Friday, June 21, 2024

Sinn Féin ex-politician called traditional Catholics ‘fascists’ online

Sinn Féin’s Sarah Holland, a political activist tweeted twice in June using the word ‘fascist’ in relation to Christians. 

On June 6 the ex- politician posted a picture of candles on social media, saying that it was to “let the christo-fascists know that candles have been lit in Medjugorje for all those candidates who *don’t* hate refugees, since Jesus was one.”

A few days later, on June 10, she reposted a NewstalkFM video depicting the Irish Independent political correspondent Gabija Gataveckaitė saying that Mary Lou McDonald’s leadership of Sinn Féin “hasn’t had one successful election”.

Reposting the video Ms Holland said: “Trad-cath fascists rubbing their paws together with glee at the thought of Sinn Féin ousting our first female leader. Not going to happen boys, cry harder.”

When a follower asked “what is a tradcath,” she replied “Traditional Catholic – they are religious extremists of the type who oppose rights for lgbtq, oppose womens rights etc. Here in Ireland, they have campaigned against marriage equality, divorce, availability of contraception, abortion rights, education reform etc.”

On June 10, Ms Holland posted author Umberto Eco’s list of ‘14 tenets of fascism,’ with number one being ‘the cult of tradition’. She said: “See all these ballbags who are anti-womens rights, extreme trad-catholics and rosary murmerers outside abortion clinics? That’s them.”

A spokesperson for the Iona Institute said: “Sweeping, extreme generalisations about Catholics are just as unacceptable as sweeping, extreme generalisations about any other religion.

“Associating saying the rosary outside facilities which carry out abortions with fascism is plainly ridiculous. The fact that she has received no real backlash about these tweets simply proves that you can say pretty much what you like about Catholics in this country, and get away with it.”

Canterbury Cathedral Offers Same-sex Blessings

As the Church of England’s bishops continue to discuss free-standing services for blessing same-sex couples, Canterbury Cathedral has joined the parishes that offer same-sex blessings as part of their regular worship.

The Very Rev. Dr. David Monteith, dean of the cathedral, told the BBC in December that the cathedral would decide early this year whether to offer services that draw from Prayers of Love and Faith.

“When we had our celebration, we couldn’t come in to church and have prayers and that was a great sadness to us,” Monteith said then about his partnership with David Hamilton. “So I am pleased now personally that that will now be available to other people.”

The dean and the cathedral’s governing chapel approved these blessings unanimously, a cathedral announcement said. The statement added that cathedral staff consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin of Dover, “who have no direct role in the governance of the Cathedral.”

The rites are available to same-sex and heterosexual couples in civil partnerships or civil marriages, or persons in a sealed covenanted friendship. (Ros Clarke of Church Society offers this discussion of covenanted friendship).

“These prayers will be offered within regular services of public worship for same-sex couples who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God, and who are part of the Cathedral community,” the Canterbury statement said. “Those eligible to ask for these prayers include our regular congregations, those living in Cathedral properties adjacent to the Cathedral, and those with a strong pastoral connection to the Cathedral community from amongst our staff, clergy, and volunteers.”

The statement added: “It is not currently possible to hold stand-alone services of blessing, same-sex weddings, or civil partnerships.”

On a page dedicated to “Prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples,” the Church of England takes the guidance further: “It is not legally possible for Church of England clergy to carry out same-sex marriages.”

The Church of England can change that legal possibility, but Archbishop Justin Welby has repeatedly stressed that the church has not changed its doctrine of marriage by offering blessings to same-sex couples. The bishops have discussed allowing same-sex marriage for clergy, Church Times has reported.

The Church of England encourages couples who seek a blessing to use its “A Church Near You” search engine. Search results are quirky: a search for London churches that offer Prayers of Love and Faith yielded three parishes, while the same search for Birmingham yielded 18 parishes.

After meeting with Pope Francis, Canada’s Justin Trudeau reiterates call for return of Indigenous artefacts from Vatican Museums

Canada Flag Waving Stock Video Footage ...

A message posted on social media by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau urging Pope Francis to follow through on promises to return cultural objects from First Nations communities in Canada has reignited debate on repatriation issues.

After Trudeau had an audience with the Pope during the G7 meeting in Italy on 14 June, he postedon Instagram, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), writing: “I thanked His Holiness for taking up the work of Reconciliation, and I advocated for the next step—returning cultural artefacts from the Vatican to Indigenous Peoples in Canada.”

