FaithWorld

Daniel-in-lion’s-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin

(St. Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral in Berlin, 20 June 2009/Beek100)

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, Berlin’s new Catholic archbishop met the media on Tuesday to face accusations he was homophobic and far too conservative for such a prominent post in the free-wheeling German capital. Rainer Maria Woelki, a surprise choice for the high-profile post, professed respect for gays, denied membership in the staunchly conservative Opus Dei group and said he did not come to Berlin to point a censuring finger at non-Catholics.

Berlin’s gay community and liberal media reacted with dismay to his appointment last week, saying the Cologne-based prelate was “backwards-minded” and the wrong man for the job. But interest in the new prelate was so strong that the Catholic Church, a minority of about 390,000 in a 3.5 million population mostly indifferent or hostile to religion, had to switch the news conference to a larger hall at the last minute to accomodate over 100 journalists who turned out.

“We will meet with each other,” Woelki, 54, said when asked about the city’s active gay community. “I have respect and esteem for all people independent of heritage, skin colour and individual nature. I am open to all without reservations.” Describing himself simply as Catholic, he denied being a member of Opus Dei despite having done his doctorate at the group’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. That part of his biography led to media reports over the weekend calling him “reactionary.”

“The Church is not a moral institution that goes around pointing its finger at people,” Woelki said. “The Church is for me a community of seekers and believers and the Church would like to help people find their hapiness in life.”

The left-wing daily Tageszeitung said it had expected the worst from Woelki’s premiere but concluded: “You can talk with the man of God. There will be a lot to talk about.”
Berlin’s openly gay Mayor Klaus Wowereit seems to have eased the way for Woelki by warmly welcoming him to the city and promising to work closely with him. The two will host Pope Benedict when he visits the German capital in September.

Archbishop of Canterbury attacks UK government policies as radical

(Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Canterbury Cathedral, April 4, 2010/Toby Melville)

Britain’s coalition government has embarked on “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” causing anxiety and fear, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an article on Thursday. The comments are his most outspoken against the year-old Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

“With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” the spiritual leader of the 80-million strong Anglican Communion wrote. “At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context.”

Archbishop of Canterbury praises “unpretentious” Kate and William

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton watch a demonstration by students, during their visit to the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Adrian Dennis)

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Adrian Dennis)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will marry Prince William and Kate Middleton next week, said on Thursday he had been struck by their wedding preparations, describing the couple as courageous and unpretentious. Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Church of England, praised the couple’s “simplicity” and the way they had dealt with the build-up to next Friday’s wedding, which is set to be watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.

“I’ve been very struck by the way in which William and Catherine have approached this great event,” Williams said in a short film released by his Lambeth Palace office, adding it had been a “real pleasure” to get to know the couple. “They’ve thought through what they want for themselves, but also what they want to say. They’ve had a very simple, very direct picture of what really matters about this event.”

Canadian police charge senior Orthodox prelate with sex crimes

Canadian police have charged a senior Orthodox  prelate with sexually assaulting two boys during the 1980s, the latest in a tide of such charges worldwide involving church officials. Winnipeg police said on Thursday that Archbishop Kenneth William Storheim, 64, flew from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg to turn himself in and was charged with two counts of sexual assault.

Storheim is the archibishop of the Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America but has been on a leave of absence since October 1, according to a statement on the church’s website. Storheim, who was raised a Lutheran and was an Anglican rector before being received in the Orthodox Church in 1978, worked at a church in a poor Winnipeg neighborhood from 1984 to 1987 and later moved to Edmonton and Ottawa.

According to his biography on the church’s website, Archbishop Seraphim (as he is known in the Orthodox Church) “serves in a number of administrative capacities in the Orthodox Church in America. He is secretary of the Holy Synod of Bishops, chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations and chairman of the Board of Theological Education. As chair of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, he has represented the OCA at numerous events in Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. He also is co-chairman of the Bishops’ Dialogue (North America) between the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Most recently, he was appointed Administrator of the Metropolitan See of the Orthodox Church in America upon the retirement of Metropolitan Herman on September 4, 2008.”

Catholic Church launches ordinariate for Anglicans in January

benedict and williams (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Pope Benedict in London September 17, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

The Roman Catholic Church will launch its first ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales in January and take in bishops, priests and laity over the following months, the Church announced on Friday.

Five traditionalist Church of England bishops have applied to join the ordinariate, a Church subdivision retaining some Anglican traditions, and about 30 groups of parishioners are due to cross over, Church leaders told journalists.

It was not clear how many priests would convert in the move, prompted by traditionalist opposition to Church of England plans to ordain women bishops. Married Anglican priests will be accepted but married bishops cannot retain their higher status.

Pie in the face for controversial Belgian Catholic archbishop (video)

pie 00723It has not been a good few weeks for Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the embattled leader of Belgium’s Roman Catholics.

