Thursday, January 31, 2013

Death of former Archbishop of Tuam Dr Joseph Cassidy

The death has taken place of the retired Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Joseph Cassidy, aged 79.

A native of Charlestown, Co Mayo, as spokesman for the Catholic hierarchy in the 1980s, he featured prominently in referendum campaigns on abortion and divorce.

In 1990 he helped broker a solution to the bitter and long-running rod license dispute between lake anglers and the government.

He was a member of the Bishops' Conference from 1979 until 1995. His first appointment was to Clonfert in 1979.

In 1987 he was appointed Archbishop of Tuam, one of the four most important dioceses in the Catholic Church here.

He retired for health reasons in 1995, but served as a priest in South Roscommon until 2009.

Priest urges rethink on police cuts

The priest who celebrated the funeral of Detective Adrian Donohoe has called for the Government to reflect on the huge cuts affecting the Garda force.

Chief celebrant Michael Cusack, rector of St Joseph's Redemptorist Church, Dundalk, told the thousands of mourners, including hundreds of senior and rank-and-file officers that everyone should think hard about the kind of policing they want.

"I think we need to look into the eyes of Caroline, look into the eyes of Adrian's parents and allow what is best within us - our humanity - to recognise what evil can do when it's allowed to flourish in a community," he said.

In the aftermath of Detective Donohoe's murder, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has already been forced to reject suggestions from within the force that the killing was in any way linked to cutbacks.

But Fr Cusack used his homily to highlight the fear and worry among people in rural areas, including his own family, with the closure of stations.

"My parents are now living in a rural community in Galway that has no police service," the priest said. "It only ever had one guard but that one guard brought great security. Since he moved, two men in their 80s have had their heads bashed in, one left without hearing or taste for the rest of his life. I see it in the eyes of so many in that village that they go to bed at night in fear. Is that the way we need to treat our brothers and sisters in our care?"

Fr Cusack questioned the cuts and austerity measures affecting policing, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Shatter and other senior political figures in the congregation to pay their respects.

One hundred stations across the Garda network will close this year with 95 not being manned after this month. 

Elsewhere, Garda numbers have fallen to around 13,500 and it is expected that about another 400 officers will retire this year.

Magdalene laundries report due next week

The report into the Magdalene laundries is expected to be published next Tuesday afternoon, February 5th. 

It will be presented to the Cabinet that morning.

The report has been prepared by a committee of officials from five Government departments and chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, assisted by another official from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The laundries, where an estimated 30,000 single mothers and other women were detained between 1922 and 1996, were operated by four religious congregations. Most of the women have since died. 

The last such laundry, at Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996.

On June 14th, 2011, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced that the Government was to set up the committee to investigate the State’s role in the Magdalene laundries. 

The previous week the four religious congregations concerned had agreed to co-operate with any such inquiry.

The Minister’s announcement followed a lengthy campaign by the Justice for Magdalenes group and a report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture, published on June 6th, 2011.

It urged the Government to set up a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene laundries, to bring prosecutions where necessary and provide compensation to surviving women.

It said it was gravely concerned by the failure of the State to “protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996 in the Magdalene laundries”.

In November 2010, the Irish Human Rights Commission called on the Government to establish a statutory inquiry into the treatment of the Magdalene women, echoing similar demands from the Magdalene Survivors Together group.

The 10 laundries were operated by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Those operated by the Sisters of Mercy were at Galway and Dún Laoghaire; by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity at Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin. 

The Sisters of Charity operated laundries at Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork; and the Good Shepherd Sisters ran laundries at Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross.

People urged to give money to charity not beggars

They think all homeless people are on drugs. Yeah, [I am offended]. 

There’s nothing there to help anyone that’s homeless. 

It’s just do it yourself or find your own way. 

One homeless man in Dublin yesterday, who did not wish to be named

A new initiative to encourage people to stop donating to those begging on the street began yesterday.

The campaign is run by the Dublin City Business Improvement District (BID) and the addiction charity Tiglin.

BID, a representative organisation for more than 2,500 businesses across the city, claims active street begging creates a perception that the city is unsafe.

Research conducted by Dublin City Council last year showed feeling unsafe was one of the most significant factors negatively influencing people’s experience of the city centre. 

The Change for the Better campaign is a “diverted giving” scheme, whereby people are urged to stop giving money to individuals begging on the street and to instead donate to one of 40 charity boxes in shops and businesses around the city.

Addiction issues 

These funds go to Tiglin, which supports people with addiction issues. BID and a number of the businesses supporting the campaign have offered to match the donations made by the public through the boxes.

Chief executive Richard Guiney said active begging is “a serious problem” in the city centre. 

“There has been a stark increase in the number of active begging incidents recorded in the BID area over the past year. We know from consumer surveys that there is a perception that Dublin is not a safe city, when actually the statistics say it is extremely safe. About 60 per cent of all tourists will visit Dublin and this perception is very damaging. Previous research has shown that one of the main reasons for begging is to fund drug and alcohol addiction. We have observed cases of professional begging in the city and other situations where money given by the public has been used to buy drugs.”

Tiglin operations director Phil Thompson said the campaign was an educational process for both beggars and members of the public who give money.

Heroin addict 

Niall Murphy (45) from Terenure, Dublin, is a former heroin addict who begged on the streets to fund his addiction but has completed Tiglin’s rehabilitation programme.

