October 17, 2012

The best of both worlds

What is our favourite TV show? Do we allow our children to read and watch The Hunger Games? What style of clothing do we choose? How much time do we spend online, and how do we spend it?

Every day, we are influenced by a culture that was rooted in Christianity but is now shaped by a radical secularism and a need for instant gratification. How are we as Catholics called to live in a culture that has not only forgotten its evangelical roots but often denigrates or even opposes them?

St. Kateri Tekakwitha offers valuable insights into this question by her intense commitment to Jesus Christ at a time when native cultures were confronted and often oppressed by European cultures.

Born of an Algonquin mother and Mohawk father, Kateri courageously bridged the gap between her own First Nations cultures and French Catholicism, embracing the best of both. Even her name highlights this characteristic: “Kateri” is a Mohawk version of the French “Catherine.” In embracing both her native heritage and Christianity, Kateri discovered and lived fully her deepest identity, expressing it in her total commitment to the Person of Christ.

Kateri’s intense love for Christ inspired her to follow Him wholeheartedly, both in prayer and in works of charity. But her ardour stirred up the animosity of many in her home village. Initially petty, the hostility escalated into real persecution — from children taunting her and throwing rocks, to her family refusing to allow her to eat on Sundays when she took extra time to pray, to death threats.

Instead of scaring her into a compromise, Kateri’s Mohawk upbringing inclined her to regard bravery in suffering as a sign of spiritual strength. She didn’t just accept suffering as part of life, but embraced it, wanting to share in the Cross of Christ for the sake of her people. Only after repeated death threats did Kateri reluctantly decide to flee to where she could live her faith freely.

Upon arriving at Sault St. Louis, the Christian native village in present day Kahnawake, Kateri’s fervour in prayer and generous kindness quickly made her a spiritual leader. She loved to pray in the Jesuit chapel, arriving first for Mass early in the morning, but she also prayed in the outdoor “chapel” she created by carving a cross into a tree trunk. Even the austere penances she practised were an expression of her love for Christ.

Kateri’s intense love for Jesus led her to embrace the counter-cultural call to virginity. Marriage was such an important value in her native culture that both in her home village and in the Christian village, Kateri faced innumerable pressures to marry. (Even her Jesuit mentors did not initially encourage her.) Her inexplicable fidelity to virginal chastity can only be explained by a call from God.

As her understanding of Christian life matured, Kateri’s desire for chastity flowered into a vow of virginity. Kateri is the first native woman of North America known to make this vow. Virginity was her vocation, her “way of love” in the world, and only in becoming a Catholic could Kateri discover and live the fullness of her vocation.

Immersed in her own culture, but not enslaved by it, Kateri’s reception of Christ’s saving love enabled her to develop her deepest identity. Affirming her First Nations heritage kept her rooted in her own culture, but also helped her follow a personal call and make the courageous choices for Baptism and consecrated virginity.

St. Kateri is a remarkable model for how we can engage in our culture today. She showed us how to claim our own heritage, embracing the values that strengthen our deepest identity and foster our commitment to Christ; how to discerningly engage with culture, aware that our unique identity is shaped by culture and also by God; and how to view every people and culture with the eyes of Christ, discovering common human values and the seeds of the Gospel even in the midst of conflict.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, saint of the New Evangelization, pray for us!

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said the enduring desire for God, the truth of the Gospel and the "restlessness" of today's youth are reasons to hope for a "new springtime for Christianity" in Europe and beyond.

The pope made his remarks to an interviewer in a new documentary film, "Bells of Europe," which was shown at the Vatican Oct. 15 after the day's session of the world Synod of Bishops.

The synod is dedicated to the new evangelization, a project aimed at reviving the Christian faith of secularized societies, especially in Europe and other Western lands.

Pope Benedict told his interviewer that he has three main reasons to hope for a Christian revival, starting with the "fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear."

He said he also takes heart from the eternal truth of the Gospel.

"Ideologies have their days numbered," the pope said. "They appear powerful and irresistible but, after a certain period, they wear out and lose their energy because they lack profound truth."

"The Gospel, on the other hand, is true and can therefore never wear out," he said.