The outspoken conservative prelate has been under fire from his brother bishops, Catholic publications and politicians for weeks for mishandling the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, calling AIDS a kind of punishment for sexual freedom and urging leniency for retired priests accused of sexually abusing minors in the past.

His spokesman quit last Tuesday, saying he could no longer work for a man he compared to someone who drives down a highway against the traffic and believes all the other drivers are wrong.

Spokesman for embattled Belgian archbishop quits, cites loss of trust

mettepenningen2The spokesman for Belgium’s Roman Catholic leader quit on Tuesday, citing a loss of trust in the archbishop who has caused a storm with harsh comments on AIDS and caring words for some paedophile priests.

Jürgen Mettepenningen, a theologian who became Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard’s spokesman in August, announced his decision only days after the prelate agreed to stop speaking in public until Christmas to calm the storm engulfing the Church. (Image: Jürgen Mettepenningen, 2 Nov 2010/screengrab RTL video)

His resignation reflected growing criticism of Léonard within his own church, where bishops have cautiously spoken out against their leader and lay Catholics are turning increasingly caustic. Politicians have also stepped up criticism of him. It also highlighted the damage that scandals of clerical sex abuse of minors have done to the Church in Europe, especially in Belgium and Ireland where bishops reacted in defensive ways that further angered Catholics and public officials.

Excerpts from Archbishop Rowan Williams’ address at Lambeth Palace

lambeth 1 (Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams welcomes Pope Benedict to Lambeth Palace, 17 Sept 2010/Stefan Wermuth)

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, received Pope Benedict at Lambeth Palace in London on Friday and stressed the common goal both churches have in defending Christianity in the public sphere and working together as much as possible despite their differences.

Here are excerpts from the archbishop’s remarks to Pope Benedict:

“…Your consistent and penetrating analysis of the state of European society in general has been a major contribution to public debate on the relations between Church and culture, and we gratefully acknowledge our debt in this respect.

“Our task as bishops is to preach the Gospel and shepherd the flock of Christ; and this includes the responsibility not only to feed but also to protect it from harm.  Today, this involves a readiness to respond to the various trends in our cultural environment that seek to present Christian faith as both an obstacle to human freedom and a scandal to human intellect.  We need to be clear that the Gospel of the new creation in Jesus Christ is the door through which we enter into true liberty and true understanding: we are made free to be human as God intends us to be human; we are given the illumination that helps us see one another and all created things in the light of divine love and intelligence…

What would a compromise in NY Muslim centre dispute look like?

nymosque 1One requirement for a reasonable debate is to define the terms being used. The emotional dispute over the planned Cordoba House in New York, in which supporters and opponents are struggling over how to even describe it, is a case in point. Will the boxy modern building that developers have presented and local zoning boards have accepted be a Muslim cultural centre including a mosque? Or, as critics allege, a “Ground Zero mosque”, a term that evokes visions of  domes and minarets rising over the ruins of the World Trade Center. The facts speak for the first option, which is why we have chosen it for our description of this project.

A new element of confusion has entered the debate with calls for a compromise in this dispute. New York Governor David Patterson started this last week, saying that moving the project away from its proposed location would be a “a magic moment in our history” and offering state help to find a new site. He bemoaned the emotional level of the debate on Tuesday: People can’t hear each other anymore … I find it heart-wrenching. I hate to see New Yorkers squaring off against each other.”

nymosque 2New York’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan unexpectedly stepped in to welcome Paterson’s proposal and offer his services as a mediator. He first seemed to support the call for moving the project, but some media thought that seemed less clear after he met Paterson on Tuesday. No matter how sincere their intentions are, their effort to find common ground here is fraught with complications. A central problem, the  lay Catholic magazine Commonweal in New York argued, is that “calls for the Muslim organizers to change their plans out of ‘sensitivity,’ however well-meaning, would allow the prejudices of some to define the terms of freedom for others.”

Turkey offers citizenship to Orthodox archbishops to help patriarch succession

bartholomewTurkey has offered citizenship to Orthodox Christian archbishops from abroad to help the next election of the ecumenical patriarch, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox faithful, officials said.  Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has quietly led the gesture to the Orthodox, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 70, and serve on the Holy Synod, which administers patriarchate affairs. (Photo: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I leads the Easter service at the Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, April 4, 2010/Murad Sezer)

Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a Turkish citizen. But the Orthodox community in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has fallen to some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the pool of potential future patriarchs.  There are now only 14 Greek Orthodox archbishops, including Bartholomew, who are Turkish citizens. Bartholomew himself is in good health.

Seventeen metropolitans from countries including Austria, France, the United States and Greece have applied for passports, said Rev. Dositheos Anagnostopulous, the patriarchate spokesman.  Another six may still apply, and the See hopes the first archbishops will receive their papers by Christmas, he said.