Saturday, December 4, 2010






RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Working for an ecumenical springtime

Pope Benedict met on Saturday with Norwegian pastor, Rev. Olaf Fykse Tveit, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. The Geneva based organisation, set up in 1948, represents 349 Churches and Christian communities worldwide. During the audience, Rev Fykse Tveit gave the Holy Father a wooden box handcrafted in Syria to stress a common concern for Christians throughout the Middle East. Inside the box was a favourite book of poems entitled ‘The dream that we carry’ and a pair of warm, woollen gloves – a sign, Rev Fykse Tveit said, that “winter can be beautiful too”
After the audience, Philippa Hitchen talked to Rev Fkyse Tveit about the meeting and about his hopes for a new ecumenical springtime.

“We had a very open and friendly conversation, he emphasised in a very strong way the importance of the WCC work and also the ministry I’m called to do as General Secretary. And he expressed his interest in how we’re developing. He has himself been involved in our commission on ‘Faith and Order’ so he knows at least one very important dimension of our work very well. And he’s of course interested in how we work with our theological issues and how we also strengthen the work of visible unity between the churches”.

“I’m not sure the issue of formal membership is the most important one, but more how can we strengthen the strong cooperation that we already have. It is a cooperation in commissions, but also a cooperation that is going on every day. The WCC is a fellowships of churches around the world and when I know travel and meet with member churches, in many cases they say a lot about how they cooperation with the Roman Catholic church – for me it’s much more than only the link between Rome and Geneva, it’s how we cooperate in many contexts”

“I see a strong commitment in many of our churches for revitalising the ecumenical agenda and how we can respond to the call to be one in many ways, not only in one way…..
This year I’ve been invited to both the World Conference on Pentecostal churches and to the big Evangelical event in cape town, their mission conference and in both cases they were very clear in saying they also want to share in this one ecumenical movement… they’re very strong in expressing their understanding of what has been the WCC agenda, working for unity in faith, but also unity in common witness, in working for justice, care of creation ,for peace, so in many ways they are ‘wearing our clothes’, which we, the WCC, was known for in the 70’s and 80’s …so it’s important to see that picture is much wider.”

“We talked about …how we can support the Christian communities in the Middle East, we realise that the number of Christians are diminishing but also we talked about the situation in Israel and Palestine, the need for a common witness.
I hope this week (of prayer for Christian Unity) will help us see that Christians in the Holy Land are not only there to steward museums, but they have a very special place in world Christianity and I hope this (week) can strengthen all of us in accompanying them but also to learn from them”

“There is a standing invitation from my predecessor (for the Pope to visit the WCC), and I hope there will be a way to find a possibility for him to visit Switzerland and Geneva … it would be a great blessing for Switzerland and for the international work that is done in Geneva.”


AsiaNews REPORT -A group, calling itself "Lions of the mujahideen in Palestine" in an Internet message, claims to have started the fire between Thursday and Friday to avenge the death of some fighters in Gaza. The Israeli authorities deny the fire was caused deliberately. International assistance arrives.

The terrorist organization Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the fire that has devastated the forests of Mount Caramel, the most serious environmental disaster in the history of Israel. Although the local police authorities attribute the blaze to negligence and the prolonged drought that is affecting the region.

Today, a new terrorist group, which claims links to Al Qaeda, posted a video message on jihadist forums, the same used by Osama Bin Laden, declaring to be behind the fire. The group, which calls itself “Lions of the mujahideen in Palestine" claims to have set fire to the trees of Mount Carmel, triggering the inferno which is still raging. "The lions of the mujahideen in Palestine" say they carried out the arson attack on the night between Thursday and Friday - "performing a holy and heroic expedition within the territory of the usurpers on occupied Mount Caramel setting fire to its trees, causing the deaths of more than 40 people and wounding dozens, as recognized by the enemy itself".

The terrorist group, whose credibility has not yet been independently confirmed, also thanked "the wind, which was one of the soldiers of Allah, for his help, by expanding the flames to where we never thought, so that the enemy was not able to subdue it and was forced to seek help from foreign forces. " The message then points out that " this blessed expedition is part of the series of expeditions undertaken against the Jewish occupier to avenge the blood of Muslims killed, first of all Muhamman al- Namnam and the brothers Islam and Muhammad Yasin and other Palestinian Salafi jihadist. The enemy knows that the children of monotheism are not asleep and are capable of teaching them a lesson. " The reference is to the three members of the Palestinian jihadist group "Army of Islam", an acronym related to al-Qaeda in theGaza Strip, killed in recent weeks, in two different Israeli air raids.

