Last evening, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.
There he welcomed the annual delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and announced the establishment of a new Pontifical Council, one whose goal will be a New Evangelization aimed particularly at European and other societies that have yielded to secularizing trends and/or drifted from practice of the faith. Herewith, an excerpt from the Holy Father's remarks:
The challenges of the present age are certainly beyond human capacities; they are the historical and social challenges, and with greater reason, the spiritual challenges. At times it seems to us pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy persons followed Jesus, and he asked: What can we do for all these people? They then experienced their impotence. But Jesus had in fact demonstrated to them that with faith in God nothing is impossible, and that a few loaves and a few fish, blessed and shared, could satiate all. But it was not -- and is not -- only hunger for material food: There is a more profound hunger, which only God can satiate.
Man of the third millennium also desires an authentic and full life, he has need of truth, of profound liberty, of gratuitous love. Also in the deserts of the secularized world, man's soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Because of this John Paul II wrote: "The mission of Christ the Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is still very far from its fulfillment," and he added: "a look on the whole of humanity demonstrates that such a mission is still at the beginning and that we must commit ourselves with all our strength to its service" ("Redemptoris Missio," No. 1). There are regions in the world that still wait for a first evangelization; others that received it but need more profound work; others still in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving place to a true Christian tradition, but where in the last centuries -- with complex dynamics -- the process of secularization has produced a grave crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.
In this perspective, I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of pontifical council, with the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of "eclipse of the sense of God," which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, the universal Church faces the challenge of the new evangelization, which asks us also to continue with commitment the search for the full unity among Christians. An eloquent sign of hope in this connection is the custom of the reciprocal visits between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople on the occasion of the feasts of their respective patron saints.
Because of this, today we welcome with renewed joy and gratitude the delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomew I, to whom we address the most cordial greeting. May the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul obtain for the whole Church ardent faith and apostolic courage, to proclaim to the world the truth of which we all have need, the truth that is God, origin and end of the universe and of history, merciful and faithful Father, hope of eternal life. Amen.
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Archbishop LeGatt Receives Pallium Today
Thanks to Asia News (asianews.it) for this report on the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Vatican Basilica in which the Holy Father declared that communion with the successor of Peter is the church's guarantee of freedom for the bishops and the faithful. It serves to protect the churches from interference by local, national and international powers, and to ensure all full adherence to the truth, the authentic tradition. The "greatest damage" to the Church is not persecution, but "what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities."
Communion with the Pope guarantees the freedom of churches and bishops from "local, national and international power" and of all the faithful “in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition”, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes regarding faith and morals".
On the day dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI has reaffirmed this principle and the true meaning of the "primacy" of the bishop of Rome. His words were heard by 38 archbishops who have come from every continent to receive the pallium – which the Pope explained during the Angelus, "symbolizes both the communion with the Bishop of Rome, and the mission to nurture with love the one flock of Christ”. Also present, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which for years has taken part in the celebration of two apostles, just as a Catholic delegation goes to Istanbul for the Feast of Saint Andrew, founder of that Church.
The "Freedom of the Church”, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, is tied to communion with the successor of Peter. In the two millennia of Christian history the faithful "have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face".
"This reality - continued the Pope - This reality is already attested in the Pauline Epistle. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity to the Gospel which seriously threaten the Church. But the Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt - speaks about the dangers of the "last days", identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc (cf. 3.1 to 5 ).
The theme of the Freedom of the Church, Benedict XVI then stated, "also has a particular relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium. "The communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the Church's Pastors and the Communities entrusted to them."
“Historically, union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers, that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church. Furthermore, and most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals. Hence the fact that each year the new Metropolitans come to Rome to receive the pallium from the hands of the Pope, must be understood in its proper meaning, as a gesture of communion, and the issue of freedom of the Church gives us a particularly important key for interpretation. This is evident in the case of churches marked by persecution, or subject to political interference or other hardships. But this is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices contrary to the Gospel".
A final point drawn by the Pope from today's readings and “in particular from Christ's promise that the powers of hell shall not prevail against his Church. These words may also have a significant ecumenical value, since, as I mentioned earlier, one of the typical effects of the Devil is division within the Church community. The divisions are in fact symptoms of the power of sin, which continues to act in members of the Church even after redemption. But the word of Christ is clear: " Non praevalebunt – it will not prevail" (Matt. 16:18).
