Thursday, June 30, 2011

Naomh An Lae - Saint Of The Day


The First Martyrs of the Church of Rome (64AD)

Jews and Christians at Rome during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD) 
There was a large Jewish population in Rome in the first century AD and probably within ten or fifteen years after the death and resurrection of Jesus there was a good number of Christians there too. 
It may have been as a result of a controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, that the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews - and this would have included Christians - from Rome in 49-50 A.D.


Suetonius the historian in his Life of Claudius (25:4) says that " ... since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Emperor Claudius] expelled them from Rome."

Aquila and Priscilla

This coincides with what we read of Paul in Corinth: "There he met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, for the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome" (Acts 18:2). Priscilla and Aquila seem to have returned to Rome as Paul greets them in the letter he sent to the Romans (Rom 16:3-5).

The fire of Rome under Nero 64 AD

In July 64 AD, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumour blamed the tragedy on the young emperor Nero (54-68 AD), who had wanted to enlarge his palace. Christians may have been an easy target on whom to shift the blame.

The historian Tacitus (56-117 AD)

The following quotation from the historian Tacitus (56-117 AD) refers to the rumour and its consequences for Christians.
But all human efforts, all the emperor's gifts and propitiations of the gods, were not enough to remove the scandal or banish the belief that the fire had been ordered. And so, to get rid of this rumour Nero set up as culprits and punished with the utmost cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians.
Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment, this pernicious superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the source of the evil, but even in Rome, the place where everything that is sordid and degrading from every quarter of the globe finds a following.
Thus those who confessed (i.e.. to being Christians) were first arrested, then on evidence from them, a large multitude was convicted, not so much for the charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race.
Besides being put to death they were made objects of amusement; they were clothed in hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others were set on fire to illuminate the night after sunset.
Nero threw open his grounds for the display and put on a show at the circus where he mingled with the people dressed like a charioteer and driving about in his chariot.
All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, even towards these men who deserved the most exemplary punishment since it was felt they were being killed, not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual." (Tacitus, Annales, 15:44)
The seed of Christians 

The Good News brings always opposition as it did to Jesus. Many profess it even in the face of death. 

But the Church grows in the midst of persecution. As Tertullian said: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."

June - Month Of The Sacred Heart


O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
living and quickening source of eternal life,
infinite treasure of the Divinity,
and burning furnace of divine love.

Thou art my refuge and my sanctuary,
O my amiable Savior.

Consume my heart with that burning fire with which Thine is ever inflamed.

Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Thy love,
and let my heart be so united with Thine,
that our wills may be one,
and mine in all things,
be conformed to Thine.

May Thy divine will be equally the standard and rule
of all my desires
and of all my actions.

Prayer To Saint Matthew

O Glorious Saint Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. 
Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven.

Exam Prayer

Lord Jesus,
for me and all my fellow students,
may we have Your help today and
all the days of these exams.

May I be assured of Your
friendship and the friendship
of all who wish me well.

Just give me a clear mind,
a reassurance that the work
I've done will be enough
and that I can believe
in myself and
my ability.

If, for a moment,
that belief should fail,
may I depend
on those I know
who are praying
for me.


Global Rosary Relay for Priests

Pope Benedict XV1 has officially endorsed the Annual Global Rosary Relay for Priests taking place on July 1 (Friday) and he has written a special prayer for the occasion.  

In it he asks that all who are ordained to the ministerial priesthood may be ever more conformed to God, preach the Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience, and be shining examples of a holy, simple and joyful life.

48 rosaries will be prayed at 48 Marian shrines in 24 hours in this second event of its kind.  

Since last year the number of shrines participating has doubled to 48 in thirty-five countries worldwide.  

The event involves the members of the Church praying for all priests in the exercise of their ministry so that they may experience gratitude and support of the family of the Church.

Irishwoman Marion Mulhall has been praying for priests for around two decades (long before any of the recent scandals) and said that at the end of the Year for Priests, the Prayer Relay was an inspiration that she shared with colleagues and it spread and spread.  

Knock hosted the first rally last year, as did 23 other shrines elsewhere in the world. 

Not only is the rosary prayed at shrines but individuals can pray wherever they are be it at work or at home, commuting or relaxing with family and friends.

“It is organised in such a way that there will be an entire day of prayer over the entire world,” Marion Mulhall told ciNews. 

