Signs of the Times

Pope Benedict XVI Addresses Communion by Divorced and Remarried

During a meeting on July 25 with about 140 priests, religious and deacons from the Valle d’Aosta region of Italy, where he was vacationing, Pope Benedict XVI engaged in a wide-ranging discourse. Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who suffer because they cannot receive Communion must be welcomed in parishes as Catholics who witness to the importance of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI said.

At the same time, he said, if a priest, acting out of compassion for their suffering, gives them the Eucharist, he risks undermining the dignity and indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. We all know that this is a particularly painful situation. The pope added that he knew the issue could become complicated and said, Given these people’s situation of suffering, it must be studied. The meeting, which was closed to the press, lasted about two hours. The pope’s remarks were published on July 27 in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.


When asked about ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Pope Benedict told the priests, "None of us has a ready-made solution...each person’s situation is different. I would say that a particularly painful situation is that of those who were married in the church, but were not really believers and did so just for tradition, and then, finding themselves in a new, nonvalid marriage, convert, find the faith and feel excluded from the sacrament," he said.

Pope Benedict said that when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he asked several bishops’ conferences and experts to study the problem, which in effect was a sacrament celebrated without faith. He said he had thought that the church marriage could be considered invalid because the faith of the couple celebrating the sacrament was lacking. But from the discussions we had, I understood that the problem was very difficult and that further study was necessary.

Pope Benedict said that Catholics must keep two things in mind: first, that even if divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist, they are part of the church and are loved by Christ; and second, that suffering out of love for God and for the church is a noble suffering. While participating at Mass without receiving Communion is not optimal, he said, it is not nothing; it is involvement in the mystery of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Auxiliary Bishop Ordained for Diocese of Xi’ian in China

Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan was consecrated by Bishop Anthony Li Du’an, of the Diocese of Xi’ian, China, at St. Francis Cathedral on July 26, according to a report in UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand. About 2,000 people, including local government officials and more than 100 priests, attended the ceremony. UCA News and AsiaNews reported that the ordination had the approval of both Chinese authorities and the Vatican. Vatican officials would not comment on Bishop Dang’s status. Bishop Dang told UCA News on July 26 he feels pressure because he had no psychological preparation to be a bishop after priests, nuns and lay representatives elected him on June 14.

Israel, Vatican Spar Over Condemning Terrorism

In an unusual public row, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Vatican press office exchanged charges over Pope Benedict XVI’s omission of the suicide-bombing in Netanya, Israel, on July 12 among the abominable terrorist attacks he condemned following his remarks during the Angelus on July 24 at his vacation retreat at Les Combes, Italy. The pope explicitly mentioned recent attacks in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Great Britain.

The Israeli démarche came the following day, when Nimrod Barkan, who heads the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s office for diaspora and interreligious affairs, summoned the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, to the ministry to complain about the omission. In an interview in The Jerusalem Post on July 26, Barkan continued to challenge, in a highly provocative way, the pope’s failure to include Israel among the victim nations. What could be worse, he asked, than implying it is O.K. to kill Jews?

In response, a 1,300-word statement from the Vatican press office on July 28 offered a two-page list of statements by the late Pope John Paul II critical of violence in the Middle East. The interventions of John Paul II against every form of terrorism and against single acts of terrorism against Israel, said the Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Vals, citing the record of the late pope, are numerous and public.

It was not always possible for the Holy See to denounce terrorist bombings in Israel, Navarro-Vals explained, because Israel was so prompt to retaliate, sometimes contrary to international law, and so laid itself also open to condemnation. Over the years the Holy See has been as assiduous in upholding international norms as Israel has been in insisting that they do not bind the Jewish state in its struggle for survival.

After four days of open controversy, religious leaders began to call for calm. Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Segni, said the dispute was only damaging for both sides. Seymour Reich, a veteran of high-level Catholic-Jewish dialogue, urged both sides to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture regarding Israeli-Vatican relations and the Vatican’s world-Jewry relations.

Cardinal Urges Bush to Veto Stem-Cell Legislation

The head of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee has encouraged President George W. Bush to veto any legislation that would loosen restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem-cell research. The statement was issued by Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, after the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, modified his stand to back legislation that would relax restrictions. Frist’s support improves chances that the Senate will pass a bill easing restrictions when it returns in September from its summer recess. The House already passed such a bill. I commend President Bush for his laudable pledge to veto such legislation, said Cardinal Keeler in a statement on July 29. The statement was issued in Washington by the U.S. bishops’ Department of Communications hours after Frist, who previously agreed with Bush’s restrictions, said in a Senate speech that the Bush policy was hindering research that could lead to cures for a number of diseases.

Canadian Bill Challenges Moral Law

The new Canadian law allowing same-sex marriages challenges long-established moral values and principles, the Canadian bishops said. The fundamental and universal reality of marriage remains the exclusive union of a man and a woman for life. From the perspective of the Catholic Church, the new federal statute denatures the moral values and principles, the bishops said in a statement on July 20. The statement noted that some Catholics, including politicians, promoted the redefinition of marriage. In this regard, they are in dissent from the teaching of the church as enunciated by the Holy Father and the bishops. This is a serious and problematic matter, the bishops said. Canadians in general have been and remain deeply divided about changing the nature of marriage and altering its basic meaning. It is clear this debate is far from over and that it will be a significant issue in the upcoming federal election, the bishops said.

