New Archbishop of Guangzhou: “Also in China the Church is One and Catholic”

Guangzhou, China, Dec.05,2007(CINS/AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church, even in China is “one holy Catholic and apostolic”.  It was underlined by the new archbishop of Guangzhou, Msgr. Joseph Gan Junqiu, and minutes before he gave his parting blessing to the faithful who had gathered in Sacred Heart Cathedral to participate in his ordination.  Local sources who took part in the celebrations described the event to AsiaNews.

The solemn mass took place this morning in the “House of Stone”, the great cathedral that lies in the centre of the city.  Press and faithful from other diocese were not allowed attend due to “lack of space”.  About 900 people participated, each given an admission pass with the number of the pew assigned to them as well as their position within the same pew.  

A” massive” police presence as well as members of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics [PA, a government organism not recognised by the Holy See, which interferes in the life of the church and tries to impose its own bishops on diocese without Vatican consensus ed], were there, “to keep an eye on all of the people gathered in the square for the duration of the mass”.

Despite this climate, Msgr. Gan took advantage of the moment in which the congregation exchanged the sign of peace to come down from the altar, leave the cathedral and make his way to a room close by the Church, where other Catholics were following the mass via a giant screen. There he embraced the only foreigners who were present in a sign of communion with the Universal Church.

Catholics from the Archdiocese of Guangzhou place a lot of hope in their new pastor.  They tell AsiaNews, that he “has an open heart and mind and is held in high esteem by many people.  He does not love compromise, but he knows how to find balance there where it is often difficult to put tolerance into practise. All of this costs him dearly and shows his deep love for his people and for the Church, which is universal. We have been without a pastor for far too long and this grace from God has made us very, very happy”.

Msgr. Gan was elected archbishop in November 2006.  Immediately after his election, he received Holy See approval and communicated this to the local faithful. Thanks to the obstructionism of the PA who did not view this public declaration of loyalty to the Pope kindly, his ordination was blocked until today.


Catholic Bishops of Korea assigned "duties" to their faithful

Seoul, South Korea, Dec.02, 2007 (CINS /AsiaNews) – Sharing ones goods with others ad the sanctification of the family, but above all bringing the Gospel to those who do not know it, in order to be an integral part of the Universal Churches mission.  These are the “duties” assigned by the Korean Bishops to their faithful at the beginning of the Advent season.

The prelates in fact have written a letter to each of the parishes under their guidance which will be read on Sunday December 2nd, the first Sunday of Advent. The indications contained in the various texts “should become a path to follow not only during this holy period, but throughout our entire lives”.

In his pastoral letter entitled ‘Family is a Base for Life,. Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk, Archbishop of Seoul, said: “Most of all, the noble right and value of family, which is the fundament of respect for human beings, must be clearly proclaimed and recognized to create a social environment in which the value of life is fully respected”. 

And he reiterated that “continuous efforts are needed for the abolition of the so-called ‘Mother-Child Health Law’ and capital punishment, for the prohibition of the human embryo cloning, and for the promotion of natural childbirth”.  

Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju, instead invites his community to “renew the our image and manifest the mystery of the divine incarnation.” in his pastoral letter entitled, “The Word Incarnate Lives in the Middle of Us.”

And in a joint statement released by the entire Bishops’ Conference the Korean prelates urge “care for the marginalized as the greatest expression of Christian love and mission”. And they hoped that “the faithful have an interest in the restoration of the order of creation through the environmental protection and pastoral care for the youth who are the future of the Church”.


LTTE shelled a Catholic school on Monday

CINS /CNA) - Members of the Tamil Tigers shelled a Catholic school on Monday, seriously injuring seven people including five children. 

The sound of the shelling reverberated across the area, and many parents and children suffered minor injuries while running for safety.  Parents fear the attack has caused trauma and fear psychological problems among their children.

Heavy artillery and mortars were used in the attack.  More than 10 artillery shells exploded inside the school premises, defense sources said.

Sri Lankan security forces retaliated by attacking several identified Tamil Tigers artillery launching pads.  Security sources said this counterattack saved over a hundred lives and the school itself.

The attacks were believed to be related to the "Tiger Day" commemorations of November 27.


Faith Satellite Radio (FSR) receivers currently distributed to Catholic Parishes in Africa

Africa, Nov.28, 2007 (CINS / CISA) - A project launched early this year to supply African Catholic parishes with easy access to quality radio programs and multimedia content from across the world is underway.

The first shipping of Faith Satellite Radio (FSR) receivers is currently being distributed to dioceses in the continent. The project is co-sponsored by FSR and the World Catholic Association for Communication, SIGNIS.

Faith Satellite Radio hopes to reach 17,000 African parishes by the end of the year. To make this happen, FSR began the Adopt a Parish in Africa campaign, through which parishes or individuals outside of Africa can "adopt" an African parish and offer it the FSR service for only 38USD a month.

FSR offers both delivery of a satellite radio receiver and the broadcasting technology and content. High-quality digital Catholic programming will be broadcast 24/7/365 to 31 countries in Africa, courtesy of Vatican Radio, allowing unified broadcasting to all parishes.

