Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pope was not trying to change Church teaching, says Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Dolan has made clear that the Pope's words should come as no surprise (CNS)Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has said that the Pope’s role is not to change Church teaching.

Speaking yesterday on the TV programme, CBS This Morning, Cardinal Dolan said: “Pope Francis “would be the first to say, ‘my job isn’t to change church teaching; my job is to present it as clearly as possible.’”

Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked to comment in particular on the Pope’s remark: “If a person is gay, seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge? They should not be marginalised. They are our brothers.”

That remark, the cardinal said, reflects “a gentle, merciful, understanding, compassionate” approach to church teaching which emphasises “that while certain acts may be wrong, we would always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.”

The Archbishop of New York said that the Pope’s words “may be something people find new and refreshing. I for one don’t think it is and I hate to see previous popes caricatured as not having that,” he said in the interview.

In the 80-minute news conference on the plane from Rio de Janeiro to Rome returning from World Youth Day, the Pope also answered questions about women in the church, divorce and his own spirituality.

Answering a question about reports of a gay lobby at the Vatican, the pope emphasized that it was important to “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby,” he said. “A gay lobby isn’t good.”

Pope Francis said the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains church teaching about homosexuality very well, saying, “one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters.”

The catechism states that people with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect and compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

The Church teaches that all sexual activity outside of the legitimate marriage of one man and one woman is sinful.

When asked if he was surprised by the Pope’s comments, Cardinal Dolan said he was not. 

“What surprises me is that people are surprised,” he said.

The cardinal stressed that church teaching on homosexuality has not changed.

“While we are rather cogent in our teaching we’re equally compelling in the mercy, the graciousness, the respect with which we say it,” he added.

Pope Francis confirms plans to visit Assisi

Pope Francis plans to visit Italy, Jerusalem and Asia in his next series of foreign trips.

Pope addresses journalists on his return flight to Rome (CNS)At the end of his trip to Brazil, Pope Francis also told reporters that it is good for a pope to travel and there are plans in the works for visits in Italy, to Jerusalem, to Asia, but nothing planned soon for his Argentine homeland.

During his flight back to Rome, following World Youth Day he said: “I think papal trips are always good.”

Pope Francis said that the papal trip was good for Brazil “not just because of the Pope’s presence, but because for World Youth Day they mobilised and did so well that it will help the whole church,” he said.

As for future foreign trips, Pope Francis said there is “nothing definite-definite.”

What is definite, he said, is a trip to Cagliari, Italy on September 22, to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Marian title that led to the name of the Pope’s hometown, Buenos Aires.

He will also visit Assisi on October 4 for the feast of St Francis.

He also said he hoped to make a one-day trip to northern Italy to visit his relatives with whom he speaks often by phone, but has not had an opportunity to visit since becoming pope in March.

Vatican bank launches website to boost transparency, media relations an effort to shake its image as a secretive, scandal-ridden institute and improve its relationship with the media, the Vatican bank has launched its own website.

"It is an important part of transparency to launch a website," said Ernst von Freyberg, president of the Vatican bank.

The site for the bank -- formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion -- went live July 31 at

Having an online presence is meant "to tell our customers, the church, the interested public what we are doing, how our reform efforts are progressing and what the scope of our work is," he told Vatican Radio.

But it's also a way for the bank to try to facilitate relations with the press, which has given extensive coverage of the bank's woes and less to its campaign to clean up.

The website, published in English and Italian, lists a number of contacts -- including two people dedicated to press inquiries -- complete with direct phone lines, street addresses and emails.

Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio, "We consider journalists and the media our key intermediaries with the public, but also with those in the church who are interested in our work.

"We hope that this website will also create a platform to communicate with journalists and the media," he said.

The launch comes at a time of both continued upheaval at the bank and beefed-up reforms.

The bank's director and deputy director both resigned July 1 after a prelate, who was an account holder, was arrested by Italian authorities in June on charges of fraud, corruption and slander. In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when the Vatican's new financial laws went into effect.

The new laws were the start of Pope Benedict XVI's sweeping reforms to get the Vatican's finance and money-handling laws to comply with European laws and international standards. Pope Francis is continuing those reforms and appointed a special commission to review the activities and mission of the Vatican bank.

Von Freyberg told Vatican Radio that the Vatican bank has been working hard in recent weeks to get the institute to be "transparent, efficient and completely compliant" with current regulations and standards.

"We wish to create options for the Holy Father to decide later in this year how he wishes to organize our activities going forward," he said.

Pope Francis told reporters July 28 that some have suggested it should become a real bank, others say it should be a "charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don't know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission."

"Whatever it ends up being -- whether a bank or a charitable fund -- transparency and honesty are essential," the pope said.

The website's five pages explain what the Institute for the Works of Religion is and provide numerous links to its governing statutes and policies.

It provides a breakdown of financial figures from 2011 and 2012. It said the bank manages 6.3 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in third-party assets, 0.8 billion in equity and brought in a profit of 86.6 million euros last year from investments.

Because it does not lend money or issue or underwrite securities or other financial products, the institute does not consider itself to be a bank.

The institute concentrates on safeguarding others' assets and deposits and facilitates international payment transfers for its 13,700 individual account holders and 5,200 Catholic institutions, such as dioceses and religious orders.

The website lists the names of those in charge of the bank's governance and oversight; its history; its latest reform efforts as well as a media section that links to important documents, news reports from Vatican Radio and press releases from the Vatican press hall.

