FaithWorld

Vatican warns China bishops over illegal ordination

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

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.

It said at the time various bishops loyal to the pope had come under pressure to attend Guo’s ordination ceremony.

Catholics in China are divided between one Church that recognises the pope and his authority to name bishops and a state-backed “patriotic association” which ordains its own. Priests anywhere in the world who allow themselves to be made bishops without papal approval are usually subjected to automatic excommunication, or a total cutoff from the Church.

But in its statement, the Vatican said “external pressures and constrictions” in China might exempt the new bishops from such drastic punishment.

Belgium urges Vatican to impose harsh punishment on sex abuse bishop

(Belgium's Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

(Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, September 17, 2010/Francois Lenoir )

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.”

Vangheluwe, who quit his post and went into hiding a year ago after admitting to molesting a nephew, confessed in the interview on Thursday evening that he had molested a second one. He left Belgium last week under Vatican orders to seek “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad and Belgian media say he is now in a French monastery. The Vatican has said the final decision on disciplining him lies with Pope Benedict.

Disgraced Belgian Catholic bishop admits he abused second nephew

(Roger Vangheluwe, Bishop of Bruges, is seen in this November 7, 2006 photograph in Bruges. Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium Andre-Joseph Leonard told reporters at a news conference in Brussels on April 23, 2010 that Vangheluwe has resigned after admitting sexual abuse of a young man. REUTERS/Edwin Fontaine )

(Roger Vangheluwe, former bishop of Bruges, in a November 7, 2006 photograph in Bruges/Edwin Fontaine )

A disgraced former Belgian Catholic bishop has  admitted that he had abused a second nephew, but said that he did not consider himself a paedophile. Roger Vangheluwe, 74, resigned as bishop of Bruges a year ago after admitting to sexually abusing one nephew and is still awaiting a final verdict from the Vatican. In his first public appearance in a year, Vangheluwe gave a long interview to Belgian television station VT4 that was broadcast live Thursday evening.

He began by saying how sorry he was and then gave details of his abuse of two nephews, one for some 13 years, the other for less than a year.  “It had nothing to do with sexuality. I have often been involved with children and I never felt the slightest attraction. It was a certain intimacy that took place,” Vangheluwe said.  “I don’t have the impression at all that I am a paedophile. It was really just a small relationship. I did not have the feeling that my nephew was against it, quite the contrary.”

Vatican says sex abuser bishop leaves Belgium for undisclosed destination

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(Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, November 7, 2006 photograph in Bruges/Edwin Fontaine)

A Belgian Roman Catholic bishop who resigned in disgrace after admitting to sexually abusing his nephew has left the country for “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad, a Vatican ambassador has said. Former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 74, went into hiding after shocking the Belgian Church with his public confession in April 2010. He first stayed at a Belgian monastery but later left it, and his exact whereabouts were not made public.

Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, the papal nuncio or ambassador to Belgium, said in a statement the Vatican’s doctrinal department had investigated his case and decided he needed to go abroad for treatment. He did not say where the bishop went. “Bishop Vangheluwe, who since his resignation has lived in different places without a fixed address, has already left Belgium to submit to this decision,” he said in the  statement on Saturday.

Vangheluwe was the most senior Catholic cleric to admit to molesting a child amid all the sexual abuse cases exposed in Europe over the past two years. Other bishops who have resigned in Ireland were accused of covering up abuse cases.

Vatican invites all to John Paul beatification, cites “ethical” Rome hotel prices

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(Catholic pilgrims hold up photos of the late Pope John Paul in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican January 16, 2011/Giampiero Sposito)

The Vatican has urged the faithful not to let reports of huge crowds or unscrupulous hoteliers deter them from coming to Rome for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul on May 1. “I invite everyone to come. Rome is ready. Don’t be afraid of coming or of inviting people,” said Father Caesar Atuire on Tuesday.

The Vatican has begun the countdown to what will be the biggest event in the Italian capital since the death of the charismatic and highly popular pope in 2005, when millions of people came to view his body or attend his funeral. Vatican officials expect at least 300,000 people — including tens of thousands from his native Poland — to come to Rome for the three days of events during which he will be declared a “blessed,” the last step before sainthood.

Woody Allen jazzes it up for Rome Catholic hospital

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(Woody Allen plays the clarinet at a concert in Aviles, Spain, March 25, 2011/Eloy Alonso)

What’s a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn doing helping to raise money for a Catholic hospital owned by the Vatican in a city where until 1870 the papacy required Jews to live in a ghetto? If that nice Jewish boy is Woody Allen, the conundrum is resolved by a four-letter word: Jazz.

“Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band” charmed a packed house in Rome’s Conciliazione Auditorium three blocks from the Vatican and just across the Tiber River from Rome’s synagogue. The band, made up of Allen on clarinet and six other top-notch jazz musicians steeped in the New Orleans tradition, belted out more than a dozen tunes over nearly two hours at the benefit for the Bambino Gesu, Italy’s top children’s hospital.

Lourdes calls a healing “remarkable,” avoiding the term “miracle”

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(Pilgrims pray at the Lourdes grotto, where the Roman Catholic tradition says St. Bernadette saw visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, photographed on November 5, 2006/Regis Duvignau)

The Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes has announced the “remarkable healing” of a French invalid, avoiding the traditional term “miracle” because its doctors increasingly shy away from calling an illness or condition incurable. The case of Serge François, 56, whose left leg was mostly paralysed for years, was the first healing announced since the Church eased some rules in 2006 for declaring that a person was healed thanks to visiting the site.

The Catholic Church teaches that God sometimes performs miracles, including cures that doctors can’t explain. Sceptics reject this as unscientific and explain sudden recoveries as psychological phenomena or the delayed result of treatment.

Catholic-atheist meetings end with Pope Benedict appeal to youth

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

Pope Benedict urged French youths on Friday to help put God back into public debate, either as Christians sharing their faith or as non-believers seeking more justice and solidarity in a cold utilitarian world. In a video address from the Vatican to an evening rally outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, the pope also urged them to “tear down the barriers of fear of the other, the foreigner, of those who are not like you” that mutual ignorance can create.

Benedict’s address, projected on a large screen in the square, came at the end of two days of a Vatican-sponsored dialogue between Roman Catholics and atheists, part of a drive to revive the faith in Europe that is a hallmark of his papacy.

Vatican launches public dialogue with atheists in Paris

(UNESCO headquarters in Paris)

(UNESCO headquarters in Paris, 7 Sept 2005/Matthias Ripp)

The Vatican has launched a series of public dialogues with non-believers, choosing leading intellectual institutions in Paris to present its belief that modern societies must speak more openly about God.

The decision to start the series in France, where strong secularism has pushed faith to the fringes of the public sphere, reflected Pope Benedict’s goal of bringing religious questions back into the mainstream of civic debates.

The dialogues, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles” after the part of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem where Jews and non-Jews met, will continue in at least 16 cities in Europe and North America over the next two years.

Pope’s Jesus book raps religious violence, explains exoneration of Jews

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(A priest reads Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth" in a book shop in Rome March 10, 2011/Max Rossi )

Pope Benedict has condemned violence committed in God’s name and personally exonerated Jews of responsibility for Jesus’ death in his latest book, released on Thursday. The book, the second in a planned three-part series on the life of Jesus, is a detailed, highly theological and academic recounting of the last week in Jesus’ life.

Publishers have printed 1.2 million copies of the book in seven languages. A blaze of international publicity included teleconferences with the media in several countries.