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Orthodox leader praises former Pope
Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations described the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI as a "prominent theologian", well versed "in the tradition of the Orthodox Church" and said that relations between Rome and Moscow had acquired a "positive dynamic" following his election as Pope.
Metropolitan Hilarion called Benedict's decision to resign as "an act of personal courage and humility".
He expressed gratitude for the Pope's "understanding of the problems which impede the full normalisation of Orthodox-Catholic relations, especially in such regions as western Ukraine".
He praised the Pope's staunch opposition to the "dictatorship of relativism" and said that his "traditionalism and conservatism" were a boon to "millions of Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who seek to preserve traditional Christian spiritual and moral values".
Metropolitan Hilarion expressed the hope that Benedict's successor would "continue walking along the same path and that Orthodox-Catholic relations will continue developing progressively for the common good of the whole of Christendom".
Catholic News Agency
No Communion for pro-abortion politicians
As the Irish parliament considered legalising some abortions, Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura, said that local Catholic politicians who supported the procedure should be refused Holy Communion in the hope of inspiring their conversion.
"There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins," Cardinal Burke told the Irish newspaper Catholic Voice in an interview published on 1 February.
Once "a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion," the cardinal added, "as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion."
Cardinal Burke said that the local bishop and parish priests must ensure that Holy Communion is properly received to avoid "the grave sin of sacrilege" from those like Catholic politicians who receive Communion in spite of "grave moral evil." The bishops and clergy must also prevent the "scandal" caused by this kind of reception because it "gives the impression that the Church's teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is not firm".
African-Americans in US March For Marriage
Civil Rights activist Reverend Bill Owens joined with the National Organization for Marriage to promote and lead the March for Marriage in Washington DC, on 26 March.
"Gay activists are wrong to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement in their push to redefine marriage for all - the most important civil right related to marriage is the right of every child to a mother and father," said Rev Owens on 25 February.
Rev Owens is the founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a group that describes itself as "a grass-roots movement of Christians who believe in traditional family values such as supporting the role of religion in American public life, protecting the lives of the unborn, and defending the sacred institution of marriage".
He also was a participant in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s in Nashville, Tennessee. "I marched in the civil rights movement, and I did not walk a single step for gay marriage when I marched for civil rights," he recalled. "I will march again and the Coalition of African American pastors will march to honour the civil rights movement and to honour the sacred institution of marriage."
Catholic News Agency
Pope Benedict's liturgical legacy praised
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the executive director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, Msgr Andrew Wadsworth, paid tribute to Pope Benedict's teaching and decisions about the sacred liturgy.
"When the Holy Father spoke to his own clergy, the priests of the Diocese of Rome, for the last time, he said two very significant things about the liturgy: firstly he said that the Second Vatican Council was very right to treat of the liturgy first, because it thereby showed that God has primacy," said Msgr Wadsworth.
"And in the liturgy the most important consideration is adoration. He linked this to the fact that he has desired that in the celebration of our Mass there should be a crucifix on the altar. So that the priest looks at the cross and remembers that it's the sacrifice of Calvary that is being represented in the celebration of the Mass and that the people should look at the cross rather than at the priest."
Regarding the 2007 document Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for a wider celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass and Divine Office, Msgr Wadsworth added:
"The motu proprio really is a very important moment in which the Holy Father puts two forms of the Roman Rite which potentially have been at loggerheads with each other since the Second Vatican Council in a creative dynamic relationship with each other. The Holy Father really is reminding us that the light of tradition should fall on all of our liturgical experience.
"In relation to the new English translation of the Missal ... it was the Holy Father who judged on the whole question of [the translation of] pro multis [as] "for many", "chalice" rather than "cup" - those are his particular judgments and his prerogative as the Pope. He showed a great interest in the process as it was unfolding."
Catholic World News
More questioning of the sexual revolution
A Catholic author believes that the "surprisingly positive" reception of her book on the sexual revolution shows an encouraging openness to reconsider cultural assumptions about artificial contraception. "I don't think that's anything anybody would have ever predicted," said Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.
In a talk on 11 February in the Archdiocese of Denver, Eberstadt discussed the findings of her recent book, Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution.
She said that the book has enjoyed a broad outreach and been well-received, which she attributes to changing attitudes and a willingness to reconsider the empirical evidence associated with the birth control pill.
The positive reviews of her book in many Christian publications was a "really encouraging sign" that people might be starting to re-examine the perceived benefits of artificial contraception.