Finally, Pope Benedict cited the dissatisfaction of young people today with the "proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism."

Answering a question about Christianity's prospects in Europe, Pope Benedict said that the continent is undergoing a crisis of identity, divided between "two souls."

One of these souls is "abstract anti-historical reason," which seeks "to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favor of an abstract rationality," he said, citing for example a ruling (subsequently overturned) by the European Court for Human Rights that crucifixes should be removed from classrooms in Italian public schools.

"We could call Europe's other soul the Christian one," Pope Benedict said, describing it as a "soul which itself created the audaciousness of reason and the freedom of critical reasoning, but which remains anchored to the roots from which this Europe was born."

A blend of these two souls, the pope concludes, will lead to a "new humanism" arising "directly from the view of man created in the image and likeness of God."

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Bishop Brian Dunn of Antigonish, N.S., whose diocese was rocked by clerical sex abuse crises, told the Synod of Bishops that the new evangelization must address the reality of distrust and disappointment the scandal left in its wake.

With the sex abuse crisis, Catholics have experienced "a great disorientation that leads to forms of distrust of teachings and values that are essential for the followers of Christ," Dunn told the synod Oct. 12.

The diocese of Antigonish has sold hundreds of properties in an effort to raise the money necessary to cover legal settlement and sexual abuse lawsuit costs from before Dunn's appointment. In 2011, the previous bishop, Raymond Lahey, pled guilty and was jailed on charges of importing child pornography. The former bishop was laicized by the Vatican in May.

The Catholic Church cannot ignore the need to find a way to "evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse," Dunn told the synod.

One possible way forward, Dunn said, is to look at the story of the disciples, disillusioned by Jesus' death, who are met by the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Christ walks with them and listens to them, the bishop said.

Dioceses must have real structures in place for listening to victims and coming to appreciate "the depth of hurt, anger and disillusionment associated with this scandal," he told the synod.

At the same time, the Church needs to investigate the causes of the sexual abuse crisis and ensure measures are in place to protect children and vulnerable adults.

"Those who have been hurt consistently call for a change in certain structures in the Church, but it is not only ecclesial structures that must change," he said, there also must be "a profound change of mentality, attitude and heart in our ways of working with laypeople."

The bishop called for the appointment of pastoral teams of clergy and laypeople to administer parishes, for a formal recognition of "lay ecclesial ministers," and for a "deliberate and systematic involvement and leadership of women at all levels of Church life."

When Church life is marked by "co-responsibility," Dunn said, "the Gospel will be heard anew, our faith fill be passed on more effectively, we will be renewed in our faith and our witness will become more authentic."

Published in International

TORONTO - The New Evangelization that anchors Pope Benedict XVI’s call for a Year of Faith looks a little different from an African perspective, Cardinal Peter Turkson told a capacity audience at the Regis College chapel in Toronto.

The Ghanaian cardinal who heads up the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace delivered the Martin Royakers Lecture Sept. 26, speaking about “Vatican II: A Council of Justice and Peace.” He also spoke with The Catholic Register in an exclusive interview.

For African Catholics the New Evangelization is a challenge to form better leaders in the Church and society, and an invitation to deepen the commitment of all Christians to the body of Christ, Turkson said.

Since the Second Vatican Council the African Church has grown to a degree almost inconceivable to the Churches in North America and Europe, Turkson said. From 29 million Catholics in 1962 to 186 million today, Africa’s Catholic population has grown 541 per cent.

The old image of Africa as a mission land under the tutelage of European and North American priests and sisters is beginning to fade. Between 1962 and 2012 African- born priests have risen from just 15,000 to more than 40,000. Seminaries are bursting. There were 26,000 religious women from Africa in 1962, compared to 68,000 today.

Many Africans have become missionaries to underserved regions of Canada, the United States and Europe.

It seems that the old evangelization worked.

“We did teach people the catechism and we did baptize them,” Turkson told The Catholic Register.

But that doesn’t mean Africa doesn’t now need the New Evangelization — a concept first spoken about by Pope John Paul II at a meeting of the bishops of Latin America in Puebla, Mexico, in 1979.

