Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cavan church gets bell tower and spire- 140 years later

A County Cavan church has finally got a bell tower and spire, 140 years later than originally planned.

The tower and spire are part of a €1m restoration project on the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Kingscourt, which was reopened by Bishop Michael Smith of Meath.  

The project also included the renovation of the roof, major upgrading of electrical and mechanical systems, the restoration of stained glass windows, the provision of disabled access routes and the cleaning and repointing of the stonework.

Stained glass windows, one of them designed by famous artists Evie Hone depicting the Apparition at Fatima and two sets from Harry Clarke Studios, were also refurbished.

Parking facilities have been enhanced and closed-circuit broadcast system installed which will allow the relay of services through the parish website. 

When the church was designed by William Hague, one of the leading architects of his time, the intention was that a bell tower and steeple would be included but they were never finished.

Hundreds of parishioners attended the rededication service, at which Fr Padraig McMahon, who is a native of Kingscourt, said a lot had happened since the doors of the church opened 140 years ago.

“We can only imagine the cares and concerns that have occupied the minds and hearts of those who have prayed here during world and civil wars, during depressions, recessions and times of plenty,” he remarked.  One thing has remained constant, which is God’s presence; stones and slates are mere materials that stand around us.”

“It takes faith and trust to turn them into a place of prayer and into a house for God’s people," he said.

The design team for the refurbishment was headed by local architect Niall Smith and the main contractor was firm from nearby Beauparc.

British politician receives death threat for defending marriage

A British politician has revealed he received a death threat and hate mail after speaking out in support of traditional marriage.

David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, made the revelation at the launch of Coalition for Marriage (C4M) in London.  

A number of politicians, lawyers and religious leaders have signed C4M’s petition, supporting the current definition of marriage and opposing any plans to redefine it.

Mr Burrowes was targeted after he spoke out in support of traditional marriage last month, the Christian Institute reports.

At the C4M press conference, the Tory MP said, “I myself have been subjected to hate mail, to accusations of homophobia, and to a death threat as well, which is just extraordinary when one is affirming what the law is as it stands and has done historically for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”

Earlier this month the Archbishop of York received racist and threatening messages after he voiced his support for traditional marriage, sparking a police hate crime investigation.  

It adds to concerns about how supporters of traditional marriage would be treated if marriage were redefined.

In light of the fact that schools are obliged to teach children about the importance of marriage, Mr Burrowes went on to raise a potential dilemma for teachers.  

He said, “If we do redefine marriage it will impact on people’s freedoms, on that teacher who is wanting to affirm their religious conscience in teaching traditional marriage.”

He added, “If the law is changed then they will be challenged by that and so we need to recognise that it’s not just the case of churches against civil society, it’s an issue affecting us all and a matter of freedom.”

Mr Burrowes is also facing an online campaign against him because of his opposition to homosexual marriage.  

The campaign is being led by the treasurer of his local Conservative association, Phillip Dawson, who is homosexual.  

Mr Dawson has since denied seeking Mr Burrowes’ deselection.

Bishop fears and prays for his people in Syria

People now say farewell to one another after Sunday Mass, uncertain if they will ever meet again, according to a local bishop in Syria.

The Syrian people are being, “subjected to enormous pressures,” with economic disaster and conflict spread to almost every town.  

People are desperate to leave the country but cannot get visas after embassies have closed in Damascus, said Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus in a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“Syria appears to be locked in a situation of murderous stalemate,” the Maronite-rite Catholic bishop said.  “This inescapable situation is stoking the fears of the faithful.”

The problems of destruction and displacement caused by war are compounded by an economic crisis, most notably economic embargo, inflation, massive currency devaluation and huge unemployment.  

This has particularly affected young people who feel abandoned to their fate by the outside world, which they feel is not doing enough to help them.

“The young people in first-time employment, who have been the victim of mass lay-offs, take a very dim view of this diplomatic embargo, which has only made their plight still worse,” he said. 

“The [young people] think the world no longer wants anything to do with us and is closing the door on us.”

The archbishop also spoke of the problems for refugees from Iraq, who include large numbers of Christians who escaped attacks on the Church and other minority groups.  

Many Middle East commentators fear the Church in Syria may suffer the same fate as in Iraq, stating that if President Assad is overthrown, the Christians could fall victim to attacks from Islamists determined to fill the power vacuum. 

Highlighting the people’s feeling of isolation, the archbishop thanked ACN for its concern and prayers.

“As we enter the season of Lent, we do so in silence, our hands empty, our hearts constricted and our gaze fixed on the risen Christ, who will guide our steps on the path of forgiveness and peace,” he concluded.  “The situation is changing every day.  It is impossible to know what is going to happen. We are living from day to day.”

