ashes outside the doors of St. Stanislaus Church. 

The dissident parishioners welcomed the news as the church bells rang, people sang and embraced each other.

On Dec. 24, 1900, Mass at St. Stanislaus was for the first time sung in Polish. 

Other Polish parishes quickly followed the lead. 

Four years later, the first Synod of the new Polish National Catholic Church was held in Scranton with 147 clerical and lay delegates representing two dozen parishes and 20,000 parishioners in five states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

The Synod also adopted a constitution, elected a lay-clerical Supreme Council and unanimously elected Father Hodur bishop and administrator of the new church.

Bishop Hoban continued to deal with the effects of the schism long after he was appointed O'Hara's successor. 

In February 1899, Hoban inherited the Diocese of Scranton with its 100 parishes, 152 priests and 32 parochial schools. 

Under his leadership, the diocese expanded to include 202 parishes with 341 priests, 65 parochial schools and three colleges. 

He was also harassed by Hodur, who used his newspaper to openly criticize him and all the other priests of the Diocese as being engaged in a widespread conspiracy to deny Polish Catholics of their ecclesiastical rights.

Hoban worked hard to embrace the Poles who remained in the Diocese. 

He met with those who expressed concerns over church practice and successfully defended the Diocese in lawsuits that were brought against it from the dissident Polish parishioners in both Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. 

His charitable approach stemmed the tide of ethnic conflict and prevented other Polish parishioners from joining the schism. 

He died in 1926 at the age of 73.