Just as the majority of African Catholics trace their Catholic roots to the great ecumenical council of 1962-1965, the majority of African nations were released out of colonialism either just before or during Vatican II.

“The educated elite, the educated class that emerged in the emerging states, mostly was educated in mission schools,” pointed out Turkson.

Unfortunately they included corrupt politicians such as Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko, who amassed a personal fortune of some $5 billion, and Robert Mugabe, still in power in Zimbabwe.

“That has caused several Church leaders in Africa to sit back and think, ‘What did we do wrong?’ ” said Turkson.

But it isn’t just the politicians and business leaders of the continent that worry African bishops. In Turkson’s native Ghana almost a quarter of the population is Pentecostal, compared to just 15 per cent who are Catholic. Many people opt for a simpler, more personal, more emotionally expressive brand of faith.

What’s missing in the merely intellectual and notional religion of Africa’s leaders and the purely personal religion of the poor is the social doctrine of the Church, Turkson said.

“But their social consciousness, what we now call the social doctrine of the Church, wasn’t taught much. That was missing. People became Christians but the transition — the fact they were Christian — did not impact much on their social lives. That is something we are now discovering,” he said.

Just recording baptisms won’t do any more. Nor will mere catechism lessons make Christians.

“That is not quite the experience of conversion,” he said. “The Evangelical movement is appealing more to the heart, with lively music, lively prayer, the power of the spiritual world.”

All of that is embedded in the Catholic way of living out the sacraments, but it has to be uncoveredand presented in new ways, said Turkson.

“We need to find a way of bringing it down to basically these needs — to people’s life situations,” he said. “All of that serves as vehicles of God’s grace.”

He believes Catholic parish life has to afford people more opportunities to bear witness and testify to their faith.

“The world is now looking for witnesses,” he said. “We don’t make it alive. We don’t make it come alive in such a way that it encourages them, motivates them, touches their lives in faith. It would be great if we fashioned a little space in our worship for moments like that.”

Published in Vatican

The global Church is in Rome to talk about how it talks to the world. The topic is the new evangelization,meaning all the ways the Church presents Christ to the world and how we are all called to serve.

The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith is more than a distant talking shop for high Church officials. It also provides the keys to the Year of Faith which launched Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

It’s the 25th such synod since the close of Vatican II and runs Oct. 7 to 28.

There will be two English and two French bishops from Canada among the approximately 170 bishops chosen by bishops’ conferences around the the world. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops elected to send Quebec City’s Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn, St.-Hyacinthe Bishop Francois Lapierre and Nelson Bishop John Corriveau. 

The voting members of the synod will also include 20 bishops from Eastern Catholic Churches, 25 bishops who work in the Vatican heading up various offices, 35 bishops named directly by the Pope and 10 representatives from religious orders chosen by the Union of Superiors General. 

Regis College professor of theology Sr. Gill Goulding will be the Canadian among 49 theological experts assigned to assist the synod fathers and contribute to discussions. The theologians and thinkers don’t get to vote, but their contributions to discussions may substantially contribute to what the bishops vote on.

How the synod will be understood outside Vatican City may have a lot to do with another Canadian.  Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation, will be the English-speaking press secretary for the duration of the synod.

Though there will be lots of talk about new media and the digital age, Fr. Steve Bossi doesn’t want the bishops to come back from Rome with a social media strategy or a new comfort level with smartphones.The new evangelization is about a lot more than technology or better media management, said the director of programs at Toronto’s Paulist Centre.

“They need to come back with a vision,” said Bossi. “They need to come back with a sense of what is the modern world and how does it function. Then, how do we speak our faith into that modern world?”

