Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Catholic head teacher forced to quit because he’s divorced and remarried head teacher has been forced to quit because he is divorced and remarried.

Once again proving that it’s out of touch with modern life, the Roman Catholic church wielded its power over a tiny primary school.

Lyndon Strong is currently the acting head at St Mary’s in Gosport, Hampshire, but will have to leave at the end of term.

He’s been a popular figure among pupils, parents and teachers, but Phillip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, has said he can’t take on the role permanently because it’s against the church’s rules.

Parents say he has made a significant difference to the school and they have started a petition to try and get the Catholic church to change its mind.

Julie D’Arcy said: ‘Mr Strong does a lot for single parents and those without fathers look up to him as a male figure in their lives. What the bishop is not looking at is the education of the children.’

Lesley McGregor said: ‘It will be a massive loss. He supports parents as well, not just pupils. He really believes in his position and his faith but he doesn’t push it.

‘In any other job it would be discrimination.’

Sam Harden said: ‘I have signed the petition and I think it is unbelievable. The school takes children from all faiths and they need to get into the 21st century.’

Gosport Borough councillor Peter Chegwyn, who represents Leesland ward, had also
heard about the work that Mr Strong has done at the school.

Mr Chegwyn said: ‘I don’t know him personally but I know he has been a very good head. ‘I have a lot of respect for religion but I think the bishop needs to think again.’

In a letter to parents, Mr Strong said: ‘This is a difficult time personally as I have relished being the acting headteacher, deputy headteacher and most importantly teacher at St Mary’s but there are personal circumstances I would like to remain outside the public
domain that won’t allow me to apply for the post of substantive headteacher.’

A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese has said that the decision is national policy within the Catholic church. He said to be appointed a permanent headteacher, an applicant must be able to sign the memorandum of understanding in which they would state that they are a practising Catholic of good standing.

The spokesman added: ‘The bishop and trustees would like to record their gratitude for the untiring work and quality of the professional contribution Mr Strong has made to St Mary’s primary school and to wish him well as he pursues leadership in another school.’

Dutch Catholics raise alarm after bishops ‘update’ words of the Our Father

Featured ImageDutch Catholics are raising alarm bells after the bishops of the Netherlands and Belgium changed the words to the Our Father in a way that they believe amounts to an "ideological reinterpretation of the text."
Dutch Catholics who still attend weekly Mass heard a newly-worded Our Father last Sunday that no longer asked God the Father, as Jesus taught, “to lead us not into temptation” but, instead, “not into trial.”

Vox Populi, an orthodox Catholic lay group, is organizing a petition advocating the traditional translation. “Why would this ‘reform’ be necessary now? There is not a single pastoral need to come up with a ‘new common Dutch-Flemish translation’ of the ‘Our Father.’”

Recent Dutch Catholic history is so marked by destructive innovation that in 1996 one faithful scholar declared the situation had long passed the “crisis” phase and achieved “ruin.”

The former translation of the Latin “temptationem” was “bekoring,” or “temptation.” The new version replaces that with “beproeving,” which means in English, “test,” “ordeal,” or “tribulation.”
Dutch pro-life leader Hugo Bos said the switch is “a bad thing," but is “consistent with a tendency of the bishops to ignore sin and the temptation to sin.”

Indeed, it is the latest in a trend established by the 1965 “Dutch Catechism,” which systematically stripped the supernatural from Church teachings  in “the spirit of Vatican II.” 

No church embraced this “spirit,” and its desire to bring the Church into a positive encounter (“aggiornamento”) with popular culture more than the Dutch.

Vox Populi warns, however, that this latest “initiative of the Belgian and Dutch bishops will only add to the confusion within the Church and thereby increase the crisis of faith.” Going back to the Greek version of the Our Father, which uses “peirasmos,” the critics of the translation admit that theoretically it “can be translated as either ‘trial’ or ‘temptation.’ 

However, within the context of the 'Our Father,' ‘peirasmos’ cannot be translated as ‘trial.’”

Vox Populi points out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it crystal clear that the phrase is intended by Jesus Christ as a plea for help in resisting the temptation to sin, not a request for God to avert pain and material suffering. 