“There will be someone praying in some part of the world every minute of the day.  People really want to be part of it. It is very easy, you can just stop what you are doing (at the designated time) and pray. Children can do it, adults, people from other faiths – it is for everyone.”

This year, first up to recite the Rosary is to be  Los Angeles at midnight GMT and the spiritual baton will sweep around the world and end up back in the USA  in Wisconsin,  24 hours and 48 shrines later.  

After Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles the Rosary Relay will then pass on every half hour to locations including Australia, China and other Asian countries, Dubai and the Middle East, Nazareth in the Holy Land, South Africa, Eastern and Western Europe including Ireland and Great Britain, and the Americas, ending back in the USA at The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin at (GMT) 24.00.

In Ireland the Glorious Mysteries will be recited at 6:00pm at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.  

The baton will be passed on at 6:30pm to Our Lady’s Island, Wexford for the Luminous Mysteries (or Mysteries of Light). 

This is the first time the Relay is taking place in Wexford and they are expecting a packed church.

Each shrine team (in Ireland and abroad) received personalised publicity material and promote the event locally and through the internet.  

They also use their own initiative in the local events that include the Rosary and the Pope’s prayer.  

For example, In New York, the Shrine of Our Lady of Roses will be linked to up to 1,000 people via conference call.

“People are coming up with ideas and planning and thinking ahead.  It has taken on a life of its own,” said Mulhall.

Among those who support the initiative in Ireland are Michael Neary Archbishop of Tuam, Ireland (Episcopal Advisor to Worldpriest) who said, “I believe it has great potential and will bring many spiritual benefits to all involved.”

Next year the event will be on June 15 during the World Eucharistic Congress.

Donegal priest critical of those who put shopping before Mass

A County Donegal based parish priest has strongly criticised those who put Sunday shopping ahead of Sunday worship.  

Speaking at the 50th anniversary celebrations of his own church, namely Saint Peter's in Milford in County Donegal, Fr Martin Collum claimed that more and more people now prefer to spend their Sundays buying clothes and material things than going to Sunday mass.  

In a poignant message to his parishioners he said, “What does the future hold?  What will we pass on to our tortured youth-that which our ancestors passed onto us?” 

He added, “The modern day church for many is the shopping malls, the cathedrals of consumerism with Gucci, Channel, Calvin Klein, Boss or whatever their God is at that moment of time.  There is a danger that the church will be out on the fringes or on the margins and not at the centre of our lives in the future.”

Fr Collum was also critical of those who only use the church for special occasions such as communions , marriages and funerals and those who claim that while they don't go to mass that they practice their faith at home. 

He said, “Churches are not places that could simply be wrapped up and rolled out for special occasions like weddings and funerals and then left as an empty building until the next big occasion.” 

He pointed out that “This is a self-service religion where we can pick and choose” and it doesn’t exist.

Prayer for the Olympics

The Church of England has released a prayer for those preparing for the 2012 Games.

It asks God to be with the athletes, their supporters and families, and the thousands of churches preparing events in their communities in the run-up to and during the Olympics.

With just 400 days to go until the Games begin, the prayer has been read out on a new podcast by British 400m Olympic gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu MBE.

The Rev Duncan Green, the Church of England's Executive Olympics Coordinator, said: "More than Gold are resourcing and equipping the Church to respond to the tremendous mission and outreach opportunities afforded by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"It has been wonderful to see so many attend the More Than Gold training conferences and leave excited and enthused by what they have heard. This prayer will encourage churches and all those preparing for the 2012 Games."

The Church of England is a member of the More than Gold ecumenical initiative coordinating the Olympic-related outreach of churches and ministries across the UK.

Many of the 16,000 Church of England churches are planning events to coincide with the Games.

They include St Barnabas at Bexhill-on-Sea, which is putting up a big screen for the opening ceremony.

The Diocese of Oxford has appointed an Olympics chaplain, the Rev Janet Binns, and set up a dedicated Olympics website (

It is encouraging churches to connect with people through community events, hospitality and service, particularly at the rowing Olympics venue at Eton Dorney.

In Weymouth and Portland, churches will be launching their Olympics outreach with a themed festival in Portland in August.

During the Games, they will be offering foot massages and drinks in Bedouin tents along the beach. There will also be big stage events, bands, and clubs for children.

The Church of England's Olympics prayer has been composed by the Rev Christopher Woods, the Church of England's National Worship Development Officer.

It is available in full below.

