Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Ranjith Patabendige to head the archdiocese of Colombo

Vatican City, June 17, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don — one of his most trusted collaborators in the Vatican and a forceful advocate for justice and peace — to head the archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka

A strong leader, he returns as head of the Sri Lankan Church in what many observers see as a particularly difficult moment. A bloody 30-year civil war has just ended with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers rebels.

One of only two Asians in top positions in the Roman Curia — the other being Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples — he succeeds Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the official retirement age of 75 over 18 months ago.

The Vatican made the announcement on June 16, confirming rumors that have circulated in Rome for almost two years.

Archbishop Ranjith was born in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 15, 1947 and completed his early studies in Colombo and Kandy, before going on to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a degree in theology.

Pope Paul VI ordained him priest in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, 1975.

He then went for higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

After various pastoral and academic appointments in Colombo archdiocese, and having served in various roles at national level, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991 and appointed him bishop of Ratnapura in 1995.

From 1995-2001, he served as secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development. In the latter role, he became heavily involved in the search for a solution to the country’s civil conflict. The government appointed him as its emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and on April 29, 2004, appointed him apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and Timor Leste.

Archbishop Ranjith was among the first of the new appointments to the Roman Curia made by Pope Benedict XVI after his election. On Dec. 10, 2005, the pontiff designated him secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he has held until now and which has given him considerable international experience and a wide understanding of the universal Church.

The archbishop speaks English, French, German, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil fluently, and has a fair knowledge of Indonesian and Spanish. He has also studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabic.

Many in Rome believe his new appointment puts him in line for a red hat. Sources expect Pope Benedict to make him a cardinal either in the forthcoming consistory, probably in 2010, or in the next one, about two years later.

- Asian Tribune -

Pope Benedict XVI visibly upset to hear Irish children abuse

Dublin, June 9, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI was visibly upset to hear June 5 of the abuse suffered by thousands of Irish children in the care of religious congregations, reported the archbishop of Dublin, Ireland.

Speaking at a June 8 press conference, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the pope was saddened to hear "how the children had suffered from the very opposite of an expression of the love of God."

Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, met with Pope Benedict for 45 minutes to brief him on the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which released its report May 20.

"The Holy Father listened very carefully, very attentively and very sympathetically to what we had to say" during the 45-minute private meeting at the Vatican, Cardinal Brady said during the press conference.

The visit with the pope followed a series of meetings to discuss the report's findings held by Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin in early June with Vatican officials, including seven cardinals from various pontifical congregations.

"He said in reply that this was a time for a deep examination of life here in Ireland in the church, Cardinal Brady said.

The pope referred to the points he made during the 2006 ad limina visit of the Irish bishops when he urged them to establish the truth of what happened, ensure justice on behalf of all, put in place measures to prevent such incidents from occurring again and healing "the hurts suffered by the survivors."

"No doubt he will be listening to the seven cardinals to whom we spoke over the course of the week and will be reflecting on all of that," Cardinal Brady said.

The commission's report is at the top of the agenda of the Irish bishops' summer meeting June 8-10 at the Pontifical University at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, in Kildare, Ireland.

The independent commission was established by the Irish government in 2000 to hear evidence from people alleged to have suffered abuse at institutions since 1940. Funded by the state but often run by Catholic religious orders, the institutions included schools, orphanages, hospitals, children's homes and other facilities where children were in the care of nonfamily members.


Pope Benedict XVI granted the powers to dismiss priest

Pope Benedict XVI has granted the Congregation for Clergy new powers to dismiss from the priesthood and release from the obligation of celibacy priests who are living with women, who have abandoned their ministry for more than five years or who have engaged in seriously scandalous behavior.

The new powers do not apply to cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by a priest; those cases continue to be subject to special rules and procedures overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new faculties were announced by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the clergy congregation, in an April 18 letter to the world's bishops. Catholic News Service obtained a copy of the letter in early June.

Cardinal Hummes told CNS June 3 that the new, quicker administrative procedure for dismissing priests was prompted by "many situations where canon law did not seem adequate for meeting new problems."

As an example, the cardinal said the 1983 Code of Canon Law made no provision for a bishop to initiate a process to laicize a priest who had abandoned his ministry.

Usually when a priest leaves the ministry of his own accord, he informs his bishop and sooner or later will request a formal dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, the cardinal said.

But others "leave, they marry (in a civil ceremony), they have children. In these cases, the bishops did not have a way to proceed because it was up to the person who left," he said.

"But if the one who left is not interested (in regularizing his situation), the good of the church and the good of the priest who left is that he be dispensed so that he would be in a correct situation, especially if he has children," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Hummes said a priest's "children have the right to have a father who is in a correct situation in the eyes of God and with his own conscience. So helping these people is one of the reasons there are new procedures. In these cases, the initiative begins with the bishop."

