EUROPE: ITALY: BISHOP'S CONFERENCE DEFENDS POPE-
AMERICA: HAITI: SEMINARY TO REOPEN SOON-
The bishops refuted allegations made by victims’ associations and media reports that the bishops had opposed cooperation with police and investigators, and insisted that they “support those authorities through faithful cooperation.” The bishops' statement said that they agree that a “rigorous and transparent application of canonical procedural and criminal rules are the main path to search for the truth.”
The Italian prelates also “reaffirmed their support for the victims of abuse and their families, wounded and offended by the Church itself.”
Recent media reports have claimed that a 1962 canonical law, as well as a 2001 directive issued by then-Cardinal Ratzinger encourage secrecy and in-house investigations of clerical sexual abuse cases. Last week, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi strongly denied the New York Times’ claim that Vatican secrecy rules prohibited Church figures from reporting such cases to the police. Additionally, the CEI statement came to the Pope’s defense, arguing that Pope Benedict has displayed a “determined and enlightened” attitude in confronting sexual abuse.
The CEI also praised the Pontiff for leaving "no margins of uncertainty" and refusing to "indulge in downplaying" the scandals. "He invited the ecclesiastical community to ascertain the truth of what happened and take action where needed," they said. "He has the full and affectionate support of Italy's bishops."
The statement also emphasized “the need for a careful selection of candidates for the priesthood, valuing human and emotional maturity, as well as spiritual and pastoral maturity.”
The Italian bishops’ statement comes in wake of some calls by clergy to re-evaluate the priestly requirement of celibacy. “The value of celibacy, which is in no way an impediment or impairment of sexuality, represents, particularly in these days, an alternative and humanly enriching way to live one's humanity,” they affirmed.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, formerly the vicar of Rome and ex-chief of the CEI, noted that in recent weeks, various entities and persons had sought to “eradicate from people's hearts their faith in the Church and, I fear, their faith in Christ and in God.” http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/italian_bishops_back_pope_deplore_media_attacks/
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Kebreau said the seminarians from the various dioceses of Haiti will be housed in tents, along with the academic staff. "The new beginning is a sign of hope for our devastated and traumatized land," he stated.
“A great many Haitians are looking to their pastors for help and consolation, he said, noting that many continue to live in a state of shock after losing a spouse, children or other family members."
"The survivors have lost everything."
“The Church too, has lost a great many of her own pastoral workers, including laity, religious sisters, priests and bishops.” The prelate added that counted among those who have died are 30 of the 260 seminarians at the former seminary.”
Nevertheless, Archbishop Kebreau continued, “Things are now slowly returning to normal, but at the same time everyone knows there is still much work to be done. We are still at the very beginning." http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/port-au-prince_seminary_to_re-open_after_holy_week/
Your Eminence, in our country are people still suffering because of their faith?
In a few parts of India, our people are going through Good Friday. It is regrettable because this is not India. India is regarded as the cradle of great civilisations; unfortunately, our country’s pluralistic traditions are being challenged. Most often, these challenges are politically motivated. This does not bode well for our country, for its development, and for our image on the international stage. However, from a spiritual point of view, it is our turn to carry the cross and after the cross comes the glorious resurrection.
As leader of the Indian Church, what are your concerns for the Church in these times? What are the challenges?
In the mind of the average Hindu, a number of events have created a negative image of Christians, one in which we are seen as indulging in aggressive conversion. This is not only wrong but it generates a grossly distorted image of the Church. For me, it is important to correct such views. We want to proclaim Jesus. We want to make Christ known through our lives and our work. We work selflessly to make his Kingdom of God present. We only want to serve, do what Jesus told us to do, living out the Beatitudes, loving and serving everyone, making the world a better place. The Church is not a political party and is definitely not seeking power and prestige, or increase the number of the faithful in order to exert more influence.
How can we change this negative attitude towards the Church?
The Church in India makes a renewed commitment to mission and service. We will carry on our mission to serve selflessly, through our educational, health and welfare ministries, and build the nation. We shall do so without discrimination based on caste or creed, working especially for the marginalised, our country’s vulnerable brothers and sisters, the poorest of the poor. Let our strongest and biggest argument be our lives and our work.
I am so proud of our people, who are carrying the cross with such fortitude and fidelity. They are bringing many, many graces to our beloved country. The Church in India does not respond to accusations with anger, but with love and service. The Church is ever more committed to serving the country.
Your Eminence, I have been trying to get stories of catechumens baptised at the Easter vigil. However, most clergymen answer saying, “You know the political climate, we do not want to publicise baptisms”. What do you tell people who act like that?