A prayer in preparation for the 2012 Games

Eternal God,
Giver of joy and source of all strength,
we pray for those
who prepare for the London Olympic and Paralympic games.

For the competitors training for the Games and their loved ones,
For the many thousands who will support them,
And for the Churches and others who are organising special events and who will welcome many people from many nations.

In a world where many are rejected and abused,
we pray for a spirit
of tolerance and acceptance, of humility and respect
and for the health and safety of all.

May we at the last be led towards the love of Christ who is more than gold, today and forever.


Chinese authorities intervene in Vatican-approved bishop ordination

The ordination of a Vatican-approved Chinese bishop has been postponed because of government pressure, while a government-backed illicit ordination of another man who lacks the Pope’s approval will go ahead.

Coadjutor Bishop-elect Joseph Sun Jigen of Handan in the northern Hebei province is presently being “looked after” by government officials in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, church sources told UCA News.

Public security officers took him and diocesan chancellor Fr. John Huai Jianting as soon as he completed the pre-ordination retreat on June 26 in neighboring Henan province, three days ahead of his scheduled ordination.

The two clergymen were forced into a police car. When nearing the city of Handan, Fr. Huai protested and tried to jump out. The officers then transferred him to another car and sent him back to the diocese.

The officers proceeded with the bishop-elect to Shijiazhuang.

Bishop Stephen Yang Xiangtai of Handan, 89, suffered a heart attack upon hearing the news. 

He is under treatment at the diocese-run Dazhong Hospital.

Nuns from a diocesan congregation have begun fasting and are in a 24-hour Eucharistic adoration to pray for the diocese.

Bishop-elect Sun is said to be in good condition at a guesthouse, but government officials are monitoring him.

The diocese has resisted Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde, who was ordained without a papal mandate, being present at the ordination. 

Priests from the diocese have also insisted on reading out the papal mandate during Bishop-elect Sun’s ordination ceremony.

The government-backed Bishops’ Conference of the Church in China has not issued its approval so far.

Meanwhile, on June 29 a man will be ordained without papal approval for the Diocese of Leshan in southwestern China.

Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, will be the main celebrant in ordaining Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin.

Bishops Peter Faing JianPing of Tangshan and Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou will be co-consecrators.

One expert said that in a complicated Church reality where the truth is often shrouded, the Vatican must keep pushing for the rights of Christians.

John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need said in comments to CNA that a June 23 report showing nearly half of Chinese Catholic dioceses are without a bishop is a sign of the hard reality for Catholics there.

“Nobody quite knows fully what is going in China but we would presume this report to be reasonably reliable and it shows, again, the extent to which the state is controlling the Church in China.”

“It also underlines the need for us to remain very concerned about the freedoms of the Church in China which should be allowed to govern itself and put the necessary structures in place to freely proclaim the Gospel,” he added.

The China Daily reported on June 23 that out of 97 dioceses, 44 are without bishops.

The news came as a conclusion of recent meetings of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church of China.

According to the report, Chinese bishops said that a lack of bishops has “seriously affected normal operations and church affairs at bishopless diocese(s).”

While neither the bishops’ conference nor the patriotic association is recognized by the Vatican, they are the only official voice allowed for Catholics in China in a state-controlled reality.

Association spokesman Fr. Yang Yu said they are looking to take “active and prudent” steps to address the problem.

Pontifex underlined the difficulty in knowing what the true situation is for the estimated six million Catholics in China.

“The reason we don’t know the full truth of what’s going on in China, especially as regards the Church, is that behind every apparent fact and statement lies a more complicated reality,” he said.

“The Vatican needs to continue to press consistently and clearly for rights and privileges to which the Church is entitled,” he said.

He pointed to problems that go well below the surface.

“If the official Church is being controlled in this way it begs the question as to the problems being faced by the underground Church. One can only presume that things for them are much worse.”

Proposed euthanasia law must be rejected, state Spanish bishops

Spain's bishops condemned a proposed “death with dignity law” and declared that the bill in its current form must be abolished, modified or rejected.

“Laws that tolerate or even regulate violations of the right to life are gravely unjust and must not be obeyed. Moreover, these laws call into question the legitimacy of those public officials who draft and approve them. They must be denounced and abolished, modified or, in this case, rejected, with every democratic means available,” the Spanish bishops’ conference said in a statement published June 27. 

The secretary general and spokesman for the Spanish bishops, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino spoke during a press conference and called the measure unjust. He rejected the argument that the Church is acting against democracy.  She is “exercising it precisely in a fundamental way,” he said, adding that a law of “such transcendence” should not be rushed to a vote.

