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Bishops as defenders of the faith
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, said that every bishop is required to proclaim the Church's teachings to modern society. "In addition to the virtues that are normally demanded of a bishop, this capacity is particularly necessary today", he said.
In an interview with the Italian daily L'Avvenire on 18 November, Cardinal Ouellet described the involved process of selecting a new bishop which requires taking the opinions of numerous people into account.
"This research provides important elements for ruling out certain candidates and accepting and proposing others," he said. "In some cases, additional inquiries need to be carried out. Altogether, it is a serious process that is normally done well."
Cardinal Ouellet noted he has had some candidates turn down their appointments. "There have been quite a few more than I expected," he said. One of the main reasons for this trend is that "in recent years, the role of the bishop, and of authorities in general, both religious and political, is not at all easy."
Ultimately, all bishops must realise that their mission is to serve Christ and the Church and not themselves. "Bishops should know who they are working for, that is, for the Lord and for the Church. Not for themselves. When this happens, it becomes apparent in the way in which their personality is expressed."
Catholic News Agency
New York bishops' ad limina
Pope Benedict XVI told a group of American bishops not to be silenced by those who seek to muzzle Catholicism in public life. "Despite attempts to still the Church's voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance," he said in his address to 20 bishops of New York during their ad limina visit on 26 November.
The Pope called upon them to "exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defence of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free."
Benedict spoke about the need for a "new evangelisation" of the United States, where people of many religious and political persuasions have shown an "increased sense of concern ... for the future of our democratic societies." This stemmed from "a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life," accompanied by "a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes."
A new evangelisation of this society would require spiritual and intellectual renewal within the Church.
Catholic universities should play a leading role in bringing the Gospel to society. He praised those which had found "a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission" and shown faithfulness to their Catholic identity. "Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church's teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message so that they in turn can instil in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church."
The Pope also welcomed the new English translation of the Mass, which he said should inspire an "ongoing catechesis," helping the faithful grasp "the true nature of the liturgy" as a participation in "Christ's saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world." A right understanding of worship was essential for the Church's mission in society.
On the other hand, he added, "A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel."
Pope urges an end to the death penalty
During a General Audience in December, Benedict XVI encouraged countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction. Addressing a group of delegates gathered in Rome for an international conference on capital punishment, the Pope said he hoped their deliberations would "encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty."
The conference was organised by the Italian-based Sant'Egidio Community under the theme of "No Justice without Life."
The Pope told them that he applauded "the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the traditional teaching of the Church "does not exclude" recourse to the death penalty when it is "the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor." It adds, however, that today such cases are "very rare, if not practically non-existent."
Recent figures suggest that around a third of the world's countries use the death penalty as part of their legal code. In the United States, there are currently 34 states where the death penalty is legal.
Armidale's new Bishop
Fr Michael Kennedy, a priest of the Wagga Wagga (NSW) Diocese, was appointed the new Bishop of Armidale on 7 December 2011, following the resignation earlier in 2011 of Bishop Luc Matthys who had reached the retirement age for bishops of 75.
Bishop Kennedy was ordained for the Diocese of Wagga Wagga in the late 1990s and was most recently the Vicar Forane (Dean) of the Murrumbidgee Deanery and also the parish priest of Leeton. He began his priestly formation at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga and completed his studies in Rome at Propaganda Fide, obtaining a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.
Bishop Gerard Hanna of Wagga Wagga welcomed the news that one of his senior priests had been appointed a bishop and wished him every success in his new ministry: "I believe that he is well suited in his new role of leadership as the Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale."
In the course of his ministry in Wagga Wagga, Bishop Kennedy was the Rector of St Francis' Residential College at Charles Sturt University and also served as assistant priest in Albury. In addition to working as a parish priest in the diocese, he worked as a lecturer in moral theology at Vianney College.
Bishop Kennedy said he hoped to be "a true shepherd and teacher for the people of Armidale so that, together, we may grow in faith and build up the Body of Christ."
At 43 he is one of the world's youngest bishops.
Zambia rejects US pressure for "gay rights"
Zambia's Christian leaders have reacted angrily to the United States government's decision to link foreign aid with the promotion of "gay rights."
"Donor aid should not be tied to promoting immorality," said Father Paul Samasumo, spokesman for Zambia's Catholic bishops.
"For us as a nation, we cannot go in that direction because it is indecent and can erode our morals as a society," added Rev Gibson Nyirenda, a spokesman for Pentecostal leaders. "Let's remain a Christian nation by ignoring such assistance."
Echoing the Christian leaders' statements, Given Lubinda, the minister of information, broadcasting, and tourism, said that Zambia would not cave in to pressure from the West on homosexuality.
The nation of 13.5 million is 33% Catholic, according to Vatican statistics.
Catholic World News
Cuba welcomes upcoming papal visit
Cuba is preparing to greet Benedict XVI "with affection and respect," and President Raul Castro has welcomed "with satisfaction" the official announcement of the Pope's visit to the country, according to an official note released on Cuban media in December. The visit is due at the end of March 2012.
The Cuban president met with a Holy See delegation to discuss preparations for the forthcoming visit, which Benedict himself announced during a Mass on 12 December, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During the meeting "the excellent relations between Cuba and the Holy See were highlighted, and certain details of the Pope's visit were examined," according to a Vatican report.
Benedict XVI's visit, his second to Latin America following his trip to Brazil in 2007, will coincide with initiatives organised by the local episcopate to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba.
One of these initiatives is a Marian Jubilee Year, which began on 7 January 2012 and will conclude on 5 January 2013.
Zenit News Agency
Global shift in Christian populations
A new report indicates that while the percentage of Christians in Europe and the Americas declined during the 20th century, it is growing significantly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
The report on global Christianity was released on 19 December by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The analysis showed that although the bulk of Christians lived in Europe 100 years ago, there is "no single continent or region" today that can "indisputably claim to be the centre of global Christianity."
Both the number of Christians and the total population of the world have grown rapidly in the last century. While the Christian population increased from about 600 million in 1910 to over two billion in 2010, Christianity continues to represent about a third of the world's total population.
Numbers also showed that the proportion of Christians in Europe has greatly declined over the last century. In 1910, Europe was home to over 66 percent of the world's Christians. By 2010, that number had dropped to just below 26 percent. Christians represented 95 percent of the European population in 1910. A century later, they made up only 76 percent.
The number of Christians in the Americas also decreased, representing just 86 percent of the population in 2010, down from 96 percent a century earlier.
However, in sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of the population that identifies as Christian rose dramatically, from nine percent in 1910 to 63 percent in 2010. The region now contains nearly a quarter of the world's total Christian population, up from less than two percent a century ago.
Christianity has also increased significantly in the Asia-Pacific region. Christians now represent seven percent of the population in the area, an increase from three percent at the beginning of the 20th century. About 13 percent of the world's Christians are located in the Asia-Pacific region, compared to 4.5 percent a century ago.
The report found that Catholics make up approximately half of the global Christian population, with 1.1 billion self-professed members around the world.
New Missal translation: positive impact in US
A panel of US liturgical experts has noted that the early weeks of using the new English translation of the Roman Missal would be an occasion for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Mass.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, DC, said that the new translation provided a "great opportunity" for those familiar with the old responses to gain a "deeper grasp of their faith."
The cardinal participated in a phone conference on 6 December to discuss the impact of the new translation, which had recently gone into effect in the English speaking world.
Dr Edward Sri, author of A Biblical Walk through the Mass, said that after hearing about the changes, Catholics were now beginning to "experience" the new translation for the first time. He added that the time of transition presented a "wonderful opportunity" to answer people's questions, "not just about the new translation, but about the Mass as a whole."
Matt Maher a Grammy-nominated Catholic musician commented on the continued role of music in the liturgy, saying that music is a humble tool that serves to aid active participation in the Mass. He noted that this participation requires that people not only sing and respond when appropriate, but also enter fully into moments of silence within the Mass.
He said that he is especially excited for future generations who will grow up seeing the treasures of the Mass "unlocked" by the new translation.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 25 No 1 (February 2012), p. 4
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