South African Cardinal Against Aid to Zimbabwe

South Africa would be most reckless to send aid to Zimbabwe, which is in absolute chaos, said the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Giving money to [Zimbabwe’s President Robert] Mugabe can be compared to giving money to an alcoholic beggar who tells you he has given up drink and will spend the money on food, Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier, O.F.M., of Durban said in a telephone interview from Durban in mid-July. The cardinal had returned from a two-day trip to Zimbabwe as part of a delegation with the ecumenical South African Council of Churches. Mugabe is reportedly seeking a loan from South Africa to pay for electricity, fuel and food to offset chronic shortages.

Catholics Defendants in Portland Bankruptcy

About 80,000 Catholic households in western Oregon will soon get notice that they have been named defendants in the Archdiocese of Portland’s bankruptcy case. The legal move emerged as a way to make progress on a central question of the case: Who owns Catholic parishes and schools? Catholic households are to be notified of the action this summer by mail and newspaper ads. Both the archdiocese and the committee representing scores of plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases agreed to the plan. No parishioner or church donor will need individually to pay claims if their side loses the class action suit. But they could see their parish or school assets sold or put up as collateral for loans to fund settlements. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris on July 22 approved the move, which will formally include more than 389,000 Catholics in the yearlong bankruptcy process.

I.R.A. Urged to Promote Trust

The Irish Republican Army must go beyond ending its armed campaign and work to build trust and inspire confidence, said Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, head of the Irish Episcopal Conference. Welcoming the announcement on July 28 that the I.R.A. had formally ordered an end to the armed campaign, Archbishop Brady said, Every word and deed that helps to foster peace is to be welcomed.

Pope Benedict XVI said the Irish Republican Army’s announcement that it had ended its armed campaign was wonderful news that must be followed by efforts to promote trust and reconciliation.

To the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Patrick and all the saints of Ireland we entrust our common prayer for this intention, the pope said on July 31 after reciting the Angelus at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. With several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the residence on a sweltering hot day, the pope praised the I.R.A.’s decision to end its armed struggle and rely solely on peaceful negotiations. This is wonderful news, which contrasts with the painful events we are witnessing daily in many parts of the world, he said. The I.R.A. decision rightly has given rise to satisfaction and hope on the island and to the entire international community.

Jewish Leaders Hope Pope’s Visit a Good Sign

Jewish leaders said they hope Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to a synagogue in Cologne will help improve Catholic-Jewish relations. We hope that the visit will be a sign for the future, said Michael Rado, a member of the board of the Cologne synagogue, which the pope is scheduled to visit on Aug. 19. In spite of the efforts of the church in recent years, there is still anti-Semitism based on religious grounds in the minds of some people. If the pope takes the step of visiting a synagogue, it will make once more clear that the movement in the church is away from such anti-Semitism, he said. Ebi Lehrer, a member of the synagogue board, said the fact that it is a German pope who is visiting is not a major issue. We see him as the pope, as the head of the Catholic Church, and not so much as a German, he said. Perhaps it even makes it easier for him to visit a community in his home country.

Austrian Priest/Father to Resume Ministry

An Austrian priest has been allowed to resume parish ministry after fathering a child. He had to promise his bishop he would, in the future, live the celibate life of a Latin-rite Catholic priest; once he’d done this, he could return to pastoral duties without any problem, said Erich Leitenberger, spokesman for the Austrian bishops’ conference. Leitenberger said that on Sept. 1, the Rev. Christoph Frischmann of the Diocese of Innsbruck would take charge of the rural parishes of Hippach, Aschau and Ginzling following a two-year leave of absence.

Island-Born Bishop for Honolulu

Hawaii’s Catholics welcomed a new shepherd with a jubilant embrace on July 21 with the ordination and installation of island-born Clarence R. Silva as the fifth bishop of Honolulu. An estimated 5,000 people gathered in the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena in Honolulu to witness and participate in a liturgy radiant with color and tradition, brimming with music and enlivened by spontaneous applause.

This was the first time in Hawaii that a diocesan bishop was ordained and installed in the same ceremony. Joining the celebration were three archbishops and 15 bishops, 150 priests and 50 deacons. About 15 of the deacons and 60 of the priests were from Oakland, Calif., the diocese in which Bishop Silva grew up and served as a priest for 30 years. Several hundred of the laity present were related to the new bishop, a descendent of three generations of Hawaiian residents.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

“The Wife” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” feature female protagonists with strongly contrasting stories.
Michael V. Tueth, S.J.February 20, 2019
Frederic Martel boldly told reporters at a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in Rome on Feb. 20 that “the great majority” of the more than 200 members of the College of Cardinals are leading double lives.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 20, 2019
Does the Church, as the Body of Christ, offer a response to the sex abuse scandals?
Daniel PhilpottFebruary 20, 2019
You might ask, “Shouldn’t we all pretend to be Jesus?” We should, but that does not seem to have gotten most of us all that far. Perhaps a humbler role is a better beginning.
Terrance KleinFebruary 20, 2019