In the lineamenta or discussion paper for the synod prepared by Croatian Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the Vatican identifies six ways the world has changed and made it more difficult to proclaim the Gospel in our times:

o “Profound secularism” has made it difficult for religion to be heard and understood. An overly secularized culture keeps people cocooned in self-interest. “Temptations to superficiality and self-centredness, arising from a predominating hedonistic and consumer-oriented mentality, arenot easily overcome,” said the lineamenta.

o Migration is pulling people out of their own cultural context and creating new cultures thathave few marks of permanence, “leaving little space for the great traditions of life, including thoseof religion.”

o Social communications have developed so rapidly the Church has been left wondering how toengage in the new global conversation. “The formation of a culture centred on passing novelties, thepresent moment and outward appearances, indeed a society which is incapable of remembering the past and with no sense of the future,” is an unwelcoming place for 2,000 years of tradition dedicated to a single transcendent reality.

o Economics has become as globalized as every other aspect of our lives. As the butterflies of globalization have emerged from the cocoons of national and local economies, markets have shed ethical constraints and forgotten their moral purposes.

o Science proposes a worldview that often seems as broad and hopeful as religion. “Science and technology are in danger of becoming today’s new idols.”

o Political life has changed massively since the fall of communism. Although the Church does not mourn the passing of an atheistic, materialist ideology, the triumph of markets, the emergence of violent and politicized appeals to religion in Asia and the Islamic world and the environmental crisis makes for a situation “frought with risks and new temptations of dominion and power.”

Eterovic’s six points seem like an overwhelmingly negative assessment of the world. It would be easy to incorrectly conclude that the new evangelization is about the Church standing in opposition to the modern age, retreating into an intellectual and emotional bunker constructed from comforting bits of its own history.

But the new evangelization is not about fear and loathing of the world, said Bossi.

“It’s part of our faith that we believe that the Holy Spirit moves through time and through human experience,” he said. “God has not abandoned us in this world and the Church doesn’t have to be out there somehow speaking against the modern world.”

Isaac Hecker, founder of Bossi’s Paulist order, would have recognized many of Eterovic’s challenges as his own in the United States of 150 years ago. Hecker was faced with a population of immigrant Catholics who had been knocked off the moorings of their traditional Catholic culture by the experience of migration. The 19th century was an age of wonders that made communication (telegraph) nearly instantaneous and travel(trains) rapid and cheap. Hecker responded by preaching and writing in the language of his times.

The Paulists today carry on their founder’s new evangelization with their own involvement in media and in adult education.

It’s not so much about which media carries the words as it is about the authenticity and honesty of the words, said Bossi. Attempts to carefully manage the media by sticking to an approved, prepared text are rarely persuasive in a culture that values honest, spontaneous responses.

“You don’t get that sense of speaking from the heart. And yet, what are people looking for?” asked Bossi. “They aren’t looking for data they can get into their head. They’re looking for someone who can speak to them at the level of human experience.”

The decree granting indulgences for the Year of Faith makes it clear Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of sending Catholics fleeing from the world.

“All the faithful, individually and in community, will be called to give open witness of their faith before others in the particular circumstances of daily life,” reads the Sept. 14 decree.

The Pope has also signaled that he views the new evangelization from an ecumenical perspective. On the personal invitation of Pope Benedict XVI, one of the first speakers at the synod on new evangelization will be the Anglican Communion’s scholarly leader Archbishop Rowan Williams. Williams was to address synod fathers Oct. 10.

“A new evangelization means that the Church must convincingly sustain her efforts at uniting all Christians in a common witness to the world of the prophetic and transforming power of the Gospel message,” reads Eterovic’s lineamenta.

In fact, the new evangelization does not begin with what the Church says to the world, or even how it says it. The starting point is what the Church is to the world and in the world.

“In the end, the expression new evangelization requires finding new approaches to evangelization so as ‘to be Church’ in today’s everchanging social and cultural situations,” reads the lineamenta.

As a theologian consulting with the bishops at the synod, it’s the existential hope of the Gospel as it is lived that Goulding wants to emphasize.

“In many ways it seems to me that the heart of the new evangelization lies in living radically the faith that we have,” she said.

Published in Vatican

MAYO, YUKON TERRITORY - When we moved to the Yukon almost four years ago, it wasn’t to work in the missions. I was employed as a schoolteacher and my wife Tina stayed home with our young son Johnathan. We moved to Mayo for adventure, change and reprieve from city life. It was not meant to be a long-termcommitment, nor working for the Church.

