THE CATHOLIC HERALD DECEMBER 22, 2006
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
reawaken love in a fragile world
As Archbishop Fitzgerald missed out on a red hat, another prelate was the surprise recipient of one. Bishop Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong became the most powerful Chinese voice in the Catholic Church when he was named as a new Cardinal, to be consecrated in March Bishop Zen had been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, so the appointment was reported to have put relations between Beijing and Rome on a knife-edge. Only two days after Bishop Zen’s nomination was announced, it emerged that the Chinese authorities had arrested two more underground Catholic priests, Fr Lu Genjun, 44, and Fr Guo Yanli, 39. No official explanation was given. Meanwhile, Catholic members of Amnesty International reacted angrily to the news that the human rights organisation was reconsidering its neutral position on abortion in favour of one that supports women’s “reproductive rights”. One Amnesty member said that the organisation had been “hijacked” by a small cabal of feminists within the organisation. On Februrary 17 the Herald reported that the prospect of St John Henry Newman hadmoved a step nearer after the sudden cure of a comatosed boy in America.
Perhaps the 19th-century cardinal also had a hand in the triumph of Stefan Gatward on The Weakest Link quiz show. Mr Gatward, the accountant for the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, won £1,970 on the testing programme, in which contestants vote each other out one by one. In England and Wales, the British National Party angered Catholics by naming a 19th-century pope as one of the historical figures who “inspired” its ideology. In an article in Voice of Freedom , the BNP’s official newspaper, the group praised Pope Leo XIII for his 1891 encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum , the first papal document to expound the social teaching of the Catholic Church. Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, who is in charge of the English and Welsh bishops’ office of refugee policy, said that the BNP had taken Pope Leo’s teachings out of context. “They say the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes,” he said.
The bishops of England and Wales formally invited Pope Benedict to visit Britain . The initiative was announced by the office of Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor. But to the disappointment of the British faithful, the Vatican made it clear that a 2008 papal visit was unlikely. This blow did not stop the Catholic Church in England and Wales from mounting its biggest political campaign in modern history aimed at preventing assisted suicide from reaching the statute book. In a pre-emptive strike against Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, the bishops urged millions of lay Catholics to “get really involved” in opposing changes to the law. The bishops flooded parishes with half a million anti-euthanasia leaflets, campaign packs and DVDs.
Meanwhile, Prof Sir Christopher Evans , a multi-millionaire cloning guru, was revealed as one of the 12 secret backers who bankrolled Tony Blair’s last election campaign. The news prompted further questions about possible links between New Labour’s funding and its unequivocal support for embryonic stem cell research. Sir Christopher had previously made a number of donations to the Labour Party and was knighted in 2000. At the Vatican, Pope Benedict carried out the most significant curial reform since the papacy of Paul VI, when he merged four Pontifical Councils under the control of just two presidents, Cardinal Renato Martino and Cardinal Paul Poupard. Commentators described the move as a “a trimming of bureaucratic fat”, but Cardinal Martino was not pleased. He publicly expressed his dismay at the change, complaining about the extra workload. “Of course, my position is to be obedient to the Holy Father,” he said. “But I’m wondering how I can cope.” In another curial development Benedict XVI created 15 new members of the College of Cardinals . He called on them to be even stronger witnesses of God’s love for the world and their own love for the Church. In the ceremony, in which the prelates from 11 countries became cardinals, the Pope prayed that the red garments they now wore would inspire them to an even more “passionate love for Christ, for his church and for all humanity”. The Pontiff took a break from all such diplomatic issues to become the first IPope. At a special ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of Vatican Radio, he was given an iPod Nano, the trendy MP3 personal music player. The gadget was given to the Pontiff by a group of Vatican Radio employees. Benedict XVI thanked the station’s technical head, adding: “Computer technology is the future.”