“There was a rave scene in Dublin during the nineties and I fell into that,” he said. “I started using ecstasy and progressed on to heroin. I was about 35 when I was kicked out and ended up homeless. I wasn’t your typical beggar sitting on a bridge with a cup, but I’m ashamed to say I used to walk around tapping people to see if they would give me money.Deep down, people knew if I asked for money for a hostel that I really wanted it for drugs.”

Abortion laws could be in place by summer, signals Reilly memo on looming legislation to comply with the X case ruling is to be brought to Cabinet next week.

The move came after Oireachtas health committee chairman, Jerry Buttimer, presented the minister with a 1,000-page report containing submissions presented to TDs and senators during three days of hearing last month, but does not contain any specific recommendations.

Dr Reilly said the matter was a priority for the Cabinet.

“The [health] department are working very hard to expedite this. There’s a memo going to Government next week on the policy issues that have been raised. This body of work has helped inform us hugely on where we progress from here.

“I want it done as quickly as possible. I was hoping obviously that we will have something very substantial before Easter and that remains my hope.”

Dr Reilly said he would like the proposed legal reform that would allow terminations when there is a substantial risk to the mother’s life, including suicide, to be ready for the summer.

Questioned whether he would like to see the law, which he said would be a “very, very complex piece of legislation”, in place before the July recess, Dr Reilly said: “I think in an ideal world that’s what I’d like to see, but I mean I can’t foresee all the difficulties and potholes along the road between here and there.”

Some Fine Gael TDs have expressed concern about the suicide risk definitions of any legislation.

400 a year trafficked for sham marriages

About 400 young women are being trafficked into Ireland to take part in sham marriages while the Government has so far failed to close a loophole that allows the criminals organising them to go free.

Latvia, where many of the young women come from, has said the lack of co-operation from gardaí and Irish authorities is making the job of tackling the issue very difficult.

Now the Council of Europe has asked Ireland to take urgent action to amend the law to include sham marriages as a form of exploitation and give the gardaí the powers they need to intervene in such cases.

It is not illegal in Ireland to arrange marriages for money.

The only action the Government has taken is to give gardaí powers to object before such marriages took place when they suspect they may be sham, but this was struck down by the High Court last year, saying objections could only be made after the marriage took place.

Ireland was named as one of the main countries of destination for the Latvian trafficking victims, alongside Britain, Germany, and Cyprus.

A team from the Council of Europe visiting Latvia to evaluate how well the convention on trafficking was working was told of the difficulties with the Irish authorities in helping to identify and help Latvians trafficked for the sham marriages.

Two years ago the Latvian authorities asked Ireland to take action to stop these marriages, mostly conducted with Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian men. Being married to an EU national means the husband can apply for a passport of an EU country.

Latvia changed its anti-trafficking laws, introducing a prison sentence of up to three years for the offence.

Last year Latvia helped 16 victims of these sham marriages, most of them having being exploited in Ireland. However, the Council of Europe group say they believe the number involved is far higher.

Figures released last year by the Department of Justice said that up to the end of Sept 2011, there were 553 applications for residency from non-EU nationals as a spouse of an EU citizen, a third involved Latvian or Lithuanian spouses.

The Irish Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 would be amended to come into line with the EU directive due to come into force this year.

The Department of Justice did not comment on the report or the complaints from the Latvian authorities.

A statement said that minister Alan Shatter said he was working closely with his counterpart in Britain on the issue and had asked officials to re-examine to draft amendments on immigration related sham marriages in the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2010 and the Free Movement regulations that transposed the EU directive into Irish law. 

The bill was currently before the Dáil and Seanad.

Dawkins slams 'redundant' religion

Professor Richard Dawkins argued that religion hindered scientific endeavour by 'peddling false explanations'Prominent atheist professor Richard Dawkins described religion as "redundant and irrelevant" as he took on the former Archbishop of Canterbury in a debate.

Speaking at the Cambridge Union debating society, Prof Dawkins argued that religion hindered scientific endeavour by "peddling false explanations".

Dr Rowan Williams offered a counter argument, saying religion undoubtedly had a place in the 21st century and the issue was not whether it should exist, but what our attitude towards it should be. 

He added that modern attitudes towards human rights had their foundations in religious traditions.

The pair were part of a debate on the proposition "religion has no place in the 21st Century" in front of an audience of about 800, who packed the famous 200-year-old university debating club's chambers.

Early in his address, Prof Dawkins made a provocative comparison between Christian and Islamic traditions, describing himself as a "cultural Anglican".

"I'm grateful, by the way, to be a cultural Anglican when you think of the competition," he added. "If I were a cultural Muslim, I would have something to say about that faith's appalling attitude to women and various other moral points."

Stressing that his central concern was simply whether religion was true, he summed up his argument, by describing religion as a "cop-out". 

He added: "It is a betrayal of the intellect, a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human. It's a phony substitute for an explanation, which seems to answer the question until you examine it and realise that it does no such thing."

In his address, Lord Williams said: "Religion has always been a matter of community building, a matter of building relations of compassion, fellow-feeling and, dare I say it, inclusion. The notion that religious commitment can be purely a private matter is one that runs against the grain of religious history."

Lord Williams added that respect for human life and equality was inherent in all organised religion.

"The very concept of human rights has profound religious roots," he added. "The convention of human rights would not be what it is were it not for the history of philosophical religious debate."

At the end of the debate the house voted to reject the proposition, stating that they do believe religion has a place in the 21st century.

Pope assigns Stations of the Cross texts to two young people from Lebanon

Good Friday at the Coliseum last AprilThe Pope has chosen two Lebanese youth to write the meditations for the Stations of the Cross he will preside over - as he does every year - on the evening of Good Friday in Rome’s Coliseum, the Vatican Press Office announced today.

Cardinal Béchara Rai was entrusted with the task – a note explains – but the texts will be prepared under the guidance of the Maronite patriarch, by two Lebanese young people and will follow the traditional 14 Stations. 

The note also specifies what pushed the Pope to make this choice: “Inviting the whole Church to remember the Middle East, its problems and Christian communities in the land, in their prayers.”

It is the first time since the rite was reintroduced by Paul VI in 1964 that young people have been asked to write the texts for the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum. The fact that the Pope made this choice ahead of this year’s World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro is significant. There appears to be in continuity with last year, when the Pope chose a married couple, Anna Maria and Danilo Zanzucchi for the task, ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Milan. Obviously, the most striking thing about Benedict XVI’s choice is that the young people are Lebanese. 

The Pope visited Lebanon last September to promulgate the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in the Middle East. The Pope’s meeting with young people on the field in front of the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké was one of the key moments of the trip. Among the groups of young people present, there were some Christians who had come from Syria. 

Benedict XVI’s message to them was: “Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.”
It is easy to imagine that today’s ordeal will be reflected in the texts that the two young people from Lebanon (whose identity is yet to be revealed) are preparing together with Cardinal Béchara Rai. Lebanon experiences the repercussions of the struggle in Damascus first hand both because of Lebanon’s fragile political balance and because of the hundreds and thousands of Syrian refugees making their way to its borders to flee the war.
But the Pope’s choice is not just intended as a reminder to the world about the tragedy of war and fundamentalism. The choice of the young Lebanese people to come up with the texts for the Stations of the Cross in the Year of Faith also appears to be a way to see whether the Christian message can reach the hearts of a generation that even in Beirut today feels the pull of secularisation.
Hence, in the speech he delivered in Bkerké, the Pope invited the young people of Lebanon not to seek escape through drugs and pornography in the face of all the current upheavals. He also asked the social network generation to develop “initiatives that give meaning and a basis to your existence, contrasting superficiality and easy consumerism.”

Palestinian priest celebrates mass to stop Israel building wall

Father Ibrahim Shomali celebrating massFor the past 16 months, through heat and cold, rain and snow, a Palestinian priest has celebrated mass every Friday afternoon on the outskirts of Beit Jala, a West Bank village 2 km from where Jesus was born, to stop the building of a separation wall there.
Father Ibrahim Shomali celebrates this mass, often with other priests, imploring God to somehow stop the Israeli Government from building the infamous 8 meter-high wall through the olive groves and fruit farms of 58 Christian families in the Cremisan valley area below the village, taking over Palestinian land.
This wall,  or “separation barrier” (“security fence”)  as Israelis call the 700 km long security measure (part wall/part fence)  that separates Palestinian territories from Israel - will also cut through the grounds of a Salesian monastery and convent, and prevent an extension to a Church school that had already received planning permission.
Father Ibrahim is parish priest of Beit Jala, a majority Christian town of more than 12,000 people (40% are Muslim), adjoining Bethlehem and 10 km south of Jerusalem. He is also Director of the Latin Patriarchate’s school in this Palestinian village where 60 teachers provide education for some 900 students, boys and girls, Christian and Muslim, from kindergarten to high school.
Since 1 October 2011, he has conducted this non-violent, peaceful protest against injustice by celebrating mass on the place where the building of the wall is to start, seeking Divine intervention to stop the Israelis constructing the wall.
He is not alone in this non-violent protest. On 23 October 2011 the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land called on Israel to stop construction of the “illegal wall”. Moreover, the Latin Patriarchate joined forces with the Beit Jala municipality in a legal challenge through Israel’s courts to this project. The court is scheduled to issue its verdict around February 11.
According to Father Ibrahim the wall will take away 1200 acres of green land from the local population, separate owners from their lands, and drastically limit people’s freedom of movement.  Students living on the other side of the wall will take 30-45 minutes to reach school, instead of 10 minutes today.
“The students are very angry at what is happening to the Palestinian people, and ask why they cannot live their lives like other people. Hatred is filling their hearts because of this”, he told me when we talked together at the school recently.  
He explained that if students want to go to the sea, or visit Jerusalem they cannot do so without Israeli permission. It is particularly difficult for them to get permission for Jerusalem, and if granted the normal 15-minute journey by car, could take hours because of controls at the Israeli checkpoint, which are somewhat arbitrary.
He took 50 students to visit Nazareth recently, after obtaining Israeli permission. “It was the first time in their lives that they had left Beit Jala”, he said.
Fr Ibrahim, 41, knows it is difficult to win the court battle against the wall, and predicts “our land will be confiscated by the Israelis in the near future”. He has faith only in God.
“We don’t have faith in political leaders.  We don’t have faith in the State of Israel.  We don’t have faith in the media (which are here often subjected to controls or other pressures).  We only have faith in God who can support us and give us victory”, he stated.
Local Christians and pilgrims from many countries have joined him for the Friday Eucharistic celebrations.  Numbers attending have varied from 10 when it snowed to hundreds in good times, even 500.
He admits, however, that he was not the first to organize prayerful, non-violent protests in this area. Since 2005, when the wall was built around Bethlehem, religious women (nuns) working in a children’s hospital in Bethlehem have conducted their peaceful protest by reciting the rosary every Friday afternoon, as they walk from their convent to the checkpoint, alongside the wall that encircles the city where Jesus was born. They do so,  inspired by the Bible story (Joshua, 6) that tells how the walls of Jericho came tumbling down after the Israelites, led by Joshua laid siege to Jericho and, following God’s instruction, marched around the city of Jericho for seven days. The nuns hope for a similar result in Bethlehem!  So does Fr Ibrahim.