This weekend, during a meeting of 70 countries who call themselves Friends of Syria, it was proposed that a UN peacekeeping mission should be sent in once there is a ceasefire between the government and rebels.  

The EU announced it is to freeze the assets of Syria.  

The Red Cross and The Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered Homs during the weekend to evacuate the wounded.  

The UN estimates that up to 5,400 civilians have died during the past year and the Syrian Government says that more than 2,000 military and security people were killed.

Indian cardinals and religious leaders on Lent pilgrimage to the Holy Land

A delegation of Indian religious leaders is in the Holy Land on pilgrimage to celebrate Lent. 

They arrived last Sunday at the invitation of Israel's Tourism Ministry and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and they are scheduled to travel to the country's main holy sites until 1 March. 

The delegation includes CBCI President Card Oswald Gracias, His Beatitude Card Mar George Alencherry Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the Most Rev Dr Soosa Pakiam, metropolitan archbishop of Trivandrum, Most Rev Filipe Neri Ferrao, patriarch of the East Indies and Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Dr Joshua Mar Nicodemos, metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Right Rev Godwin Nag, president of UELCI and bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India.

On the first day of their stay, the religious leaders visited the Holy Sepulchre and celebrated the Eucharist on Mount Zion. 

They later met with Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land, who spoke to them about the Christian communities present, about their relations with other communities and their current situation. 

They also discussed Indian pilgrims and how the Custody, together with Israel's Tourism Ministry, can improve and increase the number of visitors.

More than a million pilgrims visit the Holy Land each year. In the first half of 2010, they were 1.6 million, 39 per cent more than in 2009. 

In the past few years, the number of pilgrims from Asia, especially India, has gone up considerably.

A good number of Indians also live in the country, mostly for work. Some 3,000 of them are Catholic.

For peace in Sri Lanka, government should learn from past failures, say Catholic bishops

In a press release, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has called on the government to dismantle illegal armed groups, draft a list of people who went missing during the civil war and translate all official government documents in both Sinhalese and Tamil. 

This way, the report issued by the Lessons Learnt e Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to investigate the final phase of the war can be more effectively implemented. 

Released in December 2011 after a year's work, the report contains some proposals for national reconciliation.

Almost three years since the end of the civil war, the country is still licking its wounds. 

However, the government continues to borrow money to invest in mega tourist projects (taking a heavy toll on the environment and on thousands of farmers and fishermen) and build up the country's armed forces.

In the meantime, more than 200,000 people are languishing in refugee camps, unable to go home to their villages or move elsewhere. On Jaffna Peninsula alone, 39,000 war widows live without any kind of public help or job to earn a living. At the same time, some 12,000 people, mostly men, are still missing, vanished in thin air, with the authorities providing no account for their fate or whereabouts.

For many, the LLRC report is a response to a UN report released on 26 April 2011, which blamed the Sri Lankan government for the death of 40,000 civilians in air bombings or cold-blooded executions.

Two days ago, a resolution went before the United Nations Human Rights Council on alleged abuses by the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels during the civil war. On the same day, the government organised anti-UN protests across the island.

In their press release, signed by Card Malcolm Ranjith and Mgr Norbert Andradi, respectively the president and the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri lanka, the bishops say "another valuable opportunity" should not "to pass us by". 

In fact, "We believe that it is not incorrect to state that the most unfortunate experience of war was the result of thousands of missed opportunities. Hence, it is our great responsibility to clinch yet another vital opportunity God places before us."

For this reason, "The report needs to be disseminated to the masses. It would be necessary to have the report, particularly its recommendations, translated into the two official languages of the nation."

"Let all that concerns good governance be implemented. Illegal armed groups need to be disarmed. We also urge that the government to address the painful issue of missing persons and present a list of those who are still in custody as it always helps anyone to know if and when his or her loved ones are no more."

The bishops also called for a cultural renaissance through art, drama and music. 

"We need," they argue, "to identify the linguistic and cultural commonalities and affinities in establishing a Sri Lankan identify and be mindful of the fact Sinhalese and Tamil cultures have very rich roots".

Korea and Lithuania, two former dictatorships "united in faith in Christ"

Although they may seem distant "the Churches and the Catholic communities of South Korea and Lithuania are very similar: This is why it was very stimulating to help my European brothers prepare for Easter. I am grateful to God for this experience", says Msgr. Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, who has just returned to his diocese after preaching the spiritual exercises for Lent for the bishops of Lithuania: He speaks to AsiaNews about his experiences.

The South Korean bishop arrived in Vilnius on Ash Wednesday at the invitation of Msgr. Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Lithuania and Estonia: "There were even some bishops from Latvia at the retreat, and this made me very happy. I am also grateful to Msgr. Bonazzi, whom I met during my stay in Rome, for giving me the opportunity to experience this. "

Even if they seem far apart, with a few points of contact, from the standpoint of faith Korea and Lithuania have much in common: "Both churches are communities and young people, they both survived a tough military-type regime and an ideology hostile to Christianity. Sure, there Catholics are about 80% of the population while in South Korea we are just over 20%, but this does not change much, because the total numbers - the faithful and religious - are similar. Furthermore, it is their enthusiasm that struck".