In addition, each FSR receiver can transform into a wireless modem with the ability to download multimedia content to personal computers. Parishes will be able to present educational content to students or colleagues, and be able to follow online courses from the comfort of their desktop.

Radio is still the most widespread electronic communication device in the world and a unique means of reaching the world's poorest communities, Fr Francis Teo MCSPA, in charge of communications for the Diocese of Lodwar, Kenya.

"The FSR is most interesting to us. Here in the diocese where hunger is a constant companion to people, the media may seem to take second priority. Yet, we realize that it is necessary in order to be able to carry out smoothly all the projects and works of social and human development - education, agriculture, nutrition, water development, health and women's promotion - as well as the pastoral programmes."


Sizing up Catholic schools: a partnership between religious, laity

Vatican City, Nov.27, 2007 (CINS /CNS) - A transformation has occurred in Catholic schools over the last 50 years, and the Vatican took its measure at a recent press conference.

The occasion was the Nov. 20 release of a document, "Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful," prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The congregation said lay teachers now make up the overwhelming majority -- at least 80 percent, according to one official -- of the 3.5 million teachers working in the church's 250,000 schools around the world.

That represents a dramatic shift, reflecting the declining numbers of men and women religious. In the United States, the percentage of lay teachers went from 14 percent in 1950 to more than 95 percent this year. Similar figures were cited for places like Australia, France, Spain and Hong Kong.

In the past, the Vatican has exhorted religious orders not to abandon their traditional teaching charism. Closing schools seemed like a costly surrender.

But the ever-dwindling number of consecrated religious has made it difficult to keep these schools open even in a Catholic country like Italy, where about 50 Catholic schools close each year.

The new Vatican document seemed to accept that the lay role in Catholic schools is here to stay. That's not necessarily a bad thing, said Msgr. Angelo Zani, undersecretary of the education congregation.

"Far from being an impoverishment, this transformation constitutes a great potential for the Catholic school," Msgr. Zani said. A mature and committed laity has emerged, he said, and they consider church-run schools an important part of their religious community.

Lay salaries, of course, have made Catholic schools more expensive to operate.

Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the education congregation, took aim at countries -- including the United States and Italy -- where the church has had little success in winning direct state aid to private schools.

"The United States is a disaster, because the state does not recognize full democracy as far as schools are concerned," Cardinal Grocholewski said.

U.S. Catholic schools are just as good as public schools, the cardinal said, but without state aid they labor under a greater economic burden. Dioceses and parishes are forced to pass on higher costs to the parents of students, and sometimes have to close the institutions, he said.

Overall, Catholic schools are enjoying success, and Msgr. Zani gave several examples:

-- In Lebanon, Catholic schools are attended by 210,000 students who belong to 18 different faiths or churches. Nearly one-fourth of the students are non-Christian, most of them Muslim.

-- In the Holy Land, where schools have a mixed student body of 55 percent Christians, 45 percent Muslims and some Jews, the curriculum is designed to promote interreligious tolerance.

-- In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Archdiocese of Sarajevo founded three new schools -- attended by Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- during the height of the civil conflict. Today the archdiocesan schools number 15 and serve more than 10,000 students.

-- In Morocco, the church runs 17 educational centers with 11,000 students -- all of them Muslim. The program seeks to connect the inspiration of Christian values with the local Muslim reality.

-- In Eastern Europe, the fall of communism has unblocked the situation for Catholic schools, many of which now receive state aid.

Msgr. Zani said that in the United States, non-Catholic students today make up 13.5 percent of the total in Catholic schools, while 27 percent come from minorities. He noted what he called a significant U.S. trend: Some religious orders that have operated schools frequented by upper middle-class students have recently opened smaller institutes in poorer urban areas.

He said the dropout rate is 3.4 percent in U.S. Catholic schools, compared to 14.9 percent in public schools. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. Catholic high school students graduate, and 97 percent continue education at the university level, he said.

Globally, church-run schools today serve almost 42 million students, Cardinal Grocholewski said. According to official church statistics, enrollment at Catholic schools has gone up about 60 percent over the last 30 years.

The new document did not unveil any major new programs or policies, but it made a few key points. It called for cooperation between consecrated people and laity in three areas: mission, formation and openness toward others.

It welcomed the contributions of lay teachers, but it emphasized that all educators in Catholic schools are "required to be witnesses of Jesus Christ" and to demonstrate that Christian life has meaning for everyone.

"Teachers, just like every person who lives and works in a scholastic environment, educate -- or they can also diseducate -- with their verbal and nonverbal behavior," it said.

Beyond the required professional teaching skills, both religious and lay educators in Catholic schools need to have theological and spiritual formation, it said. In places where religious orders have ceded their teaching role, they may still be able to share elements of spiritual formation with lay teachers, it said.

Lay teachers, for their part, can help make better connections between the school and the rapidly changing world, the document said. In view of increasing globalization and the interdependence of nations and cultures, Catholic schools should promote a vision of the human being that goes beyond individualism, it said.

A major goal of today's Catholic schools, it said, should be to teach students "to respect the identity, culture, history, religion and especially the suffering and needs of others."

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