But according to the Israeli authorities the fire on Mount Caramel, the most serious environmental disaster in the history of Israel, was not caused by arson but by negligence: according to Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, without giving further details. The fire caused at least 42 deaths, the evacuation of 17 thousand people and destroyed acres of forest in addition to many homes: despite the intervention of fire fighting aircraft sent from abroad, the flames are not yet under control and the strong wind has further fueled the fire, which now threatens some suburbs of Haifa. More international aid has arrived in Israel to help in the battle against the vast fire. Two huge Russian aircraft with a capacity of 42 tons of water, are already working on site, together with the 6 planes sent from France, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. Fire brigade spokesman, Yoram Levy said that with international help it may be possible to "extinguish the fire by tonight", a blaze that has consumed 4 million trees over an area of 3,400 hectares.



COMECE Bishops concerned about rise of populist movements in Europe

The Autumn Plenary session of COMECE met from 24 to 26 November in Brussels. It reflected on the topic of populism, which was introduced and presented by Prof. Dr. Frank Decker, University of Bonn, Prof. Dr. Bart Pattyn, University of Louvain and Prof Dr. Chantal Delsol, University of Marne-la-Vallée. The Bishops adopted the following statement:


We notice a significant increase of movements and tendencies with "populist" characteristics in countries throughout the EU.

This phenomenon is very complex: it has a variety of manifestations, from certain forms of regionalism to nationalism and also extremism; it spans from the left to the right of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, there are striking similarities: a simplified presentation of problems and solutions, the search for scapegoats, the instrumentalised distinction between ‘them' and ‘us'.

A concern for Christians
We are deeply concerned because this phenomenon tends:
- to divide societies and undermine social cohesion and solidarity
-to discriminate against the weakest in society: minorities which are labelled as scapegoats
- to offer the illusion of simplistic solutions to complex problems

We recall that populism is the very opposite of the European idea, which has its roots in the notion of solidarity.

We regret that even some Christians are tempted to follow these trends. Populism is truly incompatible with the universal vocation of the Church.

A commitment
Being faithful to our vocation, we will continue :
- to promote intercultural dialogue in fraternity and truth
- to encourage Christians to further civil and social engagement at the service of their neighbour
- to reinforce our efforts in education for responsibility

We realise the uncertainty and insecurity of the present time. Yet we call upon Christians to resist the pull of populism and to swim against the tide: the Gospel calls us to do this today as it did former generations. Not in order to engage in a battle of cultures or ideologies, but rather to lay down the principles that are at the root of everything: the steadfast dignity of every human person - as so loved and wished for by God - and the common good, which reminds us time and again to show solidarity and to love our neighbour.




The Diocese of Bissau will go on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of “Nossa Senhora da Natividade” in Cacheu on 4 December. The event is considered the greatest show of popular religion in Guinea Bissau and involves all the Catholic communities. According to information sent to Fides by the Curia in Bissau, the pilgrim program begins in the early afternoon of 3 December when the faithful will gather in Capó and begin the pilgrimage for 7 km to the city of Cacheu in north-west Guinea Bissau. At about 7 pm a great prayer for peace will be held at the Shrine of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The following day, 4 December, at 7:30 am, again from Capó will be a second pilgrimage by the faithful who will again walk the 7 km to reach the Sanctuary, where Holy Mass will be celebrated at 10 am. At 3 pm, at the conclusion of the pilgrimage, a solemn blessing will be bestowed on all the pilgrims and religious objects that they have with them. The pilgrimage is an act of thanksgiving and an opportunity to renew the commitment to Christian witness in the face of challenges to peace and reconciliation. The Sanctuary dedicated to “Nossa Senhora da Natividade”, Patron of Cacheu, is the first Portuguese church in West Africa, and is a memorial to the arrival of the first missionaries in Guinea-Bissau; Portuguese Franciscan missionaries first settled in Cacheu in 1660.



U.S. Catholic Bishops to Congress: The Dream Act is the ‘Right Thing to Do’

WASHINGTON (December 3, 2010)—In a letter to Congress December 2, Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called on Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), calling it “the right thing to do.”

“With the passage of the DREAM Act, we can welcome a new generation of Americans who will one day become leaders of our nation,” wrote Archbishop Gomez.

The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for thousands of young persons without legal status who were brought to the United States as children by their parents. Under the legislation, young people who complete two years of higher education or two years of military service would be eligible for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship.