Sections 2846, 2847 and 2848 of the Catechism focus on moral temptation.  Vox Populi illustrates the difference with a picture of a comely woman labeled “temptatio” and of a forlorn and wasted Job-like male figure captioned “probatio.”

The mistranslation will surprise no one who has observed the steady liberalization of the Dutch church. As reported in a 1996 presentation by J.P.M. van der Ploeg, a professor of Old Testament Studies at the Catholic University at Nijmegen, its first outward manifestation came with the Dutch Catechism, which, he said, simply removed the supernatural element from the Church. God was manifest not in sacraments, not in the Eucharist, but simply in good deeds.

The Holy Mass became “the service,” the “priest” became “the one who presides at the service,” and Baptism was simply the signifier of membership rather than the sacrament where God filled the child with supernatural grace.

Rome ordered a revision that the Dutch bishops defied. In the spirit of disobedience that followed, “priests, influenced by Modernism, began to teach the faithful that many things which they had hitherto been taught were not true. The stories of Adam and Eve in Paradise, of Original Sin, the Flood, Noah and his animals in the ark, the passing of Israel through the Red Sea, were said to have no historical foundation.”

A new Biblical translation followed in colloquial language that was necessitated, said its translators, by recent and rapid changes in the Dutch language. These were bogus, said Fr. van der Ploeg. The new translation’s introduction flatly denied the historicity of the first three books of the Old Testament.

“The moral teaching of the Church was said to be antiquated and not relevant to the needs of modern man. The bombardment was continuous. For many people, it had always been difficult to be chaste in all the circumstances of life; now it was claimed that God did not require chastity.” Concluded Fr. van der Ploeg: “All these things taken together contributed to the development of the present situation — no longer one of crisis, but of ruin.”

That ruin was manifested by 2013 in the systematic closure of churches. As reported three years ago by LifeSiteNews, “600-700 Catholic churches in the Netherlands will be decommissioned by 2018.”  

In the same story, Dutch Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk recalled that 90 percent of Catholics attended Sunday Mass before Vatican II. But now, it was just 6 percent.

Enough is enough, says Vox Populi. 

“The truth is that we are not dealing with a newer or better ‘translation’ here, but rather an ideological reinterpretation of the text. Therefore, Vox Populi calls upon the Episcopal Conferences of Belgium and the Netherlands to abandon this experiment doomed to failure with the ‘Our Father’ and to maintain the existing situation.”

Pope Francis enjoys ‘very cordial’ meeting with Martin Scorsese in Vatican

Pope Francis looks at a painting given to him by director Martin Scorsese (AP)

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00120 Città del VaticanoPope Francis has met with director Martin Scorsese, whose new film, Silence, about Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan, was screened this week in Rome.

The Vatican says that during the Pontiff’s “very cordial” meeting on Wednesday with Scorsese, Francis mentioned he had read the novel on which the film is based. 

Francis is a Jesuit who joined the order while a young man in Argentina with the idea of becoming a missionary in Japan, although health problems stop him achieving this ambition.

The Pope thanked Scorsese for his gift of two paintings. 

The work of an 18th-century Japanese artist, the paintings served as a reference for some of the details in the film.

Some 300 Jesuits studying or working in Rome attended the screening of Silence on Tuesday at the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Scorsese answered the audience’s questions afterwards.

Priest who said Catholic Church suffered a ‘culture of homosexual bullying’ made to leave parish

Image result for Father Matthew DespardA priest, the author of a book which alleged that the Catholic Church suffered from a “culture of homosexual bullying”, has been made to leave his parish.

Bishop Joseph Toal back in 2013 removed Father Matthew Despard from his post at St John Oglivie Church in Blantyre, which is part of the Archdiocese of Motherwell. 

The church has brought a case against Father Despard for breaking canon law by writing the book ‘Priesthood in Crisis’. 

He wrote the book ‘Priesthood in Crisis’ in 2010, but he self-published it on Amazon’s Kindle store in March in the wake of the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The book claimed that a powerful ‘gay mafia’ covered up a culture of sexual bullying. 

Parishioners walked out of a service, voicing opposition to the removal of the priest, which was confirmed by a spokesman for Bishop Toal.

He was later reinstated after appeals, but has now been told he must vacate the parish.

Father Despard was told he had “injured the good reputation of a number of people, both lay and clergy.”

Friends of Father Despard in April 2013 spoke of fears that he may be sacked for publishing the book.

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February 2013 following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.

The allegations surfaced one day after Cardinal O’Brien told the BBC that male priests within the Catholic Church should be able to marry female partners.

The cardinal’s progressive stance on heterosexual matrimony ran counter to his views on LGBT equality.

Last November, Cardinal O’Brien was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by Stonewall due to his staunch opposition to marriage equality.
In 2012, he stated that same-sex relationships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse.

The same year, he admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him. 

A Vatican inquiry concluded in April – and no further action against Cardinal O’Brien was taken.

Cardinal O’Brien announced his departure from Scotland as part of a period of “spiritual renewal”.

Chengdu, excommunicated bishop, defended by police, took part in Episcopal ordination of Msgr. Joseph Tang Yuange excommunicated bishop, Msgr. Lei  Shiyin of Leshan (Sichuan), aided by the police, attended the episcopal ordination of Msgr. Joseph Tang Yuange as bishop of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan (central China). 

The faithful have demonstrated their disapproval in many ways.
The ceremony was presided over by Msgr. Fang Xingyao of Linyi (Shandong); the other two co-ordaining bishops were Mgr. Luo Xuegang from Yibin and Msgr. He Zeqing of Wanzhou.

Three other three bishops also took part: Msgr. Chen Gongao of Nanchong; Msgr. Xiao Zejiang Guizhou and Msgr. Lei Shiyin of Leshan. 

All these bishops are recognized by the Chinese government. 

And all have been approved by the Holy See, with the exception of Msgr. Lei. 

Even Msgr. Fang Xingyao, despite being heavily criticized for his views very close to those of the political authorities, is recognized by the Vatican.

Many faithful attempted in various ways to prevent Msgr. Lei’s participation in the ceremony. 

Sources have told AsiaNews that a nun tried to stop him before he entered the church, but police protected him and he gained access to the Ping'an Qiao church where the ordination took place.

The church itself was surrounded by several security policemen guarding against possible unrest.

Catholics have posted a photo on social media showing a banner protesting the presence of Lei Shiyin at the ordination. According to AsiaNews sources the banner was exposed for several hours before and after Sunday Mass on the morning of 27 November, but the police then proceeded to remove it.

The banner, is signed by "the faithful of the Catholic church of Ping'an Qiao (Bridge of Peace)" and says: "In compliance with Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, we strongly oppose Lei Shiyin, who has been automatically excommunicated [latae sententiae], for coming to our church to take part in the concelebration of the liturgy of episcopal ordination”.

Lei Shiyin was ordained without papal mandate in 2011

At present he is the subject of heated debate and even accused of having a mistress and children. Some Catholics fear that he will also be present the ordination of the new bishop of Xichang, in Sichuan to be held on 2 December.

According to some members, the presence of Mgr. Lei, "was commissioned by the government to show the Vatican who commands the Church in China".

Msgr. Tang, 53, was appointed bishop of Chengdu in May 2014. A native of Sichuan, he studied in the regional seminary. Ordained a priest in April 1991, he has always served in the diocese of Chengdu.

The Church of Chengdu has 20 priests, nine nuns and a seminarian, serving a community of about 100 thousand Catholics.

Msgr. J.B. Wang Xiaoxun ordained coadjutor bishop of Ankang
The episcopal ordination of the new coadjutor bishop of Ankang (Shaanxi), Msgr. John Baptist Wang Xiaoxun took place today on the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. 

The ceremony was held this morning in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Ankang, about 360 km south of Xian. 

The newly ordained bishop has expressed profound gratitude to the elderly bishop of the diocese, Msgr. John Ye Ronghua, for his encouragement and support to young priests.

Msgr. Ye, 85, has been ill for some time and could not take part in the liturgy. The ordination was presided by Msgr. Yang Xiaoting of Yulin, along with other bishops of Shaanxi region: Msgr. Dang Mingyan of Xian, Msgr. Yu Runchen of Hanzhong, Msgr. Tong Changping of Weinan, Msgr. Wu Jingqin of Zhouzhi, Msgr. Han Yinjin of Sanyuan.

The Mass was attended by at least 50 priests from different dioceses of the province, more than 200 faithful and more than 30 nuns.

The celebration was presided by Msgr. Yang Xiaoting who asked for prayers for the new bishop, with the hope that he can live his new responsibilities courageously and guide his flock in the evangelization of society.

Msgr. Wang and all participants bishops are in communion with the Pope and are also recognized by the Chinese government. According to AsiaNews sources, the papal mandate to Msgr. Wang was read "privately" in a meeting with all the priests, before the celebration.

Msgr. Xiaoxun Wang was born in 1966 and completed his studies in Xian seminary. Ordained priest by the deceased bishop of Xian Msgr. Anthony Li Duan in 1992, he served several parishes. In 2005 he was appointed parish priest of the cathedral Ankang. He had been elected coadjutor bishop of Ankang October 13, 2010.

The diocese led by Msgr. Ye and Msgr. Wang is very small and poor. It has nine priests and six nuns who serve 5 thousand faithful.

Pope: pray for others and bury the dead, works of mercy in everyday life Patriarchate of Constantinople, people with AIDS, those in the Middle East who risk their lives to bury the dead, the Brazilian team that died in a plane crash in Colombia, the protection of cultural heritage in war zones. 

These are the many world events that Pope Francis evoked today in the general audience, the last of 14 dedicated to the works of mercy, "but mercy continues".
"The last spiritual work of mercy - said Francis to eight thousand people gathered in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican - asks for prayers for the living and for the dead. It can also support the last corporal work of mercy that calls for burying the dead. It may seem a strange request; and on the other hand, in some areas of the world under the scourge of war, with bombings sowing fear and innocent victims day and night, this work is sadly present. The Bible has a good example in this regard: that of the elderly Tobit, who, at the risk of his own life, buried the dead despite the king’s prohibition (cf. Tb 1.17 to 19; 2,2-4). Even today there are those who risk their lives to bury the poor victims of war. Therefore, this corporal work of mercy is not far from our daily existence. It makes us think about what happened on Good Friday, when the Virgin Mary, with John and some women stood by the cross of Jesus. After his death, was Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin, who became a disciple of Jesus, offered him his new tomb, excavated in the rock. Personally he went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus: a true work of mercy carried out with great courage (cf. Mt 27.57 to 60)".

"For Christians, burial is an act of piety, but also an act of great faith. We lay the body of our loved ones in the grave, in the hope of their resurrection (cf. 1 Cor 15.1 to 34). This is a ritual that continues to be very strong and felt in our people, and finds special resonance in this month of November, dedicated in particular to remembering and praying for the dead. Praying for the dead is, above all, a sign of gratitude for the witness they have left us, and the good they have done. It is a thanksgiving to the Lord for them and for their love and their friendship. The Church prays for the dead in a special way during Holy Mass".

"We pray with Christian hope to be with Him in Heaven, waiting to find ourselves together in that mystery of love that we do not understand, but which we know to be true because it is a promise that Jesus made. We all rise and everyone will be forever with Jesus, with Him”.

"The memory of the faithful must not make us forget also to pray for the living, who every day face the trials of life together with us. The need for this prayer is even more noticeable as we put in the light of the profession of faith that says, "I believe in the communion of saints." 

It is the mystery that expresses the beauty of mercy that Jesus has revealed to us. The communion of saints, in fact, indicates that we are all immersed in the life of God and live in his love. Everyone, living and dead, we are in communion, that is, we are all united!, In union; united in the community of those who have been baptized, and those who have been nourished by the body of Christ and are part of the great family of God. We are all the same family, united. And we pray for each other. How many different ways there are to pray for our neighbour! They are all valid and acceptable to God if done with the heart. I think especially of mothers and fathers who bless their children in the morning and at night – there is still this this habit in some families, blessing your child is a prayer; I think of the prayer for the sick, when we go to visit them and pray for them; silent intercession, sometimes with tears in many difficult situations, eh ?, We pray for this difficult situation. 

Yesterday a good man, an entrepreneur, came to Mass in Santa Marta. 