“We don’t throw stones.  We don’t use any form of violence. We don’t kill.  We just pray, and we feel sure that sooner or later God will hear our prayers”, Fr Ibrahim said.    
“Our problem is not the building of the wall and the settlements, our problem is the Israeli occupation of our land”, he stated emphatically
When I asked if he sees peace coming anytime soon to the Holy Land, Fr Ibrahim, who studied in Rome, responded: “I see peace in my dreams, and in God.  But in the near future God much change the minds of the political leaders to get them to make peace for us.  I do not see peace at the moment. But the media and the international community can bring pressure to bear on the Israeli leaders to make peace.”
Recalling how the international community reacted with determination when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Fr Ibrahim, like his students, wonders why they show no such decisiveness when it comes to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian land.
Fr Ibrahim concluded by confirming his determination to continue his non-violent, prayerful protest for as long as is necessary, convinced that sooner or later, “God will hear our prayer”.

Amid ‘Allah’ row, Vatican seeks better ties with Muslim-Malaysia Vatican hopes to strengthen the Catholic Church's interfaith ties with Muslim Malaysia, international newspaper The Wall Street Journal has reported, even as religious tension continues to heighten in the country following the unresolved debate over the usage of "Allah".

In an article last Friday, the paper quoted Archbishop Joseph Marino, the first papal ambassador to Malaysia, as expressing the interest from the Holy See during his first email interview in the country after taking on the post.

"There is no doubt that one of the main questions of our times is the promotion of inter-religious relations," Archbishop Marino, a native of Birmingham, Ala, was reportedly told the WSJ.

"The Holy Father has defined the focus and priority of our missions: dialogue, which has at its heart the spiritual and material good of every person."

The papal ambassador was also quoted as saying that his key responsibility is to assist Malaysian churches in fulfilling its mission, adding that he would also have "much interest in the social, economic and political development of the country".

The article noted that although Muslims and Christians here have been living harmoniously for decades, tensions have grown in recent years following the protracted dispute over the usage of "Allah".

On the one hand, many Muslim leaders, including the Selangor Sultan and the federal government Islamic authorities, have insisted that the word "Allah" belongs exclusively to Muslims as it refers only to the Muslim God.

But Christians across all denominations and other non-Muslims including the Sikhs, have disagreed, arguing that the word has been used in their religious scriptures for decades.

The WSJ also recalled how a Protestant church had been firebombed in 2010 here, with several other churches vandalised, shortly after a High Court ruled in 2009 that Muslims did not have an exclusive right to the word "Allah".

But four years on, the debate is still raging, this time sparked by secretary-general Lim Guan Eng deciding to include the issue in his Christmas message last year.

Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali even kicked off an even greater firestorm of protests when he said last week that Muslims should burn Malay language Bibles that use the word "Allah" in them and other holy Arabic script.

The WSJ noted that the move to create the Roman Catholic equivalent of an embassy in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month was because the country's population of followers has swelled to over one million, a significant majority of Malaysian Christians.

"The step also occurs as the administration of Prime Minister [Datuk Seri] Najib Razak faces increasing pressure from politicians and the public to soothe uneasiness among Christians ahead of the country's closely contested national elections, which must be held by June 27," the paper wrote.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed the archbishop as the first apostolic nuncio - or ambassador - to Malaysia on January 16. Malaysia first established diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 2011.

Vatican takes another chance on mobile with The Pope App

The Vatican takes another chance on mobile with The Pope AppTech-savvy Catholics can now keep track of their church’s leader from their iOS devices with the launch of The Pope App to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s annual message for World Communications Day. 

This isn’t the first time the Vatican has tried its hand at an app for the pope. 

In 2009, Facebook and iPhone apps were launched alongside the Pope2you website, though both are now defunct. 

Pope Benedict XVI has built up a strong social media presence, though, with a regularly updated YouTube channel launched in 2008 and a Twitter account, @pontifex, launched just last year. 

The new app is available for free from the iTunes App Store and comes in five languages. 

The app allows users to follow papal events live, with alerts to let them know when something is about to begin.

Content that can be accessed on the app includes the latest news from the Vatican, official speeches, galleries of images and videos, the pope’s calendar and links to other relevant services.

The app also has a live webcam feed from key areas throughout the Vatican, broadcasting from St Peter’s Square, the surrounding colonnade and St Peter’s Basilica.

Social media: the agora of the modern world

The Pope App was released on Wednesday and was followed on Thursday by a message from the pope for the Feast of St Francis de Sales. 

