Father Lombardi: Dialogue of Vatican with Muslims disappoints fundamentalists

Vatican City, Dec 19,2007 (CINS/CNA).- The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said Monday the dialogue with the Muslim world desired by Pope Benedict XVI “worries only those who do not want it.”

Father Lombardi was asked about the comments broadcast on the internet by Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, considered the number two leader in Al Qaeda. In an extensive interview, Zawahiri criticized the historic visit of King Abdullah to the Vatican, saying he “has offended Islam and Muslims.”

The Vatican spokesman said the Pope’s dialogue “with important Muslim leaders, such as the King of Saudi Arabia or the 138 Islamic leaders with whom he has exchanged letters, are a significant matter for the entire Muslim world.”

“The fact of the growing importance in the Muslim world of these voices that want to dialogue and strive for peace obviously concern those who do not want dialogue,” Father Lombardi added.

“This is a sign that those who desire dialogue and seek peace are having a greater influence and that is positive,” he said.

On November 6, Benedict XVI met with King Abdullah in the Saudi King’s first visit to the Vatican. A few days later, the Vatican published a letter from the Pope in response to a letter from a group of 138 Muslim leaders in which he urged there be dialogue based on the dignity of the human person and freedom of religion.


Vatican’s meeting with Israel fails, Pope's visit to Holy land abandoned

Vatican City, Dec.18,2007 (CINS/Cathnews) -  The Vatican spokesman has said Pope Benedict will not visit the Holy Land next year after a Vatican meeting with Israel failed to resolve outstanding issues including Church property taxes and visas for clergy.

DPA reports Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said while the Pope had expressed on several occasions his desire to visit the Holy Land, a "condition of general peace" and "local realities" need to be considered before the Pontiff accepts the standing invitation by Israeli President Shimon Perez.

Last week, a meeting between the Holy See and the Israeli government, was supposed to have agreed to an accord which would finalise legal and financial status of the Church in Israel.

Since its signing in 1993, ratification of the accord "which must be complemented by juridical and economic agreements to come into effect" has been repeatedly delayed.

Congregation for the Oriental Churches secretary Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio - who participated in the 13 December talks - said most sticking points with Israel remained unresolved.

"As long as we talk about God, about peace, the promotion of the rights of women and other human rights, it is easy to reach agreement," Archbishop Veglio said.

"But when we start discussing the details, and I refer in particular to the issue of taxes, then differences emerge," he said.

The next round of Vatican-Israel talks are set to take place in Rome in May 2008.


Vatican launches Eucharistic adoration, Prayer campaign for spiritual revival among the world's Priests

Vatican City, Dec. 11, 2007 (CINS/CWN) - The Vatican has launched a campaign of prayer-- specifically, Eucharistic adoration-- for a spiritual revival among the world's priests.

The Congregation for Clergy, in a document released on December 8, calls for a major worldwide drive to promote Eucharistic adoration "for the reparation of faults and sanctification of priests."

In a document issued on December 8, the Congregation for Clergy urges diocesan bishops throughout the world to join in the prayer campaign, and recommends specific steps that should be taken to foster a spirit of Eucharistic adoration.

In response to troubles within the ranks of the clergy, the Congregation acknowledges that "a great many things are necessary," but announces its plan "for the departure point to be a spiritual endeavor."

A spiritual renewal will only come through prayer, the document argues. The Congregation for Clergy notes that Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news), in the apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, strongly recommended Eucharistic adoration as an apt and effective form of prayer for priestly vocations.

The Vatican directive-- signed by Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza: the prefect and secretary, respectively, of the Congregation for Clergy-- explains:

    In order to continually maintain a greater awareness of the ontological link between the Eucharist and the Priesthood, and in order to recognize the special maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for each Priest, it is our intention to bring about a connection between perpetual Eucharistic adoration for the reparation of faults and sanctification of priests.

The letter from the Congregation for Clergy is dated December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In explaining their plan, Cardinal Hummes and Archbishop Piacenza make it clear that this was no coincidence, saying that the "intend in a very particular way to entrust all Priests to Mary, the Mother of the High and Eternal Priest."

The Vatican asks every diocesan bishop to promote the new program by appointing a priest "who will devote himself full-time, as far as possible, to the specific ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration and coordinating this important service in the diocese." The document goes on to say: "Just as there are Marian shrines, with rectors in charge of that particular ministry and suitable for it specific needs, it is also possible to have Eucharistic shrines."

The document suggested establishing specific shrines for continuous Eucharistic adoration, promoting perpetual adoration, designating specific days and times for adoration, making Eucharistic adoration a regular part of special celebrations for feast days, and seeking support for the construction of new shrines for adoration. 


Vatican will release a new document on evangelization next week

Vatican City, Dec. 09, 2007 (CINS /CWN) - The Vatican will release a new document on evangelization next week, with officials in Rome indicating that it will be an important statement on the duty to spread the Catholic faith.