Years ago, while researching Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's encyclical which reiterated the Church's teaching against artificial contraception, Eberstadt was amazed to find that the 1968 document had accurately predicted a wave of troubling social effects that would accompany the widespread use of birth control.
Eberstadt found non-religious evidence from medical journals, pop culture and secular society to show that while the encyclical may be the "most heavily mocked and reviled global document of the last half century", it was correct in its predictions.
The current efforts to recognise same-sex marriage were simply part of the "clear logical chain" that started with artificial birth control, she noted. Catholics needed to start "playing offence, not defence, in the public square", she urged.
Hopeful signs for Church in China
Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since 2010 and formerly a professor of Theology at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Hong Kong told an interviewer in Rome on 7 February that he saw many reasons for hope for the Church in China.
"I noticed that some communities have a good sense of solidarity, helping other people and working to do good and keep the harmony of the society and family. I can see the number of Catholics is growing. People are accepting the teachings of Christ and his Gospel and are willing to live it. So the vitality of the Church there gives me hope as well. And of course, personally, I believe in God who is the Lord of history and He will guide us."
The issue of religious freedom, however, remained to be resolved. "For me," he said, "religious freedom is the most fundamental side of human rights because if one cannot have the choice for his or her own belief in that particular country then it would be very difficult for him or her to live."
While he believed that religious freedom had improved significantly for common people over the last 50 years, he said that restrictions remain on the selection and appointment of bishops. "For the Catholic Church what we need is to be in communion with the Holy Father and regrettably full communion with the Holy Father is restricted."
The plight of Iraq's last Christians
Patriarch Louis RaphaŽl I Sako of the Chaldean Church, the Archbishop of Baghdad, told Aid to the Church in Need that Christians are continuing to leave Iraq for a number of reasons, mainly due to the lack of security.
The Patriarch, who was elected on 31 January, said: "They are leaving the country because there is no stability. Another reason is the rise of fundamentalism. Christians have lost their trust in the future. They are disappointed."
Patriarch RaphaŽl added that "security and freedom" were the most important issues for the survival of the Church in Iraq. "When they feel secure, free and equal with the others, they will stay, otherwise they will leave."
According to Church sources, Christians in Iraq have plummeted from 1.4 million in 1987 to perhaps fewer than 250,000 today.
Many Christians who fled initially to the north of Iraq have since departed from there as well, unable to find jobs or housing or because they have been reluctant to settle in a region that continues to experience sporadic acts of violence. Even in the north, Christians have been targeted by Islamists - although events such as the mass torching of a Christian-owned business in Zakho in December 2011 are rare.
Patriarch RaphaŽl added: "The whole situation is bad. There is tension between the government and the opposition, also between the central government and the Kurdish regional government.
"Everyone is waiting for an improvement. We hope for a real reconciliation between the partners."
Patriarch RaphaŽl said that Christians are important in helping to provide cohesion in an unstable region: "The Pope appealed to me so that we remain, as in the past, a bridge for all, between Christians and Muslims and between Iraqi citizens."
He said a "concrete strategy" needed to be devised "to keep Christians in their homes and hoping."
Aid to the Church in Need
Fairfax media's smear of Cardinal Pell rebutted
A statement released by the Sydney Archdiocese on 11 March 2013 rebutted a story by religion journalist Barney Zwartz published in the Fairfax media, and repeated by other media outlets, which alleged that Cardinal George Pell was "tainted by sex abuse scandals" and "long dogged" by allegations of sexual abuse against him.
The Archdiocesan statement described these allegations as "utterly false and seriously defamatory" with "no basis in fact" adding that they "deliberately misrepresent the outcome of a 2002 inquiry by a retired Victorian Supreme Court judge which completely exonerated Cardinal Pell of allegations made against him."
The Archdiocesan statement noted that previously "Mr Zwartz correctly reported in an article published by The Age on 14 June 2010 that 'Cardinal Pell stood down as Archbishop of Sydney in 2002 after he was accused of abusing a teenager at a church camp in the 1960s, but an independent investigation by a retired non-Catholic judge cleared him.' Inexplicably, this has been omitted from Mr Zwartz's latest article.
"As Archbishop in two cities Cardinal Pell has worked hard to eradicate the evil of sexual abuse from the Church and to show his deep compassion for victims and survivors of sexual abuse not just by words but also by actions. Instead of presenting these facts and the outcome of the Southwell Inquiry fairly as it should, the Fairfax press has opted to publish a smear of the most vindictive kind.
"Fairfax and other media which are repeating this story are being contacted by Cardinal Pell's lawyers."
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 26 No 3 (April 2013), p. 4
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