Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Focal Scóir - December 2008

We now enter into the month of December, with Advent having begun on Sunday 30th November.

As we open into this month, we begin by reflecting on World AIDS day, priest condemns Obama voters, UK bishops teach clergy how to be gay-friendly, AD of Dublin CSA report going to be explosive, Jewish leaders no to Vatican inter-faith gathering, Aussie parish threatened with excommunication, parish in Bray comes under spotlight with FÁS investigation, December happenings on CW...

...AB Martin comments on children's health, same-sex blessings under the spotlight, 3 names in running for Westminster job, cleric claims Disney corrupts, new Swiss Guard chief under investigation, Vatican says no to decriminalisation of homosexuality, new document on refugees from Vatican in 2009...

...Cuba and Vatican in throes of each other, ordeal of Pius XII, UK church where evil came to stay, Il Papa to visit Israel / Middle East in 2009, Irish priest calls for march on drug dealers homes...

...Bray parish again under scrutiny, Veritas in dispute with BCCI, Vatican says yes to more mosques, doctors no more sit on Lourdes investigations, Cardinals Aguer and Marini at loggerheads, US Anglicans make move to cede, baby abandoned in German crib, martyrs of Japan, call to celebrate Easter on same date / day...

...AB Diarmuid Martin advises his clergy that abuse allegations are 'staggering', Il Papa book on Jesus now in Russian, Donegal fury over CSA ex-priest collection, Bray gets noticed again, death of Alexy II, Jehovah's Witnesses under scrutiny for CSA...

...pp in Lucan intervenes in fisticuffs between 2 Mass goers, Traveller parish in Dublin established, Anglican Schism continues with possible establishment of new province, RC in France to cut jobs, HIV growing problem in Eastern Europe, RTÉ broadcasts Vatican radio in Ireland, The (Last) Word is printed...

...CURA debacle in Ireland comes to an end, Vatican 'rehabilitates' Galileo, 8th December feast day of Immaculate Conception, nuns declared as terrorists by USA police force, AB Weakland never reported CSA, Fr Peyton Sainthood Tribunal established, Dublin 'Pro'-Cathedral to be given full status, AB Ncube silenced by Vatican, Masses to be taxed in Bolivia...

...rise in vocations in Holy Land, lack of trust between bishop and clergy in Diocese of Belleville, Cardinal Arinze retires, Bishop Wishy Washy Walsh of Killaloe to make final ordination, Dublin choir to perform in Vatican, Il Papa to visit tomb of Padre Pio in May '09, Irish prison chaplains call for community prisons, SVP runs out of money in Ireland...

...papal message for World Day of Peace (Jan. 1st 2009), UK law banning RC monarchs to be changed, Da Vinci Code causes probs for Vatican, no clear indication of excommunication of priest who attended female priest ordination, Dignitas Personae issued, Drogheda Mass becoming expensive, Irish Taoiseach praises role of RC in Ireland...

...death of Cardinal Avery Dulles (RIP), Norwegian bishop steps down due to sons bankruptcy, Vatican Christmas tree lit, singing priests now number 1 in charts, re admittance of laicised priest to religious life, Gaudete Sunday, Il Papa says no to visit to Taiwan, 2 priests murdered in Bolivia, papal Grandparents prayer goes global, Veritas in the wars again, Clerical Whispers launches Aid Appeal for developing parishes,

***Clerical Whispers turns 2 years milestone***

...more vocations sought, new RC CSA guidelines to be published in January, Irish RC still owes €32 million in settlement of CSA claims, Il Papa bioethics paper released, Vatican named in CSA case as defendant, Mexican Playboy mag causes uproar, Cherie Blair says need for more women at top posts in Vatican, Il Papa to visit Holy Land...

...Diocese of Elphin caught for inappropriate intervention, iBreviary approved for iPhone, Il Papa chooses themes for next 3 WYD's, truly Catholic and truly Homosexual, parish in Bray under spotlight again, Killaloe Diocese makes biggest payout re CSA, Bishop Wishy Washy Walsh threatens to close run-down school, papal mortality and Welsh rugby, Vatican Christmas tree to be recycled...

...Diocese of Cloyne in CSA spotlight, AD of Dublin explians large sum of money spent on AB house, warn in possible rise of suicides, Fr Bourgeois has support of many, Bishop Magee of Cloyne under pressure to quit, Il Papa claims humanity must be saved from homosexuality, annual round of Christmas messages posted...

...Galileo to be rehabilitated by Vatican, confidential Diocese of Cloyne report published, CofE to be disestablished, Vatican liturgies adjusted, pre-signed Mass cards under scrutiny, Cardinal Zen to retire in 2009, top 10 neglected Catholic stories of 2008, Tutu anger over Zimbabwe inaction...

...Il Papa homilies for Christmas and Urbi et Orbi, european RC under spotlight, confirmation of Papal Visit to Holy Land in 2009, Queen (UK) Christmas Message, Reformed Catholic Church Lumen Ceremony, Feast of St Stephen, Diocese of Cloyne still under limelight, Papal Homily for Christmas 2008, European Catholicism and its survivability, 1st Christmas for Nepal...

...Papal visit to Holy Land confirmed, Urbi et Orbi, feast of St Stpehen, Anglican Schism, Iraq gives official recognition to Christmas, Clerical Errors for December 2008, Il Papa claims he is not a rock star, married man to be ordained priest, priest begins walk of protest from Cloyne to Dublin... crib in Dublin Airport regretted by Dublin AB, Presbyterian HQ in Ireland gets £1m grant, 2 Anglicans (father and son) become RC priests, female bishops in CofE to happen within 3 years, commentary on Reformed Catholic Church ceremony in Dublin...

...and thus brings an end to December and indeed 2008, which has been an hsitoric year for CW with the numbers visiting the site increasing, 2 year milestone passed, half million hits, 8000 postings for 2008 alone...

...all thanks to each and all of you!!

May God grant you the peace and joy of the newborn child Christ upon each and all of you, with every blessing as together we journey into 2009.

Gach beannacht

Sotto Voce

New Year Prayer

A New Year Prayer

Holy Father,

God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.

We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.

Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.

Help us in Your new year, Father, to fret less and laugh more.

To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.

To teach others to love by loving them.

Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.

So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.

That we could share Love with others.

Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,

in the chriping of sparrows in our backyards,

in the stories of our old folks, and the fantasies of our children.

Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,

so that we may know You better and better.

We rejoice in the world You loved into being.

Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.

We pray for peace, for light, and for hope, that we might spread them to others.

Forgive us for falling short this past year.

We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.

We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what's ahead, depending on You to help us do exactly what You want..

I say it again, we rejoice!

In Jesus name,


CW Aid Appeal

The Clerical Whispers Aid Appeal has now been formally launched, by which we are appealing for will be used vestments in good condition, liturgical vessels and lectionaries if possible.

With some parishes closing, rather than losing such precious items, why not send them to us and we will forward them to parishes in the developing world that could certainly use them.

Whatever you can contribute will be sincerely welcomed, and if you feel that you may have something to contribute, please do get in touch, and we will give all the necessary contact details.

The one condition of this is that we will NOT BE SEEKING MONEY from any of you.

In anticipation of your kindness we thank you!!

Sotto Voce

Prayer to St Mark The Evangelist

(traditional language)

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist hast given to thy Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank thee for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

(contemporary language)

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Year of Vocations

Prayer for Vocations

O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to the faithful that they may know the vocation wherein they can best serve God.

Give them courage and strength to follow God's holy will.

Guide their uncertain steps, strengthen their resolutions, shield their chastity, fashion their minds, conquer their hearts, and lead them to the vineyards where they will labour in God's holy service.


Vocations 2008 - Promo Video

Pauline Year (29th June 2008/09) Prayer

Glorious Saint Paul,
Apostle full of zeal,
Martyr by Christ's love,
obtain for us a profound faith,
a firm hope,
a burning love for the Lord
so that we can say with you:
"It is no longer I but the Christ who lives in me."

Help us to become apostles
who serve the Church with a pure conscience,
witnesses of its greatness and its beauty
amid the darkness of our time.

With you we praise God our Father,
"To Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ
from age to age forever."


Archbishop's debt crisis warning

A leading Catholic cleric has warned of the threat of the "darkest night" facing the world in the face of the global economic crisis.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, said the world was suffering from a "terrible hangover" of debt and it was already "night" for hundreds of thousands of people.

"The reality we face this Christmas is the threat of a morning after the night before - such a morning that becomes darkest night," he told the congregation at Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral.

"The mountain of debt touching families, cities, countries, continents is a terrible hangover and it is night for hundreds of thousands."

The archbishop said the Christmas story brought hope and ensured that the darkness would not "overcome" the light.

His remarks were made in a shared homily at Midnight Mass with contributions from church leaders around the Merseyside region.

Organisers said the event had been arranged as an attempt to show the churches' concern and to provide hope and comfort for people affected by the crisis.

Those taking part included the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones and representatives from the Salvation Army, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: TC)

It’s time to clear out all of Ireland’s delinquent bishops (Contribution)

One can tell a great deal about an organisation by the calibre of its top guns.

With power comes responsibility, and the head that wears the crown should always be attached to a sturdy backbone.

A true leader must place his followers’ welfare above his own.

Unfortunately for its faithful footsoldiers, however, the Catholic church is run by bishops rather than leaders, and few of these empurpled princes seem eager to stand up for anything other than the ritual kissing of their rings.

As if the church didn’t have enough trouble selling its message, its once-a-year best shot at securing a receptive audience was all but destroyed this Christmas by the dogged refusal of the Most Reverend John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, to face the inevitable and resign.

Since the publication on December 12 of a damning report by the church’s own child-protection watchdog, chronicling his diabolical mishandling of two cases of alleged child sexual abuse linked to priests in his diocese, Magee’s position has been untenable.

But, rather than do the decent thing swiftly and contritely, he opted to brazen it out, apparently seeking cover amid the bustle and sentimentality of the season of goodwill.

His obduracy undoubtedly cast a shadow over the religious celebrations of many devout Catholics. Even for the rest of us, there was something distasteful about hearing Christmas Eve mass-goers in Cloyne being quizzed by journalists about their reaction to the church’s latest heaping of insult upon injury to abuse complainants.

Yet this is inevitably what happens when a discredited bigwig such as Magee acts as though he has divine authority to stay in office. Civil society is entitled to ask whether those from whom he claims allegiance endorse his position.

For the record, the majority of the worshippers interviewed by RTE Radio were incensed both by Magee’s conduct and refusal to stand down. Amid the anger, there was obvious hurt in the voices of many who had believed bishops were now operating to higher standards.

After a decade-and-a-half of sickening revelations about the violation and torture of children by paedophile clerics, the church had almost succeeded in convincing its followers that it had belatedly grasped the gravity of child abuse. Catholics have been told a thousand times the lessons have been learnt.

The catalogue of failures chronicled by the Cloyne report demonstrates that, in that diocese at least, nothing has changed: Magee’s evident priority throughout was the protection of errant priests.

In one case he did not notify gardai of multiple allegations of sexual abuse by a priest until eight years after receiving the first allegation.

Meantime, the priest still wore his clerical garb, an access-all-areas pass to homes and schools.

It should go without saying that the primary culprits in clerical-abuse outrages are the clerics who’ve raped or molested children.

However, these degenerates are run a close second by the delinquent bishops who averted their eyes or concentrated more on the needs of the abuser than the abused. They too should be rooted out of the church alongside the rapists and paedophiles.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin and one of the few senior churchmen to confront clerical abuse with anything approaching seriousness, hinted at exasperation with many of his fellow bishops last week when he said he was “extremely concerned” about the viability of a unified church approach to child protection given the wide diversity that exists in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures. As usual, he’s putting it mildly.

The imperious disregard for rank-and-file Catholics displayed by Magee is not simply a sideshow to this whole sorry saga but rather a symptom of its deep-seated cause.

While posing as defenders of the faith and the faithful, some of the church’s top guns are actually a danger to public safety.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: ITH)

Finally, a minister who is a match for the Church (Contribution)

Has the Catholic Church finally met its match in a junior minister -- Barry Andrews?

Let's hope so. Certainly, the behaviour of the Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) needs a strong political response.

That political response should be a national audit of child protection in every Irish diocese.

The fact is, we simply don't know how much has been learned by the Catholic hierarchy from the child abuse scandals of the 1980s and 1990s. Most dioceses are implementing sound child protection measures -- but are all?

The failure of the Diocese of Cloyne to adequately deal with child abuse complaints brought a Christmas Eve apology from Bishop John Magee who, however, has refused to resign.