The European bishops of are emerging from Soviet rule, while South Korea endured a brutal military dictatorship for several decades: "And this makes dialogue and fruitful cooperation very easy. During the retreat we were able to talk much , to compare our experiences and our expectations: this is the meaning of the universal Church, the true sense of unity and brotherhood among Catholics. "

In addition to thinking together about Lent and the Paschal Mystery, the Korean bishop gave his brother bishops some practical advice as well: "Like Korea, Lithuania is also composed of different social strata: the difference between countryside and city, for example, is very important both from an economic standpoint and from that of development. That's why I suggest they send priests to towns in rural areas and vice versa for at least five years of pastoral work, like we do. In this way, they will get to know more about their country. "

Although it is an uncommon experience, this experiment was a great success: "In faith and within the Church geographical origin is not important. And social, political and economic diversities are just an incentive for mutual  improvement. I'm really grateful to God for this opportunity, which has enriched me in view of the holy Easter. "

Archbishop Saldanha: Shahbaz Bhatti, an honest man and "martyr" for the rights of minorities

Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Mgr. Saldanha, wants to share his personal memories of a Catholic minister Shahbaz Bhatti a year after his death. 

The prelate emphasizes his "natural charisma" as a good leader, who fought for all minorities. 

Different from the "corrupt politicians" dedicated to the system of bribes, he lived his life and his work based "on the example of Christ."

On the first anniversary of his brutal killing ,the Christian community in Pakistan pays homage and recalls with pride and sorrow the passing away of its brightest star, Clement Shahbaz Bhatti. I knew him personally for many years . I was impressed by two characteristics: his commitment to the downtrodden and his  leadership abilities.
At an early age, in his early twenties, Shahbaz made the decision to dedicate his life for the uplift of his oppressed community. He wanted to free them from their slavery. This conviction and passion animated his whole life. That is why he never married because he wanted to be free to pursue his goals.

He also had the natural charisma of a good leader. He founded a pressure group  called Christian Liberation Front, which held public meetings to fight for political rights of the marginalised Christian community.Later, he widened his scope of activism to include all minority groups. He established the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) which was an umbrella organization that represented poor Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

Here again he showed his leadership qualities. His bold efforts in highlighting the problems faced by the minorities, caught the attention of the leader of the People 's Party, Miss Benazir Bhutto recognized his sincerity and  dedication. He himself did not want to stand for political office but actively lobbied for his own followers to get elected as Provincial Members of Parliament.He chose to stay in the background and work behind the scenes.

When Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, the People'sParty won the elections and they inducted  Shehbaz as the Federal Minister of Minorities in 2008, the first Catholic to hold this exalted position. He succeeded in getting an official day sanctioned for the minorities  called  Minorities Day  which is celebrated every year  on August 11 as a day of recognition of the role of minorities.

But he soon discovered that he had to toe the party line and defend the government policies. 

He was also used for propaganda and publicity purposes and sent on official visits to foreign countries, including the Vatican where he was well received by the present Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. Deep in his heart he felt frustrated, and began to speak about His impending death because of his opposition to the Blasphemy Law.

His Legacy

Shahbaz Bhatti left a deep impression of an honest and deeply committed publi c servant. He was quite different from the rest of the self serving and corrupt politicians. He was a staunch, practising Catholic and inspired by the life of Jesus Christ. Like Christ , he stood up for truth justice and freedom for the common man.

He was honest in awarding construction contracts, unlike the usual politician who generally takes his commission. This witness of imitation of Christ finally lead him to shed his blood for his people.He is considered a "martyr" by the Christian  people. They mourn the loss of a committed champion of their rights. His close followers are determined to carry on his mission. His brother, Dr Paul Bhatti, is now chairman of APMA and tries to continue the work. But he does not have the same charism.

There are plans to build a monument in his native village, Khushpur. It will be a permanent memorial to a brave and selfless leader, who rose to the highest office possible for a Christian. 

Meanwhile, in the past year, the political and economic situation in  Pakistan has become more unstable and critical. It's very survival is in question.

So the lofty ideals of Shahbaz Bhatti are pushed very much in the background, and do not seem urgent or relevant any more in the present context. I salute the passing of a great and irreplaceable leader, Shahbaz Bhatti.   

And I pray that God may bless and prosper his noble mission  for freedom,equality and human rights for all.   

May he rest in peace!

Removal of Occupy London protest is 'terrible' sight

The former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral has called the removal of the Occupy London protest camp a “terrible” sight.

