Friday, September 30, 2016

Pope in Georgia: a world "thirsty for peace," calls for "new momentum" in relations between Catholics and Orthodox

A world "thirsty for mercy, unity and peace", calls for unity between Catholics and Orthodox "receive new impetus, renewed fervor", of which the fraternal embrace between Pope Francis and Patriarch Ilia II is "already an eloquent sign". 

The visit to the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate, second event of this apostolic voyage to the Caucasus, was a symbol of fraternity, which has been  historically difficult between the two Churches.
Georgia is the country where over 80 percent of the inhabitants are Christians. They are mainly Orthodox (Catholics are 112 thousand out of over 3.5 million inhabitants) of a particularly "rigid" Church. This is demonstrated by its decision not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council that was held in Crete in June this year and the fact that between the Patriarch Ilia II and the Pope there will be no prayer in common. But for the first time an Orthodox delegation will participate in the Mass that the Pope will celebrate here in the morning. 

In short, things will go a bit 'better than during John Paul II’s visit in November 1999, when those who had witnessed celebrations and meetings with the Pope were imposed a penance. Again, however, a group of right wing priests and faithful challenged the papal visit, so much so that two days ago, on September 28th, the Orthodox Church released a statement distancing itself from the group, saying that such a position was "absolutely unacceptable" and the fact that Francis will celebrate Mass that "cannot be considered as an expression of proselytism." 

In the same statement, the Patriarchate has, however, reiterated that he will not take part in an ecumenical prayer with the Catholic and "Orthodox believers do not participate in their [Catholic] church services, because doctrinal differences persist”.

Today, however, Ilia II, for nearly 40 years Patriarch of Georgia, warmly welcomed the Pope. There was a private conversation and then into the interview room, the Patriarchal Choir performed a song and, after the speeches, there was the symbolic offering of welcome tea and coffee.

Francis began by talking of " here has been a strengthening of the meaningful ties that have existed between our communities since the first centuries of Christianity.  These bonds have been consolidated and are characterized by cordiality and respect, evident in the warm welcome given here to my envoys and representatives.  Our ties are also manifest in the study and research projects being pursued in the Vatican Archives and at the Pontifical Universities by members of the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Georgia.  So too, they are seen in the presence in Rome of a Georgian community who have received hospitality at a church in my own diocese; and in the cooperation with the local Catholic community, especially on a cultural level.  As a pilgrim and a friend, I have come to this blessed land as the Jubilee Year of Mercy for Catholics approaches its conclusion.   Saint John Paul II also visited here, the first among the Successors of Peter to do so in a moment of great importance on the threshold of the Jubilee of 2000: he came to reinforce the “deep and strong bonds” with the See of Rome (Address at the Arrival Ceremony, Tbilisi, 8 November 1999) and to recall how necessary, on the verge of the Third Christian Millennium, was “the contribution of Georgia, this ancient crossroads of culture and tradition, to the building… of a new civilization of love” (Address,Meeting with the Catholicos-Patriarch and the Holy Synod, Tbilisi, 8 November 1999). Now, Divine Providence allows us to meet again and, faced with a world thirsting for mercy, unity and peace, asks us to ardently renew our commitment to the bonds which exist between us, of which our kiss of peace and our fraternal embrace are already an eloquent sign.  The Orthodox Church of Georgia, rooted in the preaching of the Apostles, in particular that of the Apostle Andrew, and the Church of Rome, founded on the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter, are given the grace to renew today, in the name of Christ and to his glory, the beauty of apostolic fraternity.  Peter and Andrew were indeed brothers: the Lord Jesus called them to leave their nets and to become, together, fishers of men (cf. Mk 1:16-17).  Dear Brother, let us allow the Lord Jesus to look upon us anew, let us once again experience the attraction of his call to leave everything that prevents us from proclaiming together his presence. We are sustained in this by the love that transformed the Apostles’ lives.  It is a love without equal, a love which the Lord incarnated: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).  

