Friday, July 31, 2009

Augustinian Explains Plan for New Vocations

A new prior provincial of the Augustinian Recollects is describing the challenges his order faces in reaching out to China, drawing new vocations, and educating them well.

Father Francisco Javier Jimenez was elected prior of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, a press release on the order's Web site reported this week.

The priest worked in schools and parishes in Spain, as well as missions in Brazil, and served for many years as a formator for young religious.

In an interview, the new prior outlined several needs that he wants to focus on in his province, which extends throughout nine countries on three continents.

Among these, the priest said, are the need to "continue praying and working for vocations" and to "persevere in the effort on continuous formation."

One of the greatest challenges of the province, he noted, is working in China.

The country is "open to hope," Father Jimenez said, and vocations continue to arise from there.

As well, he added, "the greater contact and relationship that we have with them, the greater freedom" the people are feeling.

We will have to "begin to prepare some religious in the Chinese language," he noted, "so that the future will not catch us empty-handed."

New poverty

The prior explained that his province is also giving increased attention to ministry with migrants.

He continued: "It is one of the new poverties, where religious life has to be present. Our province cannot afford to be isolated or be indifferent in the face of this demanding reality.

"We want to attend it because God walks and lives among the poor."

In the recent provincial chapter that elected him, the prior reported, it was decided that they would contribute 0.7% of the order's income to the poor.

This aims to "highlight our commitment" and "option" for them, he added.

Father Jimenez affirmed that his religious communities face the same challenges as all other religious: "how to give today a valid, attractive, clear, courageous and determined witness of the following of Jesus."

He stated that "Spain has ceased to be a fertile ground" for vocations, and "obliges us to see the bigger picture in the medium and long term."

The majority of vocations, he reported, have come from Mexico (13), Costa Rica (5), Brazil (5), and China (4).

Religious education

The priest affirmed that they will be looking at the Augustinian Recollect formation program, to arrive at an agreement on the type of religious "we want to and need to form," and what educational experiences and locations are favorable to this.

Father Jimenez stated that sometimes the young people in discernment of the vocation are "burdened with the problems of today's youth: marked individualism, search for personal fulfillment over and above a shared and communitarian project, strong nationalistic tendencies that hamper the universality required in our communities and in our province."

However, he added, "they also have many qualities, personal virtues, a sincere desire to consecrate themselves to God in our family, a sincere affection for our religious, missionary and pastoral concerns."

"The art of formation consists in gradually and patiently decreasing the former and strengthening the latter," the prior explained.

Part of this formation, he said, is opening up to working more in collaboration with lay people.

"I believe now is the time to take the step forward," the priest affirmed. "We cannot afford or want to delay more."

"We want to add, multiply, share with the lay our spirit and our mission," he said.

"We need collaborators," Father Jimenez concluded, "we need to trust, confide, allow to act, support, give responsibility and leading role to the lay people who wish and are able to help us."

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Logo Unveiled for Youth Day 2011

The logo for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid was presented today: The image reflects youth of the world beneath the cross, united to form the crown of Our Lady, patron of Madrid.

The upcoming World Youth Day is scheduled for Aug. 16-21, 2011.

The logo designer, José Gil-Nogués, explained that the image symbolizes "youth of the whole world united to celebrate their faith together with the Pope, at the foot of the cross, and they form the crown of Our Lady of Almudena, patron of Madrid."

The crown, Gil-Nogués added, forms the "M" of Mary and of Madrid. And the cross, symbol of Christianity, presides over the event.

The message of the logo, the designer continued, is "a catechesis, an opportunity for evangelization: The quick and sure path to reach Christ is the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of mankind. In Mary's faith, youth have the example and model for reaching Christ and fulfilling the primary goal of World Youth Day: to bring their message to the world."

"The logo has a firm and spontaneous stroke," Gil-Nogués suggested, "like youth of the 21st century. It is close, friendly, open. Joyful, carefree and positive."

"The use of a palette of warm colors -- red, orange and yellow -- transmits unmistakable warmth and friendliness, symbols of the identity of a city like Madrid, a nation like Spain. These colors also reflect the 'divine warmth' of Trinitarian Love."

The logo was selected after a competition among professional graphic designers.

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Why did the Vatican veto the OSCE’s guidelines on teaching religion? (Contribution)

The Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools drafted by a wide range of international experts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were incomprehensibly rejected by one of its 56 member states: the Holy See.

This stalemate created by a state of a few square kilometres was unofficially discussed behind the scenes of the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief which was held in Vienna from July 8-10.

From the time the Spanish Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE first initiated the idea of developing guiding principles on teaching about religion, there was consensus that there would be symbolic resonances if the project could be launched in Toledo, a Spanish city laden with relevant history.

For that reason, the Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the OSCE/ODIHRii met with a number of leading experts in Toledo in March 2007 to commence work on the project. Why Toledo and not another “more prestigious” place like Paris or London?

Because in that Spanish city stands the 13th-Century Roman Catholic church of San Roman which was once a Visigothic Christian church and then a mosque. This symbolic choice in favor of Toledo suggests that our present is the result of a complex layering of civilisations and that it is vital to grasp the confluence rather than the clash of civilisations.

Fourteen members of the Advisory Council of Experts, four participating members of the ODIHR Panel of Experts, two UN experts, one expert of the Council of Europe and 15 external experts contributed to this breaking through project.

Interviewed by me for this article, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the OSCE, Mgr Michael W. Banach, declared “This is a complex issue that cannot be explained in a few minutes but we have some objections concerning the methodology and the contents.”

Mgr Banach first regretted that as a participating State the Holy See had not been consulted during the drafting process of the Toledo Guidelines. He then stressed that the main areas of concerns of the Holy See were: the danger that teaching about religions may replace the teaching of religions in some countries; the risk that religions are portrayed negatively, the non-differentiated treatment of historical religions with regard to small religious and belief groups by the OSCE/ODIHR in general, and parental rights in the religious education of their children.

Sounds of silence

I conducted discussions with a number of experts involved in the Toledo project and asked them to react to the objections of the Holy See.

It appears from these contacts that there was no obligation to consult the 56 participating States during the drafting process but that the Holy See was not discriminated against.

On the contrary, 50 percent of the experts were Catholic academics who know the sensitive issues of the Catholic Church and they never objected to the contents of the Toledo Guiding Principles at any stage of the drafting process.

The dissent expressed through diplomatic channels by the Holy See was addressed during two separate meetings between Advisory Panel members and representatives of the Holy See.