The feast day of the patron saint of journalists and the Catholic press (among other things) is traditionally the day when the Vatican releases the pope’s message discussing the theme for its World Communications Day, which will take place on 12 May 2013.

In a post titled ‘Social Networks: Portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelisation’, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on modern communications and said digital social networks are helping to create a new agora.

“The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society,” he wrote. “Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelisation, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith.”

Turnover coming in leadership of Vatican bank?

The IOR headquartersEight months after Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was dismissed as president of the Vatican bank, his successor has still not been appointed and Tedeschi’s dismissal remains controversial. 

Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa suggests that a new president will not be chosen for the Institute for Religious Works until after the Vatican appoints new members to the commission of cardinals who supervise the institution.

The current members of that commission will see their terms expire on February 23. 

The new appointments could consolidate the control exerted over the bank by the Secretariat of State.

Pope Benedict questions tone of online debates Benedict XVI has urged Christians to take their faith into social networks, such as on-line discussion groups, but he's cautioned them to exercise "attentive discernment" and to avoid sensationalist, heated and divisive rhetoric that too often distinguishes this virtual world.

In a three-page message for the Church's 2013 World Day of Communications the Pope wrote that a challenge in the face of the culture of social networks was to draw attention to the "gentle voice of reason".

To coincide with the Pope's message, the Vatican also launched a free Pope App that offers users latest news, recent homilies and photos of the Pope and webcam images of sites such as St Peter's Square.

On Saturday the Pope turned to his Twitter account to voice his support for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

He tweeted: "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life."

Reformation review due out soon

The joint Catholic-Lutheran declaration for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be published soon, the Vatican's head of ecumenism has said. 
Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity said the document - "From Conflict to Communion" - was being translated into other languages.

The document will describe the conflict from the historical point of view as well as what has been achieved through ecumenical dialogue in the last 50 years - "where we were able to detect unity, where we have found things we have in common and where obstacles remain", Cardinal Koch said.

Cardinal Koch said many events involving Catholics and Lutherans are planned, especially in Germany, for the year 2017, the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Church.

William Robert Cavins ordained as Independent Catholic Bishop

The Most Reverend William Robert Cavins was ordained Saturday as an Independent Catholic Bishop. He will have responsibility for the pastoral care of independent Catholics residing in Brevard, Lake, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia counties.

Independent Catholic churches are unaffiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, but follow many Catholic traditions.

Cavins was a Roman Catholic deacon and a member of St. Ann’s parish in DeBary until 2002. He became an Independent Catholic in January 2006. He was ordained an Independent Catholic priest in November 2006 and appointed founding pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Community.

Cavins will celebrate his first Solemn Mass Jan. 27, at 12:30 p.m. at Holy Angels, which worships in the First UCC Sanctuary at 4605 Curry Ford Rd., Orlando.

Cavins is employed as a public school teacher in Seminole County. He is married, has two children, and one grandchild.

Austria's Roman Catholic cardinal : activists are exploiting asylum seekers camped in church

Austria's top Roman Catholic clergyman is accusing political activists of exploiting the plight of asylum-seekers who have occupied a church for over a month to press demands for better treatment.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn says the activists are "seeking a change of the (asylum) system at any price" even if they jeopardize the asylum-seekers' health.

About a dozen young men, mostly from Pakistan, are pressing for better living quarters, temporary work permits and other demands while waiting for a decision on their applications to remain in Austria. 

Their supporters say several of them broke of a weeks-long hunger strike just recently.

Schoenborn's comments were reported Monday by the Kathpress news agency. 

Like the cardinal, some politicians also have accused activists of encouraging a continuation of the protest for their own aims.

Married man ordained a Roman Catholic priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville

John Cornelius has given up sex with his wifeJohn Cornelius did something over the weekend with which people in the area may not be familiar. He joined the Roman Catholic Church as a married priest.

“All the time and many,” Cornelius said last week when asked how often gets questions about how he can be married and become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. Cornelius was ordained Saturday at Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville.

“I’ve had people I’ve worked with and for in the vicariate come up and say ‘What are you going to be?’” Cornelius said. “I say, ‘I’m going to be a Roman Catholic priest.’ They say, ‘How can that be? You’re married.’”

Cornelius said he was being ordained for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. 

The ordinariate is for those groups of Anglicans in the United States who seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Sharyl, who have three daughters, converted to Catholicism two years ago. Cornelius was ordained a transitional deacon Nov. 17 and has been serving as a pastoral associate at SS. Brendan and Jude Parish.

“I try to explain to them there are rites in the Catholic Church in which priests are married,” he said. “Pope Benedict (XVI) has tried to bring people who wanted to come into the Roman Catholic Church in and he wants to allow them to keep some of their patrimony or their ‘church culture.’ In the Roman Catholic Church, there are 33 or 34 of what they call Eastern Rite Roman Catholics. All of the priests in those rites can be married. Really the only one that can’t be married is the Latin Rite, the Roman priests. They have to be celibate. There is a large group of Anglicans and former Anglicans, some from the Episcopal Church, some from the splinter groups, who had requested, a number of times ... to be allowed to come into the Roman Catholic Church, with their patrimony — their music, their spirituality. their liturgy,” he said. “They’ve been working on this for quite a while and I think the Roman church has been working on it for quite awhile.”

Cornelius said Benedict XVI, on Jan. 1, 2012, presented the way Anglicans could enter the Roman Catholic Church and keep their patrimony. Part of that patrimony was married priests.