The village of Mayo has a population of a little more than 400 people, predominantly the Na Cho Nyak Dun First Nation. Although we did not move to the Yukon to work in the missions, it seems God had other plans.

Sr. Angela Shea of the Sisters of Notre Dame was resident administrator for Christ the King mission. She had been here almost 20 years where she led the Catholic community and was an integral part of the larger community. During our first year, there was talk of the 80-year-old sister leaving Mayo and retiring to her native Prince Edward Island. In talking with Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon, Tina and I expressed ourwillingness to serve the Church. With Sr. Angela leaving, the timing was good. Gordon asked if we would fill in as mission administrators. His need for missionworkers and our interest and desire to serve the Church came together, and we began discussing the transition, which took place in 2009.

There are about 47 Catholics in Mayo. Besides keeping the lights and heat on in the church and rectory, we help keep the Catholic faith alive in the small community. We arrange for the priest in Dawson to come twice a month for Mass and other sacraments, and I lead the community in a Communion service on Sundays when he is not present. We usually meet for coffee and goodies or a meal after to catch up on news and share a laugh. We say the rosary with others and have Stations of the Cross during Lent. Each day, we strive to be a living witness to the Catholic faith and administer to the spiritual and other needs of Catholics. We call Fr. Ernest Emeka Emeodi from Dawson or Gordon when assistance or adviceis required.

Many joys and challenges of lay ministry abound in this remote part of Canada. Mayo is located near 63 degrees latitude, halfway between Whitehorse and the Arctic Circle. Mayo holds the distinction of being both the hottest and the coldest community in the Yukon. It is not uncommon for temperatures to dip to minus 50 Celsius for some days, and for a cold spell of minus 40 or more for a week.

While there are both joys and challenges, the joys definitely outweigh the latter. Some joys include living in the rectory which is attached to the church and having the Blessed Sacrament available 24 hours a day. There is joy knowing that although at times we feel we have a small role, it is nonetheless vital for the Catholic faith and Church locally. There is a deep inner joy knowing we are in the service of God and His work.

Since starting in Mayo, Tina and I have moved on but continue our mission work with the Church. We recently moved to Yellowknife, N.W.T., where we are ministering at Trapper’s Lake Spirituality Centre.I pray that more lay people — single and families — will be open to working for the Church in the missions for a time, be it a year or two or more. Perhaps an interest and desire might be awakened and one may hear a call. As a lay couple and family, it is not for everyone, but it has certainly been rewarding and a real blessing for us, not to mention the great adventure.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict added 12th-century German abbess St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila to the roster of doctors of the universal Church.

The Pope proclaimed the new doctors at Mass Oct. 7 in St. Peter’s Square, where the thousands in attendance included pilgrims waving Spanish flags, and Germannuns in traditional habits.

In his homily, Pope Benedict noted St. Hildegard’s knowledge of medicine, poetry and music, and called her a “woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spiritand fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times.”

He said that St. John, “a profound expert on the sacred Scriptures,” knew how to“penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity.”

The Doctors of the Church,saints honoured for particularly important contributions to theology and spirituality, come from both the Eastern and Western Church traditions.

The 35 doctors include early Church fathers such as Sts. Jerome, John Chrysostom and Augustine, and theologians such as Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventureand John of the Cross, but also St. Therese of Lisieux, who was honoured by Blessed John Paul II in 1997, despite her lack of scholarly accomplishment.
St. Hildegard is the fourth female doctor of the Church, joining Sts. Therese, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila.

Published in International

TORONTO - To celebrate the Year of Faith, the archdiocese of Toronto’s office of formation for discipleship has undertaken its most focused effort at faith formation to date.

“This is an opportunity in this year for people to pause and to consider the role of faith in our own lives and why we are eager to share that faith with other people,” said Bill Targett, director of the office of formation for discipleship.

Targett said the archdiocese will be offering 18 programs across the archdiocese for the Year of Faith, which kicked off Oct. 11, alongside the 50th anniversary of the opening of Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and ends Nov. 24, 2013, on the feast of Christ the King.

“They range from single night workshops to look at one topic up to and including an eight-part series,” said Targett. “And then, in between those extremes, there’s a whole variety of other workshops.”