One of the links will be the bank's annual report -- the first time one will be released to the public -- sometime in October.

Slovenia’s 2 leading prelates resign in archdiocesan debt scandal Francis has accepted the resignations of both of Slovenia’s archbishops, who had amassed huge debts for their archdioceses with questionable investments. 

Archbishop Anton Stres of Ljubljana, the nation’s capital, is 70. 

Archbishop Marjan Turnsek of Maribor is 58. 

Archbishop Franc Kramberger, the previous head of the Maribor archdiocese, had resigned in 2011, also because of financial problems.

In a statement posted on Ljubljana’s archdiocesan website, Archbishop Stres said that “the financial collapse of companies associated with the Archdiocese of Maribor has cast its shadow for more than two years” and has compromised the Church’s mission. The archdiocese had invested heavily in firms that are now bankrupt.

Archbishop Stres, a former Maribor auxiliary bishop and coadjutor archbishop, added that Pope Francis asked him to resign.

In 2011, L’Espresso reported that the Maribor archdiocese had accumulated $1 billion in debt through speculative investments and that the debt had led a television station in which the archdiocese had invested to broadcast pornography in the hope of attracting more viewers.

The financial problems date back to 2003, the Vatican Insider reports, and all of the bishops who have resigned were involved in planning the speculative investments.

In order to follow Christ, we must look at Saint Ignatius' experience, pope says

In order to follow Christ, we must look to the experience of Saint Ignatius and Saint Paul, "place the encounter with Christ in the Church and with the Church at the centre" of our life, let ourselves be conquered "completely" by the Lord and ask Him for "the grace of shame," Pope Francis said this morning in his homily during Mass at the Gesù Church in Rome, on the occasion of the feast day of the founder of the Society of Jesus, which he celebrated with his fellow Jesuits and their friends and associates.

The Mass began at 8.15 am and was co-celebrated with Mgr Luis Ladaria, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father General of the Society Adolfo Nicolas, members of the Society's Council, and over two hundred Jesuits. 

At the end of the service, the pope visited the altars of Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier to pray and pay homage to them. He did the same at Our Lady of the Way Chapel and in front of the tomb of Father Pedro Arrupe.

Speaking to about 800 worshippers present at the service, the Pope proposed "three simple ideas defined by three phrases: placing Christ and the Church at the centre [of our life], letting oneself be conquered by Him in order to serve, and feeling the shame of our own limitations and sins in order to be humble before Him and the brothers."

As he developed these "simple ideas", Francis stressed the dual centrality of the Christian calling. "The centrality of Christ is also the centrality of the Church. They are two fires that cannot be separated. One cannot follow Christ except within the Church and with the Church. Men rooted and grounded in the Church: this is how Jesus wants us. There can be no parallel or isolated journeys. Yes, we can follow quests of discovery and creative journeys; this is important; going to poor areas, to many poor areas. [. . .] Serving Christ is to love the Church as it is, serving it with generosity and s spirit of obedience. "

What road must be taken, the pope asked, "in order to live this double centrality? Look at Saint Paul's experience, which is also that of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading we heard  [today], wrote, ''I seek Christ's perfection 'since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ' (Phil, 3:12)''.  For Paul, this came on the road to Damascus, for Ignatius, at his home in Loyola; but the main point is the same: letting ourselves be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by him, and this is at the heart of our experience."

To achieve these results, Jesuits "must ask for the grace of shame; shame that comes from the constant dialogue with Him for mercy; shame that makes us blush in front of Jesus Christ; shame that puts us in tune with Christ's heart, he who became sin for me; shame that puts our weeping heart in harmony and accompanies us in the daily sequela of 'my Lord'."

"Dear brothers," Francis said by way of conclusion, "let us turn to Our Lady, She who carried Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May She help us place Christ and his Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. She who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son; may help us let ourselves be conquered by Christ in order to follow him and serve him in every situation. She who responded with the deepest humility to the Angel's Annunciation-"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk, 1:38)-; may She make us feel shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that was entrusted to us, to live humility before God. May the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and all the Jesuit Saints accompany our journey; they who continue to teach us how to do everything, with humility, maiorem Dei gloriam".

Pro-life groups expected to fight new law on abortion CHALLENGE to the abortion law is expected to be launched in the near future.

But there are doubts over the ability of pro-life groups to go to the courts without sufficient grounds.

President Michael D Higgins signed the historic abortion legislation into law yesterday.

The President had until today to decide if he was going to sign the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 or refer it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.

President Higgins's decision to sign the law is in line with the advice he received from some prominent members of the Council of State, as revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent.

The Pro-Life Campaign said the passage of the abortion legislation bill into law was a "very sad day for our country".

The group vowed to devote its energies to the repeal of "this unjust law".

Campaign spokesperson Caroline Simons said the group would give "very careful consideration" to the best way to bring this about.

"For the first time in our history it makes it legal to deliberately target the life of an innocent human being," Ms Simons said.

"We have seen the biggest ever gatherings of pro-life people in recent weeks.

"The passage of this bill into law marks a new beginning, not an end for pro-life activism," she added.

The Government welcomed the President's decision to sign the legislation as it believed the bill was constitutional.

Coalition sources expect a challenge to the legislation, but say there is also uncertainty around who exactly would have a justifiable case to take to court.

"The real difficulty will be for somebody to find a ground on which to take a case. There's a presumption there will be a challenge but on what grounds," a source said.

A statement from Aras an Uachtarain at precisely 12 noon yesterday said: "President Higgins has today signed the bill into law."

