The new volume--a project suggested by Pope John Paul II--includes only statements which have been previously published, but groups them under one heading in order to provide a single source of advice for priests working with divorced Catholics. The book was produced under the supervision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of that dicastery, wrote an introduction.
There are "certain ecclesial responsibilities" which Catholics who are divorced and remarried cannot exercise, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, insofar as those activities require "a particular witness to Christian life." Nevertheless, Catholics who are living in irregular unions should be encouraged to participate in the life of the Church insofar as that is possible, he added. "Members of the faithful who divorce and remarry remain members of the People of God," the cardinal pointed out. While they cannot properly receive Holy Communion, he continued, "If they accept that situation with an interior conviction, they can thus bear witness in their own way to the indissolubility of marriage and their fidelity to the Church."
CAFHRI said in a report that Frances Kissling of Catholics for Free Choice hosted a seminar called "Ending Male Dominance," on efforts by feminists to change the power structure of religions including Catholicism, Buddhism, Anglicanism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. "The central problem in religion, population, and reproductive health is male dominance," she said in remarks at the seminar. Other women representing various religions spoke of the "problem of male dominance" in their faiths.
Kissling finished the presentation by attacking the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II. She said that "Catholicism is not special, just different, we have a Pope." She went on to say that the Holy Father is a "great thinker and writer not for the 20th Century but for the 5th Century." Both remarks elicited applause and laughter, according to CAFHRI.
The conference sponsored by the UN Population Fund is undertaking a five-year review of the UN Cairo conference on population in 1994. Critics accuse organizers of squelching any voice opposed to the ideology of increased contraception, abortion, and sex education for children.
Archbishop Mouallem, who has headed the Akka archdiocese since October 1998, was in Rome this week to meet with Pope John Paul II. His appointment to that post by the Melkite synod was initially opposed by the government of Israel, which feared that the new archbishop was overly sympathetic to Palestinian causes.
The Melkite prelate, however, insisted that his Byzantine-rite Catholic Church is frequently misunderstood-- by fellow Catholics as well as by Israelis. As he put it, "we are Catholics of the Byzantine- rite, Arabs without being Muslims, Israelis without being Jews." The net result, he lamented, is that "we are misunderstood by all sides at the same time!"
The Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in dialogue with the Orthodox world, Archbishop Mouallem said. He suggested that since they represent the same liturgical tradition--even if they are of different communions--Eastern Catholics and Orthodox can draw closer to one another. He added that they should not be content with theological dialogue alone, but should work toward "concrete signs of reunion." One such sign, he suggested, would be an agreement to celebrate feast days together. "The Muslims laugh at us when we celebrate Easter on different days," he observed.
In a related story out of Washington D.C., the Israeli government's practice of confiscating the residency permits of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem is "an infringement upon the rights of all Palestinians, Christian and Muslim," according to a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States co-signed by three U.S. church leaders.
The letter to Ambassador Zalman Shoval was signed by Archbishop Spyridon of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Khajag of the Armenian Church in America, and Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference. The heads of numerous other religious denominations in the United States endorsed the letter.
"We call upon the government of Israel to safeguard their [Palestinians'] rights, to rescind these deleterious policies, to restore identity cards that have been confiscated, and to refrain from further confiscation," the U.S. church leaders said.
The objections of the three U.S. prelates lends support to a similar call made October 19 by their counterparts in Jerusalem. In a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Diodoros I, Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Torkom Manoogian, and Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said that "although some of these confiscations have been justified legally, we feel that this issue constitutes a serious practical dislocation of the Palestinian population within Jerusalem."
According to a September 1998 report by B'tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, confiscations of residency permits of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have increased dramatically. In the years 1987 through 1995, confiscations averaged 36 per year, with a high of 96 in 1995. From 1995 to 1996, however, the number of confiscations jumped more than 700 percent to 689, and has remained close to that level since.
"We offer you our support in your protest to the government of Israel," the U.S. church leaders said in notifying the Patriarchs of their letter to Ambassador Shoval. "We share your concern for the alarming increase in the confiscation of East Jerusalem identity cards from Palestinians."
All the Church leaders expressed their concerns about the dwindling presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem as a consequence of the confiscations.
"With this acceleration in the confiscation of identity cards, we must remind you that what impacts Palestinians in general doubly impacts Christian Palestinians in particular," the Patriarchs of Jerusalem said in October.
The letter to the Israeli Ambassador from the U.S. hierarchs also noted that "the churches in the Holy City of Jerusalem are not composed only of stones, but more importantly are communities of faithful, worshipping believers. Any further diminution of their numbers or weakening of their vitality is a matter of great concern to churches everywhere."
According to the report a 51-year-old man with multiple sclerosis, who was unable to walk and talk, recovered just hours after bathing in the famous miraculous springs in 1987. Medical tests reported a "total, sudden, stable and lasting recovery" from a paralyzing neurological disease which can sometimes go into remission, but frequently kills, the authorities said.
The last miracle officially recognized by the Church at Lourdes occurred in 1976, but many other miraculous claims have been made but were either unsubstantiated or inconclusive.
Meanwhile southwest in Lisbon Pope John Paul II was invited to visit the shrine at Fatima on May 13 this year by Portugal's bishops' conference, according to the Catholic radio network Renascenca on Wednesday.
The radio report said Bishop Serafim Ferreira e Silva of Leiria-Fatima will formally deliver the invitation to the Holy Father in an audience on Friday. The Pope, known for his devotion to the Virgin, last visited Fatima in 1991 when he came to give thanks for having survived an assassination attempt in Rome 10 years previously.