But he had to close his factory because it was no longer sustainable and the man, young, crying and saying: 'I cannot leave more than 50 families out of work. I could declare the company's bankruptcy, and go home with my money, but my heart will cry a lifetime for these 50 families'. This is a good Christian! Here, praying with his work, he prays, he came to Mass to pray that the Lord will show him a way out, not only for him: failure. No, not for him: for the 50 families. This is a man who knows how to pray with the heart and with the facts, he knows how to pray for others. He is in a difficult situation. He is not looking for a way out: 'An easy escape', no. This is a Christian. It made me feel so good, so good. And maybe there are so many so, today, in this time when so many people suffer from a lack of work; but I also thanks for the good news regarding a friend, a relative, a colleague ...: 'Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful thing!', that too is to pray for others, as well. Thank the Lord when things are good. Sometimes, as St. Paul says, "we do not know how to pray in a convenient way, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Rom 8:26). 

It is the Spirit who prays within us. We open, our heart, so that the Holy Spirit, looking at our deepest desires can purify and bring them to completion. However, for us and for others, always ask that the will of God be done, as in the Our Father, because His will is definitely the greater good, the good of a Father who never abandons us: to pray and let the Holy Spirit pray in us. And this is beautiful in life: Pray, give thanks, praise God, ask for something, cry when there is some difficulty, like that man, so many things. But always open our hearts to the Spirit to pray in us, with us and for us. "

"To conclude this catechesis on mercy, let us commit ourselves to pray for each other so that the spiritual and corporal works of mercy become more and more the style of our life. The catechesis, as I said at the beginning, ends there. We make a journey of 14 works of mercy but mercy is continuous, and we must exercise it in these 14 ways”.

After the catechesis, Francis recalled that today is the feast of Saint Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The "cousin Church" of Constantinople and the "dear brother, Patriarch Bartholomew" he sent greetings and "a big embrace".

"Tomorrow, 1 December - he said - is World AIDS Day, promoted by the United Nations. Millions of people are living with this disease and only half of them have access to life-saving therapies. I invite you to pray for them and for their loved ones and to promote solidarity, so that even the poorest can benefit from diagnosis and appropriate care. Finally, I call upon all to adopt a responsible behavior to prevent the further spread of this disease ".

"At the initiative of France and the United Arab Emirates, with the collaboration of UNESCO, an international conference on the protection of heritage in conflict areas will be held in Abu Dhabi, 2 to 3 December next year. A theme that is unfortunately dramatically present today. Convinced that the protection of cultural assets is an essential dimension of defense of the human being, I hope that this event marks a new stage in the process of implementation of human rights ".

Earlier, in his greetings to the faithful he is the Portuguese language Francis returned to remember the plane crash that involved players of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense. 'Today I would like to recall - his words - in prayer the Brazilian people for the loss of a football team in a plane crash. It reminds us of the tragedy of Superga, here in Italy. We pray for all, the dead and families'.

Condolences and prayers had been expressed by the Pope yesterday in a telegram signed by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, Archbishop of Brasilia.

Pope tells of distressed businessman

 (foto: ANSA)
Pope Francis in his general audience on Wednesday told the story of a businessman who came to Mass at St. Martha's house on Tuesday distressed over having to close his factory. 

"He had to close his factory because he couldn't make it, and he was crying, that man, young, he was crying, and he said 'I can't leave more than 50 families without work, I could declare the business bankrupt, I go home with my money, but my heart will cry my whole life for these families'," the Pope said. "Here is a good Christian".

Pope prays for Brazil after air disaster

 (foto: ANSA)Pope Francis said Wednesday that he was praying for the victims of this week's plane crash in Colombia.

Only six of the 77 people on the plane, which was carrying members of Brazil's Chapecoense team to the Copa Sudamericana final, survived Monday's crash. 

The pope compared the disaster to the 1949 Superga that killed 22 members, including 18 players, belonging to the so-called great Torino team. 

"Today I'd like to remember the pain of the Brazilian people for the tragedy of their local team," he said.

Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age

Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.

“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.

“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”

Membership in Ásatrúarfélagið has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.

The temple will be circular and will be dug 4 metres (13ft) down into a hill overlooking the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with a dome on top to let in the sunlight.

“The sun changes with the seasons so we are in a way having the sun paint the space for us,” Hilmarsson said.

The temple will host ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. 

The group will also confer names to children and initiate teenagers, similar to other religious communities.

Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of Blot with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of animals.