Police and bailiffs moved in to remove the camp from outside St Paul’s Cathedral just after midnight. Most protesters left the site peacefully but there were 20 arrests.

Rev Dr Giles Fraser tweeted this morning: “Really proud of the way Occupy conducted themselves last night.”

Dr Fraser, who resigned over the cathedral’s opposition to the protesters last year, said it was a “sad day” for the Church of England.

According to the Occupy London website, he was prevented from crossing the police lines to reach the site this morning.

“We would have liked to see him there,” the group said in a statement.

The camp had been in place since 15 October but the High Court ruled last week that its removal by the City of London Corporation was “lawful and justified”.

The City of London Corporation said in a statement: "The City of London Corporation has begun to enforce the High Court orders for the removal of the tents and equipment outside St Paul's. We regret that it has come to this but the High Court Judgment speaks for itself and the Court of Appeal has confirmed that judgment. High Court enforcement officers employed by the City of London Corporation are undertaking the removal with the police present to ensure public safety and maintain order. We would ask protesters to move on peaceably. The City of London Corporation is ensuring vulnerable people are being helped and supported to find appropriate accommodation in partnership with Broadway, a charity for the homeless."

In a statement, St Paul’s Cathedral said: “In the past few months, we have all been made to re-examine important issues about social and economic justice and the role the cathedral can play. We regret the camp had to be removed by bailiffs but we are fully committed to continuing to promote these issues through our worship, teaching and Institute.”

New Dean elected for St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

The Revd Canon Victor Stacey has been elected as the next Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in succession to The Very Revd Dr Robert MacCarthy, who retired at the end of January. 

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and the dean is elected from among the members of the Cathedral Chapter by the members of the Chapter.

The Revd Canon Victor G. Stacey is Rector of Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) and Prebendary of Maynooth (St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin).

The Most Revd Alan Harper, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland said, ‘I welcome the election of the Revd Canon Victor Stacey. St Patrick’s Cathedral plays a significant role in the life of the Church of Ireland. First, as a place where the highest standards of liturgical worship have been maintained over many centuries. No doubt the maintenance of this tradition will be the highest priority of all for the new dean.
Second, it is a place of pilgrimage and a tourist attraction to which in excess of 300,000 people resort every year, uniquely placed to make an important contribution to the presentation of the Christian faith in Ireland, thus enabling people to come closer to God. Third, the Cathedral has afforded a special opportunity to many Deans to make a distinctive contribution to the discussion of significant issues in the life of the Liberties and of Ireland as a whole. Judicious use of such opportunities by the new Dean, should he choose to avail of them, will be welcomed by many in the Church of Ireland. I was privileged to serve for ten years as a chapter member and the cathedral holds a particularly important place in my heart. I pray, therefore, that the new Dean will maintain and build upon the great tradition of St Patrick’s in the years to come.’

The Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, said, ‘I have pleasure in welcoming Canon Victor Stacey as Dean–elect of St Patrick’s, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and a Christian foundation of antiquity and resonance in the heart of Dublin. In its witnessing to the faith, in the rhythm of its worship and as a place of prayer, St Patrick’s plays a vital role in the life of the country and the Church, bringing clergy from across the whole island to maintain and further its mission. The co–operation of Cathedral Chapter, Cathedral Board and Dean is essential to the next phase of the life of St Patrick’s. I wish Victor well in his role as Dean, and it is my prayer that the Cathedral will flourish under his guidance.’

Tuesday’s election was preceded by a celebration of the Eucharist by the Archbishop of Dublin. 

Following the election the Dean–elect, together with the collegiate body, processed to the chancel, where a setting of Te Deum was sung by the cathedral choir. 

Details of the new dean’s installation will follow in due course.


The Revd Canon Victor G. Stacey is a graduate of the National University of Ireland (BA, 1969), Queen’s University, Belfast (MTh) and the Church of Ireland Theological College, Dublin. 

He was ordained Deacon in 1972 and Priest in 1973. 

He was Curate in Derriaghy (Connor) from 1972 to 1976 and in Knock (Down & Dromore) from 1976 to 1979. 

He was Incumbent of St Martin’s Ballymacarrett, Belfast from 1979 to 1986 before moving to become Rector of Dublin Santry with Glasnevin (Dublin & Glendalough) in 1986. 

In 1995 the Revd Victor Stacey was appointed as Rector of Dun Laoghaire. 

He has been Provincial and Diocesan Registrar from 1995 and Prebendary of Maynooth, St Patrick’s Cathedral from 1997.

Boys Town founder to be named Servant of God

Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of the famous Boys Town orphanage, will be declared a “Servant of God” next month as the Archdiocese of Omaha opens his cause for beatification.