The President's signature of the bill means the historic legislation is now enacted.

The bill means the X Case has finally been legislated for, 21 years after the case of a suicidal pregnant teenaged girl, who was raped, being denied an abortion.

Under Article 31 of the Constitution, President Higgins convened a meeting of the Council of State to discuss the legislation.

Former President Mary Robinson and former Taoiseach John Bruton both recommended that the abortion legislation not be referred to the Supreme Court.


In written submissions to President Michael D Higgins, the two former office holders said the contentious bill should be signed into law and allow it to be challenged in the courts through individual cases.

While he didn't express an opinion to the Council of State, there was a sense after the meeting that the President would sign the bill.

President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, told the meeting that there was no question the legislation would be challenged in the courts.

The President of the High Court felt there was a risk of cases being taken and felt that the legislation was going to be challenged if it was signed into law.

Eilis O'Hanlon: Blessed are the meek for theirs is more of the same old nothing

THERE are few things on earth smugger or more insufferable than an evangelical atheist. 

Worse still are those who call themselves humanists – people who seem to believe that, simply by rejecting religion, they have proven themselves more intelligent and sophisticated than the rest of humanity. 

That smugness is best illustrated by a quote from American author Kurt Vonnegut, who once declared: "Being a humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead."

Except, of course, that there's no evidence humanists do the right thing at all, a fact confirmed by a new study which found that non-believers give the least to charity.

Humanists, of course, would argue that the generosity of the faithful doesn't really count, because they're only doing it in the hope of some future heavenly reward. 

But that still doesn't explain why those who don't believe in God don't dig deep.

A kinder interpretation of religious generosity is that they contribute more to charity because they just happen to think that it's the right thing to do – though if so, that does starkly expose the altogether less magnanimous attitude of the four Magdalene orders, who are still steadfastly refusing to contribute money to the €58m fund established to help women who passed through the doors of church-run laundries.

The Magdalene nuns are not alone in this practice. Catholic dioceses have previously transferred funds so that they don't have to pay proven victims of clerical abuse. They have a raft of excuses on hand – the money doesn't really belong to them, it's held in trust for future generations of the faithful, blah blah. 

It doesn't answer the question which is meant to be at the heart of the Christian life: What Would Jesus Do? 

Squirreling away cash has nothing to do with Christianity at all. 

It's simply another variation on the usual corporate excuses, scrabbling around for loopholes as a cover for greedily protecting their assets from the little people – and it's all the more galling when the Pope has recently been in Brazil for ceremonies marking World Youth Day, calling on "everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities . . . to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices."

Pope Francis, who ironically shares his name with the saint who devoted himself to poverty, even declared: "I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity!"

In a week when the Magdalene orders were once again refusing to contribute to the fund set up to compensate sick and unhappy old women for the hard labour, humiliation, cold and hunger which was inflicted on them when they were young and powerless, the Papal slogans feel almost like an added insult. 
Isn't there some saying in the New Testament about removing the beam from your own eye before taking out the mote in someone else's? 

The hypocrisy exposed by Pope Francis's superficial words was breathtaking. 

The gap between what is said and what is done a yawning chasm.

There was another such own goal recently from Bill Donohue, president of the US-based Catholic League, who airily dismissed public horror at conditions in the Magdalene laundries with the words: "There was no holocaust, there was no gulag. No one was murdered . . . Not a single woman was sexually abused by a nun . . . It's all a lie."

There is an argument to be made that a secular media has exploited this tragedy in order to attack the church, and that the religious orders treated women in their care no worse than any other part of Irish society at the time. 

Any such debate, however, has to start from an understanding that the right adverb to describe how the vulnerable were treated at that time, whoever was responsible, is "appallingly" or "horrendously" or "unforgivably". 

What happened to them certainly shouldn't be belittled for rhetorical effect. 

That's as dishonest and cynical as exaggerating it for propaganda purposes too.

The more swivel-eyed ranks of Catholic apologists seem to think that the Magdalene women should be grateful for not being murdered or sexually abused, and that, far from being compensated for their time in the laundries, they should be sent a bill for their five-star care. 

The only reason they're able to make such feeble excuses for the religious orders at all is because of the unsatisfactory McAleese report, which bizarrely rejected any suggestion that there had been physical abuse by nuns of inmates in the laundries, a conclusion which flies in the face of a raft of testimony from many of the women themselves, who spoke of regular beatings and other cruel punishments, and whose stories, taken together, build an altogether different picture of the regime in the laundries than the sanitised one which is now being substituted by the aforementioned swivel eyed ranks in an effort to obliterate their collective memories.

Whether Christian or humanist, the only decent starting point of any discussion of the Magdalene laundries should be to listen respectfully to the stories of the women who were actually there, rather than cherry-picking their experiences in order to wage an ideological war either against, or on behalf of, the Catholic hierarchy. 

These women have been used enough. In many ways, they are the ultimate symbolic representatives of the failure of this country at every level to treat its own people with dignity. 

They were abandoned first by family and friends, who allowed their daughters and sisters to be packed away, out of sight and mind, to expiate their own sense of shame; then they were abandoned by a civic society which saw human beings as an expensive nuisance rather than individuals with rights and feelings; finally they felt abandoned too by whatever twisted version of God the Magdalene orders imposed on them.

That wasn't even the worst of it. 

The worst of it is that the Magdalene women came to believe that they weren't worth any greater consideration, and had defeatedly reconciled themselves, in many cases, to dying quietly, without a fuss, unheard, the injustice of their plight unacknowledged, much less recompensed. 

It's like a variation on the old line "what do you give the man who has everything?" 

Only this was more a case of "what do you give the women who expect nothing?" 

In the case of the Magdalene orders, jealously tightening the corporate purse strings, the answer seems to be: More of the same nothing. 

Is that really the "culture of solidarity" with the weak and poor which Pope Francis professed to be proclaiming in the slums of Brazil last week?

Homily of Archbishop Michael Neary for Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage 2013 Celebration of Gathering

This year we celebrate the Gathering.  The Gathering may be social, sporting, cultural or religious.  In the gathering we are welcoming back, enabling people to re-establish contact with their roots, appreciate their history, acknowledge where we are presently and prepare to go forward to face the future with hope in our hearts.  Our faith gatherings share all these elements.  For the past week we have celebrated the Croagh Patrick gathering, which included pilgrimages and Mass on the summit each day, historical and heritage talks each evening, as well as music and guided walks.  This morning I extend a very warm welcome to you all as we celebrate the National Pilgrimage to Ireland’s holy mountain, the legacy of the wellsprings of our Patrician faith.

Faith and Pilgrimage

Faith and pilgrimage are inter-related.  In this Year of Faith the Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage affords us an opportunity to reflect on some aspects of faith and the light it throws on our life in various areas.  The Church ought to be about gathering, about embrace, about welcoming home all sorts and conditions of people.  Home is a place of the mother tongue, of old stories told and treasured, of being at ease, known by name, belonging without qualifying for membership. The ministry of gathering is one to which God has always been committed and one which is central to the ministry of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Getting a Perspective of the Sacred from the Holy Mountain

There is a Chinese proverb that states “if you don’t scale the mountain you can’t view the plain”.  The occasion of the Croagh Patrick Pilgrimage provides us with an opportunity to get a clearer vision and adjust our relationships in two areas.

Location in venerable and ancient Spiritual Heritage

Firstly, because of its location, scenic beauty and the place which it holds both in Celtic and Irish spirituality, the pilgrimage helps us to enter into a relationship with nature, not in a controlling, consumerist manner but rather seeing nature as a gift of God, as a communication from God.  Responding appropriately to creation is part of knowing and responding to God. Creation itself is an act of divine self-giving.  The world is a gift, a means of receiving something of the life of God.  As Pope Francis says “faith enables us to discern in nature a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our care and protection”. This mountain has been made holy by the long lines of pilgrims who struggled to the summit as they endeavoured to find meaning and purpose.  Croagh Patrick as a pilgrimage centre challenges us to respect our environment. Ancestral memories and cultural inheritance is an essential part of our inner human landscape. The absence of those and an alienation from nature in the concrete jungles and artificial land-scaping, makes us uprooted and restless creatures.

Sacred Journey – Giving perspective and meaning to our Vulnerability

Secondly, as we climb Croagh Patrick we become more conscious of our limitations and of the vulnerability of others.  This enables us to recognise our relationships with others in the way in which we negotiate our own and other people’s frailties.  We become conscious of weakness and powerlessness.  This ought to influence our behaviour. It helps us to respect what is at risk in the life of another and to work on behalf of another’s need.

The Perspective of Faith

In all of this faith has a significant role to play. Far from standing in the way of human development faith inspires personal development and initiatives; it gives a sense of identity, leads to intimate friendships and integrates persons and society.  At the same time it warns against self-centredness, isolation and misuse of others. Faith must find expression in justice, be of service to the common good and be capable of throwing light on all our relationships in society. As Christians we seek to act in the market place “in the name of God”.  To believe in God is to be a “trustee” of God’s truth.

Implications of Weakened Faith

When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened.  The light of faith can never allow us to forget the sufferings of this world.  Faith does not dispel all our darkness, but rather guides our perilous steps on life’s journey. The service which faith provides to the common good is always one of hope. Religion and faith are persisting features of the human situation and will not disappear so long as we ask the fundamental questions of why we are here and what kind of world we seek to create.

Perspective on Economic Crises

The opposite of faith is idolatry. Reflecting on our recent economic woes, many claim that greed was the underlying problem. I wonder whether pride may have been an even more significant contributory factor, the pride that refuses to acknowledge my lack of control over the environment, my illusion that I can shape the world as I wish.  The freedom of the few was purchased at the expense of the enslavement of many to poverty and deprivation. Our lives ought to reflect truth.  Real change can come only through freeing ourselves from the illusions which enslave us. Therefore the importance of empathy, of developing a kind of intelligence that will reflect on who we are will help to control and limit a purely technical approach.  Faith can be a great help in developing this type of thinking.

Safeguarding the Common Good

When we take time out from the routine of busyness and our daily concerns, personal, community and national – we afford ourselves some time to stand back and think.  This different, sacred location, well worn by the footsteps of generations of pilgrims freshens our perspective on the lives we live, the issues that occupy us.  During this past year a number of issues concerning the common good in relation to peoples lives have come into sharp perspective.  Whenever the service of the common good is in question the Church involves herself in public debate.  The service of the common good surely also is a key criterion for political and civil leaders.

Making provision for the Religious Voice to be heard

The Church does not seek to have her moral teaching enshrined in law simply because the Church teaches it. Instead, the Church proposes that a particular issue on which she has clear moral teaching, ought to be safeguarded in civil law. When the Church seeks this, it is not doing so out of a sense of entitlement or wish to dominate. Instead, the Church is concerned that the value at stake ought to enjoy the protection of civil law.  In fact, the status in civil law of such an issue does not affect its moral value.