“It is important to note that these young persons entered the United States with their parents at a young age, and therefore did not enter without inspection on their own volition. We would all do the same thing in a similar situation,” Archbishop Gomez said. “They have incredible talent and energy and are awaiting a chance to fully contribute their talents to our nation. We would be foolhardy to deny them that chance.”

The USCCB has long supported the DREAM Act, as well as comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration system.

“There are times when a proposal should be enacted because, simply put, it is the right thing to do. This is one of them,” the Archbishop said. “The DREAM Act represents a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons who simply want to reach their God-given potential and contribute to the well-being of our nation.”

Full text of the letter follows.

December 2, 2010

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I write to express our support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). This legislation would make a difference in the lives of undocumented youth who were brought to the United States by their parents and now, because of their lack of legal status, face obstacles to their future. By removing such barriers, the DREAM Act permits immigrant students to pursue a promising future through college education or military service.

Those who would benefit from the DREAM Act are talented, intelligent, and dedicated young persons who know only the United States as their home. They can become some of the future leaders of our country, provided we are wise enough to provide them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Under the DREAM Act, deserving immigrant youth can adjust to permanent resident status provided that they entered the United States before age sixteen, have been physically present in the United States for not less than five years, demonstrated good moral character, have no criminal record and do not threaten national security, and have earned their high school diploma. This bill also offers students a fair opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship if they commit to and complete at least two years of college or two years of honorable service in the military.

Importantly, this legislation will apply to students in both public and private education, including those attending Catholic schools.

It is important to note that these young persons entered the United States with their parents at a young age, and therefore did not enter without inspection on their own volition. We would all do the same thing in a similar situation. The United States is the only country that they know. They have incredible talent and energy and are awaiting a chance to fully contribute their talents to our nation. We would be foolhardy to deny them that chance.

With the passage of the DREAM Act, we can welcome a new generation of Americans who one day will become the leaders of our nation. There are times when a proposal should be enacted because, simply put, it is the right thing to do. This is one of them.

The DREAM Act represents a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons in our nation who simply want to reach their God-given potential and contribute to the well-being of our nation. I urge you to support this measure and call for its immediate enactment.


Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez
Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration


CATH NEWS REPORT: The launch of a revamped My School site could be delayed for months, after Schools Minister Peter Garrett was forced to concede that financial data for some private schools contained serious errors, reportsThe Age.

He has confirmed that the site, due to go live today, will not be launched until next year.

Mr Garrett yesterday said accounting firm Deloitte had identified flaws in the methodology used to report schools' repayment of loans on the website. This had led to the website incorrectly stating that some private schools had incurred losses, when in fact, they may have sold assets to repay loans.

Mr Garrett said Deloitte had identified circumstances that led to a ''mis-statement'' of income for independent schools. ''As a consequence of that, the My School website will go up in 2011, but not until I am absolutely confident that all of the material on the site is accurate in every way,'' he said.The Age has learnt the man in charge of the My School website - Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chief executive Peter Hill - apologised for failing to communicate adequately with schools when he met Catholic and independent school representatives and parent groups this week.

While independent schools applauded the launch delay, public education advocacy group Save our Schools said the delay exposed the ''hypocrisy and double standards of the federal government''. It said the government had caved in to the private schools lobby while ignoring concerns raised by government schools when the first version of the website was launched.

Mr Garrett denied that the decision to delay My School had anything to do with concerns over the Index of Community Socio-Education Advantage (ICSEA) rankings, which are used to group so-called ''statistically similar'' schools, to enable parents to compare their literacy and numeracy test results.

''Those other issues that have been raised around ICSEA ratings and the like will continue to be worked through,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the executive director of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, Bill Daniels, said funding private schools receive will not be adequate to help them expand so they can teach some of the more than 737,000 extra children expected by 2020.

While the impact of the growth in number of school children would initially be greatest in government primary schools, by the time they reached secondary school 378 new Catholic schools and 334 new independent schools would be needed, based on enrolment trends, Mr Daniels said.

''That is impossible under the current funding arrangements,'' he told a forum in Canberra, hosted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. ''You could not actually do that under the current mix of private and government for schools.''

Mr Daniels said his council would argue at the government's Gonski review of school funding that all students, regardless of family wealth, should receive some government support for their education.