The cardinal said he did not have statistics on how many priests have abandoned their ministry without seeking laicization, but it was a problem bishops have raised with the congregation.

Cardinal Hummes' letter to the world's bishops said that while the church teaches that properly performed sacraments are valid whether or not the priest officiating is living in a situation of holiness, the discipline of the Latin-rite Catholic Church is to insist that priests strive for moral perfection and to imitate Christ, who was chaste.

"The church, being the spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved in the total and exclusive manner with which Jesus Christ loved her as her head and spouse. Priestly celibacy is, therefore, the gift of oneself in and with Christ to his church, and expresses the service of the priest to the church in and with the Lord," the cardinal wrote.

"The vast majority of priests live out their priestly identity daily with serenity and exercise faithfully their proper ministry," he wrote, but when situations of scandal arise a bishop must be able to act quickly and firmly.

The cardinal's letter dealt separately with the situation of priests who simply abandoned their ministry for "a period of more than five consecutive years." It also addressed the more serious cases of those priests who have attempted or contracted a civil marriage, are having a consensual sexual relationship with a woman or have violated another church or moral law in a way that caused serious scandal.

"Situations of grave lack of discipline on the part of some clergy have occurred in which the attempts to resolve the problems by the pastoral and canonical means foreseen in the Code of Canon Law are shown to be insufficient or unsuitable to repair scandal, to restore justice or to reform the offender," the letter said.

In every case, however, Cardinal Hummes' letter insisted that the local bishop carry out a careful investigation of the facts and, when the evidence confirms wrongdoing, "he should proceed formally to correct or admonish the accused."

"Yet when this does not suffice to repair the scandal, restore justice and bring about the rehabilitation of the person, the bishop should proceed with the imposition of penalties," the letter said, outlining the obligatory steps to be taken.

At every stage of the process, the cardinal told CNS: "The right of a priest to defend himself is sacred, including in these cases. The right to defend oneself is internationally recognized and always preserved."

Prior to Pope Benedict 's approval of the new norms Jan. 30, bishops seeking to dismiss a priest for abandoning the ministry or attempting marriage had to initiate a formal juridical trial against the person.

In the interview, Cardinal Hummes said that although the procedures have been streamlined, "each case will be reviewed individually, including with the aim of ensuring that the rights of the person interested were protected."


The Year for Priests will be inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI on June 19th

Vatican City, May 29, 2009 - "The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney, is drawing near. It will be inaugurated by the Holy Father on the 19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests."

This is the opening of the letter written by the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, addressed to the priests of the world, asking for their common effort "so that it may be a year amply celebrated in the whole world – in the Dioceses, parishes and in every local community – with the warm participation of our Catholic people who undoubtedly love their priests and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in their daily apostolic labors.”

The Cardinal continues: “It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honours them, admires them and that she recognises with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of the their life.” While the priests “are important not only for what they do but also for who they are,” the Cardinal mentions that “some priests have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations,” and obviously, “it is necessary to investigate these matters, pursue judicial processes and impose penalties accordingly. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity.”

Among the objectives of this Year, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy mentions “intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society.” He also expresses the hope that it will be a “year in which the concrete circumstances and the material sustenance of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in situations of great poverty and hardship ,” and “a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will bring the people – the local Catholic community – to pray, to reflect, to celebrate, and justly to give honor to their priests.”

The Letter concludes with an invitation to all the Bishops' Conferences, dioceses, parishes, and local communities, to prepare a program for this special Year. “The local Churches are invited on the 19th June next, the same day on which the Holy Father will inaugurate the Year for Priests in Rome, to participate in the opening of the Year, ideally by some particular liturgical act and festivity. Let those who are able most surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest their own participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.”

Pope Benedict XVI calls Sri Lanka to ensure security civilians

Pope Benedict XVI has called for the warring sides in Sri Lanka to ensure security for evacuating civilians and for aid groups to get them the food and medicine they urgently need.

In his weekly Sunday blessing, Benedict said he was spiritually close to all Sri Lankans and was praying for peace and reconciliation in the island nation.

"There are thousands of children, women, old people for whom the war has taken years of their lives and hope," Benedict said.

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels admitted defeat on Sunday in their 25-year civil war with the government, promising to lay down their arms.

Benedict said the aid groups should "leave no stone unturned" as they care for the thousands of civilians who fled the waning battles between the government and rebels.

He said he was adding his voice to that of the UN Security Council, which last week demanded that civilians be allowed to leave the war zone.

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