VATICAN CITY, 12 APR 2011 - The Special Council for the Middle East of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops met for the third time on 30 and 31 March.

The agenda included an update on the current situation of the various churches of Council members, and the preparation of a study with a view to forming a working draft on the proposals of the Special Assembly of the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in October 2010.

A press release issued today affirmed that "the general situation in the Middle East and North Africa provided the context for the exchange of opinions and information. The precarious situation caused by to socio-political movements directly involves the Churches which share in the joys and worries of citizens, in many cases forced to emigrate due to violence, lack of work, restriction of religious freedom and limited democracy. However, the need for free and constructive dialogue with other religions and with the legitimate representatives of civil authorities remains imperative".

The next meeting will take place on 17-18 May 2011.

Bishop of Luoyang Died

Luoyang, Apr 27, 2011 – Mgr. Peter Li Hongye, 91, bishop of Luoyang (Henan) died of a heart attack on April 23 last, during the Easter Vigil, as he blessed the water before baptisms. He was approved by the Holy See, but not recognized by the government in Beijing. His faithful remember him for his fortitude in living his vocation and his suffering in the forced labour camps and the time spent under surveillance.

A priest from the diocese told> that the funeral of Mgr. Li will next be held April 29 at the birthplace of the Prelate, Gong County, halfway between Zhengzhou and Luoyang.

Other sources tell that Mgr. Li knew Latin perfectly. During the 50s and 60s was sent to forced labour camps ("reform through labor") in Qinghai. Since the late 80's he has always lived under close surveillance or house arrest.

Bishop Li was in charge of the Religious sisters of the Diocese of Luoyang in the underground community and surrounding areas characterized by extreme poverty and lack of personnel, rendering even more heroic the work of Mgr. Li and his priests.

Bishop Li was born on January 6, 1920. From a deeply Catholic family from 1937-1943 he studied at the Seminary of Kaifeng. Ordained priest 22 April 1944, he became pastor at Yanshi.

From 1955 to 1970 he was arrested and sentenced to hard labour for his loyalty to the pope. The obituary prepared by his faithful describes this period as one of a "test of blood and fire."

On August 7, 1987, he was consecrated underground bishop of Luoyang, he continued his pastoral work in Yanshi and other areas in Henan.

Since 2004, he suffered from heart disease, has spent periods in hospital and was always ill.

The Diocese of Luoyang has about 10 thousand Catholics, 20 priests and 30 nuns. In 1929, Luoyang became a apostolic prefecture, separating it from the Vicariate of Zhengzhou. Administered by the Italian Xaverian missionaries, it became an apostolic vicariate in 1935 and a diocese in 1946. 

Bishop Martin: Special Concern needed towards Catholics, the target of Neo-Pentecostal Groups

Vatican City, Oct.09, 2009 - The increasing number of Catholics in Africa who flock to the evangelical churches is a topic of concern at the second special Synod of Bishops for Africa.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told synod participants Oct. 6 that while the church in Africa is experiencing rapid growth "there is sadly also an increasingly deeper fragmentation among Christians."

Sometimes dialogue with the charismatic, Pentecostal and other evangelical communities is difficult or even impossible "because of their aggressive behavior and, to say the least, their low theological standard," he said.

But ecumenical relations must continue or be established where possible, he said, and the church must engage in some serious, self-critical reflection.

Some of the questions the church must ask itself, the cardinal said, are "What is wrong or what is deficient with our own pastoral work? Why (do) so many Christians leave our church? What they are missing with us and searching (for) elsewhere?"

Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane, Mozambique, told the synod Oct. 7 that one of the main reasons for the exodus of Catholics toward these movements "is the lack or insufficiency of inculturation" in the Catholic Church.

Africa's cultural roots must be taken into account, but unfortunately the church has been guilty of "marginalizing, disparaging and even fighting African cultures," he said.

Other missteps, he said, include focusing evangelization efforts more on children and less on adults, not translating the Bible into local languages, discouraging the reading of the Bible, and not giving African Catholics "a language in an appropriate style."

Bishop Langa said many African Catholics are left feeling alienated from the church or inferior to other, more zealous, believers.

Also, anyone wanting to "escape the European and Latin American style and wanting to feel himself as a truly African Christian Catholic leans toward his African brothers of other faiths and creeds and takes on their language and style," he said.

Some synod speakers have expressed the need for improved catechetical formation and the building up of small Christian communities within the parishes.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told the synod Oct. 7 that the development of sects means pastors need to "take better care in the transmission of the content of the faith in the African cultural context."

"It is necessary to know and appreciate the religious roots" of the African peoples, especially since they already recognized the existence of God before the arrival of Christianity and Islam, he said.

Bishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Abeokuta, Nigeria, told the synod Oct. 8 that it is important everyone in the parish feels noticed and at home.

"We must ensure that no one is anonymous in the parishes," especially the most vulnerable like the unemployed and young people, he said. And people with "any sort of material or spiritual needs should be supported and assisted where possible."

A special ministry should be created in each parish that addresses the needs and concerns of young professionals and business leaders who "are targets of neo-Pentecostal groups," said Bishop Martins.

Praying the Rosary by Bishop Fulton J sheen

From the earliest days, the Church asked its faithful to recite the one hundred and fifty Psalms of David. This custom still prevails among priests, who recite some of these Psalms every day. [9] However, it was not easy for anyone to memorize the one hundred and fifty Psalms. Then, too, before the invention of printing, it was difficult to procure a book of the Psalms. That is why certain important books like the Bible had to be chained like telephone books are today; otherwise people would have run off with them.