Keeping a low profile on the baptisms of catechumens causes me much sadness primarily because it is a wrong image and this is bad for our country. It is an absolute shame. We, who are so proud of India’s glorious past and spiritual heritage, have to do things as if in hiding— this has been created in the minds of people and represents a limit on our religious freedom,. It goes against our constitution and human rights. It is unfortunate but it is happening.
I have emphatically stated that no government can enter my soul or imprison my conscience, telling me: “You cannot change religion!” Whenever catechumens have been baptised, it was their free choice, following a long process of preparation. Freedom of conversion is a right. As CBCI president, I make a renewed call to the government to ensure and guarantee the religious freedom our Founding Fathers enshrined in the constitution.
Forced conversions are meaningless and invalid for the Church, not only because the documents of Vatican Council speak clearly against them, but mainly because for Christians, conversion is primarily a transformation of the heart.
The Church imposes a long period of catechumenate to test the sincerity of those seeking baptism. The anti-conversion laws that exist in some states, whilst they may seem okay on paper, are most often used to harass and intimidate people who want to convert of their own free will.
Freedom of religion and freedom of conversion are human rights; they are a sacred right enshrined in our constitution. No civil authority has the right to enter the shrine that is the conscience of every person, let alone decide what his or her conscience should say. No government can come into my soul, stop my conscience, and tell me, “You cannot change your religion".
Given this scenario, what can we look forward to at Easter?
The Resurrection always infuses us with hope that Good will triumph over the forces of evil. The rays of light of Christ shine forth for us in India and for the Church, whose one desire is to serve and do good. We can never be discouraged. Good Friday is always followed by Easter and at Easter, new life breaks into our world and everything overflows with everlasting light. Every year, we are renewed by the Lord’s victory.
For the Church in India and Asia, Easter is a time to rejoice for the goodness, culture and religious vitality of our people. We are making an immense contribution to the Universal Church thanks to our members, our theological reflections and in many other ways. The Church in Asia is comparatively small, yet the light of Christ shines brightly and with renewed vigour upon it. The Church in Asia is unstinting in its joyful efforts to make Jesus known and loved. It does so by bearing witness through our lives and our service. This is the sign that the Resurrected Lord is with us, filling us with hope. In a certain way, the third millennium belongs to the Church in Asia where we look for the vitality of Christian life. God bless India!http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Easter-baptisms,-a-right-and-the-life-of-the-Church,-Card-Gracias-says-18029.html
Archbishop Mark Coleridge blessed the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, which is used to anoint candidates before Baptism, and to consecrate the sacred Oil of Chrism, which is given in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, the archdiocese's website said in a report.
The Chrism Mass was also a time for the priests of the Archdiocese to renew their commitment to priestly service.
During his homily the Archbishop said that the priesthood needed, "to return to the basics to strengthen faith and clarify vision. What better time than the Chrism Mass?"
"(Jesus) calls us to become the blessing - not just to speak the Good News but to be it."http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=20369
St. John Climacus
ABBOTT OF SINAI
Feast: March 30
30 March 606, Mount Sinai
St John, generally distinguished by the appellation of Climacus, from his excellent book entitled Climax, or the Ladder to Perfection, was born about the year 525, probably in Palestine. By his extraordinary progress in the arts and sciences he obtained very young the surname of the Scholastic. But at sixteen years of age he renounced all the advantages which the world promised him to dedicate himself to God in a religious state, in 547. He retired to Mount Sinai, which, from the time of the disciples of St. Anthony and St. Hilarion, had been always peopled by holy men, who, in imitation of Moses, when he received the law on that mountain, lived in the perpetual contemplation of heavenly things. Our novice, fearing the danger of dissipation and relaxation to which numerous communities are generally more exposed than others, chose not to live in the great monastery on the summit, but in an hermitage on the descent of the mountain, under the discipline of Martyrius, an holy ancient anchoret. By silence he curbed the insolent itch of talking about everything, an ordinary vice in learned men, but usually a mark of pride and self-sufficiency. By perfect humility and obedience he banished the dangerous desire of self-complacency in his actions. He never contradicted, never disputed with anyone. So perfect was his submission that he seemed to have no self-will. He undertook to sail through the deep sea of this mortal life securely, under the direction of a prudent guide, and shunned those rocks which he could not have escaped, had he presumed to steer alone, as he tells us. From the visible mountain he raised his heart, without interruption, in all his actions, to God, who is invisible; and, attentive to all the motions of his grace, studied only to do his will. Four years he spent in the trial of his own strength, and in learning the obligations of his state, before he made his religious profession, which was in the twentieth year of his age. In his writings he severely condemns engagements made by persons too young, or before a sufficient probation. By fervent prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the solemn consecration of himself to God, that the most intense fervour might make his holocaust the more perfect; and from that moment he seemed to be renewed in spirit; and his master admired the strides with which, like a mighty giant, the young disciple advanced daily more and more towards God, by self-denial, obedience, humility, and the uninterrupted exercises of divine love and prayer.
