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.

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."


Bishops of Sri Lanka pray for Cease Fire

Colombo, April 15, 2009 - Easter recalls the victory of Jesus Christ, the living God, over the forces of darkness and destruction. Looking at Christ, humanity can rise again to a new life by overcoming the logic of death, war, and division. This is the message issued on the occasion of the Easter celebrations by Oswald Gomis, the archbishop of Colombo, Anglican bishop Duleep de Chickera, and Fr. Sebastian Maria Anthony, superior general of the Jesuits of Sri Lanka, who asks for "peace in the country, and the end of the suffering for the civil population."

Today, the Tamil rebel militias announced that they want to negotiate a ceasefire with the government forces, and resume the peace talks, to put an end to the decades of bloody conflict on the island. The Tamil Tigers are asking for a long term ceasefire, under the supervision of the international community. The Sinhalese government has rejected the request, saying that the rebels must lay down their weapons before any negotiations can be undertaken.

The archbishop of Colombo recalls that with war, "no lasting results are obtained," because the peace and prosperity of the nation "can be built only with dialogue." "As we enter this Easter," Archbishop Gomis says, "all Sri Lankans are experiencing the dangers of the war, the sorrows and pains of the internally displaced people, and the harsh reality of the anti-conversion bill."

The archbishop is reiterating the Church's efforts "to uproot" the sufferings of the population, which does not want to perpetuate "an ethnic conflict." "We strongly condemn every and each effort which is trying to fulfill narrow goals by keeping innocent Tamil civilians as human shield," he continues. Archbishop Gomis is also calling for a "political solution" to put an end to the civil war.

Peace and justice in the country are at the center of the message from Anglican bishop Duleep De Chickera. "The good news of Easter," he affirms, "is a call to transformation for all our leaders and people. But for this to happen, we need to engage in self-scrutiny." only this will make it possible to "put an end to the suffering" of the refugees, the civilians, the poor, and the unemployed. The Anglican bishop recalls those who are hit by the economic crisis and the young people, whose difficulties endanger "the future development of the nation." He also defends the right of "freedom of expression," and the possibility of "expressing disagreement" in civil and democratic terms.

Fr. Sebastian Maria Anthony, superior general of the Jesuits of Sri Lanka, issues a warning for the unity of the country: "Let not our caste, creed, ethnic and linguistic identities prevent us from exercising our Identity as children of God - brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ." "Let the Risen Christ," he continues, "give us the power to transcend the identities that limit and prevent us from working for a just and humane society. Let the Risen Christ give us the power and courage to speak for the voiceless and marginalised brothers and sisters of our country. Let the Risen Christ empower us to work for reconciliation and peace."


Bishops appointed for Bomadi, Poona, Chanthaburi diocese

Vatican City, April 07, 2009 - The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 4, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Poona (India) presented by Bishop Valerian D’Souza, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Bishop of Poona (India), Bishop Thomas Dabre, Bishop of the Diocese of Vasai (India).

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 4, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Bomadi (Nigeria) presented by Bishop Joseph O. Egerega, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Apostolic Vicar of Bomadi (Nigeria), Bishop Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, until now Titular Bishop of Lacubaza and Auxiliar of the same Apostolic Vicariate.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 2, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Chanthaburi (Thailand) presented by Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Bishop of Chanthaburi (Thailand), Fr. Silvio Siripong Charatsri, Vicar General of Ratchaburi.

Fr. Silvio Siripong Charatsri was born on December 10, 1959 in Ban Nok Kwaek, in the Diocese of Ratchaburi. He studied at the Diocesan Minor Seminary and attended elementary and high school studies in Ratchaburi. He then attended the National Major Seminary “Lux Mundi” in Sampran (Bangkok), finishing his philosophy and theology studies. He was ordained a priest on May 19, 1987 for the Diocese of Ratchaburi. He has since ministered as follows:1987-1988: Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Watplunh, Ratchaburi; 1989-1991: Vice-Rector of the Ratchaburi Diocesan Minor Seminary; 1991-1992: Diploma in Pastoral Studies in Manila (EAPI), Philippines; 1992-1995: Rector of the Ratchaburi Diocesan Minor Seminary; 1996-1998: Pastor of Saint John Bosco Church, Ratchaburi; 1998-2000: Studies for a Licentiate in Teology at the Angelicum, in Rome; 2001-2005: Vice-Rector of the “Lux Mundi” Major Seminary in Sampran; since 2006: Vicar General of Ratchaburi, Rector of the Diocesan School in Ratchabri, Pastor of Saint John Bosco Church.

The Diocese of Chanthaburi was erected in 1944, and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Bangkok. It has an area of 34,000 km, with 4,454,615 inhabitants (38,918 Catholics), 42 parishes, 112 priests (89 diocesan and 23 religious), 16 religious brothers, 15 seminarians, and 199 religious.

-Agenzia Fides

Pope Benedict urged Bishops of Angola to fight relativism

Luanda, Angola, Mar 21, 2009 - Pope Benedict gathered the bishops of Angola and Sao Tome at the apostolic nunciature on Friday night to speak about the state of the Church in their country, warning them to fight the spread of relativism by promoting an "adult and mature faith."

"God will reward you," he told the prelates, "for all the apostolic work which you have accomplished in difficult conditions, both during the war and at the present time, in spite of so many limitations, thus helping to give the Church in Angola and in Sao Tome and Principe that dynamism which everyone acknowledges."

However, the Church still faces other challenges such as "widespread relativism which acknowledges nothing as definitive and, even more, tends to make its ultimate measure the individual and his personal caprice," the Pope cautioned.

In the face of relativism, he said, "we hold out another measure: the Son of God, Who is also true man. Christ is the measure of true humanism. The Christian marked by an adult and mature faith is not one who is borne along by the waves of fashion and the latest novelties, but one who lives deeply rooted in the friendship of Christ. This friendship opens us up to all that is good, and it provides us with the criterion for discerning between error and truth."

The Holy Father also praised the efforts of the bishops to develop a communications strategy since "culture and models of behavior are nowadays more and more conditioned and shaped by the images set forth by the communications media." This strategy, the Pope observed, "will enable you to provide everyone with a Christian interpretation of human events, problems and realities."

As he did in Cameroon, Pope Benedict also focused the bishops’ attention on the "difficulties and threats" facing families, which he said "are particularly in need of evangelization and practical support." This is all the more necessary because many marriages are proving to be fragile and there is a "widespread tendency in society and culture to call into question the unique nature and specific mission of the family based on marriage."

"In your pastoral concern which extends to every human being," he added, "continue to raise your voice in defense of the sacredness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, as well as in promotion of the family's proper role in the Church and in society, at the same time demanding economic and legislative measures to support the family in bearing and raising children."

Pope Benedict also shared his joy at the vibrancy of the faith community in Angola and Sao Tome, citing the increasing number of native priests and of the faithful.


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