That failure by the diocese was outlined in a report by the NBSC. However, the publication of the report was preceded by a lengthy tussle between the NBSC and the Minister for Children.

Andrews' office had spent months telling the NBSC that it should be talking directly to the HSE on child protection issues. The NBSC maintained that Andrews had commissioned it to investigate child protection issues in Cloyne. Andrews insisted he had done no such thing and that this was the function of the HSE.


I believe Andrews' interpretation of what went on is right and that he told the Church body to go talk to the HSE which is the body responsible for child protection. Why would a Government minister ask an agency of the Catholic Church to conduct an investigation for him?

The NBSC went ahead and did its own report but it told Andrews that, on legal advice, it would not be providing a copy to the HSE. But it would have "no difficulty" with Barry Andrews giving them a copy.

In fact, the NBSC said in a letter, it was "not clear why you have not done so".

Can you beat that for brass neck?

It is a wonder Hawkins House didn't implode from the intake of breath that one must have caused in Andrews' office.

Andrews has taken some flak for not reading the report which the NBSC gave to him despite his requests that it go directly to the HSE. Instead of reading it, Andrews passed it on to the HSE himself.

At first glance that seems almost perverse behaviour in a Minister for Children. But look at it again: Andrews' refusal to read the Church report was consistent with the argument he had been making all along: that there is only one report that counts and that is the one being done by the State's child protection agency, the HSE.

Looked at from that point of view, Andrews did the right thing and showed himself to be more than a match for the Church. Andrews will be asking the Government in early January to publish the HSE report.

What next? Next, I hope, is a national audit of child protection practices in every Catholic diocese. This need not take forever. There is already in existence a body which could do the job, namely Judge Yvonne Murphy's commission of investigation into clerical child abuse in Dublin.


Reports suggest her work in Dublin is almost done. I believe there would be a broad welcome from the public and from many clergy to an expansion of her task to other dioceses.

Could it happen? I believe it could. Trust in the Church's handling of these matters has been hurt by the Cloyne controversy. Two popular bishops -- Dr Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin and Dr Willie Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe -- have called on Dr Magee to consider his position. We have a Minister for Children who stands up to the Church in these matters.

The circumstances are right. Let's hope Barry Andrews gets the support he needs from his senior Government colleagues in tackling a problem which has been hurting abuse victims for far too long.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: EH)

Digging in their heels

Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church did not go softly into the night.

Even though the final service was conducted Sunday, vigil volunteers were still in the church Monday, even sleeping there.

Nine parishioners remained to protest the Diocese of Springfield's decision to close the 106-year-old building.

They sat in pews chatting, sharing memories and organizing the vigil schedule to ensure there will be someone in the church at all hours of the day.

On New Year's Day, St. Stanislaus and St. Thomas Aquinas will be consolidated in the Notre Dame parish under the new name of Pope John Paul the Great, according to a ruling announced in August by Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell.

The diocese closed six churches in Pittsfield over the summer and announced that it would close six more in the county by the end of the year.

On Monday, Christmas decorations still adorned the frigid interior of the church, as did the multitude of saints and angels in paintings, murals and sculptures.

"We're feeling positive, even though the odds are against us," volunteer Henry Tomkowicz said. "You have to have hope."

The volunteers expressed determination to keep the church alive, saying they'll continue their efforts for as long as it takes.

"This parish is filled with fighters," said Susan Kieltyka Frost. "We're fighting to keep the traditions alive. It goes back 106 years to our ancestors who built it. So we're not willing to let it go by the wayside. But the bishop doesn't realize that."

The Diocese of Springfield issued no statement on Monday. Parishioners have appealed McDonnell's ruling to the Vatican, but that process could take years.

Sunday night, volunteers slept on the floor between the pews in sleeping bags with extra blankets. Supporters stopped by every now and then with care packages of food and drinks.

Peter Borre, a member of the Council of Parishes — a group fighting church closings in the Boston area — said the vigil at St. Stan's is a worthy effort, and that similar vigils have resulted in church reopenings.

Borre said nine vigils have been mobilized in Boston, and four have spurred the archdiocese to reopen them. Five other vigils are ongoing, Borre said.

Tomkowicz said critics of the vigil simply don't understand the devotion that parishioners feel for St. Stanislaus, the center of their religious life.

Frost said St. Stan's is the last of the county's Polish Catholic churches.

"There's a feeling that we're being singled out. You'd think they would leave one," she said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: BEMA)

Cardinal Dulles could be the last of his kind

Earlier this month, Cardinal Avery Dulles died in New York. Dulles was one of the world’s pre-eminent theologians and intellectuals. His absence will be noticed in the public square.

His passing also marks the end of a very particular kind of American life. The Dulles clan was never quite royalty, but it was, in its way, an American version of the British nobility. Three of Avery Dulles’ forebears were secretaries of state. His father had an airport named after him, and his uncle was director of the CIA.

Dulles himself left Harvard Law School to serve in the Navy, where he was distinguished with the Croix de Guerre and also contracted polio. His early life looked something like the traditional upbringing of a young British gentleman. Yet Dulles took a couple of unexpected turns.

A Presbyterian by birth, he was fashionably agnostic by the time he reached Harvard.

In 1940, he converted to Catholicism. One must understand how radical this was at the time.

The Dulles family was the epitome of elite, respectable Protestantism. Catholics were immigrants and laborers, viewed as suspect and perhaps un-American.

But Dulles eventually became a Jesuit and in 1956 was ordained a priest. That event made the front page of The New York Times.

Over the course of his time in the priesthood, Dulles often taught, and he wrote 23 books and more than 700 articles — products of a mind engaged with the world right up until the end. His last book was released in April.

Dulles’ body of work demonstrates an astonishingly lucid mind, linked to a gentle, charitable soul. He explored theological subjects, such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, with the same careful inquisitiveness he brought to discussions of societal topics, such as human rights.

Dulles’ most lasting work involved the Second Vatican Council, of which he was an important interpreter and reconciler. It was a task he was born for. “I think of myself as a moderate trying to make peace between opposed schools of thought,” he explained.

Dulles’ particular gifts were grounded in a kind of intellectual modesty that barely exists anymore. He knew what he did not (and could not) know, and he placed enormous value in the sum of human philosophical achievement. “I do not particularly strive for originality,” he remarked toward the end of his life. “If I conceived a theological idea that had never occurred to anyone in the past, I would have every reason to think myself mistaken.”

This humble man became the most important American theologian of the 20th century, and in 2001 Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal — a rare elevation, since Dulles was not a bishop.

Into his 90th year, Dulles continued to inspire, even as his physical condition suddenly deteriorated.

The aftereffects of polio robbed him of his voice and began to paralyze him, forcing him to abandon his teaching duties.

In April, Pope Benedict XVI met privately with him to bless him and say goodbye.

Two weeks earlier, Dulles had delivered his farewell lecture at Fordham.

“Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age,” the cardinal said. “If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity.”

Faith and reason were never better met.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: KCC)

(Posting 8,000 of 2008)

The Pope's comments: Why we should be worried (Contribution)

Saving humanity from homosexual acts is as important as saving the rainforests, suggested Pope Benedict in his Christmas message.

Gay Aucklander Richard Howard believes the Pontiff's words are a serious assault on our communities…

Of all the profoundly painful and serious issues facing the world right now I was blown out that homosexuality was chosen as a focus by the Pontiff in his Christmas message and inter-twined in a weird concept of world ecology.

My concern is that I well understand that his message directly bolsters the bigots and leads directlyin some cases to extreme prejudice, exclusion, violence, death. Whether we like it or not this bloke has a big following and the ear of many. "God" is seen to be on the side of queer bashers and they take his word as their cue for action.

With 6,000,000,000 people now on the planet; a 2 billion increase in my short life time alone (despite me being a big homo) the argument of homosexuality under-mining family values and unbalancing the ecology just doesn't make sense. One could take the view that more homos = less children = less impact on the environment (he chuckles).

One could say that the population numbers speak volumes about the degree to which families are undermined by homosexual preferences. One could equally say that homosexual people are major and marvelous contributors to the creativity, peace and prosperity of the world. Of course then there is the fact that unless a person chooses to engage in homosexual activity then it is unlikely to affect them physically in any way. This all leads me to wonder why homosexuality is an issue to anyone other than those who have the inclination to participate.

The broad picture for me here is that the Vatican, the Catholic church, have had a long history of actively denying how and who human beings are in their essence and in their natural expressions. It has never been an instrument to promote spiritual practice and expansion, quite the opposite in fact, its nature has been to control, oppress personal expression and power and suppress truth. It hashad a long history of manipulation, punishment and slaughter inspired by dodgy ideas and highly edited documents with suspect providence. The evidence for this is undeniable when you start to delve as I have done.

Remember this is the organisation that vehemently denied that the Earth moved around the Sun. It still upholds that women are beings originating from man; when in fact we know that biologically the opposite is true. We know that the doctrines and dogma are upheld even when they are blatantly not true and proved to be not true. Countless people have been steered in the wrong direction and suffered severely across the centuries because of this dogmatic position.

The point is that in reality the Vatican is perhaps the least morally equipped body on the face of the planet to dish out spiritual, or practical guidance to people who already have an innate understanding of what it means to be human. It is a morally bankrupt organisation, an organ of the worshippers of power, control and extreme wealth. In fact,there is more fellowship, heart and soul and relevant wisdom in a bawdy, drunken night at the pub!

The recent stand against homosexuality is probably more to do with damage control in relation to those lonely, fiddling, randy priests within the church who have cost the organisation more than a billion dollars in law-suits over recent years and further under-mined the integrity of an already dodgy system.

So on one hand I can easily say that what the Vatican thinks and proclaims is totally irrelevant to me; the squawkings of a bunch of dusty old wax works characters.On the other hand the Vatican have an undeniable, broad, deep foundation of power and a loud voice which when used unwisely can have a very negative, real effect. Fortunately this is often tempered by the more pragmatic attitudes of local clergy (depending on their take on any issue) in relation to the actual people they are relating to on a day to day basis. Of course the opposite can be true and the papal dictates can be amplified locally as well.

Overall my thinking is that this latest Papal declaration of position against homosexuality is a serious assault on our reality, our rights, our sense of security and well-being and that a planned, direct dialogue with church and government leaders, as well as statements to the press, is essential and may do something to subdue the effects of what in reality amounts to outrageous Vatican propaganda.

The new Pontiff has truly revealed himself as the right-wing conservative, queer-basher he always promised to be and we need to hit back hard, skillfully and consistently.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: GNZ)

Taoiseach told not to adjourn Dail after Pope died (1978 Irish State Papers)

THE notion of adjourning the Dail for a week after Pope John Paul I died was quickly knocked on the head by the Department of Foreign Affairs in October 1978.

THE notion of adjourning the Dail for a week after Pope John Paul I died was quickly knocked on the head by the Department of Foreign Affairs in October 1978.

The 'smiling Pope', who died suddenly after only 33 days in office, did not die while the Dail was in session, a Foreign Affairs departmental memo revealed.

Taking a week off after a three-month summer recess could be open to misrepresentation, Foreign Affairs official Peter Ryan wrote in a memo to the Taoiseach's office.

The Taoiseach's office was also told that Foreign Affairs had recommended against paying tribute to the late Pope when the Dail resumed.

"The Chief of Protocol says that messages have gone from the President and the government and there will be representation at the funeral and that this is sufficient. I think we must be guided by Foreign Affairs on this," the memo read.


But the Taoiseach's advisers thought otherwise, saying that if Mr Lynch did not pay tribute to both John Paul I and his predecessor Pope Paul VI "this could give rise to comment".

The year 1978 was to be known as the 'year of the three popes' with the deaths of both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. Pope John Paul I was succeeded by 58-year-old Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, whose 26-year pontificate as John Paul II was the third longest in the history of the Catholic Church.

Pope Paul VI had died on August 6, 1978 after 15 years as Pontiff and his successor John Paul I died on September 28.

President Patrick Hillery had led a special delegation to the coronation of John Paul I in Rome on September 3, but did not attend his funeral a month later.

The Vatican suggested national delegations to the funeral should be led by the respective ambassadors to the Holy See, and the Irish delegation was headed by Ambassador Gerard Woods.

The Department of Justice viewed Rome as "something of a security blackspot" and wanted to know who was travelling from Ireland so it could make the necessary security arrangements, including sending out a Superintendent a couple of days in advance of the funeral.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: II)

Pope 'misinterpreted' on homosexuality

The Pope was "very much" misrepresented when he gave a speech before Christmas widely interpreted as an attack on homosexuality, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales said today.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor acknowledged that the Pope's remarks made in an end-of-year address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration, had been "quite difficult to interpret".

But he said the Pope's remarks had not been intended to condemn anyone.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the Cardinal said the Pope had talked about young people, the importance of ecology and creation and responsibility for creation.

He said the Pope's remarks about "human ecology" were aimed at emphasising the primacy of the family at the heart of society.

"He wasn't condemning anyone or any person," he said.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: TIUK)

Fr. Paolo Padrini - Vatican embraces iTunes prayer book

The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.

The application includes the Breviary prayer book — in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.

After a free trial period in which the iBreviary was downloaded approximately 10,000 times in Italy, an official version was released earlier this month, Padrini said.

The application costs euro0.79 ($1.10), while upgrades will be free.

Padrini's proceeds are going to charity.

Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the new application Monday, saying the Church "is learning to use the new technologies primarily as a tool or as a mean of evangelizing, as a way of being able to share its own message with the world."

Pope Benedict XVI, a classical music lover who was reportedly given an iPod in 2006, has sought to reach out to young people through new media.

During last summer's World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, he sent out mobile phone text messages citing scripture to thousands of registered pilgrims — signed with the tagline "BXVI." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

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(Source: PVT)

India, exporter of priests, may keep them home

In the sticky night air, next to a grove of mahogany trees, nearly 50 young men in madras shirts saunter back and forth along a basketball court, reciting the rosary.

They are seminarians studying to become Roman Catholic priests. Together, they send a great murmuring into the hilly village, mingling with the Muslim call to prayer and the chanting of Vedas from a Hindu temple on a nearby ridge.

Young men willing to join the priesthood are plentiful in India, unlike in the United States and Europe. Within a few miles of this seminary, called Don Bosco College, are two much larger seminaries, each with more than 400 students.

As a result, bishops trek here from the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia looking for spare priests to fill their empty pulpits. Hundreds have been allowed to go, siphoning support from India's widespread network of Catholic churches, schools, orphanages, missionary projects and social service programs.

At least 800 Indian priests are working in the United States alone. India, Vietnam and the Philippines are among the leading exporters of priests, according to data compiled by researchers at Catholic University of America in Washington.

But these days the Indian prelates have reason to reconsider their generosity. With India modernizing at breakneck speed, more young men are choosing financial gain over spiritual sacrifice.

"There is a great danger just now because the spirit of materialism is on the increase," said Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, as he sat barefoot at his desk, surrounded by mementos of a lifetime of church service. "Faith and the life of sacrifice are becoming less."

Some of the forces contributing to a lack of priests in Europe and the United States have begun to take shape here.

Parents are having fewer children, with even observant Catholics freely admitting they use birth control. The Indian economy, which has boomed for years, offers more career options.

Many priests once came from large agricultural families. But now land is scarce, the soil tapped out. Families are moving to cities, far from the tight-knit parishes that for generations kept Indian Catholics connected to their faith. And educated young Catholics are increasingly attracted to fields like engineering and technology.

In past generations, having a son become a priest increased the family's stature, said the Rev. Jose Kuriedath, a sociologist in Aluva who has written a book about vocations in India. Kuriedath recounted an adage in Malayalam, the local language: "It is equal in dignity to have either an elephant or a priest in the family."

But this is changing.

Answering a Call

At St. Paul's Minor Seminary in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, sleepy teenage boys clamber from their dormitory every morning down to chapel, past a statue of Mary and portraits of Pope Benedict XVI and Gandhi.

Among them is Chacko Kuttuparambil, a stocky 17-year-old who wears high-top basketball shoes and slim, stylish glasses. His prosperous family was not particularly supportive of his joining the priesthood, he said.

His father, an apartment building manager, wanted him to be a computer engineer. His brother, a business executive, also tried to dissuade him. Chacko is the younger of two sons, and traditionally it is the responsibility of the youngest son to care for the parents in their old age.

But Chacko felt called to the priesthood because, he said, as a child he was miraculously cured of a viral infection that paralyzed the right side of his body for two years.

"He gave me life," Chacko said, "so I am to give my life to Him."

On a hot day before the rainy season arrived, Chacko and his fellow students boarded a bus for a field trip intended to expose them to ministry work. Along the way, the teenagers clapped and belted out Christian hymns and pop tunes. They craned to look out at billboards of motorcycles, mobile phones and models with bare midriffs advertising sari shops.

The students arrived at a home for mentally ill adults run by an order of nuns in pink saris. Some students initially recoiled at the patients' odd tics. But as they had been taught, they separated into small groups to talk with the patients, many of whom brightened under the boys' attention. Most of the students were selected for the seminary after attending a "life guidance camp" that each year draws hundreds of local teenagers for a three-day session at St. Paul's.

Those who seem promising are invited back for a vocation retreat, and the best of those are invited to join the seminary.

In a first-year class, the students studied a pamphlet called "Growing up Gracefully." The school's rector, the Rev. Sebastian Panjikaran, demonstrated proper priestly etiquette. Father Panjikaran acted out the wrong way for a priest to walk through town, charging down the aisle between the students' desks, his eyes fixed on the ground.

"A priest should not walk so fast," he said, turning to face the students. "He should walk how?"

"Slowly," the students said.

"He should walk slowly," Father Panjikaran repeated, strolling casually up the aisle and making eye contact with the students. "And he should ... ?"

"Help," the students say in unison.

If you walk slowly, Father Panjikaran explained, the people will see you are friendly and accessible and will ask you for help. He concluded, "You can have that sense of usefulness if you do good for others."

Changing Landscape

Catholics represent a tiny proportion of the population in India — about 2 percent. But they have played an outsize role in weaving the country's social safety net, establishing schools, hospitals, old-age homes and other organizations that serve many non-Catholics.

The church here is ancient, with three separate rites, each with its own liturgies and bishops. Here in Kerala, a state in southwest India, Catholics of the Syro-Malabar rite trace their roots to the Apostle Thomas, who according to lore arrived by boat in A.D. 52, made disciples among the ruling Brahmin class and planted seven churches.

About 20 percent of Kerala's population is Catholic, and being faithful is more than a once-a-week event. Families pray together at home in the evenings, kneeling at shrines in their sitting rooms. Mass attendance in many dioceses is over 80 percent. And the entire community turns out for local festivals on saints days.