St. Barbara


Feast: December 4


Feast Day:December 4
Patron of:Artillery gunners, masons, mathematicians, miners, military engineers, stonecutters, against lightning, anyone who works at risk of sudden and violent death

There is no reference to St. Barbara contained in the authentic early historical authorities for Christian antiquity, neither does her name appear in the original recension of St. Jerome's martyrology. Veneration of the saint was common, however, from the seventh century. At about this date there were in existence legendary Acts of her martyrdom which were inserted in the collection of Symeon Metaphrastes and were used as well by the authors (Ado, Usuard, etc.) of the enlarged martyrologies composed during the ninth century in Western Europe. According to these narratives, which are essentially the same, Barbara was the daughter of a rich heathen named Dioscorus. She was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. An offer of marriage which was received through him she rejected. Before going on a journey her father commanded that a bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this she was ill-treated by him and dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. The father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed. Another Christian named Juliana suffered the death of a martyr along with Barbara. A pious man called Valentinus buried the bodies of the saints; at this grave the sick were healed and the pilgrims who came to pray received aid and consolation. The emperor in whose reign the martyrdom is placed is sometimes called Maximinus and sometimes Maximianus; owing to the purely legendary character of the accounts of the martyrdom, there is no good basis for the investigations made at an earlier date in order to ascertain whether Maximinus Thrax (235-238) or Maximinus Daza (of the Diocletian persecutions), is meant.

The traditions vary as to the place of martyrdom, two different opinions being expressed: Symeon Metaphrastes and the Latin legend given by Mombritius makes Heliopolis in Egypt the site of the martyrdom, while other accounts, to which Baronius ascribes more weight, give Nicomedia. In the "Martyrologium Romanum parvum" (about 700), the oldest martyrology of the Latin Church in which her name occurs, it is said: "In Tuscia Barbarae virginis et martyris", a statement repeated by Ado and others, while later additions of the martyrologies of St. Jerome and Bede say "Romae Barbarae virginis" or "apud Antiochiam passio S. Barbarae virg.". These various statements prove, however, only the local adaptation of the veneration of the saintly martyr concerning whom there is no genuine historical tradition. It is certain that before the ninth century she was publicly venerated both in the East and in the West, and that she was very popular with the Christian populace. The legend that her father was struck by lightning caused her, probably, to be regarded by the common people as the patron saint in time of danger from thunder-storms and fire, and later by analogy, as the protector of artillerymen and miners. She was also called upon as intercessor to assure the receiving of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist at the hour of death. An occurrence of the year 1448 did much to further the spread of the veneration of the saint. A man named Henry Kock was nearly burnt to death in a fire at Gorkum; he called on St. Barbara, to whom he had always shown great devotion. She aided him to escape from the burning house and kept him alive until he could receive the last sacraments. A similar circumstance is related in an addition to the "Legenda aurea". In the Greek and present Roman calendars the feast of St. Barbara falls on 4 December, while the martyrologies of the ninth century, with the exception of Rabanus Maurus, place it on 16 December. St. Barbara has often been depicted in art; she is represented standing in a tower with three windows, carrying the palm of a martyr in her hand; often also she holds a chalice and sacramental wafer; sometimes cannon are displayed near her.



St. John Damascene


Feast: December 4


Feast Day:December 4
Born:676, Damascus
Died:December 4, 749, Mar Saba, Jerusalem

This Doctor of the Church was born in Damascus, Syria, and his father was a government official under both the Byzantine emperor and the Muslim rulers of Damascus. Receiving an excellent classical education, and fluent in Arabic as well as Greek, St. John Damascene worked in the Muslim court until the hostility of the caliph toward Christianity caused him to resign his position, about the year 700.

He migrated to Jerusalem and became a monk at Mar Sabas monastery near Jerusalem. He taught in the monastery, preached many of his luminous sermons in Jerusalem, and began to compose his theological treatises.

It was about this time that the iconoclast controversy shook the Churches of the East, when the Byzantine emperor ordered the destruction of images in Christian churches. John fought the heresy, bringing down upon himself the wrath of the emperor and the hatred of the iconoclast party.

He has left a rich legacy of writings, including his principal dogmatic work, , which was a , a refutation of heresy, an exposition of the Orthodox faith, and a study of contemporary religious issues. His writings on Mary constitute a true theology of the Mother of God, and his sermons of the saints, the liturgical feasts, and the Gospels show not only vast learning but also give us information about local customs and contemporary happenings.

Since he lived in the midst of political and theological turmoil, John wrote much to clarify true doctrine and to do his part in spreading the Gospel. The fact that he lived and worked in Jerusalem itself gives his sermons, delivered at many of the holy places, a special appeal.

He died at a very old age, some say one hundred four, in the midst of his labors, beloved by his fellow monks and revered by the people. He was buried at the monastery of Mar Sabas and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1890.


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