According to the Globe and Mail, the prime minister’s posts echoed the findings of an investigationpublished by the newspaper in March that found that, despite previous public commitments made by the Catholic Churchregarding the return of cultural artefacts, minimal progress has occurred.

The extent of the Vatican’s collection of Indigenous items remains shrouded in mystery. During a brief exhibition for visiting Indigenous leaders in 2022 in the Vatican’s ethnological museum, items on display included a rare, century-old Inuvialuit kayak from the Western Arctic, embroidered Cree leather gloves and West Coast Salish carved face masks. During a press conference in the spring of 2023, the Pope said: “The restitution of Indigenous things: this is going on, with Canada, at least we were in agreement to do so.”

The Catholic Church ran most of the residential schools in Canada—part of what many activists have termed a “cultural genocide”—and the display prompted calls for repatriation by many Indigenous representatives as part of the larger reconciliation process.

“We don’t know if the Vatican has Haida objects because they never answered our queries,” says Jisgang Nika Collison, executive director and curator of the Haida Gwaii Museum(on Haida territory in Northern British Columbia) that has been seeking repatriation of cultural objects nationally and internationally. Collison adds that letters were written to the Vatican beginning in the 1990s and as recently as last year, with no response.

But the Vatican, she says, is only “one of 400 colonial institutions that may have acquired cultural objects under duress or through theft. Most acquisition of historical ancestral pieces in various Indigenous lands was during the height of genocide.”

Collison speculates that some of the objects may have been loaned or gifted to the Vatican by other museums. “Most colonial nation state museums, if they have an historic Indigenous collection, then the likelihood of those being removed under duress is more likely than not. We are very supportive of all colonial institutions stepping up and doing the right thing.”

But regardless of whether the Vatican returns items from its collection, Collison says the repatriation process within Canada is hampered by a lack of government funding.

“Unlike in the US, we don’t have a federal repatriation act, a plan or designated funding to support repatriation,” she says. “We need money to engage the community, to get direction from the community, to locate where belongings and ancestors are.” Research on provenance, she adds, is “immense and complicated and often related to poor record keeping at the time of collection or acquisition by a museum. Many objects are misattributed or mislabelled.”

While she supports Trudeau’s message to the Pope, she cautions that “museums in Canada hold physical evidence of genocide of people” and must also be held accountable.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, a Cowichan/Syilx First Nations contemporary artist based in Vancouver is a survivor of the infamous Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, which was opened in 1890 by the Catholic church, taken over by the federal government in 1969 and closed in 1978. Mass graves were discovered there in 2021, via ground-penetrating radar. The artist, whose work has depicted abuse of native children by priests, says repatriation of objects is not the most crucial issue facing First Nations in Canada.

“I would rather be emancipated from the Indian Act,” he says. Yuxweluptun, who has a piece from his 1997 work An Indian Act Shooting the Indian Acton display at the newly re-opened Museum of Anthropologyin Vancouver, adds: “Getting rid of the Indian Act”—which made residential school mandatory in Canada and, critics say, perpetuates the idea of Indigenous individuals as wards of the state—“is more important than giving objects back.”

Repatriation of objects, he says, is “just colonial lip service”, an art world version of the “performative” land acknowledgements that have become de rigueur at most public gatherings in Canada.

“Trudeau’s father was in power when the Indian Act and residential schools were being reinforced. Nothing has changed since he’s come into power,” Yuxweluptun says. Returning cultural objects, “won’t make any difference in the lives of First Nations peoples”.

Representatives from the Holy See and Trudeau’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A matter of words (Opinion)

This Pride Month, Catholic Church shows ...

I have felt for a long time that the Church needs to get its act together on same-sex attraction. 

There have been too many own goals, too many myths, too many misunderstandings. 

I’d suggest what is needed is clear, orthodox and challenging teaching expressed and effected in the most modern, empathic, compassionate and pastoral way consistent with that teaching.

On Oliver Callan (RTÉ Radio 1, Wednesday) the host indulged in another cheap swipe at the Catholic Church – in my opinion abusing his privileged position in publicly funded media. He declared (‘without evidence’ of course) that the Catholic Church is “the largest homophobic organisation in the world’, and that the Pope lives in “an enclave of total corruption” . 

I found his tone demeaning towards Pope Francis personally, speaking of his ill health and him being ‘propped up’ to receive a gathering of comedians at the Vatican last Friday. Mr Callan was not among the guests. He’s really something of a loose cannon, or loose Callan. 