Cornelius, 64, who grew up in Bolivar, was ordained by Bishop Richard J. Malone. Following his ordination, the Diocese of Buffalo said, he will lead the Fellowship of Saint Alban in Henrietta (Diocese of Rochester), a small community of former Anglicans who have joined the Catholic Church.  

When available, he will also assist with ministry at parishes in Allegany County.

Pope Benedict’s peace gesture nearly RUINED when seagull attacks doves released before adoring crowds

A symbolic gesture of peace by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday nearly went up in a cloud of feathers when a dove the pontiff released was attacked by a seagull. 

The Holy See released two doves from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square after saying a prayer to honor victims of the Holocaust.


A white dove that was freed by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the Angelus prayer is chased by a seagull.

"That was successful," the Pope quipped to two youngsters from a Catholic organization in Rome that joined him for the prayer, as the birds swooped above the thousands gathered in Vatican City.

However, a few moments later, a large seagull attacked one of the doves, pinning the smaller bird against a window pane.


The dove eventually got away.

The dove eventually escaped and flew away.
It was not the first time the Pope's peace offering has gone awry.


Pope Benedict XVI released the doves after a prayer honoring the victims of the Holocaust.

Last year, the two doves he released turned tail and flew back into the Pope's holy digs.

Program helps aspiring African women theologians shed light on struggles, hopes

The two sisters have never met. 

They speak different languages.

Normally, they're separated by differences in culture and lifestyle, not to mention about 1,100 miles and the myriad laws and regulations regarding travel and border crossings.

But from the first look on Zimbabwean Sr. Annah Nyadombo's face, you wouldn't know it. 

She smiles widely the moment she sees Sr. Marie-Rose Ndimbo, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Meeting for the first time in late August, the sisters had traveled to Kenya's capital for a gathering of African theologians focused on ethical issues, convened under the aegis of a global network of scholars called Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church.

It's a group that, thanks to a series of pioneering scholarships, the women are set to join themselves.

In the last few years, the group has secured funding for seven African women to pursue doctorates at African Catholic universities. They've also arranged funding for an eighth, Nyadombo, to pursue a doctorate at Trinity College Dublin.

Describing the scholarship program during the Aug. 21-23 event, Jesuit Fr. James Keenan, chair of the ethics network and theology professor at Boston College, said, "If this program succeeds, we are looking at the future of theological research, scholarship and writing on the continent of Africa."

Standing outside a retreat center and hostel in western Nairobi where conference participants were staying, Nyadombo was bouncing on the balls of her feet as her fellow scholar Ndimbo arrived for the event. With barely a word, the two embraced in a long hug.

Through the help of a translator -- Jesuit Fr. Peter Knox, a South African theologian -- Ndimbo, a French speaker, and Nyadombo, an English speaker, started to compare notes of their lives.

Similarities abound: Both are members of local orders of women religious, both come from poverty-stricken areas and have dedicated themselves to focusing on issues of justice. Both also have clear views about the struggles women face throughout Africa. 

One common theme shared among Nyadombo, Ndimbo and several others in the program: using their status as female moral theologians to address the place of women in African society and church.

Another commonality: deep personal experience of some of the world's most debilitating societal and economic suffering and personal journeys of unexpected hope and triumph.

Across the continent

The women in the theological ethicists' program come from countries across the continent: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the east; Nigeria and Cameroon in the west; Zimbabwe in the south; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa.

Seven of the eight are members of diocesan orders of women religious. Diocesan orders are not international and instead fall under the canonical authority of a particular diocesan bishop, who technically serves as their superior general.

The women's journeys of faith are complex and varied, mired in both personal and societal struggles.

Sr. Veronica Rop, a native Kenyan, is a member of Kenya's Kalenjin tribal community, one of dozens of major tribal communities that make up the country's ethnic background.

A convert to Catholicism, she was the first Christian in her family. The second of her mother's eight children -- her father has had four wives -- Rop grew up without electricity and walked three miles back and forth to school growing up.

Rop is from Eldoret, a fast-growing town in western Kenya, near the Ugandan border. The first person in the family to graduate high school, she soon joined a local community of women religious, called the Assumption Sisters of Eldoret.

Sr. Wilhelmina Uhai, who is from Tanzania, Kenya's southern neighbor, had something of an opposite upbringing. Both her parents are Catholic, and she recalled how they would never let her or her siblings begin to eat without first saying prayers.

"We didn't eat, we didn't sleep, we didn't do anything before prayers," said Uhai, now a member of the Uganda-based Little Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi. "They taught me morals. Otherwise, I would not really feel to love the moral issues and to become a moral theologian, and a theologian in the first place."

With the help of the theological ethicists' group, Rop and Uhai are pursuing doctoral work at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, a pontifical university in southern Nairobi.

Before beginning her own doctoral studies, Rop studied for eight years in the United States, completing bachelor's degrees in theology and special education at Miami's Barry University.

Uhai, who graduated with a master's in moral theology from Nairobi's Catholic University in October before beginning doctoral work there, first completed separate programs in philosophy, pastoral ministry and spiritual direction. 

While such lengthy academic study might separate some from normal life experience, both Uhai and Rop said it's the struggles of everyday Africans, especially women, that inform their work.