“For years many in the Omaha community and beyond have venerated the memory of Fr. Edward Flanagan,” Archbishop George Lucas said Feb. 21. “I am happy that we can begin the process of examining the holiness that was apparent in his life and ministry, to see if he might be canonized.”

The archbishop started the process at the request of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion. 

The league was formed in 1999 to advocate the opening of the cause for Fr. Flanagan’s canonization and to educate people about his life and his mission as a mentor and protector of youth.

The league’s president, Steven Wolf, said the organization is “humbled and overjoyed” by the archbishop’s acceptance of the petition to examine the priest’s heroic virtue and sanctity.

Fr. Flanagan is most famous for founding Boys Town, an orphanage for boys that grew into a major provider for at-risk children and families.

He was born July 13, 1886 in County Roscommon, Ireland. He traveled to the U.S. in 1904. 

He was ordained a priest in 1912 and assigned to what was then the Diocese of Omaha.

After a period of working with homeless men in Omaha, he founded a boarding house for all boys, regardless of their race or religion. He soon moved his work to Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha, where he cared for hundreds of boys.

The home became known as the Village of Boys Town, growing to include a school, dormitories and administration buildings. 

The boys elected their own government to run the community, which became an official village in the state of Nebraska in 1936.

One of his famous phrases was “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”

The priest rose to national and international prominence for his work. Actor Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Fr. Flanagan in the 1938 movie “Boys Town.” The actor later donated the award to the priest.

U.S. president Harry Truman asked Fr. Flanagan to travel the world to visit war orphans and to advise government leaders on how to care for displaced children.

He died of a heart attack in Berlin on May 15, 1948. 

His remains are interred in Boys Town’s Dowd Memorial Catholic Chapel.

Fr. Steven Boes, national executive director of Boys Town, said the organization is “extremely happy” that its founder is being considered for sainthood.

“Though the process will be investigating proven miracles associated with Fr. Flanagan, we know that miracles occurred every day in his work to heal children in mind, body and spirit. These everyday miracles still occur as Boys Town continues Flanagan’s work by saving children and healing families today,” he said.

Before the cause can open, Archbishop Lucas will post a notice on the doors of Omaha’s St. Cecilia Cathedral on Feb. 27. 

The notice will be on display for two weeks to alert the public about the cause and to invite them to share their thoughts with the tribunal in charge of the investigation, archdiocesan chancellor Deacon Tim McNeil said.

The cause will formally open on March 17 with a 9 a.m. prayer service at Boys Town’s Immaculate Conception Church. Fr. Flanagan will receive the official title “Servant of God.” 

The local tribunals of religious officials and experts responsible for investigating Fr. Flanagan’s virtues and interviewing witnesses will also be sworn in.

At the conclusion of the archdiocese’s investigation, the cause’s documentation is sent to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints at the Vatican. 

The congregation can recommend that Pope Benedict XVI declare Fr. Flanagan to have demonstrated heroic virtue and is worthy to be declared “venerable.”

This action would allow prayer cards and other material to be printed to encourage the faithful to pray for Fr. Flanagan’s intercession and canonization.

If anyone gives credible evidence of a miracle through his intercession, he may be beatified. 

An additional miracle is then required for canonization—the declaration by the Church that it is as certain as it can be that he is in heaven.

Wolf said the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion sees the opening of the cause for beatification “as a response to the Holy Spirit that is moving through an international groundswell of devotion.” 

His group estimates that there is devotion to Fr. Flanagan in nine countries and 36 U.S. states.

Deacon McNeil said the canonization of Fr. Flanagan could inspire the more than 230,000 Catholics of northeast Nebraska.

“If he could live a holy and exemplary life in Omaha, why can’t we all?” he asked.

The anti-Christian messages on churches of Jerusalem

“Death to Christians”, “We will crucify you” and insults to Jesus and Mary. 

Threats and insults like these have appeared on religious buildings in Jerusalem. Some anti-Christian writings were discovered on the walls of a church in Western Jerusalem. 

This is already the second time this February that Christian places of worship have been targeted.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has reacted strongly against these “hateful and hostile acts” against Christians. 

“We will crucify you” and  “Death to Christians” are a couple of the messages found on the walls of the Church.  Since mid February words such as “Death to Christians” and “The price to pay” have disfigured the front wall of the Monastery of the Cross in West Jerusalem. 

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem urges the authorities to find those guilty “as soon as possible” and hopes that society will be better prepared so that “we no longer have to experience any kind of fanaticism.”
In support of the local Christian community, the Coordination Group of Episcopal Conferences of Europe and North America has recently made a trip to the Holy Land in the places of Jesus.  

After Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus and the Jordan River, the bishops landed in Jerusalem, where the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal explained that the Christian minority is concerned “about two extremes, that of Islam with its attacks against churches and believers, and that of the right Israeli party that is increasingly invading Jerusalem, trying to transform it into a city of only Jews, excluding all other faiths.”  