In the year 560, and the thirty-fifth of his age, he lost Martyrius by death; having then spent nineteen years in that place in penance and holy contemplation. By the advice of a prudent director, he then embraced an eremitical life in a plain called Thole, near the foot of Mount Sinai. His cell was five miles from the church, probably the same which had been built a little before, by order of the Emperor Justinian, for the use of the monks at the bottom of this mountain, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, as Procopius mentions. Thither he went every Saturday and Sunday to assist, with all the other anchorets and monks of that desert, at the holy office and at the celebration of the divine mysteries, when they all communicated. His diet was very sparing, though, to shun ostentation and the danger of vainglory, he ate of everything that was allowed among the monks of Egypt, who universally abstained from flesh, fish, &c. Prayer was his principal employment; and he practiced what he earnestly recommends to all Christians, that in all their actions, thoughts, and words they should keep themselves with great fervour in the presence of God, and direct all they do to his holy will. By habitual contemplation he acquired an extraordinary purity of heart, and such a facility of lovingly beholding God in all his works that this practice seemed in him a second nature. Thus he accompanied his studies with perpetual prayer. He assiduously read the holy scriptures and fathers, and was one of the most learned doctors of the church. But, to preserve the treasure of humility, he concealed, as much as possible, both his natural and acquired talents, and the extraordinary graces with which the Holy Ghost enriched his soul. By this secrecy he fled from the danger of vainglory, which, like a leech, sticks to our best actions and, sucking from them its nourishment, robs us of their fruit. As if this cell had not been sufficiently remote from the eyes of men, St. John frequently retired into a neighbouring cavern which he had made in the rock, where no one could come to disturb his devotions or interrupt his tears. So ardent were his charity and compunction, that his eyes seemed two fountains, which scarce ever ceased to flow; and his continual sighs and groans to heaven, under the weight of the miseries inseparable from his moral pilgrimage, were not to be equaled by the vehemency of the cries of those who suffer from knives and fire. Overcome by importunities, he admitted a holy anchoret named Moyses to live with him as his disciple.
God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John, who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said, "My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer." They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac in peace. Many others resorted to St. John for spiritual advice; but the devil excited some to jealousy, who censured him as one who, out of vanity, lost much time in unprofitable discourse. The saint took this accusation, which was a mere calumny, in good part, and as a charitable admonition; he therefore imposed on himself a rigorous silence for near a twelvemonth. This, his humility and modesty, so much astonished his calumniators that they joined the rest of the monks in beseeching him to reassume his former function of giving charitable advice to all that resorted to him for it, and not to bury that talent of science which he had received for the benefit of many. He who knew not what it was to contradict others, with the same humility and deference again opened his mouth to instruct his neighbour in the rules of perfect virtue, in which office, such was the reputation of his wisdom and experience, that he was regarded as another Moses in that holy place.
St. John was now seventy-five years old, and had spent forty of them in his hermitage, when, in the year 600, he was unanimously chosen Abbot of Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits in that country. Soon after he was raised to this dignity, the people of Palestine and Arabia, in the time of a great drought and famine, made their application to him as to another Elias, begging him to intercede with God in their behalf. The saint failed not, with great earnestness, to recommend their distress to the Father of mercies, and his prayer was immediately recompensed with abundant rains. St. Gregory the Great, who then sat in St. Peter's chair, wrote to our holy abbot, recommending himself to his prayers, and sent him beds, with other furniture and money, for his hospital, for the use of pilgrims near Mount Sinai. John, who had used his utmost endeavours to decline the pastoral charge when he saw it laid upon him, neglected no means which might promote the sanctification of all those who were entrusted to his care. That posterity might receive some share in the benefit of his holy instructions, John, the learned and virtuous Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situate towards the Red Sea, entreated him by that obedience he had ever practiced, even with regard to his inferiors, that he would draw up the most necessary rules by which fervent souls might arrive at Christian perfection. The saint answered him that nothing but extreme humility could have moved him to write to so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue; but that he received his commands with respect, though far above his strength, never considering his own insufficiency. Wherefore, apprehensive of falling into death by disobedience, he took up his pen in haste, with great eagerness mixed with fear, and set himself to draw some imperfect outlines, as an unskillful painter, leaving them to receive from him, as a great master, the finishing strokes. This produced the excellent work which he called "Climax; or, the Ladder of religious Perfection." This book, being written in sentences, almost in the manner of aphorisms, abounds more in sense than words. A certain majestic simplicity- an inexpressible unction and spirit of humility, joined with conciseness and perspicuity-very much enhance the value of this performance; but its chief merit consists in the sublime sentiments and perfect description of all Christian virtues which it contains. The author confirms his precepts by several edifying examples, as of obedience and penance. In describing a monastery of