Incidentally, this gave rise to the stupid lie that the Church would not allow anyone to read the Bible, because it was chained. The fact is, it was chained just so people could read it. The telephone book is chained, too, but it s more consulted than any book in modern civilization!

The people who could not read one hundred and fifty Psalms wanted to do something to make up for it. Therefore, they substituted one hundred and fifty Hail Marys. They broke up these one hundred and fifty, in the manner of the Acathist, [10] into fifteen decades, or series of ten. Each part was to be said while meditating on a different aspect of the Life of Our Lord.

To keep the decades separate, each one of them began with the Our Father and ended with the Doxology of Praise to the Trinity.

St. Dominic, who died in 1221, received from the Blessed Mother the command to preach and to popularize this devotion for the good of souls, for conquest over evil, and for the prosperity of Holy Mother Church and thus gave us the Rosary in its present classical form.

The Black Death, which ravaged all Europe and wiped out one-third of its population, prompted the faithful to cry out to the Mother of Our Lord to protect them, at a time when the present moment and death were almost one. [11]

The Black Death has ended. But now the Red Death of Communism is sweeping the earth (circa 1950). I find it interesting that, when the Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima in 1917 because of the great decline in morals and the advent of godlessness, she asked that, after the "Glory be" we add "have mercy on all souls; save them from hell and lead us to heaven."

It is objected that there is much repetition in the Rosary because the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary are said so often; therefore some say it is monotonous.

That reminds me of a woman who came to see me one evening after instructions. She said, "I would never become a Catholic. You say the same words in the Rosary over and over again, and anyone who repeats the same words is never sincere. I would never believe anyone who repeated his words and neither would God."

I asked her who the man was with her. She said he was her fiancé. I asked: "Does he love you?" "Certainly, he does," "But how do you know?" "He told me." "What did he say?"

"He said 'I love you.'"

"When did he tell you last?"

"About an hour ago."

"Did he tell you before?"

"Yes, last night."

"What did he say?"

"I love you."

"But never before?"

"He tells me every night."

I said: "Do not believe him. He is repeating; he is not sincere."

The beautiful truth is that there is no repetition in, "I love you." Because there is a new moment of time, another point inn space, the words do not mean the same as they did at another time or space.

Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, "I love you," and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe. That is what we do when we say the Rosary, we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Saviour, to the Blessed Mother: "I love you, I love you, I love you."

Each time it means something different because, at each decade, our mind is moving to a new demonstration of the Saviour's love.

The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual, and in that order.

The Rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description."

If you wish to convert anyone to the fullness of the knowledge of Our Lord and to His Mystical Body, then teach him the Rosary. One of two things will happen. Either he will stop saying the Rosary — or he will get the gift of faith. [12]

Excerpt taken from "Roses and Prayers," in the book 'The World's First Love,' by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, publisher McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1952.

Bishops June statement put dialogue between two faiths at risk

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2009 - U.S. Jewish leaders have expressed concern over a June statement issued by the U.S. bishops to clarify a 2002 document that raised questions about the church's mission of evangelization and how the church relates to the Jewish community.

In a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the leaders said that because of the statement dialogue between the two faiths is at risk.

Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee and rabbis from various branches of Judaism sent the letter Aug. 20.

They were reacting to a June clarification of a 2002 document called "Reflections on Covenant and Mission," written by participants in an ongoing dialogue between the National Council of Synagogues and the USCCB interreligious affairs committee.

"Catholic-Jewish dialogue has been important to the U.S. bishops for almost 50 years. The U.S. bishops have just received the letter and currently are studying it," Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the USCCB, said Aug. 21.

In a June 18 note, the USCCB committees on Doctrine and on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs said the Catholic section of the 2002 document "contains some statements that are insufficiently precise and potentially misleading."

"'Reflections on Covenant and Mission' should not be taken as an authoritative presentation of the teaching of the Catholic Church," the committees said in their note issued in San Antonio during the bishops' June 17-19 spring meeting.

Of special concern are the document's "description of the church's mission and, in particular, what evangelization means with regard to the Jewish people," the committees said.

By stating that the Jewish people's "witness to the kingdom ... must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity," the document "could lead some to conclude mistakenly that Jews have an obligation not to become Christian and that the church has a corresponding obligation not to baptize Jews," they added.

The 2002 document also calls interreligious dialogue a form of evangelization that is "a mutually enriching sharing of gifts devoid of any intention whatsoever to invite the dialogue partner to baptism."

"Though Christian participation in interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited," the committees' note said.

The Jewish leaders in their Aug. 20 letter said they interpreted the statement as meaning the bishops view interfaith dialogue as a chance to invite Jews to become Catholic.

They said they do not object to Christians sharing their faith but said dialogue with Jews becomes "untenable" if the objective is to persuade Jews to accept Christ as their savior.

"A declaration of this sort is antithetical to the very essence of Jewish-Christian dialogue as we have understood it," they said in the letter.

In a June news release, the chairmen of the two committees discussed why the note was issued.

"Our most important concern here is a pastoral one," said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the ecumenical and interreligious affairs committee.

"The 2002 document ... raised many questions among Catholics in the United States about how the church relates to the Jewish community," he added. "Today's statement helps to answer these questions clearly."

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads the doctrine committee, said the USCCB "reaffirms what the Holy See has stated repeatedly: that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate."

But in a response issued at that time, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League said the bishops' note reflects "an objectionable understanding of Catholic-Jewish relations" and "appears to give a green light for the missionizing of Jews."


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