The Lord has given this love to us, so that we can love each other as he has loved us (cf. Jn 15:12).  In this regard, it is as if the great poet of this land, Shota Rustaveli, is speaking to us with some of his renowned words: “Have you read how the Apostles write about love, how they speak, how they praise it?  Know this love, and turn your mind to these words: love raises us up” (The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin, verse 791).  Truly, the love of the Lord raises us up, because it enables us to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future”.

“The Georgian people, over the centuries, have testified to the greatness of this love.  In it they have found the strength to rise up again after countless trials; it is in this love that they have reached the heights of extraordinary artistic beauty as another of your great poets has written:  Without love, “no sun rules in the dome of the heavens” and for men “there is no beauty nor immortality” (Galaktion Tabidze, Without Love).  Within love itself lies the raison d’être of the immortal beauty of your cultural patrimony expressed in so many different ways, such as in music, painting, architecture and dance.  You, dear Brother, have given worthy expression to your culture in a special way through your distinguished compositions of sacred hymns, some even in Latin and greatly cherished in the Catholic tradition.  They enrich your treasury of faith and culture, which are a unique gift to Christianity and to humanity; this gift deserves to be known and appreciated by all”.

“The glorious history of the Gospel lived in this land is owed in a special way to Saint Nino, who is considered equal to the Apostles: she spread the faith with a particular form of the cross made of vine branches.  This cross is not bare, because the image of the vine, besides being the most abundant fruit in this land, represents the Lord Jesus.  He is, indeed, “the true vine”, who asked his Apostles to remain firmly grafted onto him, just as shoots are, in order to bear fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8).  So that the Gospel may bear fruit in our day too, we are asked, dear Brother, to remain yet more firmly in the Lord and united among ourselves.  The multitude of saints, whom this country counts, encourages us to put the Gospel before all else and to evangelize as in the past, even more so, free from the restraints of prejudice and open to the perennial newness of God.  May difficulties not be an obstacle, but rather a stimulus to know each other better, to share the vital sap of the faith, to intensify our prayers for each other and to cooperate with apostolic charity in our common witness, to the glory of God in heaven and in the service of peace on earth”.

He continued “The Georgian people love to celebrate, toasting with the fruit of the vine their most precious values.  Joined to their exaltation of love, friendship is given a special place.  The poet reminds us: “Whoever does not look for a friend is an enemy to himself” (Rustaveli, The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin, verse 854).  I want to be a genuine friend to this land and its beloved people, who do not forget the good they have received and whose unique hospitality is intimately united to a way of living that is full of true hope, even though there is no shortage of difficulties.  This positive attitude, too, finds its roots in the faith, the faith which leads Georgians, when gathered around their tables, to invoke peace for all, and to remember even one’s enemies. By means of peace and forgiveness we are called to overcome our true enemies, who are not of flesh and blood, but rather the evil spirits from without and from within ourselves (cf. Eph 6:12).  This blessed land is rich in courageous heroes, in keeping with the Gospel, who like Saint George knew how to defeat evil.  I think of many monks, and especially of numerous martyrs, whose lives triumphed “with faith and patience” (Ioane Sabanisze, The Martyrdom of Abo, III): they have passed through the winepress of pain, remaining united with the Lord and have thus brought Paschal fruit to Georgia, watering this land with their blood, poured out of love.  May their intercession bring relief to the many Christians who even today suffer persecution and slander, and may they strengthen in us the noble aspiration to be fraternally united in proclaiming the Gospel of peace".

Tuam babies: Excavation of children's burial ground to go ahead

Memorial: site of the mass grave in Tuam – there are many other burial grounds in Ireland. Photo: Niall Carson.A test excavation is set to take place at the site of a children’s burial ground in Tuam, Co Galway.

The excavation was announced today by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which is currently probing how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 18 State-linked religious institutions.

Excavation work will begin from tomorrow and last for approximately five weeks, it said.