In their statement, the bishops demanded that the right to conscientious objection be recognized and guaranteed for health care professionals involved in “situations that entail legal attacks on human life.”  They also said the “lex artis” should be upheld, which ensures that good medical practices keep the absolute personal autonomy of the terminally ill patient in check.

While they praised the measure for attempting to “protect the dignity of the person at the end of life without decriminalizing euthanasia,” the bishops said it fails to do so because “it leaves the door open to the legalization of euthanistic conduct.” 
“An understanding of the autonomy of the person as practically absolute, and the weight that is given to such autonomy in the development of the law, ends up distorting the stated intention and exceeding the proposed limit of not leaving any room for euthanasia,” they said.

The bishops also noted that the proposed law employs a reductive definition of the concept of euthanasia, “which leaves the door open to certain voluntary omissions that can cause death or directly accelerate it.”

Among the “euthanistic” practices that would be legalized by the measure include the improper use of sedation, which ought to be applied according to the sound judgment of doctors and not the will of the patient, the bishops continued.  The measure erroneously treats this matter as a “right” of the patient, they added.

The bishops went on to note that the law could be used to support a decision to withdraw treatment or deny patients basic care such as food and hydration.

The measure also makes no mention of religious freedom, they said, and instead formulates “a new right to accompaniment which includes spiritual or religious counsel that it says patients have a right to receive if they obtain it.”

Nevertheless, the bishops pointed out that the second draft of the measure is an improvement on the first, which “did not even mention that patients had a right to spiritual assistance.”  The latest draft at least acknowledges that right, they said.

Bishop Martinez Camino warned that the measure also does not mention the international accords or agreements Spain has signed with the Catholic Church and with other religious confessions.

Expert supports Israeli ambassador's praise for Pius XII

An expert on Pope Pius XII expressed support for an Israeli ambassador who faces controversy after publicly praising the World War II pontiff for helping save Jews during the Holocaust.

Israeli ambassador to the Vatican Mordechai Lewy said on June 27 that his positive comments about late Pope were historically “premature,” after he was criticized by Jewish groups.

However, author William Doino commended the ambassador for “opening up healthy and productive discussion” and supports his stance in favor of Pope Pius XII– who is often accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. 

Ambassador Lewy sparked the debate at a June 23 ceremony honoring World War II Italian priest Fr. Gaetano Piccini, when he recalled how convents and monasteries opened their doors to save Jews after the Nazis persecuted Rome's Ghetto in 1943.

“There is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on,” Lewy said during his address.

“So it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the Pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews.”

“To the contrary, the opposite is true,” he said.

Days later, after Jewish leaders claimed his remarks were historically inaccurate and insensitive to Holocaust survivors, Lewy explained that his comments “were embedded in a larger historical context” which is “still under the subject of ongoing and future research.” 

Passing “my personal historical judgment on it,” he added, “was premature.”

While Lewy faces criticism over his remarks, he's also gained support from those like Doino, an expert on the late Pope who contributed extensively to an anthology titled “The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII” (Lexington Books).

“Having read his original statements, the responses to them, and his clarification, I believe it is all for the good, because it demonstrates how prominent officials in Israel are beginning to express greater openness toward Pius XII,” Doino said to CNA on June 27. 

Despite media reports claiming that Lewy has now backtracked on his original comments, Doino said “the Ambassador did not deny what he said may well be true.”

Rather, he only said it's too early “to make definitive, all-encompasing statements.”

Doino also noted that research is showing how the popular cultural perception that Pius XII ignored the plight of the Jews during World War II is false.

“I believe there is an increasing amount of evidence, independent of the Vatican archives, and impossible to ignore by anyone interested in this subject – through first-hand testimonies, diaries, and other primary documents – demonstrating that Pius XII did indeed 'speak out,' in ways clearly understood by Catholic rescuers, and that he did indeed help rescue persecuted Jews.”

Doino recalled how the Nazis were “furious” about Pius XII’s public addresses and conduct and denounced him as a “mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.”

He added that early in his pontificate, Pius XII approved a plot to overthrow Hitler and was commended by many leaders of the anti-Nazi Resistance.

“These are documented facts, which cannot be erased, and will remain part of the larger discussion, whatever else is said, and whatever more comes out of the Vatican archives,” Doino said.