Topics vary from Catholic social teaching and basic teachings of the Catholic Church to lectio divina and prayer. Free of charge, the hosting parishes will become “regional centres of formation,” said Targett.

There will be three rotations of the same workshops in the fall, winter and spring at different locations to geographically accommodate as many people as possible, he added.

“The Year of Faith has been a long time coming,” said Targett. “John Paul II was speaking about it already in the early ’90s and for us, it’s exciting that it’s finally here. And we look forward to contributing whatever we can to helping to replant the Gospel in the West.”

Targett said he regards parishioners as the “frontline of people.”

“If we can help convince them of the important role that faith has in their lives, I think they’re the best example to spread that information through a wider community so that people who are not of faith look at a Catholic and say, ‘What is it about that person that makes them happy as they are?’”

For the younger crowd, the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth will be running catechetical events based on the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and YOUCAT: The Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.

A solemn opening Mass to launch the Year of Faith will be celebrated by Cardinal Thomas Collins Oct. 14 at St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto. In addition, Collins will be dedicating this year’s lectio divina programs to a biblical understanding of faith.

For more information on the office of formation for discipleship’s Year of Faith workshops, see www.archtoronto.org/discipleship.

Published in Vatican
October 11, 2012

Reigniting faith

Initially, it seemed odd when Pope Benedict XVI declared the Church would celebrate a special Year of Faith. Aren't followers called to be joyful witnesses to Christ every year? For the baptized, isn't faith already the fabric of daily Christian life?

The answers to those questions, of course, are yes. At least they should be. So in that sense the Year of Faith, which launched on Oct. 11, is preaching to the converted. But none of that diminishes the foresight of the declaration or the duty to heed its call.

The coming year is designed to usher the Church into a period of reflection and rediscovery of faith and, by extension, into a revival of Christian values. The Pope has long worried that faith, particularly in the West, is being battered by cultural and political forces that are causing a "profound crisis of faith" in society. His Year of Faith is the Church fighting back.

He wants to entice lapsed Catholics back to church and to introduce the faith to non-believers. To achieve those goals the Pope intends to stoke the fires of evangelization in all Catholics by en- couraging a deeper understanding of Scripture and Church teachings, and then urging all Catholics to proceed with authority and joy to give public witness to faith.

"We want this year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope," the Pope said.

He calls the Year of Faith a time to study, profess and demonstrate faith. It is a year for Catholics to re-learn their faith and connect proactively with others whose devotion has lapsed or by example to others who have never found God.

There are many ways to accomplish this — through the sacraments and prayer, meditation and study, retreats and pilgrimages — but some practical activities are particularly recommended. These begin with studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which just turned 20. It is the training manual for Catholics and the first source to learn or re-learn the faith.

Catholics are also encouraged to read the documents of Vatican II, to memorize the Nicene Creed and recite it daily, to attend adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to study the lives of saints and to participate in parish workshops that explore Scripture and Church teaching. Pilgrimage is also important, not necessarily to distant locales like the Holy Land, but to closer sites such as the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ont., or St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal, or St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto.

The Year of Faith is focussed on the laity, "who should not be considered collaborators of the clergy, but people who are co-responsible for the Church," said Benedict. It is about them becoming proud Catholics and Catholics that others can be proud of.

Published in Editorial

VATICAN CITY - Catholics who participate in events connected with the 2012-2013 Year of Faith can receive a special indulgence, the Vatican said.

Pope Benedict XVI authorized the granting of a plenary, or full, indulgence in order to highlight the Year of Faith and encourage the "reading, or rather, the pious meditation on" the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Sept. 14 Vatican decree said.

The decree, which the Vatican released Oct. 5, was signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head of the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences and with matters related to the sacrament of penance.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.

Pope Benedict established the Year of Faith, "dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation," to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. It begins on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, which is also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the catechism.

The plenary indulgence is being offered to pilgrims who visit sacred shrines, to Catholics who participate in local events connected to the Year of Faith, and to those who may be too ill or otherwise prevented from physical participation. It can be granted on behalf of the individual petitioner or on behalf of departed souls.