I’m all for engaging with the culture and judging by the coverage I saw from RTÉ News and Colm Flynn’s reports for EWTN, it went well – striking to see Ardal O’Hanlon (of Father Ted fame) getting Pope Francis to bless rosary beads!

On Today with Claire (RTÉ Radio 1, Thursday) we learned of another own goal on the Church’s part (covered in last week’s The Irish Catholic issue) – the Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus being refused permission to have their annual concert in St Andrew’s Church in Westland Row after initially being able to book the venue. 

Patrick McNamara from that choir was ‘massively disappointed’, but we got only one side of the story apart from the official statement from the church in question. This said the true nature of the event was not made clear to the church, Mr McNamara claims otherwise. It was a phone booking, which I thought was unusual, so it’s hard to know what exactly went on. 

Even when there’s good will on both sides there can be different versions of events in people’s heads. I thought Claire Byrne was sympathetic to the choir and not challenging enough, but she did put it to him that ‘there might be people’ thinking the booking was made to provoke a response from the church. It would have been better if she had asked that question more directly. 

There was confusion over the nature and purpose of the event. 

The church felt that being in June and being called ‘Pride in the Name of Love’ it was linked to the Pride Festival, and given Church teaching they couldn’t support that. 

Mr McNamara said it wasn’t linked, which I thought was disingenuous, as did a texter to the show. It felt like another ‘gay cake’ controversy to me.

The controversy shows how delicate it is for churches to host concerts – those in charge of booking would need to thoroughly examine any proposed event, but this works best if the promoter is upfront about all aspects – not saying they weren’t in this case. 

I was reminded of the case last year at the Edinburgh Festival when a gay-friendly venue cancelled a show that they felt wouldn’t align with their values.

Away from such controversies we learned of the courage of Church people in Heart and Soul (BBC World Service, Thursday). This episode told the moving story of Christians currently suffering in Gaza. George Antone, sheltering in the compound of Holy Family Church, the only Catholic church in Gaza, has been staying in touch with BBC reporter Catherine Murray and indeed Pope Francis keeps in touch with them daily. They are an understandably dwindling community, and it was good to see their plight getting some coverage. They were determined to stay on as they feared if they left there would be nothing left of that Christian community in Gaza.

Mr Antone spoke of the terror of the nights when the area was bombarded by the Israeli Defence Forces. We learned of the two women, a mother and daughter, that had been shot by snipers as they crossed the compound, and of Fr Gabriel Romanelli, an Argentinian priest attached to the church who was away when the war started and was unable to return for months.

It was clear that the Eucharist was of huge importance to these beleaguered Catholics – they devised a way of making their own Communion hosts when the regular supply ran out. Inspiring!

Pope highlights ‘signs of hope’ in encounter with Lutherans

Pope Francis with the delegation from the Lutheran World Federation

Pope Francis welcomed a delegation of leaders from the Lutheran World Federation to the Vatican on Thursday, describing their visit as “an important gesture of ecumenical fraternity.”

Recalling an earlier meeting with Lutherans, in 2021, Pope Francis highlighted the upcoming anniversary of the First Council of Nicea as “an ecumenical event.” 

The Nicene Creed “is an ecumenical bond that has its centre in Christ”, the Pope said, quoting the Common Word issued by LWF General Secretary, Reverend Doctor Anne Burghardt (who was present at Thursday’s encounter) and Cardinal Kurt Koch from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity during the Federation’s recent General Assembly in Krakow.

“In this context,” he said, “you rightly recalled a beautiful sign of hope, which has a special place in the history of reconciliation between Catholics and Lutherans.”

Jesus, the ‘heart’ of ecumenism

Pope Francis then turned to the earlier Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed 25 years ago, in which Catholics and Lutherans agreed on the common goal of “confessing Christ in all things.”

“Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism,” the Pope said. “He is divine mercy incarnate, and our ecumenical mission is to bear witness to this.”

That Declaration is “another sign of hope in our history of reconciliation,” he said, as he invited Catholics and Lutherans to celebrate the anniversary of its signing “as a celebration of hope.”

A dialogue of truth and charity

Then, noting “our common spiritual origin” in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” Pope Francis called on Lutherans and Catholics to “confidently continue as pilgrims of hope” in the ongoing dialogue “of truth and charity.”

Concluding his remarks, the Holy Father recalled a story about Orthodox Bishop John Zizioulas, who would say, jokingly, that the union of Christians would be achieved only on the day of Judgment at the end of time.

“But in the meantime,” Pope Francis said still quoting the late Bishop, “we have to walk together: journeying together, praying together, and performing works of charity together.”

