They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the words of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen have been known to launch a thousand images in one's mind, one of the ways this late luminary did so much to evangelize the faith. Because of the urgency of the times and because few there are today who possess the wisdom, simplicity and insight than the late Archbishop who touched millions, we are bringing you daily gems from his writings. The good bishop makes it so simple that we have dubbed this daily series: "SIMPLY SHEEN".
"What is the psychology of those who will never touch their capital for charity? They keep piling up more and more reserves, each new addition becoming as sacred as the one before. The answer is that every man is made for the infinite, which is God. But his reason becomes blinded through prejudice or sin, so he substitutes another infinite which is money. He then wants more and more of having, instead of more and more of being which is life in God."
Nothing like this has ever happened in the 21 years of this pontificate. From left to right, from Germany to the Vatican, Cardinals, bishops, laymen, theologians, journalists... all have chimed in requesting that John Paul II remain as leader of the Church. From his closest collaborators, like Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, Substitute for Internal Affairs at the Vatican Secretariat of State, to the man who has leveled the most numerous criticisms against the Bishop of Rome -- Swiss dissident Hans Küng, have expressed the same desire: he must continue in his mission.
The following day, when Rome received the original text transmitted on German public radio station "Deutschlandfunk," the Vatican did not respond. It simply translated into Italian the official statements, which helped to shed light on the press' distortion of news.
One of the most interesting reactions was that of theologian Hans Küng, who has never dissimulated his opposition to the line followed by this pontificate. "I am against Karol Wojtyla's retirement," the former Tübingen professor said, as he does not think it wise to have a conclave while a Pope is still alive. When this Pope dies, he explained, the Cardinals will feel freer to choose his successor.
Vittorio Messori, who interviewed the Pope for the book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," said that the Pontiff "is doing much more than he should during this Jubilee: he wants to preside over all the most important events, including those that his predecessors delegated to eminent Cardinals... It demonstrates that John Paul II wants to carry his cross during this Jubilee. And afterwards? God will provide."
"For the time being, his closest collaborators and all who meet him affirm that the Pope is totally lucid, in spite of his physical limitations. Therefore, no resignation should be expected during this Jubilee Year," Messori said.
Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, Archbishop Emeritus of Ravenna, said: "I, who know him, can say that the Pope is fully aware of the affairs of the world. He feels his responsibility profoundly and believes it is right to continue while he has the strength to stand up, without conserving his energies."
The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini, who is president of the Italian Episcopal Conference and also a close collaborator of the Holy Father, said that the Pope shows "that he is perfectly able to carry out with full personal responsibility his ministry of Universal Pastor of the Church. More than that, I can say that the Pope undertakes tasks, at the price of exhaustion and sacrifice, that he is not obliged to carry out personally." One proof of this was the recent Synod for Europe, held in Rome in October, when the Holy Father did not miss a single session. Much younger bishops had difficulty following him on that marathon.
"Your Holiness, we need you," were the words that sprang to the lips of the Dean of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, the ambassador of San Marino, on behalf of the 170 ambassadors of countries around the world. ZE00011106
A fragment of the oldest text of the Letter to the Hebrews, dating to the 1st century according to some experts, was unexpectedly found among the papyruses of Vienna's National Library. Other experts date the fragment back to the 5th or 6th centuries. continued inside.
For a long time, this text of the New Testament was attributed to St. Paul, but because its Greek style is much more refined than the rest of the Pauline corpus, Biblical experts today see another hand behind this letter.
The papyrus arrived in Austria at the end of the 19th century, along with many others bought in a Cairo market in 1883 by a Viennese antique collector. Amphilochios Papathomas, a Greek scholarship holder, found the document accidentally in the Vienna Library; it has a total of 16 lines.
The text includes two passages from the Letter's second chapter. "To date the Letter to the Hebrews was only known by some passages from Medieval Codices, while this goes back to the 5th or 6th centuries after Christ, as confirmed by scientific investigations to which the papyrus was subjected," Papathomas said. It is quite probable that the fragment is part of a manuscript produced in a Coptic-Christian convent in southern Egypt.