After evening Mass one Sunday at Sacred Heart Keezhmad, the parish just up the hill from Don Bosco College, the young altar boys and some friends were helping the priest close the sacristy. Of eight young men, including the president of the local Catholic youth organization, only one said he was interested in becoming a priest. Six said they aspired to be engineers, and one said he wanted to be a doctor.

Like many seminaries run by religious orders, Don Bosco College traditionally did not accept students who were the only child in their families. But that policy has changed, said the Rev. Sebastian Kalambaden, the seminary's administrator. The seminary also has two students who were brought up Hindu and converted to Catholicism. Until recently, most seminaries avoided taking converts.

Duty to Serve Abroad

Some graduates and former teachers of Don Bosco College are now serving overseas. The students are aware that if they do well they might be tapped. And many see it as their responsibility to go.

"People came from foreign countries as missionaries, and because of them we have Christianity, and in many ways we are benefiting," said Augustine Thekkepookombil, a seminarian. " So I feel it is my duty to give spiritual help. That would be the best way of showing gratitude."

The Diocese of Irinjalakuda has 10 priests serving in the United States, as well as 3 in Germany, 2 in Canada and one in England. Four are studying in Rome.

In the United States, four of the Indian priests are in Birmingham, Alabama, where the former bishop arranged about seven years ago to pay the Diocese of Irinjalakuda $5,000 a year for each borrowed priest, an official in the Indian diocese said. Many bishops have such arrangements, giving them a motive other than generosity to loan out their priests.

Bishop Pazhayattil said he chose which priests to send abroad very carefully. Some who volunteer, he said, could easily go astray so far from home.

And some do not want to go. The Rev. Jolly Vadakken had studied in Rome and worked short-term in parishes in Germany, Minneapolis and Birmingham. Tall and prepossessing, fluent in five languages, Father Vadakken had offers to work as a parish pastor in Italy and Atlanta. But he preferred to stay home.

In Irinjalakuda, he runs a Catholic resource center across the street from the diocese's towering pink cathedral. He buzzes around the diocese on a motorcycle, often in his cassock, his cellphone ringing incessantly. He operates a suicide hot line (Kerala has one of the highest suicide rates in India), counsels couples, teaches courses in parenting and runs a program that mediates local conflicts.

He said he feels more vital here than he did in the United States or Europe, where he was needed only for the sacraments.

"In the other world, we are official priests," he said. "We are satisfied just doing the Mass and sacraments, everything on time, everything perfect.

"In India, the people come close to us," he continued. "The work satisfaction is different. Our ministry is so much wanted here."

At the same time, the Catholic church in Irinjalakuda is expanding. When Bishop Pazhayattil was appointed in 1978, the diocese had 78 parishes; it now has 129. He said it was unlikely he would be so eager to send his priests to Europe or the United States in the future.

The rectors of both large seminaries in Aluva, with over 400 students each, each said in separate interviews that the Catholic church in the United States and Europe would eventually need to stop relying on India to supply priests.

"It is not a solution," said Msgr. Bosco Puthur, the rector of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Mangalapuzha. "It is only a stopgap that does not solve the problem."

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: IHT)

Burglars target novena takings

A five strong community of Franciscan friars in Wexford have become recent victims of crime.

The thieves, who forced their way into the friary during the night, ransacked an office and made off with the takings of a novena collection.

Friary guardian Fr. Aidan said he and his five fellow-Franciscans had slept through the break-in.

He admitted that the burglars had taken “a considerable amount of money” from the office safe.

“We had received quite a lot of money for Novenas from people in the run up to Christmas and everything was taken,” he said.

“The five of us moved to the Friary eighteen months ago and nothing like this has happened to me personally before,” Fr Aidan added.

“We are all stunned and upset by what has happened”.

But, he said, he understood it was not the first time that the Friary had fallen victim to thieves.

The guardian said people in the local community had been very supportive when they learned of the Franciscans’ misfortune.

“We have been inundated with calls of support and many people have been calling to give us donations,” he said.

“We are very appreciative of the goodwill of the Wexford people and we will endeavour to ensure that this has no impact on our Christmas celebrations.”

It is understood that the friars were not the only victims of burglars in the run-up to Christmas and break-ins at a pharmacy, a clothes shop and a bookshop were also reported.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

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(Source: CIN)

Historic Church of England deal paves way for first women bishops

The Church of England has reached an historic agreement on the consecration of women bishops.

After years of struggle to avoid schism, bishops have agreed a formula that enshrines the principle of equality for male and female bishops while appeasing opponents of women’s ordination.

The first women bishops could take their place in the Church of England within three years.

The deal, published in a new report yesterday, provides for a class of “complementary” traditionalist bishop for parishes that refuse to accept a woman diocesan bishop. Such “flying” bishops would have to abide by the authority of the woman bishop, according to the accompanying code of practice.

Supporters of women’s ordination welcomed the agreement to recognise male and female bishops as equal but many are unhappy about the guarantee of a place for parishes “unable” to accept the ministry of women bishops.

Traditionalists drew comfort from the report’s provision for the continuation of the Anglo-Catholic male-only priesthood in the Church of England. However, many remain bitterly opposed to the principle of women bishops. There is expected to be fierce fighting over the detail when the Church’s General Synod discusses the proposed legislation and code of practice in February.

The Church faces a potentially disastrous series of court battles. Because the code of practice will not be legally binding, a militantly liberal diocesan bishop could refuse to delegate his or her authority to a traditionalist as petitioned by an Anglo-Catholic parish. The parish will then be entitled to seek a judicial review, leading to costly legislation and damaging publicity.

The dilemma over women bishops is exponentially greater than that over women priests and has threatened to be more schismatic even than the debates over gays. Christina Rees, of Women and the Church, said that she was “very pleased” with the published draft measure, but the group warned that the very existence of complementary bishops could undermine the authority of women.

The Rev Rod Thomas, the chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said: “The outlook is very sad. We now have the prospect of much wrangling in the General Synod.”

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

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(Source: TCUK)

Bishops put forward as solution to Church of England row over women clergy

A new class of cleric is to be created for traditionalists in the Church of England who are opposed to women bishops in an attempt to avert a deep split over the issue.

The priests, known as complementary bishops, will be allowed to hold church services including Holy Communion, conduct baptisms and consecrate burial grounds in parishes that do not want the controversial innovation of female bishops.

However the compromise move is unlikely to win over those who are strongly against the historic reform.

Complementary bishops must be male and must agree not to take part in ceremonies to make women priests or bishops. Parishes or individuals can "petition" to have a complementary bishop provide services and pastoral care for them if either they cannot accept women priests or bishops under any circumstances, or if they just do not want female clergy in their local churches.

The arrangements are described in a new Code of Practice drawn up by a Church committee, in order to prevent a mass exodus of Anglo-Catholic and conservative evangelical clergy and worshippers who believe that scripture and tradition hold that bishops must be male.

More than 500 clergy left the Church, with many converting to Rome because of its complete ban on female ministers, after the first women priests were ordained in 1994.

Similar warnings were made this year after an emotional debate at a meeting of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, in July that ended with one bishop in tears after measures were rejected that would have appeased traditionalists.

The chair of the Church group that is drafting legislation to allow women to become bishops, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, said: "The General Synod mandated us to draft a Measure including special arrangements, within existing structures, for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops and to do that in a national code of practice. We believe we have achieved that by providing for male complementary bishops, as we suggested in our earlier report, and now hand our work to the Synod to discuss the drafts in detail."

But papers published by the group on Monday also disclose the limits of the powers of the complementary bishops, which make it unlikely they will win the approval of those opposed to women's ordination.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will be able to nominate men to serve as complementary bishops. But they will be selected by, and answerable to, the local diocesan bishop rather than directly to the Archbishop of their province, as a proposal put forward earlier this year suggested.

This could mean they have to report to a female bishop, or to a male bishop who has consecrated women, while their ability to ordain more traditionalist clergy will be limited.

The Code of Practice, meanwhile, is not legally binding and so liberal bishops who believe it is discriminatory against women could simply choose to ignore it and not provide complementary bishops in their dioceses.

The Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst - who branded Synod "sinful" for going against the Bible by allowing women into the episcopate - said complementary bishops would not appease Anglo-Catholics.

They are holding out for a completely new province whose all-male clergy would be able to minister to parishes across the country.

Bishop Broadhurst said: "We've always said that without jurisdiction, it simply won't do for us. A Code of Practice is a fudge and it can't provide what we want."

He claimed the only solution was for the Church to start again on the legislation from the start.

The plans will be discussed at the London gathering of the Synod in February, but it will be another five years at least before any women are consecrated as bishops.

The new papers also allow the existing arrangements of "flying bishops", for those who cannot accept the ministry of women priests, to continue for another five years.

Christina Rees, of the pro women bishops group Women And The Church, said: "It was way back in July 2005 that the General Synod asked for the legal obstacles which prevent women from being bishops to be removed. Finally, this draft legislation makes that happen."

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: TTUK)

Catholic body sought unconditional indemnity over Cloyne abuse report

UNCONDITIONAL INDEMNITY from the State was sought by the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) in the Catholic Church, should its report on Cloyne diocese be published before it went to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The board sought such protection as assurance against any likelihood of it being sued by persons named or parties referred to in the report.

It also told the office of the Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, that "on legal advice" it did not propose providing a copy of the report to the HSE.

A spokeswoman for the board said indemnity became an issue when its report was submitted to the Minister for Children and referred to a possible wider circulation of the document.

In a letter to the Minister, dated August 18th, 2008, NBSC chief executive Ian Elliott said that "in the light of legal advice which we have received, we would require from you an unconditional indemnity to hold the national board harmless in respect of any liability arising from the publication of our report in advance of directly providing that report to the HSE".

Earlier in the same letter, Mr Elliott said the NBSC had also received legal advice "to deliver our report to you directly and not to make any further publication of our report to any other party and for that reason we have not provided and we do not propose providing a copy of our report to the Health Service Executive".

He continued: "We have absolutely no difficulty in relation to your provision of a copy of our report to the HSE to enable them to advise you as to whether the diocese of Cloyne should be referred to the Dublin commission. I am not clear why you have not done so.''

The commission Mr Elliott referred to was the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation.

Mr Elliott's letter was among 18 exchanges which took place between the NBSC and the Minister's office between September 27th, 2007, and December 4th last, when the HSE report on Cloyne diocese was presented to Mr Andrews.

All correspondence is listed under the title Chronology of Events in relation to the Cloyne Diocese and the Report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) which accompanied a press release from Mr Andrews on December 22nd last.

It said he would be recommending to Government on January 7th that the HSE report into Cloyne diocese be immediately published. He also made it clear that, contrary to some newspaper accounts and the NBSC report, "neither I, nor any official in the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs commissioned or directed the NBSC to carry out an investigation into the diocese of Cloyne".

He pointed out that "the State could not instruct nor 'commission' an agency of the Catholic Church (even though independent of the Catholic Church) to carry out an internal review". The HSE's inquiries into Cloyne began in October 2007, he said.

In his report for the NBSC, Mr Elliott said that on February 15th last he met two senior officials within the Department of Health to update the department on ongoing initiatives the NBSC was taking to ensure best practice in the safeguarding of children within the church.

At the end of the meeting, he was told a complaint had been made to the Minister about practices in Cloyne where one case was concerned. A copy of the correspondence was given to him and he was asked to investigate the circumstances outlined in the complaint, and to report back his findings, he said.

As evident in exchanges between Mr Elliott and the Minister's office between February and September 2008, this is disputed by Mr Andrews.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

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(Source: IT)

A Review of Orthodox Church Events in 2008

By H.E. Spyridon, former Archbishop of America

In 2008, an exceptional vigorousness characterized the life and the initiatives of most Orthodox centers throughout the world.

Many Orthodox Churches appear to have adopted a new, rapid pace when dealing with situations and challenges in an attempt to keep up with modern societies in startling evolution.

A new wind of renewal seems to be blowing throughout the Orthodox Church worldwide, sometimes precipitating the finding of solutions to chronic issues and sometimes creating new challenges.

* In spite of intense efforts made in all directions and despite factual concern demonstrated by the European Union and the US Admnistration, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was unable to improve its position within Turkey where human rights and religious freedom seem to be irrelevant and governmental restrictions and existential challenges continue to be daily realities.

Thus, no solution has been found to such fundamental issues as: a) the contestation of the Patriarchate’s ecumenicity and legal character; b) the lifting of the restrictions when electing an Ecumenical Patriarch; c) the re-opening of the Theological Faculty of Halki; d) the seizure of church properties by the government.