Several months ago, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic (Slovenia,) director of ODIHR, sent a letter to the Holy See to try to clarify the situation but never received an answer. The objections and the silence of the decision-makers of the Holy See are incomprehensible to the numerous experts who devoted so much time and energy to a project meant to fight prejudices, to promote tolerance and respect between religious and belief communities.

“There was never any anti-Catholic sentiment in the drafting committee of the Toledo principles. We have always been and we still are open to a meaningful dialogue with the decision-makers of the Holy See but there is no response,” said one expert.

And another one said “We have always been neutral in our work. The Toledo principles do not advocate the replacement of religious classes by classes about religions and beliefs.

More disreputable reasons and some fears may however be part of a hidden agenda of the Church: a form of resistance to the secularisation process, the gradual loss of control on religious education in public schools, the perceived risk of instrumentalisation of the Toledo principles by the Spanish Socialist government in its conflicting relations with the Catholic Church; the risk for the Catholic Church to be presented not only positively but also negatively (such as priests’ sexual abuses of children), and so on.

It seems there is no unanimity against the Toledo principles at the Holy See and that some of its high-level representatives are favorable to them.

Therefore, the right questions to be asked and solved behind the reasons of the Holy See’s veto might be “Who in the Holy See vetoes the Toledo guidelines?” and is the Pope aware of what is at stake in this stalemate?

Maybe the time has come for muffled diplomacy (diplomatie feutrée) to make room for public debate.

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The Sacrament of Penance: merciful justice

After Vatican II, the Sacrament of Penance was changed to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Once again, a flowery ideology was used to replace the idea of sin.

In order to make way for the heretical changes that were to take place, it was necessary to deeply impress upon Catholics the “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality. This has led to the overall focus on God’s mercy and near disbelief in hell or a just God.

Sedevacantists are criticized for their purported “doom and gloom” mentality. These judgments usually come from those who are quite comfortable being “cafeteria-style Catholics”—those who choose which Commandments to follow and which to ignore. This thought pattern is what has led to the increase in divorce, immorality, immodesty and sexual deviance.

I was one of those Catholics. Nearly twenty years ago—after having had no spiritual support system for thirty years—I filed for divorce from my twenty-year marriage and easily received an “annulment” from the Novus Ordo Church. I immediately began “dating.” I look back with horror—not only at my behavior—but at the realization that I never once thought about sin. It never occurred to me that I was offending God. After being raised in the pre-Vatican II church, how had I completely lost my way?

I was very fortunate, one day, to find a priest who was not afraid to be “politically incorrect” or hurt my feelings. He cared more for my soul than his own popularity. The day that I sat down in his office, I said to him, “So, I’m divorced. How does that work?” He prudently replied, “You are not divorced.”

My life literally flashed in front of me as I drove home that day. Suddenly I could see all the things I had done—the Commandments I had broken—out of sheer ignorance. I could not get Our Blessed Mother out of my mind. She is the model after whom all women should pattern themselves; what did she think of me?

It was that day in my life that I realized, “I’m not okay.” I have been offending God and seriously jeopardizing my soul. The question was, “What was I going to do about it?” I had to make a choice between my own pleasure and the Son of God who died for me.

The road since then has been rocky, the learning curve, painful. I have had to re-learn about humility and self-abandonment, often left with a putrid taste in my mouth. But I have also found peace and become strong. The blindness that shadowed my life—the excuses and rationalizations that once held me in bondage—are gone.


Yes, God is merciful. However, Vatican II has put all emphasis on that mercy and thrown out the baby with the bath water. St. Catherine of Siena was a mystic who lived in Italy in the 14th century. She began receiving inner locutions from God the Father at a very early age. These “discussions” were recorded by her and later translated into what is known as The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena. This is what God had to say to her about His mercy:

…They will say, “Why should you want to wear yourself out? Enjoy this life; you can admit your faults at the end and obtain mercy.” In this way the devil makes them lose the fear that had enabled them to begin.

For these and all sorts of other reasons they turn back and are not constant or persevering. All this happens to them because the root of selfishness has never been dug out of them. This is why they do not persevere. Rather, they accept my mercy and hope not as they ought, but foolishly and with great presumption. And presumptuous as they are, they put their trust in my mercy even while they are continually abusing it.

I have not given, nor do I give my mercy for people to abuse, but that they may use it to defend themselves against the devil’s malice and inordinate spiritual confusion. But they do precisely the opposite: They use my mercy as a weapon against me. And this happens to them because they fail to act on their first change of heart, when they were roused by fear of punishment and hurting from the thorns of so many troubles, from the wretchedness of deadly sin. So because they fail to change, they never attain love for virtue, and therefore they do not persevere (1980) Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue (S. Noffke, O.P., Trans). New York: Paulist Press, pp.101-2.

In Article 15 of his Apostolic Exhortation on Reconciliation and Penance, John Paul II says, “Wounded in this way, man almost inevitably causes damage to the fabric of his relationship with others and with the created world.” Sin is no longer personal (between the person and God) but has become social (against society).


George M. Regan discusses the changes in morality in his book New Trends in Moral Theology. On page 14, he addresses “love.”

“Anything may be done, it would seem provided a man is careful that he does it out of true and unselfish love…Accordingly, proponents of this system would have us believe that a person, in certain circumstances, may even commit adultery or rape, have premarital sex, or publicly disown God provided he has the right intention. This “law of love” can even justify murder. For example, I can put to death a person in intense pain if I do it out of love, much as I would shoot a horse because I cannot stand to see it suffer!”

Vatican II, in an effort to “blend in” with the separated brethren, has taken all focus off the suffering of Christ for our sins. The Novus Order Church has become one of “celebration” rather than repentance. There is certainly joy and hope in the Resurrection and it is not something that should be forgotten. However, the guiding force for our salvation is a love for Almighty God and the desire to never offend Him. Humility is the key in this struggle, recognizing that we cannot persevere without the Sacraments—particularly the Eucharist and the Sacrament that absolves us of our sins: Penance. Our strength does not come from man or the “community.” It comes from God.

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A Brazilian Archbishop is Vindicated-- Or Is He?

Earlier this month, after several weeks of heated debate and background maneuvering within the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano published a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), reaffirming the Church's absolute prohibition on direct abortion, and confirming that involvement in procured abortion merits the penalty of excommunication.

That CDF statement was a vindication for an embattled Brazilian archbishop, whose public stand against abortion had been criticized by-- of all people-- the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

But that vindication was long overdue, and the short, impersonal notice in the Vatican newspaper fell far short of the apology the archbishop deserved.