Allowing the Religious voice to be heard in an inclusive way

To deny the right of the Church, or any religious body, to participate in public debates is a hallmark of a country that seeks to deny a fundamental human right: the right of religious freedom. It attempts to corral religious believers and excises their contribution to important discussions about the kind of society that twenty-first century Ireland should have. It also reduces religion to a sort of private sphere that is prohibited from influencing public life. A mature secularism would welcome and provide space for religious believers in the public sphere.  A mature Catholicism would make its contributions with courtesy and respect for those with whom we disagree.  I cannot speak too highly, in this regard, of those who do not share our beliefs but who have insisted throughout recent crucial public debates that we be heard.  This is an approach which may truly be called liberal.  I only wish we had encountered it more.  It should be remembered here that religion is more than just worship; freedom in matters of religion also involves freedom to propose a moral code.  A truly liberal atmosphere not only permits but actively encourages the Church’s voice.


Croagh Patrick, Reek Sunday, this annual, great festival of faith, this last Sunday of July has for so long been a great place of gathering for so many generations to take stock of our lives.  To return to that Chinese Proverb it gives us collectively an opportunity to ‘scale the plains’ of our lives, our communities and our society from the ‘mountain-top perspective’.  From this vantage point we open up to the assistance of faith, the presence, company and blessing of the sacred.  We renew our appreciation for the gift of nature and the many other gifts.  We allow, finally, each others voices to be truly heard, trusting in the integrity and goodwill of all, and remembering those who as yet have no active voices in our society, but still exist and claim our protection and our love.

+ Michael Neary

Archbishop of Tuam

Statement by heads and representatives of the local Orthodox Churches assembled for the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, heads and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, who have come to Moscow on the occasion of the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, consider it our duty to raise our voice in defense of our Christian brothers subjected to persecution for their faith in various parts of the world today.

Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death.

News about tortures and murders are coming from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. In Kosovo, religious shrines are being defiled, many churches have been destroyed, and many people are deprived of the opportunity to visit the graves of their relatives and to pray to God in the land of their ancestors.

The situation in the Middle East causes deep concern. Many countries of this region are swept with a wave of violence and terror, with Christians falling victims to it. Libya, where there are almost no Christians left, is breaking into warring tribes. Terrorist acts go on in Iraq, where one tenth of the former one and a half million Christians has left. The situation in Egypt is getting more and more alarming as the conflict there has entered into another bloody phase and the Christian population flees the country in a mass exodus. Grief and sufferings have befallen families of thousands of ordinary people. As a rule, the first to suffer from unfolding conflicts are the most unprotected groups of the population including ethnic and religious minorities.

In September 2010, the first meeting of the Orthodox Primates of the Middle East region took place in Cyprus. The Primates expressed their deep concern over the situation in this region and the future of Christians in the area. The same concern was expressed at the similar meetings in Jordan in August 2011, in Constantinople in September 2011, and in Cyprus in March 2012. The statement in support of suffering Christians in the Middle East was adopted at the meeting of the heads and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, held in Moscow in November 2011.

The situation in Syria is particularly tragic today. In the heat of the fratricidal war, Christians, as well as representatives of other religious groups, are massacred, driven out of their native cities, towns and villages, out of the places where they used to live for centuries in peace with people of other religious traditions.

Paramilitary groups do not hesitate to use every possible means to achieve their goals. Their radical members carry it too far in their crimes. Horrific scenes of violence, public executions, humiliation against human dignity and violation of human rights have become habitual. Abductions and murders often committed for mercenary ends have become a common occurrence. Extremists do not stop at insulting religious leaders who have always enjoyed respect in the East.

The world mass media, as well as many politicians, are silent about the tragedy of Christians in the Middle East.

We express solidarity with His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East who could not share our joy of celebrations today since he has to stay with his flock at the moment so difficult for them. Our prayers are with him and our brothers in Christ who are being killed all day long (Rom. 8:36).

We are grieving together with all the suffering people of Syria. We demand that the outstanding Christian hierarchs of Syria - Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Iskenderun and Syrian Jacobite Metropolitan Mar Gregory John Ibrahim of Aleppo be immediately freed.

We make this appeal to all the warring sides and those who can make a political impact on the situation: Stop the wave of violence and extermination of civilians! Impose a moratorium on the military hostilities so that a basis for peaceful settlement of civil conflicts could be worked out at the negotiation table! Free the captured clergy and other civilians!

As servants of the Almighty God, we ardently pray to the Author of Peace, the Lord Pantocrator that peace and love of brothers may be restored in the Middle East, refugees may come back to their settlements as soon as possible, the wounded may be healed and the innocent people who were killed may rest in peace. May the Lord inspire all those involved in the hostilities with wisdom and the good will to stop them!

Patriarch Kirill wishes Rus' people to go along joint historical path Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has wished peoples of the historical Rus to preserve their spiritual unity.

"St. Vladimir's Hill is a symbol of our common spiritual source, a symbol of Orthodoxy on our land and the spiritual values we accepted in our Christianization," the patriarch said after the Saturday prayer service he conducted to mark the 1,025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus.

Approximately 1,000 people, among them the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia and heads and clerics of the local Orthodox Churches, attended the service.