“A sample of the site will be excavated by a team of specialist Archaelogists lead by a Forensic Archaelogist. Works are taking place with the full co-operation of An Garda Síochána,” the Commission stated.

It said the purpose of the excavation is to resolve “a number of queries that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission has in relation to the interment of human remains at this location”.

“This excavation will focus on timeline and stratigraphy. A fraction of the site will be excavated through test trenches, the location of which have been informed by a Geophysical Survey carried out at the site in October 2015,” it said.

An excavation team has been engaged by the Commission under the conditions of confidentiality and will not answer any queries on this work or any other aspects of the Commission's work.

“Residents and local groups are being informed of the impact of the planned excavation with assistance from Tuam Garda Station.

“The Commission is grateful to the Gardaí and Galway County Council, the owners of the site, for their assistance. Neither is in a position to answer questions on this or any other aspects of the Commission's work,” it added.

Speaking at the site today, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the work carried out by Catherine Corless on the Tuam home  had been significant is setting up the inquiry.

She said she had met the Commission on a number of occasions and had received an interim report into the matter.

“I have met the Commission a couple of times now and I do believe they have taken a very very serious approach to their work,” she said.

Referencing the large number of people who have come forward to give evidence, Ms Zappone said

“I do feel in terms of the job they were given it’s much bigger than they had anticipated but in terms of my meetings with them they are the people who bring the experience with them in order to do the best job possible,” she said.

Minister Zappone said the Commission had “clearly explained” it was on target to deliver the final report by February 2018.

Pope in Georgia: dialogue and discussion in a world of violent extremism

In the current historical moment in which there are violent extremists "with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles", all disputes that arise should be resolved by contact and dialogue between states and within society .
These the words of Pope Francis who has arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia, the first stop of a two stage journey to the Caucasus still gripped by contrasts and conflicts.  From the outset Pope Francis has spoken of peace, the central theme of a journey that has as its motto "Peace to you ".

On his arrival in Tbilisi at 15 (local time) Francis was welcomed (see photo) by the President of the Republic Giorgi Margvelashvili, and the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. Two children in traditional dress, gifted the Pope a basket of grapes. The welcoming ceremony did not include speeches, which were pronounced during the next courtesy visit to the President of Georgia at the presidential palace. Here, after a private meeting, the Pope and the President saluted the honor guard in the palace courtyard, where Georgian authorities and the accredited diplomatic corps were gathered.

"The centuries-old history of your country - the Pope said - shows that it is rooted in the values expressed in its culture, language and traditions.  This places your country fully and in a particular way within the bedrock of European civilization; at the same time, as is evident from your geographical location, Georgia is to a great extent a natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations between peoples. Through the centuries this has facilitated commercial ties as well as dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences between diverse cultures". 

“Twenty-five years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed.  During this period when Georgia regained its full liberty, it built and strengthened its democratic institutions and sought ways to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible.  All of this was not without great sacrifice, which the people faced courageously in order to ensure their longed-for freedom.  I hope that the path of peace and development will advance with the consolidated commitment of all sectors of society, so as to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law, hence promoting growth and greater opportunities for all.”

"The peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and enduring progress.  This requires increasing mutual esteem and consideration, which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law.  So as to forge paths leading to lasting peace and true cooperation, we must recall that the relevant principles for a just and stable relationship between states are at the service of a practical, ordered and peaceful coexistence among nations. Indeed, in far too many areas of the world, there seems to be a dominant way of thinking which hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements – which can always arise – within a climate of civilized dialogue where reason, moderation and responsibility can prevail.  This is all the more necessary in the present historical moment, with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to the dark designs of domination and death".

