China Reserves Right to Elect, Ordain Bishops
A Catholic lay leader from Beijing said China will continue to self-elect and self-ordain bishops. We ordain bishops only for the sake of evangelization in the mainland. Nobody can stop us, said Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which acts as a liaison between the Chinese government and Catholic churches that have registered with the government. Liu told the Asian church news agency UCA News July 3 that it is up to Rome to recognize these bishops. Pope Benedict XVIs June 30 letter to the Catholic community in China described the self-elected and self-ordained bishops in China as validly ordained. But it said certain bishops among them lack a pontifical mandate and are to be considered illegitimate. Usually the elected bishop candidate would apply to the Vatican for approval after his episcopal election in China. In some cases the Vatican did not give its approval, but the fault lies not with China, Liu said, noting that he had read the papal letter three times and found it comprehensive.
Pope Seeks to Unite Divided Chinese Catholics
In a groundbreaking letter to Chinese Catholics published on June 30, Pope Benedict XVI established new guidelines to favor cooperation between clandestine Catholic communities and those officially registered with the government. The papal letter strongly criticized the limits placed by the Chinese government on the churchs activities. But on several key issues, including the appointment of bishops, it invited civil authorities to a fresh and serious dialogue. The 55-page letter was accompanied by a Vatican Press Office commentary that reiterated the Vaticans willingness to move its nunciature from Taiwan to Beijing, as soon as diplomatic relations are established with China. The letter was posted on the Vaticans Web site in several languages, including traditional and modern Chi-nese, and had been sent earlier to Chi-nese authorities as a courtesy. Through-out the text, the pope expressed his appreciation for the suffering of Chinese Catholics under Communism. He said their devotion to the faith and their loyalty to the pope will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.
Polish Radio Priest Faces Jail for Insult
A Redemptorist priest who runs Polands largest Catholic broadcast agency faces a possible jail sentence after describing Polish President Lech Kaczynski as a crook subservient to the Jewish lobby. Prosecutors in Torun, where Radio Maryja is based, said they would consider charges against the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk under a criminal code clause that calls for three years in jail for insulting the head of state. The priest denied making the remarks and insisted he was the victim of another provocation.
The Redemptorist province in Warsaw said July 9 it had set up a team to make a proper analysis of the existing situation after the Wprost, a weekly, published a transcript of Father Rydzyks alleged statement to a student meeting during which he also called Polands first lady, Maria, a witch. The British news agency Reuters reported July 10 that the priest is heard on a tape of the meeting criticizing the president, his brother and his wife for supporting limited abortion rights. The first lady with this euthanasia.... You witch, Ill let you have it. If you want to kill people, do it to yourself first, Reuters reported the priest as saying on the tape. Kaczynski urged the church July 10 to take action against Father Rydzyk, saying insults aimed at Polands leaders were a matter of government-church relations.
Meanwhile the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles released a letter July 16 signed by 600 Polish Catholic intellectuals condemning Father Rydzyk for his anti-Semitism.
Polish Church Commission Issues Report on Bishops
One in seven of Polands 132 Catholic bishops was registered as a secret police informer under Communist rule, but the scope of their involvement has not been fully established, said a Polish church commission. Up to 20 were registered by communist Polands security organs as secret collaborators, operational contacts or information sources, and one as an intelligence agent, while several were registered as potential recruits, the commission said in a June 27 statement. The secret police archive material presented to our commission on clergy who became bishops is incomplete and chaotic, the commission reported. It does not allow us to establish properly the scope, intensity and ultimate harmfulness of their real and conscious collaboration. The commission, which includes four priests and two lay professors, was set up by the Polish bishops conference in October. It presented its report to the bishops June 21. Archbishop Slawoj Glodz of Warsaw-Praga, liaison to the commission, said at a June 27 press conference in Warsaw that a final report would be handed to church leaders in the fall and passed on to the Vatican.
Sister of Charity Receives Award From Yad Vashem
A Catholic nun from Pennsylvania is the first non-Jew and non-Israeli to receive Yad Vashems Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education. Sister Gemma del Duca, a Sister of Charity and former chair of the history department at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., has been leading seminars for Holocaust education with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial for two decades. The seminars, started on her initiative, are intended for groups of Catholic educators and clergy, primarily from the United States. According to Yad Vashem, hundreds of educators have taken part in the seminars. A native of Greensburg, Pa., Sister Gemma has been living in Israel since 1975, and she approached Yad Vashem with her idea in 1987 in response to Pope John Paul IIs call to recognize the significance of the Holocaust. Sister Gemma is the person who opened the door here to bringing Catholic educators to Yad Vashem, said Ephraim Kaye, who works with international educators at Yad Vashem.