Norway Catholic church fined over inflating membership for more funding

The Norwegian Catholic church has been fined 1m kroner (about £115,000 or $142,000) for exaggerating the number of members it has to receive more state aid.

Oslo prosecutors slapped the fine on the Diocese of Oslo, responsible for keeping national records of Catholics living in the Scandinavian country, according to the ruling seen by AFP.

The diocese is accused of having gone through telephone directories looking for immigrants with names suggesting that they were from Catholic countries and adding them to the list of members of the church between 2011 and 2014, sometimes without their knowledge.

In Norway, a predominantly Protestant country, the state finances the various religious minorities in proportion to the number of church members. 

By exaggerating the list of its members, the diocese was able to obtain undue government subsidies. Its chief administrative officer, Thuan cong Pham, has been charged with aggravated fraud, the prosecution said.

If the diocese refuses to pay the fine it will have to face trial. 

“We’ve never done anything illegal or received too much money,” the Catholic church said in a statement. 

“We have always recognised that we have made mistakes and had an unfortunate practice in parts of our registration. This was cleaned up a long [time] ago,” it added. 

In its defence, the church argued that from 2004, Norway experienced a large wave of immigration from Catholic countries, especially Poland.

These members were not registered, leading to an increase in spending without corresponding public support.

Independently of the fine, the Norwegian state is seeking a reimbursement of 40.6m kroner (£3.5m, $4.4m) from the Catholic church in what it declares was overpaid. 

The Norwegian Catholic church had about 145,000 members at the beginning of the year, according to the national statistical institute SSB.

Melbourne priest tenders his resignation from parish

Resignation effective in JanuaryFr John Walshe has resigned from his position at the Mentone-Parkdale parish in Melbourne's southeast, reports The Age.

In a bulletin leaked to Fairfax Media on Friday, Fr Walshe announced he would be stepping down after nearly 25 years as parish priest.

"I have this week, with the agreement of the Archbishop, submitted my resignation from the office of parish priest of the Parish of Mentone-Parkdale," he said in the statement.
"This will take effect from 18 January, 2017.

"I wanted to communicate this to you as soon as possible. When I leave early next year I will be four days short of having completed 25 years in the parish. It has been my immense honour to have been with you for this time."

Fairfax Media understands Fr Walshe will not continue his services at another parish and will instead pursue further study.

He came under fire last year after he testified on behalf of Cardinal George Pell at the sexual abuse royal commission.

His appearance prompted a former student priest, John Roach, to reveal he was sexually abused by Fr Walshe in 1982.

In 2012, the Melbourne Archdiocese's Independent Commissioner accepted Fr Walshe had sexually abused the then 18-year-old seminarian and paid him $75,000 in compensation, the maximum available under the Melbourne Response scheme.

Norway consecrates first new cathedral in Europe in a decade

Replaces old cathedralNorway has consecrated the first cathedral to be built in Europe in a decade, according to the Nordic Bishops' Conference. 

The New Saint Olav cathedral in the prelature of Trondheim, 400 kilometres north of Oslo, has a capacity of 450 people and was built on the site of the Saint Olav cathedral, which had fallen into disrepair and was demolished. 

Priests and parishioners had held Mass in a World War II bunker for the past two and a half years.

An envoy of Pope Francis, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, attended the Mass on November 19.

Norway has about 125,000 registered members of the Church, making it home to the largest Catholic community in Scandinavia.

Numbers have soared from a few thousand in the 1960s due to immigration from Poland, the Philippines, and other predominantly Catholic countries.

The country is home to about 3.8 million members of the Lutheran Church, comprising 73 percent of the county's population.

Two German Catholic charities made substantial financial contributions to the building costs, including funding for Bavarian limestone instead of cheaper tiles, as originally planned due to limited resources.

Fr Ibrahim: Aleppo is "powerless and fearful", prayers for peace during Advent situation in Aleppo is "critical" and, with the intensification of the offensive, "more and more bombs fall on the city." 

Now "we live from day to day, counting houses, churches, schools and hospitals affected, the victims and the wounded,” said Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, 44, a Franciscan, guardian and priest of the Latin parish of Aleppo.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the clergyman described the population as “exhausted” by the war that has become even more violent and tragic in recent weeks.