"We should wholeheartedly give priority to human beings in their actual circumstances and pursue every attempt to prevent differences from giving rise to violence that can cause ruinous calamity for people and for society.  Far from being exploited as grounds for turning discord into conflict and conflict into interminable tragedy, distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines can and must be for everyone a source of mutual enrichment in favour of the common good.  This requires that everyone make full use of their particular identity, having the possibility, above all else, to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land, if for some reason they have been forced to leave it.  I hope that civil authorities will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions, in spite of any unresolved political questions.  It takes far-sightedness and courage to recognize the authentic good of peoples, and to pursue this good with determination and prudence.  In this regard, it is essential to keep before our eyes the suffering of others, in order to proceed with conviction along the path which, though slow and laborious, is also captivating and freeing, and leads us towards peace".

"The Catholic Church, which has been present for centuries in this country and has distinguished itself in a particular way for its commitment to human promotion and to charitable works, shares the joys and concerns of the Georgian people, and is resolved to offer its contribution for the well-being and peace of the nation, by actively cooperating with the authorities and civil society.  It is my ardent desire that the Catholic Church may continue to make its own authentic contribution to the growth of Georgian society, thanks to the common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us, its commitment to those most in need, and the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities of the country. May God bless Georgia and give her peace and prosperity!"

100,000 alive today because of Eighth Amendment, report suggests

The Pro Life Campaign pre-empted last weekend’s March for Choice in Dublin by highlighting research suggesting that over 100,000 Irish people owe their lives to Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn.

In advance of the September 24 march, which some participants claimed was attended by over 20,000 people, a group of young pro-life advocates gathered on Dublin’s Grafton Street holding helium balloons drawing attention to the figure. 

The actuarial report, ‘The 8th Amendment: Ireland’s Life-Saving Provision’, was published earlier this month, comparing Irish abortion rates to those in a range of other countries in order to estimate how many lives have been saved because of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. 

“It is obviously impossible to arrive a precise figure [of lives saved] as there are many variables involved,” the report says, continuing, “but this analysis indicates the number of abortions that would have occurred in Ireland if Ireland had had the same abortion rates as a sample of other countries.”

Although the amendment was introduced following a 1983 referendum in which it was backed by 67% of voters, the report considers figures only from 1994 on. 

The Pro Life Campaign presumes that had the amendment not been introduced, Ireland would have seen legalised abortion by that point.


Actuary Brendan Lynch indicates in the report that whereas 108,000 abortions are known to have taken place for Irish women between 1994 and 2014, the number that would have taken place if Ireland had the same abortion rates as other jurisdictions would have been much higher.

If Ireland had had the same abortion rate as our near neighbours in England and Wales, there would have been approximately 304,000 Irish abortions over that period, suggesting that the amendment may have played a part in saving almost 200,000 Irish lives. 

The analysis also considered abortion rates in culturally Catholic Spain and Belgium, and also compared Ireland’s abortion rate between 2007 and 2014 with that of Portugal, where abortion was introduced in 2007.

Mr Lynch found that there would have been 229,000 Irish abortions between 1994 and 2014 if Ireland had had the same abortion rate as Spain, and 183,000 if Ireland had had the same rate as Belgium. 34,000 Irish abortions are known to have taken place between 2007 and 2014, and Mr Lynch estimated that 92,000 would have taken place over that period if Ireland had had the same abortion rates as Portugal.

Newly released prosecutor's files show details of case against Minnesota archdiocese

Image result for Archdiocese of St. Paul-MinneapolisNew court documents released in Minnesota today show details of the criminal case a prosecutor had built against the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

The papers show that some accusations against Archbishop John Nienstedt, involving improper activities with adult men, dated back to the 1970s, while more recent charges were from his term as leader of the Minnesota archdiocese. 

Archbishop Nienstedt, who resigned last year, has consistently denied any improprieties.

The prosecutor's papers also show that officials of Archbishop Harry Flynn admitted Curtis Wehmeyer to the archdiocesan seminary despite a strong negative recommendation. 

Wehmeyer, whose record showed a pattern of misbehavior, is now a convicted sex offender. 

Archbishop Flynn, who preceded Archbishop Nienstedt, is a former chairman of the US bishops' committee implementing the "Dallas Charter" policy on sexual abuse.