Pope recalls 'most important moment' of his life

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Freising, Germany on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He has called his ordination “the most important moment of my life.”

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano included in its June 29 edition an excerpt from the book “Memoirs: 1927-1977,” published in 1997 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. In the book, he recounts the day of his priestly ordination.

“For at least the past two months,” Ratzinger wrote, “I was able to focus completely on preparing myself for the big step: priestly ordination, which we received at the Cathedral of Freising from the hands of Cardinal Faulhaber on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1951.”

“It was a splendid summer day which was unforgettable,” he continued, “and the most important moment of my life.

“Not to be superstitious, but the moment in which the elderly archbishop laid hands on me, a bird—perhaps a lark—flew up from the main altar in the cathedral and began chirping joyfully, which for me was like a voice from on high had said: this is okay, you are on the right path.

“The next four weeks of summer were like one long celebration,” the Pope continued. He recalled that the day of his first Mass (July 8 in Traunstein), the parish of St. Osvaldo “was splendidly illuminated” and filled with the joy of all in attendance.

“We were invited to bring the blessings of the first Mass to all of the homes, and we were welcomed everywhere, even by complete strangers, with a kindness which up until then I had never even imagined.

“Thus I directly experienced the great expectations that people have of priests, how much they await their blessing, which comes from the strength of the sacrament. It was not about me or about my brother. What could two young men like us mean to so many people we encountered?

“They saw us as persons to whom Christ had entrusted the task of making Him present among men. No doubt because we were not the center of everything, friendly relationships soon began to form.”

The future Pope was ordained by the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, who was an expert in Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, and one of the most courageous critics of the Nazi regime.

The Congregation for the Clergy has encouraged Catholics around the world, especially priests, to hold 60 hours of eucharistic adoration to pray for the Pope, one hour for each year he has been a priest.

Churches reject calls for international protection for 'persecuted' Copts

Representatives of the three Egyptian Churches and several Coptic activists condemned on Tuesday a demand made to the US Congress by some expatriate Copts calling for international protection for Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Bishop Markos of Shubra al-Kheima told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he rejects the demands. 

“Copts fall under the protection of the Egyptian state, and Muslims and Christians in Egypt fall under the protection of God, who mentioned Egypt and its people in the Quran and the Bible.”

Bishop Antonios Aziz of the Catholic Church in Giza also rejected the demands for international protection, saying, “Our internal problems will not be solved by seeking outside help. When there is a problem at home it must be solved by the occupants of that home.”

Aziz stressed that the Copts “will stand against any attempts to interfere with national sovereignty.” He went on to say that the US Congress “cannot force Egypt to change its policies on certain issues.”

Aziz said that the Copts have confidence in the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. "There is no justification for the argument made by Copts abroad for international protection," he said.

The Bishop said that if Copts abroad claim that Egyptian Christians are being prosecuted then they must provide evidence. "There are some cases of injustice," he said, "but there is no systematic persecution by the state or its citizens against Copts.”

Aziz said that “the demands of expatriate Copts do not represent those of Copts in Egypt,” adding that those making these demands “represent only themselves, and no one asked them to speak on our behalf or to defend us.”

Refaat Fekry, the pastor of the Evangelical Church in Shubra, said, “The Egyptian state must play its role in obstructing those making these demands.”

Schönborn failed to act, abuse victim claims

The highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria has been accused of keeping quiet about a case of sexual abuse.

A lawyer said Monday he will launch legal action against Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn. The advocate’s client explained she consulted Schönborn in 1994 to tell him of sexual abuse by a priest. The woman, 45, said Schönborn – who was auxiliary bishop of Vienna at that time – failed to act despite her plea for help.

A spokesman for Schönborn – who was given chances to succeed late Pope John Paul II before German Josef Ratzinger was elected new Pope in 2005 – vehemently denied the claims. He explained Schönborn would have certainly taken action had he considered the accusations as severe. He described the meeting between Schönborn and the allegedly molested woman as a confessional conversation.

The spokesman also said that the so-called Klasnic commission financed therapy sessions for the woman. The commission headed by former Styrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Governor Waltraud Klasnic was established by Schönborn last year. The cardinal, who is regarded as a more liberal representative of the Church than some other Austrian bishops, hoped that people who became victims of clergymen’s sexual, physical and psychological abuse would get in touch with the panel to negotiate compensation payments.

Nearly 1,000 people contacted the commission. Around three quarters of victims who decided to get in touch are men, according to Die Presse newspaper. The daily paper also reports that many of them abstained from asking for money but demanded apologies instead.