The details of this intramural Vatican intrigue remain murky, but the story is a remarkable one, illustrating the entrenched power of the Vatican bureaucracy-- specifically, the Secretariat of State-- and the immense difficulty that even an archbishop can face when his plea for justice runs counter to the interests of that bureaucracy.

The story began with a public controversy in Brazil, over the case of a 9-year-old girl who was pregnant with twins. Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife drew heavy criticism in the Brazilian media when he insisted that the unborn children should not be aborted, and reminded everyone concerned that the Church stipulates the penalty of excommunication for anyone involved in direct abortion.

When the abortion was done despite those warnings, the archbishop reluctantly announced that the adults involved had brought that canonical penalty upon themselves.

Thus far the case was straightforward. Under extreme circumstances, Archbishop Cardozo had applied the clear and unswerving teaching of the Catholic Church. No doubt he realized that his stand would be politically unpopular, and he was prepared to take the inevitable criticism.

But Archbishop Cardozo could not have anticipated that some of that criticism would come from the Vatican. Rather than offering public support to the Brazilian prelate, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life joined forces with the critics .

In an article for L'Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella defended the Brazilian doctors who had made the "arduous decision" to proceed with the abortion, and suggested that Archbishop Cardoso had taken a harsh and inflexible stand that "unfortunately hurts the credibility of our teaching."

That article in L'Osservatore Romano gave many secular reporters the impression that the Vatican was shifting its position on abortion, suggesting that under some circumstances a direct abortion could be justified.

Archbishop Fisichella surely did not intend to convey that message, but as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life he is expected to handle such issues with clarity, and in this case he definitely did not.

To compound the problem, Archbishop Fisichella misstated the facts of the case. He suggested that the abortion was medically necessary in order to save the girl's life; it was not. He suggested that Archbishop Cardoso had failed to express sympathy and support for the young mother; he had. He suggested that the excommunications were announced in an unfeeling public statement; they were not.

Apparently this influential Vatican official had drawn his understanding of the case entirely from the sensationalistic Brazilian media accounts, which were written by critics of Archbishop Cardoso.

Naturally the Brazilian archbishop was upset. He asked for an opportunity to present his own side of the story in L'Osservatore Romano, to set the record straight. His plea was ignored. He hinted that he might file a canonical lawsuit to clear his reputation; that threat too was ignored.

Then on July 1 the Vatican announced that Archbishop Cardoso's resignation had been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI. It's true that he was 76 years old: a full year beyond the normative retirement age; his retirement was overdue. Still, in light of the controversy swirling around him, the timing of his announcement was certainly not helpful to the archbishop as he sought to defend his reputation.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Fisichella was coming under pressure, too. A solid majority of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life-- 27 out of 46-- wrote to protest their president's public criticism of the Brazilian archbishop.

Still Archbishop Fisichella was unmoved. He replied that he would not issue an apology, and did not regret penning the column in L'Osservatore Romano, because he had been asked to write it by the Secretariat of State.

Imagine: the article in L'Osservatore had given an inaccurate presentation of the facts, a misleading perspective on an important Church teaching, and an unfavorable portrayal of a Church leader who was doing his job under difficult circumstances.

Yet all these faults were irrelevant, Archbishop Fisichella seemed to suggest, because the Secretariat of State wanted that message aired! The bureaucratic imperative trumped the demands of justice and charity.

Now, thanks to the new CDF statement, the record has been set straight. But the damage has been done. Scores of newspaper articles are in print, claiming that the Catholic Church will accept abortion under extreme circumstances.

Thousands of people have been led-- by the Vatican newspaper-- to believe that the penalty of excommunication is too severe. A brave archbishop's critics have been emboldened. And worst of all, even the "clarification" from the CDF fails to acknowledge the damage that has been done.

This case calls for more than a "clarification." What's needed is a clear, unequivocal apology and retraction.

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Vatican Statement on the Responsibility to Protect

Here is the statement given Tuesday by the Holy See Delegation to the United Nations at a General Assembly debate on the report "Implementing the Responsibility to Protect."

* * *

Mr. President,

Four years ago the largest gathering of Heads of State took place at the United Nations in order to bring attention to the need to create a United Nations system more capable of responding to the needs of an ever changing world. There world leaders adopted the World Summit Outcome Document, which affirmed especially the responsibility of all nations and the international community to protect people from the threat of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

As outlined in the Document, the responsibility to protect is guided by three mutually reinforcing and supportive elements: first, the primary responsibility of every state to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity; second, the responsibility of the international community to help states build the capacity to exercise their primary responsibility, and third, the responsibility of the international community to take effective action when a state has failed to exercise properly its authority.

The first priority is for national governances to exercise their authority in a way which protects individuals and populations from future mass atrocities. National and local authorities which fail to intervene to protect their civilians or actually work to help perpetuate the crime fail in their basic functions and should face legal responsibility for their action and inaction.

In this regard, a human centered approach to developing policies to protect populations from grave violations of human rights and developing humanitarian law and other internationally agreed legal standards present vital components to fulfilling the national responsibility.

Further, national policies which foster greater inclusion and protection of religious, racial and ethnic minorities remain key priorities for fostering greater dialogue and understanding between and amongst populations.

Under the second pillar is the role of the international community in building the capacity of States to protect their populations. The international community has a moral responsibility to fulfill its various commitments. Through providing financial and technical support, the international community can help create the means and mechanisms for responding quickly to evolving humanitarian crises.

In this regard, local organizations, including faith-based organizations, with a long-term knowledge and understanding of the region, provide vital support in building cultural and religious bridges between groups. In addition, greater financial support from developed countries to alleviate extreme poverty serves to help reduce long term economic and political divides and helps to ease some of the motivating factors behind violence.

Finally, promotion of the rule of law at the national and international level provides the framework for preventing ongoing injustices and provides the mechanism to ensuring that those responsible for perpetuating these crimes are held accountable in a way which promotes justice and lasting peace.

The third pillar of the responsibility of the international community to intervene when national authorities fail to act often draws the greatest scrutiny. Unfortunately this element has too often focused solely on the use of violence in order to prevent or stop violence rather than on the various ways in which intervention can be made in a non-violent manner.

Timely intervention which places emphasis upon mediation and dialogue has a greater ability to promote the responsibility to protect than military action. Binding mediation and arbitration present an opportunity for the international community to intervene in a manner which prevents violence.

Further, targeted actions, such as sanctions, which are carefully aimed at preventing the spread of violence instead of at civilian populations, are also means upon which the international community can agree to promote responsible sovereignty.