The Ramsey County prosecutor dropped his case against the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in July, in exchange for a commitment by Church officials to admit guilt and to set new abuse policies.

Italian bishops outline 4 priorities

Image result for conferenza episcopale italianaAt the conclusion of a three-day meeting, the permanent council of the Italian Episcopal Conference outlined four priorities to help guide the conference's future actions.

The priorities include the “way of planning” in addressing changing conditions in the world of labor; the “way of renewal” for the clergy, through ongoing formation; the “way of reform” of ecclesiastical courts, in accord with the documents of Pope Francis; and the “way of cooperation” among dioceses as they consider the reorganization of boundaries.

Statements of the UGCC head sow distrust between Orthodox and Catholics

The 14th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church has recently completed its work in Italian Chieti. 

Head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk tells in his interview with Interfax-Religion about its results.

- Your Eminence, what agreement have you managed to reach at the meeting in Chieti?
- The main result of the 14th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Theological Dialogue is an adoption of the joint document dedicated to conciliarity and primacy in the Church of the first millennium.

Nine years of the hard work preceded this result. The draft document on the theme was prepared after the session of the Commission in Ravenna in 2006, but we had serious disagreements with its text. As the head of the Russian Orthodox Church delegation I could not agree with the text of the document which represented rather private theological opinions than the teaching corresponding to the church tradition. First, I was the main opponent of the document, then more and more participants in the dialogue shared my opinion, and eventually at the 13th plenary session of the Joint Commission held in September 2014 in Amman (Jordan) that project was rejected and members of the Commission decided to prepare a new document.

It is necessary to accept that adoption of the document by the absolute majority of Orthodox and Catholic members of the Commission after long and complicated work has become a success. 

Both Orthodox and Catholics agreed that history of the Church in the first millennium has a defining character and to achieve agreement on the ecclesiological questions we should be guided by the way the Church was arranged in the first millennium. Such attitude fully corresponds to the teaching of the Orthodox Church as in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church it has always turned to the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and holy fathers of the first millennium.
- What question the Joint Commission will consider at the next stage?
- The participants discussed what theme should be chosen to continue the dialogue during the final meeting of the plenary session. On the behalf of the Russian Church I suggested dedicating the next stage of the dialogue to the theme of conciliarity and primacy in Churches of East and West in the second millennium with the condition that the discussion of the Unia will be resumed in its frameworks as this phenomenon appeared after the schism of 1054 and still remains a stumbling block in Orthodox-Catholic relations.

It should become continuation of the work started in the 1990s when the document condemning the Uniatism was adopted in Balamand (Lebanon) in 1993. This document should be followed by the next one, dedicated to canonical and ecclesiological consequences of the Uniatism. However, work over this document faced an insurmountable obstacle, which suspended the work of the Joint Commission for six years from 2000 to 2006.

When the Joint Commission resumed its work after the six-year break, it was suggested to discuss the question of primacy and conciliarity in the Church. The Russian Orthodox Church agreed to this suggestion with the condition that ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the Unia will be discussed in the context of the theme of primacy and conciliarity. 

However, during ten years, from 2006 to 2016, the Commission did not return to the topic. The logic of our dialogue demands that when the work over the document on primacy and conciliarity of the Church in the first millennium is completed, we should consider the question of primacy and conciliarity of the Church in the second millennium. Here, we should pay attention to the problem of the Uniatism, which is central for the second millennium and unfortunately it is still actual.
Actions of Greek-Catholics in Ukraine raise the problem again and again. Statements of UGCC supreme archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk with attacks against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate sow distrust between Orthodox and Catholics. This February, a historic meeting between Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill took place in Havana, it opened a new page in our bilateral relations. However, right after the meeting, it was subjected to insults of the Greek Catholic Church leaders.