With regards to the Patriarchate’s ecumenicity, Turkish authorities continue to systematically contest, at every level, national and international, the Patriarchate’s ecumenical character and role while, at the same time, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan tells reporters that "the Patriarchate’s ecumenicity is a internal issue to be dealt with by the Christian world and Orthodoxy."

As to the re-opening of the Theological Faculty of Halki, the Turkish government insists on claiming that “the file is being studied.” This unyielding attitude of Turkey led the Patriarchate to request that a "New Halki" be established in Greece. The faculty, whose expenses are to be covered by the Republic of Greece, will be opened at the Monastery of Saint Anastasia in Vasilika, Halkidiki.

Despite the multitude of difficult challenges, the Phanar persists in believing that Turkey’s future admission to the European Union will entail "spectacular changes in the lives of the Greek Orthodox Community, the Mother Church, other minorities, and in the overall structure and make-up of Turkish society as a whole."

Meanwhile, UNESCO gave the Turkish Administration six months time to take whatever measures necessary to safeguard the temple of Saint Sofia from total destruction. In stressing the deplorable state in which the historic temple finds itself today, the international organization gave notice that, if appropriate steps are not taken soon, Turkey will be dismissed as a member of the UN World Heritage Committee.

In 2008, challenges were not absent from Mouth Athos either:

-the situation at the Esfigmenou Monastery continues to remain stagnant. The historic abbey is still occupied by a group of anti-canonical monks who refuse to have any relations whatsoever with the Ecumenical Patriarchate;

- the financial scandal that burst forth at the Vatopedi Monastery caused immense agitation on Athos itself, in Greece and at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The exchange of real estate with the Greek State following nebulous procedures, the purchase and sale of numerous properties, exorbitant bank account balances and dealings with off-shore companies comprise the Vatopedi scandal which had extremely negative repercussions on the traditional religious feelings of Greek believers. The matter is currently under review by the Greek Parliament and Greek Justice. Church leadership will certainly be happy to see this issue with its many facets (financial, moral, spiritual, and political) put behind them. Not only did it cause tremendous public outrage and diminish the Church’s image, but it threatened to reopen the door for discussing extremely thorny matters such as that of Church property or of the separation between Church and State.

* The recognition of Patriarch Theofilos’ election by the State of Israel, a full two and a half years subsequent to his ascension to the patriarchal throne, seems to have contributed to the normalization of church affairs in Jerusalem.

However, the dismissal of Metropolitan Kornilios of Petra from the Patriarchate’s Synod led to the questioning of said synod’s composition by the State of Jordan. The ministry of Internal Affairs, invoking the act of 1958 which laid down the rules of how the patriarchal institution operates, made it known that "the current composition of the Holy Synod violates the provisions of the law, as the Synod includes 8 bishops and archimandrites not in possession of Jordanian citizenship … also, there are no Arabs of Jordanian origin among the members of the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulcher." The Jerusalem Patriarchate has offered no comment on the Jordanian intervention.

Another serious issue that must be resolved as quickly as possible by the Jerusalem Patriarchate is that of the repeated contestation of the status quo at the Holy Sepulcher Cathedral by the Armenian clergy. The Armenian claims during the past years have led to violent incidents that have had a most negative impact on public opinion worldwide.

* Following 18 years of patriarchal ministry, Alexey II, head of the largest Orthodox Church in the world, passed away. The architect of the spectacular renewal and reconstruction of thousands of churches and hundreds of abbeys in Russia, he led a resurgence of Orthodoxy in his country following the collapse of the atheistic communistic regime and succeeded in bringing the Russian Orthodox abroad back into the bosom of the Moscow Patriarchate.

In Alexey’s time, relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate have often been tense because of initiatives taken or planned by Constantinople in territories considered by the Russian Church as her own (Estonia, Ukraine and China). The future of these relations remain uncertain as the chief candidate likely to succeed Alexey is Metropolitan Kyril of Smolensk, a favorite of the Kremlin and known to be a strong advocate of his Church’s rigid positions.

* In Serbia, Patriarch Pavle handed in his resignation due to poor health and advanced age. An ascetic figure, Pavle ministered successfully to the Serbs in a exceptionally difficult period following the dissolution of the Yugoslav State and became a symbol of unity to the Serbian people amidst the wars that followed.

* The Church of Cyprus will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in order to abolish the Turkish ban on the renovation of plundered churches and the reconstruction of collapsed temples in the northern part of the island occupied to this day by the Turkish military.

* For the Church of Greece, a period of exceptional opening to Greek society closed with Archbishop Hristodoulos’ passing. The archbishop of blessed memory proved to be an illuminated hierarch, sensitive to the anxieties of young people and keen on closing the gap between Church and Greek Orthodox youth. Believers, young and old, turned out in huge masses for their beloved religious leader’s funeral in Athens.

Consultations at the highest level took place between the Greek Government and the Ecumenical Patriarchate to discuss Hristodoulos’ succession. It was determined that the new archbishop should, first and foremost, be willing to collaborate with both the government and the Patriachate.

In fact, the election of Metropolitan Ieronymos of Thebes as Archbishop of Athens and All Greece inaugurated a new period in relations between the Autocephalous Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The age-old requests by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (primarily regarding the Metropolinates in Northern Greece) were immediately satisfied by Ieronymos. With regard to her relations with the Government, the Church of Greece changed course without delay. Church authorities now carefully avoid any comment on issues of broader social or national character for which only the government considers itself responsible.

* At their Synaxis held in Constantinople, the primates of all Orthodox Churches adopted a resolution to have two Pan-Orthodox Conferences convened within 2009. The conferences are to study the issue of how the Orthodox Diaspora is to be organized in the future as well as how to continue the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

* The theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church is progressing "despite significant difficulties and known problems," according to an assertion by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who visited Rome three times this year.

For her part, the Russian Church denounced, for the umpteenth time, Roman Catholic proselytism in Russia. Such proselytizing activities, according to the Moscow Patriarchate, have a negative impact on the dialogue with Rome.

Roman Catholic news agencies throughout the world broadcast Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s positive comments on the idea of "double unity” promoted by the Uniates.

That is, the possibility of being completely united with Rome and Constantinople at the same time.

The Patriarchate, of course, later denounced such news as inaccurate.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: GN)