"In a sense, we are celebrating both the 1,025th anniversary of our history, which dates back to baptism in the Dnieper River, and the 25 years, which have passed since celebrations of the millennium anniversary. It has been a period of new baptism of Rus and transformations in the life of our people and our Church," he emphasized.

The patriarch welcomed the chiefs of state who attended the prayer service.

"We are rejoicing at you standing here all together. This means you are involved and our peoples are involved not only in this anniversary as a fact of history but also in everything Christianization has brought to our land," Patriarch Kirill said.

This celebration unites the people of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova and "illuminates the path of our joint historical existence," he said.

Bishop's appeal to restore Fulham Palace

The Bishop of London has launched an appeal to complete the third and final phase of Fulham Palace's restoration.

Fulham Palace is the ancient home of the Bishops of London and is in need of £5.5 million to complete the final stage.

The project is being undertaken to restore the palace to its original beauty, as well as turn it into a place of outstanding learning that can be enjoyed by the whole community.

Work has been going on at the palace since 2005. 

The initial phase was funded by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and focused on the structure of the building, renewing the roof, laying the groundwork for later developments, and installing new gas, electricity and drainage systems. 

Some rooms were also restored and interesting finds preserved for display in the new museum.

The second stage got underway in 2010 and concentrated on the palace exterior, outbuildings and gardens, including a stunning new vinery.

This phase of the restoration process saw the excavation of parts of the moat and visitors can now clearly see the medieval bridge into the palace grounds. 

The old stable block was also adapted into an education centre.

Now there are plans to increase the opportunities for learning and community involvement, and return the oldest parts of the palace to their original splendour, including the Tudor courtyard and Great Hall.

There will also be work done to create historic room displays allowing visitors to see how previous Bishops of London lived in the house and the important role bishops have played in running the country.

Bishop Richard Chartres launched the appeal for new funding in front of over 150 guests at Fulham Palace's annual garden party.

As patron of the appeal, the Bishop of London said: "This historic house is at the very heart of the community in Fulham sited alongside the Thames as it flows down towards the city and its many treasures.

"Yet it has remained for too long, on the periphery of London's rich collection of historic houses and gardens.

"I am glad and grateful to the Chair and Trustees for their vision and energy as they seek to renew and revitalise the ancient home of the Bishops of London."

Tim Ingram, Chairman, Fulham Palace Trust: "For too long Fulham Palace has been hidden from its own community, an almost secret place that only a few enjoyed.

"We want to change all that and make it central to the very essence of what Fulham is, to make Fulham Palace an outstanding place of history, beauty and learning.

"However, it is not something we can achieve in isolation. I call upon the full support of the local community and friends to help us ensure Fulham Palace becomes the place it deserves to be. Thank you."

To help support this campaign please visit :

'Disappointing' Church did not take lead on marriage Concern says it is "deeply disappointing" the Church did not speak out as strongly on gay marriage as it has on payday lenders.

The advocacy group said the headlines around the Archbishop of Canterbury's criticism of payday lender Wonga this week demonstrated the potential impact of the Church if it had made similar statements against the legislation that brought in gay marriage this month.

Archbishop Justin Welby said in an interview in Total Politics this week that he wanted to "compete" Wonga "out of existence".  

The story was widely publicised in the press but also caused some embarrassment for the Church of England when the Financial Times revealed the Church had indirect links to Wonga through its stake in a venture capital fund that has invested millions of dollars into the payday lender.

Head of Christian Concern, Andrea Minichiello Williams said: "We called on Archbishop Welby and the bishops many times, asking them to stand strong for marriage and speak out.
The news this week shows the possible impact they could have had on the marriage debate. It's deeply disappointing that they didn't take the lead and make similarly robust statements about marriage when it mattered."
Christian Concern also strongly criticised the Prime Minister's plans to "export" gay marriage abroad.

David Cameron said in an address this week that he wanted the team of ministers and officials that put the gay marriage bill together to now work on promoting similar legislation in other countries.

Christian Concern said: "It's important that not just David Cameron, but also his advisers, know that there will be a political price to pay for such disregard of those who believe in traditional marriage."

The group is not the first to accuse the Church of England of not being strong enough in its defence of traditional marriage.

The chairman of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said: "We are painfully aware that the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada continue to promote a false gospel and yet both are still received as in good standing by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Furthermore, the Church of England itself, the historic mother church of the Communion, seems to be advancing along the same path.

"While defending marriage, both the Archbishops of York and Canterbury appeared at the same time to approve of same-sex Civil Partnerships during parliamentary debates on the UK's 'gay marriage' legislation, in contradiction to the historic biblical teaching on human sexuality reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference."

Krakow to host next World Youth Day

“The next World Youth Day in the year 2016 will be in Krakow, in Poland!” the Pope said at the close of Sunday Mass in Rio July 28.
The event is sure to attract millions.

Bl. Pope John Paul II was Archbishop of Krakow before his election to the papacy. 

The archdiocese has about 1.5 million Catholics and over 1,100 diocesan priests across 439 parishes, according to the website Catholic Hierarchy.

Cardnal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the present Archbishop of Krakow, was personal secretary to John Paul II.

Poland has over 38 million people, about 90 percent of whom are Catholic, the CIA World Factbook says.

Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. 

Though the nation remained staunchly Catholic under Soviet-imposed atheistic communism, and took special pride in the papacy of John Paul II, the country has become somewhat more secularized in the last two decades. 

Weekly church attendance has dropped below 40 percent.

The choice of Krakow marks a return to Europe, which has hosted the global youth event three of the last six times.