The subject of the new document, which is being released under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is evangelization. The document will be released on December 14.

The importance that the Vatican attaches to the subject is reflected by the list of ranking officials who will participate in a news conference introducing the document. Three cardinals will join in presenting the subject to the press. And because the three cardinals head three separate Vatican congregations, it is clear that the document is the product of careful preparation involving several dicasteries.

Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will chair the December 14 presentation, assisted by Archbishop Angelo Amato, the secretary of the Congregation. They will be joined by Cardinal s Ivan Dias and Francis Arinze: the prefects of the Congregation for Evangelization and Congregation for Divine Worship, respectively.

While Vatican officials have not announced a title for the document, or given a topic more specific than the broad theme of evangelization, informed officials suggested that this important new statement would address a lingering controversy over the claim that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ.

In July of this year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released, a document entitled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church, reaffirming the central role of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church in the plan of salvation. That document, released without fanfare, revived a controversy that had been ignited in 2000 by Dominus Iesus, a powerful statement released by the same Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (headed at that time by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), which affirmed the traditional Catholic teaching that the Christ and his Church provide the only means of salvation.

The new Vatican document is expected to carry the argument of Dominus Iesus a step further, explaining that because of the unique role played by the Church in the plan of redemption, Catholics have an obligation to spread the faith, thus offering others the best means of attaining salvation.


Will new director take Vatican Museums far from the madding crowd?

Vatican City, Dec.09, 2007 - (CINS /CNS) -- Perhaps even more than Michelangelo's frescoes or the statue of Laocoon, the discouragingly long entrance line -- often stretching half a mile -- has become the modern emblem of the Vatican Museums.

In peak seasons, visitors can wait more than an hour to get inside the museum complex. And once inside, it's shoulder to shoulder in some of the more popular rooms and hallways.

The congestion is the price of success at the Vatican Museums, where attendance has more than tripled over the last 30 years. In 1976, about 1.3 million people came to the museums; last year, the number reached nearly 4.3 million.

Economically, this is all good news. Last year, the Vatican Museums took in about $65 million and spent about half that amount, providing Vatican City with its most significant source of income.

But for visitors, the experience can be more claustrophobic than cultural. On a recent morning in the Sistine Chapel, where everyone seems to end up, it was more packed than a Roman bus at rush hour.

In early December, the Vatican Museums got a new director, Antonio Paolucci, and already he's indicated that he considers the lines and the crowds a priority problem.

Under Paolucci, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence long ago instituted a reservation system for all visitors, an idea that's expected to be introduced at the Vatican in 2008. The reservations are made for specific times throughout the day, virtually eliminating walk-ins and reducing the wait.

Earlier this year the Vatican launched a reservation system, but it was only offered to groups. At the same time, it reduced museum entrance hours for individuals, making a bad situation worse for most tourists.

The Vatican and the city of Rome are moving forward on plans for a subterranean entry area to the Vatican Museums that would feature shops and information displays. That would at least bring the lines out of the summer sun and winter rains.

Some Vatican officials are also looking at the possibility of connecting the Vatican's own train line and station, rarely used today, to the Rome subway system as a way to shuttle visitors to a separate museum entrance.

One of the problems with the Vatican Museums is that it's only open five hours a day for much of the year. Closing down at lunchtime is an Italian tradition that has been scrapped by most museums, and the Vatican, too, is finally considering longer hours throughout the year.

Nighttime openings, already offered in many Italian museums, would further decompress the visitor flow and attract people who are unable to visit during the day.

Paolucci, however, has dared to hint that record attendance is not necessarily the best thing for a museum. In an interview Dec. 5 with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, he recalled that 100 years ago in Florence the number of museum visitors was only 160,000 for the entire year.

"Selfishly speaking, I'd prefer to keep the situation of the early 1900s," he said.

Paolucci also took issue with the modern trend toward "culture as spectacle" and the promotion of celebrity works of art over the study of collections. Even the Sistine Chapel suffers from this kind of fame, he said.

"This is one of the aspects of the barbaric obscurantism that characterizes our age: the fatal attraction for the well-known," he said.

Webster's defines obscurantism as "opposition to the spread of knowledge." Paolucci's point was that by giving almost exclusive attention to a museum's most famous works much is overlooked.

The Vatican Museums once estimated that it exhibits about 30,000 objects of art and holds another 120,000 in storage. In recent years, officials have tried to highlight some of these lesser-known objects, including works of modern art.

The Vatican has also opened up new sections of the museum. The latest wing, inaugurated in September, was dedicated to Vatican postage stamps.

But on a recent morning, the stamp museum was virtually empty. Not far away, thousands of tourists marched down the hallway toward Michelangelo's frescoes. They were voting with their feet, and the Sistine Chapel was still king.

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