He added: “Our people need concrete steps to be taken in the field of justice, peace and dignity, it needs to be more involved. It no longer believes in the words of so many personages.”
Mgr. Joan Enric Vives Sicilia, Bishop of Urgell, Spain, and co-prince of Andorra also participated in the visit of the Coordination Group.  

“It is very important to provide support to these small churches,”  he pointed out to Vatican Radio. “Christians in the Holy Land are shocked by the anti-Christian violence. We are concerned for them, for the situation of Christians who are a minority in the Middle East. The people are brave and very aware of what they must do, which is to remain in their land”.  

Many are concerned about the difficulties of everyday life, the lack of work. Very real and dramatic problems. 

But the Bishop was nevertheless keen to emphasise that they retained their hope. 

"We want share this hope with them, because when faith is confronted by martyrdom it becomes stronger, it becomes greater. This is the experience that these Christians, our brothers and sisters, share with all of us Christians of the West, who are more tired.”
Along the same lines, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal: “All religions must work together to build peace and respect for freedom of worship, this is the first essential step in this journey together”. 

Religions are “a factor for peace”; therefore “all violence against places of worship as well as contempt for religious symbols must be condemned”.  

The Patriarch sends out an appeal to “overcoming prejudice and learn our common values ​​and thus to build bridges of common sense and good will, without forgetting the importance of dialogue that takes place in everyday life, within our schools and our various institutions”.
With regards to the Arab spring, the Middle Eastern religious leader reiterated his support for all the changes taking place in favour of democracy and freedom” and asks to always “respect human rights and the dignity of each individual”.  

In addition, Monsignor Fouad Twal launches an appeal to government authorities of the various countries in the Middle East so that they make “every effort to calm the spirits without resorting to violence, protecting minorities that are an integral part of these peoples. We must learn to seize this moment to build a new society based on equal citizenship for all”.
With regards to the recognition of a Palestinian state,  “the Holy See hopes for two states with internationally recognized and secure borders”. Points out Twal:  “We are for the wellbeing of the whole world: for peace, security, mutual respect and dignity. The journey has begun, but it is still long.  Being on one side does not mean being against the other”.  

Today “we need to know that peace will arrive, that peace proclaimed by the angels, the peace in our hearts even before external peace made of meetings and agreements between nations”.  

And “Jerusalem needs prayers and pilgrimages: come visit us and together we will pray for peace.”

Medjugorje, pronouncement by 2012

Cardinal Ruini, received by the Pope, the committee has heard all seers at the Vatican.

Still six or seven months of work, then by the end of this year the International Commission of Inquiry on the apparitions of Medjugorje, presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruin, will conclude its work with a pronouncement that will be submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then to Benedict XVI.  

When Ratzinger established this working group in early 2010, the director of the Vatican press office said that « the commission itself does not makes decisions, the final pronouncements, but it provides the results of its study, its vote - as they say in technical terms - to the Congregation, which then will make the appropriate decisions».

At the beginning of the apparitions in Medjugorje a diocesan commission had been established which had then passed its hand to the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia which, however failed to pronounce itself on whether the phenomena was supernatural or not, concluding in 1991 with the declaration «non constat de supernaturalitate», that is «It is established that there is nothing supernatural here»: this is the classic cautious expression, since the bishops were not able to either approve or deny, a sign that if there was insufficient evidence to say «yes», there was neither any evidence that it was a scam as claimed by the Bishop of Mostar. 

The suspension verdict, open to further developments, is neither «yes» nor «no».    

In fact, in the first case the statement asserts that the supernatural «exists», thus establishing official recognition.  

In the second case, the negative one, it affirms that «it is established that here is nothing supernatural» that is, that it was ascertained that the phenomenon is not supernatural.
It was the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina that asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to take matters in hand.    

The six cardinals are part of the Committee: In addition to the previously mentioned Ruini, there are, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Salesian Archbishop Angelo Amato; Jozef Tomko, Emeritus Prefect of Propaganda Fide; Vinko Pulijc, Archbishop of Sarajevo and Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb; Julian Herranz, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.  Together with them, theologians and experts in Mariology.
As already known, the Bishop of Mostar, in whose jurisdiction falls the diocese Medjugorje - in office at the time of the apparitions in 1981 - was quite contrary to the appearances.  Ratko Peric, his successor is also contrary.   

Recently, some documents that emerged from the archives showed that the secret service of Yugoslavia's communist regime tried to negatively influence the ecclesiastical authorities at that time.

The commission, headed by Ruini, has already met will all the seers secretly convened in Rome.   

The meetings took place in a hall of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where the archives of the working group are guarded.  

The committee members prepare appointments well in advance, so that all can be present. 

