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FULL COLOUR WITH FOUR NEW PAGES YOUR NEW FOR £1.20 EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION PAGE 2 -PAGE PAPER 20No. 6382 www.catholicherald.co.uk December 52008£1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Church in Cuba steps out of the shadows
CUBANPRESIDENT Raul Castro attended his country’s first beatification ceremony last Saturday in a historic gesture of support for the Church. His unexpected arrival was greeted with applause by thousands of people who had come from all over Cuba to attend the beatification of 19th-century Brother José Olallo. His presence is being seen as a signal to the nation’s Catholics that despite decades of repression by the Communist government they should feel free to express their faith. In the early years of the revolution hundreds of priests were expelled or forced to work in labour camps and anyone who declared their faith openly was barred from many jobs. The country’s Catholic education system was also dismantled. But after the collapse of the Soviet bloc the state softened its hard-line stance and in 1992 it amended its constitution so that it was no longer officially atheist. Saturday’s beatification ceremony at Camagüey, about 300 miles from Havana, was broadcast by state television and heralded by a front-page article in the state-run newspaper. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Cause of Saints, said the beatification was a “landmark” for Cuba. He was joined at the ceremony by Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, papal nuncio Arch
bishop Luigi Bonazzi, and about 20 other Cuban and foreign bishops. Doves were released and bells rung as Brother Olallo’s remains were carried in a gold-coloured urn through the city. It was the first ever beatification ceremony to be held in Cuba –though Brother Olallo is not the first Cuban to be beatified. José López Piteira was beatified last year in Spain where he died during the Spanish Civil War. Brother Olallo, a member of the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God, tended the sick and wounded during Cuba’s first war of independence against Spain. He was one of the few religious in the country to defy Spain’s orders to leave, instead staying in Camagüey, where he worked as nurse and surgeon for more than 50 years. He became known as “the poor people’s priest”. Daniela Ramos, 12, who lives in Camagüey, was cured of lymphoma thanks to Brother Olallo’s intercession, the Vatican concluded this year. She attended the ceremony, saying: “I feel happy because Brother Olallo chose me to perform his miracle and because he is being beatified.” She said that all she remembered of the time she was sick was how often she had to have needles stuck in her veins. She had an obligation to give thanks to God, she said, “because in the hospital waiting room there were many other children, sick as I was, and they
Servers lead a procession during the beatification ceremony of Brother José Olallo in Camagüey, Cuba
died”. She also said she planned to ask for a cure for her father, who needs a kidney transplant. “I will ask that God put his hands on all the ill children and that they are healed, since he did it for me and he reigns in peace and love over all the earth,” she said. Relations between the Church and Cuba’s Communist government have improved considerably since John Paul II visited the country in 1998. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, was the first foreign visitor to meet Raul Castro after he took over the presidency earlier this year. The Vatican said at the time that Pope Benedict XVI was also
keen to visit Cuba. The warmth of the relationship is all the more surprising because Raul Castro was one of the original revolutionaries and a military leader who many feared would be more hard line than his brother, Fidel. Belisario Niepo, Latin America programme co-ordinator for development charity Progressio, said his appearance at the beatification ceremony was “unheard of”. He said: “It is a way of showing that you can be Catholic and not feel threatened by [the government]. And it is closing the gap between the state and the Church.” Mr Niepo said Raul had started to allow people more
freedom in general. For the first time Cubans can now buy mobiles and computers. “But Catholics still feel apprehensive because for 50 years there has been a very tightly controlled regime, and now it is opening up it’s going to take a while before people can feel relaxed about it,” he said. “And although there is freedom, problems occur when priests or other people get involved in politics and criticise human rights abuses. As an institution the Church has been seen as a kind of enemy.” A spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need, a charity that helps persecuted Christians, agreed that the situation for
Catholics had improved in recent years. He said a “major breakthrough” had been the state’s increasingly relaxed attitude towards processions at the national shrine, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. More than 90 processions were allowed over the last year. But he said Catholics in Cuba did not have “complete freedom” and that some restrictions were still in place. Religious schooling is still prohibited, foreign priests and religious are usually not allowed to work there and the state refuses to return Church buildings that were seized in 1961.
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Cardinal asks National Gallery to donate painting to Cathedral
CARDINALCORMAC MurphyO’Connor has asked for a Renaissance painting on display in the National Gallery to be placed in a church instead, as “work of faith”. He said that a depiction of the Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca, the 15th-century genius of geometry and perspective, should hang in a Catholic church. He said it was a mistake “to treat it as a work of art; it is a work of faith and piety, an expression
of the Church’s life and a way into prayer”. He said: “I will willingly offer Westminster Cathedral as the new home for this painting: it should be restored to a religious setting. I promise the director of the National Gallery that we will cherish this Catholic treasure.” The Cardinal was giving a Royal Fine Arts Commission lecture at Emmanuel College Cambridge. It will be broadcast on the Sky Arts 2 channel on Monday at 7pm. The Cardinal was discussing Christian
art and its role in the Church’s past and present. The talk was part of the Sky Arts Roots of Faith lecture series. Entitled Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (from the shadows and images into the truth), the Cardinal’s lecture dealt with sacred art in Catholic culture and faith. “Just as Thomas Aquinas interprets credo in Deum as placing an emphasis on believing in God by a movement of mind and heart, and not a matter of simply believing that there is a God, so too in
Christian art the images always point beyond themselves into the mystery of God whose reality is beyond images,” the Cardinal said. The painting, he said, spoke as a “scholarly, silent witness to traditions of theology and piety at the same time as through the use of geometry it witnesses to the use of the most modern scientific techniques to convey a mystery of Christ”. He also explained Catholic attitudes to sacred art and why Continued on Page 2
Tenor is inspired by John Paul II
FAMED tenor Plácido Domingo has said his new album of songs based on Pope John Paul II’s poetry illustrates the great humanity and wide interests of the late pontiff. “It’s not supposed to be a religious record, but one that illustrates his humanity and his literary and intellectual capacity,” Mr Domingo told
Vatican Radio. “I reflected on this a long time, and told myself the world needs to know what John Paul II has written.” The album, called Amore Infinito (Infinite Love), features 12 songs in various languages that were inspired by the poetry John Paul II wrote before his election as pope in 1978. The themes include the world of manual labour, young love, war, nature and family relations. “This was an act of faith and at the same time an artistic endeavour,” Mr Domingo said. He said the album treated the pope’s poetic compositions with great respect.
Actor wants to raise children in the faith
HOLLYWOOD actor Mark Wahlberg has said he wants to bring up his children so that they realise their Catholic faith is “the most important thing”. Mr Wahlberg, who has starred in I Heart Huckabees and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed , said being a good father was more important than being a good actor.
He said: “I’m much more concerned with being a good dad and hopefully helping them avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made,” he said. “And not just spoiling them. I want to make sure that they appreciate it and that their faith is the most important thing and that they try to be good people and help others.” Mr Wahlberg has three children.
Help Heal India’s Wounds
This young girl’s face was burned when extremists torched her village in Orissa, eastern India.
They attacked her because she is a Christian.
In India systematic violence against Christians has left more than: • 60 dead • 18,000 injured • 50,000 homeless • 80 churches destroyed.
ACN is determined to do what it can to help. India’s Christians need your prayers and your help.
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