The decree said conditions for the special Year of Faith indulgence include the normal requirements set by the Church for all plenary indulgences: that the person goes to confession, receives the Eucharist and prays for the intentions of the Pope.

The decree explained in detail some specific requirements for the plenary indulgence:

— Those visiting basilicas, cathedrals, catacombs or other sacred sites in the form of a pilgrimage must participate in a liturgy, "or at least pause for an appropriate time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the profession of faith in any legitimate form, invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, where appropriate, of the Holy Apostles or patron saints."

— The Catholic faithful in any local church can obtain the indulgence by attending three sermons at parish missions or three lectures on Vatican II or the catechism; attending Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours on days designated by the local bishop for the Year of Faith; or visiting the place where they were baptized to renew their baptismal vows.

— Catholics who attend Mass celebrated by a bishop on the Year of Faith's last day, the feast of Christ the King, will also receive the indulgence, as will those impeded by sickness or other serious cause from attending the Mass, as long as they are truly repentant and pray while listening to the bishop bestow the indulgence via television or radio.

Published in International

TORONTO - From your library to the confessional, from relics to rejoicing, the archdiocese of Toronto has lined up a year’s worth of ways to rediscover faith.

The Year of Faith kicks off inter- nationally on Oct. 11, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In Toronto, the year will start with a solemn opening Mass with Cardinal Thomas Collins at St. Paul’s Basilica on Oct. 14. All 223 parishes in the archdiocese are being encouraged to send representatives, particularly their RCIA catechists, youth leaders and parish council members, to the 4 p.m. Mass at the downtown basilica.

Collins will also dedicate this year of lectio divina programs to a biblical understanding of faith.

The Office of Formation for Discipleship wants to add the Catechism of the Catholic Church to your reading list. And they hope to introduce young people to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the YouCat youth catechism produced for World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011.

“Exploring the Catechism: Faith Alive!” is an eight-part series, and the catechism-based six-part series “Basic Teachings of the Catholic Church” will be promoted in parishes by the Office of Formation for Discipleship. A Fr. Robert Barron 10-part video series called Catholicism will also be available.

The Office of Catholic Youth will run catechetical events based on the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and YouCat.

A chance to visit with martyrs and saints will be coming to many parishes. Relics of 17th-century Jesuit martyrs from the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., and of St. Br. André Bessette from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, will tour the archdiocese.

On Oct. 21 seven blesseds will become saints, including Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. The canonizations will happen in Rome. Parishes are being encouraged to organize events to celebrate Canada’s first aboriginal saint.

Penance will lead local Catholics to faith with the all-day confessions event called “Return to Me With All Your Heart.” The program will be offered in many parishes during Lent.

“The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his October 2011 announcement of the Year of Faith, Porta Fidei. “By their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

VATICAN CITY - With a hymn and a prayer, Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella presented the Vatican's initial calendar of events for the Year of Faith, which begins with a Mass Oct. 11 in St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said the Pope has invited as concelebrants bishops and theologians who, like the pontiff, served as members or experts at the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.

Published in Features

ATLANTA - The Year of Faith set to begin in October will give Catholics the chance to experience a "conversion" by turning back to Jesus and entering into a deeper relationship with him, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis said June 13.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., told the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the 2012-13 observance stems from Pope Benedict XVI's call for a new evangelization and will incorporate television, radio, social media and numerous online resources to better connect -- or reconnect -- Catholics with their faith.

Published in Features

VATICAN CITY - Fifty years ago this October, Blessed John XXIII and more than 2,500 bishops and heads of religious orders from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for the opening session of the Second Vatican Council.

Over the following three years, Vatican II would issue 16 major "pronouncements" on such fundamental questions as the authority of the church's hierarchy, the interpretation of Scripture, and the proper roles of clergy and laity. Those documents, and the deliberations that produced them, have transformed how the Catholic Church understands and presents itself within the context of modern secular culture and society.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - Christianity and even religious belief are in grave danger across the globe, risking oblivion, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel," he said.

The world faces "a profound crisis of faith, and a loss of a sense of religion constitutes the biggest challenge for the church today," he said.

Published in Vatican
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