Madrid, Spain hosted the World Youth Day in 2011 while Sydney, Australia hosted the event in 2008 and Cologne, Germany hosted the event in 2005. 

 Toronto, Canada hosted it in 2002 while Rome hosted World Youth Day 2000.

Nigerian bishop calls Catholics to be missionaries at home

Catholics should live out their everyday lives in a way that witnesses to those around them, offering hope in a world of darkness, said Bishop John Ebebe Ayah of Ogaja, Nigeria.
“We are all missionaries,” the bishop said to a group of English-speaking pilgrims at World Youth Day.

He urged them to “re-evangelize the world, bring the world back to Christ.”

Bishop Ayah spoke at one of the July 25 World Youth Day catechesis sessions in Rio de Janeiro. The sessions offer formation to participants through a talk and question-and-answer period with a bishop, as well as confession, Mass, testimonies, song and prayer.

The bishop noted that life is a mixture of good and bad experiences, and we must have spiritual maturity to accept this.

“There is sweetness with the bitterness,” he explained.

Growing up with high expectations, we become disappointed when life does not go according to our plans, he observed. Faced with broken families, unemployment and other modern challenges, some people despair and seek happiness in drugs, pornography or other damaging behavior.

As Catholics, we are called to be a light to these people, Bishop Ayah said.

He recalled the missionaries who came to Africa to teach the people and establish schools and hospitals.

“We too are missionaries,” he said. “We can make a lot of difference wherever we are.”

Traveling to a foreign land is not necessary to be a missionary, he stressed. Rather, you can bring the Gospel to others “in your family, in your community, in your country.”

Even though you may feel overwhelmed and outnumbered, God can do great things if you allow him to work through you, the bishop reminded the pilgrims.

“God can do a great deal with your voice,” he said. “By the way you carry out your lives generally, they will be convinced.”

A sampling of the controversies Bishop Robert Morlino has found himself in Bishop Robert Morlino has found himself at the center of numerous controversies and dust-ups in the past decade.

A sampling:

ISSUE: Six months into his tenure, Morlino wrote in the Catholic Herald newspaper that Madison appears to be a community that has “a high comfort level with virtually no public morality.” 

The episode outraged many residents and kicked off a continuing parlor game of parsing his every utterance.

OUTCOME: Morlino said he meant no offense and was merely pointing out that there are few common starting points for discussions about moral reasoning in such a diverse city.

ISSUE: In 2005, Morlino joined a federal advisory board for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a training facility for Latin American military leaders formerly known as the notorious School of the Americas. Critics held a 25-hour session of prayer and fasting at the Bishop O’Connor Center.

OUTCOME: Morlino defended the board as a group of outsiders whose role is to advise Congress on correcting any problems at the facility. His service on the board ended in 2009.

ISSUE: In 2006, Morlino ordered all priests to play, without comment, a recorded message from him at Mass the weekend before state elections in which he voiced opposition to same-sex marriage, the death penalty and embryonic stem-cell research, all ballot-related issues. 

He threatened “serious consequences” to priests who signaled any disagreement.

OUTCOME: Parishioners at several parishes walked out or stood with their backs to the altar when the message was played. 

At the polls, voters approved a state ban on same-sex marriage, just as Morlino hoped.

ISSUE: A survey firm hired by the diocese to gauge support for rebuilding St. Raphael Cathedral sued the diocese in 2008, claiming the diocese owed it $350,000. 

The firm said the diocese stopped payment after it refused to turn over confidential information requested by Morlino, including names of priests who complained about him. 

In a subsequent court filing, Morlino denied asking for the information.

OUTCOME: The diocese and the survey firm reached an agreement out of court that was never disclosed. 

They issued a joint statement calling the whole thing “a misunderstanding.”

ISSUE: In 2009, Morlino fired Ruth Kolpack, a pastoral associate at St. Thomas Apostle Catholic Church in Beloit. 

Kolpack, a church employee for 26 years, said she was let go after a 10-minute meeting in which Morlino asked her to renounce her master’s thesis in which she criticized the Church’s doctrine of male-only ordination, among other things.

OUTCOME: Kolpack’s supporters signed petitions and held rallies. 

Morlino stood by his decision, suggesting Kolpack opposed church teachings not just in her thesis but in her role as a teacher of Catholic doctrine. 

Kolpack denied the charge.

ISSUE: After Morlino installed three priests from the Spain-based Society of Jesus Christ the Priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville in 2010, 469 of the church’s approximately 1,200 members signed a petition seeking the removal of the traditionalist priests. 

Morlino met with about 200 church members at a heated meeting in an attempt to quell the uprising.

OUTCOME: Morlino stood by the priests and warned critics they could face church sanctions if they continued to spread “rumors and gossip.” 

Last year, the church’s 77-year-old school closed after donations plunged. 

“It’s still a fragmented parish,” said Myron Tranel, a member of the parish finance council who estimates the number of active families has fallen by nearly half. 

Many now travel to parishes in Cuba City, Hazel Green and Belmont for Mass, he said.

ISSUE: Last year, Morlino banned two longtime Madison nuns, and two other women connected to an interfaith spirituality center, from holding workshops or providing spiritual direction or guidance at any Catholic church in the diocese.

The women supposedly strayed too far from church teachings.

OUTCOME: More than 125 faculty and staff members at Edgewood College in Madison signed a statement of support for two of the women — a nun and a retired professor of philosophy — both former Edgewood staff members.

