DONATE TO JCE NEWS

Friday, December 30, 2011

CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD : THURS. DEC. 29, 2011

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
VATICAN : POPE : REVIEW OF 2011 ACTIVITIES
AMERICA : USA : CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT - PHILADELPHIA
EUROPE : GERMANY 3000 CHILDREN SINGERS RAISE MONEY FOR POOR
ASIA : VIETNAM : YOUNG CHRISTIAN ARRESTED WITHOUT WARRANT
AFRICA : NIGERIA : SECT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WEST
AUSTRALIA : BISHOP FISHER RECEIVES HONORARY DEGREE
TODAY'S SAINT : DEC. 29 : ST. THOMAS BECKET
TODAY'S GOSPEL : THURS. DEC. 29, 2011
 
VATICAN : POPE : REVIEW OF 2011 ACTIVITIES
VIS REPORTS: FR. LOMBARDI REVIEWS POPE'S ACTIVITIES IN 2011

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - In a recent interview on Vatican Radio, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. reviewed the activities of the Holy Father over the course of 2011. A summary of his remarks is given below. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

Fr. Lombardi first turned his attention to the Pope's trips, noting that the visit to Germany in September had reflected the Holy Father's concern to speak to modern secularised society, especially in Europe, about God and His primacy. By contrast, his visit to Spain for World Youth Day was "a great experience of the vitality of the faith, of its future". In Benin, Benedict XVI had signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africa munus" in which he examines the problems facing Africa and "identifies reasons for realistic hope with which to face the future, recognising the dignity of the African people", Fr. Lombardi said.

Another key moment of 2011 was the inter-religious meeting at Assisi in October, which had focused on "the search for truth". The event had been attended not just by representatives of different religious confessions, but also by "people who, though they do not recognise a God, sincerely seek after the truth".

Among the documents published during 2011, Fr. Lombardi mentioned the Motu Proprio "Porta Fidei" with which Benedict XVI proclaims a "Year of Faith" to begin in October 2012. This, he noted, is associated with one of the great themes of the pontificate: new evangelisation. The Holy See Press Office Director also recalled the recent Mass to mark the independence of various Latin American countries, during which the Pope had announced his forthcoming trip to Mexico and Cuba.

At Christmas every year the Holy Father makes special visits of solidarity, and this year's took him to the Roman prison of Rebbibia where he gave spontaneous answers to questions put to him by the inmates. That meeting, said Fr. Lombardi, shows "how the Church, though recognising that civil society has legislative responsibility for dramatic issues such as justice and prisons, ... can send out a strong message ... about reconciliation, hope and reintegration into society".

Also during 2011 the Pope was able to speak with astronauts orbiting the earth on the international space station, "thus underlining with great willingness and joy the Church's benevolence towards scientific research and technology, when they serve the good of humanity". The beatification of John Paul II was another key moment of the past year, which "mobilised the entire Church" and was experienced "with immense delight".

The year also saw the publication of part two of Joseph Ratzinger's book "Jesus of Nazareth", focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ. "We continue to hope", Fr. Lombardi concluded, "that he will write a third volume, on the infancy, in order to complete this extraordinarily vivid and profound presentation of Jesus for us today".
OP/ VIS 20111229 (480)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Bishop Waclaw Depo of Zamosc-Lubaczow, Poland, as archbishop of Czestochowa (area 6,925, population 824,993, Catholics 819,921, priests 901, religious 1,165), Poland. He succeeds Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Bishop Jan Kopiec, auxiliary of Opole, Poland, as bishop of Gliwice (area 2,250, population 725,500, Catholics 660,900, priests 473, religious 357), Poland. He succeeds Bishop Jan Walenty Wieczorek, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed as members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India; Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York, U.S.A.; Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation; Bishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Porto, Portugal; Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba of Kribi, Cameroon, and Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

- Appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Fr. Antonino Spadaro S.J., director of the magazine "Civilta Cattolica"; Fr. Eric Salobir O.P., general assistant for social communications of the Order of Friars Preachers, France; Fr. Augustine Savarimuthu S.J., director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Communications of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Sr. Dominica Dipio O.P. associate professor of literature at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; Antonio Preziosi, director of "Giornale Radio Rai" and of "Rai Radio Uno"; Erminio Fragassa, president and managing director of "MicroMegas Comunicazione S.p.A."; Marco Tarquinio, director of the "Avvenire" newspaper; Paul Wuthe, secretary of the media commission of the Austrian Bishops' Conference; Greg Erlandson, president of the Catholic Press Association, U.S.A.; Gian Maria Vian, director of the "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, and Susana Nuin Nunez of the Focolari Movement, executive secretary of the commission for social communications media of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

EUROPE : GERMANY 3000 CHILDREN SINGERS RAISE MONEY FOR POOR

Die Eröffnung der diesjährigen Sternsinger-Aktion in Mainz.
KNA REPORT:
The opening of this year's Carol action in Mainz.

Almost 3,000 Carolers open up the action of three King singing in Mainz

Mainz - golden crowns, richly embroidered robes, long and flowing coats: almost 3,000 Carololers moved in on Wednesday in the Mainz Cathedral. In the Romanesque Basilica, where in the middle ages Kings of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned, were given as Epiphany costumed children and young people's blessing for an Honorable task: to draw around the January 6 from House to House and to collect money for their non-performing peers around the world.
They had come to Mainz from twelve dioceses: from Cologne, Speyer, Munich and Freising, Trier, Bamberg, Würzburg, Freiburg, Paderborn, Hamburg, Münster, Essen and Fulda. For the second time since 1989, the nationwide release of Sternsinger took place in Mainz.
The job of a King is not always easy
"The Carolers enter the name of Jesus for a new humanity", said of the Mainz Cardinal Karl Lehmann at the opening of the 54th action three King singing. He praised the "great solidarity" of the Carolers and encouraged it in reference to this year's motto "knocks on doors, insists on rights!", not kehrtzumachen against closed doors. His listeners know: the job of a King is not always easy. Finally, the Carolers in rain and snow, cold and wind are on the road. Not always with success: "Some pop to simply the door or make up not even", tells the twelve-year Silvana from Merzig in Saarland, Germany.
Nevertheless, the Carolers bring their message to the man. "Children have the right to education and the right to play and leisure", is on the poster of a group of Gorxheimertal in southern Hesse, Germany. The eleven year old Constantine explains "it goes well here in Germany - children in Nicaragua need to fight is everything,". "We employ ourselves for the rights of the child there."

Nicaragua is sample country of this year's Sternsinger action. In the Central American State more than half of minors suffering from violence in the family. Above all, girls are often sexually abused. Child labor is also widespread. More than 600,000 children, about 23 percent of all girls and boys under 15 years, have worked in 2008. About one million children not in school.
Refuge in a boarding
"With the money we collect will help children in Nicaragua", the twelve-year Judith from the District of Mainz knows. Children and young people as the same age Yasmin from Granada. They took refuge in a boarding. The children who live, there have been through bad times in their families. Some have been violated, beaten or sexually abused. Yasmin was brought by the public authorities in the boarding as the age of four. There she found girlfriends and now grows up in a sheltered environment.
It is above all such projects in Nicaragua, who supported the two organizers, the children's mission programme "The Carol" and the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), with the collected donations. There are projects for street children and self defence courses for girls. Or a radio show which is broadcast in all over Nicaragua, enlighten the audience on the rights of boys and girls in the children.

In Mainz, the Carolers in workshops have dealt with children's rights. "The boys and girls learn that not all will respect the rights of children", full-time President Simon explains Rapp. "And that we must sometimes fight for their rights." It is clear not only to Cardinal Lehmann: "Children are the future of our world." The world's largest aid initiative by children for children in need this once again leads in mind - for over 50 years.