More than 250 victims of abuse at boarding schools and other institutions run by the Catholic Church have received financial compensation so far after the Klasnic board checked their cases. Only seven claimants have been denied any money to this point, according to reports.

The Klasnic commission stopped taking on any further cases at the beginning of this year. Victims of abuse are asked to contact the Roman Catholic Church’s provincial ombudsman institutions. However, several independent victim protection groups called on these people not to get in touch with any organisations aligned to the Church. Some of these groups also found harsh words to comment the nomination of Klasnic due to her Catholic background.

The Catholic Church in Austria has been hit badly by the wave of accusations brought forward in the past two years. Official figures presented last January revealed that, with 87,393, more people than ever since the end of World War Two (WWII) in 1945 left the Church in 2010. The number also meant a 63 per cent increase compared to 2009, the previous post-war record year.

The 2010 data means that 65.1 per cent of the more than eight million people living in Austria are Catholics, down from 89 per cent in 1961. The share of Catholics in the population of Vienna ranged around just 39 per cent last year. The capital’s diocese suffered the highest exodus rate among the country’s nine provinces. More than 25,000 cancelled their membership in 2010, 53 per cent more than in the year before. The Viennese diocese recently decided to give up a church in the district of Ottakring to hand it over to the prospering Serbian-Orthodox community. Newspapers have been speculating that the same could happen to several other churches across the city.

A recent Karmasin study revealed that only one in five Austrians go to church regularly. Forty-seven per cent told the public opinion research agency that they believe in God. In another Karmasin poll, 45 per cent explained their trust in the Austrian Catholic Church is shattered due to the many abuse cases which had been disclosed in recent months. Another 27 per cent told Karmasin they had no trust in the Church anyway.  

Pallium represents unity, responsibility, says Los Angeles archbishop

Even though it will be the second pallium Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles receives from Pope Benedict XVI, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the United States said he was very excited to receive the woolen band.

"It's a beautiful moment when you see the unity of the universal church and it's also a moment of responsibility and commitment for me," he said.

He said he was excited about the pallium ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica June 29 "because I've seen the importance of our communion with the Holy Father, and it also shows the concern of the Holy Father for the people in the United States and the people of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."

Forty-five archbishops from around the world, including five from North America, were to receive a pallium -- a circular band of white wool marked with six black crosses -- on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. All archbishops named within the past year may receive the pallium from the pope in June as a symbol of the archbishop's authority as pastors and unity with the pope.

Archbishop Gomez, 59, received his first pallium in 2005 after he was named archbishop of San Antonio. He was installed in March as Los Angeles' fifth archbishop.

Archbishop Gomez led about 300 people on a Rome pilgrimage, which included attending the pallium ceremony at St. Peter's, special Masses celebrated by the archbishop and visits to Rome's other basilicas and sacred places.

Richard Pardi of Woodland Hills, Calif., was part of the archdiocese-sponsored pilgrimage. He told CNS that the pallium ceremony reflects the importance of ritual in the Catholic faith.

"These rituals go back hundreds and hundreds of years. And that gives substance to our belief, that it's not just us, it was our fathers, our grandfathers and our whole history of our family that goes back to the beginning of Jesus' crucifixion," Pardi said.

Those who couldn't make the trip could still feel part of the events by following the updates on the archbishop's official Facebook page, which featured status updates as well as photos from the pilgrimage.

"Dear Fellow Pilgrims: Wherever you are this week, remember that each one of you is a cherished member of the Body of Christ. Each of us is on a spiritual journey to Christ, Our Lord," the archbishop posted on his wall when he arrived in Rome June 24.

"I carry your intentions with me as we will visit and pray at the ancient holy sites of our Catholic faith," he added.

A YouTube video of the archbishop delivering his homily on a very hot Sunday in Rome showed pilgrims laughing when he said his remarks would be very brief because in the front of the church near the lectern was "a little warm -- I don't know about that side" back by the pews.

The first Hispanic to serve as archbishop of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez leads the nation's most populous archdiocese, now numbering nearly 5 million Catholics who come from myriad cultures and traditions.

The archdiocese offers Mass in 42 languages, but the ethnically diverse parishioners come together for an annual Mass for cultures at the city cathedral, he said.