The next theme has not been chosen, it was decided to leave the question for further consideration of the Coordination Committee of the Joint Commission, its session will be held in 2017. But we insisted and will insist on the necessity to discuss the theme of canonical and ecclesiastic consequences of the Uniatism. We are not ready to discuss other topics when aggressive anti-Orthodox campaign of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic leaders is continued.

The world's most dangerous place to be a priest

Mexico CityWith 15 priests killed in the past four years, Mexico is the most dangerous country to exercise priestly ministry, according to the Archdiocese of Mexico. 

In a report published last week, the research unit of the Catholic Multimedia Centre recorded 14 murders of priests from 2012 to 2016. 

The death of Fr José Alfredo López Guillén, whose body was found the night of September 24, brings that number to 15.

Speaking to CNA, Archdiocese spokesman Fr Hugo Valdemar stated that “it has become clear that Mexico is the country where ministers of the Catholic Church are most at risk.”

“Which is even surprising because there is still more risk in Mexico than, for example, in Syria or in those countries where Christians are persecuted by the Islamic State.”

Just in the past week, three priests were murdered in the States of Veracruz and Michoacán. 

Fathers Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz were kidnapped and then murdered in the town of Poza Rica in Veracruz.

Message of reconciliation for visit to Georgia, Azerbaijan

Peace and solidarity key
Pope Francis this weekend will visit Georgia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics radically different from each other, in what’s perceived as the closing of his Caucasus tour after his visit to Armenia last June. Crux reports.

Georgia is a country with a Christian Orthodox majority and in constant friction with Russia, while Azerbaijan has a Shia Muslim majority and a long-standing dispute with Armenia over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pope Francis is expected to bring up the issues of peace, solidarity, and reconciliation throughout the three-day visit, making the pitch at both religious and political levels.

As Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, said speaking to the Vatican’s Television Centre this week, these lands have a “particular richness and liveliness, but at the same time they suffer from particular strains, lacerations.”

“The message of the Pope will really be an invitation to do what he often says: Don’t turn differences into sources of conflict, but of mutual enrichment,” he said.

The motto of the papal visit for Georgia will be “We are all brothers,” which has an evident ecumenical undertone, and for Azerbaijan Pax vobis, which translates to “peace to you.”

Hence the trip presents itself as a sensitive one, where locals might hope for the Pope to address some long-standing disputes, but which Francis might choose to skip to avoid adding fuel to the fire or being perceived as taking sides.

Although comparisons are difficult, there are some statistics worth looking into ahead of this trip, the 16th of Francis’ papacy, and the 23rd and 24th countries he visits, respectively.

The two countries have welcomed a Pope once before, St John Paul II, who visited Georgia in 1999 and Azerbaijan in 2002.

‘Traveller identity must be protected & assigned legal protection’

Image result for Fr Derek FarrellArchbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has expressed solidarity with the Traveller community over the way some of their children were treated in education, social care and especially in industrial schools.

At a farewell thanksgiving Mass for the ministry of Fr Derek Farrell of the Parish of the Travelling People, the Archbishop referred to an RTE documentary broadcast on Wednesday evening which highlighted the issue.

“Why were your young boys and girls treated in such a way? What does that say about our attitude and respect for Travellers?” the Archbishop asked.

If every element and species within God’s creation deserves protection, so also does the cultural heritage of any people and their own special identity, he said on Thursday evening at St Peter’s church in Phibsborough.

He added, “Traveller identity must be shielded, protected and fostered. It must be assigned legal protection in a manner which prizes an identity which is irreplaceable.”

In his homily on the Feast of the Archangels, Archbishop Martin said that angels remind us that God cares; that even if the Church has neglected the Travelling community, God has not.

“The travelling community has a real sensitivity to the fact that God offers his blessing to all, especially to those who are most vulnerable,” he said. the Parish of the Travelling Community as unique, the Archbishop also paid tribute to Cardinal Desmond Connell for his foresight in establishing the parish which responds to the needs of Travellers.

