Mannar, Srilanka, July.27, 2008 (vaticans.org) - New fighting and bombing in northern Sri Lanka has forced tens of thousands of refugees to seek shelter in the jungle and the local Catholic Church has again moved the statue of Our Lady of Madhuto the local bishop's house.
AsiaNews reports the statue of Our Lady of Madhu was taken this week from the church of Thevanpiddi to the private chapel in the bishop's residence.
Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph says this was done for "security reasons" due the intensification of the conflict in the areas of Thavanpiddi and Vellankulam, where the priests were also advised to leave.
Bishop Rayappu has launched "an appeal to all our people to earnestly pray for peace in our dear land and for the day when we all can get together as one family at the feet of our dear Mother, Our Lady of Madhu," after she is brought back to the shrine from which she was taken because it has become an area of heavy fighting.
The website of the defence ministry explains the statue was taken away in an ambulance, accompanied by Rev Peter Arulnadan, Fr Sathyapillai Emaliyanuspillai, and Sister Idha Thomas, after insistent requests from the faithful who were worried about the safety of the statue, which is the object of great devotion on the part of the Sinhalese of every religion and ethnicity.
Thousands of pilgrims come to the shrine each year, especially during the ten day celebration in August. But since 1999, the rebels have controlled the area of the shrine, and the visits have decreased significantly. The state has now repaired the shrine from the damage it received under fire.
Bishop Rayappu observes that "due to the escalation of the war in the uncleared area in Madhu and Manthai during the past months in the district of Mannar, thousands of families have been displaced several times and had moved into the Vellankullam-Thevanapiddy area. The plight of these displaced people is very pathetic and their sufferings beyond description. These displaced people have again come under threat and due to heavy shellings are on their way to possible interim locations. Most of these people are living under trees along the road and in the nearby jungles and their situation is heartrending."
Vatican City, Jun. 27, 2008 - As he met on June 27 with a small group of bishops from Hong Kong and Macao, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that bishops of other Chinese dioceses would soon be free to visit Rome.
The Holy Father told the Chinese bishops, who were making the ad limina visits, "I and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your brother bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church."
The Chinese government, which has sought for years to establish an independent "Cathoilc Patriotic Association" subject to the Communist party rather than to the Holy See, does not ordinarily allow Catholic bishops to travel to Rome. In 2005, Pope Benedict issued an invitation to four Chinese bishops to participate in the October sessions of the Synod of Bishops-- a gesture that was widely interpreted as an effort to improve relations between Rome and Beijing. But after several weeks of confusion the Chinese government refused permission for the bishops to make the trip to Rome. In the Macao and Hong Kong dioceses, the Pope said, the key challenges include proper formation of young priests and promotion of Catholic schools. Both, he said, are critical to "the new evangelization which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church."
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops to "continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China," by providing material support, offering opportunities for the training of Chinese clerics, and acting as conduits for information and moral support.
Archbishop Burke will become the prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a judicial body that is roughly the equivalent of the US Supreme Court. He will replace Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who has been named the Pope's vicar for the Rome diocese.
Archbishop Burke was installed as head of the St. Louis archdiocese in January 2004. His tenure there has been marked by controversy, with the archbishop-- an acknowledged expert on canon law-- meeting resistance and public criticism as he sought to enforce the Church's norms. He announced the excommunication of women who claimed ordination to the priesthood, and of the leaders of a parish that refused to acknowledge his authority. In each case the Vatican confirmed the archbishop's decision.
Archbishop Burke was criticized by other American bishops in 2004, when he announced that he would not administer the Eucharist to a Catholic politician who supported abortion. Although he did not single out any public figure by name, the archbishop's statement clearly applied to Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate in that year's presidential election. In this instance, too, Archbishop Burke's stand was upheld by the Vatican.
As head of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Burke will now hold one of the top canonical posts in the universal Church. His new post will also put him near the top of the list of prelates likely to be named cardinals at the next consistory.
A native of Wisconsin, Archbishop Burke was ordained a priest of the La Crosse diocese in 1975, and appointed bishop of the same diocese in 1994, remaining there until his appointment to St. Louis.
The Apostolic Signatura is the final court of appeal for annulments and other juridical matters under the Church's canon law. It also examines administrative matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia as well as questions committed to it by the Holy Father.
Recalling that the Honduran people "is characterized by a profound religious spirit which finds expression, among other things, in the numerous and deep-rooted practices of popular devotion,” the Pope noted that this character faces challenges. Most notable among the challenges are “the spread of secularism and the proselytism of sects,” Benedict said.
These trials should not lead to discouragement, said the Holy Father. Rather, they should “serve as a stimulus for a bold and far- reaching effort of evangelization, founded - rather than on the effectiveness of material means and human plans - on the power of the Word of God, faithfully accepted, humbly experienced and trustingly announced."
Calling the formation of priests to announce the Gospel “priceless,” the Pope also emphasized the importance of good formation for seminarians.
The Pope then focused in on the topic of defending marriage and the family, saying that the “solidity and stability” of the two foundational institutions “is such a benefit to the Church and society.” “In this respect, it is right to recognize the important step taken by including an explicit recognition of marriage in your country's Constitution, although you well know it is not enough to possess good legislation if then we do not undertake the necessary cultural and catechetical labors that highlight "the truth and beauty of marriage, a perpetual alliance of life and love between a man and a woman,” Benedict XVI said.
Charity was also highlighted as an important role for the bishops to cultivate. As “successors of the Apostles," the Holy Father said, bishops must be "the foremost leaders of this service of charity in the particular Churches."
"I well know how you are affected by the poverty in which so many of your fellow citizens live, and by the increase in violence, emigration, environmental destruction, corruption and shortcomings in education, alongside other serious problems. As ministers of the Good Shepherd you have - through word and deed - worked intensely to assist the needy,” the Pope noted.
I exhort you," he concluded, "to continue through your ministry to show the merciful face of God, strengthening the network of charity in your diocesan and parish communities with particular concern for the sick, the elderly and the imprisoned."
Vatican City, June 21, 2008 - As of today, Archbishop Fouad Twal is the new Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation presented by His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, whose coadjutor Archbishop Twal has been since 2005.
The new patriarch was born in Madaba, in Jordan, on October 23, 1940. In October of 1959, he entered the major seminary of Beit-Jala, and was ordained a priest on June 29, 1966. In September of 1972, he began studies in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University, and in October of 1974 he entered the ecclesiastical Pontifical Academy. In 1975, he received his degree in canon law.
From 1977 to 1992, he served as a diplomat at the apostolic nunciature of Honduras, the council for public affairs at the Vatican secretariat of state, the apostolic nunciature in Germany, and the apostolic nunciature in Peru.
On May 30, 1992, he was appointed bishop of Tunis, and was ordained on July 22 of the same year. On May 31, 1995, he was made archbishop. He has also been president of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA). On September 8, 2005, Benedict XVI appointed him coadjutor for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins.