THE YEAR IN REVIEW
DECEMBER 22, 2006 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
A year of crisis and reconciliation
Clockwise, from above: Islamic activists demonstrate in Kashmir against Pope Benedict after his speech at Regensburg; similar protests took place in Turkey; how the Herald reported the controversy
Continued from Page 9
In June, there were more reports of a papal trip to Britain in 2008 after it emerged that Tony Blair, following the example of Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, had extended an “open invitation” to Pope Benedict. It was said that several key figures in the Blair Government, including the Prime Minister himself, were keen to secure a papal visit before the next general election. As the football World Cup kicked off in Germany Scotland fans who supported England’s opponents were lambasted by Fr Willie McFadden, the rector of Scotus College, Scotland’s largest seminary. He said that members of the Tartan Army – Scotland’s famously friendly band of supporters – should examine their consciences before pledging allegiance to England’s first-round opponents: Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden.
After violence erupted in the Middle East Pope Benedict issued a desperate appeal for peace. He condemned the militant Islamist group Hezbollah for its terror raids on Israel but equally rebuked Israel for responding with “unjustified” violence. “As bitter experience has shown, positive results do not come from following such paths,” said Pope Benedict, speaking to 5,000 people in Les Combes, northern Italy, where he was on holiday. In England and Wales, priests and lay Catholics expressed dismay after it emerged that the bishops of England and Wales had abandoned several traditional Holy Days of Obligation . The bishops’ conference announced that the Vatican had given its approval for three of the Holy Days to be dropped. Epiphany, the Ascension of the Lord and Corpus Christi – all the Solemnities of the Lord except for Christmas – will now be moved to Sunday. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said in a statement that the move was driven by a concern for the “diminishing observance” of these days. But critics of the decision insisted that Catholics had not been properly consulted and accused the bishops of bowing to “a secular age”. Catholic writer Dr William Oddie said that the “secrecy” of the bishops’ appeal to Rome was a “disgrace”. In Rome, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo , president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said that the Catholic Church was on a collision course
with international law over its opposition to stem cell research and gay marriage. The warning came just days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Spain for the World Meeting of Families. “We worry that, especially with current laws, speaking in defence of life, the rights of family are becoming in some societies sort out of a crime against the state,” said Cardinal Trujillo. Pope Benedict appointed Fr Federico Lombardi , a Jesuit priest, as his chief spokesman after Opus Dei member Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced he was stepping down after 22 years in the job. Cardinal Walter Kasper said that Turkey was not yet ready to join the European Union. He accused the Turkish government of failing to uphold religious freedom, which he described as “a foundation of European culture”. The cardinal’s comments were made in response to the stabbing of a French missionary priest in the country. “Turkey must change many things and it is not just a question of laws but of mentality and you can’t change mentality in one day,” he said. The Vatican decided to open its archives covering the years leading up to World War Two for the first time. The move was expected to debunk the widely held theory that the Vatican was complicit in the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who married a Korean acupuncturist in a Unification ceremony in 2001, started a campaign to challenge the Church’s teaching on priestly celibacy. The Zambian archbishop said at a press conference in Washington DC that he sought to “reconcile” the 150,000 or so married priests around the world to the Church so that they could resume their ministry.
In what was described as the first-ever “papal press conference” , Benedict XVI gave one of the most candid and revealing interviews ever given by a Pope. During the discussion the Pontiff said that he wanted to present the Church as a “positive option”, rather than as an institution that “always says no”. He said that this shift in emphasis was necessary in order to prevent Catholicism from being consigned to “the trash of history”. The Pope fielded questions from three German journalists and a priest. He was asked why, when speaking to the World
The Pontiff stands inside the Church of St Oswald, in Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, where he was baptised as a child
Meeting of Families in Valencia last month, he avoided using the words “homosexual marriage”, “abortion” or “contraception”. He replied: “Christianity, Catholicism is not a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost disappeared today. We’ve heard so much about what is not allowed that now it’s time to say: we have a positive idea to offer.” Later in the month Pope Benedict pleaded for the release of a Chaldean Catholic priest who was kidnapped in Baghdad. Masked bandits forced Fr Saad Sirop Hanna from his car before taking him away.
“His Holiness makes a heartfelt appeal to the abductors to release the young priest at once so that he can return to the service of God, the Christian community and his countrymen,” said Cardinal Angelo Sodano in a message to the Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad. Another Iraqi cleric claimed that half of the war-torn country’s Christian population had fled since the American-led invasion of 2003. Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Abouna of Baghdad said that before the Second Gulf War there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shia Muslim Arab state. But he said that the
overall number of Christians had dropped to about 600,000 in just three years. “Half of the Christians have gone,” the Chaldean Catholic bishop said. “What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq. When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous – dangerous for the future of the Church in Iraq.” The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a terminally ill patient did not have the right to prevent doctors from starving him to death in the final stages of his illness. The plea of Leslie Burke, 46, for doctors to continue giving him food and fluids after he was no longer able to communi
cate was rejected. Celtic Football Club goalkeeper Artur Boruc found himself in hot water after making the Sign of the Cross in front of the supporters of his team’s secrivals, Rangers. Mr Boruc, who has played more than 20 times for Poland, received a caution from the Scottish judiciary. Ruth Kelly, the Catholic Communities and Local Government Secretary, said she was “surprised” at the move, in a country which is supposed to value religious diversity and freedom of speech. Andy Brown, a Celtic supporter, added: “International goalkeepers should be safe when it comes to crosses, so this is ridiculous.”
Pope Benedict’s homecoming trip to Germany was overshadowed as remarks he made about Islam caused worldwide controversy. During a lecture about reason and the use of violence in the name of religion at Regensburg University, the Pontiff quoted Manuel II Paelogos, a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman.” In response, Benedict XVI faced innumerable death threats and mass intimidation from many parts of the Islamic world. In Somalia a nun was murdered and in Asia and the Middle East churches were attacked and effigies of the Pope were burned in response to the alleged “insult to Islam”. In Britain one radical Muslim reportedly called on the Pope to be executed. Leading Catholics blamed elements of the Western media for the continuing outrage. The BBC website – a popular news source in Islamic countries – was accused of “pouring petrol on the flames” of the controversy. The BBC later admitted to screening out emailed comments from readers that were in favour of the Pope. Benedict XVI said sorry to Muslims who were offended by his speech but conspicuously stopped short of issuing a full apology. Speaking from his residence of Castel Gandolfo the Pope said: “I am deeply sorry for the reaction in some countries to a few passages of my addresss at the University of Regensburg which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” he said. Benedict XVI insisted that the speech was, in fact, “an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue” between the religions “with great mutual respect”. Moderate Islamic leaders were satisfied with this apology, though there were many extreme Muslims who demanded a full retraction of the speech. During the trip itself, the Holy Father had received a hero’s welcome from a congregation of a quarter of a million people when he celebrated Mass in his native Bavaria. In a moving and highly personal pilgrimage to his old diocese of Munich the Holy Father had hinted that, at the age of 79, he may never find the time or the energy to return to his homeland. As Muslims continued to decry the Pope’s choice of quotation, three Catholics in Indonesia were execut
ed for allegedly orchestrating attacks against Muslims in spite of appeals for clemency from the Vatican and even Benedict XVI himself. Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva, and Marinus Riwu were shot dead by a firing squad in Palu, Sulawesi, after they were denied a final Mass and confession. Human rights groups inisted that the men did not have a fair trial and accused the Indonesian government of trying “to appease the growing Muslim fundamentalist lobby” by killing the Christians. It was said that their lives were taken as a “sop” for the impending executions of the Islamist extremists who carried out the Bali bombings in 2002. In the same month, the charity Aid to the Church in Need produced a shocking study revealing unprecedented levels of persecution suffered by Christians around the world. The report recorded rising violence and discrimination against the faithful, usually at the hands of Islamist fanatics in every continent. Islam and Christianity did come together, however, as religious leaders held demonstrations across the world to highlight the plight of the victims of the forgotten war in Darfur. A day of prayer was held in more than 30 world capitals to show support for the suffering people of Sudan. In London, Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor led prayers with a delegation of spiritual leaders who called for the international community to intervene to help end the conflict. On the liturgical front. there was more good news for traditionalists as five priests and seminarians, including past members of the Society of St Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, returned to full communion with the Catholic Church. They founded the Good Shepherd Institute, a new society of apostolic life of pontifical right, in Rome. In Scotland, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow defended a group Scottish firefighters who were disciplined for objecting to promoting fire safety at a gay pride rally. Archbishop Conti said the decision to force nine firemen to undergo “diversity training” after they refused to man an information stall was alarming. “They were asked, while in uniform, to hand out leaflets during a demonstration where they had legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes. “In some cases, their religious sensibilities were being grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the Church,” he said.