For the third pillar to gain momentum and efficacy, further efforts must be made to ensure that action taken pursuant to the powers of the Security Council is done in an open and inclusive manner and that the needs of the affected populations, rather than the whims of geopolitical power struggles, are placed in the forefront. By doing so, we are able to respond to our moral obligation to intervene on behalf of those whose human rights and very right to exist are placed in jeopardy. It is therefore imperative that those countries in position to exercise their authority within the Security Council do so in a manner which reflects the selflessness needed for taking an effective, timely and human centered approach to saving people from grave atrocities.

In addition to the role of national and international institutions, religious and community leaders have an important role in promoting the responsibility to protect. Too often in many regions of the world, ethnic, racial and religious intolerance have given rise to violence and killing of people.

The exploitation of faith in the furtherance of violence is a corruption of faith and of people, and religious leaders are called to challenge such thinking. Faith should be seen as a reason to come together rather than divide for it is through faith that communities and individuals are able to find the power to forgive so that true peace can emerge.

While it took the international community many years and many lost lives to come to the agreement as expressed in the World Summit Outcome Document, it is my delegation's hope that its implementation is done as fully as possible so that succeeding generations are spared the agony that genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have caused the entire global community.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Protestant intimidation in India holding back ‘flood’ of conversions to Catholicism, bishop says

A leading bishop from northeast India says violence and intimidation by some Protestant groups there are preventing thousands of people from converting to Catholicism.

Bishop of Kohima Jose Mukala told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that there has been an upsurge in attacks and propaganda against the Catholic Church in Kohima, a mainly Protestant region.

There have been thinly-veiled threats on his life, church buildings have been destroyed, and a ban on conversions has been imposed by some village elders.

While visiting ACN’s international headquarters in Germany, Bishop Mukala spoke out against some Baptist and Evangelical church groups in the region, charging that people are being denied freedom of religion.

"There is a big increase in the number of people in the diocese wanting to become Catholic but there is very strong opposition among some of the local Protestant leaders," the bishop told ACN. "These issues have got a lot worse recently… If this opposition stopped, there would be a flood of conversions to Catholicism."

He reported that some Evangelicals in local self-governing churches and a number of Baptists in Kohima were alarmed at the growth of Catholicism.

Catholicism arrived in the region as late as 1951, when the first Catholics were baptized. There are now 58,000 among the region’s 1.9 million people, most of whom are Evangelical Christians.

Describing a visit to Catholic families in a small village of the diocese, Bishop Mukala said he was suddenly called to a parish meeting where the elder warned of "something happening to him" if he returned.

"When he told me this, I replied that if something did happen to me, it would be the elder’s responsibility. So far, nothing has happened," the bishop told ACN.

In another village Christian fundamentalists are accused of destroying a Catholic church which could only be rebuilt under police protection.

The threat of further violence has forced the bishop to begin lawsuits against individuals accused of attacks on the Church.

Bishop Mukala said that religious leaders are not to blame for the anti-Catholic activity, but rather local fanatics and village leaders in specific villages.

"They say there should be one state, one tribe and one religion. We are trying to convince them that they must allow people to be free."

He said that Catholicism was growing in the area in part because diocesan schools have a better reputation than government alternatives. Sixteen of the 20 top-performing schools in the region are Catholic, while the diocese’s 150 Catholic schools serve more than 30,000 students.

The bishop credited the religious sisters running the schools.

"Discipline is good and the management of the school is effective. The Catholic Church has placed an emphasis on integrity and hard work and that attracts people… There is also a genuine desire among people wanting to become Catholic. People want to know what we believe and why."

Bishop Mukala also thanked ACN for its support and encouraged prayers for the charity.

The charity has helped with 37 projects in the diocese over the past decade, including aid for poor and persecuted priests, building new churches and presbyteries, and providing motorcycles and other transport for clergy in remote areas.

ACN is also printing and distributing catechetical programs the ACN Child’s Bible in the local languages of Lotha and Angami.

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St. Louis priest arrested in FBI sting

The FBI has arrested a Roman Catholic priest from St. Louis, accusing him of offering money to have sex with a teenage girl.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Reap said Thursday that 57-year-old James Patrick Grady answered an Internet ad placed by undercover police officers, indicating young girls were available.

Grady was arrested Wednesday after allegedly showing up at a St. Louis County home, believing he would meet a 16-year-old girl for sex.

Two other men also face federal charges as a result of the sting operation.

Grady is pastor of St. Raphael The Archangel in St. Louis city.

A woman answering phones at the church said Grady was unavailable.

Calls to the Archdiocese of St. Louis were not returned.

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Bishop issues warning over 'copycat' church - Text Of Statement

Bishop Ceaser Mazzolari, the Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, in the Southern Sudan, has issued an urgent warning Christians in the region to avoid a breakaway church that is "confusing the minds and hearts of our Christian Faithful."

Bishop Rumbek writes: I am clearly and strongly alerting you, dear Christians, that people who call themselves 'The Reformed Catholic Church' in all truth, are no longer acceptable members of the Catholic Church and you should not follow them. Rather, you should avoid them and their influence on your lives as Christians. They will, indeed, lead you away from the truth and the true faith.

The members of the Reformed Catholic Church have, in fact, abandoned obedience not only to the Pope, but also obedience to the state of priestly celibacy and they are not paying obedience to all of the ten commandments of God, as the Catholic Church teaches them.

In appearance, these false teachers claim to follow the teachings of the Vatican II Council, but that also is not true. They have chosen a stray path away from the Catholic Church, and they are confusing people. These teachers are merely imitating the external ceremonies of the Church and some of its practices, but theirs is a false religion, not the Catholic faith that we know.

The followers of the Reformed Catholic Church are perfect 'copy cats'. Namely, they imitate the prayers, readings and external ceremonies of the Catholic services in such a way that simple people think that they are attending a Catholic Mass or Catholic prayer service. But these rituals are only empty external rites and confusing imitations. Be advised that these are false practices, not Catholic practices. Do not attend such services or you will only become confused.

Their teachings will often criticize the doctrine of the Catholic Church as old and out of date and they will put down the leaders of the church as unable to understand the changing times. That also is false, not the truth to be sought.

These Reformed Catholics will appeal to the struggle of the people as something which the traditional Catholic Church is not able to cope with or resolve. This idea also is entirely false, because the church has been very close to the people and its leaders to obtain peace (CPA) and the needed reconciliation.

In the end, they will try to make simple people become dissatisfied with their traditional Catholic church so that they will join their reformed church, which however is NOT the Catholic Church. In that imitation church any misled person will find him or herself alone and lost in total confusion. Therefore, seek the truth.

Let us be frank and make you aware that these Reformed Catholics are looking for dissatisfied church goers in order to make them victims of confusion and division by sharing their own personal dissatisfaction and emptiness as unfaithful members of their original Christian Church.