Noting that the parish is called the Parish of the Traveling People and not for the Travelling people, Archbishop Martin said it was an act of trust and confidence in the community to take the leading role in forms of pastoral care and religious development which responds to the culture, traditions and identity of Travellers.

In his tribute to Fr Derek Farrell, he said the priest was “a true friend of the Travelling People” who did not seek any great publicity for himself but placed his talents fully at the service of the Travellers and their place in society.

Diarmuid Martin urges faster provision of choice in schools

Image result for archbishop diarmuid martinProviding choice in Irish schools is taking too long, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said. 

“The demand for Catholic schools is strong. The demand for other forms of patronage is growing. The process of diversification is still too slow,” he said.

“We live in an era of change. It is no time for believers to sit and bemoan or to be sidelined into the irrelevant. Believers must regain confidence and courage to face new things in new ways. 

“It is time for tolerance and respect for diversities. It is time for a church to be present in society in such a way as to help people find that God is revealed in Jesus Christ, not as an imposition but as an invitation to fullness of life,” he said.
The debate on patronage “can be polarised and can ideologically polarise society. A pluralist society has every day to learn what being pluralist means and how we communicate while maintaining the language of our dearly felt values,” he added.

A sense of common purpose

“In the educational sphere, pluralism means also ensuring that ideologies are laid to the side for the moment while a sense of common purpose emerges to respond to the urgent needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged,” he said. 

Speaking at a Mass to mark the beginning of the school year in Clonliffe College today, he said “educational policy must always have within it a priority option for the poor”. 

The disadvantaged “must always be given pride of place in policy-making and allocation of funds. We have to address more effectively the needs of the members of the Travelling Community, where all the indications are that they persistently remain among the most disadvantaged educationally,” he said.

‘Vital role’

Addressing “in a special way” the Catholic education community, he said: “Catholic schools have played and continue to play a vital role in the educational context of this country, and will continue to do so in the future. They will do so in the future in a different overall cultural climate which respects the rights of all parents to choose a school which represents their values.”
The challenge for Catholic education was “to ensure that Catholic schools are really Catholic. This does not mean that Catholic schools should become closed Catholic ghettos. It does mean that religious education in the Catholic school takes on a new profile,” he said. 

“Faith cannot be imposed. Faith education is about an openness to come and see, to seek, to learn,” he said. 

In Ireland, faith has “to move forward from an abstract dogmatic catechesis” while “Ireland also needs to overcome the intolerance of religion which can be found at times in an intransigent secularism”.

Dutch cardinal warns Canadian bishops about ‘slippery slope’ of euthanasia

Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands, is seen in Cornwall, Ontario (CNS photo/CNS photo/Francois Gloutnay, Presence)A Dutch cardinal warned Canadian bishops about the “slippery slope” of euthanasia, which has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002.

At first, only those at end of life with unbearable physical illness had access to euthanasia at their request, said Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht. 

Then people with mental illness had access. Then people with dementia who had made an advanced request could be euthanised; then people who had not made requests were euthanised, he explained.

The Dutch also have allowed euthanasia of children, though most of the time handicapped children are killed in utero through abortion, he said.

“When you leave the door ajar, it will always open more,” he told members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on September 26, the first day of their five-day meeting. 

Canada recently legalised euthanasia.

The bishops heard a report from the lay-run Development and Peace, which the bishops founded nearly 50 years ago, and were to look at church relations with native peoples and a new document for safeguarding children.

In the Netherlands, the debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide began 50 years ago, Cardinal Eijk said. 

People argued that physicians needed a new set of ethics because medical advances gave doctors too much power to force treatments on people to prolong life at any cost. 

The ethics of refusing medical treatment that resulted in a patient’s natural death became conflated with a physician killing a patient in order to remove his suffering.

“No new ethics (are) needed,” Cardinal Eijk said, noting that euthanasia and assisted suicide are both intrinsically wrong, and they are not the same as the removal of medical treatment in most cases.

