Reuters blog archive
A Chinese bishop ordained without papal approval has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, the Vatican has said, bringing relations between the Vatican and Beijing to a new low. In a statement branding Thursday's ordination illegitimate, the Vatican said Pope Benedict "deplores" the way communist authorities are treating Chinese Catholics who want to remain faithful to Rome instead of to the state-backed Church.
China's state-sanctioned Catholic Church ordained Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop in Shantou city in southern Guangdong province on Thursday despite warnings he would not be recognized because the city has a Vatican-approved bishop.
"Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him ... and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of diocese," the Vatican said on Saturday.
Chinese Catholics, believed to number between 8 million and 12 million, are divided between those who are members of the Church backed by the Communist Party and those loyal to the pope.
Germany's Roman Catholic Church will open its files to independent investigators into a sexual abuse crisis, allowing a search as far back as 1945, a bishop announced on Wednesday. Nine German dioceses will open records dating back to the end of World War Two while the 18 others will do so for the period 2000 to 2010, Bishop Stephan Ackermann said in Bonn.
"We want to track down the truth that may be lying undiscovered in the files of previous decades," said Ackermann, the spokesman on abuse issues for the bishops' conference. The two studies will provide "not only formal statistics, but also research into the causes (of abuse)," he told journalists, "so we can better understand how this monstrous sexual abuse by clerics and church employees came about."
A government-sponsored report said on Wednesday the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland continued to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests even after it introduced rules in the mid-1990s to protect minors.
Revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. But the latest report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, shows that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day.
Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.
Britain's Catholics have been urged to make more effort to follow religious custom and abstain from eating meat on Fridays, potentially boosting sales of fish.
Church law required Catholics over the centuries to comply with this abstinence as part of Friday penance, the day set aside for special prayer and fasting to mark the day Jesus died. Traditionally Catholics have opted to eat fish instead, though a combination of new church guidance and changing eating habits has eroded this habit.
The Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world on Friday they had to obey a papal order allowing priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not. The Vatican issued an "instruction" to bishops as a follow-up to a 2007 papal decree authorizing the wider adoption of the Latin Mass, which was in universal use before the 1962-1965 Vatican Council introduced masses in local languages.
The Vatican has condemned former Canadian Bishop Raymond Lahey after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and said it planned to take disciplinary action against him. Lahey, former Bishop of Antigonish in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, was charged with possession and importation of child pornography in 2009. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and his sentence is due to be handed down later.
Belgium's politicians and prelates are looking to Pope Benedict to help end a clerical sexual abuse crisis that is crippling the local Catholic Church and frustrating judicial authorities unable to resolve it.
Calls to punish former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who shocked Belgium last week by publicly excusing abuse cases that caused his downfall last year, have come from the Belgian prime minister, justice and foreign ministers and several senior politicians. Belgian bishops have denounced Vangheluwe, 74, who quit as bishop of Bruges after admitting to molesting his nephew, and several bishops have made clear they want swift punitive action from the Vatican, which took control of his case this month.
Bishops in China who are ordained without papal authorisation inflict a "grave wound" on the entire Catholic Church and should not let themselves be manipulated by the government, the Vatican has said. The Vatican issued the warning on Thursday after a meeting of a special commission that studies the situation of Catholics in China, who are not allowed to recognise the pope's authority but forced to be members of a state-backed Church.
Last November, the Vatican condemned the ordination without papal permission of Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai, a member of the state-backed Church in Chengde. For a period before that, China and the Vatican had reached an agreement that the Vatican would give tacit but not explicit approval to some of the appointments of bishops by the government-backed Church after discreet consultations.
Belgium's justice minister urged the Vatican on Friday to impose stiff punishment on a disgraced Catholic bishop who denies being a paedophile despite admitting to sexually abusing two of his own nephews. Stefaan de Clerck spoke out amid a media uproar after former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe defended himself on television by saying the abuse he committed was only "superficial."