ROME - In the basement of an Italian insurance company’s modern office building, Vatican archeologists, armed with lasers, discovered important historical evidence about the development of Christian devotion to the apostles.

At Rome’s Catacombs of St. Thecla, in the burial chamber of a Roman noblewoman, they have discovered what they said are the oldest existing paintings of Sts. Peter, Paul, Andrew and John.

Technicians working for the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology discovered the painting of St. Paul in June 2009 just as the Year of St. Paul was ending.

Barbara Mazzei, who was in charge of the restoration work, said June 22 that she and her team members knew there were more images under the crust of calcium carbonate, but excitement over the discovery of St. Paul in the year dedicated to him led them to announce the discovery even before the rest of the work was completed.

Presenting the complete restoration of the burial chamber to reporters a year later, Msgr. Giovanni Carru said that the catacombs “are an eloquent witness of Christianity in its origins.”

catacombsInto the fourth century, Christians in Italy tried to bury their dead near the tomb of a martyr. The walls of the tombs of the wealthy were decorated with Christian symbols, biblical scenes and references to the martyr.

At the Catacombs of St. Thecla, the noblewoman’s burial chamber — now referred to as the Cubicle of the Apostles — dates from late in the fourth century. The arch over the vestibule features a fresco of a group of figures the Vatican experts described as “The College of the Apostles.” The ceiling of the burial chamber itself features the most typical icon found in the catacombs, Christ the Good Shepherd, but the four corners of the ceiling are decorated with medallions featuring the four apostles, said Mazzei.

Bloody Sunday shootings not justified


Bloody SundayDUBLIN - After seeking justice for 38 years, Ireland’s bishops welcomed the finding of a commission that concluded the 1972 killing of 14 unarmed Catholics by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in Derry was unjustified.

Two of the bishops were from Derry, Northern Ireland, where the incident, widely known as Bloody Sunday, occurred.

“We share the joy and relief of the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday,” the bishops said in a statement June 16, the day after the release of the long-awaited Saville Report.

“We acknowledge the hurt and pain of the many people who lost loved ones on these islands during the course of the Troubles. We continue to carry them all in our thoughts and prayers.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.

Thank you to the Unknown Priest

Many countries have a memorial to The Unknown Soldier. As our Year for Priests draws to a close, this story is my memorial to all The Unknown Priests.

Those are the priests who with a word, a challenge or a smile effect a radical change in our way of loving and perceiving God. One such priest was a Franciscan Friar who gave a weekend retreat for married women several years ago.

I had taken some overdue time out from my hectic life as the mother of five and the wife of a busy politician. I was so eager for some spiritual refreshment that I didn’t even care who the priest would be. I only knew I needed a couple of nights of solitude and quiet, with time to reflect on my spiritual life that was often neglected due to my exhaustion.

Once at the convent, we were assigned to our rooms and then directed to the dining room for a light supper. We were informed that this was a silent retreat, so meals were to be eaten with no conversation. What a change from Friday night supper at home.

Say a prayer for us, your priests


Priest in prayerEditor’s Note: As the Year for Priests comes to a close, Catholic Register reader Rappai J. Nedumpara, president of Family Prayer Mission (Ontario), shares the thoughts of a young priest whose petition from India has universal meaning.

The Catholic world is reeling under the huge storm of scandals and it pains me to see such things happening. One person went to the extent of saying that “I don’t feel like going to Church any more to hear the great and lofty ideals that these people preach.”

We have reached a stage where people are thinking of giving up on the Church, and priests in general are being blamed for it. Many of us Catholics are joining this outcry. Priests are being looked at with different eyes now — eyes of suspicion, and understandably so. This hurts and pains me as I am a priest.

Yes I am ashamed, I must admit, about what has happened. A priest is supposed to be one who is trusted, at times trusted even more than one’s own parents. A priest is meant to heal and to care and when a priest fails to do that it is saddening.

Year of sadness and celebration comes to an end

PriestsVATICAN CITY - Catholics expect a lot from their priests and Pope Benedict XVI is no exception.

Some people might have thought the Pope convoked the June 2009-2010 Year for Priests as a praise-fest for the Church’s collared class, but instead he highlighted the importance of priests in the life of the Church by exhorting them to live up to their calling.

In hundreds of speeches throughout the year and in a special three-part series during his weekly general audiences in April and May, Pope Benedict described the identity and mission of priests, asked Catholics to pray for their ministers and asked the men in black not just to be good priests, but to be holy.

The fact that the Church’s handling of cases of priestly sex abuse came to the fore in Ireland and other European countries and then was back in the news in North America made it impossible during the Year for Priests for the Pope or anyone else to ignore that a problem existed, even if it involved just a small portion of the world’s priests.

Martyred Polish priest beatified at Mass in Warsaw in front of 140,000

relics of Blessed Jerzy PopieluszkoWARSAW, Poland - A martyred Polish priest was praised for standing against the oppressive forces of communism when he defended human rights in his sermons during a beatification Mass in the Polish capital.

More than 140,000 people listened intently during the June 6 ceremony in Pilsudski Square as Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, recalled how Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko "did not yield to temptation to survive in this death camp" under communist rule.

President of Turkish bishops' conference stabbed to death

Bishop Luigi Padovese of AnatoliaVATICAN CITY  - The president of the Turkish bishops' conference, Bishop Luigi Padovese, was stabbed to death June 3 at his home in Iskenderun, said the Vatican nuncio in Turkey.

Archbishop Antonio Lucibello confirmed the death of the 63-year-old bishop, reported Vatican Radio.

The bishop's driver was arrested as the prime suspect in the murder and confessed, Vatican Radio said.

Vatican deplores Israeli assault on flotilla; priest fears reprisals

Gaza BlocadeVATICAN CITY - The Vatican deplored the "useless loss of life" in an assault by Israeli commandos on a flotilla of ships taking aid to the Gaza Strip.

In a written statement released May 31, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, called the incident "a very painful event" that Church officials were following closely.

In Gaza, the parish priest, Fr. Jorge Hernandez, said June 1 would be "a day of mourning in the Strip. All of Gaza will stop. There will be demonstrations, some of which are already under way in various parts of the city and throughout Gaza. The climate here is heavy and the risk of an escalation of violence is very real, which is why we are calling for caution and prudence."

Martyr Popieluszko a man of integrity

Fr. PopieluszkoWARSAW, Poland - When a Catholic priest who was murdered by communist agents is beatified in Warsaw June 6, it will confirm his place as one of the church’s most conspicuous modern martyrs.

Polish church leaders hope the beatification will also recall values for which Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko gave his life and revive interest in a remarkable story of Christian courage and witness.

Even legal immigrants fear tough Arizona law

arizonaMESA, Ariz.  - Thirty-five years after he first began trying to make a life in the United States, Manuel Gutierrez, a legal resident from Mexico, is taking his family out of Arizona.

Although Gutierrez first came to the United States illegally in 1975 and was soon deported, he returned several times, pursuing legal residency that finally became permanent in 2007. He now runs a successful business and all but his eldest child are U.S. citizens.

Huge crowds in Italy, Portugal show support for Pope

Pope crowdVATICAN CITY - Two days after a crowd of 150,000 wildly cheered Pope Benedict XVI in Portugal, an estimated 120,000 people converged on St. Peter’s Square to express support for the Pope in dealing with the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

The Italian National Consultation of Lay Groups, a Catholic organization, spearheaded the effort to bring Catholics to St. Peter’s Square on May 16 to join the Pope and show their support. A variety of Catholic organizations and movements, labour unions and political groups joined them, filling St. Peter’s Square and spilling onto the adjacent streets.