"A secondary school has just been evacuated in the western sector,” he explained, “and last night a missile hit another school. Fortunately, the building was empty and there were no casualties."

Even in the western sector, where most people live, "the movement of people on the streets is minimal. Uncertainty and suffering prevail." Yesterday, "fewer worshippers than usual came" for Sunday Mass.

Aleppo is "powerless and fearful," Fr Ibrahim added. "We are all waiting to see what will happen in the coming days. Families, west and east, are exhausted; they only want peace in the face of an increasingly difficult life. So we decided to intensify prayers for peace during Advent."

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces have captured a strategic area in east Aleppo, splitting in two the rebel-held area. Government sources and activist groups confirm that, early this morning, Assad’s forces seized the suburbs of Sakhur, Haydariya and Sheikh Khodr. At the same time, Kurdish militias took Sheikh Fares from the rebels.

For Rami Abdulrahman, director of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has an extensive network of informants on the grounds, this “is the worst defeat" for the rebels since the start of the war. Syrian military sources said that "the advance continues" with mopping up operations to remove explosives and mines.

After a weekend of violent clashes, thousands of civilians have fled the eastern sector of Aleppo; however, several hundred displaced families trapped in the besieged area.

The army's goal is to seize the whole of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and once the country’s economic and commercial capital. Since the summer of 2012, it has been divided into two sectors: the government-held western section, home to 1.2 million people, and the rebel-held eastern section with about 250,000 people, who have lived under siege for months.

Scott Craig, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria, stressed that the local population, including 100,000 children, need urgent aid. "The situation on the ground in eastern Aleppo is almost beyond the imagination of those of us who are not there," he said.

According to the White Helmets, a controversial rescue group, at least 500 civilians have been killed in the latest offensive and more than 1,500 people have been wounded.

"The shelling and aerial bombing does not stop and we our neighbours decided to leave with the army approaching," said Abdullah Ansari, who fled from Haydariya to areas further south within the besieged area with his family of six.

"We left Hanano because of the bombardment from the Syrian army during their advance, and the chlorine gas," Muhammad, who declined to use his full name out of fear for his safety. He was waiting with his wife, mother and three children at a minibus stop, hoping to travel on to government-held west Aleppo.

"Many people are being displaced from the eastern to the western neighbourhoods of besieged Aleppo,” said Ibrahim Abu Laith, an official at the civil defence rescue organisation in east Aleppo. “There were about 300 families which moved, but there are families who are exhausted and the army is advancing in a very big way”.

Among those plunged in this tragedy in the eastern sector there is Alabed Bana, a seven-year-old girl who has been describing the violence on her mother’s Twitter account. Her 94,000 followers include international media, intellectuals and academics including writer J. K. Rowling, who has re-twitted her many appeals.

Her latest tweets, posted over the weekend, show her covered in dust. “Tonight we have no house, it's bombed & I got in rubble. I saw deaths and I almost died. - Bana #Aleppo.” Then, "Last message - under heavy bombardments now, can't be alive anymore. When we die, keep talking for 200,000 still inside. BYE.- Fatemah.”

Aleppo Christians have responded to the war and the violence with prayer and fasting. "With the beginning of Advent,” said Fr Ibrahim, “we want to launch some initiatives for peace and we asked the faithful to pray more for this intention."

One intention involves children. "Every first Sunday of the month, starting on 4 December, we shall conduct a procession with songs and prayers for peace." The initiative goes beyond the boundaries of the city and will take place "in every Franciscan home and parish in the world".

"We hear the news about the governmental offensive but they are distant voices,” the pastor said. “What we experience every day are bombs, missiles, explosions in both sectors of the city."

The main concern "is to survive", as evinced by the families who eat for a month with the food supplies provided by the Church "that are barely enough for two weeks."

In view of all this suffering, many families are trying to flee in search of refuge and salvation far from Aleppo, crossing the borders of Syria.

"We continue to pray for peace,” said Fr Ibrahim, “and also for those who drop bombs on our houses, and churches."