three hundred and thirty monks which he had visited near Alexandria, in Egypt, he mentions one of the principal citizens of that city, named Isidore, who, petitioning to be admitted into the house, said to the abbot, "As iron is in the hands of the smith, so am I in your hands." The abbot ordered him to remain without the gate, and to prostrate himself at the feet of everyone that passed by, begging their prayers for his soul struck with a leprosy. Thus he passed seven years in profound humility and patience. He told St. John that, during the first year, he always considered himself as a slave condemned for his sins, and sustained violent conflicts; the second year he passed in tranquillity and confidence; and the third with relish and pleasure in his humiliations. So great was his virtue that the abbot determined to present him to the bishop in order to be promoted to the priesthood, but the humility of the holy penitent prevented the execution of that design; for, having begged at least a respite, he died within ten days. St. John could not help admiring the cook of this numerous community, who seemed always recollected, and generally bathed in tears amidst his continual occupation, and asked him by what means he nourished so perfect a spirit of compunction, in the midst of such a dissipating laborious employment. He said that serving the monks, he represented to himself that he was serving not men, but God in his servants; and that the fire he always had before his eyes reminded him of that fire which will burn souls for all eternity. The moving description which our author gives of the monastery of penitents called the Prison, above a mile from the former, hath been already abridged in our language. John the Sabaite told our saint, as of a third person, that seeing himself respected in his monastery, he considered that this was not the way to satisfy for his sins; wherefore, with the leave of his abbot, he repaired to a severe monastery in Pontus, and after three years saw in a dream a schedule of his debts, to the amount in appearance of one hundred pounds of gold, of which only ten were cancelled. He therefore repeated often to himself, "Poor Antiochus, thou hast still a great debt to satisfy." After passing other thirteen years in contempt and the most fervent practices of penance, he deserved to see in a vision his whole debt blotted out. Another monk, in a grievous fit of illness, fell into a trance, in which he lay as if he had been dead for the space of an hour; but, recovering, he shut himself up in a cell, and lived a recluse twelve years, almost continually weeping, in the perpetual meditation of death. When he was near death, his brethren could only extort from him these words of edification, "He who hath death always before his eyes will never sin." John, Abbot of Raithu, explained this book of our saint by judicious comments, which are also extant. We have likewise a letter of St. John Climacus to the same person concerning the duties of a pastor, in which he exhorts him in correcting others to temper severity with mildness, and encourages him zealously to fulfil the obligations of his charge; for nothing is greater or more acceptable to God than to offer him the sacrifice of rational souls sanctified by penance and charity.
St. John sighed continually under the weight of his dignity during the four years that he governed the monks of Mount Sinai; and as he had taken upon him that burden with fear and reluctance, he with joy found means to resign the same a little before his death. Heavenly contemplation, and the continual exercise of divine love and praise, were his delight and comfort in his earthly pilgrimage: and in this imitation of the functions of the blessed spirits in heaven he placeth the essence of the monastic state. In his excellent maxims concerning the gift of holy tears, the fruit of charity, we seem to behold a lively portraiture of his most pure soul. He died in his hermitage on the 30th day of March, in 605, being fourscore years old. His spiritual son, George, who had succeeded him in the abbacy, earnestly begged of God that he might not be separated from his dear master and guide; and followed him by a happy death within a few days. On several Greek commentaries on St. John Climacus's ladder, see Montfaucon, Biblioth. Coisliana, pp. 305, 306.
St. John Climacus, speaking of the excellence and the effects of charity, does it with a feeling and energy worthy of such a subject: "A mother," says he, "feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk than the true child of charity does when united as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as it were in the arms of his heavenly Father.—Charity operates in some persons so as to carry them almost entirely out of themselves. It illuminates others, and fills them with such sentiments of joy, that they cannot help crying out: The Lord is my helper and my protector: in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped And my flesh hath flourished again, and with my will I will give praise to him. This joy which they feel in their hearts, is reflected on their countenances; and when once God has united, or, as we may say, incorporated them with his charity, he displays in their exterior, as in the reflection of a mirror, the brightness and serenity of their souls: even as Moses, being honored with a sight of God, was encompassed round by his glory." St. John Climacus composed the following prayer to obtain the gift of charity: "My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly united to you by prayer that to be separated from you may be impossible; let others desire riches and glory; for my part, I desire but one thing, and that is, to be inseparably united to you, and to place in you alone all my hopes of happiness and repose."
John 13: 21 - 33, 36 - 38
When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus;
so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks."
So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?"
Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.
Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor.
So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified;
if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.'
Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward."
Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.