So, since last June, the persons heard and questioned were firstly, Ivanka, then Vicka, and, at the end of 2011, Mirjana and Marja (separately, but on the same day). In recent days, Ivan and Jakov were also heard.
In a recent public statement Cardinal Vinko Pulijc announced that the work would be completed within the year.   

It is currently not possible to predict what the final verdict will be.   

The seers generally made a good impression on the commissioners.   

But the outcome considered most likely at the moment in the sacred buildings is a repeat of the 1991 suspension of judgment, the «supernaturality is not certain» without openly taking a stand for or against.
The appearances, which began in June 24, 1981, still continue, albeit limited, for some of the seers that ensure that they meet with the Virgin Mary at a certain time of day, wherever they are.   

Mary defining herself the «Queen of Peace,» began to appear in a parish run by Franciscan friars, and the village of Medjugorje, which still today is rather difficult to reach, has attracted millions of people, in spite of the public disavowals of the Bishops of Mostar. 

In 1998, the then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Tarcisio Bertone, explained that the pilgrimages were permitted, «provided they are not considered as an authentication of events still in progress and require an examination by the Church».  

Many people also testified to have rediscovered the faith and to have returned from Medjugorje changed.

"The Church should grant communion to divorced and remarried persons"

"Divorced and remarried persons are entitled to receive communion." 

At the seminar in Salzburg by Austrian Catholic Action, the German theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff, a professor of moral theology at the University of Freiburg, has launched an appeal for a "theological re-evaluation " of divorced and remarried persons and a new way to interact with them by the Church. 

According to Schockenhoff, the Catholic news agency Adista reports, the Church must emphasize its readiness for reconciliation in the spirit of the biblical sources and the practice of the early Church, breaking away from an attitude of "moral condemnation" that provokes in the interested parties a "painful feeling of exclusion".
Benedict XVI himself admits that communion for divorced and remarried persons is an open question. He spoke about it in a meeting with the priests of the diocese of Aosta on July 25, 2005 and, more officially, in his speech to the Roman Rota, on 28 January 2006. Both times, the Pope urged them to "deepen" a particular case: the possible invalidity of a marriage in the Church celebrated without faith, for those who, having passed to a second union, have returned to the practice of Christian life and request communion.
Schockenhoff in recent years has studied the problem well enough to devote an entire book to it, whose title was taken as the theme of the day of study: "Opportunities for reconciliation? The Church and divorced and remarried persons." 

Moreover, "separated persons, divorced persons and those who are remarried are not at the margins of the Church, but belong to her as do many other Christians who stray or have made mistakes." 

His proposal, Adista specifies, is a radical one: the Church can and must give communion to divorced and remarried persons.
First of all, it is a "pastoral emergency": the number of these Catholics, currently excluded from the sacramental life, is increasing and the problems related to their participation in Church life cannot be further delayed.
Secondly, there is no reason that bars this step, either in the Scriptures or in the practice of the early Church. The reference to Jesus' words on the indissolubility of marriage before God, says the theologian, cannot simply be treated as a canonical norm, while in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and in the writings of St. Paul there would be "counter-tendencies" and "exceptional circumstances" in which divorce could be tolerated. 

And if the indissolubility of marriage remains "the only valid yardstick," this does not mean, Schockenhoff argues, that from a biblical point of view there cannot be "emergency situations" as an exception to this standard.
This "flexibility in rigor" also characterized the practice of the early centuries of the Church. Similar positions were expressed, the German theologian points out, by Joseph Ratzinger who, in a 1972 essay, wrote that underneath or within the classical magisterium "there has always been, in practical ministry, a more elastic practice that has never been regarded as entirely consistent with the true faith of the Church, but that has never been totally ruled out"; regulated admission to the sacraments of the persons concerned, Ratzinger said, "is fully in line with the tradition of the Church."
Another element in favor of admission to the sacraments, says Schockenhoff, is fact that even in a new civil union there may be present "all the elements that, according to the Church, are constitutive of marriage": fidelity, the will to total dedication to the partner, openness to children, etc. Consequently, a second marriage not recognized by canon law could no longer be considered a non-marriage or cohabitation. 

The current discourse of a "continuous adultery" or "state of grave sin" is, in the light of these considerations, "totally unacceptable". From this theological re-evaluation of a new civil marriage, the theologian of Freiburg affirmed, comes "in a binding way the fact that the divorced and remarried are not excluded from communion permanently or until the death of their first partner," "out of respect for the judgment of conscience made by the persons concerned" the Church should therefore invite the divorced and remarried to participate in community life and in Eucharistic communion. Only in this way, in fact, can it offer a real "opportunity for reconciliation."
Such a step, "pronounced by the Church publicly," would represent the correction of a "catastrophic effect": that is, a Church that is merciless and disinterested in this category of people. 