"When I celebrated that Mass, that's when I really realized this is not San Antonio anymore," he laughed, as he recalled the presence of so many people from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The diversity of Catholic traditions and cultures in Los Angeles is in a way a microcosm of the diversity and unity of the universal church.

"We are together in the same faith," he said, where no matter what language or popular devotions the different parishioners use, they all show "the same love for the Eucharist, for the pope" and God.

When people think of Los Angeles, most people think of Hollywood and movie stars, he said, yet what he has found most striking "is the faith of the people."

"The churches are packed every Sunday, which is beautiful," he said.

He said he sees his first duty as an archbishop is to take care of his priests, both in their formation and in promoting vocations to religious and consecrated life, although he also remains committed to the lay faithful.

The archbishop, who was ordained a priest of the Opus Dei prelature, said, "It's important we respond to our Christian vocation where we are whether we are priests or deacons or religious or lay faithful."

"We have to be generous and joyful in living our vocation," which is to live holy lives, he said.

"I think my role as an archbishop is to help everybody be together, to be inspired, excited about the Christian faith and especially to give them hope because life is not easy."

By presenting the hope of the Gospel and reminding people of God's love for everyone, people will be able to find the strength and joy to face today's challenges, he said.

Cardinal sees 'no theological obstacle' to women priests

Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, Portugal, a veteran European prelate at one point considered a contender for the papacy, reportedly has said there’s “no fundamental theological obstacle” to the ordination of women as priests in the Catholic church.

According to the text of an interview with a legal publication in Portugal called Oa, Policarpo said that women’s ordination will happen only “when God wants it,” although not in our lifetimes, and that now is not the time to raise the question.

“Theologically there is no fundamental obstacle,” Policarpo was quoted as saying. “We could say there’s a tradition, because it’s never been done.”

“There’s a fundamental equality among all the members of the church,” the cardinal said. 

“The problem lies in a strong tradition, which comes from Jesus and from the fact that the churches of the Reformation conceded the priesthood to women.”

Those comments were highlighted over the weekend by “Vatican Insider,” a new on-line news source on the Catholic church operated by the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Policarpo’s claim that there is no theological bar to women priests would seem to be at odds with various recent Vatican declarations.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II issued the document Ordinatio sacerdotalis reaffirming the ban on women priests. 

A subsequent clarification released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger asserted that the teaching on “has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium," and therefore belongs to the "deposit of faith."

More recently, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the teaching as “infallible” in a letter informing Australian Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba diocese that he had been removed from office, in part for raising the question of women’s ordination in a 2006 pastoral letter.

Policarpo also reportedly said that the debate over women’s ordination is to some extent a “false problem,” because the same young women who put the question to him usually demur when he asks if they themselves would be willing to become priests.

Policarpo, 75, has been the Patriarch of Lisbon since 1998. Although he has reached the usual retirement age for bishops, Benedict XVI recently confirmed him in office for another two years.

A former dean of the theology faculty at the Portuguese Catholic University, Policarpo was considered by some a dark-horse candidate for the papacy during the late John Paul years. 

He is generally seen as a theological and political moderate, and a bridge-builder between the church in Europe and in Latin America.

The text of the interview with Policarpo, in Portuguese, may be found here.

Catholic Church denies funeral mass to San Diego gay businessman

In a decision reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s refusal to hold a funeral mass in 2005 for openly gay businessman John McCusker, Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Little Italy has canceled a funeral mass scheduled this Thursday morning for openly gay businessman John Sanfilippo, owner of the SRO Lounge, a popular gay cocktail bar.

Sanfilippo died on Friday, June 24.

City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, a friend of the Sanfilippo family, talked to his partner of 30 years, Brian Galvin.

“The Sanfilippo family and Brian are, of course, devastated and are trying to get the mass in another church,” Murray Ramirez said.

When the parish priests found out about the gay relationship of Sanfilippo and Galvin, the priests said they were uncomfortable with Sanfilippo and Galvin’s relationship, according to Murray Ramirez, adding the church notified the family on Sunday that the Thursday funeral mass was canceled.

Our Lady of the Rosary Church is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese in San Diego, led by Bishop Robert Brom. 

Murray Ramirez contacted the Catholic Diocese for a clarification of its policy of funeral masses for LGBT Catholics and is planning to press for a policy statement from Bishop Brom.

McCusker, owner of Club Montage (now Spin Nightclub), died in 2005 due to heart failure. 

Bishop Brom said McCusker could not receive a Catholic funeral at any parish in the diocese’s jurisdiction.