In an interview with Canadian Catholic News, Cardinal Eijk said Canada’s circumstances are different because euthanasia and assisted suicide have happened so quickly and it is “hard to put on the brakes.”

He said the Canadian bishops must continue to make moral arguments against euthanasia in the public square and continue advocating for palliative care.

Palliative care in the Netherlands was only considered in the late 1990s, he said, but the politician who introduced it said palliative care should include requests for euthanasia.

Cardinal Eijk also urged Canadians to fight for conscience rights. He noted the Council of Europe tried to pass a law forcing physicians to perform abortions, but repeated interventions by European bishops prevented it. 

In the Netherlands, only about 15 percent of physicians refuse to perform euthanasia, he said. He has not heard of anyone who has lost a job for refusing to take part in euthanasia, but finding a job may be difficult for such a person.

The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been working on what pastoral advice to give to clergy, pastors and laypeople regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide, said Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, conference president. 

In the annual president’s address, he called assisted suicide “a major pastoral challenge.”
He also discussed the ongoing work of reconciliation with Canada’s native peoples, pointing out that while the CCCB never had a role in running Indian Residential Schools, the care of indigenous peoples has been a major focus of many dioceses and religious orders.

“Later this week, you will receive a progress report on the proposal for the CCCB to be part of an ongoing ‘circle’ of Catholic parties to continue to focus on indigenous relations,” Bishop Crosby said.

He said the bishops also would be “invited to approve in principle,” a new document to assist dioceses and eparchies in “protecting minors, safeguarding pastoral environments and responding to sexual abuse.” 

The document is scheduled for release early in 2017 and will replace the 1992 document, “From Pain to Hope.”

Bishop Crosby noted Development and Peace, the lay-run overseas development agency founded by the Canadian bishops, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017. 

The bishops heard an update on the organisation’s activities by Deacon Jean-Denis Lampron, president of Development and Peace’s National Council.

Bishop of Leeds lowers Confirmation age in an attempt to increase numbers

Bishop Marcus Stock said he was concerned about the paucity of confirmed CatholicsThe Bishop of Leeds has announced that his diocese will be lowering the age at which baptised Catholics will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In a pastoral letter released on Sunday, Bishop Marcus Stock said young people would now be invited to make their Confirmation in their last year of primary school when they are 11, as opposed to 14. 

The bishop said that it was “a cause for concern” that a large proportion of those who are baptised do not make their Confirmation. 

He said: “In the Diocese of Leeds a large proportion of those who are baptised into the Catholic Church (68 per cent) and make their first Holy Communion (58 per cent) do not receive also the Sacrament of Confirmation. This means that we are failing, as a diocesan family, to complete the initiation into the Catholic Faith of a considerable number of our children and young people. Such a failure deprives many of our young people of the objective grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation; the spiritual gift which provides the vital help they need in their young and adult lives.”

He continued: “I have decided therefore to change the age at which the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred from the age of 14 to 11; that is, from school year nine to year six, the last year of primary education. This, I believe, will enable us to focus on and provide a more integral preparation and celebration of the sacraments of initiation within the primary years of education. 

“In the secondary years of education, the focus will be on how those who are joined to Christ in His Church live out their faith and give witness to their faith through vocation and service in the world around them.”

In his letter the bishop also laid out his vision for the education of Catholic children and the development of their faith. He said: “In the primary years of education we should try to help our children learn to know the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to listen to and speak to Him in prayer, and to develop a personal loving relationship with Him.

“In the secondary years of education, and in the higher education we offer through our sixth- form provision and through Leeds Trinity University, we should try to: deepen the faith and relationship of our young people with Our Lord Jesus Christ; integrate our young people into the life of the local and universal Church; form our young people in the Christian virtues which will build character and inspire the leaders among them; and, help our young people to grow in discipleship and learn how to put their faith into action through serving Christ in others, in the Church, and in the world around them.”

Bishop Marcus Stock was former secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales. He became the Bishop of Leeds in September 2014.