After almost a decade abroad, Rop said she eventually decided to come back to Kenya because she wanted to see what new perspective her time away might have given her.

"I felt that the studies I had in the States gave me a platform to speak for women," Rop said during an interview, as she sat back in her chair and adjusted a brown coat she was wearing over her long white habit.

"I feel that women here just do not have a voice," she said. "I thought that I had to come back to use that platform. Especially as a religious woman, my voice may carry a little more weight."

'Why not speak up?'

Several of the women in the theological ethicists' program expressed this responsibility to speak for women across the African continent.

Each mentioned such a feeling of obligation after sharing deeply moving stories of societal and economic strife.

Minutes into their first meeting, Ndimbo and Nyadombo ventured from the traditional icebreakers of a conversation toward their work -- in both cases, focused squarely on helping the neediest.

Nyadombo, who is a member of the Handmaids of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Mutare, Zimbabwe, diocesan religious order with a Carmelite charism, explained that she is working on a research project focused on developing a holistic pastoral approach toward those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS. Nyadombo represents her approach with the acronym AGAPE for Access, Generosity, Action, People/Prayer and Involvement.

"It's the same problem everywhere," said Ndimbo, who before pursuing doctoral studies served as a superior of the Congregation of the Sisters, Daughters of Mary, an order based in the northern Congolese city of Molegbe. There are orphanages throughout the Congo filled with "hundreds upon hundreds" of AIDS/HIV orphans, she said, all needing care. 

Her own congregation has opened up several boarding houses for young mothers who cannot care for their children.

In her interview, Uhai also focused on her experience living face-to-face with poverty and societal strife. But she set her sights too on broader issues of gender inequality.

Following the completion of her initial studies in theology and philosophy, Uhai said, groups of women in her home village asked her to give seminars on how to address some of the most difficult subjects.

Most of the women who approach her are single mothers or refugees, she said, who may live with their children on the street and may have become addicted to drugs.

"They have nobody to help them," Uhai said. "Nobody who will talk to them about how to live."

Their status, she said, is also hindered in some African cultures by views of women in relation to men.

"In some cultures, women are considered servants," she said. "You have no say, you have no rights. You do everything for your husband, but you cannot challenge your husband because you are married. So who are you in the society? You have no voice."

Speaking for and with those women, she said, is fundamental to how she understands her role as a moral theologian.

"God calls us as moral theologians to enter into these situations and to help them come out of it," Uhai said. "Maybe we will not have material things to give them, but maybe through advice, or in talking about the larger problems of our society we can make some difference."

Rop echoes that sentiment, mixing the local and the global.

While her doctoral dissertation at Nairobi's Catholic University focuses on the participation of Kalenjin women in human development efforts in Eldoret, Rop identifies among her role models American women like St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University in New York noted for her work in feminist issues.

Pointing out an African saying that women are the backbone of the family, Rop asked: "If we take that seriously, and women are so important, why not speak up?"

Moving forward in her chair, she said: "We need to talk and speak and talk and speak, until we are heard, until we are given a chance to participate in what is going on."

Back outside the retreat center, where the smiles radiate at the first meeting of sisters in the scholarship program, Ndimbo finds a similar note.

Holding Nyadombo by the elbow, Ndimbo tells her newfound kin she feels empowered by their meeting.

"It's so important that women are now speaking on these issues," she tells Nyadombo. "And it's not just for our generation. There are so many women who will come after us because of these scholarships."

Walking hand-in-hand, the two head inside for more time to connect and share their many similarities -- without the aid of the translator.

"We don't need him," Nyadombo says, laughing. "We'll speak heart to heart."

How Tony Flannery answered the CDF

Response on 13 September 2012 to Document received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

1. Regarding the Church, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he believes that Christ instituted the Church with a permanent hierarchical structure. Specifically, Fr. Flannery should state that he accepts the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, as found in Lumen Gentium n. 9-22, that the bishops are the divinely established successors of the apostles who were appointed by Christ; that, aided by the Holy Spirit, they exercise legitimate power to sanctify, teach and govern the People of God; that they constitute one Episcopal college together with the Roman Pontiff; and that in virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church, which he is always free to exercise.

I acknowledge and accept the teaching of the second Vatican Council. I have studied Lumen Gentium and it is clear from the teaching of the Council that the Lord Jesus set the church on its course by preaching the Good News. The Council also accepts the teachings of the First Vatican Council which declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as he himself had been sent by the Father; and he willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. The Council also teaches that Jesus placed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion. Vatican 2 states that “all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible Magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful.” I submit to this teaching in faith. I further accept the teaching of Vatican 2 that Jesus appointed twelve apostles and that he formed them into a stable group and that he placed Peter over them and that Peter was the chief cornerstone, the leader. I accept and believe that these apostles appointed successors and these successors appointed other successors of whom our present bishops are the apostolic successors. I believe that these bishops, by virtue of their Episcopal consecration, inhabit the office of teaching and of governing in the Church. I also believe that this power to teach and govern can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the Episcopal college. Again, in the context of all that the Council also taught about collegiality,I submit to it in faith. More than all of the above, I believe in Jesus Christ and that He, in His person, in His teaching and in His death and Resurrection from the dead, is the source of salvation for the whole world.

2. Regarding the Eucharist, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he believes that Christ instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper; that in the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained; that the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross; and that only a validly ordained priests can validly celebrate the Eucharist.

