Archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates, said that talks had started a few weeks ago after King Abdullah’s November visit with Pope Benedict XVI.
Archbishop El-Hachem said a church in Saudi Arabia would be an important sign of “reciprocity” between the two faiths.
At present all Saudi citizens are required by law to be Muslim. The Mutaween, the kingdom’s religious police, strictly prohibits the practice of non-Muslim religions.
The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.
Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, SJ, the former rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, has been appointed by Pope Benedict as the preacher for this year's retreat. The French Jesuit scholar also secretary to the Pontifical Biblical Commission from 1990 to 2001, serving under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger-- who, in 2006, elevated Father Vanhoye to the College of Cardinal s.
The Lenten Retreat, held in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the apostolic palace, includes three preached meditations each day along with Mass and Benedict , Eucharistic adoration, and the Liturgy of the Hours, and ample time for private prayer and contemplation.
During the week-long retreat, all papal audiences will be cancelled-- including the regular weekly public audience on Wednesday-- and the regular operations of Vatican offices will be significantly slowed as top officials join the Pope for the spiritual exercises.
Vatican City, Jan.21, 2008 (vaticans.org) - This morning, the Pope received participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, who are meeting to prepare the Synod's General Assembly, due to be held from 5 to 26 October.
After expressing his thanks for a speech by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father mentioned his own recent Encyclical "Spe salvi". The "social character of hope", he said, is evident in the "'connection between love of God and responsibility for others', which makes it possible not to lapse into selfish desires of salvation".
"It is my belief that the effective application of this fruitful principle is evident in the Synod, in which encounter becomes communion and the solicitude for all Churches is expressed in the shared concern of all.
"The forthcoming General Assembly of the Synod will reflect on the 'Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church'", he added. "The great tasks facing the ecclesial community in the modern world (and among the many I particularly stress evangelisation and ecumenism) are centred on the Word of God and, at the same time, draw therefrom their justification and support.
"Just as the Church's missionary activity ... finds its inspiration and its goal in the Lord's merciful revelation, so ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on the words of human wisdom or on skilful strategies, but must be animated exclusively by constant reference to the original Word, which God consigned to His Church to be read, interpreted and lived in communion".
"In this context, St. Paul's doctrine reveals a particular strength, clearly founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience which, ever and anew, made it clear to him that not human wisdom and eloquence but only the force of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in faith".
The Pope went on to remark that the Synod will coincide with the celebration of the Pauline Year and that the meeting will provide pastors of the Church with an opportunity to reflect on "the witness of this great Apostle and Herald of the Word of God. ... May his example be an encouragement for everyone to accept the Word of salvation and to translate it into daily life, in faithful discipleship of Christ".
Benedict XVI concluded his talk to the participants in the Sixth Ordinary Council by telling them: "yours is a meritorious service to the Church" because the Synod is the institution best-qualified "for promoting truth and unity of pastoral dialogue within the mystical Body of Christ".
by Fr.Brendan Slevin O.P.
20 January 2008
Second Sunday of the Year (A)
Isaiah 49:3,5-6And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified."
And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-- he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos'thenes,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
Fr. Brendan Slevin finds a reproach to the Church in the second reading of today's Mass.
There are times when our Lectionary, the collection of readings from scripture we use at Mass, gives us short and apparently pointless passages. This Sunday is one of those occasions. We hear the first three verses from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians; what is the point of hearing that, it's only an introduction to a letter?
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as I was about to turn away from this extract and look at the other readings something began to draw my attention back to it.
These Torch homilies that we write are perhaps more like letters than homilies. We write them, post them via email to our web host and you eventually get to read them on a computer, or perhaps a phone. But you read them, they are sent to you. So there is some similarity in what I am doing to what Paul was doing, except this homily or letter reaches the four corners of the world, not just Corinth.
There are, however, two major differences, I am not an apostle and I do not know what problems are facing your community. Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth to guide and support them in their Christian life knowing something of the problems of that community.
It is at this point that this introduction by Paul begins to open up a new understanding of the world. Despite our differences there is something that unites us. We are called to be saints with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. We belong together one family that spans the globe.
This short passage then opens to us the reality of our unity and the universality of the Church. This might seem obvious but we must go one step further. If we are all called to be saints and we are all on our pilgrim journey together, why do we show such disregard for each other? Why do we fail to recognise the needs of our sisters and brothers in the Lord? Why do we not tell others of the problems we face?
We hear so little of the good that goes on in the world; instead we hear only of the horror, the natural disasters and the only-too-human atrocities. We could be forgiven for thinking that there is only bloodshed and death, that there is no hope in the world. But this is a distorted view of the world and it remains the image because we focus on what divides rather than on what unites.
Imagine a different world, or at first a different Church, a Church made up of disciples who speak to one another, or write to one another; and more importantly a Church of disciples who listen to one another and try to understand their situation. It is together that we follow the Lord, not as individuals, and Paul's greeting reminds us of this.
How can we speak to an unbelieving world when we as Church ignore each other and ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers as well as their joys?
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
About the Preacher:Fr.Brendan Slevin is Chaplain to Strathclyde University in Glasgow.
This article is reproduced with the Permission of Electronic Publishing House of the English Province of the Order of Preachers,the Dominicans.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec.06, 2008 (vaticans.org) — Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholic Christians held prayer vigils in the capital at the weekend, the latest in a series asking for the return of church land seized by the communists half a century ago.
Priests and Catholic followers lit candles, placed flowers and sang at the iron fence around a property near Hanoi's central St Joseph's Cathedral after Saturday prayers and Sunday masses.
They say the large French-colonial villa and the 1.1 hectares (2.7 acre) it sits on are the former office of the Vatican's delegate to Hanoi, confiscated by the state when he was expelled in the late 1950s.
Hanoi authorities have kept the building intact but used it as a sometime discotheque while local officials have also used the garden area, shaded by an enormous banyan tree, as a motorcycle carpark, the Christians say.
"It's the land and the property of the church. We have the certificate of ownership of the property since 1933," one priest from the Hanoi archdiocese told AFP, speaking on condition he not be named.
Catholics are now hopeful the dispute will be resolved after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet during a prayer meeting with thousands of followers in late December, pledging to consider the issue.
Vietnam, a former French colony and a unified, communist country since the war ended in 1975, has Southeast Asia's largest Catholic community after the Philippines -- about six million out of a population of 84 million.
Its officially atheist communist rulers have long worried that religious groups, both Christian and Buddhist, could undermine their authority, but conditions have improved, especially for Catholics, in recent years.
While all religious activity remains under state control, the government started a dialogue with Catholics in the 1990s which led to a milestone visit to the Vatican almost a year ago by Prime Minister Dung.
Hanoi had tense relations with pope John Paul II, deemed a contributor to the defeat of Soviet communism, but congratulated his successor Benedict XVI soon after he became pontiff in 2005, saying it wanted closer relations.
Christian festivals such as Christmas have become popular, with thousands of followers and curious now crowding Vietnam's cathedrals and churches.
Still, religious issues remain sensitive, and the state-controlled media has refrained from covering the mass prayer meetings.
Undercover police have milled in the crowds, taking video and photographs, the priest said.
"Some Catholic followers were questioned by security officials, and some say they were pressured not to attend the prayers," said the Priest, who stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the Catholic church.
Asked how he rated religious freedom in Vietnam, the Priest said Catholics still cannot study to become diplomats or police officers, and that the church remains barred from operating its own newspapers, schools and hospitals.