On April 19 Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the first anniversary of his election by telling more than 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square that he felt part of a “great communion” with Catholics around the world. He asked the faithful to continue praying for him so that he might be a “gentle and firm shepherd” in leading the Church. A week later, the secular press reacted ecstatically to the news that the Pope had ordered a commission of scientists and theologians to prepare a statement on condom use and the spread of Aids. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said that the document would focus in part on the morality of condom use by married couples when
Above: Benedict XVI makes an emotional visit to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz
audience that the Blessed Sacrament must not be relegated to obscure corners of British churches. The Nigerian prelate also ordered priests not to distract the faithful from prayer with background music. He compared Catholics who refuse to “adore God” according to the liturgical norms of the Church to “stupid brats” who defy their parents. In other home news, the National Union of Teachers called for an end to funding for faith schools. Britain’s biggest national teachers’ union claimed that the growing influence of faith groups on state schools would lead to ethnic segregation. A motion put forward at the union’s annual conference demand
Cardinal Arinze, left, visits Westminster Cathedral
one spouse is infected with HIV/Aids. The Vatican was quick to play down wide-spread suggestions that the Church was about to fundamentally change its opposition to condom use. In London, Cardinal Francis Arinze , the Vatican’s most senior liturgical official, gave an uncompromising speech at Westminster Cathedral in which he told a 400-strong
ed “an immediate halt to new Government-funded schools”, and that funding for existing faith schools should be gradually phased out. Peter Walsh, a spokesman for the Catholic Education Service, argued against the move. He said: “It just doesn’t make sense to say that funding for Catholic schools is leading to segregation. There is in fact a higher proportion of ethnic
minorities in Catholic schools than in other types of schools.” Led by the Scottish bishops, the Catholic Church in Britain appealed to the Government to abandon plans for a £20 billion advanced nuclear missile system and give the money to the poor instead. Eight Scottish prelates signed a statement saying that “the use of weapons of mass destruction would be a crime against God and humanity and it must never happen”. Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster echoed this appeal, saying that having nuclear arms, even for the sake of deterrence, was wrong. “I don’t think nuclear armaments are the answer to any of the difficulties we face as a country,” he said. “There can never be a justification for using nuclear weapons against people.” Rumours that Tony Blair would convert to Catholicismgained momentum after it emerged that Fr Michael Seed, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, had been celebrating regular Masses in the sitting room of 10 Downing Street. Fr Seed has already been instrumental in the conversion of several senior politicians, including Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer. The BNP again enraged Catholics by claiming that it had the backing of pro-life groups because of its firm opposition to abortion. Nick Griffin, the BNP chairman, said his party had received “messages of support” from several pro-life agencies. However, this was denied by a number of groups. Julia Millington, of the ProLife Alliance, said: “We certainly don’t have any connection with the BNP and I’m not aware of anybody within our organisation who does.” There was some good news for the faithful as priests in England and Wales reported an unprecedented rise in the number of Catholics attending church this year during Holy Week and over the Easter weekend.
The heavily publicised “Gospel of Judas” was widely dismissed by theologians and church leaders, as well as historians, who pointed out that not only was the text written 150 years after the events it described, but it could be as recent as the fourth century. The disintegrating papyrus book was discovered in the 1970s next to a pile of human bones in an Egyptian cave, but wasn’t translated from the Coptic for another 30 years. The remains of the document were said to be so fragile that they must be handled with tweezers in a temperature-controlled laboratory.