Avoid them and their harmful influence! They will misguide you to become bitter with your church as they are bitter, and to disobey the laws of the Church, which they already do, and to loose your precious gift of faith. Loosing your faith, you have lost the most valuable gift that God has ever given you.

My brothers and sisters, if you out of fear or weakness allow them to win you over to their side, you will soon find yourselves alone, empty and even more dissatisfied. They will have taught you not to listen to the truth, but only to falsehood and you will be in total darkness and confusion. We today call you to Seek the Truth and the Truth is only found in Christ and in the Church which He founded.

In all reality, the fake face and the falsehood of the members of the Reformed Catholic Church personifies them as the devil roaming around in our days, trying to lead people astray from the faith. In some way, they are also persecuting the Church and the Christian faithful. Today in 2009, the words of St Peter have to be listened to once again: 'the Devil, like a roaring lion, is moving about seeking someone to devour,? and so St. Peter says 'resist steadfastly in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same suffering,' (2 Peter 5:8-9). Let us make our own the words of St. Peter in our days.

Once again, today, the words of St Paul to Timothy also are coming true, and I address them to you, the Christians of Southern Sudan, 'for the time will come (and it has indeed come) when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires and never-satisfied curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth, and will be diverted to false teaching,' (2 Timothy 4:3-5). And so St Paul cries out, and I repeat his words to you, 'but you be self-possessed in all circumstances. Put up with hardship. Perform the work of evangelists. Fulfill your ministry,' (2 Timothy 4: 3-5).

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Holy Name Cathedral comes back from fire

If Rev. Dan Mayall had his way, the calendar might just skip the month of February.

In February 2008, structural weakness caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to tumble from the ceiling at Holy Name Cathedral, where Mayall is the pastor.

The church — the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago — closed for six months.

In February 2008, structural weakness caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to tumble from the ceiling at Holy Name Cathedral, where Mayall is the pastor. The church — the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago — closed for six months.

In February 2009, the cathedral’s roof caught on fire, causing widespread damage throughout the sanctuary.

On Saturday, after another six months of repairs, the cathedral at 735 N. State reopens for Mass once again, with extensive work having been done to the damaged wood ceiling.

The ceiling, said Mayall, “has never looked this good. It’s spectacular and it’s meant to inspire.”

When the scaffolding fell in 2008, Mayall led a church-wide fund-raiser to pay for repairs.

After the 2009 fire, he pitched to the wider community, noting that two-thirds of Holy Name’s attendees at Sunday aren’t parishioners.

“We keep beating the drum that this is Chicago’s church,” Mayall said. “This is Chicago’s home. Chicago’s been coming here to pray for a long time.”

Two million dollars in pledged donations came in, from Chicago and beyond.

A Protestant church on the city’s South SIde contributed.

The Catholic cathedral in St. Paul, Minn., took up a collection.

More than 1,000 people, including Mayor Daley and Cardinal Francis George, attended a fund-raiser for Holy Name at the Palmer House Hilton, which donated its services.

Mayall estimated that damage from the two incidents cost about $14 million. He’s hoping fire insurance will cover $6 million. The fire’s cause still has not been determined.

While scaffolding outside the church will remain in place through November, the sanctuary will be open for this weekend’s Masses, five baptisms and two weddings.

Weekday Masses will continue to be said in the parish center due to construction noise for at least the next few weeks, he said.

Abigail Schmitt and fiancee Ryan Flanagan weren’t sure if the church would be open for most of their engagement. In April, she learned will be walking down Holy Name’s aisle on Aug. 29, just like her sister did in January 2008. Her sister was married in the short window when the church was open, between when the falling wood repairs were completed and the fire.

Schmitt said she’s excited that they both were able to marry in a “landmark of Chicago.” She said her parents have been listening for construction updates at Mass.

“We were trying to be easygoing about the situation,” Schmitt said, adding that, around the time of the fire, “We also had the caterer go bankrupt.”

Mayall said he’s looking forward to again reopening Holy Name.

“This is the first church built after the Chicago fire,” he said. “It should have fallen down the last two years, but it didn’t.”

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Vatican diplomat calls for an end to witchcraft

The outgoing papal representative in Angola and Sao Tome & Principe, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, has called for an end to witchcraft accusations against children.

During a mass marking the 124th anniversary of the Santa Ana Church in Caxito, the Nuncio affirmed that, "the charges are a frequent practice on the African continent and they must be eliminated."

Reports say the although most Angolans say they are Catholic, belief in witchcraft is widespread in a country recovering from an almost three-decade long civil war and where an estimated two thirds of the population are poor.

Children are accused of witchcraft, resulting in their abuse, abandonment and, in some cases, death.

It appears more frequently among the Bakongo people, concentrated in the Uige, Zaire and Cabinda provinces in northern Angola. The situation is becoming of grave concern as atrocities against children increase by the year.

Last year 40 children were rescued from the premises of a group calling itself the Evangelical Church of Traditional Healing.

State media reported the children, some just babies, had been made to fast for 15 days, had been burned on their arms and had perfume poured in their eyes.

The Angolan government says it is taking the problem seriously and there has been much public discussion about these so-called sects which are often, according to state media reports, linked to Congolese immigrants.

During his visit to Angola earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI called on Angola's Catholics to work to convert believers in witchcraft, in a country where traditional and new sects are proliferating. "So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers," he said

The Hollywood movie "Girl Soldier" will portray the heroism of Sister Caroline, an Italian nun, who managed to rescue 109 girls captured by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda who were made soldiers and sex slaves.

While sojourning in the beautiful L'Aquila region of Italy, that was struck by earth tremors this year, an Australian journalism muses about the shake-up needed in Italy to jolt it out of the natural disaster of a demographic demise.

The Nuncio called on the Christians to follow the example of Santa Ana (Patron Saint of Caxito), promoting mutual respect within families and the preservation of moral values.

Archbishop Beccui is scheduled to leave his office in Angola in a month's time as he leaves for Cuba where the pope has stationed him.

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SIC: Spero

The troublesome priest of Medjugorje

The Vatican has achieved a significant victory over Tomislav Vlasic, the Franciscan at the centre of the Medjugorje cult.

In the end, he was pushed after he asked to jump.

And Pope Benedict won another small victory in his campaign to reconcile faith and reason.

It has emerged that the Vatican has agreed to a request for laicisation from Tomislav Vlasic, a Franciscan friar and seminal influence on the cult of Our Lady of Medjugorje.

A letter sent by the minister-general of the Franciscans to the heads of the order in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Italy informing them of the decision was posted on the internet this week.

It was dated 10 March, so we can assume this was not exactly news the Catholic church was keen to put about. And no wonder.

Vlasic was deputy parish priest of Medjugorje, a small town in Herzegovina, when in 1981 six children announced that they had been visited by the mother of Jesus. He became their unofficial spiritual adviser.

Since then, the so-called "visionaries" claim to have seen Mary around 40,000 times and been told some or all of the "Ten Secrets" at the heart of a cult that has inspired some 30 million pilgrimages.

Vlasic meanwhile has rarely been out of trouble with the church hierarchy. A few years after the purported miracle, he left Medjugorje following the disclosure that he had had an affair with a nun and fathered a child by her.

In Italy, he founded a new community of the "Queen of Peace". Last year Vlasic was confined to a Franciscan monastery in L'Aquila, after refusing to cooperate with a Vatican investigation into his activities.

Among the transgressions of which he was suspected were heresy, schism, the spreading of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, and disobedience of legitimately issued orders.

Quite a collection.

While it is true that he left Medjugorje at an early stage, the Franciscan's personal dodginess is part and parcel of the broader dodginess of the cult itself.

The local bishop accused him of having invented the whole thing. And in 1985, when the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the Vatican "ministry" that enforces doctrinal orthodoxy, he banned diocesan- and parish–sponsored pilgrimages to the shrine.

Individual Catholics are free to go to Medjugorje and be accompanied on their visit by a priest.

But the sort of miracle-seeking religiosity it inspires is precisely the kind this pope is keen to curb.

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Russian Patriarch goes green

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill expressed concern about the state of the environment, as well as mankind’s collective soul, saying the economic crisis has lessons to teach us.

The latest contributor to the ongoing verbal feud between the United States and Russia came from unusual quarters as the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church took a swipe at the United States for its “reckless consumption.”

“If society embarks on the road of such recklessness consumption, our earth will go under,” Kirill told an audience of students and lecturers at the Kiev Theological Academy. “It has already been proven that if the average level of consumption of the whole world matches that of the United States… the basic resources will run out in 40 to 50 years.”

“God has not given us resources to live like this,” he warned.

It seems the Russian Orthodox leader has done his homework.

Professor Jared Diamond from UCLA has demonstrated in a recent article that the Western world is using up resources 32 times faster than in the developing countries.

“The average rates at which people consume resources like oils and metals,” Diamond argues, “and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.”

Diamond’s conclusion may not be exactly what the economists and developers want to hear, but it correlates with what Patriarch Kirill said: “Whether we get there willingly or not, we will soon have lower consumption rates because our present rates are unsustainable.”

Patriarch Kirill’s comments show a marked tendency for religious leaders to speak out about the environmental problems now facing the planet. Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI warned an audience in Sydney, Australia about the evils associated with “insatiable consumption.”

“Reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are… scars which mark the surface of our earth… in order to fuel an insatiable consumption,” Benedict warned.

No need to live in a cave

Patriarch Kirill then provided his personal insights on the present economic crisis that would never be heard in a school of economics.

“In this sense, the crisis may teach us much – restraint and rational use of our financial opportunities,” he said. “The most important thing is to learn Christian asceticism.”

But Russia’s top hierarch was quick to point out that practicing asceticism did not necessarily imply living the life of a hermit.

This does not mean “life in a cave or permanent fasting,” the Patriarch explained. “It’s the ability to regulate one’s consumption and the condition of one’s heart, and win a victory over passions and instincts. It is important that the rich and the poor alike possess these qualities.”

The Patriarch then expressed concern that members of the eastern Orthodox societies were being exposed to degenerating “western system of values.”

“The trinkets of modern life make one giddy, and inebriate the human consciousness,” Kirill said. “People believe in advertisement, fashion, stereotypes, and this virtual world as if it were reality.”

The Russian Orthodox leader also blasted same-sex marriages, a new social-political phenomenon occurring in the West that has sparked uproar of debate on both sides of the sensitive issue.

“Until recently, nobody could even have thought that same-sex marriages would receive legislative support and would be put on par with natural marriages,” he said. “In Liberalism, every person is autonomous, both from God and from other people. He creates his own system of values and this ultimately leads him to losing his inner control.”

In the United States, same-sex marriages have been legalized in 6 of the 50 states, whereas the Russian capital refuses to permit gay rights activists from organizing parades along its straight streets.

Despite the heavy criticism leveled against western lifestyles, Kirill held out hope on the possibility for an East-West dialogue, but the dialogue should not be between a “horse and rider” but rather between equal partners.

“Holy Russia is a huge civilizational project,” the Russian Orthodox leader said. “It is not meant to be guided, but it must generate ideas, and offer the choice of an outlook to which others must answer.”

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Sweden refuses assistance in priest's Holocaust denial inquiry

Sweden has refused to summon a journalist for questioning in a possible German prosecution of Richard Williamson, the fundamentalist Catholic clergyman who caused a furor by questioning the scale of the Holocaust.

Prosecutors in the German city of Regensburg admitted Thursday the inquiry was effectively stalled.

Williamson, a British leader of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), gave an interview last year to a Swedish TV journalist near the German city, where the SSPX, an advocate of old-style Catholicism, has a seminary.

A re-broadcast of the interview this year, just after Pope Benedict XVI ended the excommunication of Williamson and three other SSPX leaders, triggered a storm worldwide.

Regensburg prosecutors opened an inquiry to see if he could be charged with Holocaust denial, which is a crime under German law.

They asked their Swedish counterparts to summon the journalist for questioning. But Sweden replied there was no legal basis to interrogate the journalist as requested.

Prosecutor Guenther Ruckdaeschel said this was apparently because of journalistic privilege in Sweden, although he said, from a German point of view, the argument made no sense.

'Legally, we can't see why. It wouldn't be any problem here to question a journalist,' he said.

'If we don't get anything from Sweden, we'll just have to see how we can get on without this testimony.'

Population studies show that 5 million to 6 million European Jews were killed by all causes,including death camps, starvation, disease and battle, during the Nazi period.

In the interview, Williamson, 69, appeared to question that, contending there was no historical evidence of Nazi gas chambers and claiming 'only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews' had been killed in concentration camps.

Through his lawyer, he has told the German prosecutors he was assured his remarks were for broadcast in Sweden only, where there is no law against doubting the Holocaust.

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Pope will visit Viterbo, where papal conclaves were born

Pope Benedict XVI will interrupt his stay at the papal summer villa to make a one-day trip to the Italian city where the papal conclave was born.