In 2006 the Theological Faculty of Milan suggested that divorced and remarried persons be admitted to the Eucharist without having to give up sexual relations. 

The "way" proposed also implies both the permanent validity of the previous marriage and the full continuity of the second convivance, including sexual relations. And this is the real novelty of the proposal. The rules currently in force, in fact, allow communion only to those who, while continuing to live with a person other than the one to whom they are validly married, renounce sexual relations. 

A proposal not intended to create an exception to the indissolubility of marriage, but a "wise ecclesiastical practice" for those who present themselves in an irregular situation to an ordained minister of the Church, requesting the sacraments.

Vatican widens apps

Until recently the Holy See's high-tech ventures -- such as iBrevary, Pope2You, and the JPII app -- have been all about prayers and pontiffs.

But in a departure, a new Vatican app, Lux in Arcana, is being dedicated to Giordano Bruno, the 16th century heretic friar burned alive in Rome. 

It features graphics of Giordano's pyre on Rome's Campo de' Fiori square and what's left of the iconic free-thinker's Inquisition file in the Vatican Secret Archives.

The Accenture-developed app, to be launched Feb. 29, also has multimedia links to Bruno's life and works and to other Vatican Secret Archives files on display for the first time in a Rome exhibition. 

The unprecedented disclosure, paradoxically, comes just as the Vatican contends with the so-called Vati-leaks scandal over leaked documents, including a memo speculating about a plot to kill the current pope.

Vatican techies started veering away from the strictly religious late last year when the Vatican Library and the National Geographic Channel launched a Michelangelo app featuring drawings and writings by the Renaissance great.

These days, religion-related apps made by outsiders are the bane of the Holy See. 

Earlier this month the Vatican lashed out against "Confession: A Roman Catholic App" made by Indiana-based Little iApps. 

He reminded Roman Catholics that it is impossible to confess their sins via a smartphone.

Vatican Bank defends its Cayman Islands banking division

The Vatican Business Conglomerate is now on the defensive in regards to the document leaks, concerning the Vatican Bank’s offshore Cayman Islands banking division. 

Quite recently, like clockwork online religious publications on the internet, National Catholic Reporter has a story titled Why the 'Vatican Bank' doesn't exist , or in Catholic Culture has a story running Vatican 'bank' isn't really a bank

In Trust Law another story went at this link Vatican paper brands leakers irresponsible "wolves

The Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), is aiming to comply fully with international norms and has applied for the Vatican’s inclusion on the European Commission’s approved “white list” of states that meet EU standards for total financial transparency. 

But this offshore Cayman Islands banking division controversy could throw that chance into disarray.  

Talk in the Italian media about the Vatican Banks offshore account division is causing more to question if the Vatican could comply with any EU banking reforms whatsoever.   What is at stake?

In June 2012, a European commission will decide whether the Vatican has abided by tough international anti-money laundering and anti-terror finance laws by joining the so-called "white list" of countries that share financial information.

The Vatican has always been a closed city that has been blamed for covering up priests who were suspected child molesters and even relocated them, appointing such individuals into positions of power where they again reoffended.

To add to the intrigue, sources suggest a power struggle exists inside the Holy See.

As of now, the main area of concern, however, is the Vatican Bank’s offshore Cayman Islands banking Division.  

The Vatican Bank, or the IOR, is outside the Italian central bank's regulatory grasp.  

The Vatican is notoriously secret about this division, its clients, and amounts of its financial holdings.

What we do is quite shocking and scandalous.

The IOR is built on secrecy.  

It keeps secret accounts, does no audits and claims to destroy records after ten years.

It offers secret accounts to many who “have had problems with the law,” said one of its past presidents.

There are no cheque books.

Everything is done by transfer, by cash or in gold bullion, so as to be untraceable.

This is perfect for money-laundering.

The Vatican Bank has quietly established itself in the offshore financial centre of the Cayman Islands.

The Vatican Bank escapes scrutiny from Italy.

Recent media spotlight suggest its clients consist of international financiers, Saudi oil barons, Russian Billionaires, German arms dealers, members of royalty and members of the underworld.

Some of the leaked documents have carried the processing stamp of the Vatican secretariat of state, implying an internal leak.

Only this year, the Vatican has taken remarkable steps in the past year to be more transparent in its financial dealings and co-operative with international requests for financial data.

Nino Lo Bello, a long time business correspondent for the New York Times, wrote a book on the Vatican called the Vatican Empire.

In his research, he found out the Vatican owned an airline, a banking system, condom manufacturers, owned all the nuclear weapons manufacturers, including biological weapon’s manufacturers, all such information is easily accessible in the business directories.

Such business operations are contrary to Catholic doctrine.

The Italian media continue to search out the taste of corruption.

In fact, the leading newspaper Corriere della Sera is up in arms over such allegations.

This story will continue to unfold.