His funeral was originally scheduled at the University of San Diego’s Immaculata Catholic Church.

Austrians do not trust Church: Poll

The majority of people in Austria do not trust the Roman Catholic Church due to the abuse scandals involving pedophile priests, a recent opinion poll has shown.

According to a poll conducted by Austrian paper Kurier, 61 percent of Austrians said they do not trust the Roman Catholic Church.

About 35 percent said they trusted the Church while 4 percent said they did not know whether they trusted the Church.

The poll involved 1,000 adult Austrians interviewed by telephone from May 26-28.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a flood of complaints, especially in Europe and the United States, that its clergymen have abused hundreds of children over the past few decades.

The Church covered up the abuse cases by simply reappointing pedophile priests elsewhere instead of punishing them, critics say.

Pope Benedict XV himself has been accused of aiding efforts to protect pedophile priests from prosecution.

Charges against the Pope including crimes against humanity have been initiated at the International Criminal Court.

Two German lawyers, Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel from the Pope's home state of Bavaria, have submitted a 16,500-word document indicting the Pope for various crimes against humanity.

Pope Benedict is charged with the "establishment and maintenance of a worldwide system of cover-up of the sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests and their preferential treatment, which aids and abets ever new crimes." 

Poland Asks Vatican to Muzzle Controversial Priest

The Polish government has asked the Holy See to quiet a Catholic priest who recently called his native Poland “uncivilized” and close to “totalitarian” after getting a fine for illegal fund-raising. 

The diplomatic note to the Vatican follows this government’s visible move away from the Catholic Church ahead of a parliamentary election set for later this year.

During a trip to the European Parliament in Brussels last week, Tadeusz Rydzyk, a Polish Redemptorist monk, said: “It’s scandalous, we’re feeling excluded, discriminated against, it’s like totalitarianism. What we’re dealing with in Poland is tragic, mean — to put it mildly. It’s Poland’s tragedy that since 1939 Poland hasn’t been ruled by Poles. It’s not about blood or allegiance — they don’t love the Polish way, they don’t have a Polish heart.”

In reaction, the government over the weekend gave a diplomatic note to a Vatican official requesting action that would keep Father Rydzyk from “making statements detrimental to Poland’s good name and the Church in Poland.”

The priest is at the helm of a Catholic radio station and a related television channel, and also runs a newspaper — all of which share much of the conservative political line of the opposition Law and Justice party.

The priest’s business ventures include a private university and a search for hot springs that could be used for heating and power generation. During the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Rev. Rydzyk’s foundation secured about $10 million of a European Union subsidy for the hot springs project. 

The subsidy was canceled soon after the current prime minister, Donald Tusk, came to power. 

The state-backed environmental agency that administers the funds pointed to procedural errors made by the priest’s foundation. 

The priest was recently fined about $1,000 for failing to observe Poland’s laws on fund-raising when trying to collect cash from his followers to continue the search for thermal waters.

Mr. Tusk said Monday that the controversial Redemptorist won’t face discrimination, but also won’t enjoy any privileges. 

The government’s vocal reaction to Father Rydzyk’s remarks raised some eyebrows in Poland because the state had complained about its own national to a foreign authority.

However, the note coincides with Mr. Tusk’s acknowledgement that a bill introducing same-sex civil unions could be debated soon after this year’s parliamentary election.

Mr. Tusk’s Civic Platform party has recently welcomed a popular leftist politician to its ranks.

Mr. Tusk recently said his government won’t “kneel in front of any priest” after years when he and his Civic Platform party, usually described as center-right, were careful not to upset relations with the Catholic hierarchy of Poland. 

Whether in the opposition in 2005-2007 or leading the government since 2007, the party was sending conservative messages about Poland’s abortion laws or the possibility of state recognition for same-sex unions.

But opinion polls on such matters published over the years show Polish society is changing. 

The number of voters who haven’t experienced communism, or weren’t even alive during that era, is growing rapidly. 

Church attendance is still high, but is declining—in 2010 41% of the Church’s members were attended the Sunday mass, down from 47% in 1992. 

The society still predominantly dislikes homosexuals, but a majority of respondents has recently supported a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same inheritance rights as married couples do.

Political battles of yesterday — over how to punish communists or uncover the murky past of some of the country’s billionaires — seem ancient to younger members of the society who are more concerned with their own liberties and careers.

Gay Catholic Priest Breaks Silence Over Church Abuse of Power

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