Category Archives: Church (ecclesiology)

Pope tells bishops of England and Wales to be united in teaching the faith and being a witness to Christ


UK Bishops arms.jpg

This last week the Pope has meeting individually and collectively with the bishops of England and Wales. As you know, a bishop is obliged to pray at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul and to offer a review of the pastoral activities of the diocese he leads to the Pope and to his curia. It is a visit to “the threshold” (ad Limina) to the center of our faith. Over the past years the bishops of Britain have faced some serious challenges–much like the bishops of the USA and Canada– and have not responded effectively enough to certain matters of faith and morals. The British bishops are your typical “old boys” network, a closed group of men sitting on their laurels. Generally speaking the UK bishops are not very unified in their teaching the faith which was a hallmark of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor; one clear indication of this is the work of Bishop O’Donoghue that was posted here calling for clear catechesis, witness and liturgical practice (read two things here and here). In the Pope’s address to the bishops at the end of their to visit Peter, you can see the matters that concern the pope and the Church at large. The papal address at the end of any visit of an episcopal conference is an interesting thing to read because Rome is a bit more objective in reading the tea leaves than those living in situ. General rule of thumb: if it finds its way into print, then it is important to recall. Plus, the Pope is rather subtle in his addresses such that you have to read between the lines. And you may ask why is this text important for North America. Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic face the very same issues when it comes to proposing the faith, moral living, ecumenism and sacramentality. What the Pope told the UK bishops is to be applied in the USA: the old way of doing things has ended. All but 2 paragraphs of the address are given here with my own emphasis on certain points.

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I welcome all of you on your ad Limina visit to Rome, where you have come to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Vincent Nichols has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you my warmest good wishes and prayers for yourselves and all the faithful of England and Wales entrusted to your pastoral care. Your visit to Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the Catholic community in your country and the Apostolic See, a communion that sustained your people’s faith for centuries, and today provides fresh energies for renewal and evangelization. Even amid the pressures of a secular age, there are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and Wales. I am thinking, for example, of the enthusiasm generated by the visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse, the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, and the eagerness of young people to take part in pilgrimages and World Youth Days. On the occasion of my forthcoming Apostolic Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers them in his prayers and holds them in his heart.

Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth.

Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?

If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice. This requires not only you, the Bishops, but also priests, teachers, catechists, writers – in short all who are engaged in the task of communicating the Gospel – to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal.

Make it your concern, then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission. In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free. Cardinal Newman realized this, and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that “kindly light” wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost. Great writers and communicators of his stature and integrity are needed in the Church today, and it is my hope that devotion to him will inspire many to follow in his footsteps.

Much attention has rightly been given to Newman’s scholarship and to his extensive writings, but it is important to remember that he saw himself first and foremost as a priest. In this Annus Sacerdotalis, I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer, pastoral sensitivity towards the needs of his flock, and passion for preaching the Gospel. You yourselves should set a similar example. Be close to your priests, and rekindle their sense of the enormous privilege and joy of standing among the people of God as alter Christus. In Newman’s words, “Christ’s priests have no priesthood but His … what they do, He does; when they baptize, He is baptizing; when they bless, He is blessing” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, VI 242). Indeed, since the priest plays an irreplaceable role in the life of the Church, spare no effort in encouraging priestly vocations and emphasizing to the faithful the true meaning and necessity of the priesthood. Encourage the lay faithful to express their appreciation of the priests who serve them, and to recognize the difficulties they sometimes face on account of their declining numbers and increasing pressures. The support and understanding of the faithful is particularly necessary when parishes have to be merged or Mass times adjusted. Help them to avoid any temptation to view the clergy as mere functionaries but rather to rejoice in the gift of priestly ministry, a gift that can never be taken for granted.

Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue assume great importance in England and Wales, given the varied demographic profile of the population. As well as encouraging you in your important work in these areas, I would ask you to be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, so as to assist those groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.

New Cardinals in 2010???

Cardinal apparel.jpegAt the moment there are 112 cardinal electors should we have to elect a new pope. The papally imposed number of 120 is usually enshrined in our minds but we can conceivably have more (or fewer) should a reigning pontiff decide the matter. Pope John Paul II confirmed certain norms in a document Universi Dominici Gregis in 1996. Nevertheless, in 2010, 11 cardinals of the Holy Roman Church will lose their ability to vote in a papal conclave because they will turn 80. Their Eminences, Cardinals Ambrozic, Maida, Williams, Herranz, McCarrick, Poupard, DiGiorgio, Daoud, Giordano, Tumi, Pujats. You’ll notice that 2 are from the USA and 1 from Canada.