Pope Benedict made an emotional visit to Auschwitz at the end of a four-day trip to Poland. The Pontiff’s presence at the ruins of the concentration camp was inevitably the focus of some controversy because of Pope Benedict forced membership of the Hitler Youth and his later role into the German army, when he served on an anti-aircraft battery. The Auschwitz visit was not originally part of the Pontiff’s itinerary but he reportedly told aides that he had “had to come”. There was speculation before the visit as to whether the Pope would offer an apology on behalf of the German people for the mass slaughter. But Benedict XVI said he had come as a Christian, as a pope and as a German. “In a place like this, words fail, in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt plea to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?” he asked. Earlier in the trip, Pope Benedict had spoken optimistically about the progress of the Cause of John Paul II . “I, too, hope that divine providence soon grants us the beatification and canonisation of our dear Pope John Paul II,” he told a crowd of delighted Poles gathered at the Kalwaria
Zebrzydowska shrine in Krakow. In Britain, bitter euthanasia campaigners blamed the Church for the defeat of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally IllBill in the House of Lords. The outcome was seen as a victory for the Catholic Church in England and Wales after it launched its energetic campaign to prevent the Bill from becoming law. Turning their attention to other matters, the bishops of England and Wales issued an appeal for asylum for the victims of sex trafficking , arguing that thousands of women are being coerced into sexual exploitation and slave labour. The bishops said that existing British legislation provided little or no protection to people who have been forced into a life of slavery. This was “an offence to the dignity and integrity of human beings”. Elsewhere, a 74-year-old pro-life campaigner was jailed for sending images of aborted foetuses to a hospital. Edward Atkinson, a devout Catholic, became the first abortion opponent to be imprisoned since the Abortion Act of 1967. The pensioner was also struck off the hospital’s waiting list for a hip replacement because he reportedly offended staff by sending the horrific images. Mr Atkinson was sentenced to a month in prison and was given a five-year AntiSocial Behaviour Order (ASBO). Controversy surrounding the premiere of The Da Vinci Code, a film of the anti-Catholic best-selling thriller, reached new heights as Church leaders issued condemnations of the story’s portrayal of the Church. “If this film had been about the Koran there would be a world revolution,” said Archbishop Angelo Amato. “Catholics should boycott The Da Vinci Code film, speak out and reject these lies about the Church.” The Vatican revealed that the number of Catholics around the world
increased by 45 per cent in the last 30 years. The Church grew from 757 million members in 1978 to 1.098 billion in 2004, according to statistics.
In the most significant appointment of his pontificate so far, Pope Benedict named Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as the Vatican’s Secretary of State. With the appointment Cardinal Bertone became arguably the most powerful figure in the Catholic Church after the Pope himself. One Vatican official described the nomination as a “definitive movement” in Pope Benedict’s papacy. By appointing Cardinal Bertone Pope Benedict broke with the tradition that the Secretary of State must have a strong diplomatic background. The 71-year-old Cardinal Bertone replacedthe controversial outgoing Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the most high-profile ecclesiastical politician of recent times, who had served as Secretary of State for the last 15 years.
The drive to introduce a new translation of the Mass in English received a dramatic boost after it emerged that the bishops’ conference of England and Wales had approved parts of the revised Order of Mass. America’s Catholic bishopsalso approved the new
translation. They reached their decision after considering a lengthy report on the new Vatican rules for translating Latin liturgical texts into modern languages, as set out in the 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, head of Vox Clara, the committee set up to advise the Vatican on translations, described the move as “significant”. The bishops reached their decision at a plenary meeting in the first week of May, and became the first major bishops’ conference in the world to approve the translation. They were followed one week later by the bishops of Australia, who voted to approve the same part of the text at their own Easter conference. On the ecumenical front, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor warned the Church of England that the ordination of women as bishops would bring about the collapse of genuine Anglican-Catholic dialogue. The Cardinal’s comments, made 40 years after the historic meeting in Rome between Pope Paul VI and Michael Ramsey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, signalled a growing crisis in the relationship between the two communions. Tony Blair delighted prolife campaigners by telling the spiritual leader of the Scottish Catholic Church that he would allow time for Parliament to review Britain’s abortion laws. The Prime Minister repotedly told Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, that new medical and scientific advances justified a parliamentary debate of the 1967 Abortion Act with a view to amending the legislation. Earlier in the month, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had issued a direct appeal to the Government to tighten up abortion laws. He used a private meeting with Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to call on ministers to cut the upper limit for abortions from 24 weeks.