In fact, he will visit the conclave room in the Palace of the Popes in Viterbo Sept. 6 before celebrating an outdoor Mass.

The town is about 65 miles north of Rome.

Between 1261 and 1281, five of the eight popes who reigned were elected in Viterbo: Pope Urban IV, elected in 1261; Pope Gregory X in 1271; Pope John XXI in 1276; Pope Nicolas III in 1277; and Pope Martin IV in 1281.

Until 1271, the gathering of cardinals for the election was not called a conclave -- the word means under lock and key.

After Pope Clement IV died in 1268, the cardinals meeting in Viterbo could not elect his successor.

The election dragged on, ultimately lasting 33 months. It was not until city officials locked all of the cardinals in the meeting room, reduced their diet to bread and water and took the roof off the meeting hall that the cardinals elected Pope Gregory.

It was Pope Gregory who made it church law that papal elections would take place in a conclave.

Pope Benedict will travel to Viterbo by helicopter from the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Before returning to Castel Gandolfo, the pope will transfer by helicopter from Viterbo to Bagnoregio, where St. Bonaventure was born in 1217.

Pope Benedict wrote his postdoctoral thesis on the doctrine of revelation in the works of St. Bonaventure, a doctor of the church.

The pope is scheduled to venerate the "holy arm" of the saint, which is kept in Bagnoregio's cathedral.

The rest of the saint's body is buried in France.

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Irish pilgrims not put off by Medjugorje defrocking

Irish fdevotees of Medjugorje have insisted that the defrocking of a controversial priest linked to the Marian shrine does not detract from their devotion.

It was announced this week that Pope Benedict XVI has defrocked Fr Tomislav Vlasic, who previously served as spiritual director to the six children who claimed to start receiving visions from the Mother of God in the early 1980s.

The six, now adults, claim that the messages are still ongoing.


Fr Vlasic has been under investigation by the Vatican for the past years following allegations that he conducted an illicit affair with a nun and other serious claims that he was teaching false doctrine.

The investigation culminated with his dismissal from the clerical state and his expulsion from the Franciscan Order.

Paul Wallace, a spokesman for the National Medjugorje Council of Ireland told The Irish Catholic he was ''saddened'' to hear the news.

''It's disappointing because he did have some very nice sermons, during his days in the village and many people who were there in the earlier days will be very sad about this,'' he said.

However, Mr Wallace said that followers of Medjugorje were ''not surprised'' that the shrine is coming under attack.

Under attack

''We accept that Medjugorje is constantly under attack, and we view that as a sign of the authenticity of the visions and of the powerful graces that are flowing. If Satan wasn't attacking this great work, that would be surprising,'' he said.

It is estimated that upwards of 30,000 Irish pilgrims travel to the town in Bosnia-Herzegovina every year there are Medjugorje-inspired prayer groups in every county in Ireland.

While bishops are forbidden by the Vatican to lead pilgrimages to the shrine, there is no prohibition on Catholics visiting Medjugorje and the Vatican has insisted that the spiritual needs of pilgrims must be accommodated.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic last September, Milona Von Hapsburg who has worked as translator at Medjugorje since 1984 said the investigation into Fr Tomislav Vlasic was good because it meant the church was watching.

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Ryan Report action plan just 'crocodile tears': Fr McVerry

The €25-million Government action plan to improve child protection in the State has been branded as ''hypocritical'' by Jesuit justice campaigner, Fr Peter McVerry.

As part of the plan - which implements all the recommendations of the Ryan Report - the Government has committed additional money to the National Counselling Service to help victims of abuse in industrial schools.

However, Fr McVerry, who works with homeless and vulnerable people in inner-city Dublin, said moves such as these amounted to ''crocodile tears'' as several destitute survivors of the schools were unable to access proper accommodation or rehabilitation services.


''Some of those victims are now homeless, if they ring the Government for a bed; they are directed to a dormitory hospital, where they share a room with 15 to 20 others.

''Many of the victims have problems with drink and drugs and if they were to look for support in Waterford, for example, there would be three years of a waiting list.

''We are shedding crocodile tears, but we are doing sweet damn-all and are ignoring the risks to children today,'' he told The Irish Catholic, following publication of the plan this week.

Under the plan, by 2010, all State facilities for children will be independently inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

However, Fr McVerry criticised the Government's stubborn resistance to include St Patrick's Institution for young offenders in such plans.

''None of the legislation to protect children in care applies to St Pat's where children live in dehumanising and destructive conditions, spending 18 and-a-half hours a day locked into a tiny cell on their own, watching television,'' he said.

Several groups have expressed disappointment that the plan only makes the reporting of child abuse a mandatory requirement for State-funded bodies, making those who fail to do report allegations liable for criminal prosecution.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) said she was ''disappointed by the failure to place [State guidelines] Children First on a statutory footing beyond those that are employed by the State or who receive funding from the exchequer.


''Failure to ensure that non State-funded bodies are held accountable will result in the same patchy and inconsistent implementation that has been highlighted over the last number of years,'' she said.

However, Minister for Children, Barry Andrews TD insisted that the issue of mandatory reporting had created problems in other jurisdictions.

''It has caused many thousands of referrals to the social work system, many unsubstantiated cases are brought to their attention so that social workers are forced to investigate circumstances that don't give rise to any concern, and that has actually put children at risk,'' Mr Andrews said.

Bishop Leo O'Reilly agreed with the Minister and insisted that that the Government ''had good reason for not making it mandatory''.

''Sometimes the issue of mandatory reporting can be a distraction. If all the other recommendations are carried out, it would be a huge benefit and this will be a better world,'' Dr O'Reilly said.

St Stan Kennedy, founder of the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) welcomed the move to include hostels where children were seeking asylum on the list for inspections.


National Counselling Service will be exempted from public service moratorium on recruitment and additional therapists hired

All publicly-funded bodies will be obliged by law to comply with Children First guidelines

270 social work posts in the HSE will be filled

All State facilities for children including reception centres will be subject to an independent inspection

Study to be conducted to follow young people who leave care to map their transistion to adulthood

HSE will extend its out-of-hours service to GPs, acute hospitals and mental health services

Total Cost: €25 million.

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Irish priest re-appointed to key Vatican committee

An influential Irish priest has been re-appointed to a high-profile Vatican committee that advises Pope Benedict XVI on sensitive issues in relation to theology and the Church's teaching.

Fr Tom Norris, a priest of the Ossory diocese who lectures in systematic theology at Maynooth has been re-appointed to serve a third consecutive term on the prestigious International Theological Commission (ITC).

Fr Norris, who worked closely with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the latter was head of the Church's Doctrinal Congregation before his election to the papacy in 2005, has made a key contribution to many recent rulings of the ITC.

Lectured extensively

Fr Norris, a keen-follower of Kilkenny hurling, studied and obtained his doctorate in theology in Rome and has lectured extensively across the globe. He was first appointed to serve on the Commission by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and was subsequently re-appointed for a second term in 2004.

The commission is responsible for offering the Pope expert advice on theological issues that arise or potential new insights in to the Church's teaching on a particular issue.

Most recently, Fr Norris was a prominent member of the group that in 2007 called limbo an ''unduly restricted view of salvation''.

While never formal Church teaching, for centuries many Catholics believed, and some theologians taught, that children who died without baptism, while spared the damnation of hell, nonetheless suffered eternal separation from God in a state of Limbo.

Fr Norris was also a member of the ITC that in 2002 advised the Church to keep the prospect of ordaining women as deacons open.

While the commission concluded that women deacons in the early Church performed a role that was different from that of the ordained male diaconate, Fr Norris said: ''You can't make a simple equivalence between what was called diaconate in relation to women in the ancient Church and the diaconate of men.''

However, he said the question of whether women deacons could or should be allowed in the modern Church was left open ''It will remain a matter for the Magisterium of the Church to decide,'' he said.

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Michael Phelps to have audience with Pope Benedict

Swimming fans around the world recently saw Michael Phelps lose to Paul Biedermann in the 400-meter freestyle only to watch him come back and beat his own world record in the 200-meter butterfly.

On Saturday, Phelps will enter into an entirely different arena when he is received in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

CNA has learned that Michael Phelps will be present when Pope Benedict meets with 100 swimmers at Castel Gandolfo on Saturday.

The audience with the swimmers will be one of the first activities on the Pope’s schedule after his vacation in the Italian Alps.

Saverio Petrillo, Director of the Papal Villas, confirmed to CNA that the audience will take place at the papal summer residence on Saturday and that the Pope will also pray the Angelus there on Sunday.

The Angelus will be followed by a concert.

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Vatican publishes highlights for January to March 2009

As it does periodically, the Vatican released a list of highlights and summarizing the past few months.

Among the notable events are the World Meeting of Families, the Pope's encouragement of social networking tools, the publication of Benedict XVI's letter on the lifting of the Pius X Society bishops and his trip to Africa.

A list of the highlights from April to July will be published by the Vatican press office tomorrow.

The full list for January through March is given below.


1: In the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father presides at Mass for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, which also marks the 42nd World Day of Peace the theme of which is "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace."

3: Publication of a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated December 28, 2008, in which he appoints Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. as papal legate to the Sixth World Meeting of Families, to be celebrated in Mexico City from January 13 - 18.

11: Cardinal Pio Laghi, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education and patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, dies at the age of 86.

14-18: Sixth World Meeting of Families celebrated in Mexico City on the theme: "The family, teacher of human and Christian values.” To all the faithful who participate devotedly in the event, the Holy Father grants Plenary Indulgence under the usual conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

16: Benedict XVI receives prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Iran at the end of their "ad limina" visit. The conference is made up of ordinaries of the Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Churches.

18-25: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which, taken from the Prophet Ezekiel, is: "That they may become one in your hand."

18: Benedict XVI announces that the Italian city of Milan will be the site of the next World Meeting of Families, due to take place in spring 2012 on the theme "The Family, Work and Feast."

20: Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, C.M., patriarch emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, dies at the age of 89.

23: Benedict XVI receives in audience Branko Crvenkovski, president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

23: Benedict XVI receives bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, led by His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, elected as patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians by the Synod of Bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, meeting in Rome January 18 - 20.

23: Publication of the Holy Father's Message for the 43rd World Day of Social Communications, to be celebrated on May 24 on the theme: "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

24: Holy Father receives prelates from the Chaldean Church at the end of their "ad limina" visit. During the audience the bishops give the Pope a cape used by Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul and a stole belonging to Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni, both killed in Iraq over recent months.

26: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of Stanislas Lefebvre de Laboulaye, the new French ambassador to the Holy See.

29: Holy Father receives prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation at the end of their "ad limina" visit.


2: Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Janos Balassa, the new ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See.

2: Pope receives bishops from the Episcopal Conference of Turkey at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

3: Presentation of the Holy Father's 2009 Lenten Message, on the theme: "He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry."

7: Publication of the Holy Father's Message for the seventeenth World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated every year on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

9: Pope receives the Letters of Credence of Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, the new ambassador of Brazil to the Holy See.

12: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of Timothy Anthony Fischer, the new ambassador of Australia to the Holy See.

12: Benedict XVI attends a concert commemorating the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State. Our Lady's Choral Society and the RTE Concert Orchestra, both from Dublin, Ireland, play the "Messiah" by Georg Friedrich Handel.

14: Benedict XVI receives prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

16: Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, archbishop emeritus of Seoul, Korea, dies at the age of 86.

19: Benedict XVI receives in audience Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom.

22: Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, archbishop emeritus of Hanoi, Vietnam, dies at the age of 89.

27: Holy Father receives in audience Masud Barazani, president of the Autonomous Kurdish Region in Iraq.


1: Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in the Italian city of Bari is returned to the custody of the Patriarchate of Moscow in the course of solemn ceremony held there today. During the celebration, Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop emeritus of Palermo, Italy, reads out a Message from the Holy Father.

3-7: International conference on the theme: "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A critical appraisal 150 years after 'The origin of species,'" is held at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

9: Benedict XVI visits Rome Town Hall, located on the city's Capitoline Hill, where he meets Mayor Gianni Alemanno and other civic leaders.

12: Publication of a Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.

14: Benedict XVI receives a first group of prelates from the Argentinean Episcopal Conference at the conclusion of their "ad limina" visit.

14: Benedict XVI receives in audience Edward Fenech Adami, president of the Republic of Malta.

16: Announcement of the Year for Priests, to be held from June 19, 2009 to June 11, 2010 on the theme: "Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests." The year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of John Mary Vianney, the holy "Cure of Ars."

17-23: Benedict XVI's apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola.

19: For the occasion of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, the official website of the Holy See is enhanced by the addition of a new section in Chinese.

27: Benedict XVI receives in audience Demetris Christofias, president of the Republic of Cyprus.

29: On this fifth Sunday of Lent, the Pope visits the parish of the Holy Face of Jesus, located in the Magliana neighborhood in the western sector of the diocese of Rome.

31: Publication of Benedict XVI's Message for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on May 3, on the theme: "Faith in the divine initiative - the human response."

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