Professor Hermann Harrauer, director of Vienna's National Library, is far more optimistic. According to him, the fragment found by Papathomas dates back to the end of the 1st century after Christ.
The Letter to the Hebrews, rather than being a letter of St. Paul to Christians, is a homily written, apparently, by a Jewish disciple of the Apostle to a Jewish community that yearned for the ceremonies of Jewish worship. This is why it presents Christ as the High Priest and Mediator who has absolutely opened the door to God, not like the Jewish priests of the Old Testament, who could only open the Temple door once a year. ZE00011101
The Holy Father has long wanted to retrace the footsteps of Moses at Mount Sinai and he is hopeful he will have that opportunity as Vatican officials are laying the groundwork for him to visit either in February or as an extension of his "Jubilee Journey" to the Holy Land in March. continued inside.
Vatican officials have been discussing various possible dates for a papal trip to Egypt. To date, most plans have revolved around the Pope's March trip to the Holy Land and Jordan; he might extend that trip for a visit to Egypt. However, if that plan does not prove practical, the most likely alternative would be a special trip to Egypt alone during the final week in February.
In a two-day visit, the Holy Father could realize his desire to travel to Mount Sinai, as well as to meet with Egyptian leaders in Cairo and representatives of the country's Coptic Catholic community, which boasts about 200,000 faithful.
Father Roberto Tucci, the Jesuit priest who does advance work for papal trips, will travel to Egypt on January 13, to discuss plans for the Pope's trip with government officials there.
Pope John Paul II would be the first Pontiff to visit Egypt.
The dungeon in the Tower of London where it is believed that St. Thomas More was imprisoned before being beheaded for refusing to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church in England was opened to the public for the first time Monday. continued inside.
When Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon and married his mistress Anne Boleyn, he defied the Pope and changed the laws of the land. In standing against the King, St. Thomas, Henry's Chancellor and chief political adviser, was sent to the Tower on a charge of high treason. He remained in a cell in the lower part of the Bell Tower until he was beheaded on Tower Hill in 1535.
The public will be able to see where St. Thomas, who was later canonised, spent his last months, writing letters to his family. Towards the end he was deprived of writing materials and is thought to have used charcoal. The opening coincides with an exhibition of artefacts and mementoes marking his life, including contemporary transcripts of his letters from the British Library. The Diocese of Portsmouth has lent a relic -- a piece of his hairshirt, which he wore in secret even within the Tower, and the Public Record Office has lent several important documents. ZE00011120
Just as they did in East Timor, a priest, who heads the Crisis Center for the Ambon Diocese in Indonesia, has confirmed that the culprits of the terrible violence in the Spice Islands and Moluku are military officers formerly stationed in East Timor who are trying to foment the same kind of havoc they did last September. It is not a religious war as much as it is these crazies who are stirring up both sides into fighting each other. continued inside.
Father Agustinus Ulahayanan said these groups are responsible for fomenting conflict between Christians and Muslims which broke out a year ago in this far eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago and has left nearly 2,000 people dead. Father Ulahayanan, head of the Crisis Centre in Ambon diocese, said he seeks with every means to mediate between the Protestant and Muslim communities involved in the conflicts.
Father Ulahayanan said Catholics have also suffered in the Malukus with more than 140 killed, and at least 18 Catholic churches damaged or burned. The violence has also produced thousands of refugees. In Buru, five nuns are missing and have not been heard from for days. They are thought to have fled to the hills after many Christians were massacred by Muslims.
The priest said, "There seems to be an intentional effort to expel Christians from the islands, particularly in the north, east, and west." Nevertheless, he said, the fighting cannot be described as "a horizontal conflict between Christians and Muslims." He implicated high-ranking army officers in the fighting, including Col. Irwan Kusnadi, former Indonesian army commander in East Timor, "where he betrayed commitments made with local leaders." He said tension in the Malukus is also being exploited by some political leaders to attack adversaries.
A solution for the crisis, according to Father Ulahayanan, must be found locally first of all, with the intervention of "the police force, instead of the army", equally composed of Christians and Muslims, impartial and supporting neither side. At the international level, the Ambon priest called for a UN Human Rights Mission or at least a UN Observer, to gather facts and information independent of the state media. "The Islamic daily Republika and SCTV television station, in the capital of Jakarta always report as if only Christians slaughter Muslims, while we see both parties slaughtering each other," he said.