Card. Zen’s guarded pessimism over China- Vatican talks
Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun expressed guarded pessimism over the negotiations currently being carried on between the Vatican and Beijing at an afternoon gathering at St. Vincent’s Chapel in Wong Tai Sin organised by the Justice and Peace Commission on November 13.
While saying that he believes that the Vatican does have some room to manoeuvre and a few bargaining chips on the table, Cardinal Zen warned Vatican bureaucrats not to get bogged down in what he termed evil agreements in their anxiety to appease their counterparts in Beijing.
He said that he has personal reservations over what he described as the weak policy the Vatican is running in its negotiations with China.

Cardinal Zen said he is disturbed by the upbeat media coverage predicting that an equitable agreement between Beijing and the Holy See may be imminent, as he believes this is a critical time in which various views must be presented in order to maintain a balance.

He also said that it is a time that demands a great deal of prayer, as while “it is impossible to have a perfect agreement, an evil one cannot be made.”

As an example of an evil agreement, Cardinal Zen said one thing that must be avoided at all costs would be allowing bishop-candidates to be nominated by the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

The cardinal said that while the Vatican may have the right to say no to any nomination, he believes such a policy would reduce it to a position of passivity, whereby it may retain the right to refuse, but end up with no right to choose or nominate a candidate.

The former bishop of Hong Kong said that he doubts whether it would be feasible for the Vatican to repeatedly refuse any candidate put forward by the bishops’ conference or have any say in an alternative, as continual rejection or arguing would sour any relationship.

The cardinal shared that one proposal being mooted is that voting in the local diocesan elections for a bishop-candidate could be limited to priests and sisters.

However, he said he finds this worrying as well, as the government is a past master at manipulating elections.

He went as far as to ask, “Is it possible to have a real election in China?”

Cardinal Zen said in an article published in the Kung Kao Po on November 13 that any election proposal could be disguised as a compromise by Beijing, so it would still maintain the affective say in who can go forward as a bishop.

He added that if this eventuated, it would damage the harmony among the priests, as it would leave some feeling discouraged or left out in the cold.

But his guarded pessimism does not hold that all is necessarily lost, as he believes a more acceptable proposal would be to turn the situation around, allowing the pope to nominate candidates and giving Beijing the opportunity to approve or reject his nominations.

Cardinal Zen believes that this approach could save the Vatican the embarrassment of turning down a nominated priest and also give the whole system more flexibility, as the pope is in a position to mix things up a bit by nominating a priest from one diocese as a bishop for other diocese, lessening the burden in areas with few personnel.

However, he still believes the Vatican policy towards China is weak and although he does not mean to criticise Pope Francis or his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he does not believe that popes are always free to exercise their authority.

He explained that Vatican policy is more often made and implemented by bureaucrats, who can manipulate and finesse with the best of them.

He cited the letter penned to the Chinese government by Pope Benedict calling for more religious freedom, especially a loosening of restrictions on the unofficial Church communities.

However, he pointed out that the wording of the letter was significantly watered down when it was translated into Chinese, because particular Vatican officials, whom he did not name, had adopted an appeasement policy.

Cardinal Zen says that his belief is that because the Vatican request was so weak, the situation of the unofficial communities in the Church in China actually went backwards.

He also shared a bit about some of the resolutions of a committee made up of 30 people with expertise in China Church affairs that was purposely set up in 2008 to discuss the situation on the mainland that were simply not implemented.

He said that at one of its three-day annual meetings the committee passed a resolution not to cooperate with Anthony Liu Bainian, the power behind the throne at the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

But the cardinal said that Vatican officials remained silent in the face of Liu’s interference in the choosing of which bishops would be allowed to attend seminars overseas.

After Pope Benedict stepped down, the committee was never convened again.

Cardinal Zen noted that he has also written to Pope Francis to express his reservations and worries, but doubts whether the pope will give him an ear, because the top Vatican officials around him, including the secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, seem to support the appeasement theory.

However, the cardinal believes the Vatican still has room to move, because of the sizable number of Catholics in China, but the last thing he wants to see is a compromise. “Compromises destroy everything,” he stated.

Willy Lam Wo-lap, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, shared that as the combined number of Catholics and Protestants in China has reached at least 90 million, he believes that Christianity is regarded as a big threat to the Chinese government.

His belief is that this is the very reason the Chinese government is unlikely to loosen the noose it holds around the neck of the Church, as well as around the unofficial House Churches and other religious organisations in the country.