India's Eastern Church settles dispute, awaits Vatican nod

A liturgy dispute that pushed India’s eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church to the verge of a split has been settled following concessions from both parties, said a bishop who attended the synod meeting that achieved the breakthrough.

“Subject to the Vatican’s approval, the dispute is settled. The breakthrough came after both sides agreed to accommodate each other. The official announcement will be made in a day or two,” said a bishop who attended the July 19  Synod of Bishops.

The five-decade-long dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church, based in southern Indian Kerala state, intensified three years ago after most priests and Catholics in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese refused to accept the rubrics of a mass approved by the synod.

“The priests in Ernakulam-Angamaly are now allowed to continue with their traditional Mass. However, they will also have to celebrate one Synod-approved uniform mode of Mass on all Sundays in their parishes,” said the prelate, who did not want to be named. 

“Those who go against this instruction will be disciplined as per the canon law,” told UCA News on June 20.

The dispute was about the rubrics of the Mass. The synod required celebrants to face the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. The archdiocesan priests and laity refused and wanted to continue their Mass, in which the celebrant faced people throughout the Mass.

“We are relieved as our Church is united now,” the prelate said, adding: “Unity of the Church cannot be compromised with a dispute over a rubric or body language of the priest during the Mass.”

A leader of the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT), a body of priests, religious and laity in the archdiocese, also confirmed that the bishops have agreed to allow them to continue their Mass based on conditions.

“Our demand is accepted. We are happy,” said the leader, who did not want to be named because an official announcement of the pact has not yet been made.

The bishop said the synod tried to reach a consensus and simultaneously did backdoor discussions with the archdiocesan priests and lay leaders to find an amicable solution.

The lay leader said they suggested to the bishops that the archdiocesan priests celebrate "one Synod-approved Mass on Sundays in every parish, where at least 25 percent of the parishioners want it.”

“But the bishops wanted to have one Synod Mass in every parish on all Sundays as it was difficult to assess the percentage. We agreed to it, and finally, the settlement was reached,” he told UCA News on June 19.

From the verge of schism 

The Church faced the threat of schism after a circular, jointly issued early this month by its head, Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, and Archdiocesan Apostolic Administrator Bosco Puthur, threatened to excommunicate priests who refused to accept the synod-approved Mass.

The June 9 circular ordered priests to follow synod-approved Mass from July 3 and read out the circular in their parish churches on June 16. It was issued before a June 14 Synod, which was convened to discuss a way out of the dispute.

The priests ignored the circular and stiffened their stance, questioning how such a decision bypassed the synod. Their representatives told the media they would have no relation with the bishops and synod if bishops refused to listen to the priests and continued repressive methods.

They also told the media they wanted to become an independent Metropolitan Church within the Catholic fold.

“The circular also came under criticism from a section of the bishops as it made a mockery of them and also of the Synod,” sources said.

Five prelates from the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese also wrote a dissent note to the Major Archbishop, questioning the legality of the threat of automatic excommunication of priests for refusing to accept a rubric. 

As this issue about the circular dominated the June 14 Synod, the bishops decided to have another Synod meet on June 19.

The agreements reached at the synod were shared with the Vatican, including Archbishop Cyril Vasil, the Pontifical delegate of the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese, with more than half a million Catholics, is the seat of power of the Church head. The Syro-Malabar Church has five million Catholics worldwide.

Disagreements emerged in the 1980s when the Church began reviving its liturgy. Some groups wanted to revive its ancient liturgy, while others tried to revise it according to modern standards.

The Synod of Bishops in 1999 approved a uniform mode of Mass as a settlement formula, asking the priests to face the altar during the Eucharistic prayer and the congregation for the rest of the time.

Priests and laity in some of its 35 dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, opposed the decision and wanted to continue with their Mass, which they celebrate facing the people throughout.

The Synod ordered its implementation in all dioceses in August 2021. Except for the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, all followed the Synod order.

In the past three years, they toughened their stand as the hierarchy used threats of punishment to force them to follow the synod-approved Masses, pushing the Church to the verge of a schism.

New Investigation Reveals Anti-LGBTQ+ Groups Influence on Diocesan Gender Policies

Collage of sections of text from websites

An extensive report by the National Catholic Reporter details how two anti-transgender groups have been building influence and shaping diocesan policies for several years, especially those written for Catholic schools. 

NCR’s Katie Collins Scott focused her investigation on the efforts of the Person and Identity Project, a part of the larger anti-LGBTQ+ Ethics and Public Policy Center, as well as the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative group largely known for its attempts to police Catholic colleges and universities.