By Bettina Noeth (KNA)

AMERICA : USA : CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT - PHILADELPHIA

ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA RELASE; Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is celebrating his first Christmas as Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Our new Archbishop will celebrate Masses at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul beginning with Midnight Mass tonight. The schedule is attached.
All are welcome at this Mass or any Masses in the parishes throughout the region as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. (visit www.masstimes.org for parish information).

Archbishop Chaput also delivers a Christmas blessing on YouTube and at www.archphilaonline.org or
(Spanish Version) http://youtu.be/mOqu-IMfjUw and (English Version) http://youtu.be/G8jkLnetmrg.

Find his Christmas card at www.archphila.org.

In his video message, Archbishop Chaput tells us, "May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus reign always in your hearts this Christmas and throughout the New Year."


Contact
Donna Farrell
Director of Communications
215-587-3747
SOURCE: ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA

AUSTRALIA : BISHOP FISHER RECEIVES HONORARY DEGREE

Go to Notre Dame Honorary Degree News Story
Bishop Anthony with Professor Hayden Ramsay and Professor Celia Hammond.
ARCHDIOCESE OF PARRAMATTA RELEASE: The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus, has conferred upon Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP the honorary degree, Doctor of Laws.


Professor Celia Hammond, Vice Chancellor of the University of Notre Dame Australia, said Bishop Anthony’s contribution to the Church and to society has been vast.
"We are deeply honoured that the Bishop has chosen Notre Dame as a focus for his teaching and involvement with students," Professor Hammond said.
Read full story
Read Bishop Anthony's Address on receiving the honorary degree

ASIA : VIETNAM : YOUNG CHRISTIAN ARRESTED WITHOUT WARRANT

ASIA NEWS REPORT\; Pierre Nguyên Dinh Cuong was taken by men in plain clothes, without an arrest warrant. The sixteenth since end of July to undergo such treatment. People involved in groups like the John Paul II Center for the defence of life or as the Movement of Catholic entrepreneurs and intellectuals on the rise in northern Vietnam. For weeks, the families left with no knowledge of their whereabouts.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The campaign of arrests of young Catholics continues in the north of Vietnam, a campaign carried out with kidnapping techniques, without any charges and leaving families without any news for weeks. Since the end of July, sixteen young people have suffered this fate.

The most recent case concerns Pierre Nguyên Dinh Cuong,, a young man of a parish of Vinh, who on Christmas Eve, December 24, was abducted on his way home from the home of a doctor, his friend. As reported by Eglises d'Asie, three men in plain clothes handcuffed him and loaded into a taxi that drove away.

The next day, one of the brothers of the victim recognized the cab and its occupants, chased them and forced them on a moped to stop. He wanted news about what had happened to his brother, but the three grabbed him by the throat, refused to respond and fled. Other friends of Pierre Cuong, however, succeeded in following the taxi and saw him enter the Provincial Public Security headquarters.

No doubt, among the friends of the young man kidnapped, who charge that the Public security officials are using these abduction methods. The arrest, in fact, took place without a warrant, nor have Pierre’s relatives been informed of the place where the young man is being detained.

In the opinion of friends and neighbours, the kidnapping is linked to the young man’s commitment in the ecclesial movements and charitable and social activities, in particular with John Paul II Center for the defence of life.

The case of Pierre Cuong is similar to that of another 15 kidnapped, nine of whom from the diocese of Vinh, as told by Bishop Nguyen Thai Hop. The last was Paul Tran Minh Nhat, who studied at the faculty of foreign languages and computer science in Hanoi. He too is a native of the diocese and weeks have passed before his family could find out something about him.

Several of those arrested belonged to John Paul II Center for the defense of life or the Movement of Catholic entrepreneurs and intellectuals, both of which are flourishing in northern Vietnam. Some had spoken out in support of Cu Huy Ha Vu, the 53 year old lawyer, the son of one of the leaders of the revolution, committed to human rights.

