Thursday, June 28, 2007

Christian Suffering in Iraq

No comment on whether the US and its allies should withdraw from Iraq in the near future; however, in a sermon reported by Catholic News Service, Bishop Ibrahim draws attention to often overlooked facts about the treatment of Christians in Muslim lands.

The full article is available at Catholic Online. Below are excerpts.

‘Let Iraqis kill each other,’ Catholic bishop says, calling for U.S. withdrawal
Bishop Ibrahim said the situation of Christians in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, "is very, very bad," with Islamic terrorists threatening that they must convert to Islam or pay a special tax as protection money.

Even if they choose to leave, they are being threatened to leave any unmarried daughters behind so they can be taken as wives by Muslims and forced to convert to Islam, the bishop said.

But Bishop Ibrahim said he does not believe the Muslims killing and threatening Christians are from either of Iraq's two Muslim groupings – Shiites or Sunnis – but rather al-Qaida terrorists from outside Iraq.
"For a Christian to be killed in the Middle East is nothing new – it often happened in the second, third and fourth centuries that Christians were martyred for their faith – but for Christians to be killed in the 21st century, when the world's major superpower has 150,000 troops in that country, is a terrible thing," he said. "Why are they there if they cannot defend human life and human rights?"
The current situation puts Christians in the hazardous position of being perceived as being allied with the foreign occupiers, but the Americans provide no special protection for them, the bishop continued.

"We do not have weapons, we do not have a militia, and nobody is supporting us," he said. And even with some of the additional troops from the planned surge in U.S. forces already in place, there is no security in Baghdad, he noted.
When Father Ganni and the three subdeacons were killed June 3 by men wearing masks after leaving a church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul following Mass, the police did not even come to investigate, Bishop Ibrahim said. "Their bodies lay on the streets for two hours after they were killed."
Remon Samir Jiddou, parish council vice president at Mother of God, said there is not much fellow Chaldeans back in Iraq can do about the dangers they now face. "It's out of our hands; that's why we pray to God. All we have is our faith in God, that he will protect us."
For the full article, click here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Busy Week at the Vatican

This is turning out to be a busy week for news at the Holy See.

First, there was the "motu proprio" altering the conclave procedures for the election of the pontiff.

Granted, this wasn't the motu proprio some people have been looking for...

Then, there was the small but significant shuffling of several curial officials (including Archbishop Foley to a position that takes him firmly out of the communications wing of the Vatican.

And if that isn't enough, almost on the heels of this news, we have word that the motu proprio many in the Roman Church have been eagerly awaiting for two years (i.e., since the election of Pope Benedict) really is coming.

Yes, that motu proprio!

News is leaking that the motu proprio allowing for more generous celebration of the Roman Mass of John XXIII will be officially publish on 7 July 2007.

Here are a few links to this breaking story:

Kath.Net (in German)

Catholic World News (

What Does the Prayer Really Say

Whispers in the Loggia (For once, Rocco didn't get the scoop!)

The New Liturgical Movement

The Cafeteria Is Closed

I can almost hear Tillie saying, "Well, all hell done broke loose now!"

PS When officially published, look for that Motu Proprio to be available here.

Yet Another Victory for Freedom in Turkey

Turkish court rules out international role for Orthodox Patriarch

Ankara, Jun. 27, 2007 ( - A court in Turkey has ruled that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople does not have the right to the title "Ecumenical Patriarch." Patriarch Bartholomew has legal standing only as the head of his local Orthodox community in Turkey, the court ruled.

The Turkish court ruling will not affect the Patriarch's standing in the eyes of the world's Orthodox faithful, who generally regard the Patriarch of Constantinople as the "first among equals" in the world's Orthodox hierarchy. However the decision does bolster the efforts of Turkey's secular government to downplay the international importance of the Constantinople patriarchate.

The court ruled that Patriarch Bartholomew has jurisdiction only over the small Orthodox community in Istanbul. Because he does not head other religious communities, he should not be described as "ecumenical," the court argued.

The Turkish government currently requires that the Patriarchate of Constantinople must be a Turkish citizen. Patriarch Bartholomew had recently called for a change in that requirement, arguing that a wider pool of potential candidates should be eligible for the post. The court's ruling severely damages chances for that policy change.

The world's Orthodox churches are generally divided along national lines, with each Church governing its own affairs. The Patriarch of Constantinople is regarded not as having authority over the other Orthodox bodies, but as having primacy among Orthodox patriarchs. The Russian Orthodox Church in particular has been insistent that the Ecumenical Patriarch should not be seen as the Orthodox equivalent of the Pope, but as a peer of the other patriarchs.
While some of the argumentation made by the court is valid (given Orthodox ecclesiology on the equality of bishops), this is but yet another in the historic 'legal' oppression of the Church in secularist Turkey.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Key Word "assent"

VATICAN CITY, JUN 26, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy Father gave his assent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church meeting in Ain Traz, Lebanon, from June 18 to 23, of Fr. Yasser Ayyach, pastor of the Melkite parish of Amman-Alwabdi in Jordan, as archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia of the Greek-Melkites (Catholics 31,300, priests 28, religious 21), Jordan.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is one of several sui iuris churches that collectively make up the Catholic Church. The largest sui iuris church is the Church of Rome, whose Archbishop is fairly well known. Thus, the Holy Father does not 'consent' to the election of a Bishop for the Melkites, he 'assents' to it. This assent is a sort of formal courtesy that respects the rights of both the Melkites and the Church of Rome. When a Patriarch is elected, he and the Pope exchange letters that confirm their unity in the Faith and mutual recognition.

The Patriarch of the Melkites is His Beatitude Gregorios III (Laham), the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria, of Jerusalem.

See my earlier post on the Melkites here.

Ukraine and Constantinople Express Desire for Unity

2007-06-26 16:19:00
Ukrainian president and Patriarch of Constantinople
discuss establishment of united Local Church in Ukraine

Kiev, June 26, Interfax - Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople discussed, in Istanbul on Tuesday, the establishment of a united Local Church in Ukraine, the Ukrainian president's press service reported.According to the press service, the patriarch also expressed hope that the situation in Ukraine will stabilize after the early parliamentary elections and added that he was praying for the unity of Ukraine. Patriarch Bartholomew conveyed through President Yuschenko his blessing upon the Ukrainian people.They also discussed the religious formation of young people on the basis of Christian ethics.In conclusion of their meeting, President Yuschenko and Patriarch Bartholomew exchanged tokens.

Let us pray that the unity for which the President and the Patriarch pray will include reunification and full recognition of the rights of Ukrainian Greek Catholics. I have intuited for some time that Ukraine could be the linchpin for true Ecumenical progress between Rome and the Separated Eastern Brethren of the Byzantine Rite.

American Rabbi Speaks on the End Times

One of the results of my reading Jesus of Nazareth has been an increased interest in Jewish interpretations of Scripture and Jewish views on moral and social matters. Look forward to my own comments regarding Rabbi Neusner's book A Rabbi Talks With Jesus in the near future.

In the meantime, the following piece from LifeSiteNews piqued my interest.

"America's Rabbi" Warns:
"Enormous, Humanic and Historic Upheaval" Rapidly Approaching

Interview with Rabbi Daniel Lapin
on How Today's World Compares to the Days of Noah

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, June 25, 2007 ( - The recent death of Mrs. Ruth Graham, the beloved wife of preacher Billy Graham, has caused renewed reflection on her oft quoted comment: "If God does not judge America soon, he'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." Indeed, with the culture war raging on abortion and same-sex 'marriage', many a Christian has wondered about a coming purgation - a cleansing as in the time of Noah and the flood.

It may come as a surprise to some, but Orthodox Jews too have a belief in a coming purgation. As the man popularly known as "America's Rabbi" told, we are "moving towards some kind of enormous, humanic and historic upheaval."

Nationally acclaimed speaker and best-selling author, Rabbi Daniel Lapin spoke with about his newly released audio series "The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah", in which he looks at the similarities between the time of Noah and our present day.

Rabbi Lapin is the founder and leader of Toward Tradition - a ground-breaking coalition of Jews, Christians and other Americans united in fighting secular fundamentalism and promoting traditional, faith-based American principles of constitutional and limited government, the rule of law, representative democracy, free markets, a strong military, and a moral public culture.

Key to interpreting the Bible (the Old Testament) suggests the Rabbi, is the Hebrew language. In that language, he notes, the Bible tells that in the time just before the flood there were aborted babies. "Everyone is familiar with that section just before the flood, of giants," said Rabbi Lapin. "The King James translation refers to these people as giants - one thing, in the Hebrew, it becomes immediately very clear is that what we really are talking about is aborted people, aborted fetuses."

"In Hebrew," explained the Rabbi there is "one word for giants (and) aborted fetuses." Comparing the time of Noah to the current day, the Rabbi said, "Babies that are aborted eventually bring about a culture of death that destroys society."

Asked if Jews, like some Christians, feel a time of purgation is coming, Rabbi Lapin replied bluntly, "Yes, it is extremely intense."

The Rabbi stressed however that a Judeo-Christian view of the end of time is a hopeful one, in contrast to the secular view of the end of time which sees only doom and gloom. "There is a dichotomy here between a secular world view in which the end of time is hopeless," Rabbi Lapin told "It is doomed. It ends in oblivion . . . Right now it is global warming, a few years ago it was nuclear winter. Before that it was that we were all going to starve and die naked and cold when Thomas Malthus at the end of the 18th century made his predictions."

"The secular world view will generate an end of time picture of hopelessness and doom and by contrast a Biblical world view of both Jews and Christians shows an end of time picture that, while it may have its turbulent threshold, is a time of some kind of unimaginable solution to all human problems."

Asked, if it would be "a time of renewal of goodness on earth?," the Rabbi replied, "Exactly right. Yes."

As for God having to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah for not acting on America for its sins, Rabbi Lapin suggests God is in fact acting on America. "God doesn't necessarily act towards every culture in the same way," he said. "Every culture that adopts abortion and homosexuality as normal is a culture that begins to decline and eventually vanish off the stage of world history - that is God acting."

"That is precisely the point. It is not that hard to see in many ways the fortunes of the US of A are simply not where they were before these twin scourges became prevalent. Yes, He is acting - He is not going to have to apologize to Sodom at all. He is being very consistent. He may not be burying us in thunderbolts and mountains of salt but the damage that the US of A is enduring is no less fatal."

Rabbi Lapin sees another striking similarity between our day and the time of the Biblical flood. Noting the political situation in the United States, where the major argumentation seems focussed on abortion and same-sex 'marriage, Rabbi Lapin observes: "Undoubtedly, it was very significant, that never before in a presidential election has there been this much focus on the faith and beliefs of the candidates which again brings us back to this Noah like period in which divisions between people are lining up very clearly on a spiritual level."

While Rabbi Lapin rejects any attempt to fix a date on the coming upheaval, he does say that it is rapidly approaching. "What is unquestionably crystal clear is that time and history is accelerating. Things happen more quickly now than ever before so it is moving rapidly towards this event, whatever it will look like."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pope Benedict on Truth and the Baptist

Rocco has the scoop again!

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, 24 June, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist, whose life was wholly oriented toward Christ, like that of his mother, Mary. John the Baptist was the precursor, the “voice” sent to announce the incarnate Word. In reality, then, to commemorate his birth means to celebrate Christ, the fulfillment of the promises of all the prophets, among whom the Baptist was the greatest, called to “prepare the way” leading to the Messiah (cf Mt 11:9-10).

All the Evangelists begin the narrative of Jesus’ public life with the story of his baptism in the Jordan at the hand of John. St Luke places the Baptist’s entrance onto the scene within a solemn historical frame. My book Jesus of Nazareth also treats the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as an event that would have enormous resonance for his times. From Jerusalem and from every part of Judea the people came to listen to John the Baptist and were baptized by him in the river as they confessed their sins (cf Mk 1:5). The repute of the prophet-baptizer would grow to the point that many asked themselves if it was he who was the Messiah. But – as the evangelist underscores – this he quickly denied: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1:20). He remains, however, the first “witness” of Jesus, having received the indication of heaven: “The man on whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33). This happens precisely when Jesus, having received his baptism, rose from the water: John sees descending upon him the Spirit as a dove. It was then that he “understood” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1:31), pointing to him as Son of God and redeemer of man: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

By authentic prophecy, John remained a witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced the transgression of the commandments of God, even when the powerful were its protagonists. And so, when Herod and Herodiade [Salome] accused him of adultery, he paid with his life, signing with martyrdom his service to Christ, who is the Truth personified. Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, that in our own times, too, the church may know to keep itself faithful to Christ and to witness with courage his truth and his love for all.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

China to Dynamite Marian Shrine -- Where's the International Outcry?

Zenit reports on the upcoming destruction of an important Catholic Shrine. While not as old as the Buddha carvings the Taliban destroyed, the motives are similar.

Where is the international outcry?

TIANJIAJING, China, JUNE 21, 2007 ( ).- The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be dynamited following a government decision that the pilgrimage site is a place of illegal religious activity.

The Henan Province government will prevent the annual July 16 pilgrimage, which normally draws 40,000 pilgrims for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, AsiaNews reported.

The shrine was built in 1903 by a priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Monsignor Stefano Scarsella, then apostolic vicar to northern Henan. The shrine was meant to thank the Blessed Virgin for preserving Christians from the dangers of the Boxer Rebellion.

The sanctuary lies in Tianjiajing, in the Diocese of Anyang, in a scenic, mountainous area that some speculate will be used for a commercial or government building.

The provincial government has mobilized 700 soldiers for military exercises in the area since May 12, when the planned destruction was announced. Roads leading to the shrine are closed and pedestrians who go near the area are searched.

The faithful of the Diocese of Anyang, appealing through AsiaNews, said: "We ask all our brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray for us and spread our message to all the faithful of the world."

ZE07062103 - 2007-06-21

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pope Urges Prayers for Middle Eastern Christians

Christians in Middle East need prayerful support, Pope says

Vatican, Jun. 21, 2007 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) expressed his deep concern about the situation facing Christians in the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq, as he met on June 21 with representatives of aid organizations working in the region.

Addressing participants in an annual meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), the Holy Father assured them that he prayed for the Christians in the violence-torn region "with the urgency and constancy they deserve." The Pope added that he recognized and shared ROACO's "pain and concern for the delicate situation affecting vast areas of the Middle East." He urged the aid organizations to redouble their efforts in light of today's crises.

Speaking directly to Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of Babylon, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Pope expressed his sorrow over "the barbarous killing of a defenseless priest and three sub-deacons in Iraq at the end of Sunday liturgy on June 3." Their deaths, he said, were examples of "true martyrdom in the name of Christ." The Chaldean Patriarch had traveled from Baghdad to Rome to join the ROACO meeting.

Pope Benedict blessed the work of ROACO, encouraging the aid agencies to recognize the importance of working with other Christian groups in the Middle East, and stressing the value of unity with the Eastern churches. He reminded the participants to base their initiatives on prayerful planning, since "in prayer we will always find the true source of commitment to charity, and in prayer we will verify its authenticity."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bishop Sarratelli makes waves

American Bishop: Pro-Choice Equals No Communion For Catholics

By Peter J. Smith

PATERSON, New Jersey, June 19, 2007 ( - Pro-choice Catholics, not just Catholic politicians, must not receive Communion if they knowingly support legalized abortion says an American Catholic bishop.

"By steadfastly choosing to be pro-choice, a Catholic -- politician or not -- excludes himself or herself from communion," wrote Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli in the June 7 edition of the Beacon, the Paterson diocese newspaper.

In his column Serratelli rebuked "pro-choice" Catholic politicians and those who "arrogantly insist that the Church does not have the right to her own teaching" and who claim a right to Communion at the same time. In particular Serratelli went after the 18 Democratic Congressmen who lashed out at Pope Benedict XVI for stating that supporting abortion is "incompatible with receiving communion"

The Church vigorously teaches that "human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception." However "pro-choice Catholics," as Serratelli pointed out, have reacted in self-righteous "how dare he" indignation when the Pope tells them that the Church has definitive truths, objective criteria for forming a conscience, and does not rubberstamp everyone as worthy to approach Holy Communion.

"[The Pope] is right when he insists that supporting abortion is incompatible with the reception of Holy Communion," said Serratelli.

"Certainly, a politician has the freedom to reject Church's teaching," he stated. "But let's be honest. To choose to be pro-choice is to reject the Gospel of life. It is to be not faithful to Church teaching."

Serratelli noted that guidelines for Catholics receiving Communion prepared by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops also teach that Catholics "should refrain" from receiving Communion if they were to "knowingly and obstinately to repudiate [the Church's] definitive teaching on moral issues," either in their personal or professional life.

"The Church has always taught that a procured abortion is a moral evil," said Seratelli. "The Church's teaching is clear. What is disputed now is the Church's right to speak this truth."

Serratelli noted that the 18 Catholic Congressmen who "strongly chastised" Benedict XVI were refusing "to allow the Pope freedom of speech and the Church freedom of religion."

Politicians in western governments worldwide have attacked the Catholic Church's right to hold its members accountable to Catholic teachings in the name of "pluralism." Right now two Catholic archbishops in Australia, George Pell of Sydney and Hickey of Perth, face investigations into whether their telling Catholic parliamentarians that support for the destruction of human life in stem-cell research is incompatible with receiving communion amounted to "contempt of parliament."

"Why should the Church not have a right to voice her teaching on this important issue in the public square? She must speak and speak often," Serratelli said. "Abortion may be for some just a political issue. But, for the innocent child, it is a matter of life or death."

See the Paterson Bishop's column here:

Related coverage by Pope Warns Pro-Abortion Politicians Against Receiving Communion Unworthily

18 House Democrats Blast Pope for Dropping the "E-word" on Abortion

Pope Supports Excommunication for Pro-Abortion Politicians - "Incompatible with Receiving Communion" <

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Holy See speaks on automobile safety

Reuters reports a new set of "Ten Commandments" for auto safety. As this ties in with an earlier post on this blog, it must be shared!

The Vatican took a break from strictly theological matters on Tuesday to issue its own rules of the road, a compendium of do's and don'ts on the moral aspects of driving and motoring.

A 36-page document called "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road" contains 10 Commandments covering everything from road rage, respecting pedestrians, keeping a car in good shape and avoiding rude gestures while behind the wheel.

"Cars tend to bring out the 'primitive' side of human beings, thereby producing rather unpleasant results," the document said.

It appealed to what it called the "noble tendencies" of the human spirit, urging responsibility and self-control to prevent the "psychological regression" often associated with driving.
For the entire article, click here.

From the Vatican Information Service report on the same document, the following excerpts reveal a more serious consideration of the topic.

The document - published in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian - is divided into four sections: The pastoral care of road users, pastoral ministry for the liberation of street women, the pastoral care of street children, and the pastoral care of the homeless.

Cardinal Martino indicated that the idea of preparing this document arose during the First European Meeting of National Directors of the Pastoral Care of the Road, held in 2003. "Its aim," he said, "is to guide and coordinate all the ecclesial bodies in the world of the pastoral care of the road, and to encourage and stimulate episcopal conferences of countries in which this form of pastoral care does not exist, to organize it."

Commenting on the first part of the document, Cardinal Martino expressed the view that "Church and State, each in its own field, must work to create a generalized public awareness on the question of road safety and promote, using all possible means, ... an adequate education among drivers, travelers and pedestrians."

Referring to the evangelization of the road, the president of the pontifical council recalled that the Church also aims at "the religious formation of car drivers, professional transporters, passengers, and all those people who, in one way or another, are associated with roads and railways." In this context, he recalled the fact that in many countries there are "fixed or mobile highway chapels, and pastoral workers who visit motorway service areas and periodically celebrate liturgies there."

For his part, Archbishop Marchetto explained the remaining three parts of the document: pastoral ministry for the liberation of street women, the pastoral care of street children, and the pastoral care of the homeless.

In order to respond effectively to the first of these, said the archbishop, "it is important to understand the factors that push ... women into prostitution, the strategies used by intermediaries and traffickers to make them submit to their will, the paths along which they move from their countries of origin to those of destination, and the institutional resources needed to face the problem. Fortunately the international community and many non-governmental organizations are seeking ever more energetically to combat criminal activities and to protect the victims of human trafficking, developing a vast range of resources to prevent the phenomenon and to rehabilitate its victims back into social life.

"The Church," he added, "has the pastoral responsibility to defend and promote the human dignity of those exploited by prostitution, and to work towards their liberation, providing economic, educational and formative support to this end. She ... must also prophetically denounce the injustices and violence perpetrated against street women and invite people of good will to commit themselves to the defense of their human dignity, ... putting an end to sexual exploitation."