According to NCR’s investigation, the groups began influencing Catholic policy around 2016 when then-president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center Ed Whelan spoke out in support of a North Carolina law preventing transgender individuals from using restrooms aligned with their gender. To counter trans acceptance, Whelan and the Center created the Catholic Women’s Forum Gender Project, a precursor to the Person and Identity Project, to “respond to the challenges of gender ideology.”

Similarly, the Newman Society provided Catholic schools with suggested policies for Catholic schools that are so extreme they recommend expelling transgender students. Since those policies were issued, at least 15 U.S. dioceses have used language from the guidelines, some only adopting a few phrases, and a few replicating large sections of the text. Importantly, the Newman Society permits usage of the work without the need to footnote or cite the authors, so only two of the dioceses using the language note the organization at all.

In total, 58 dioceses in the U.S. have LGBTQ-related policies, almost all of which are negative. Most of these policies focus on trans people, banning chosen pronouns, clothing, and names. David Palmieri, a Catholic educator and founder of Without Exception, an LGBTQ-positive group for Catholic educators, tracks these types of anti-trans policies in a public archive online.

Both the Person and Identity Project and the Newman Society attack what they call “gender ideology,” which the Person and Identity Project defines as “a false system of beliefs that permit a person to self-determine their gender identity based on feelings or “sense of self” and “asserts an individual’s ‘right’ to ‘transition.’”

Such a definition is rarely helpful, according to Steve Millies, professor of public theology and director of the Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union. “They are all things the church objects to, and because they concern gender and sexuality, we’ve tossed them together,” he explained.

Elizabeth Sweeny Block, an ethicist at Saint Louis University, agreed. She noted that the term “gender ideology” is largely used to “condemn trans individuals, to deny their rights and to accuse those who support them of ‘indoctrinating’ youth.”

LGBTQ+ advocates and Catholics, including some conservatives, have raised concerns about both groups, criticizing both their approach and the substance of their attacks. Dawn Eden Goldstein, a conservative theologian and canon lawyer previously employed by the Newman Society, stated, “I see in Cardinal Newman the culture war spirit of arming against an alien secular invasion.” She thinks the society “is not finding ways to teach students how to show appropriate Christian love while continuing to promote church teaching.”

Goldstein is not the only voice critical of the group’s tactics. Tim Uhl, a former consultant to the U.S. bishops’ education committee and veteran Catholic school administrator, supports the notion of promoting Catholic identity in schools, but also disagrees with the Newman Society’s approach. Their work is often done “in such a way as to stir up anger,” he noted. “And that’s not the same as a group writing fair policies to serve all Catholic children.”

The Newman Society’s inflammatory style isn’t the only problem. NCR asked Catholic psychologist Julia Sadusky for her take on the organization’s guidelines. Her critique centered around the origin of the document and expertise behind them: “It would be important for me if I’m an educator implementing a policy to know that it was created through a multidisciplinary process, that the authors of that document represent philosophy, theology, psychology, endocrinology–all of the realms that impact the gender conversation in particular.” In particular, she questions the “level of psychological education and expertise” behind any organization attempting to address mental health.

Christine Zuba, a transgender woman who has attended talks by the Person and Identity Project, describes the “scare tactics and exaggerations” utilized by Mary Rice Hasson, a lawyer and co-founder of the initiative. “Hasson paints a picture of the lives of trans and nonbinary people that doesn’t really exist,” Zuba explained. “It is a negative picture, an unhappy picture. It’s a world that she’s trying to convince people we live in.”

Like the Newman Society, the Person and Identity Project has also shaped diocesan LGBTQ+ policies, but will not share numbers publicly. NCR was able to confirm that in fact more than 20% of U.S. dioceses list the project on their website as a source to learn more about gender issues. Furthermore, Hasson currently serves on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, led by Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron. The committee’s new website links clearly to the Person and Identity Project on issues of “gender discordance” and includes resources for dioceses, Catholic educators, and parents, including what is termed “medical resources.”

Even as dioceses adopt anti-LGBTQ+ policies influenced by these groups, they are often issuing guidelines directly in conflict with the Vatican. For example, a 2023 document by Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City “denies enrollment to students who identify as transgender and prohibits trans people from receiving the sacraments.” Yet, a statement from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Pope Francis around the same time permits both baptism and godparent status for trans individuals. Even the more recent Dignitas Infinita does not declare that being transgender is “immoral,” while the guidelines from the Diocese of Green Bay, quoting the Newman Society, states as if it is established doctrine.