Pope Allows Wider Use of Tridentine Mass
In a long-awaited overture to disaffected Catholic traditionalists, Pope Benedict XVI relaxed restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Mass, the Latin-language liturgy that predates the Second Vatican Council. The pope said Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite, should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it. He said that while the new Roman Missal, introduced in 1970, remains the ordinary way of Catholic worship, the 1962 missal should be considered the extraordinary expression of the same law of prayer. They are, in fact, two usages of the one Roman rite, he said.
The popes directive came July 7 in a four-page apostolic letter titled Summorum Pontificum. The new norms will take effect Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. An accompanying explanatory letter from the pontiff to the worlds bishops dismissed fears that the decree would foment divisions in the church or be seen as a retreat from the Second Vatican Council. The pope said the new Mass rite undoubtedly would remain the churchs predominant form of worship.
U.S. Bishops: Pope Shows Pastoral Care for Faithful
U.S. church leaders cautioned against what one called early and false conclusions about Pope Benedict XVIs July 7 document expanding the use of the Tridentine Mass and said it should be seen primarily as an affirmation of the importance of reverential participation in the Mass, whether in its ordinary or extraordinary form. Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit said the apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum showed the popes pastoral care for those members of the faithful who desire to worship God with the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite. But he said Pope Benedicts decision to allow priests to celebrate the earlier form of the Mass without their bishops prior permission should not be seen as calling into question the abiding significance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council but as a continuation of Pope John Paul IIs efforts to reach out to those who felt alienated from the church because of the exclusive use of the postconciliar ritual. Bishop David A. Zubik (newly appointed to Pittsburgh) wrote on July 7 to the priests and faithful of Green Bay, Wis., that they must be careful not to arrive at early and false conclusions about the apostolic letter. Most importantly, I wish to state emphatically that the Mass is not changing, he wrote in both letters.
Truth, Oneness of Catholic Church Reaffirmed
In a brief document, the Vaticans doctrinal congregation reaffirmed that the Catholic Church is the one, true church, even if elements of truth can be found in separated churches and communities. Touching an ecumenical sore point, the document said some of the separated Christian communities, such as Protestant communities, should not properly be called churches according to Catholic doctrine because of major differences over the ordained priesthood and the Eucharist.
The Vatican released the text July 10. Titled Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church, it was signed by U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by Pope Benedict XVI before publication.
In a cover letter, Cardinal Levada asked the worlds bishops to do all they can to promote and present the document to the wider public.
Papal Medal Awarded to Former ICEL Official
At a parish Sunday Mass at Holy Trinity Church, Washington, D.C., on July 1, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, presented John R. Page with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal. Msgr. Anthony Sherman, incoming director of the liturgy secretariat, assisted Bishop Trautman during the presentation ceremony. John Page was honored for his service to the liturgical life of the church throughout the English-speaking world.
Mr. Page was a member of the staff of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy from 1972 to 2002, and served as its executive secretary for 22 years. ICEL was established by the bishops conferences during the Second Vatican Council. It was given a mandate by those conferences to prepare the English editions of the liturgical books, as revised at the direction of the council.
Mahony Apologizes, Settles Abuse Cases
The Los Angeles Archdiocese announced on July 15 the largest church settlement of sexual abuse lawsuits to date, agreeing to pay more than 500 victims a total of $660 million. Before noon the next day, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz had approved the settlement, calling it the right result. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles again offered his personal apology to all victims of sexual abuse by a priest, religious, deacon or layperson in the archdiocese. It is the shared hope of everyone in our local church that these victims, many of whom suffered in silence for decades, may find a measure of healing and some sense of closure with todays announcement, he said in a statement July 15. Although financial compensation in itself is inadequate to make up for the harm done to the victims and their families, still this compensation does provide a meaningful outreach to assist the victims to rebuild their lives and to move forward, he said.
Greek Orthodox, Catholics Urge Pursuit of Unity
Leaders of San Franciscos Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities urged adherents of their traditions to continue pursuing mutual understanding and unity during an ecumenical litany for peace. Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasimos and Catholic Archbishop George H. Niederauer capped an evening of sacred music and readings featuring themes of peace and reconciliation June 28 at St. Dominic Parish in San Francisco by lighting in unison the final candle of a candelabrum that had served as a symbol of growing unity during the evening. Between choral offerings, two pairs of youngstersone Greek Orthodox, one Catholichad walked to the altar area and each lit a candle on either side of the candelabrum.
Knights of Columbus Set Record for Giving, Service
The Knights of Columbus, the largest lay Catholic organization in the world, has announced that it set new records for charitable giving and volunteer service in 2006. Data from the orders annual survey of fraternal activity showed that total contributions to charities reached close to $144 million. The amount exceeded the previous years donations by more than $4 million. Of this total, the supreme council donated about $35 million; donations from other councils amounted to more than $108 million. The number of volunteer hours given by Knights for charitable causes totalled more than 68 million. Many volunteer hours were spent helping in the Gulf region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Soon after the hurricanes, the Knights donated more than $10 million to relief efforts and continued to make donations of time and money to those affected by the hurricanes through 2006.