Archbishop Marchetto described the issue of street children, as "a phenomenon of unimaginable proportions, ... 150 million according to the International Labor Organization." He identified its causes in "the increasing disintegration of families, ... immigration which uproots people from their familiar environment and disorientates them, and conditions of extreme poverty."

"In order for children to have a future in life, it is of fundamental importance to infuse in them a feeling of self-confidence, self-respect and dignity, ... in order for them to develop a genuine desire to resume studying ... and to create dignified and gratifying life projects, through their own efforts and not dependent upon others." In this area, he continued, "it is necessary to seek out and meet the young people in the places they gather, on the streets, ... and in the 'hotspots' of our metropolises."

"Generally speaking, street dwellers are considered with diffidence and suspicion, and the fact of not having a house becomes the start of a progressive loss of rights. Thus they become a multitude without a name and without a voice, incapable of defending themselves or of finding the resources to improve their future." Fortunately, "there is no lack of pastoral responses, ... though insufficient, by parishes Catholic organizations ecclesial movements and new communities. There are people who go out to seek these brothers and sisters in need, creating a network of friendship and support and giving life to generous initiatives of solidarity."

The whole VIS report may be found here.

Update: The Associated Press has listed the entire list of "commandments" themselves.

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

We'll add a link when the document itself becomes available on the net.

Monday, June 18, 2007

No Plans to Convert Russia to Catholicism

Interfax has a short article on comments made by the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture clarifying (yet again) that the Vatican has no plans or desires to "convert" Russia to Catholicism.

2007-06-18 14:09:00

Vatican has no plans to convert Russia to Catholicism - cardinal Poupard

Moscow, June 18, Interfax - The Vatican does not want to convert Russia to Catholicism, and relations with the Moscow Patriarchate are improving, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture Cardinal Paul Poupard told students of the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University on Monday.

Poupard said the Vatican never wanted to make Russia a Catholic country. The Holy See is praying for a Christian Russia and further preaching by Orthodox and Catholic disciples, he said.

The cardinal admitted differences between Orthodox and Catholic clerics as members of one and the same family.

The two churches want to speak about their belief, he said, adding that at the meeting he was wearing a cross he had received from Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II.

The atmosphere of inter-church relations has changed, Apostolic Nuncio to Russia Archbishop Antonio Mennini said. He said they could affirm Christian values together and be friends.

The Russian Orthodox Church feels that it is respected by the Holy See, the archbishop said. The Vatican regards the Russian Orthodox Church as the national church and welcomes the opportunity to meet and learn about the Russian religious tradition, he said.

May it please God to soften the hearts and open the minds of the Patriarchate of Moscow to understand the beauty of the Unity of the Faith!

And may the Orthodox also come to terms with the reality of our Eastern Catholic Churches. Accusations that we are mere dupes or saboteurs hoping to "Romanize" the Orthodox would be laughable if not that so many seem genuinely to believe them. It is irrational to demand that we Eastern Catholics cease to exist before the Orthodox agree to enter serious dialogues with Rome towards Reunification.

O Most Holy Trinity: Make the divisions of the Churches to cease!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Litany of Fervent Supplication from the Divine Liturgy

This short YouTube piece features the late Bishop Sleiman Hajjar of blessed memory. Sayidna was a wonderful bishop and holy man who died too young in a swimming accident. May his memory be eternal!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Pope and the Eastern Churches

On Saturday, the Holy Father visited the Sacred Congregation for Oriental ("Eastern") Churches. During his visit he accepted the resignation (due to age) of the congregation's prefect His Eminence Ignace Cardinal Daoud and appointed Archbishop Leonardo Sandri as his successor.

The Congregation is charged with overseeing the non-Latin Churches of the Catholic Church. Its goal is to preserve and promote the equality of these Churches with the great Church of Rome. Thus the congregation serves to ensure that 'Latinizations", the oft-mentioned fear of Eastern Churches not in communion with Rome, does not happen and that the all churches within the Catholic Church flourish.

ZENIT has published a summary account of the Holy Father's visit. Below are a few snippets.

He said: "Today the Pope gives thanks to Eastern Christians for their fidelity at the price of the shedding of blood -- admirable accounts which fill the pages of history even to the present-day martyrology!"...

Benedict XVI said he took the name of a "Pope who dearly loved the East" because he wants his pontificate to be "a pilgrimage to the heart of the East."

The Holy Father told Eastern Christians that "he wants to stay by their side."

He reiterated "his profound appreciation for the Eastern Catholic Churches for their particular role as living witnesses of the origins."...

Benedict XVI added: "In a particular way, the Eastern Churches guard the echo of the first announcement of the Gospel; the most ancient memories of the signs performed by the Lord; the first beams of the paschal light, and the reverberations of the unquenchable Pentecost fire."...

When the whole speech is available in English, I will add a link.

For the whole article, click here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More on Jesus of Nazareth from Sandro Magister

Over at Chiesa On Line, Sandro Magister features an article by the Rabbi Pope Benedict references in Jesus of Nazareth. It is a quite insightful piece and worth reading. Below are a couple of paragraphs from Sandro's introduction:

This author is an observant Jew and a rabbi, Jacob Neusner. He lives in the United States, and teaches history and theology at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. In 1993, he published a book that had a great impact on the then-cardinal Ratzinger: “A Rabbi Talks with Jesus.”

In “Jesus of Nazareth,” the pope explains why this book made such a positive impression on him. In it, “the author takes his place among the crowds of Jesus‘ disciples on the ‘mount’ in Galilee. He listens to Jesus [...] and he speaks with Jesus himself. He is touched by the greatness and the purity of what is said, and yet at the same time he is troubled by the ultimate incompatibility that he finds at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount [...] again and again he talks with him. But in the end, he decides not to follow Jesus. He remains – as he himself puts it – with the ‘eternal Israel’.”

The central issue that prevents the rabbi from believing in Jesus is his revealing himself as God: the same scandal that led Jesus to his death. In Ratzinger’s judgment, it is precisely here that the value of Neusner’s book lies. The imaginary conversation between the Jewish rabbi and Jesus “highlights the differences in all their sharpness, but it also takes place in great love. The rabbi accepts the otherness of Jesus’ message, and takes his leave free of any rancor; this parting, accomplished in the rigor of truth, is ever mindful of the reconciling power of love.”

For Benedict XVI, this is the path of true dialogue between Jews and Christians. Not to conceal their respective claims to truth, but to bring these to light in reciprocal understanding and respect.
And from the article itself:

Disputation went out of style when religions lost their confidence in the power of reason to establish theological truth. Then, as in Lessing's "Nathan the Wise," religions were made to affirm a truth in common, and the differences between religions were dismissed as trivial and unimportant. An American president was quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're a good man." Then disputations between religions lost their urgency. The heritage of the Enlightenment with its indifference to the truth-claims of religion fostered religious toleration and reciprocal respect in place of religious confrontation and claims to know God. Religions emerged as obstacles to the good order of society....

But now His Holiness has taken a step further and has answered my critique in a creative exercise of exegesis and theology. In his “Jesus of Nazareth” the Judeo-Christian disputation enters a new age. We are able to meet one another in a forthright exercise of reason and criticism. The challenges of Sinai bring us together for the renewal of a 2,000 year old tradition of religious debate in the service of God's truth....
For the entire piece, click here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Sad Saga of Paris

This evening I came across a news report about Paris Hilton. Forgive me if my knowledge of her is somewhat scant. However, I understand that she is incredibly wealthy and what used to be called a “personality.”

I gather that she had been sentenced to a short stint in jail, but the sheriff had attempted to let her serve her time under house arrest. Apparently, there was an almighty palaver that led to her return to the court today and being sent back to jail.

What struck me was several ‘news’ photos of her crying and the reports of her being overwrought at the prospects of serving her time. The reports noted that she cried out that it was not fair and called to her “Mommy” while being led away to the gaol. The report also noted that she was shaking during the hearing and kept looking at her parents mouthing “I love you.”

It is obvious that this young woman has not developed full emotional maturity, and probably intellectual maturity. What is also apparent is that she has the misfortune of both having never before had to deal seriously with the untoward consequences of her life choices and also now having her first real experience of the hard realities of life being documented in the cold glare of public scrutiny.

My concern about this is to ask, who will save her? Who will speak words of comfort to her in the gaol -- true words of comfort that help her realize her errors, the need to repent, the necessity of changing her life? Will there be anyone who will with Christian love confront her and help her see the vacuity of her lifestyle and the benefits of living in the true freedom that respects limits?

Or will she die in the gaol? Will we soon discover an addiction that her wealth and the perks of fame has heretofore hidden from public view, which her time in confinement will reveal? Or will she do her time, and return to the sycophants who tell her she should be above such mundane punishments. Will her misguided loved ones, who believe that giving a person everything they want without moderation, consideration of others, or reference to the dignity of her personhood, which was not manifest up till now, continue to encourage her on that same path?

If so, I fear we will all too soon be reading about her unfortunate death. Perhaps it will be drugs; maybe it will be alcohol or some accident. It seems clear she is adrift and no one seems really to care to help her.

But I guess that doesn’t matter as long as people buy the newspapers, watch the gossip shows, read the celebrity blogs, and everyone can walk away from her ruined life and rotting corpse feeling better about themselves because they have never been tempted as has she.

(A recommended book for the not faint of heart: Click here, and don’t dismiss the suggestion too quickly! May Ms Hilton also find a copy of it to read while in the gaol.)

PS No, this is someone about whom I never once thought I would write.

When Reason is Used Unreasonably

MercatorNet features an article by Canandian ethicist Margaret Somerville which notes contradictions and flaws in the arguments of the currently fashionable anti-theist arguments.

A few highlights are reproduced below. For the whole article, click here.

Dawkins confuses religion and the use of religion – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt intellectually and assume he does so deliberately -- in order to promote his thesis that religion is evil. Religion itself is not evil – just as science is not evil – but it can be used for evil purposes, just as science can....

The primary "way of knowing" in science is reason and reason is fundamental to the scientific method that produces scientific knowledge. Dawkins’ mistake is that he sees reason (and probably science) as the only valid way of human knowing and, consequently, as the only appropriate tool to explore non-scientific questions, such as profound ethical issues....

We have multiple ways of human knowing in addition to reason, all of which are essential to ethics. They include history (human memory) -- this is beautifully encapsulated in aboriginal people’s practice in making ethical decisions of looking back seven generations. Imagination and creativity – looking forward seven generations to try to assess the ethical acceptability of the impact of what we plan to do on future generations. Intuition -- especially moral intuition. Common sense. Experiential knowledge – including what we can know, as the gym teachers tell us, by listening to our bodies. And "examined" emotions, to name just some....

In short Dawkins – who is a fundamentalist atheist (atheism is a secular religion) and religious fundamentalists are similar in an important respect: They take an either/or approach to everything: my beliefs or yours; religion or science; reason or Faith; and so on. They then seek to reconcile what they see as the conflicts between the two elements that make up each of these pairings, by dropping one or the other of them. Dawkins’ call for the elimination of religion demonstrates such a choice on his part. But it is an extremely dangerous proposal and likely to escalate the culture clashes and "religious wars" we are seeing....

Friday, June 01, 2007

Retired Bishop Reviews Jesus of Nazareth

Retired Bishop Basil Meeking has written a very nice review of Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth. For anyone still uncertain whether to read it, Bishop Meeking's analysis of the contents should remove lingering doubts. A few highlights are presented below.

Jesus of Nazareth is not in the first place devotional reading but a closely argued exposition written in a spirit of faith with the hope of eliciting rational reflection. But the thoughtful reader may well be led to prayer as well. To read the book is to experience the highly cultivated thinking of a clear and sharp mind, one that can present theological questions and insights in contemporary style. It abuses no one but is the civilised discourse that has its source in the Catholic culture of Europe.

The Sermon on the Mount shows that "being human is essentially about relationship with God". Integral to this relationship is the speaking and listening to God which is prayer. Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer, the prayer of the community and of the believer. Jesus of Nazareth is worthwhile if only for the light it throws on the meaning of the Our Father and the nature of prayer. It is the prayer of Jesus, the prayer to be said with him as he leads us from the primacy of God to the right way of being human. It shows us from heaven what we human begins (sic) can and should be like.

When he points out that the Scripture experts of Jesus' day, those professionally concerned with the sacred writings, do not recognise Jesus for what he is because they are too taken up with the intricacies of their detailed knowledge, Benedict has an eye to the present. He does not hesitate to uphold the place of historical criticism in Biblical exegesis, while being equally firm about its limits and the excesses which have led some exegetes to opinions that "destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle faith".
Read the whole review here.