On December 22, another four young Catholics were arrested, Nguyên Xuân Anh, Nguyên Oai, Nguyên Duyêt and Thai Van Dung, interned in B14 they were allowed receive a representative of their families. While the physical conditions of the four are not of concern, the moral seems to leave something to be desired, but one wonders why only four prisoners were allowed to receive visits.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Young-Vinh-Catholic-kidnapped-by-police-on-Christmas-Eve-23555.html

AFRICA : NIGERIA : SECT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WEST

Agenzia Fides report - The Boko Haram sect, author of numerous attacks that have recently caused deaths and injuries in Nigeria, has its origins in the colonial and post-colonial history of the North African nation.
"Boko Haram" is translated as "Western education is prohibited". However, it is interesting to note that even within the Muslim community itself, there are conflicting notions as to what the word "Boko" means. Boko in fact was often used in relation to a second noun, Ilimi, meaning education. Thus, the full expression Ilimin Boko, was used to derogatorily refer to Western education as distinct from what the Muslim community, understood as the only form of education, namely, Ilimin Islamiyya, that is, Islamic education. Ilimin Islamiyya is a form of catechesis focused on the teachings of the Holy Quran, its recitation and memory, and is the entry point for children into the faith of Islam. Courses are taught in Arabic.
With the arrival of British colonization and the introduction of a Western educational system, a contrast between Ilimin Islamiyya and Ilimin Boko was created. The latter was considered inferior and suspect, because it did not teach about the Koran or Islam. Its teachers, alphabets and language of instruction was English. For the local Muslim elites therefore white people and their seemingly incomprehensible ways were often associated with witchcraft, Boka.
When the missionaries and the colonial state started a programme of education in northern Nigeria, the Muslim ruling classes remained restrained and suspicious of the intentions. For this reason they decided to experiment sending the children of the slaves and lower classes within their communities. It took a while before the ruling classes of the north began to appreciate the values of education as a tool of modernization and began to send their children to school. But the children of the first generation of Muslim elites who attended Western school, were often the object of derision by their own mates and friends.
This prejudice has persisted and for this is why Western education is categorized as Haram (forbidden). The suspicion of Western education is shown by the miserably low and embarrassing statistics of school enrolment all over the Northern states. Today, well over 80% of Muslim parents in the rural areas but also urban Northern states, still refuse to send their children to school to acquire western education. The situation of the girls is worse, perhaps, registering less than 10% of children of school age. Hordes of Muslim children who today roam the streets of Nigeria are graduates of the Islamiyya schools, under the tutlage of an itinerant teacher, Mallam.
These children, with no job, are the lifeblood that feeds sects like the Boko Haram and other similar millenarian movements, occasionally popping in northern Nigeria.
Today, ordinary Muslims feel overwhelmed by the tornado of changes around them. Unable to access the tools of modernization, they have remained largely outside the loop of power. In the major cities of their states, almost all forms of activities are conducted by people they consider foreigners, almost all southern traders are almost all Christians. Their habits of alcohol intake, Christian festivals and adoption of a life style, has made ordinary Muslims nervous for the future of their families and their faith. The leader of Boko Haram took advantage of this situation by arguing that turning inwards away from external "contamination", and that we must return to a fully Islamic society, in order to face the weaknesses of the Nigerian state. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 29/12/2011

TODAY'S GOSPEL : THURS. DEC. 29, 2011

Luke 2: 22 - 35
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;
34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

TODAY'S SAINT : DEC. 29 : ST. THOMAS BECKET

St. Thomas Becket
ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AND MARTYR
Feast: December 29


Information:
Feast Day: December 29
Born: 21 December 1118 at London, England
Died: 29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England
Canonized: 21 February 1173 by Pope Alexander III
Patron of: clergy
There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.
Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry announced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier.

According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge—and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment.

Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers.

Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid.

Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.
At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door.

Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me.

Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily.

Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead. The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.


SOURCE: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/T/stthomasbecket.asp#ixzz1hvx5xacP
Post a Comment