The unity of the Church is rooted in its union with Christ, and the cause of full Christian unity - always to be sought and renewed from generation to generation - is well supported by his prayer and his promise. In the fight against the spirit of evil, God has given us in Jesus the 'Advocate', defender, and after his Easter, "another Paraclete" (Jn 14:16), the Holy Spirit, which remains with us always and leads the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 14:16; 16:13), which is also the fullness of charity and unity.
With these feelings of confident hope, I am pleased to greet the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, in the beautiful custom of reciprocal visits, participates in the celebrations of the patron saints of Rome. Together we thank God for progress in ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox, and we renew our commitment to generously reciprocate to God's grace, which leads us to full communion”.
During the Mass, the Pope conferred the pallium on thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops named in the last year, including Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface, Manitoba, whose coat of arms is reproduced at right.
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Judge Supports Loyola Course, Quebec Bishops Agree
On June 18 Judge Gérard Dugré, of the Superior Court of Quebec ruled in favour of my Montreal alma mater, Loyola High School ('61), that asked the Ministry of Education for an excemption so as to teach the mandatory course on ethics and religion in a non-secular manner.
"On Friday [June 18], Superior Court Justice Gerard Dugre compared the attempt of the education minister to impose a secular emphasis on Loyola High School's teaching of the course to the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition" [Montreal Gazette].
The Premier of Quebec immediately indicated that the Government would appeal the judgment. Yesterday [June 28], the president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec expressed its support of parental choice in the matter:
Communiqué du président de l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec suite au jugement de l’Honorable Gérard Dugré, de la Cour supérieure, sur la requête du Collège Loyola au sujet du cours d’Éthique et culture religieuse
Le juge Gérard Dugré, de la Cour supérieure du Québec, vient de donner raison au Collège Loyola, qui affirme respecter les exigences de la loi en donnant un programme équivalent au cours obligatoire d’Éthique et Culture religieuse mais dans une perspective confessionnelle qui s’inscrit dans le cadre de son projet éducatif catholique.
Ce jugement apporte un éclairage nouveau sur une question fort complexe et ouvre de nouvelles voies pour qui s’intéresse à la mise en place, dans nos écoles, d’une véritable formation au pluralisme et à la diversité religieuse.
Le développement d’un tel programme par Loyola fait valoir le point de vue que la reconnaissance de l’autre et la poursuite du bien commun — les deux grandes finalités du cours d’Éthique et Culture religieuse — ne sont pas menacées quand on y est initié dans un cadre confessionnel sérieux. Connaissance de soi et respect de l’autre vont de pair et nul n’est mieux préparé à accueillir la différence en matière de foi et de croyances que celui ou celle qui a appris à trouver dans sa propre identité spirituelle et religieuse les fondements de l’accueil, du respect et du dialogue.
Nous ne pouvons qu’accueillir avec satisfaction la reconnaissance par la Cour supérieure de la légitimité de cette approche.
Quand la création du programme d’Éthique et Culture religieuse avait été annoncée, en remplacement du régime d’option entre enseignement religieux et enseignement moral, nous nous étions engagés publiquement, malgré notre déception de voir disparaître la liberté de choix des parents, à maintenir « une attitude d’ouverture et de prudence..., critique et vigilante ».
C’est dans cette perspective qu’en septembre dernier, nous avions exprimé à la Ministre de vives inquiétudes sur les modalités concrètes d’application du nouveau programme au cours de sa première année. Nous avions en particulier mis en évidence les lacunes dans l’implication des parents, premiers responsables de l’éducation de leur enfant. Ils devront être mieux informés et écoutés, écrivions-nous.
Nous avions alors rappelé à la Ministre ce que nous avions dit dans notre déclaration du 17 mars 2008: « L'Assemblée des évêques a toujours exprimé sa préférence pour le respect du choix des parents en matière d'éducation morale et religieuse. C'est pourquoi elle a favorisé l'établissement d'un régime d'options entre un enseignement confessionnel et un enseignement moral sans dimension religieuse. Cette liberté de choix disparaîtra avec l'implantation du nouveau programme. Cela représente à nos yeux une perte et nous estimons qu'il faudra demeurer très attentifs au respect intégral de la liberté de conscience dans le nouveau con-texte qui vient d'être créé.»
+ Martin Veillette, évêque de Trois-Rivières
président de l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec