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New Archbishop for Los Angeles
Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who succeeded Cardinal Roger Mahony as archbishop on 27 February, is being described as "very open and understanding," "willing to hear and learn and understand," and "very responsive and very affirming" by Los Angeles clergy who fear he may take the United States' largest diocese in a more "conservative" direction.
"I'm as conservative as Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict," Archbishop Gomez, who was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, told the Los Angeles Times. "Opus Dei, before the Second Vatican Council, was the most liberal organisation in the Catholic Church, because it talked about the participation of the lay faithful. That was not normal at that time. And then, somehow, after the Second Vatican Council, it became one of the most conservative organisations in the Church. You know, those terms don't really apply to the Gospel."
"I'm totally committed to the issue of immigration," he stated. "I'm also committed to the culture of life. So in political terms, those are things that are on the opposite sides sometimes, but the Church is richer than those political labels."
"I think [local Catholics] are looking for ... continuity," he added. "You know, change is always difficult ... so they're happy that I'm trying to continue the ministry of the cardinal. But I also notice that - and I think the cardinal would probably agree with me- that people need hope, and spiritual leadership."
Catholic World News
Iraqi Archbishop warns West on Islamisation
The secular Western world is incapable of fully understanding the threat of a "reawakening of Islam" in the Middle East, according to an Iraqi bishop beset by radical movements in his own archdiocese.
In an interview with the Italian bishops' SIR news agency, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, called the Middle East a "scary volcano" because of the possible consequences of widespread unrest. "There are Islamic forces and movements that wish to change the Middle East, creating Islamic States, caliphates, in which Sharia [law] rules," he warned.
Radical groups present in Iraq such as alQaida and Ansar al Islam are calling on citizens in other Middle Eastern nations to inject an Islamic influence into otherwise general protests in places like Tunisia and Egypt.
For Archbishop Sako these calls have "the clear intention of fueling ... a total religious change" in the area. "They are voices that could find fertile ground in Egypt and elsewhere and therefore should not be underestimated, also because there are regional powers whose leaders have defined these revolts as the 'reawakening of Islam'.
In practice, the goal of these fundamentalists is "to create a void to be able to fill it with religious themes, convinced ... that Islam is the solution to everything."
According to the archbishop, Europe and North America are blind to the possibility of such an Islamisation of the Middle East. "The Western mentality does not allow it to fully comprehend this risk."
He explained that politics and religion are interwoven in the Middle East, whereas there is "a tremendous void" between them in Western nations.
This results in two extremisms, he said. The Middle Eastern mentality is dominated by Islam, while a secularism that denies its Christian roots and relegates Christian values to the private sphere reigns in the West.
Opposition to abortion, "gay marriage" in Peru
A recent poll has shown that over two-thirds of Peruvians are against abortion, same-sex "marriage" and the legalisation of drugs.
The poll carried out between 1-6 February by the Peruvian Company for the Study of Markets and Public Opinion revealed that the Peruvian people "defend morality and overwhelmingly oppose these ideas," stated a press release from the Archdiocese of Lima.
Over 92 percent of those surveyed opposed the legalisation and consumption of drugs in Peru. Likewise, 76.3 percent said they were against abortion. Over 74 percent rejected "gay marriage," and 69.5 percent said they opposed civil unions for same-sex couples.
Abortion, "gay marriage" and the legalisation of drugs have been key issues in the presidential campaign for the 10 April elections.
On 17 January, the vice-presidential candidate for the Perú Posible Party, Carlos Bruce, said that his party would implement "gay marriage" if its presidential candidate, former President Alejandro Toledo, were elected.
Catholic News Agency
Worldwide increase in priest numbers
There were over 5,000 more Catholic priests globally in 2009 than in was the case in 1999, according to official Church statistics.
The latest Vatican Almanac shows there were 410,593 priests in the world in 2009 compared with 405,009 in 1999. The number of diocesan priests among these increased by over 10,000 while the number of those belonging to religious orders fell by nearly 5,000.
In North America, as well as in Europe and Oceania, the numbers decreased for both diocesan and religious priests. Africa and Asia, however, brought up the overall figures with a more than 30 percent increase on both continents. At the same time more seminarians are studying for the priesthood in Africa and Asia but fewer in Europe.
In Europe, the average age of priests is higher than in Africa and Asia with the number of European priests falling as new ordinations are fewer than the numbers of those who die. In Asia and Africa, however, the number of deaths has been only one-third of the total of new ordinations.
Between 2008 and 2009 the number of priests in the world increased by 809 which was the biggest increase since 1999.
Vatican Information Service
Radical theologians call for "renewal"
A group of German-speaking theologians has presented proposals they say will "renew" the struggling Catholic Church in Germany. However, the German bishops have indicated that the proposals simply revisit past calls by radicals and contradict Church teachings in a number of areas.
On 15 February, 227 theologians from three German-speaking countries signed their names to a letter entitled "The Church in 2011: A necessary departure."
Issues of sexuality, Church authority, and cultural adaptation dominated the statement, which used revelations of sexual abuse as the jumping-off point for a series of wide-ranging proposals.
"The deep crisis of our Church," the theologians wrote, "demands that we address even those problems which, at first glance, do not have anything directly to do with the abuse scandal and its decades-long cover-up." Many German Catholics, they said, have come to believe that "deep-reaching reforms are necessary."
The theologians' program includes greater lay participation in selecting bishops and parish priests, increased tolerance for different styles of liturgical worship, and a decisive break with what they described as attitudes of "paternalism" and "moral rigorism."
The theologians added that "the Church also needs married priests and women in church ministry" and that "the Church's esteem for marriage ... does not require that we exclude people who responsibly live out love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a remarriage after divorce."
Peter Seewald, the German journalist who recently collaborated with Pope Benedict XVI on the book Light of the World, said the open letter was "a rebellion in the nursing home," orchestrated by "chief priests of the zeitgeist" whose priority was to accommodate public opinion.
Catholic News Agency
Fast-growing US religious teaching order
One of the fastest growing orders of women religious in the United States is expanding to California where the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, took over administration of a Sacramento Catholic school in 2011.
The Dominican Sisters have outgrown the motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and are planning to build two new houses of formation in California and in Texas. Each would hold about 100. The order featured twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show during 2010.
"We had 22 young women enter in August, and we have had between 10 and 20 new vocations per year for the past five years," said Sister Thomas Augustine, director of California Mission Advancement. "It has happened to us before that by the time we finished adding onto the mother house in Ann Arbor we were already out of room! This time we are hoping to stay ahead of things so we are planning for two new houses of formation."
Founded in 1997 by four Dominicans from the flourishing Nashville Dominicans, 31 of the 110 Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have made final vows so far. The remaining religious are in various stages of formation or education and discernment, said Sister Thomas Augustine.
There are now eight sisters in the Sacramento diocese. Four are teaching at Presentation School, an elementary school that saw its enrolment increase from 44 students to 196 when the sisters took over in the 2010-11 school year, the first increase in five years.
The Order's primary apostolate is teaching, with sisters sent out in small groups. They now administer and teach in Catholic schools in California, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, and Michigan with a new mission opening in 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.
Sister Thomas Augustine, who was previously a New York lawyer, explained: "We deliver a Catholic education because we are in the business of saving souls. The thing to note is what we all have in common: the habit, living a common life, devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady, absolute fidelity to the Church's teachings and the influence of John Paul II."
Catholic News Agency
Eucharistic Adoration transforms parish
Eucharistic adoration has transformed a dying small-town Massachusetts parish into one of the most vibrant in the Diocese of Fall River, according to the website of the New Bedford Standard-Times.
The article reports:
A little church in a small town, St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, was facing tough times. The congregation was dwindling and Mass attendance was at an all-time low. The empty confessional was collecting dust and donations were dismal. But then the unthinkable happened.
Today, St Francis Xavier is one of the most vibrant parishes in the diocese with standing-room only Masses, confessional lines, a busload of parishioners participating in the March for Life, and an abundance of freewill donations that will make them debt-free by April.
Secularisation of religious orders
Religious orders face continued pressures to "secularise" and this threatened their identities and mission in the world, according to Cardinal Franc Rode, the retiring Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Religious Life.
In a 16 February interview, he warned that secularisation had "penetrated many communities and consciences."
Cardinal Rode said that religious communities had been "hotbeds of spiritual liveliness and missionary dynamism" throughout the Church's history. And while he continued to see an "admirable devotion" among the many varieties of religious men and women around the world, there were problems, particularly in the West, where works of charity were reduced to merely social service, causing harm to the proclamation of the Gospel. In such an atmosphere, "a society of well-being" takes precedence over questions of eternity.
Cardinal Rode said that since his appointment he has been working on "seeking to overcome this mentality of secularisation and reasserting the fundamental values of consecrated life - making of religious men and women ... a force of renewal of the Church."
He has turned both to the "healthy strengths" of traditional communities and the "new spiritual currents" of the more recently founded communities which are "surging against the spirit of secularism" giving "great importance to prayer and to the fraternal life lived in community" while insisting on "poverty and obedience [and] the religious habit, a visible sign of their consecration."
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 24 No 3 (April 2011), p. 6
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