The priest's latest undertaking is a local mixed commission, Protestants and Muslims, committed to protecting human rights. But lack of funds and difficulty in communications limit the group's activity and mobility.
The carefully orchestrated ordinations of new bishops for the Patriotic Catholic Association, planned by the Chinese government as an act of defiance toward Rome, were actually a "washout," according to sources inside the Beijing cited by the FIDES news agency. continued inside.
The government had planned the ordination of 12 bishops, to take place on January 6, to mimic the ordination of 12 bishops by Pope John Paul II which took place at the Vatican on that same day. But only 5 Chinese clergymen accepted episcopal ordination. And the ceremony which took place at Immaculate Conception Church in Nantang, Beijing-- at 7 o'clock in the morning-- has widened the gap between the "underground" Catholics who remain loyal to Rome and the government-approved leadership of the Patriotic Association.
Without exception, the 130 seminarians enrolled in the national seminary in Beijing refused to attend the episcopal ordinations, Fides reported. After attending compulsory rehearsals, the students voted to boycott the ceremony. They issued a statement saying that "the so-called ordination is against the principles of the faith and against the Catholic Church."
After relaying that statement to the leaders of the Patriotic Association, the seminary students confided to a Fides source that they now fear "pressure and even persecution" from the government. They issued an appeal to the West: "Please pray for us and for the universal Church in solidarity with us."
2) Sources in Beijing say that no more than 200 people attended the ceremony at the Nantang cathedral, whereas an ordinary Sunday Mass in the same building regularly draws at least 400 people. At other times, priestly ordinations have been attended by thousands of Catholic faithful. One Fides source who attended the ceremony said that the atmosphere was somber-- like that of a funeral rather than an ordination.
The tension surrounding the ceremony was made manifest in the behavior of the participants, which the Fides source described as "remote and passive." Just before the consecration, one cleric tripped, spilling the chalice of wine.
3) Seven bishops of the Patriotic Church ordained the new episcopal candidates. They were Bishops Liu Yliu Yuanren of Nanjing, Fu Tieshan of Beijing, Tu Shihua of Hanyang, Jian Taoran of Shijiazhuang, Yu Chengcai of Haimen, Luo Juan of Shuoxian, and Jinghe of Tangshan. None of those bishops have any relations with the Holy See. Other bishops, who had been under pressure to participate in the ceremony, did not appear.
4) The five newly ordained bishops were all reportedly under heavy pressure to accept episcopal ordination-- pressure which seven other nominees had resisted. One of the younger candidates admitted to an acquaintance, "the pressure was strong, and I am weak."
5) Among the mainland Chinese bishops who remain in communion with Rome, none would issue a public comment on the new ordinations. However, Bishop Joseph Zen Nekiun of Hong Kong observed that the ordinations fall neatly into the plans set forth by the Chinese government in a new secret document calling for stricter Communist Party control of the Catholic Church and the Chinese bishops. Those government plans were contained in a secret document which was made public by Fides in November 1999.
In the spirit of the Samaritan who returned to thank Jesus, the Taiwan Government is expressing its gratitude to the Vatican for their help in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake last September. To show their gratitude they will confer the Order of the Brilliant Star, Taiwan's highest award to the President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes continued inside.
Archbishop Cordes will visit Taiwan from January 11-18. While there, he will also go to areas devastated by the earthquake that struck on September 21 of last year, principally the zone of Taichung. The work of the entire Church in China, and of local Churches worldwide to reconstruct the country has the profound gratitude of the government and people of Taiwan.
According to an official statement distributed by the Vatican Press Office, Archbishop Cordes will express John Paul II's closeness to those who were affected by the earthquake and to the 300,000 Catholics of the Island.
Archbishop Cordes will also receive a doctorate "honoris causa" from Fu Jen University of Taipei. Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, President of the Chinese Regional Episcopal Conference, will attend this academic ceremony, during which Archbishop Cordes will speak on inculturation -- one of the major topics of the Synod of Bishops for Asia. ZE00011104