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.
Vatican City, Mar.02, 2008 (vaticans.org) - The number of Catholics in the world is increasing, if not by much: they were 1.31 billion in 2006, an increase of 1.4% compared to the 1.15 billion in 2005. And there is a continuation of the trend that since 2000 has seen an increase in the number of priests, both diocesan and religious, who went from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006, an overall change of 0.21%. These are some of the figures contained in the Annuario Pontificio for 2008, presented this morning by the pope.
Observing the presence of Catholics in relation to the number of the inhabitants of the various continents, it can be noted that Catholics make up 14% of the population of the population of the Americas, while the Americas have 49.8% of Catholics in the world. Catholics make up just a slightly smaller percentage of Europe's population, but its importance in the Catholic world is clearly lower than that of the American countries (25%). The proportion of Catholics in Asia is at 10.5%, lower than the continent's percentage of the world population, which is at around 61%.
But the trend of the number of priests present in Asia is on the rise. Observing the distribution of priests by region, in fact, one can observe a decline in the presence of priests in Europe and America compared to Africa and Asia. In terms of percentage, in fact, while in 2000 the overall number of priests working in Europe and the Americas represented 81% of the total, in 2006 they dropped to 78%. The most striking positive variation is seen in Africa, where the proportion of priests in 2006 stood at around 8% of the worldwide total. In Asia, too, the number of priests moved higher, passing from 43,566 in 2000 to 51,281 in 2006.
There has also been growth in the number of those preparing for the priesthood. There are 115,480 students of philosophy and theology in the diocesan or religious seminaries, an increase of 0.9% compared to the previous year; 24,034 are in Africa, 37,150 in the Americas, 30,702 in Asia, 22,618 in Europe, and 976 in Oceania.
Source: Asia News
Iloilo City, Philippines, Jan.26,2008 (vaticans.org) – For the first time in more than 30 years, the Catholics of Iloilo City have participated in a Mass in Latin. More than 700 faithful attended the celebration in the parish of Mandurriao this week. It was the first "Tridentine Mass" celebrated on the island since Vatican Council II decided to introduce the Mass in local languages.
Maria Legarda, 56 years old and a member of the parish's pastoral council for responsible voting - recalls that the last time she took part in a Mass in Latin was after the second world war. "We understand Latin because we learned and got used to it", she says. "Celebrating it in the traditional way is inspiring for us".
The celebrants were Msgr Juanito Ma. Tuvilla, Fr Oscar Andrada, Fr Winifredo Losaria, and Fr Renato Cuadras. The priests used Latin for everything but the homily, for which Msgr Tuvilla used the local Hiligaynon dialect. He explained that celebrating in Latin does not exclude the use of the vernacular: "Whatever language is used, the elements of the rites of the Catholic Church started 2,000 years ago are still there".
Fr Celis clarifies that the decision to celebrate the Mass in Latin is a response to the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" from last July, "on the use of the Roman liturgy preceding the reform of 1970". The norm, established by Benedict XVI, conferred full citizenship on the so-called "Tridentine" Mass, with the priest facing away from the faithful and the other "ancient" practices that were replaced, but not abrogated, by the missal of Paul VI, who accepted the recommendations on the liturgy from Vatican Council II.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan.25, 2008 (vaticans.org) – Scuffles broke out today in Hanoi between Catholic demonstrators and police a day after a Vietnamese government delegation visited the Archbishop of Hanoi, Mgr Joseph Ngô Quang Kięt, in a gesture meant to reduce tensions sparked by peaceful demonstrations by Vietnamese Catholics ongoing since 18 December in favour of the request made by the diocese that the building that once housed the Apostolic Delegation be returned to the Church.
Today’s incident came as some 2,000 people—priest, men and women religious and faithful—gathered to protest. Priests and worshippers left St Joseph’s Cathedral in procession (see photo) and made their way to the nearby building that used to be the home of the Apostolic Delegation.
The procession blocked traffic. Some women entered the old Apostolic Delegation compound to place some flowers on the statue of Our Lady inside the building. Police tried to stop them with sticks, kicks and shoves but provoked instead a reaction by the men in the procession who entered the gardens where they erected a cross.
The protesters were eventually removed by police but some were arrested, including Lę Qu?c Quân, a well-known Catholic lawyer.
Yesterday the group of government officials who visited Monsignor Ngô was led by Ngô Th? Thanh H?ng, deputy chairman of the capital’s People’s Committee, ostensibly to offer the prelate their best wishes for the lunar New Year (T?t).
Ms Ngô did not however apologise for or withdraw comments she made on 14 January to the effect that the archbishop was “using religion freedom to provoke anti-government protest” that could “damage relations between Vietnam and the Vatican.”
Sources in the archdiocese said that the issue of who owns the building of the former Apostolic Delegation was not discussed.
The authorities for their part released a statement in which they acknowledged “the contribution made by Archbishop Ngô and the Catholic community for the common cause of a society based on peace, equality, progress and development.”
The statement echoes similar declarations made in the past by the Communist authorities apparently at odds with the threatening language used by some government officials in recent days.
Vatican City, Jan.21, 2008 (vaticans.org) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom he said: "It is highly appropriate that, in our own day, we should reflect on how to render this apostolic task of the ecclesial community incisive and effective", a task "entrusted to Catholic universities and, in particular, to ecclesiastical faculties".
The Holy Father then referred to reforms in the ecclesiastical study of philosophy, reforms that "will not fail to highlight the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy". He also mentioned the possibility of "examining the suitability of reforming the 1979 Apostolic Constitution 'Sapientia christina', ... the 'magna charta' of ecclesiastical faculties which serves as the basis upon which to formulate criteria to assess the quality of those institutions, an assessment required by the Bologna Process of which the Holy See has been a member since 2003.
"The ecclesiastical disciplines", he added, "especially theology, are today subjected to new interrogations in a world tempted, on the one hand, by a rationalism which follows a false idea of freedom unfettered by any religious references and, on the other, by various forms of fundamentalism which, with their incitement to violence and fanaticism, falsify the true essence of religion ".
Faced with the educational crisis, Benedict XVI proceeded, "schools must ask themselves about the mission they are called to undertake in the modern social environment". Catholic schools, "though open to everyone and respecting the identity of each, cannot but present their own educational, human and Christian perspective". In this context, he said, they face a new challenge, that of "the coming together of religions and cultures in the joint search for truth". This means, on the one hand, "not excluding anyone in the name of their cultural or religious background", and on the other "not stopping at the mere recognition" of this cultural or religious difference.
The Pope went on to refer to another theme being examined by the plenary assembly, that of reforming the document "Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis" for seminaries, issued in 1970 and updated in 1985. Any reform, said the Pope, "will have to highlight the importance of the proper correlation between the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of Church-communion, following the indications of Vatican Council II. ... The formation of future priests must, furthermore, offer them guidance and help to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture.
"Human and cultural formation must, then, be significantly reinforced and sustained also with the help of modern sciences, because certain destabilising social factors that exist in the world today (such as the situation of separated families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.), render new generations fragile".
The Pope concluded his talk by highlighting the need for "adequate formation in spiritual life so as to make Christian communities, particularly in parishes, ever more aware of their vocation, and capable of providing adequate responses to questions of spirituality, especially as posed by the young. For this to happen, the Church must not lack qualified and responsible apostles and evangelisers".