Despite the deep influence these groups have wielded on diocesan anti-LGBTQ+ policies, many Catholics and LGBTQ+ advocates continue to speak out against discrimination and exclusion. Palmieri acknowledges the desire to “be protective of our Catholic values and beliefs.” “But,” he contends, “there’s a narrow way to do that, which excludes anybody that would disagree, and then there’s a more open way–a more Jesus-centered and I think a more Catholic way.”

That universal and inclusive approach more closely follows both the example of Pope Francis and of Jesus’ own ministry to those on the margins.

Renowned fashion designer creates liturgical vestments for Notre-Dame

170 bishops, 700 priests and 700 deacons: a well-known fashion designer has presented his designs for the liturgical vestments for the reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

The archdiocese had commissioned the set of vestments totalling 2,000 pieces from stylist Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, as reported by the newspaper "La Croix" (online Wednesday evening).

The vestments will then be used for large celebrations where all the clergy of the Archdiocese of Paris come together. 

Each parish is to receive a set as a gift. 

The large order will be financed in the form of sponsorship, it was said. 

Negotiations are currently underway with several French workshops for the production. 

De Castelbajac (74) had already designed the liturgical ornaments for the 1997 World Youth Day (WYD) in Paris.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is a landmark of Paris. 

Following a major fire in April 2019, it is now to be reopened on 7/8 December with grand ceremonies.

More new priests for France – an interim high

The Catholic Church in France has recorded an interim high in the number of ordinations: 105 new priests this year is a significant increase compared to 88 last year, but less than the 122 of 2022, as reported by the newspaper "La Croix" (online Wednesday evening), citing the French Bishops' Conference. 

Overall, the number of candidates for the priesthood (seminarians) is declining.

According to the report, around two thirds are secular priests for the dioceses, while the remainder are members of religious orders and spiritual communities. 

Most of the new priests, namely nine, once again come from the Saint Martin community. The archdiocese of Paris and the diocese of Frejus-Toulon ordained the most secular priests. 

There are six new Jesuit priests among the religious orders this year, and only one among the Dominicans.

The Church in France is one of the most traditional and historically important in Europe. France's cultural heritage includes countless world-class monasteries and cathedrals. 

Today, one in two of France's 67 million inhabitants still describe themselves as Catholic. 

However, the number of practising Catholics, priests and religious has been in sharp decline for decades. 

Even the Catholic media recently put the number of "practising Catholics" at just two per cent of the population, with regional variations. 

On the other hand, right-wing Catholic, traditionalist movements are comparatively strongly represented in France.

Trouble over increase in Mass stipends – bishops accused of greed

In Croatia, there is a public debate about Mass stipends to finance the church

Because inflation is also affecting the Catholic Church, the Croatian bishops increased the recommended donation for a Mass celebrated for a special intention of the faithful from seven to ten euros at their most recent plenary meeting. 

The decision, which comes into effect on 1 July, has polarised citizens, as reported by local media (Wednesday).

"If Jesus had not been resurrected, he would be turning in his grave," commented an angry reader of the newspaper "Vecernji list". 

Another accused the Bishops' Conference of greed, while another suggested the introduction of a church tax modelled on the German system

Those in favour of the proposal, on the other hand, argue that the church's charitable work is where the state fails. No one would be denied attendance at a church service due to a lack of money.

How the church finances itself

There is no church contribution system in the church in Croatia as there is in German-speaking countries. 

The church is financed by donations, collections and mass stipends as well as state contributions. 

 Around 86 per cent of the 4.2 million Croatians are Catholics. The church is widely held in high esteem in society.

According to Catholic doctrine, a priest can celebrate mass for a specific intention of the faithful, for example in memory of a deceased person. 

The Code of Canon Law authorises the acceptance of a Mass stipend for this purpose. 

At the same time, it is strongly recommended that Masses without such a stipend should also be celebrated according to the intentions of the faithful, "especially the needy".

Archbishop wants to allow Traditional Latin Mass in cathedral – Vatican says no

The Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship has rejected the request of Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli to authorise the Traditional Latin Mass in his cathedral in Melbourne. 

The liturgy celebrated in an episcopal church must be considered a model for the entire diocese, which is why it is not appropriate to celebrate Holy Mass there according to the 1962 Missal, according to the response from the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which was published on the news portal "Zenit" on Monday. 

"The cathedral is the most privileged place where the current liturgical books must be used for the celebration of the liturgy," says the letter signed by the Secretary of the Dicastery, Bishop Vittorio Francesco Viola. In this way, the theological principle of the "lex orandi" of the Roman Rite is expressed.

At the same time, the dicastery authorised the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in the two parish churches of Saint Michael and Saint Philip in Melbourne for a period of two years, which the archbishop had also requested. 

If Comensoli then wanted a dispensation to continue celebrating Mass according to the 1962 missal in the two churches, he would have to make a new request to the Vatican. 

In addition, the dicastery made it a condition that the archbishop submit a report stating the number of faithful attending. 

He must also describe "what steps have been taken to introduce the faithful who adhere to the traditional liturgy to the celebration of the liturgy according to the liturgical books reformed in accordance with the decree of the Second Vatican Council".

With regard to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in the cathedral, the dicastery suggested celebrating the Holy Mass in its current form in Latin for the relevant group of believers. 

This could also take place at the same altar that is also intended for the celebration of Mass in the pre-conciliar form. Viola thanked Comensoli for his request for a dispensation to the dicastery, as in this way the motu proprio "Traditionis custodes" would be correctly applied. The archbishop's request dates back to June last year.

In 2021, Pope Francis restricted the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass with his motu proprio "Traditionis custodes" ("Guardians of Tradition"), which Benedict XVI had re-authorised within certain limits as an "extraordinary form of the celebration of the Mass" in 2007.  

In February 2023, Francis tightened the rules once again. 

In particular, it was stipulated that bishops may not themselves dispense from the ban on the celebration of the pre-conciliar liturgy in parish churches, but that authorisation from the Holy See is required.

Media: UN human rights complaint against Vatican judiciary

Inside the Vatican scandal over a ...

The investment manager Raffaele Mincione, who is at the centre of the London property scandal and the trial against him at the Vatican, has formally lodged a complaint with the United Nations. 

According to media reports, Mincione claims that he has been denied his rights in the ongoing trial against the Vatican. 

Mincione also criticises alleged procedural violations during the more than three-year investigation. 

The Italian worked as an investment manager for the Vatican Secretariat of State from 2014 to 2018. 

According to the internet portal "The Pillar", the complaint to the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers also contains a repetition of earlier legal criticism of the search warrants authorised by Pope Francis in 2019, with which the investigations were conducted. 

These included four executive acts, known as rescripts, which authorised the electronic surveillance of certain suspects by the gendarmerie corps for a limited but renewable period. 

This was intended to ensure the protection of the results of the investigation.

Mincione was one of ten defendants on trial for financial offences, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former close advisor to Pope Francis. The Vatican had accused Mincione of inflating the price of a £124 million investment in a former warehouse in Chelsea through a fund he managed. Nine of the defendants were convicted. 

Although Mincione had been charged by Vatican prosecutors with a range of financial offences, including embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office and money laundering, he was acquitted on almost all charges. 

However, he was found guilty of having "unlawfully used" 200 million US dollars from the Vatican Secretariat of State, according to media reports. 

According to Vatican law, the money was not available for investment, which is why the court ruled that it was embezzlement and money laundering. Mincione is said to have made a profit as an asset manager.

Criticism of the Vatican justice system

As the portal "The Pillar" reports, Mincione maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and said in an interview with the portal that he was being made the scapegoat for an internal Vatican corruption scandal. 

The property had been valued by independent experts. He also criticised the Vatican for not providing evidence of its misconduct - a point echoed by British lawyer Rodney Dixon, who submitted the complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on Mincione's behalf. 

Dixon, a leading human rights lawyer, criticised the Vatican City's judicial system for its lack of independence and the inability of the defence to gain access to all possible exculpatory evidence. Among other things, Dixon described the Pope as a "perpetrator" of human rights violations, as he had personally "authorised the illegal tapping of Mincione's phone". 

The Vatican emphasised to the British newspaper "Telegraph" that it had acted appropriately and in accordance with the law. 

The Vatican spokesman said that the legality of the investigation and the compliance of the Vatican justice system with the principles of a fair trial "have been recognised by various foreign courts".

One of the defendants, Cardinal Angelo Becciu (75), was sentenced to five and a half years in prison by a Vatican criminal court on 16 December 2023 for several serious financial crimes against the Vatican

At the time, the sum of 200,000 million US dollars represented around a third of the total assets of the Vatican Secretariat of State. Nevertheless, Becciu had not checked whether the conditions for such an investment were even met. 

Becciu was not guilty of the other fraudulent activities in connection with this investment. 

Those involved were sentenced to several years in prison.

Vatican doubles down on courtship of China

This week the Vatican appears to be re-upping its efforts to secure further goodwill with Chinese authorities, as two top officials are poised to speak at a presentation on a key figure in the development of the Church in China.

On Thursday, June 20, Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin will present the book, “Cardinal Celso Costantini and China – A Builder of a Bridge between East and West,” by Monsignor Bruno Fabio Pighin, a historian in the postulation of Costantini’s cause of beatification and canonization.

Also slated to speak at the event are Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary for the Dicastery for Legislative Texts, and Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, secretary of the section for First Evangelization and New Particular Churches of the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone, Costantini’s native diocese, and Professor Vincenzo Buonomo, rector of the Pontifical Urban University, will give personal greetings at the event.

The presentation comes a month after high-profile conference in Rome organized by the Pontifical Urban University for the centenary of the Council of Shanghai, which was attended by several members of the state-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

During that conference, titled, “100 years since the Concilium Sinense: Between history and present,” a video message from Pope Francis was shown, while top Vatican officials such as Parolin and Filippino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, pro-prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization, said the Church does not pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and acknowledged that foreign missionaries made past “errors” in evangelization, while also stressing the importance of unity with Rome.

Members of the CPCA, including its secretary general Tao Lizhu, and its president, Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Shanghai, lamented what they said was a “colonialist” mentality among western foreign missionaries in the past who, they said, had a sense of “superiority” and attempted to erase Chinese culture, refusing to involve local clergy in leadership.

Shen Bin was appointed without the pope’s authorization last spring, contrary to the terms of a controversial Vatican-China 2018 agreement on episcopal appointments. Francis in July 2023 accepted the appointment, with Parolin publishing an interview at the same time suggesting a permanent Holy See representative be appointed to Beijing.

Costantini, who Parolin spoke about at length in his speech for the May event and who is the protagonist of the book being presented at the Pontifical Urban University this week, served as the pope’s apostolic delegate to China from 1922 until his departure in 1933.

He had a key role in convoking the 1924 Council of Shanghai, which marked an unprecedented coming together of top officials from the Vatican and mainland China.

Among other things, the Council stressed the need for the Church in China to distance itself from foreign powers and for the faith to be authentically enculturated into Chinese culture and tradition. As a result of the Council’s insistence on the need to facilitate an indigenous clergy and episcopate, the first six native Chinese bishops were ordained in Rome in 1926.

The book being presented Thursday, published by Marcianum Press, will apparently illustrate how Costantini in his promotion of the Council of Shanghai followed in the footsteps of Franciscan missionary Odorico da Pordenone, who served in Asia, among the Mongols and in China and India, in the late 1200s.

Among other things, Costantini is credited with facilitating a direct dialogue between the Holy See and Chinese officials that led to the establishment of full diplomatic relations, the restoration of which is something many observers believe is a key priority of this papacy.

Costantini is also lauded for having founded the first Chinese religious institute, the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord, which is still present in various parts of Asia, and for collaborating in the establishment of Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City, in Taiwan.

He is seen as having been ardent in his implementation of Pope Benedict XV’s 1919 Maximum Illud on Catholic missions, which represented a significant break with colonialist and Eurocentric thought.

After returning to Rome, Costantini was named secretary of the Vatican’s missionary department, Propaganda Fide, and he also served as rector of the Pontifical Urban College, now a university, which hosts seminarians primarily from so-called traditional “mission territories” in Asia and Africa.

Costantini was created a cardinal by Pope Pius XII in January 1953 alongside the then-Patriarch of Venice, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future Saint Pope John XXIII.

Some observers believe that Costantini’s experience at the Council of Shanghai led him to be a firm supporter of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, as he’d kept a confidential dossier for Pius XII dated Feb. 15, 1939, under the title, “The Council: On the Convenience of convening an Ecumenical Council.”

Pope Francis gave a shout-out to participants in this week’s book presentation during his Wednesday general audience, offering a special greeting to members of the Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini association, who traveled to Rome from Concordia-Pordenone alongside Pellegrini for Thursday’s event and the commemoration of the Council of Shanghai.

“This makes me think of the dear Chinese people. Let us always pray for this noble and courageous people, with such a beautiful culture. Let us pray for the Chinese people,” the pope said.

The 2018 provisional agreement on episcopal appointments in China, which has been renewed twice, is set to expire in October, and it is expected that it will be renewed again for a third time.