I accept that the words of sacred scripture “Do this in Memory of Me” are inspired by the Holy Spirit. My understanding is that scripture scholars tell us that the Gospels began as oral tradition and gradually the stories and teaching of Jesus were put into written form, first in the writings of St. Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, and later in the four Gospel accounts that have come down to us. These writing, which we believe are divinely inspired, tell us that very early, following the ascension of Christ into Heaven, His followers began to gather, to re-tell the stories and celebrate the meal, just as Jesus had done. They did this as He had requested, and so what we now call the Eucharist became a central part of the life of the early community. Gradually they began to realise that when they shared the bread and the cup, Jesus was really present with them. And so I have no difficulty in believing that the origins of the Eucharist are to be found in the Scripture accounts of the Last Supper, and that Jesus is really and truly present when we celebrate the Eucharist.

I believe that priesthood, as we now know it, was not there from the beginning, but developed gradually. The early Christian communities choose one of their group to preside at the celebration, while other members of the community took on other functions. Only gradually did these different functions come together in one person, who began to be termed priest. Since the function of the Jewish priest was to offer sacrifice, the Christian priest also assumed the role of one who offered sacrifice to the Father, on behalf of the people. In saying this I am not suggesting that the development of priesthood in the early Church was not according to the mind of Christ. I accept the teaching of Vatican 2 that the ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; that the ministerial priest acts in the person of Christ when he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people.

3. Regarding his statement concerning the priesthood, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he accepts that the Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and that the apostles did the same when they choose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry; and that the Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself, and for this reason the ordination of women is not possible.

I have always been impressed by the significant presence of women in the life of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels. And the writing of St. Paul and the Acts of the Apostles suggest that they were also significant in the early Church.

I am also conscious of the work of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1976. Having studied the question, the commission voted unanimously that the New Testament does not settle in a clear way and, once and for all, the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate. Secondly, the possibility that the scripture gave sufficient indications to exclude the ordination of women was defeated by a majority of seven votes. And finally the proposition that the Church hierarchy could admit women to ordination without going against Christ’s original intentions was approved by the same majority.

My years of pastoral ministry have informed me that many women find the current Church teaching on this matter very difficult. Lumen Gentium 12 states that “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the bishops down to the last of the lay faithful’ they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals” There are clear indications from research, and also from my many years of pastoral experience, that a great many of the faithful have not ‘received’ this teaching. Putting that together with the findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, I am left with serious questions about the teaching on the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. I also have questions as to whether sufficient level of discernment was undertaken prior to the decree that the topic of the admission of women to ministerial priesthood should not be discussed by faithful members of the Catholic Church. 

I have given this serious consideration and I find it difficult to dismiss the strong possibility that the Holy Spirit may have been speaking through the aforementioned Pontifical commission, and may be currently speaking through the voice of the faithful. So I am left with serious and difficult questions.

In this context, I point to the Declaration on Religious Liberty issued by Vatican II. This document states that human persons are bound to adhere to the truth, once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with truth. I am aware that the thrust of the Declaration on Religious Liberty focuses on the religious freedom that must be accorded to the human person by the civil authorities. 

However, I believe when the Church declares “in religious matters, every form of coercion by men should be excluded” I think that this teaching should also guide the governance of the church in dealing with its own members.

4. Furthermore, Fr. Flannery should state that he accepts the whole teaching of the Church, also in regard to moral issues.

This part of the request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seems to particularly focus on Church teaching on moral issues.

As with my response to the last question, it is also clear to me that some matters of Church teaching on sexual issues are not ‘received’ by the majority of faithful Catholics. Again this is shown by the results of research in various parts of the world, and also clearly in my years of pastoral experience. So I am left with the same serious and difficult question. Is it possible that in this area also the Spirit is speaking to us through the voice of the committed believers?

I have worked for almost forty years as a Redemptorist Priest, trying to follow the instruction of our founder, St. Alphonsus, that I should have particular care for the most abandoned, for those on the margins of society or Church, and for those who feel lost and alone. In this context I have experienced difficulty also with the way in which Church moral teaching has been presented and imposed on people. 

I have always been very conscious of the warning of Jesus that we should not be like the Pharisees, placing impossible burdens on peoples’ shoulders, and not lifting a finger to help them. There have been time when teachings were imposed without the necessary degree of understanding and compassion. 

Of course we must strive for the ideal, as laid out in the Gospels, but, like Jesus, we must be compassionate, accepting and forgiving of the weakness and failure of humanity, including ourselves.

Finally, may I say this about the dispute that exists between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and myself:

I hope that I am a committed member of the Catholic Church and of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. 

I have spent my priestly life preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the best of my ability. 

I believe that my life as a priest and religious has been a great privilege, one of which I am not worthy. 

I love the Catholic Church. Its spirituality has nourished me through my life. I don’t want to belong to any other church. I ask to be allowed to practice my priesthood. 

I see how His Holiness, Pope Benedict has been able to reach out to the followers of Bishop Lefebvre and such reconciliation bears witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I ask that this inclusiveness also include me. In humility and charity, I point out that I have not made any public comments that have not been made by Moral Theologians and Scripture Scholars who are teaching in institutions that have the approval of the teaching Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church. I cannot do otherwise than follow my conscience.

This is where I stand. 

This is my statement.

Fr. Tony Flannery C.Ss.R.