Huntington Catholics questioning diocese

Angered over what they call a vindictive transfer of their local pastor, a group of Catholics in Huntington are accusing leadership at the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston of living too profligate a lifestyle and not following the example set by Pope Francis. 

The group has written to Archbishop Carlos Maria Vigano, who serves as a liaison between the American church and the pope, asking him to investigate what they call lavish spending by the diocesan leadership as well as the recent transfer of 21 priests within West Virginia.

Those 21 transferred priests represent about 13 percent of all the priests in the state, but Bryan Minor, a diocese spokesman, said that that was "not a disproportionate number compared to previous years."

In the 2012 fiscal year, the Wheeling-Charleston diocese spent more than $4.5 million on construction projects, nearly 15 times more than it spent the year before.

It's also more than three times as much as the diocese gave to Catholic Charities of West Virginia, its charitable subsidiary, in 2012.

Minor said that the funds were necessary to repair aging churches and schools.

"There are a number of projects in the state that deal with what we would call deferred maintenance, buildings that were constructed decades ago that have not been improved over time," Minor said. "Within the last five years, every school building was visited and short-, mid- and long-term building needs were identified by a third-party firm."

The diocese spent more than $20 million on school repair and building projects from 2006, when Bishop Michael Bransfield's tenure began, through 2010.

Minor called it an "unprecedented five-year period of investment in the future of Catholic education."

But Christine Pennington, a parishioner at Huntington's Our Lady of Fatima Church for more than 40 years, points to extravagances such as cherry paneling, coffered ceilings and marble altars that she says go beyond basic maintenance.

"How can you worry about stained-glass windows and the bishop getting a new high-seated chair when you have poverty like in West Virginia?" Pennington said.

The diocese, which as a religious organization is not subject to the same financial reporting rules that other nonprofit groups are, annually spends about $20 million more than it takes in. 

It makes up the difference with money from its endowment and investment income. 

The diocese will not disclose how large its endowment is.

At $7.5 million, the diocese's single largest expenditure in 2012 was money spent on the chancery, the administrative hub in Wheeling.

The chancery comprises the bishop's executive offices, as well as the superintendent of Catholic schools, human resources, the diocese newspaper and the youth ministry.

"All those offices are under chancery administration, not only personnel but program costs affiliated with running what is one of the largest charities in West Virginia," Minor said.

But Pennington and other West Virginia Catholics criticized Bransfield for spending too much on building projects and things like chauffeurs and personal chefs, and not enough on helping the needy.

"We all are called to follow the life of Christ, and I just feel that what I see is getting away from what Christ would say," said Linda Abrahamian, a longtime parishioner at St. Leo Catholic Church in Inwood. "[Bishop Bransfield's] extravagant living style -- we could say personal spending, but it really isn't personal, the diocese is paying for it -- is getting away from that."

Francis recently has been seen shunning the Vatican's fleet of luxury cars in favor of a more modest Ford Focus. He has been shuttled around in a Fiat during his recent trip to Brazil.

"A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one," Francis told a group of young and trainee priests and nuns earlier in July. "If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world."

Bransfield's personal car is a 2004 Buick Park Avenue. He is often driven in diocese cars, either a GMC Yukon or a Cadillac.

"Bishop Bransfield has a priest secretary, currently it's a deacon," Minor said, "[who] also drives the bishop from time to time between his many appointments, most of which are not in Wheeling."

Bransfield also has dinner prepared at his residence four days a week by a personal chef. The chef also cooks lunch for the bishop and others at the cathedral rectory four days a week. 

Minor said that that is a money-saver because the chef also acts as a caterer for diocese events and special functions.

In 2010 there were more than 112,000 Catholics in West Virginia, an increase of more than 10,000 since 1980. 

But over that same period the number of priests in the state has fallen by more than 25 percent, from 218 to 160.

The pastors at both Our Lady of Fatima, a congregation of about 600 families in Huntington, and St. Leo, a congregation of about 1,200 in Inwood, have recently departed.

The Rev. Brian Shoda, the priest at St. Leo for 22 years, left the Catholic Church entirely and is now a priest at Mount Zion Episcopal Church in Hedgesville. Shoda did not return repeated requests for comment.

"He said his theology and some of the teachings of the Catholic Church didn't mesh anymore," Abrahamian said. "He was a good priest, he gave 22 years of his life to St. Leo, there were times when he probably needed help, could have used an associate pastor."

The Rev. Jim Sobus had been at Our Lady of Fatima and St. Stephen's Catholic Church in nearby Ona for nine years, before he was transferred to Assumption Parish in Keyser in June.

Sobus, who said he has not left the church but would not otherwise comment on the record, has not reported to Assumption Parish.

Parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima say Sobus was unjustly transferred for, among other things, speaking out against the church and running the parish school strictly.

Dr. Kellee Abner-Karimpour, who serves on the Catholic Schools Advisory Committee at Our Lady of Fatima, said that the diocese had a "witch hunt" against Sobus.

Abner-Karimpour and others said that the Advisory Committee (equivalent to a school board) stopped meeting last fall after someone filed an anonymous and opaque letter of complaint against Sobus that was investigated and found baseless. The committee has not met since.

Minor denied those allegations. He said that Sobus had been at Our Lady of Fatima for nine years and that priests are frequently transferred after six to eight years.

"Priests have a duty of obedience, which is part of a priest's vow at his ordination," Minor said in an email. "By not reporting to his new assignment without any notice, the Diocese says that Father Sobus is leaving the faithful parishioners of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Keyser without a pastor."