Pope Benedict has already had two consistories (2006 & 2007) making 38 cardinals. Mind you, some were ineligible to vote in a conclave from the first day of the cardinalate.
So, it is very likely that the Holy Father could create new cardinals in 2010.
Regarding bishops, at the moment there are, in 2010, 11 bishops submitting a letter of resignation to the Holy Father because they’re 75, there are 4 who turned 75 in 2009 (and no replace nominated yet) and there remain 6 empty dioceses. If no one dies or gets into trouble, the USA could see 21 new bishops.

The search for God of all people, believers and non-believers concerns us, Pope said

The Holy Father’s annual address to the Roman Curia -the
Cardinals and bishops resident in Rome and other officials of the Roman Curia who assist him in
his governance of the Universal Church– took place yesterday. In it the Pope points to some notable concerns that he thinks that ought to be the concern of all
of us who believe faith is central our lives. Namely, belief and unbelief,
doubt and certainty and freedom with regard to God and humanity’s search for God. In my humble opinion, this papal address should be an essential point in any diocesan, parish or ecclesial movement’s pastoral plan in 2010 and beyond. In part the Holy Father said,


Even the
people who describe themselves as agnostics or atheists must be very important
to us as believers. When we talk about a new evangelization, these people may
become afraid
. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission, nor
do they want to renounce their freedom of thought or of will
. But the question
about God nonetheless remains present for them as well, even if they cannot
believe in the concrete nature of his attention to us. 


Benedict addresses Roman Curia 2009.jpg

In Paris, I talked
about the search for God as the fundamental motive from which Western
monasticism was born, and with it, Western culture. As the first step in
evangelization
, we must try to keep this search alive; we must take pains that
man not set aside the question of God as an essential question of his
existence
. Take pains that he accept this question and the longing concealed
within it.


Here I am reminded of the words that Jesus quoted from the prophet
Isaiah, that the temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Isaiah
56:7; Mark 11:17). He was thinking about what was called the court of the
gentiles, which he cleansed of extraneous business so that it could be the
space available for the gentiles who wanted to pray to the one God there, even
if they could not take part in the mystery, for service of which the interior
of the temple was reserved.


A place of prayer for all peoples: by this was
meant the people who know God, so to speak, only from afar; who are
dissatisfied with their gods, rites, myths; who desire the Pure and the Great,
even if God remains for them the “unknown God” (cf. Acts 17:23). They
needed to be able to pray to the unknown God, and so be in relation with the
true God, although in the midst of obscurities of various kinds.


I think that
the Church should also open today a sort of “court of the gentiles”
where men can in some manner cling to God, without knowing him and before they
have found the entryway to his mystery, which the interior life of the Church
serves
. To the dialogue with the religions it must above all add today a
dialogue with those for whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is
unknown, and who nonetheless would not like simply to remain without God, but
at least to approach him as the Unknown.

Deaf Catholics: finding room for the deaf in the Church

From a recent Zenit news article, I learned something that I never knew before: “It is estimated that there are 1.3 million deaf Catholics,
and the Vatican is intent on ensuring that they can fully participate in the
Church.” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski,
president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, gave this statistic at his department’s 24th international conference meeting this week in Rome. The conference’s theme is “Ephphata: the Deaf
Person in the Life of the Church.”

“The prelate,” according to Zenit said, “estimated that in developed countries, one child
out of 1,000 is deaf, but the problem is more serious in poor countries, where
80% of the world’s deaf live. In these cases, deafness is often the result of
insufficient medical care and lack of medication.” He indicated “the need to help people with
this impairment, precisely as ‘the world has begun to overcome the
prejudices and superstitions linked to physical disability.'”

A liturgical resource for helping the deaf is Joan Blake’s Signing the Scriptures:

Year AYear BYear C

Plus, there’s the DVD Tips and Techniques for Signing the Scriptures.

Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks on Anglicanorum Coetibus

Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register penned a piece “Cardinal Kasper on Anglicanorum Coetibus” which dispels much of the misinformation found in both the secular and Catholic media, including certain blogs, about the recent events between Canterbury and Rome. Hopefully, L’Osservatore Romano will provide an English translation of the article they published as a referenced by Mr. Pentin; I am curious to know more. One thing to remember is to interpret these things with charity and understanding. Pray, too, for a profitable meeting between Archbishop Williams and Pope Benedict on Saturday.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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